Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It is, isn't it?

Bitter Moon - Zulu Winter

Below a shopkeeper kicks out a rolled rug. I wonder if he finds succor in the ritual or if it bores him. It interests me how intentional and precise he places merchandise on the carpet. A half hour before, he approached the shop sifting through his keys. Now putting down the second of two typewriters between a Beatles album and a Jackson 5 record. The shop front is slightly shoved from view by a palm tree. The other half is smudged from attention by a sale sign at the shoe store adjacent. Something about the poster's size and dispersal of color tap your eyes on the shoulder. A passing trio of girls that are wearing ten PM outfits at nine In the morning have their eyes arrested too. The one in the middle trips at an unexpected bit of sidewalk topography. She looks back at the spot spitefully, like it insulted her. She and her girlfriends continue off in their large, almost helmet-like sunglasses. Bored husbands might be the shopkeeper's only chance in this pedestrian mall. The gossamer light of morning.

Portions of the weight from my head, neck and back slopped on a round bar a foot above a concrete horseshoe bench whose shape it corresponds with and mimics. Inside the horseshoe is a swimming pool of soil with plants that are either young or won't grow. People walk in front of me and every 30th or so has an index-finger-and-thumb-size slip on the slick rock prominent on the promenade of Ben Yehuda St. A case could be made for saying it's still evening, but to me it's now night.

Two girls/women walk downhill in the direction of my left. One, hippyish, wears baggy harem pants and has a confidence transparent through her skin. The other I have already forgotten two minutes after she walks out of my life. A brunette female who was generally attractive is all I can recall. The whole painting is beautiful and I know took bookshelves of hours to birth, but the only figure I can ever bring to mind is the Venus. With her art nouveau dreadlocks and hands in her pockets, ninety degrees from her shoulders, she and her sidekick don't speak. Parting company at an intersection, their distance is an amending ebb tide as they now talk. Who knows why they didn't just take care of whatever it is while they were walking in silence before. The confident one has curated her self-assurance in situations where she's sure she is the queen. It's confidence with a caveat. The thing I'll remember most is her voice though. The leafy timbre of her sound as she spoke words I could understand to her friend. Oh yes, her companion is American. I now remember this too. They were making some sort of plan. I couldn't really hear, not that it matters. What stays with me is the way her Hebrew-sculpted tongue pinballs syllables into corners and nooks I'd never heard before. It makes me want to trace over them with my finger.

A small settlement has been erected in the intersection of Hillel and Ben Yehuda. It is mostly plastic. A pink footstool, a pale purple stool, and a taller white stool surround a woman of a large, but ambiguous shape squat on a grey plastic chair. Also, an even tinier white plastic footstool that is only visible when she stands up. Yellow plastic bowls sit on top of the stools; oversize round coin slots for her jukebox. A living jukebox of the women, a ukulele, a chest-pinned microphone, a tissue box speaker, and a music stand planted in the center. She plays the songs both me and my dad can agree on. The woman's clothes, accessories: it took her longer to choose to put each item on that day than the time it took her to decide to purchase them originally. A black dress that reaches elbow and ankle hugged by a denim vest. On her head a pink hat with a flower and pink Crocs on her feet.

I am halfway between her and a bald man's gelato parlor. I have my choice of two radio stations. If I turn to the left I hear the placid strum of the pink and plastic woman. To the right I get ice cream speakers splashing American Top-40 from the end of the last decade. It's weird how 2008 can seem more outdated than 1964.

Holiday - Poor Moon

A group of Chinese tourists walk up to the woman. I miss what happens, but now the tourists are singing along with her. One is even playing the ukulele himself. They all look pleased. Even the woman though she is not facing me. This seems to be nicely wrapping up a satisfying cuisine of Jerusalem sightseeing for the tourists. They sing along to Bob Dylan. Their Chinese accent acts like a wonky shopping cart wheel upon the words. It is nice to listen to, but is hard to take serious.

Soon they are substituted out by a group of American Jews, youths, 8th grade I'd say, wearing their yarmulkes for the first time; like it's a Halloween costume or something. A male takes hold of the ukulele and it looks like he may be taking the reins for a cut. The woman talks with him. Around those two the others switch in and out posing for pictures. You can still tell, even by looking at the back of their heads, when they make a goofy face for the photo. Some also snap ironic hand gestures. With the moment already soaked into their cameras, they leave. A song is neither sung nor played nor heard. They now have pictures of an event that never happened. The boy holding the instrument is still chatting with the woman. His friends are gone. With them went his interest in the lady. He hands back the ukulele mid-sentence. While still conversing he calmly takes steps back. Once outside the bubble of an obvious interpersonal communication he turns, hurrying to his companions. The woman doesn't miss a beat and begins a John Denver tune. Much of her songs are his. That time we played with that street performer in Jerusalem. Oh wait. Yarmulkes and ukuleles.

At some point that night I am walking. Uphill, but I'm not complaining. Flung down upon me to my right is a bike of whose great velocity I turn with as it passes. The rider’s speed seems grossly irresponsible considering the amount of people meandering slowly and distractedly. I think this even before I see him wheelie as he continues down Ben Yehuda, slaloming through the stationary and moving objects on a single point of contact to the ground. In my head I imagine the series of decisions it would take to get me from my current state to one with a surplus of action and deficit of thought where such bike-riding would make sense. It is impressive, though I'm not sure I'm impressed.

A bench finds itself under me. We are both facing uphill so I easily settle back into it. This makes it one of the more comfortable bench experiences I've had. The wind comes and pats me down. Forty-five degrees and twenty feet away sits an Ultra Orthodox man, ensconced. He is so large that I am sure there is a smaller person inside the huge bundle of beard and hat and clothes, puppeteering. Arms crossed taking the whole scene in or maybe not seeing it at all. My attention goes to a young woman in high-waisted mustard shorts. Her hair a jet stream of orange; endless caverns of curls, a vortex vineyard. The locks seem a living prop like women who carry dogs in their purses.

Marichka - Deradoorian

The wind starts losing its manners so I head back down the hill. I pass through the gauntlet of street performers. Each with their odd tricks and niche talents. I drift to and fro them the same way I lazily click through YouTube videos I halfheartedly want to watch. Passing by is an Ethiopian man wearing a black shirt graphically printed so it looks like he is also wearing a denim vest. I think of the pink lady, the ukulele woman, the Madame of plastic, with her jean vest over black. I want to sit again. I choose between planting within earshot of a man with an acoustic guitar and the unintimidating handsomeness of a male TV lead, and a Hassidic Jew playing electric guitar. I go for the electric Hassidic.

He plays blues and is impressive the way someone who can paint with 1080p accuracy is or a Celtic dancer is or a chemist is. It's something I cannot do, but have no desire to. His novelty is popular with the tourists who not only listen, but take pictures of him. They get excited at the thought of having such salient proof of what a cosmopolitan place Jerusalem is to show their friends at home. The sound of drums claws behind us. I turn and see a group marching. They chant too. Getting closer I'm struck at how young they are. I would wager a large-ish sum of money that at least a third of the marchers have a department store Guerrillero Heroico shirt in their closets. I do not care to know what they're saying in Hebrew. The Hassidic man stops and watches. Begins playing along to their beat and complimenting the melody of their chant on his guitar; a coy simper. They continue by him without noticing. There are probably more than twenty kids. I wonder if being able to understand their chant would make it more or less memorable. I don't think people's best qualities ever get complimented.

A secondhand friend finds me on the concrete lip where I sit. I don't think I am pleased to see her, but talking, the words swimming upstream from my throat, feels as satisfying as emptying a water bottle post-jog. My motivation to invest in interactions has all the consistency of a claw game. She is catching me on a good night. She is catching a bus so I say I'll walk with her up the mall to King George St. We mostly play news anchors for the lives of our two mutual friends. Her bus isn't coming for over 10 minutes. I wait with her. It's not even out of obligation, for the most part. A guy she knows, who is also waiting for that same bus, joins.

She introduces us. He has one of those economical Israeli names, Ori or Dor or something. Soon I have been marginalized. They talk of people and places I have no knowledge of nor desire to have. I feel like the bandleader on a talk show with the occasional dart of conversation thrown my way. I think of the girl in the harem pants, her Israeli accented English, the suds in sent through my ears. The way it made conversation a roller coaster instead of the kiddie ride it typically seems. I think of doing dishes that afternoon, how with my washcloth I swirled the suds into hurricanes on plates. It occurs to me I have loyalty not to the truth of the events when I recount a story, but allegiance to the feeling I felt then at their realtime unfolding. In my mind that must always be held up and fortified; conveyed. The bus comes and swallows my once and twice-removed friends.

Walking down Ben Yehuda again I try to remember if I came out tonight with a purpose besides getting some fresh air and fresh sights. I head back to the apartment. The most interesting thing I see on my return is an Arab man and his mother. His hair is long, damp, curly, and vine-looking. He also wears camouflage pants. Beside, in an electric wheelchair, is his mom; a sickly hunched figure shingled in scarves and sweaters. His left hand on her chair's joystick as he guides his mother through the mall and up the hill. I can't remember the last time I found something so touching. I wonder if this is how housewives feel as the credits roll on a Hallmark movie.

Annie's Song - Sunshine Club

International pants with their unexpected zippers and seams. A napkin on the ground with an engagement ring of condensation, but no sign of the glass it was committed to. Kids with their bouncy ball voices springing somewhere to the right. The most interesting thing I hear on my way back comes from a presumably crazy woman. The cinders of language she scratches loudly from her lungs suddenly turn everyone around into actors. All that matters is sustaining the scene, not reacting to the reality of the situation. They focus on what is immediately in front of them, not the lights, cameras, strategically placed microphones, the director, people on set, craft services, the screaming woman who's had an exponentially less fortunate life than us. She walks by me and I am now incapable of sensing all the stimuli I am always so desperate to consume. It is as if I'm walking alone in a circular white corridor. I want to know what her Hebrew is though; even toy with the idea of asking an Israeli on the street to translate it for me.

Now on my street. Through two outdoor cafes with over twenty tables combined. I busy myself with guessing how many people give me even a passing glance. Then pondering the fraction of those who decide I warrant a second look and further wanting to know what thoughts they hang on the line between the first and second peeks. Next, I feel like an idiot for setting a place for those thoughts in my mind. Seeing my landlord pacing through the cafes as well, he shakes my hand and pats me on the back when we pass. As I walk I look around for the owner of the cafe I live above. Upon spotting him, he winks at me as is his custom. There is an old man playing accordion at his place tonight. The sounds of his instrument have the dusty glamour of my grandpa's trunk of mementos. Applause resonates hard off the stone valley; plastic.

I have two keys on my ring here. The one to get into the building says Magnum on it. To get into my apartment I use the one branded Ultra. People never tell you what they think you already know about yourself. This is the first thought I think the following morning as I hear dogs barking back and forth and look out to see cats eyeing each other from different balconies; one typewriter, a different Beatles record blown face down by the wind, and a print of 18th Century Jews dancing in front of St. Basil's.
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