Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Trailing Spouse Meets Her Match in Israel

OK, let the Political Correctness begin.  When talking about the Middle East and/or Israel, it goes without saying that any non-Muslim, non-Arab, non-Jew needs to watch what they say.  Seriously.  This fact was really brought home when we arrived at the Tel Aviv airport and got in the line for customs.

Mr. Big calmly takes out a brand new passport.  Mint.  Never opened.  Now, I’ve seen Mr. Big’s passport and it is truly a thing of wonder.  He is THAT GUY who has to go to various consulates every other week to have full-page visas inserted into his passport.  He is THAT GUY who has to have 50 extra pages inserted into his passport every other year by the US consulate in Bern because all of his pages are full.  Mr. Big’s passport has an alphabetized index and a table of contents.  (Kidding, but it’s close).

Me:  Mr. Big, what the hell is that thing?  Are you a spy?  Do you have multiple identities now or what?  Are you really Jason Bourne, and, if you are, then I’ve been screwed because you are supposed to look like Matt Damon.

Mr. Big:  Hush, somebody is going to hear you.

Me:  Who?  God?  Big Brother?  That nice man behind me in the yarmulke?

Mr. Big:  The Mossad.

YIKES!!!  The Mossad is here watching me try and collect my luggage?  Hello, Mossad, I just want to go lay by the pool.  In whispers, Mr. Big tells me that because he has stamps and visas from Arab countries ALL OVER his regular passport.  He was, therefore, advised by Someone Important (who?  Obama?  Santa?  Seal Team 6?) that one must only arrive in Israel with a “clean” passport or one will never get beyond customs.  Serious shit, people.

Jason Bourne and I make it through customs without a hitch and are met by a driver who is going to take us to our hotel where, hopefully, I will be able to lay by the pool and get a tan on this Alpine-white body I’ve been living in all winter.  The landscape going to the hotel was very similar to Southern California.  Lots of citrus trees and suburbs filled with pastel-colored stucco houses.  The skyline of the city is even reminiscent of LA with clusters of high-rises scattered around:  some down at the waterfront, some off in the distance, some in the middle of the city, etc.  So far, so good.  From a distance.  Y’all know what is coming don’t you?

Just FYI, I normally consider myself a well-read, well-informed person.  I can usually just go with the flow, adapt, adjust or do whatever is necessary to make the best of any situation.  I thought that, because I knew something of Israel’s history (i.e. the infrastructure either dates from ancient times or from post-1960), I would know what to expect.  In Tel Aviv, I was expecting a completely modernized city on the Mediterranean filled with resort hotels, restaurants with interesting and exotic food and fabulous shopping.

Y’all, there is just no politically correct way to say this.  It was just appalling.  Actually, it went beyond appalling and loped right on into Scary Town.  OK, I have been in places where, just one or two blocks off of the beach or the main drag, it begins to get a little bit “iffy”.  (Miami and Las Vegas come to mind here!)  But when the main beachfront road and its’ corresponding hotels look like cement block prisons and none of the properties look like they’ve seen the least bit of updating since 1960, you’ve got a problem.  Very, very Third World, let alone Developed Nation.

For example, our concrete prison bloc, er, I mean, 4 STAR HOTEL, was a joke.  The laughs began in the elevator lobby.  There were four elevators.  But, two of them were Shabbat elevators.  Mr. Big and I are not Jewish so we don’t know Shabbat about Shabbat.  I know now that Shabbat means “this elevator will make you pull your hair out and gnash your teeth at old ladies and small children”.  When you pushed the down button, it would go up.  When you pushed the up button, it would go down.  It stopped on every odd-numbered floor.  It just went wherever it wanted to go, regardless of whatever Mr. Big was yelling at it.  Y’all, it was abso-frickin-lutely HILARIOUS to hear Mr. Big standing inside the elevator screaming at the top of his lungs, “BUT I’M ONLY TRYING TO GET TO FOUR!!!  FOUR, YOU MUTHA!!!! FOUR!!!.  Sorry, sir.  Just get out on five and walk down the stairs.  Now.  Just do it.  Thank you.

The pool, about which I had such high hopes, was a Howard Johnson’s 1965, side-of-the-interstate, concrete square hole filled with water.  Nary a cabana boy, swim-up bar nor palm tree in sight.  Not to beat a dead horse, but, really, if penitentiaries had swimming facilities, this pool would have been the prototype.  Plus, it was covered.  So, we can add NO SUN to that list.  OK, no tan available here, let’s move onto the beach.

The water and the view were lovely.  There is no way even Tel Aviv can screw with either the sun or the Mediterranean Sea.  But, the minute you got on the sand?  Apparently, the national past-time in Israel is paddle ball.  They played on the beach.  They played on the boardwalk.  They played UP AGAINST THE WALLS OF THE HOTELS, completely unaware of passersby ducking and diving for cover.  Thwack.  Thwack.  Thwack.  All day long.  Non-stop.  Thousands and thousands of them.  Thwack.  Thwack.  Thwack.  I would have had to have been in a coma to be able to lay out amidst that cacophony for more than nine minutes.

Shopping, maybe?  Let’s go walk around and find the “nice section” (because, clearly, we were not in it!).  We walked for miles in either direction, up and down the beach, as well as inland.  Nada.  More of the same.  More than 50% of the buildings look like they’ve been bombed and are awaiting renovation.  Exposed clumps of electrical wires hanging everywhere, multiple, multiple buildings with no windows, strip joints, mattresses laid out on sidewalks where people are obviously sleeping and/or living, etc.  Scary stuff.

At this point, we really needed a nice dinner to perk us up and give Tel Aviv one last chance for redemption.  Unfortunately, this was during Passover.  This is what I knew about Passover.  You can’t have any normal bread.  Flat bread, only, a.k.a. matzo.  Matzo are giant, saltine crackers without the salt.  Fine.  Whatever.  What I DIDN’T KNOW was that, during Passover, all the restaurants turn into big, family-style Kosher buffets.  We must have gone into five restaurants and been confronted with huge, Jewish family gatherings who all stopped eating when we walked in and stared at us.  Like nuns walking into a whorehouse, we were.  Sorry!  Just leaving!  Bye!

We ended up eating with the few remaining Non-Jewish tourists at a restaurant directly on the beach and the food was so bad that mine involved mold so I am not going to go into it here, just in case some of you are eating while you read this.  At this point, I just couldn’t take it anymore, let alone for four more days.

Back at Chez Penitentiary, we fire up our computers to see when the next available flight was heading back to Switzerland because I would rather donate a kidney than stay in Tel Aviv one more hour.  Much to Mr. Big’s horror, his computer has been hacked, murdered, fried and otherwise invaded by unseen forces through the hotel’s WiFi.  Can you say Icing On The Cake?  I thought he was going to fling himself off the concrete balcony down onto the asphalt parking lot.  The only other times (more than five but less than ten) I have seen him so mad were when one of the kids wrecked one of the cars.

Dude!  Here, take mine!  I can easily live without Facebook for four days!  Just get me out of this crazy place!  So, I left at 6 a.m. the next morning without my computer but with my sanity.  Mr. Big, unfortunately, had to stay four more days on business.  After he started meeting with the locals, he learned that Israel is one of those places where one does not just gallivant off to without guidance.  Guides are the way to go.  24/7.   One mustn’t just “wing it” or one winds up severely disappointed.  Nooooo.  Really?

By now you have figured out from the pictures, which have been swiped from the Internet, that I didn’t take any pictures of my own.  Not only was there nothing to see, I was worried that the Mossad would swoop down and arrest me for taking bad/funny photos, so I did not dare.  But, if you want to see some really funny/good photos from Copenhagen that I couldn’t fit on the blog, click on this:  http://www.facebook.com/#!/media/set/?set=a.200484549987847.42305.116830998353203

By the way, I didn’t give Copenhagen credit for the two wonderful dinners that we had there.  I HIGHLY recommend here:  http://www.pederoxe.dk/ and here:  http://www.tivoli.dk/composite-8833.htm
Two excellent, amazing meals with great atmosphere!  The Peder Oxe is a traditional, Danish meal, (very upscale, though), situated in the city in an open square and the Nimb Brasserie is located on the outside of Tivoli Gardens, (you don’t have to go into the amusement park to eat there), with a fabulous tasting menu of Nouveau Danish-type food.  Just delicious, both of them.  Go there.

Tel Aviv, ah Tel Aviv.  I had such high hopes but it was not meant to be.  Obviously, it was my fault because I was expecting WAAAAAAY too much.  Mr. Big tells me that when we go to Egypt I need to set my expectations at about zero on a 1-to-10 scale and then I won’t be so disappointed.  I’m like, Mr. Big, please.  Do I look like a girl who would like a place that rates a zero?   Don’t expect a blog post from Cairo any time soon, people.

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