Family Time

My school has this weird thing called “October Study Days,” two days off which we’re supposed to use to study. Of course, what that actually means is that we get a long weekend in lieu of an official fall break, and we use it to either a) go home for a bit, b) party every night or c) get some work done (and still, most likely, party every night).
Option (a) is out for me because home, which is at the moment where I grew up, is halfway round the world or so. Option (b) is out because I don’t particularly like partying. Option (c) would have been what I would have chosen if I had to stay on campus.
But I’ve concocted option (d) which is this: d) go visit brother in D.C and get the eff off campus for a while.
So I’m going on a mini-vacation, during which I still have a ton of reading and writing to do. But I’ll have some relaxation time as well, which will be lovely and much needed at the moment (as you may have noticed from my all too frequent melancholy posts of late).

How’s fall shaping up for all of you?

To Berlin!

Yes, it’s true, I’m going abroad tonight! Again! I know, I know, this is getting insane… But to be fair, this time I’m using my mileage on Swiss-Air to fund a flight! And I’ll remind you all again that flying to Europe from Israel is much less hassle that from North America, or indeed, Australia/New Zealand. It’s about three and a half hours to Frankfurt, where we switch planes and fly to Berlin.

Yes, this is the third trip abroad that Sir B. F. and I are undergoing together! The first two were to London, England, a place we both love beyond measure. London is fantastic city, absolutely amazing in everything from culture to architecture. But we’ve “done” London twice, and we decided we need a change.

Sir B. F. has a family member who’s relatively wealthy and he has an apartment in Berlin which we can stay in – there’s no way we could have succeeded in funding this trip if we’d had to stay in hotels. Even the cheapest of hotels cost about 100 Euro a night. But no, we get our own cozy little apartment in Charlottenburg, and we have the Schloss Charlottenburg, which is a palace with extensive gardens, right in our own neighborhood! It’s definitely a perfect location for us  – it’s quiet, so we can rest peacefully at night, but close enough to transportation so that we can get right into the centers of Berlin.

While I’m gone, I will try to keep up with everyone’s blogs as often as I can – and yes, I’m still visiting your blogs, but I’m just commenting less. I want to keep my circle of friends here, and I know that in the bloggy-world, the first sign of waning friendship is less commenting – so I truly do apologize, and I’ll do better in future!

I’m also going to try to write a bit (or a lot) while I’m there. I’m bringing my trust netbook, and we have internet in our apartment – plus, there’s neighbourhood-wide wifi connections in some areas of Berlin! Now that’s a service that I think every city should adopt. But back to the point of this paragraph – writing! I’ve already started my travel journal, which I intend to write in as extensively as possible, and if I have time then I’ll also try to continue with my own project which has slowed down a little, although things are getting clearer and closer to an ending, at which point I’ll finally be able to start working on a second draft! Woo!

And so I leave you now to tackle the rest of my day and half the night, as I wait impatiently for my exciting vacation to begin.

When It’s Hard to Write

It’s hard to write when you’re on a bus, holding a notebook in your lap.

It’s hard to write when you’re so tired that you can barely keep your eyes open and your brain feels like it’s melting.

It’s hard to write when you feel like you have nothing to say, or at least nothing new.

It’s hard to write when you’re not feeling well and your hand is shaking as you hold the pen or type.

It’s hard to write when you’re in a noisy and dark bar.

It’s hard to write when someone’s watching over your shoulder.

And, apparently, it’s hard to write when you’re on vacation and spending precious time with people you rarely see.

Passover and Flying

Last night was Passover. While every single one of my friends and acquaintances here in Israel was at a Seder [that’s the Passover dinner] and either enjoying or loathing their families, I was at home, alone with my mother, watching Julie & Julia. Which is an excellent film, by the way. Oh no, don’t feel sorry for me! My mom and I were relieved to spend a quiet night together, and we didn’t want to be at a Seder! Some people were jealous of us for having no familial obligations here.

But tonight we’re flying to Los Angeles, and we’re going to have extensive familial obligations there. I don’t consider my brother or my aunts as obligations, of course, nor do I consider my mother’s close friends who are almost like family as such. No, the obligations come in on Saturday night, when we’ll be attending a late and unconventionally dated Seder [the reason for it is that it had to fit all the young’uns’ spring-breaks].

Hmm. I still sound bitter. But these obligations are ones I take on with joy. I love my extensive, slightly nutty, family. I love the gossip and the laughs and the way I’m finally treated as an adult and privy to such knowledge as who’s cheating, who’s getting divorced or who’s off the wagon. Not that I wish these things upon anyone in my family, but when a large group of sixty to eighty people join together for a dinner, gossip is bound to happen.

As you may be able to tell, I’m quite frazzled. I need to pack my carry-on bag, shower, and be ready in half an hour with a thermos of coffee to take to the park so that Sir. B. F. and I can spend an hour alone before he drives us to the airport.

I’m going to try, as hard as I possibly can, to keep writing every day, and keep track of all my friends here. Wish me luck!

Freakout

Tears swell up.

Bile churns.

Head aches.

Heart burns.

*

Muscles tense.

Thoughts amass.

Hands shake.

Words turn crass.

*

Flying away.

Later today.

Not to stay.

But that’s okay.

*

Freakout.

Walkabout.

Lipsapout.

I’llsortitout.

Winter Break

I’m officially on winter break!

This makes me joyful. While the past few months have been eye-opening, difficult, wonderful, mind-expanding, glorious, interesting, intense and any other number of adjectives – while all this is true, it’s also true that I’m not sorry that my first semester in college is officially over. I’m through the first hump now, and I know more of what I can do, what’s expected of me and how well I can perform. I’m pleased with my studies – rather, I’m ecstatic about them. I never thought that I could truly enjoy intense studying as much as I did – that is, I always knew that I’d enjoy learning new things in college, but my satisfaction and pleasure in it in reality exceeded my wildest dreams.

Still, I’m happy that I have a break now. I have almost a month to air out my brain a little and go back to school feeling refreshed and eager again. I truly find it rather astonishing how much knowledge I feel I’ve gained over the past months, as well as how much work I’ve done. My mind still reels at the notion that I wrote somewhere around 150 pages throughout the past three-and-a-half months.

Now that I’m back, I’m going to be kicking myself back into my proper writing/blogging regime. I miss the creative side of my brain and intend to use it again during the break I have. This shouldn’t be too difficult a task, if only because my recently acquired insomnia causes me to lie in bed for hours thinking about characters and things I want to write about. Next post should finally be something more than a useless, silly ramble like this!

Plinth People

Trafalgar Square is probably one of the most famous places in London. Every movie or TV show that shows a montage of London scenery includes it. The square is bordered by four plinths, three of which are regularly occupied by the same statues. This summer, however, the fourth plinth is being used differently. The full info can be found here: http://www.london.gov.uk/fourthplinth/

Basically, every hour of every day for the duration of the summer, a different person will occupy the empty plinth. The people are allowed to do whatever they wish, except, I assume, for blatant sexual performances or violence. Mr. B. F. and I made Trafalgar Square a hub during our visit to London. We kept going back, sometimes up to four times a day, so we could see what the current Plinth Person was doing.

Our first wasn’t very exciting. She was sitting up on the plinth in a folding chair, and sketching. She didn’t interact with the crowd, not even for a moment. I’m sure that she enjoyed the experience of sketching from such a spot, a place that there would be no reason for her to access at any other time, but the crowd around her wasn’t a part of her experience. There were quite a few Plinth People who were there in this way – writing in notebooks or on computers – but I shan’t elaborate about them, because I cannot speak of what sort of experiences they had.

The first Plinth Person we enjoyed seeing we referred to as The Lady in Pink. She was, indeed, dressed all in pink, holding a glass of pink champagne and standing on a pink rug she’d spread across the plinth. She was throwing pink paper airplanes into the crowd, and occasionally she’d toast the crowd and take a sip of her champagne. Then she started throwing candy, and the children went wild for it. We managed to find a couple of the empty candy wrappers – that’s how we figured out that this lady’s message was optimism. She’d written heartwarming compliments and phrases on her paper airplanes and tied encouraging little notes to the candies. My favorite was this: Someone is proud of you right now. Lovely!

The next interesting Plinth Person we got to see was a young man, early twenties probably, who was holding a megaphone and giving a history lesson. He’d brought notes with him, and was reading to the crowd, explaining some battle or another. He soon finished, and asked if the crowd wanted more. Some people, including us, cheered and whooped. He began then to tell us about Trafalgar Square itself; he told us about how it was a gathering place used for everything from protesting wars to mourning Micheal Jackson. He also explained that it was built to restrain such gatherings – the fountain in the middle, for instance, was a good way to break a crowd up and leave some movable space, also thus restricting just how many people could occupy the square.

Another of the fun Plinth People we saw was part of a whole group. She was young as well, presumable a student, and she was holding a sign which we could see from far off: FREE HUGS. We wandered closer, wondering how on earth she’d be able to give free hugs when she was on the plinth, secluded, with no way for anyone to reach her. As we drew near, we figured it out – she was simply the advertisement. A small platoon of her cronies stood underneath the plinth holding identical signs, and these were the ones who were giving the hugs away. I claimed one.

Our shared favorite, however, was a man we saw in the evening, around ten PM. He seemed to be in his thirties, but his hair was already all white. He was singing nursery rhymes – both aloud, and in sign language. He was teaching the crowd sign language in the simplest way possible – through Five Little Ducks and Old McDonald Had A Farm. It was wondrous. There were some women who stood there and sang along with him constantly, never missing a line, figuring out, as we did, what each gesture the man made was and understanding the words that went with the gestures.

If anyone is going to be in London by the end of the summer, I recommend frequent stops at Trafalgar Square. You’ll see some incredible things.

To the Land of Great Bands

As my Victoria story doesn’t seem to be doing very well, I’m taking a one day [hopefully] break from it to give this announcement: I’m flying again. This time it’s with Mr. B. F. We’re going to London together for the second time; we leave tomorrow, July 14th and arrive back in Israel on the 24th. This will be a vacation of the proper sort – lounging in cafes drinking cappuccinos, taking walking tours and going shopping at the myriad thrift stores. Basically, rest and relaxation only with lots of walking around in between the two.

England is definitely one of my favorite places in the world. Not only has it brought the world bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Queen, it is also beautiful and can boast one of the greatest cities in the world: London. And London itself is probably my second favorite city in the world – second only to Los Angeles, which smells like home to me in many ways.

Now London has its fair share of problems, I’m sure. There’s the issues of constant traffic, the congestion charges, the occasional breaking down of one tube line or another – but for a tourist it’s a fantasy-land. Full of history, full of FREE museums, full of marketplaces, full of large and small and medium sized streets that are simply fabulous to discover – it is incredible.

As always, I hope to be able to write regularly, and might actually have more of a chance to this time as I’ll have more free “down” time, but cannot promise.

Across Five States: Into Pennsylvania

A new morning dawned, bright and crisp – though the only reason it was crisp was the air conditioning which we’d left on all night. The moment we left the Day’s Inn, however, we realized just what kind of weather we’d stumbled into. It was hot, unbearable so, and humid to boot – and this at only seven in the morning! We loaded our essentials back into the U-Haul, blasted the air conditioning once more, and were on our way.

We were looking for a decent place to have breakfast, but we didn’t find any place that wasn’t fast food until after we’d entered Pennsylvania. When we crossed the state border, though, our hunger took a backseat in our minds as we gazed in wonder at the vistas around us. Almost immediately after crossing the border from Ohio, the mundane and endless flat-lands disappeared, giving way to rolling green hills. It was countryside at its most beautiful, alternating between vast expanses of grassy knolls and forests, dark and dense.

It was stunning, to say the least. There was so much wild vegetation that many of the trees were being choked by ivy climbing their very trunks, beautiful but deadly to the trees themselves. Here and there we could spot gorgeous houses perched between trees or amongst the hills, old-fashioned and grand. In the valleys between the hills we saw some large farms as well, which resulted in our delighted cries of “Sheep! Horses! Look, brown cows! More horses!” We were like children, seeing this foreign life that we’d all read about in picture books more often than seeing it around us.

We began musing about how someone would come to live here, and whether or not we would ever want to live in such an isolated place. We all agreed that we would love to live in a secluded and cozy house and write there for a season. I imagined what the winters would be like in such a place – wind and rain whipping the trees mercilessly, snow piling up and muffling the sounds of animals and the rustle of leaves. It would be like living in a fairy-tale, and yet, characters in fairy-tales always seem so lonely in the end.

We continued onwards, trying to solve crossword puzzles and keep out of the way of large trucks, and eventually we gave into our hunger and drove off the highway and entered a town. The name of the town eludes me, but we found a Denny’s there. I’d never been in one of those either, and it was another experience of discovering America. Our waitress was a darling, grey haired, plump and gruffly kind. She brought us all steaming mugs of coffee, which we were all desperate for. We ate a pleasant meal, finishing it off with a delicious Hershey’s chocolate cake, and made our way back to our seats in the truck that was already so familiar to us.

Across Five States: Into Ohio

Night had fallen, my brother was driving, my mother was holding the rat-cage, and we drove into Ohio. Music was blaring out of the speakers from my brother’s iPod, and the two hours driving in the dark were an experience unto themselves. Lamps were scarce on the highway, we were surrounded by trucks bigger than us [several of which were swerving alarmingly at some points] and we were just driving and driving, the road seeming to go nowhere.

A curious thing about the highway through Ohio – there are lots and lots of bridges going over it. Low bridges, just over the height of one of the huge trucks, that seem to go through from one city to another or to lead from one part of town to the other. What we enjoyed about these bridges was the fact that they were all named, the green sign hanging on the bridge for all those driving underneath to see. We passed some boring ones of course, but we found one particularly road with a wonderful name: Bittersweet Road. It conjured up the images of tragedy and drama, a small town in crisis perhaps or a pair of star-crossed lovers.

As my brother and I sang along to the wonderful voice of Amanda Palmer, the cabaret music of The World Inferno Friendship Society and the hilarious lyrics of Jonathen Coulten, the miles went by swiftly. Eventually, around eleven at night, we followed one of the many blue signs pointing to wayside motels. We chose the Day’s Inn, parked,  and entered.

“Excuse me?” my mother called to the receptionist. He was a young guy who was on the phone. He spoke to us, revealing an Indian accent.

“Yes, hello,” he smiled.

“We’d like a room for three – with two double beds please.”

“Long day of driving, huh?” he asked rhetorically, smiled, and asked my mother for credit card information. Once the transaction was complete, he handed us our room keys – the plastic card kind – and explained that we needed to enter through the back. We did so, and stuck the key in the lock, a plastic box with a red light showing on it. We slid the card in time after time, but it stayed resolutely red. Eventually, we had to go back and get the keys reprogrammed. It didn’t help. Tempers were running high by this time, in the tired sort of way that tempers run when their victims are especially weary. Again, we walked to the receptionist, and this time he got new keys and came with us to make sure they worked.

Finally, we settled in our room, sneaked the poor rats in and fed them and retired to surprisingly comfortable beds.