Home Alone

Sorry I was ten days late. There were a few left overs that I had to take care of before I left. As this might sound like a feeble excuse I felt compelled to put it in writing…

July 24th 1995 – Oh what a miserable morning, Oh what a miserable day. Dropping the family off at the airport was quite a depressing experience. As much I hate airports, sending your family away from one of them makes it even worse. But alas there were some very good reasons for this unnatural departure (the first in thirteen years – mind you). I have never been home alone since I moved into Itamar Ben Avi (8 was it) on that lovely summer night… So here I was with the walls and the air conditioner (thank god for that) starting the count down minute by minute.

What I didn’t know was that my always caring wife had planned to ease my solitude with a quarterly visit of yet another family that was just passing through on their way to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Salt Lake City, Yellow Stone, Glacier Park, Banff, Jasper, Vancouver, Mount Olympic and Seattle. ‘Can you just show us how to get there?’ they would ask. But I’ll get to that part in more detail, giving it all the due credit.

So what do you do when the house is empty? No Gallia, no Yeela (aka Fakuto), no Tal (aka Suma), no Daniel (aka Osmo), no Amitai (aka Tintin)? That’s quite a list (sheyihiyu Briim – hamseh) to pull out of one little house in one shot. The silence that came over the place was ear splitting. What ever became of the regular morning crescendo. ‘Yellllllaaaa get out of the BATHROOM’, ‘Why don’t you ever get up before me TAAAAL’, ‘Imma Tin-tin is kicking me’, ‘Waaaaa (I kicked HIM…)’, ‘Me (who) Ahoov shel Imma (I love you both so just shutup before I clobber you’, and the TV would report that the weather is warm and the stock market is up, and the girl locked out side the bathroom would try to short cut piano practice while she’s waiting… ‘You know that you’ll have to practice in the afternoon…’, ‘Imaa…’, lost case, drop the piano practice and pretend to be a conscientious teeth brusher – ‘Yeela I need to use the bathroom’, ‘Use the other one’, ‘Dad’s in the other one’. Oh, so now it’s my fault. ‘Tintin Zoooz’, the kid is watching the TV (I think I mentioned it was on) from thirty centimeters away (attention to detail), which forces his brother to stare at his back. ‘Waaaaa’ – he didn’t move. ‘Bo lino’l naalayim Tintin’, as though you could ever distract a two year old seeking justice by trying to revive the daily routine. ‘Lo, Osmo dahaf Otti’. So? What do you mean so? Osmo pushed him and as far as the kid is concerned before Osmo is seen lying broken and beaten at his feet he aint’ doing shit as far as cooperating goes. Problem is that Osmo is only willing to lie on top of him – the other half of the morning deadlock. Meanwhile in the bathroom…

But now the house was empty with non of the melee that is so much part of it that it you almost felt alienated by the stillness. ‘Pull yourself together’, it’s only TEN MORE DAYS’ I told myself. One hour later the clock showed that a minute had gone by. ‘This is not going to work this way’ I told myself so I wen t to work. That environment is always the same, but I had to get home in time for Dikla’s gym lesson. That night I ran out of milk. ‘That’ll’ wait until tomorrow’, I comforted myself and went to sleep alone. Boy what an experience, alone in a bed that usually sleeps three, four or more. The next day I ran out of Thina. ‘That’s OK I still have the olive oil’. The next day the bread ran out. My rations seemed to be dwindling at a pace greater than I had anticipated. A whole week to go and already I’m out of thina, milk and bread. ‘Tomorrow is Thursday’ I told myself, ‘So if I skip the Thursday meal and carry on until Friday…’. That seemed to be a good idea. On Friday I had an invitation to have dinner at Avi’s place, that could surely make up for the Thursday meal I’d skip, provide for Friday, and on Saturday everybody is at home so if I just drool in doorways people would probably throw something my way.

Well, on Wednesday night that seemed like a reasonable plan, but I was weakened to a greater extent than I had anticipated. By the early hours of the Thursday afternoon I was getting pretty hungry. Three meals in four days is probably less than average. ‘The key is not to panic’ I tried to calm myself. My water jug was half full which indicated that I had been drinking. ‘Good boy’ I told myself. ‘At least you’re no dehydrated, people can go for weeks without food, it’s liquids that are by far more important’. I drank another quart of water and settled back in my chair to digest it. Fifteen minutes (and a pee) later I found myself looking at the other people in the office. They all seemed to be well fed and happy. “What do they do differently?’. ‘They buy food fool!’. Well that is a novel idea. To buy food you need money but without Gallia I don’t have any. ‘Go to the supermarket and use your ATM card’, but I never remember its number. ‘This could be more serious then it seems I told myself’, as the chill of relaxation began creeping up my spine. ‘Perhaps there’s someone who owes me some money…’. At least I was coming up with creative ideas, which in and of itself was a good sign (Cogito Ergo Sum[a]), or however its spelled. But then resorting to your self awareness as a last ditch effort to stay in terms with reality it not.

Poor, aging, hungry and lonely (I missed them so…), I was finally driven from work to seek food and money. From the blurred images of my mind I had managed to reconstruct the secret number of the ATM card, or at least I hoped I did. Well, either I did, or I used someone else’s and miraculously guessed the number. The forty dollars that came out of that machine were an amazing sum (Gallia never gives me more than twenty at a time). I decided to bury one twenty dollar bill in the back yard, should I go on a spending spree, at least I’ll have my usual weekly financial reserve buried in safe place. That afternoon I had three unplanned sandwiches and half a gallon of milk (god forgive me). I was filled with a tremendous sense of achievement. I had pulled myself together and taken care of myself in spite of everything (boy did I miss them). From that point on things started going quite smoothly. I was well fed and physically functioning so I could clearly focus on how miserable I was.

On Friday I was in for another surprise. Avi and Eli from the Canon research center wanted to talk. So we talked. Then they wanted to have lunch. ‘This is really something, Avi’s inviting me to lunch and for dinner, what a day!’ Fortunately I had forgotten my wallet at home so I couldn’t even offer to pay. They also made a vague business proposal but I won’t bore you with the detail. bottom line is that they control huge amounts of money, they want to open an office in Israel but there’s nothing concrete in the way of a project. I’ll certainly stay in touch with them.

In the evening I attended Dikla’s gym lesson. All part of staying physically fit. Four days into it, and maintaining a normal schedule, ‘I just might make it after all’. Dikla’s gym lessons are an hour of pain and agony. As a matter of fact the more you hurt the happier she becomes. For the past twenty years the woman has been strengthening all those muscles that people never use, and has finally come to a point where she can convince people to that they too must do the same. With twenty years of practice the lady is so damn good that she can actually maintain positions which are no humanly possible and while doing so smile at you at trick you into trying it yourself. An hour of misery I tell you, but it fit my mood. We do it twice a week for the fun of it… ‘It keeps your ass from dropping to the floor behind you’ Dikla always says. ‘Lady, what keeps my ass from dropping to the floor is the fact that I have four meals a week’. The nerve of some people. Here I am conserving energy for the arduous days ahead, and here she is lecturing me about the muscles that support my (cute) ass. Sorry about that, but really the way it’s white and my back is tanned…

Friday evening I showed up at Avi’s and bumped into Gili who was just on the way to her house with her kids. ‘Hello happy bachelor, enjoying the serenity of your surroundings?’. ‘Fuck you bitch’ I smiled back, ‘Your probably one of those that thought that going on reserves duty was a vacation too’. ‘Well I kind of like it when the house is full’ I answered. ‘But I’d be more than happy to let you have the house and I’ll move in with your husband and daughters…’. Now it was her turn to smile politely. Dumb bastards, don’t they understand that people were not meant to stay home alone? If you’re happy when your family is away then something is fucked with your relationship, get some help.

Saturday morning is always reserved for swimming. Thank god that’s become an addiction so I don’t have to worry about it. I just go. In the afternoon Adi dropped in asking if I could spare a few minutes (hours) to help him carry a few things (move his apartment). So that took care of Saturday. In the evening they asked me to leave. I didn’t know whether or not I should be insulted. ‘We need to prepare your surprise birthday party’. ‘Oh, well that’s sweet of you’. Knowing how people that ask you to move their apartment won’t go out of their way to make you happy, I rushed home and had something to eat. After all it was getting time for the daily meal and swimming and moving do make you hungry. Then I went to the party, blew out the candles and they ate my cake. That’s twice in a day that I had served them well. At least I was maintaining good friendly relationships with the neighbors. ‘But being such a nice guy don’t I deserve some companionship too?’. It wasn’t the birthday that bothered me. Hell, you can always celebrate your ‘unbirthday’ right?. It’s that I don’t like being alone.

Well what I didn’t know was that Gallia had seen It coming. She knew that I would probably hold out through the first week, but being the friendly animal that I was, she was concerned that for the second week I would need to have someone, or better yet someones with me for the remaining days untill my flight. On Sunday afternoon there was a knock on the door…

I stood there frozen to the carpet (in spite of the heat). I don’t know how long I was immobilized but I somehow caught on. A little voice inside whispered ‘Its OK, you know them, they’ll only be a week, there’s only four of them’. ‘The Cat in the Hat’ scenario and I’m the fish… There they were all smiles and cigarettes, Tsivka, Orli, Thing One, and Thing Two (Tom and Yonatan). Doesn’t ‘Tom’ sound idiotic for a Hebrew name especially when you don’t know the right ‘o’ to use. It’s ‘Tom’ not ‘Tom’, but then you know what I mean. ‘Tm’ with a ‘holam ba-taf’. ‘SHALOM’ (gevalld), ‘MA NISMA’ (I don’t desrve this), ‘BOU TIKANSU’ (go away). ‘MA TISHTU’ (I hope you choke). The ambivalence of the situation was confusing me so I decided to try to be nice. After all my food reserves had been replenished over the past two days and after all they just need a place to sleep…

AND A TOURIST GUIDE!!! ‘Iftah’, ‘it’s yiftah’ (you know last syllable and all) ‘you ignoramus’, ‘Uh-oh’, he had that look on his face. That innocent gaze that all guests have before they ask you to share your life with them. I’ve come to dread that look. ‘Well how bad could it be’ I told myself. ‘He probably wants to use the bathroom’. ‘Can you show us around San Francisco today’. ‘Funny’ I said to myself, ‘He can use the bathroom right here, as a matter of fact we have two of them’. That little voice which had held me together a few seconds earlier took over again ‘Sure, when would you like to leave?’. Wrong question, wrong approach. You should never reply with a question it tears down your final lines of defense. ‘We’re ready as soon as we go to the bathroom’ (so they do have to pee), ‘And here’s the list of the places we have to see today’. ‘DON’T ASK ABOUT TOMORROW’ the little voice squealed. ‘OK’ I smiled and took the list. At least I have the pleasure of walking you chain smokers up a few inclines… As much as I hate to say this I took them on a pretty nice WALK. From Union Square to the Coit Tower, down to the wharfs and up to Girardellie’s. Six hours into it they asked to take a cab back to the car. At 23:00 we were back home, and I had some people in the house to make me feel good. Gallia my dearest wife, if you have read this far, please read the next sentence. It’s either you and the kids, or it’s no one. There is no middle ground. With that out of my system I can resume the tale.

The next day the main reason for their having come to the US came up. They want to go on this nice long tour which I mentioned briefly in the opening paragraph. Well you don’t just leave the house, turn left and find yourself where you want to be. ‘Could you take us to the AAA, so that we can pick up a trip ticket?’. Anyone whose seen a trip tickets knows two things about them. First they take a long time to prepare, and second their quite useless. Having to wait on a trip ticket is a loose-loose situation. You think you’re in trouble without it, and your trouble really begins when you get it. Now the worst situation to be in is one where you have to convince the know-it-alls that happened to talk to a friend of a relative that insisted that they travel through… Of course the person making the recommendation was no where near the places he recommends, but who admits that? Anyway, one hour or so with an extremely friendly AAA assistant, they had all the maps and the tour books and the instructions they’d ever hoped for, but they still didn’t have a trip ticket. I tried my best to convince them that we’d never used such a thing and that we’d successfully traveled to all the places they want to see – but to no avail. The situation seemed hopeless. They wanted their trip ticket and the AAA needed five days to prepare one. Finally some heavenly sole came up with trip ticket scraps for sections of the way. They settled for those. Who the hell needs directions to get from one end of Yellow Stone to the other? Just follow the line of cars. But the little voice inside me was silent this time. ‘A useless trip ticket can do them no harm, and will end the current ordeal’. I agreed with him, after all it was Monday and I had other things to start worrying about.

After I’d sent my happy guests on their second San Francisco tour I went home to try and compile a list of the things I needed to get done before I (believe it or not) flew home. For the sake of brevity I’ve listed just the titles.

Wash, SHPDS, SF, AAA, Price Club, Food, Keys, Gym, Avi & Eli, Checks, Nilit, Bank, Mindy, Optimal, Battery, Laptop, Shave, Synoptics, Eshbel, tooth brush, shower, shuttle, address list, last minute shopping, safe deposit box, work plan, turn off TV, empty refrigerator, pay rent, Replace dany’s car (was destined to break down three days before I left), celebrate a birthday with the neighbors, Dikie’s class (the girls). Help yet another family move (just a few things for a few short hours), find a battery for the laptop (five missing) so that I can write this thing, throw out the garbage, empty the refrigerator (this is my favorite, I don’t even bother to open cream cheeses which are four months old. Is a five weeks old tomato good for you?). Pack, buy modems, replacement wheels for Yoad’s roller blades, final coordination at work, books, money, tickets, passport, someone to take me to the air port… I hope Tuesday is long enough.

Then it was Tuesday, and I looked at the list. Well I should be able to get all this done in a day given that I have a day. What could possibly interrupt me. My guests are on their way to Yosemite (in an hour or so) and I’m in full control of the situation. There was that look again. I tried to avoid it but the face followed me. ‘Don’t you want to go to Yosemite?’ I asked sweetly, ‘They close in three months’. After being here as long as I have I should have known better. There’s always that last request they leave for the last moment, counting on your sense of obligation to end their stay on a positive note. ‘Could you please phone Disney Land’ (excuse me did you say Disney Land?) ‘and tell them we’re coming?’ (and who might you be?). ‘You see we have this letter’ (pulls out a letter) ‘from the Israeli Educational TV’ (no less), ‘stating that I’m a producer of children’s shows’, (so???), ‘would they be kind enough to have their promotion department prepare courtesy tickets for us’. (shock and amazement). ‘And while you’re at it could you do the same thing with Universal Studios…’.

Well for the benefit of all humanity here are the numbers that you would need to do this: Disney Land Public Relations 714-999-4000 ask for the Promotions Department, when you get there talk to Lisa Cappel. Her direct line is 714-490-3145 and the fax number is 714-490-3154. Enjoy.

All I need to do now is let them know, they should call any minute.

I think I got most of the stuff done. There’s one more meal to grab, shower, sleep and I’m out of here.

Boy do I miss them.