Stopping to smell the roses

“All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”

Henry Miller

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Today was the first time in a very long time that I spontaneously headed downstairs into the garage, hopped on Ole Bessie, walked out onto the driveway and had no idea where I was going –  no premeditated plan, no GPS, no Google Maps or MayMyRide…just a small bag of trail mix, my debit card and ID and two containers of water. Today I was going to stop and smell the roses…

Not wanting to climb any mountains, I knew which roads to start with to avoid any unnecessary exertion at the end of my ride – let’s go through Maple Shade…no brainer – down the hill on 537 and left on New Albany Road…one of the most dreadful overpass, steady long inclines in Burlington County coming the opposite direction.

First stop – chicken wire sculptures – how have I never noticed this before?!

It’s been a long time since I took New Albany Road to the end…and remembered why when I hit the dreaded Route 130…

Highway

Somehow managing to cross over the highway of hell, I continued on until reaching River Road – another road that fellow cyclists seem to enjoy yet produces significant anxiety for me deep within my soul.

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With the fear of giant sneaker-clad ghosts out for a stroll on the highway along the Delaware River haunting me, I pedaled as quickly as possible through Cinnaminson until the “bike lane” allowed enough room for me to not fear imminent death.

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A turtle crossing sign made up of recycled roof singles – okay, if the turtles don’t have a chance in hell, what of me?!

Safely making it into Riverton, I checked out the shops promoting painting lessons, dining with yoga and old-time hardware. As I came to a red traffic light at the intersection of River Road and Main Street where I normally turn left, I decided to check Google Maps to see what would happen if I turned right.

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I stopped briefly at a beautiful 19th-century church where I met a little boy walking his bulldog named Ruby. The boy’s father then appeared on his bike after a nice morning ride and the three of us chatted for a few minutes – until someone slammed the church door shut…loudly…we got the hint.

Main Street ends at Bank Avenue, home to the Riverton Yacht Club, one of the oldest steamboat landings in America.

https://jerseydigs.com/riverton-new-jersey-on-delaware-river-easy-to-visit-by-train/

A mere seven blocks long, Bank Avenue is lined with gorgeous 19th-century mansions, one of which is the 1851 Riverbank Manor or the Caleb Clothier House, reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad. By the way, it’s currently up for sale if anyone’s interested…

Coming to the end of Bank Avenue, I turned left toward River Road in order to get back onto Main Street and head home. This time I decided to stop at an old abandoned house I’ve ridden by a few times.

The sign says it’s the Cinnaminson Home established in 1880, but I can’t find any information whatsoever about this place. Oddly attached to this 19th-century farmhouse is a long brick building resembling a a school or apartment complex – curiouser and curiouser…

Ready to finish my ride, I was pleased to find that Hello Kitty lives a little over a mile from my house…

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“Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do”

Highway to Hell – AC/DC

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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Lockin’ it up

June 10, 2018 – Bridge to the Beach Bike-a-thon

Checking the forecast throughout the week, I was repeatedly forewarned on a daily basis that it was not only going to rain all day long, I should also expect severe thunderstorms…

Great…

Was this some kind of metaphor? For nearly three years I’ve been riding for and writing about my brother Michael and his battle with cancer. How apropo…

A year ago this week, I was bombarded by a nasty respiratory infection (no thanks to the hubby) that I, in turn, gave to the kid days before her high school graduation. I still can’t believe I managed to ride 54 miles that day, deathly ill with the possibility of an SVT attack in 90-degree weather. I also cannot believe that the kid is already a full year out of school and is now an Israeli citizen.

All in all, I allowed my OCD to take over this year, thereby ensuring I would not, under any circumstance, become ill in any way, shape or form…and it worked in my favor. Although the kid was battling a nasty respiratory infection over in Israel (just in time for college finals), the hubby and I were clean as whistles, which are not actually clean with all that spit, are they? It’s like “sweating like a pig” – FYI pigs don’t sweat…

I also took Ole Bessie to the shop for a pre-ride check up last month and had to wait almost two weeks to get her back thanks to cycling being in season and everyone and anyone deciding to bring in their bikes the same week. Needless to say, despite paying for an intense cleaning and requesting small quirks be eliminated as much as possible, Bessie was not fixed properly and I had to return her three days before the ride. Admitting their error, I waited for Bessie while chatting with my buddy Jeremy who told me about a couple of very cool miniature golf courses in the area and gave me the name of a guy who just might take those 78s we inherited from my father-in-law and have been piled in the garage for over a year. All in all it was a productive visit – bike fixed for the cancer ride, mini-golf addiction fed for the summer and possibly gaining three extra feet of storage space in my garage for the year…

Before I knew it, the day was here. Although I had done it last year, I still found myself nervous, struggling to catch my breath as I swung my right leg over Bessie’s saddle. Maybe it was because I decided to challenge myself a bit more this year and rode from my house to the first rest stop for cyclists leaving from Philadelphia – a mere six extra miles. Or maybe it was the impending thunderstorms the Weather Channel adamantly insisted would happen today. Or maybe it was the change in directions to the second rest stop that were unfamiliar to me, despite printing the directions out again and remembering how I missed a turn last year, almost missing the whole ride.

But I was prepared – I was wearing my new pair of Shebeest capris with the cushiony chamoise that had proven effective. I  had my new iPhone 7 (see below), fully charged portable charger and fully charged new micro bluetooth speaker to play my fully charged iPod, two containers of water, a bike kit, two extra inner tubes, a bike pump, ID, debit card, cash, snacks, lip balm, hand sanitizer, wipes, eye drops and reading glasses – yet, I was still scared…

Last year the temperatures were into the 90s by 6:00AM, but this year I actually needed a light jacket as I rolled out of the driveway at 5:45AM.

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The first six miles were a piece of cake…

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Eagerly lingering at the rest stop and trying to be a law-abiding adult as the volunteer with the megaphone updated us on how many minutes we had left, declaring we had three minutes left two minutes after telling us we had two minutes left, I took off five minutes before the starting time…I think…and I wasn’t taking my phone out again for fear of dropping it after shattering the screen when it fell from the new phone holder five times on my last ride before the cancer ride that cost me $150 plus to fix so I would have a GPS and a cry for help safety net for the 61 miles I planned on riding. (BTW, Target graciously allowed me to return said holder sans packaging but with receipt in hand…and I had to explain to the customer service rep how to complete this transaction – my Target addiction is a whole other blog…)

Asking what time it was from the gentleman behind me riding for Lockheed Martin who was also complaining about megaphone woman’s issues with math, I pretty much started the same time as last year – 6:40AM. Although this year it was only in the 60s, I stripped off the jacket after sweating buckets thanks to my relentless menopausal hot flashes that never seem to take a break…

Not missing any turns this time, finding the new path actually more direct and easier than last year, I quickly arrived at my first rest stop.

Parking Ole Bessie under an old faded sign allowing me to “park anytime,” I battled with my anxiety over whether or not I should lock her up as I watched absolutely no one with bicycles much more expensive than mine not locking up theirs. I managed to escape long enough to stock up on the traditional carbs and salt while checking on Bessie to squelch my ridiculous fears of thievery. Allowing The Bully to take over and forcing me to move my bike closer to where I was hanging out, I made friends with a very friendly local police officer who was biding his time by using his radar gun on incoming cyclists and telling them their speed.

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As the Philadelphia crowd arrived at the rest stop, I remembered Jeremy-at-the-bike-shop’s words last year, “Don’t stop at the first rest stop – too many people stop there and wear out their welcome.” Apologies to my Philly friends…

As I made my way to the third rest stop, I thought about why I allowed The Bully to take over my thoughts about having my bike stolen. It wasn’t about the price of it – I could always buy a new one, right? I’ve invested a lot of time and money into Bessie to make us fit just right and have ridden many miles with her. To me she is a priceless creation. After complaining about my saddle being torn from use, bike shop Jeremy advised me to suck it up and buy some duct tape, “Once your ass and your saddle fit, you don’t wanna f**k with that symmetry.” Well, that about sums it up…

Reaching the second rest stop, I defied The Bully and leaned Ole Bessie against a tree next to the bike repair tent set up 20 feet away (at least someone would be keeping an eye out, or so I believed enough to abandon my bike) – so that I could make a B-line to the port-o-potties. Actually, my bladder pretty much wins against any bully, human or imagined.

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Stuffing my belly to the gills with watermelon and a snack bar wondering why I was eating so much despite not actually being hungry, I proceeded to the third rest stop and set Ole Bessie under a shady tree sure that she would be safe – f**k you Bully!

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Pretty much sensing my average MPH at this point, I texted the hubby as predetermined, knowing it would take me 1 1/2 hours to ride the remaining 18 miles to Atlantic City – the estimated time it would take him to drive the entire 61 miles. Long stretches of pine barrens later, I approached the fourth rest stop, grateful that the township had finally repaired their majorly potholed roads that nearly killed us last year. Now all I wanted was fluids with only seven more miles to go…

IMG_0435Thinking about all the losses my family has suffered over the past eight years, I felt the tears welling up here and there along the way, but as I rounded the bend off Franklin Boulevard onto the ramp leading to the Atlantic City Expressway, I felt the giddiness of a little school girl. It’s like having the red carpet rolled out before you – royalty for the whole world to stand by and applaud – and they always do. Passengers in vehicles rolling down their windows cheering us on, telling us, “You are awesome! You can do it! You got this! We’re so proud of you! Keep going, you’re almost there!” Although it was 20 degrees cooler than last year, that ass-kicking sea breeze off the Atlantic Ocean coupled with 57 miles of riding in the saddle made this the most difficult stretch of the ride.

And then it hit me…something I’d noticed last year but didn’t quite register – when you round that bend, everyone suddenly breaks off and rides the last 4 miles alone, even the teams. That’s what it’s all about – we have our cliques, our groups, our teams, our peeps, our families, our whatevers…but in the end, we are all alone…

Texting back and forth, the hubby and I managed to find each other in front of Boardwalk Hall amidst thousands of tourists, volunteers, onlookers, cyclists and local weirdos. Walking Ole Bessie into the garage to park her while I collected my participant tee shirt on the boardwalk, I made sure to lock her up this time, in spite of the posted signs throughout stating you needed to check with security (who didn’t exist) before you could leave with your bike (which anyone could’ve done) – it is Atlantic City after all…and absolutely no one with bicycles much more expensive than mine locked up theirs – that’s not The Bully, that’s just common sense.

I’d show you the pictures I took while riding the ACE and at the finish line, but I accidentally deleted them from my phone and Facebook…I’m a serial purger, what can I say…but that’s a whole other blog…

“When I want something,
I don’t want to pay for it
I walk right through the door”

Been Caught Stealing – Jane’s Addiction

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

The Bully

“So many people prefer to live in drama because it’s comfortable. It’s like someone staying in a bad marriage or relationship – it’s actually easier to stay because they know what to expect every day, versus leaving and not knowing what to expect.”  

Ellen DeGeneres

Once upon a time I was a staff member at a Jewish summer camp – for seven years to be exact. The first summer was by far the most difficult. After a long five-hour drive over and beyond the Pocono mountains, far far away from any civilization I’d been accustomed to, I found myself in a remote place surrounded by forests filled with black bear and hundreds of much younger adult and teenage employees desperate for questions answered. I was briskly greeted by a co-worker who spoke very fast and handed me a packet filled with important papers, including the camp schedule…which was completely in Hebrew. Did I mention I didn’t know a lick of Hebrew at the time?

As culture shock sunk in, I squelched my way through the inches-thick mud in an attempt to locate the room assigned to me and the kid (five weeks for me and four for the kid – the hubby would be bringing her up the following week). Although this particular camp was very “rustic” at the time, I knew what I was getting into because a friend had invited me, the hubby and the kid for a Shabbat visit the previous summer after I mentioned a possible interest in working there. The good thing was that my friend requested we be bunk mates; that is, we would share a three-room building together with another individual tenant – an Israeli shaliach (messenger or emissary) named Avi. Unfortunately, my friend had sickly children at home and wouldn’t be joining me for several days.

Suddenly realizing I was one of the few staff members over the age of 21 for the next 48 hours, I frantically searched for a phone to call the hubby. Yes, I had a flip phone, but there was absolutely, positively no reception on the mountain whatsoever. So, finding the “staff lounge” with several payphones and a few desktop computers that rarely worked due to the lack of satellite reception, I called home collect. Bawling my brains out to the hubby about regretting my choice to work at the camp and how it had been a terrible, horrible decision, the hubby simply said, “Suck it up…”

And that’s what I needed to hear – the decision had been made and the choice to quit would mean no second chances…ever. So, over the next 48 hours, I managed to find an oleh (an American who makes aliyah [moves] to Israel) who lived in the next bunkhouse over and was fluent in English and Hebrew. She taught me how to read the schedule and simply advised me to grab a broom from the supply room, sweep away all the cobwebs from my room and make it my own. Not only did I suck it up, I also got over it and quickly embraced the camp lifestyle, falling in love over the next seven years.

Now over the hump, my position as a parent liaison presented me with the second hurdle – my supervisor and psychologist of the camp would not be coming to camp for an unspecified period of time due to his daughter having been in a car accident. Granted, I was empathetic to his situation, but I completely freaked out over the idea of flying solo. Although the Assistant Director took me under her wing, she simply did not have the time to spend with someone as OCD and anxious as myself…and who hadn’t worked in three years.

I don’t know why I was so anxious about being my own boss. Up until that year, I had been a social work case manager for five years working with very challenging families made up of incompetent parents whose children displayed severe behavioral issues, most members suffering from mental illness and/or substance abuse. I also managed to get through those five years working alone, occasionally with a partner, but rarely with the support of an adequate supervisor. The following five years would be spent with the MICA population who were mostly schizophrenic. So, I asked myself, “Why should a few snotty-nosed Jewish kids and their helicopter parents make me feel so unsure of myself?” I put on my social worker boots, sucked it up and managed to have a fairly successful summer unsupervised.

The following year would be drastically different. This time the psychologist would be available 24/7 via telephone, spending every Shabbat at camp as well as two week-long “vacations,” one during each session. Needless to say, we didn’t hit it off too well that summer. Having spent the previous summer left to my own devices, it wasn’t easy to completely overhaul the methods of madness I had acquired from my experiences. In an attempt to find a happy medium, we met one-on-one and slowly tried to figure each other out.

One of the conversations we had that summer involved the topic of bullying, which ultimately turned into an argument. I made the mistake of expressing the opinion that bullying makes you stronger. I know, I know…not terribly PC of me, but it’s something I knew from life experiences – both from my own as well as the kid’s.

My entire childhood was spent with other children telling me how fat I was, my sixth-grade math teacher even calling me “Fatso” to my face in front of other students still present in the room. Needless to say, that’s when the lifelong grapefruit, cabbage, yeast and other various detox diets began. In elementary school, I was also known as “doggerty” and/or “dogdirty” because of the giant brown birthmark on my neck, along with the surname of Doherty. Day after day I was confronted with the question, “Did a dog poop on your neck?” to the roar of laughter from whatever audience surrounded my humiliation. And then there was my “Scut Farkus…” the school bully two years my elder whose daily goal was to find some unsuspecting victim to physically torture. I was frightened of this rageful monster and made a point of staying as far away from him as possible, especially on the playground. Some­how he managed to find me often enough to cause tremendous anxiety prior to lunch and recess, one time sneaking up behind me with a handful of worms and smashing them into my face. The teen years didn’t get much better with incidents such as a complete stranger publicly telling me I was “skank” in front of my friends and another young man pretending he was going to kiss me and then asked me about my “unibrow.”

Graduating high school was one of the greatest days of my life. Granted there have been some people along the way I would have considered a bully if we were kids. But as an adult, the choice to walk away has been much easier. I am not referring to abusive situations here. I am talking about “grownups” who never actually grow up and feel the need to continue smashing worms in your face.

Having been bullied the first 18 years of my life, I prayed the kid would never experience the pain and suffering of being a target, but you know how that goes…

At the age of two, the kid suddenly displayed extreme separation anxiety that lasted two very long years. To this day we still can’t pinpoint exactly what happened because it literally just happened one day out of the blue. However, it would be the onset of a crippling social anxiety and the beginning of her victimization due to the inability to navigate social waters. I can definitely tell you that the source of the problem transpired directly from other people’s lack of empathy and inclination to understand anxiety and how it effects the brain of a child.

The very first incidence of bullying on the kid that came to my attention occurred when she was in second grade. Having been absent from school for a week due to illness, a “friend” named “Carrie” called to tell the kid that other classmates were talking about her during recess and saying mean things. “Carrie” also made a point of letting the kid know that the main perpetrator was her best friend, “Jason.” Spending that entire Shabbat dwelling on what would happen the following Monday, we couldn’t wrap our heads around the idea of a friend she had known since the age of two saying anything behind the kids’ back. Upon her return to school, after asking fellow students and confronting “Jason” about the alleged playground conversations, the kid discovered that he had said nothing about her while away. Enter “Carrie,” the kid’s first bully – a bully who, at the tender age of eight and we come to find, was jealous of the kid’s relationship with “Jason” and decided to terminate their friendship with extreme prejudice…

It was just downhill from there. By the end of second grade the kid developed a condition known as trichotillomania:

Trichotillomania (trick-o-till-o-may-nee-uh) (TTM or “trich”), also known as Hair Pulling Disorder, is characterized by the repetitive pulling out of one’s hair. Trichotillomania is one of a group of behaviors known as Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors (BFRBs), self-grooming behaviors in which individuals pull, pick, scrape, or bite their hair, skin, or nails, resulting in damage to the body. – The TLC Foundation

Thanks to my keen social work case management skills, I found one of three institutions in the United States providing therapy for people with trichotillomania at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia – a mere 1 1/2 hour drive from our home at the time. (By the way, the other two are in New York City and California.)

By third grade, the kid had few if any friends, oftentimes eating her lunch alone and sitting by herself during recess. For fourth grade we decided it was time to change schools, but it didn’t get much better. In fact, it got worse. The girls in her class at the new school were very mean. They purposely alienated the kid mostly because she didn’t have the social know-how to be part of a clique, let alone a mean girl clique. By sixth grade, every single boy in the class had left the school – that’s how bad these girls were. They were so mean, even the boys couldn’t stand them!

In middle school, these girls would have “class” get togethers or parties and willfully excluded the kid and one other classmate who had similar social issues. How many Mondays came and went where we had to console our daughter after spending the day hearing about the “best party ever” and she wasn’t there? Once and for all confronting the principal about the school’s “No Bullying Policy,” the situation was handled in the most inappropriate way. The principal called the latest party girl to the office to discuss the so-called “problem” with the kid…and then made the kid sit with this girl in the office to receive her “apology.” Oh, and the principal also called the girl’s parents to discuss what happened…using the kid’s name and verifying the specific incident. What do you think happened next? Do you think things got better?! If you do, you’re a fool. Thanks to technological advances, by seventh grade the bullying became more “discreet” via the usage of social media. In one instance, the kid’s best friend, “Shoshana,” had her phone snatched on the school bus by one of the mean girls who then used the phone to text the kid and pretended to be “Shoshana” in an attempt to make the kid say something inappropriate about her. The kid, despite her social awkwardness at the time, was aware enough to recognize her best friend’s use of language and knew it wasn’t her friend. The kid would later learn from “Shoshana” what had happened on the bus that day. In another instance, one of the mean girls, who tended to be somewhat friendlier toward the kid, Face Timed her and, again, attempted to get the kid to say something bad about one of the other mean girls who just so happened to be off camera listening. Being used to the punishment, the kid knew better and called them both out on it.

So, we changed schools again in the middle of seventh grade…the worst year of school in every child’s life…and, of course, it didn’t get any better. In usual fashion, the kid’s class being made up only of girls, the boys having been run out of town for the same reasons as the last school, ganged up on the kid and went out of their way to isolate her. This time it only lasted two months and after the “guidance counselor” suggested the kid walked around with a giant V on her back…seriously?!

Luckily we managed to find yet another school, but this time the administration took their ”No Bullying Policy” very seriously, and the kid had two years of success with no significant bullying. By high school, academics was the focus of the students, and the bullying pretty much stopped altogether.

I expect “kids to be kids,” but I also expect adults to correct wrongful behavior and protect and support children who are wrongfully treated. I was appalled by the ignorance of teachers who remained clueless as to the severity of the bullying and the parents who simply did not care about my daughter’s feelings. In the end, the hubby and I advocated for our daughter every step of the way and helped her “suck it up.” Mind you, sucking it up doesn’t mean ignoring the situation – it’s about being the bigger human being and not letting the bully drag you down.

In the end, she developed a number of supportive relationships with peers and adults alike, blazing trails in high school like no other. My daughter drew strength from the challenges presented to her because she had the supportive environment necessary for overcoming the horrendous acts taking place over an entire lifetime.

When I was a child, “bullying” wasn’t even a word. Sure, there were bullies, but we were told to just suck it up and move on – kids will be kids ya know. For me, strength was drawn from within and it wasn’t easy. Spending a lifetime convinced I was a fat disgusting body, the diets continue to this day, despite meeting and marrying the love of my life who believes I’m the most beautiful woman on the planet. But the good news is that my birthmark is pretty much nonexistent, surgery to remove a tumor between my eyes ceased the growth of facial hair and I’m no longer afraid of worms…

And that’s why I had every right to tell that camp psychologist that bullying makes you stronger…

Over the past 19 years the hubby and I have told the kid to never give up and she hasn’t. My bullied daughter found the most amazing strength to pack her bags and move halfway around the world where she has successfully made a life for herself. Each challenge has been met with the same stamina she managed to muster up during every horrible situation she came across throughout her childhood. And, after a brief six-week visit to the U.S. this summer, my kid will be back in Israel drafting into the IDF (Israel Defense Force)…fighting some of the biggest bullies known to man…you go girl!

“Let ’em live while they can
Let ’em spin, let ’em scatter in the wind
I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends…
and the joke’s on them”

The Joke – Brandi Carlile

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5r6A2NexF88

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

“Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

March 4, 2018

It was time to say goodbye to the kid…again…crush…but we would be seeing her tomorrow in Tel Aviv to celebrate her 19th birthday a few days before our departure. This time I didn’t take any photos – I think I’m getting a little better at this separation anxiety thing…

Having heard so much about Tel Aviv, I desperately wanted to spend some time there and see what everyone was talking about. It took months to convince him, but the hubby reluctantly agreed to two nights…probably just to shut me up…

Me: “Look, it’s minutes away from the airport. Remember last time?

The hubby: (wincing with that if-I-don’t-say-yes-I’m-doomed-forever-face pause) “Fine…”

Last time was in November 2017 (Israel: Parts VII and VIII – So long, farewell)…nuff said…

https://youtu.be/uhguwCSnIZc

 He really had no argument…

Hiring a private sherut from our hotel in Jerusalem to our hotel in Tel Aviv, the hubby was plastered to his iPhone while I commented on the beautiful scenery he was most definitely missing along the way, “Dude…we’re in Israel…remember?!”

Upon our arrival, we were cordially welcomed by the hotel staff who paid attention to every detail of comfort. We were greeted at our vehicle by the concierge, who opened the door and led us to the hotel lobby, reassuring us that he would gather our luggage and stow it until our room was confirmed. Meanwhile, the front desk receptionist offered us free champagne while she checked us into the hotel. Notifying us that we would be on the 7th floor of the hotel with a view of the Mediterranean – thanks to a friend and neighbor, Jacob, who insisted that I request an upgrade and/or a room above a certain level in order to get a good view – I got the feeling that the hubby might be slightly impressed.

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However, the view also overlooked Atarim Square with a perfect view of a strip club called Pussycat, a circular structure that sits on the overpass of a highway below…

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https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-tel-aviv-s-historic-night-scene-1.5354243

And now there’s graffiti…

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Having researched kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv, I informed the hubby that we would be checking out as many eateries as possible and suggested we try Pankina, a kosher dairy restaurant not far from the hotel.

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Owned and run by Italian olim, we dined on homemade Italian delights for a mere pittance with exceptional service. As we ate our food, I remembered the kid mentioning a similar restaurant in Tel Aviv that she frequented. Texting her the restaurant sign and a copy of the menu, the kid responded with an affirmative – it was indeed the restaurant she was talking about and now we understood why – the kid is a complete and utter pasta snob.

One thing I love about Israel is that it feeds my ADHD nature. There’s always something going on to entertain yourself. So, while the hubby pooped out on me again, I walked the promenade alone, taking photos of scenes along the way.

I got a chuckle out of this one:

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The sign says “Swimming Prohibited.” These signs are located every so many feet along the promenade, accompanied by loud speakers reiterating to everyone in seven different languages that swimming is prohibited. Meanwhile, hundreds of people were swimming all day every day…

I also passed by Mike’s Place but didn’t dare enter…

The best part of the day was finding a restaurant our tour guide had brought us to in 2016 called Maganda, a family owned Yemenite kosher meat place. They are best known for going out to IDF soldiers while in the field and feeding them home cooked meals.

http://www.maganda.co.il/articles.html

Hmm…cappers?

Exhausted and our bellies full of love, the hubby and I landed back at the hotel. From our balcony we watched the people below, walking, running, skateboarding, cycling, windsurfing, boating, playing volleyball, frisbee, catch, paddle ball or just hanging out on the beach until the wee hours of the night. If I was an alien from another planet who just so happened to land in Tel Aviv, I would hypothesize that humans never work and have superhuman powers. It’s like one continuous Mountain Dew commercial…and they made me feel bad about myself…

March 5, 2018

This morning I briefed the hubby on today’s adventure – we were going to rent electric bikes and ride the promenade from Tel Aviv to Jaffo Port. Although I had never ridden an electric bike, I was obviously confident in my ability to manage one based on years of cycling. The hubby, on the other hand, kept reminding me that he hadn’t ridden a bike in over 45 years, his last ride being at the age of 10 when he flew top speed down a steep hill, lost control of his bike and landed face down in the road, breaking his front tooth. Advising the hubby to just suck it up (and not apprising him of the fact that Tel Avivians hate cyclists), we walked the half mile to Pole Position on Ben Yehuda Street.

http://www.polepositiontlv.com/en/

Receiving a crash course on how to operate an electric bike, the hubby and I opted for the more expensive bike that didn’t require the removal of its battery in order to prevent theft of said battery; however, we were also instructed on how to remove the bicycle seat and lock it up with the bike. Apparently, despite locking up your bike, people will steal your seat…interesting…I was assured that these seats are a hot commodity on the electric bike black market. We were also advised not to ride on the sidewalk – it’s illegal in Tel Aviv. We’ll just have to see if that one gets enforced…

Two blocks later, after crossing several intersections of insane traffic (it’s true…Tel Avivians hate bicycles of any kind), the hubby stopped on the promenade and announced that he was taking the bike back to the shop and was refusing to go any further. Like a scolding mother, I informed the hubby that he, in any way, shape or form, was not going to give up…and he begrudgingly followed along. Such a trooper…

Carefully navigating the 3.5 miles to Jaffa Port, I allowed the hubby periodic breaks while I snapped some photos.

In the end, I was the one who fell off the bike after getting the Velcro of my sandal caught on a fishing net and was pulled off the bike as I attempted to drive away while the hubby rode without issue the entire trip. Good job Woobie…

On the way back to Tel Aviv, we came across a building we had noticed before but didn’t know it’s origins – the Dolphinarium.

IMG_3118Dolphin Disco

Originally a dolphin aquarium likened to that of Sea World in Florida, the Dolphinarium lost its investors and closed its doors in 1985 until becoming the Dolphinarium Discotheque/Night Club…

http://mfa.gov.il/MFA/MFA-Archive/2001/Pages/Tel-Aviv%20suicide%20bombing%20at%20the%20Dolphin%20disco%20-%201-.aspx

Getting myself together enough to move on and,  being the pushy broad that I am, I informed the hubby that we would be riding to the Tel Aviv Port past our drop-off point…and promised him a milkshake…

Stopping at Café Café, we struggled to remove our bike seats, becoming frustrated with our attempts to lock them up with the bike. A waiter on break agreed to help us out, introducing himself as Shai and asked us where we rented the bikes. After a brief conversation, Shai informed us that the owner of the bike shop was his girlfriend’s brother and requested we say, “Hi” upon our return. Small world…

Although he couldn’t figure it out either, we managed to remove the seats and kept them safe at our sides as we sat down to order.

Finishing up our milkshakes, we quickly made our way back to the bike shop so that we could meet up with the kid at the hotel. This afternoon’s kid choice – Palmach Museum.

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http://www.palmach.org.il/Web/English/TheMuseum/Default.aspx

Closing down the museum, we headed to dinner at Pankina for the kid’s pre-birthday celebration where we were plied with free shots and wine with the traditional Doherty tradition of singing Happy Birthday off key. I think the Italian olim thought I was out of my mind, but I did get a standing ovation. Nowhere else have I sat in an Italian bistro where the chef is smoking while cooking my food and the bartender did shots with a man on roller skates carrying a flag with a picture of the Rebbe on it. How can you not love this place?!

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Not wanting to say goodbye to the kid until next time, the hubby and I headed back to the hotel. I would later find out, once in the states, that the kid’s U.S. friends in Israel would stand her up on her birthday motzei Shabbat, but her program friends would book Pankina just for her to make up for it…heart swell

Back at the hotel, our last night in Israel, we sat in the lobby and listened to the pianist croon English-speaking songs…and then I found myself singing along to a familiar tune that seemed out of place…

“Ex’s and the oh, oh, oh’s they haunt me
Like ghosts they want me to make ’em all
They won’t let go
Ex’s and oh’s”

Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King

March 6, 2018

For our last day in Israel I let the hubby know that we were taking the train to Haifa to tour the Bahai Gardens, one of the most famous sites in Israel.

https://www.touristisrael.com/bahai-gardens-in-haifa/2293/

Arriving in Haifa less than an hour after leaving Tel Aviv, we took a taxi to the Bahai Gardens with a view of Haifa that can’t be beat.
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Missing the English-speaking noon tour by five minutes, we were advised to walk to each of the three garden levels on our own ”just around the bend a couple of kilometers.

Finally finding the second level, we took a much-needed break from walking the steep decline to the magnificent gardens that can only be experienced in person to appreciate.

The third level was a much longer walk with steep hills and no signs pointing the way – somehow we managed to find it though…

Completely famished, the hubby and I strolled down the main avenue in search of a kosher restaurant. Checking in with Mr. Google, we finally found the Jewish neighborhood in Haifa and discovered a GREAT little hole in the wall called chicho.

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With Google Maps telling us the walk was a solid 45 minutes, we contacted the restaurant via Facebook before starting the trek to make sure they were kosher. Getting an immediate response with a follow-up photo of their teudah (certificate of being kosher), we quickly found ourselves in front of the restaurant – boy, Google Maps you disappoint this time. While preparing us an assortment of Moroccan meats with various sauces on homemade bread and sided with the daily salad, the Ethiopian cook told us about his summer escapade to Atlantic City years before.

Next stop was the hubby’s choice – Elijah’s Cave.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293982-d320551-Reviews-Cave_of_Elijah-Haifa_Haifa_District.html

Afterwards, we walked across the street (not exactly that simple) to the Haifa Cable Cars to take in the breathtaking view of Haifa on the Mediterranean.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293982-d320533-Reviews-Aerial_Cable_Car-Haifa_Haifa_District.html

As the sun quickly set, we took a taxi to the train station and headed back to Tel Aviv where we ate dinner at the hotel and waited for our taxi to the airport while I obsessed about the weather back home. Oh…did I mention the Nor’easter heading for New Jersey…the third one since we left…the one that was supposed to hit landfall upon our arrival at Newark Airport? Yeah…

The one thing I’ve been told numerous times by acquaintances when traveling to Israel is that with each visit you don’t want to leave. This being my fourth visit, I finally got what they meant – I truly did not want to go home. Needless to say, it was time to leave. Our taxi driver was a very friendly man with a great sense of humor, pointing out the pomelo groves along the road leading to the airport.

On the plane ride back, I was seated next to an older gentleman with dementia whose daughter sat behind us next to a young couple with a two-month-old baby. In hindsight I realized that I should’ve given my seat up to the daughter, having dealt with a demented father myself. If it had been me, I would’ve wished for me to exchange seats, but my head just wasn’t in that place at the time, the daughter repeatedly assuring me that all was okay. Throughout the flight, I comforted that old man like he was my father until he finally fell into a calm sleep that lasted the night. And I, as usual, schmoozed with the crew and obsessed with them on the impending storm that lay ahead.

As a people watcher, I noticed an older woman talking to a young yeshiva man in the galley, the social arena of any given El Al flight. It dawned on me that it was the woman whose belongings I had guarded in Newark Airport to protect her from the wrath of Manic Mutt (Israel – Part Deux: Returning to the originally-planned-before-the-kid -decided-to-make-Aliyah-last-year trip, Wednesday, February 21, 2018) and suddenly she was on the floor. Later discovering that she was dehydrated and exhausted from traveling, another middle-aged woman having a heart attack was brought to the same galley and attended to by the crew and two different doctors on board. Meanwhile, the rest of the passengers went about their business like nothing was going on…geez Louise people!

Landing in Newark with no Nor’easter in sight, two different flight attendants assisted us in removing our Israeli SIM cards, one with the post of her earing and the other removing the wire from the opening of a puke bag, and we reluctantly made our way through customs.

On the way home, we stopped off at the local Shop Rite where I found a bin full of pomelos and promptly placed one in the shopping cart. Pulling into the driveway of our home as the snow began to fall, I immediately looked up a video on YouTube explaining how to eat a pomelo…and it was the yummiest piece of fruit I’ve had in a long time…

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”

Let it Snow – Dean Martin

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

Shushan Purim Shabbat

Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, 2018

Today was a little more complicated than usual. Sure, preparing for Shabbat is a time-consuming event unto itself, but having to fulfill the mitvah of the Purim seudah (meal) by noon in order to bring in Shabbat threw a curve ball harder than one Sandy Koufax ever pitched. Watching the costumed revelers crawling to synagogue to hear Megillat Esther (the story of Esther) after a night consumed by merry making, I set up the food the hubby and I had bought the other day so we could have an intimate seudah on the marpeset (balcony/porch) of our hotel room upon his arrival after hearing the Megillah himself.

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As we gorged on homemade salads with hummus, pickled veggies, fresh-baked bread and (chocolate!) hamantaschen, I informed the hubby that we were going to take a walk around town to see what Shushan Purim looks like in Jerusalem, an opportunity that could possibly never happen again in our lifetimes. Making our way to the Old City, we were entertained by characters roaming the Mamilla Mall who pleasantly posed for the camera, along with a group of Bnei Akiva (a religious Zionist youth movement) students singing and dancing for Purim tzedekah (charity).

However, entering the Old City, we found a mood 180 degrees from the night before. Children still dressed in their Purim costumes handed out Shalach Manot (Purim baskets) to the homeless and panhandlers. Vendors offered free food to destitute parents who asked for tzedakah (charity). Various men read the Megillat Esther aloud for everyone to hear at the Kotel.

Looking for a little more excitement that was saner and more wholesome than Erev Shushan Purim, I suggested to the hubby that we head to a place called Safra Square, a place I had read about online where all kinds of Purim fun was promised for old and young alike. Not realizing it was an area we had walked by two days prior on our Yafo Street excursion…

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…we came across a completely different atmosphere. Safra Square is the space located in front of City Hall – and there was lots of colorful, wholesome family fun going on.

Deciding it was time to start heading back to the hotel to meet the kid who was visiting again for Shabbat, I proposed passing through Ben Yehuda Street to see how different Shushan Purim is from Purim.

Having had his fill of crowds, the hubby opted to go back to the hotel as the mini gay pride parade parked itself in the center of Ben Yehuda, becoming enveloped by hundreds of onlookers who joined in the dancing.

Finally experiencing the Purim fun I was looking for and not wanting to leave, I texted the kid and told her to meet me for pizza on Ben Yehuda instead of going straight to the hotel.

Getting our fill of Big Apple Pizza and bottled beer, I told the kid about our escapades over the past several days and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for Shabbat. Along the way we stopped to watch the random rave taking place in the park up the street, along with the usual pre-Shabbat pro-Israel ladies versus the pro-Palestinian demonstrators in front of the hotel and a father-daughter piano/clarinet duet in the lobby.

However, the best part of the day was yet to come – the kid informed us that she had officially received her Israeli passport, solidifying a lifelong dream and months of hard work. The hubby and I couldn’t have been prouder than that moment. Our little girl was not only a legit Israel, she was officially an adult – we had succeeded as parents…the kid was properly launched and ready to make a new life for herself.

After a quiet Shabbat, we headed for a late-night snack on Ben Yehuda and met up with a group of the kid’s friends from her program. Not wanting to stay out too late due to leaving for Tel Aviv the next day, we started back to the hotel, but not without running into last week’s motzei Shabbat (after Shabbat) haggler. This time he didn’t approach us and looked somewhat clean and sober…or, at least, I’d like to tell myself that…

Tel Aviv, here we come!

“Good morning, son
Twenty years from now
Maybe we’ll both sit down
And have a few beers
And I can tell
You ’bout today”

Still Fighting It – Ben Folds 

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Wow…just wow…

Thursday, March 1, 2018

So it’s Erev Shushan Purim in Jerusalem, but it isn’t stopping anyone from celebrating the fact that it’s Purim for the rest of the Jewish world.

Earlier in the week the hubby and I made plans to meet up with our friend and “other daughter” from home, Hadar, who is studying in Jerusalem for the year. Yesterday she suggested we go to the First Station (Ha-Tachana Ha-Rishona), because she’s been wanting to go there and thought it would be a fun thing to do. Happily agreeing to Hadar’s proposal, the hubby and I mapped out its location and walked south toward our destination. Along the way, I informed the hubby that we were going to search for a fountain I recalled finding during our 2011 visit with the kid but couldn’t remember exactly where it was located. As usual, the hubby succumbed to my unrelenting memories (that may or may not have been accurate) and questionably followed me down King David Street and, of course, I was right…again.

We also managed to find the Menachim Begin Heritage Center – a museum the kid went to years ago and recommended – and the Jerusalem Khan Theater, a repertory theater.

https://www.begincenter.org.il/?lang=en

https://khan.co.il/language/en/about-us/

We (or I, based on how demanding I feel at the time) will definitely check out both places next visit.

Several minutes later, we arrived at First Station.

With her bus running a tad late due to all the Purim travelers on a holiday schedule, the hubby and I strolled around the grounds until Hadar arrived (i.e. the hubby sat on a bench while I immersed myself in every tablet of history displayed along the original tracks preserved inside the compound).

Here’s my research on First Station in a nutshell: During the Ottoman Empire, between 1839 and 1875, Israel planned to build an iron railroad from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv but failed to raise enough money to complete the project. Towards the end of WWI, the British repaired the tracks 1917-1920, but they were only used for freight trains; however, in 1920 passenger cars were added. By 1936 the trains had stopped due to the outbreak of WWII. After the War of Independence in Israel, in 1948 the tracks/trains were reestablished as the Israel Railways Company, running from Jerusalem to Haifa and Tel Aviv. As new highways were built throughout Israel, less and less people were traveling by train, so between 1968 and 1998 the trains and tracks deteriorated, causing derailments and accidents across the country, and the station was shut down. In 2013 the station became a cultural complex that was preserved and restored to its original state, including stones from the Ottoman Period.

Upon her arrival, I briefed Hadar on the facilities as well as its history…to which she thanked me and suggested we sit somewhere and order drinks…oh, my dear friend…

Filling our bellies with Guinness, ale and Coke Zero as the crowd grew larger, we decided to explore the various shops, my favorite being a place called the Art of Thinking.

This store is full of brain teaser games and puzzles. As Hadar looked for a gift for a friend who would be visiting several months later, we noticed a bottle of wine enveloped by a wooden puzzle. I was handed this contraption and told that the bottle must be “unlocked” in order to drink it and, of course, asking if it was free having solved the mystery. In my frustrated attempts to solve the puzzle, I was just about to hurl that sucker to the floor when a 10-year-old boy came to my rescue and attempted to solve the wine mystery himself.

As a motivator, I told the boy that if he figured it out he could drink the bottle all to himself, to which he replied, “Wine is yucky!” and, to which I replied, “Kid…you’re outta my will!” He couldn’t figure it out either…touche!

Not wanting Hadar to miss her bus home in order to prepare for Shushan Purim, we headed towards Ben Yehuda where she could catch the next ride home. Getting a little sidetracked, Hadar mentioned her desire to check out the Burgers Bar, of which we readily accommodated. While eating our burgers, I asked Hadar if she knew anything about the Mike’s Place the hubby and I had discovered the night before.

Hadar: OMG! I love that place!

And she proceeded to tell us about how she got somewhat lost looking for something on Ben Yehuda and found herself sitting in an area filled with cushy chairs so she could check her GPS not realizing it was the outdoor café of Mike’s Place where she was promptly asked what she wanted to order. I immediately asked Hadar to walk us there on her way to the bus, explaining how I needed to have a beer there in memory of my brother Michael. Being familiar with my story, Hadar happily agreed and led the way.

Hadar: Oh! I want you to meet Jamie. He was the guy who served me. He’s a bartender there.

Quickly finding our way to Mike’s Place on Yafo Street, Hadar introduced us to Jamie who was “just too busy to say hello and couldn’t possibly talk…it’s Purim ya know!” That said, Hadar made her way to the bus stop while I dragged the hubby to a barstool, informing him that we were going to drink on Mikey Bro’s behalf –  that’s when Chaim, a man sitting on the corner barstool whose drink and food orders all the staff knew by heart, started asking questions…

We learned that Chaim had made Aliyah years before but didn’t make his home in Israel until about six years ago when all his children decided to make Aliyah and started producing grandchildren. He just so happened to be living in the same neighborhood as the wedding family from February 26th. Coincidence?!

After brief discussion and informing Chaim of the location of our current home, he told us how he had been raised in the next town over but knew a neighbor from our town. Although he didn’t know our neighbor because he grew up in the next town over, he informed us that he was friends with the parents of our neighbor when he was their neighbor in Cleveland where his wife was born and raised and where he went to college and had met said wife. Coincidence?!

A retired linguistics professor, Chaim cross-examined the hubby about his familial background and where he was from with precise annunciation of every word, making it difficult to not watch his mouth as it spoke and actually hear what he was saying. Once thoroughly satisfied with the hubby’s responses, it was my turn for interrogation…

Chaim: And where are you from in New Jersey?

Me: Bergen County.

Chaim: Where in Bergen County?

Me: Ramsey?

Chaim: Hmm…Jamie’s from Ramsey.

Me: Jamie the bartender?!

Chaim: Why yes.

Me: Jaime, you’re from Ramsey?!

Jamie: Yes.

Side bar: You have to understand here – the distance from Ramsey, New Jersey to Jerusalem Israel is 5685 miles…five thousand, six hundred and eighty-five miles…REALLY?!

Me: (looking at Jamie, attempting to recognize his face but not) Did you go to Ramsey High School?

Jamie: Yes.

Me: (thinking he’s about my age but older) When did you graduate?

Jamie: 1975.

Me: (flabbergasted beyond belief) Then you know my sister Kathy?!

Jamie: I’m too busy to talk right now…it’s Purim ya know…

Finally landing long enough to chat, as Jamie gathered his lunch together behind the bar I quickly snapped a photo of his face and texted Kathy. Yup, sure enough, he and my oldest sister went to high school together and graduated in 1975. Explaining to me that he and Kathy had attended the 40th anniversary of their high school graduation a little over two years prior, Jaime suddenly exclaimed, “Wait! You’re Alice?! Kathy told me she had a Jewish sister now.” I guess that’s one way to put it, yeah…Coincidence?!

While I reminisced about the old days with Jamie, the hubby struck up a conversation with the barely legal bartender, Moshe, who plied us with free shots and Guinness, only to discover he was the son of a rabbi the hubby knew from back home. Coincidence?!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPxMrQb-ajY

Five thousand seven hundred sixty-nine miles from “home,” somewhere in the middle of our planet, the hubby and I managed to meet three men in a random bar that just so happens to bear my brother Michael’s name – the reason I began writing about this stuff in the first place – and who just so happen to know people in our lives from back home. Several hours later, I was overwhelmed with the whole experience, my mantra becoming, “What are the chances?!” knowing it was not chance or coincidence -that moment was meant to be and planned a sixfold of millennium ago…

But the most important question of that afternoon was if it was true I would get a free cocktail if I answered the chalkboard quote correctly…

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The answer was an adamant, “Nah…that’s been up there for months.” (BTW it’s Valerie by Steve Winwood.)

Reluctantly leaving our “newfound” friends, the hubby and I headed back to the hotel in order to freshen up and get to the Great Synagogue for the obligatory reading of the Megillat Esther (the story of Esther). Having fallen asleep and missing her friends’ departure, Hadar unexpectedly texted asking to join us at the Great Synagogue. Arriving in the nick of time, I met Hadar in the lobby and quickly climbed the never-ending stairwell to the women’s nosebleed section where I thought I would die of vertigo and/or puke over the railing from the steep height. Settling in with Mr. Hayman and ready to make some noise, we listened intently to the story of the history we knew all too well.

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As we made our way back down to the lobby, I suggested we go to the sushi restaurant next to our hotel.

Picking out every typo and mistranslation we could find on the menu (including their own namesake), Hadar recommended we follow up with a jazz club she had gone to with a friend somewhere off Ben Yehuda, although she couldn’t remember the name of the venue or its precise location. So, while we searched for the nameless and locationless jazz club amidst thousands and thousands of party-goers, I stalked a poop emoji walking with his mom until he annoyingly agreed to let me take a photo and then watched two parrots dance to a pink electric cowboy pianist whose Pikachu partner encouraged the audience to dance the hora with him while I lectured Hadar about the dangers of pickpockets in crowds and the hubby perused the internet in search of jazz clubs in Jerusalem repeating, “What about Birman? There’s a place called Birman here. What about Birman?” and fell upon deaf ears.

https://www.facebook.com/Birman.bistro.bar/

Wandering like Jews in the desert, we suddenly found ourselves standing in front of Birman, a quaint bistro bar providing jazz and blues music on a nightly basis…this time the hubby was right (sorry Woobie).

As the musicians wrapped it up for the night, Hadar informed us that she wanted to meet up with her friends at Machane Yehuda. Being the bubble-wrap Jewish mommy that I am (just ask the kid), there was no way Hadar was going to walk through these crowds alone at midnight to one of the craziest venues in Israel on Purim I could only liken to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. As we battled our way down Yafo Street toward Machane Yehuda following an alligator walking his dog wearing a three-piece suit, Hadar exclaims that she knows this alligator because she recognizes his dog. Sure enough, the alligator – who just so happens to be a security officer at the Kotel Plaza – is the son of a neighbor back home. Coincidence?!

The hubby and I trustingly handed over our “other daughter” to Mr. Alligator and his dog and frantically watched as they made their way through the Machane Yehuda crowd…

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For thousands of young people, the night was just getting started, but for the hubby and me it was time to say night-night…granted, I had a really good time…until sobering up after learning that Mike’s Place is a chain in Israel, its Tel Aviv site being most “famous.”

Coincidence?!…

Wow…just wow…

Tell all the folks in Egypt and Israel too

Please don’t miss this train at the station

‘Cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you

Love Train – The O’Jays

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

 

 

 

Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

The Centerton Bridge in Mount Laurel  was abruptly closed three years ago due to being found structurally deficient. I don’t remember the first time I found this 186-year-old bridge, but I do remember crossing it a couple of times, discovering an historic section of Rancocas Village on the other side, for which the creek is named and over which the bridge spans.

http://rancocasvillagenj.org/wths_history/

My very first blog post was about this bridge. It was the first picture I posted on Facebook for my brother Michael after deciding to photograph my bicycle rides as a means of entertainment while he was in and out of the hospital.

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September 16, 2015

And, for some reason, I return to this site every September 16th, secretly hoping the bridge will be open once again.

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September 16, 2016
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September 15, 2017

In a later blog I vowed to find an alternate route that would bring me back to Rancocas Village and finally sat down to look at a map. I was also inspired by a friend who asked if there was any kind of loop around the Rancocas Creek where he was not required to simply turn around and return home the same way he arrived – there is only one bridge about six miles west of Rancocas Village or an overpass on Route 130, a six-lane highway to hell including multiple entrance and exit ramps. Thanks to a frigidly cold winter followed by days of rain that never seemed to end,  I was also way behind in my training for the American Cancer Society Bridge to the Beach Bike-a-thon in less than two weeks – I needed to ride at least 35 miles if I was going to be ready for the 55 miles close on the horizon. Not only did I manage to find my alternate route around the creek, the loop would be at least 35 miles long!

Between MapMyRide, Google Maps and my backup handwritten notes, I managed to find my way to Bridge Street in Rancocas Village…but not without threatening storm clouds that followed my travels the first 15 miles, temperatures in the high 80s with suffocating high humidity for the remainder of my journey, some rather creepy neighborhoods, long stretches of nothingness and frighteningly narrow bicycle lanes on four-lane highways. Oh, and don’t forget the crazy ass bitch who wailed on her horn behind me screaming, “Get the f**k off!” and attempted to run me off the road. Needless to say, I didn’t recommend this route to my friend…

And guess what I found? Pretty much looks the same as the Mount Laurel side…

I once again defied the DO NOT ENTER sign and walked up to the barricade and looked around, finally getting a look to the east I’ve waited three years to see once again.

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I was happy to read a recent article discussing the possibility of reopening the bridge as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge…trust me, I won’t be holding my breath on this one. I have a feeling that on September 16th I’m going to be disappointed again.

As I stood on the bridge pondering my steadfast determination to get through to the other side, it dawned on me that exactly six weeks after posting that first bridge photo on Michael’s Facebook page, he would lose his battle with cancer. He had gotten to the other side, but I wasn’t allowed – DO NOT ENTER. Even in my defiance, a complete crossing over just isn’t in the cards any time soon…and I’m more than happy to wait…

Desperate to get in more long rides, five days later I finally decided to bite the bullet and attempt to ride to the cemetery where Michael is buried with both my parents and our brother Arthur. Remember Thank you Pearl and f**k you heart! (May 7, 2017)? Yeah, me too…

I was feeling equally dreadful this year about the distance. The last few long rides were painful, with me once again questioning if I could do the cancer ride (which is actually a stupid question because I’ve done it). However, I knew that at the core of my anxiety was my heart. Despite not having any SVT episodes since having a cardiac ablation in January (It only hurts when I burp/January 18, 2018), along with a new pair of Shebeest capris with a cushiony chamoise, a new iPhone 7, my portable charger fully charged, a new micro bluetooth speaker to play my iPod tunes and both fully charged, two jugs of water, a bike kit, two extra inner tubes, a bike pump and my backpack filled with the usual ID, debit card, snacks, house key, lip balm, hand sanitizer, wipes, eye drops and reading glasses, I was scared…

So on Memorial Day I headed to the veteran’s cemetery to pay my respects. This time I remembered to keep a slow and steady pace – I would be doing at least 56 miles this time. No devices died in Maple Shade and the little voice didn’t make a peep. Flying by the Moorestown nipper dogs and the Mount Laurel Target, I stopped in Mount Holly to take a breather and accidentally found the oldest active volunteer fire department in America.

Although a cloudy, chilly day with occasional spritzes of drizzle, I made my way through North Hanover Township and stopped at the local farm market to pick up some arrangements for the graves.

Cemetery

Thinking ahead, I brought a map of the cemetery with everyone’s gravesite numbers clearly marked and headed to visit Michael first. With no SVT attack in sight, I was grateful for my big brother’s advice and having gone through with the cardiac ablation – he was right…thanks Mikey Bro.

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Next and last stop was mom, dad and little Arthur, where we had a little snack together.

The ride back was physically difficult, but I did it. It took eight hours altogether, but I listened to my body instead of the little voice this time and managed to ride a total of 60 miles. A year ago I asked myself at what point I would concede before not getting away with defying death. I still can’t answer that question, but I can tell you this – I’m not quite ready to cross that bridge yet…I’m more than happy to wait.

“Well, I traveled a long way
And it took a long time
To find you
But I finally found you”

I Found You – Alabama Shakes

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Let’s get this party started!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 – Erev Purim

No matter how often it has to be done, a mother’s heart crushes every time she has to say good-bye to her children…

 

As a friend from the states whose daughter also made aliyah at age 18 once wrote on my Facebook wall, “You know I feel this from here.” Having rested for a few days, the kid was feeling better and growing increasingly eager to get back to school in order to celebrate Purim with her program and friends – I get it…(crush)

When we planned this trip, it didn’t dawn on me that the hubby and I would be in Israel for Purim. Needless to say, from what we had seen the week leading up to the holiday, we were pretty excited.

At Purim, as told in the Megillah Esther (the Book of Esther), we follow the story of how the Jews came dangerously close to complete and total annihilation. In a nutshell, the story takes place in Biblical Persia where a Jewish woman named Esther unwillingly becomes the king’s wife after he has his former wife put to death because she refused to dance naked for his buddies at a banquet he was holding. Being an orphan, Esther was raised by her uncle Mordecai, a man who refuses to bow down to Haman or the king. He later discovers a plot made by two guards planning to assassinate the king, resulting in Mordecai receiving all kinds of accolades by the king and his court. This situation ends up pissing off the king’s viceroy, Haman, who decides that since Mordecai is a Jew, he wants all Jews to be killed. Haman devises a plan to cast “lots,” or purim (singular pur=lot) to help choose the date for extinguishing the Jews. Unbeknownst to Haman and the king, Esther is also a Jew. Mordecai convinces Esther to tell the king about her true identity and manages to save the Jews from inevitable annihilation. In the end, Haman is the one who is put to death by hanging.

As per Jewish law, we are commanded to listen to the reading of the Megillah Esther (the Book of Esther) on the eve as well as the morning of Purim. We also celebrate our survival – aside from the prescribed seudah (meal) on the afternoon of Purim, we dress up in costume and eat and drink until fully intoxicated. In Israel, the party starts the week before…

https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/267255/jewish/Purim-in-a-Nutshell.htm

Purim can be celebrated on two days in Israel – the day of Purim is observed throughout the entire country except Jerusalem, which celebrates on Shushan Purim, the day after.

https://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645278/jewish/Shushan-Purim.htm

The kid was celebrating Purim outside of Tel Aviv and then returning to us on Shushan Purim in time for Shabbat. Wanting to celebrate both Purim outside of Jerusalem and Shushan Purim in Jerusalem, we considered heading to Tel Aviv ourselves until the kid’s b’not sherut friends strongly advised against it, “Lo, lo, lo! It’s craaazy!” Okay, I was convinced…

And, because Esther fasted on the day before approaching the king, Jews also fast on Erev Purim (the day before). So what does one do on a fast day in Jerusalem? Yup, that’s right…you force march the hubby to Yemin Moshe to take pictures, of course.

Yemin Moshe is the first Jewish community built outside the Old City walls in the late 19th century and one of my favorite places to walk through, a hushed labyrinth of meandering sidewalks with brilliantly colorful flowers, endless stairwells, peekaboo windows and uniquely decorative doors devoid of human beings.

https://www.touristisrael.com/yemin-moshe-jerusalem/6111/

 

As the afternoon sun began to beat down on our chalk white skin and still not having a Purim costume for myself, I informed the hubby that we would be taking a shortcut through the park that I knew was somewhere close by because we had walked through it two years before after eating at the Touro Restaurant in Yemin Moshe and would lead us to Yafo Street where we could find places selling all kinds of ensembles just waiting for me to purchase. The hubby, being the boring old dote that he is, refused to dress up…party pooper! Nonetheless, he was willing to indulge in my unrelenting memories (that may or may not have been accurate) and questionably followed me into the wilderness…

Following somewhat familiar looking paths and checking with Google Maps, our tranquility was quickly replaced with the hustle and bustle of Teddy Park situated at the base of the Old City walls across the street from David’s Tower.

https://www.funinjerusalem.com/teddy-kollek-park/

 

Aloe growing unbridled, sculptures made of odds and ends shaped like a canon, homemade shacks guarded by angry old dogs, ancient foundations, beautifully sculpted waterways and playful shiny globes…and, of course, being right again, all just a block from Yafo Street.

Coming across a store packed full of costumes, I bravely shoved my way through the crowd…

Costumes

And while I was consumed by the vortex of humans desperately seeking last minute costumes in true Israeli fashion, I was missing this:

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Deciding to head back towards Machane Yehuda so we could buy food for our seudah on Shushan Purim/Erev Shabbat, I came across this sign:

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Just the night before, Regina had texted me a picture my brother-in-law had taken of an establishment in Wisconsin name Mikey’s Bar, where he sat and had a beer in honor of my brother Michael. I immediately snapped a shot of Mikey’s Place and sent it to Regina and promised her I would have a beer in honor of Mikey Bro at some point over the weekend…little did I know what awaited me there…

Arriving at Machane Yehuda, the hubby and I perused the hundreds of stalls offering everything and anything one could imagine in Israeli cuisine…along with some silly vendors getting into the spirit of the holiday.

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After buying two bags full of freshly made salads and several loaves of fresh baked breads, we scoured table after table of baked goods in search of the best hamantaschen possible – and then, there they were…

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CHOCOLATE HAMANTASCHEN!!! We were now set for our scrumptious Purim seudah to be eaten in Jerusalem – can’t get better than that.

Because Israel is an ADHD fantasy land, I wasn’t quite ready to settle down and troll away the afternoon in a darkened room. In a last-ditch effort to find the rest of my Purim costume, I sent the hubby back to the hotel to rest up and found my way back to Ben Yehuda. I was also in search of another restaurant that our neighbor Hildy recommended – Tmol Shilshom Café.

 

Finding Israeli mounted police horses taking a break in their day, an Israeli version of Escape Room, a lone pianist noodling on a random grand piano, some silly store fronts and a poser kitty, I failed to find the restaurant despite following the signs pointing the way.

Disappointed, I headed back to the hotel to grab the hubby so that we could attempt to find my second choice restaurant of the day – Anna Italian Café on HaRav Agan Street.

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A mansion originally owned by Dr. A.A. Ticho (an ophthalmologist) and his wife Anna (an artist), the structure served as an eye hospital downstairs and living quarters for the couple upstairs. The home was later willed to the Israel Museum and repurposed into a restaurant on the upper level with a permanent exhibit of the Ticho’s belongings in one half of the lower floor and revolving exhibits of Israeli artists in the other.

 

 

 

Not only did we enjoy an amazing kosher dairy meal with staff who were cordial and exceptionally knowledgeable regarding the menu, we were granted free admission to the gallery below. We were also pleased to hear that the restaurant also hires disadvantaged teens, teaching them critical skills necessary for keeping them off the streets and providing for a better future.

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Stuffed to the gills and exhausted from the day’s adventures, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep – we were gonna need it!

“I’m comin’ up so you better you better get this party started”

Get the Party Started – Pink

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Unfolding the past

This past winter was a bitch. She wasn’t giving up on her reins of terror for nothing. But spring wasn’t giving up and finally managed to kick winter’s ass to the curb.

There’s not one photo of evidence to prove that I’ve ridden my bike over the past two months. In fact, if not for iCloud Photos, I wouldn’t have remembered the one ride I took in late March. But I can’t post these photos because they’re pictures I took on my new iPhone…which now saves as heic (high efficiency image format)…and I can’t convert to jpeg…because I didn’t know how to use the camera properly…and somehow saved the photos on my phone as “live” (whatever that means)…and my computer doesn’t understand how to modify the file…

But now we gotta get serious here. I’ve decided to do the American Cancer Society Bridge to the Beach Bike-a-thon again this year and Old Bessie’s been sleeping in the garage a lot more this winter than last. The planned route is 55 miles – 61 if I ride from home. I am definitely not feeling as prepared as last year. The last two Sundays I rode 20 and 25 miles and felt like I was dragging my body through quicksand…and this week I needed to do 30…ugh…

Looking for a destination 15 miles away that would give me 30 miles round trip, I was at a loss…until my sister Regina called.

Back in the late 1980s, I started exploring my family genealogy. It wasn’t as easy back then – we’re talking when dinosaurs roamed the earth…there was no internet. My only means of research was to either make contacts on the telephone or through letters of correspondence – right, just like the poor old cavemen had to do. And when Al Gore finally invented the internet, it was S…L…O…W…and most services required large fees. Needless to say, my inability to sustain interest and the impending birth of the kid put my kinship on a to-do-much-later-in-life list. Thankfully, my father was looking for something to do in his retirement and happily took over the research. Once dementia kicked in, however, dad was incapable of continuing the task, his death screeching the brakes to a halt on anything more. When mom died two years later, that was it. I and my surviving two sisters would have no parents to ask about our family history – it was all so permanent…until Regina decided to pick it up again.

Up until that point, most of the genealogy consisted of the Doherty line – dad’s side of the family. My mother was not very forthcoming about her past, so we never really knew much about her family. Separately, Kathy, Regina and I had snippets of information we managed to get from mom over the years, but it wasn’t enough to piece together any kind of life story (Meemaw – December 5th).

Having found my mother’s father’s grave back in December, Regina made another recent discovery – my mother’s father’s mother, Sallie, was buried in a cemetery in Burlington County – 15 miles from my house. Guess where I was going?

I was heading to Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey. Looking at a map of the area, it struck me that I had been within blocks of the cemetery at some point last year when I got lost on a ride. This time I knew exactly where I was going and easily made the 15 miles to Beverly.

Locating the cemetery, I couldn’t figure out how to access the grounds, briefly contemplating jumping the iron fence until I noticed the spikes at the tip. I stopped in a parking lot to check with Google.

It’s called The Green Cafe at Whitebriar B&B Inn. Realizing it was an old bank building turned restaurant, I walked around outside to peruse the “library” and discovered some old history. And, thanks to Google Chrome, I figured out how to enter the cemetery without impaling myself.

http://whitebriarbedandbreakfast.com/

Quickly putting two and two together, it dawned on me that it was a cemetery for military veterans. One slice of info mom had given me decades ago was that Sallie had been remarried to a German man named Otto, who we now knew was buried next to her. I realized he must have been a veteran but wasn’t sure what his involvement had been. Riding in circles and making all the wrong turns, I finally found their plots. Otto was in the 3rd Pioneer Infantry, army grunts who were used for engineering and construction tasks during World War I.

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Searching cemetery files, I learned a lot about this family – a history of German immigration, divorces, remarriages, blended families, childless unions. I had so many questions for mom that will never be answered in my lifetime. Why so many secrets? Did she know all these people? Did she know their whereabouts when living? Did she realize so many relatives were living and/or buried within a 20-mile radius of her home? Sallie died when I was 9-years-old – why didn’t I ever meet her? Why did I care?

This was a question Kathy had asked me and Regina last year – why did we care where our family came from? I’m not sure I can respond with a clear answer. On the one hand I’m interested in the people of my past. Who were they? What were they like? Where did they live? How did they make a living? Do I look like any of them? Are there any personality traits passed on through our genetics? On the other hand, why do I care? Many of my relatives are dead and gone, having taken the mysteries of the past to their grave. Any remaining relatives are scattered throughout the planet, most of whom I have had little or no contact with for most of my life.

So maybe that’s it – in a world of nuclear families who themselves split up after children reach adulthood, technology has made it easier for us to find one another but it has also thrust us further apart…there’s a need for reconnection. For now, it’s just me and the hubby, two empty-nest orphans all alone in the world…that’s why I care.

Packing up my pity-party-sorry-assed-self, I walked over to the church cemetery next door, meandering through randomly placed tombstones of families dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

I need to find more cheerful places to ride…

As I headed back for the next 15 miles, I stopped along the way to catch some gorgeous views of my perfect blue sky with the puffy clouds.

And I managed to ride 31 miles without too much huffing and puffing.

“Oh, got no reason, got no shame
Got no family I can’t blame
Just don’t let me disappear
I’mma tell you everything”

Secrets – One Republic

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHm9MG9xw1o

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

I said we going to the mall

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Waking up to another cold and rainy morning in Jerusalem, the hubby and I agreed our day would probably be spent indoors – that’s right…da mall!

Thanks, once again, to our neighbor Hildy, we discovered that we could purchase Israeli SIM cards at the Malcha Mall, the largest mall in the Middle East. Leaving the kid back at the hotel to rest, the hubby and I grabbed a taxi and headed out.

https://www.funinjerusalem.com/malcha/

Across the street from the mall, we found this super cool apartment complex!

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Stacked like giant lego blocks, every apartment has a balcony with an awesome view of Jerusalem.

Of course, by the time we got to the mall, the sun decided to come out and say hello. Oh well…we were already on our way and really needed to get those SIM cards ASAP so that we could finally communicate with the kid. And the mall was in full Purim swing! I think Purim in Israel could be compared to Christmas in America – although it’s only one day, everyone and everything pretty much stops for the week or two leading up to the holiday. Kids were dressed up as their favorite characters and employees joined in on the fun by wearing silly head coverings and crazy makeup.

Knowing that the kid had arranged to meet two of her b’not sherut friends (religious girls who choose not to join the army volunteer for national service or Sherut Leumi) later in the evening, the hubby and I decided to pick out a nice gift for them and their families as a token of our appreciation for hosting the kid on numerous occasions. And, of course, we picked up a little shalach manot (a traditional gift given to children during Purim) bag for the kid. Having spent the entire day at the mall in quest of Israeli SIM cards,  we successfully accomplished our goal, including the decision to sign up for an Israeli phone plan after finding out we only had to pay a monthly fee of just $10.00 for 30 Gig – in the U.S. we pay monthly what we’ll be paying for an entire year in Israel…and that’s only 2 Gig…go figure…

Exhausted from the day, the hubby took a little catnap while I went for a walk to Ben Yehuda, finding a magnificently decorated tile shop, young folk playing a random piano and an adorable little girl enjoying herself while jumping up and down a step.

Upon my return to the hotel, I did not fail to visit my boyfriend lounge before dragging the hubby and the kid out of bed and heading to dinner. Finding a Kurdish restaurant via Mr. Google right outside of Machane Yehuda, we made our way to Ima (mother in Hebrew).

https://ima-rest.co.il/

Whether it’s “Wines of the Month” or “Wines of the Mouth” I’ll take it!

Walking back to the hotel after dinner, I stopped to take some photos of a beautiful mural on the side of an apartment building in the neighborhood…

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…and then there was this guy…

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I have a feeling Purim is going to be quite the display…

“Spending all my dough at the store
All my dough at the store
Need a few more dollars at the bank
Cause when I wake up I got straight to the mall”

Going to the Mall – School Gyrls

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump