Friday, August 27, 2010

Life's a Beach

The day after Jerusalem, we cleansed our emotional palates with another day frolicking in the Mediterranean. For all the stress I felt about being engulfed by so many pilgrims in the Holy City, I myself fast fell into the role of worshipper-- sun worshipper-- at the beach. That's one place I know I can always rely on to fill me with a sense of wonder and mystery and total chilled outedness and every time we visit an ocean Warren and I both wonder aloud what the hell I'm doing living in a landlocked city.

Years ago, I showed Warren's dad a picture of W making sand castles in Hawaii and he said that while the beach there was nice, the sand in Israel is much nicer. This is very typical of Israeli opinion-- everything here is better. (Wheatsville actually sells a product labeled Superior Israeli Sheep Feta.) I don't know if I'd go so far as to say the beach here is better, but it sure is nice. And it's the one place I encountered anything even remotely ambiguous. Opinions here run even stronger than those of the clerks at Waterloo Records, and if you are having a hard time making up your mind about something, no problem, somebody is always waiting to tell you what to think. But I did spot a slogan for Carlsberg beer on one of the ubiquitous umbrellas -- PROBABLY the Best Beer in the World. My theory about this slogan is that, since the beer is made elsewhere it cannot be advertised as DEFINITELY the Best Beer in the World.

Swimmers are required to stay within zones marked by flags. Up on the beach, the lifeguards sit in these stands-- like announcer booths at a football game-- and provide a running commentary, shouting at various people how if they don't come in closer, the lifeguards are going to have to come out into the water and kick some ass. Only it's really hard to understand them, not only because they're speaking Hebrew, but because their PA system so distorts and muffles the message it makes subway announcements in NY seem crisp and clear. Warren does a great impersonation of these guys by clamping his hand over his mouth and shouting indiscernible garble. I like to think that each time they yell they're saying, "I'm going to count to three and then I'm going to come in the water and haul your ass out but lucky for you counting to three in Hebrew takes about twenty minutes given the complexity of the language." (On an earlier trip to the beach, I watched a pot-bellied lifeguard-- his stomach like a personal flotation device-- come down off his perch, get into the water, and literally start pushing around some non-compliant bathers.)

And then there is the paddle ball, which is second only behind arguing here as a national favorite sport. In fact, the paddle ball is a lot like the conversation here. An excellent metaphor if you will. People smash a little black ball back and forth, it makes a loud noise, but in the end it's pretty harmless even if you get hit, and often enough the ball gets dropped.

I've only got a few days left before the seven million hour flight back. Here's hoping there's at least one more beach day in the works. Oh, and I keep meaning to mention that, when on the beach, I am reading (and have now finished reading) a totally vacation-worthy beach read,Georgia's Kitchen, written by my friend Lenny's friend, Jenny Nelson. It's one of those books where you know, going in, nothing bad is going to happen, the heroine is going to overcome her obstacles, and it's going to be all happily ever after.

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