Three Things I would Keep

Would it not be simple to have a Cheshire cat that listens, a white rabbit that has all the answers and be busy and careless trapped in perpetual teatime? Louise Carroll creates a wonderland and fills it with simple characters. In his ingenious way Carroll critiques unbalanced simplicity: the hatter is useless; the cat disguises itself as being mad in order to be able to listen and the rabbit critiques but never lends a hand. Those who communicate dare not participate and those who participate are practically useless. This “wonderland” gives us a deceiving impression of how our world should appear. Though it is full of flaws, with a few minor tweaks it can be regarded in an entirely new light. We do not need a lot in order to simplify our lives. I would keep three belongings that would allow me to maintain a balance between my inner self and the world around me which in turn would help me lead a complete and fulfilling life.

For the mind, I would keep a multi-language dictionary that contains a dozen languages. Languages are keys to our ability to develop into what we are as thinking, creative, rational, social and emotional beings. Each new language opens up doors to a wealth of cultures of spectacular richness. In today’s society too many of us are trying to be rabbits that know instead of cats that listen. How much time and effort do we spend in the tea party of technology? Is it really worth the time and effort? Many times we are lost in the realm of technology and lose sight of our cultures. Growing up in Silicon Valley, I have come to realize the strength of knowing multiple languages. There is so much more to gain from the endless assortment of different beliefs than from mastering the mundane complexities of technology. It would be m uch more gratifying if I were able to read more literature and poetry from all over the world, grasping tightly to the plethora of diversity at my disposal. Think of how simple it would be if we could only understand the people next to us because we can communicate freely with them.

With the treasures of language strapped to my back I would need to be able to go places, mingle with the people, hear, listen, smell and feel the world around me. I want to move like the rabbit. A car will not do. A car would lock me out of my surroundings. All that is needed is a pair of roller blades. On roller blades I can travel, exercise and have fun while staying in touch and without being intrusive. If I get tired I simply carry them with me; if they squeak I oil them, and when they are beyond repair I replace them. Roller skates would give me the opportunity to be independent while still having contact with the world.

My third possession would give me the power to be myself in any dimension real or imaginary, to soar with dreams and burn with emotion – my piano. Like the dictionary nourishing the mind with millions of keys to culture in the forms of literature and poetry, the piano is a dictionary to the world of music. Unlike a language, music speaks its riches in an abstract form which jovially toys with the rational mind, and warmly sooths the unbound soul. Music paints on a canvas of silence taking thoughts, emotions, and passions and reviving them in the air. Words fall short of describing the powers of the piano. When I play it, we laugh, fight, cry and struggle together, intertwined at our very core. The piano’s welcoming keys beckon warmly to share my experiences with them. When I am angry, they quiver under my roaring fingers and when I am relaxed, they bounce tenderly, swimming through my body, and enlightening my soul. I c an create my tea party whenever I want without being trapped in it; with the piano I will forever be able to escape “wonderland” and return as I please.

Wonderland is a failed system which was created by Louise Carroll to critique our own. Like all good criticism it sends a constructive message which we can learn from if we read between the lines. With a dictionary linking me with many cultures I can be the cat without being mad. With the skates, giving me mobility, strength, and independence and can move like the rabbit, but stop to listen and lend a hand to those in need. With the piano picking up where words leave I can soar into imaginary wonderlands and come back by simply letting go of its keys. With these three possessions I have the means to rearrange wonderland into a working system. I can lead a simple, happy and fulfilling life. I have what I need to maintain my identity, the powers to enrich my inner being and the ability to apprecia te the world around me.

Analysts

When I was first told that I would be going on an ‘analyst tour’ all that concerned me was the fact that I would be away from home for a few days. I didn’t stop to think what analysts really were. Coming from a long trail of product demonstrations with customer prospects, I assumed that this would be one more set of engagements where I would be required to make our company’s ‘revolutionary system design software’ look its best in spite of its early-version flaws. The flaws in the software did not bother me as I knew I could navigate my way through them and could sell the power of the technology to anyone who had an understanding of the problem that our software solves. It took a week of flying and driving around the New England country side to teach me that there is an entirely different breed of people who are not at all interested in the problem that one has solved. These people are interested in what they will be able to say about how you solved a problem in a manner that paints them in the aura of visionaries. These people are called ‘analysts’.

Analysts are actually journalists who rather than actively search for news about technology innovations, hide in the woods and wait for news to come to them. They dwell as far away from civilization as possible, and wait for representatives from industry giants as well as tiny startups like ourselves to make the messianic journey to their doorstep. When we get there they expect us to allow them to tell us what it is that we are doing or should be doing so that they would be correct when they talk about us. This peculiar behavior comes from the special social status that analysts have in the industry. It is a sub-culture that nurtures itself and exists thanks to an allure that no company dares to challenge.

Analysts exist at the fringes of the high tech industry as a special marketing cult. They live differently, interact differently and pay attention to aspects of technology which are completely different from the aspects that we, the creators are aware of. It is this unique and insightful view of the prospects that we have been made to believe is essential and yet beyond our grasp that lures us to analysts. Their views are so unique that each analyst has their own distorted view of the technical world around them. No two analysts share the same distortion and they compete aggressively for ownership of the most compelling twists of the truth. Some have honed this ability to a level of expertise that can actually convince companies to build new products based on nothing but the analyst’s fantasies.

Analysts know that the confusion regarding many complex high tech solution is a boon to mine forever. All this confusion is easy to cultivate because in the case of many products it really doesn’t matter if they work like the vendor intended or like the analyst intended. In fact the farther away a product is pointed from a useful direction the more opportunities and analyst would have to recommend a new product that would bridge the gap between where the right product is no longer going, and the right direction where the wrong product will never get.

Analysts do not allow the axioms of mathematics or the rules of physics to bother them. When confronted with a logical statement that counters their view of the world an analyst has the privilege of saying ‘I don’t see that in your slides!’ It took me three days to understand this statement is a final verdict and there is nothing on this earth that will help you make an analyst back-off when confronted with logic. One could argue that ‘logic’ is somewhat weak grounds to substantiate a technical argument. After becoming aware of this limitation of logic I tried approaches that were based on facts in order to win some support. It turns out that analysts are not necessarily deterred by facts either. When confronted with a conflicting argument that is substantiated by fact an analyst can claim ‘whatever’ and that too immediately exonerates them from having to support the facts. As it turns out one of the ways to gauge the better analysts is by the level of fact distortions that they allow themselves. The bigger the distortions the better the analysts.

The ‘storage networking’ market is seventh heaven for analysts. It has all the characteristics of a market where they can thrive. It’s a market where customers are totally lost and are completely at the mercy of the manufacturers and their channels. The latter, however, are also lost and are petrified of the customers ever finding that out. Nothing stages a better ground for analyst cultures to cultivate than a confused environment such as this.

Analysts know that the best way to keep an industry confused is by setting goals which the industry cannot achieve. There are quite a few examples of this. The first is the effort to force everyone in the industry to focus on ‘management’, ‘operations’ and ‘monitoring’. With all due respect there isn’t a single analyst out there who really understands any of these terms, but apparently that is their point exactly Seeing that their attempts to create ‘network management’ as a misleading goal for the networking industry has lost its momentum in the past few years, they have now shifted their efforts to ‘storage management’. While they know all too well that such a thing does not exist they consistently point every innovation that attempts to work around the ‘management black hole’ directly at it.

A common tactic is to stir your company towards ‘integration’ and ‘collaboration’ preferably with another startup who like yourself has no customers yet. The collaboration will ensure that both companies will go down in flames and that’s two innovators that the analysts need not worry about As a software professional I find it appalling to contemplate the prospects of attempting to merge the business strategies of two products that have not been honed by market testing. However this is an exercise in logic which is irrelevant to an analyst.

History teaches us that some of the most revered missionaries had made it a point to make themselves either appear vague, or better yet become quite inaccessible. Vagueness is where the ‘whatever’ statement mentioned above comes from. Funny faces and inappropriate hand gestures complement such statements. I must admit that this combination of deep verbal and distinct bodily expressions do have an initial humbling ‘maybe-I’m-the-idiot’ affect on the person interacting with the analyst. Vagueness works on the sub-conscious personality of engineers. Analysts know that engineers are extremely sensitive to unsupportive feedback. Better yet, they know that unsupportive feedback which is not based on what would appear to be factual statement paralyzes engineers because it robs then of the only true weapons they have to settle an argument: facts. An analyst will rarely make the mistake of stating that ‘ISCSI runs over UDP’, because the engineer would open a book and prove them wrong. However the combination of ‘Your diagram is wrong, but I understand what you are trying to say. Let’s move on’ is a potent analyst trick which is difficult to fight unless one is willing to go for the throat and say something like: ‘look you obnoxious bastard, maybe if you weren’t so full of yourself we could have a founded discussion here!!!’. If you think its worth it, think again. It’s very much like arguing with a recorded message on your answering machine. All that will happen is that the analyst will indeed respond like an answering machine: ‘I have another call in five minutes so we really need to wrap up’. The latter is part of inaccessibility which is our next subject.

Inaccessibility manifests itself in multiple ways. Judging from what I have seen, geographic inaccessibility is practiced by all. Analysts do not live or work next to anything. There are virtually no recognizable landmarks anywhere near or on the way to where an analyst lives or works. In fact since such places are becoming harder and harder to find as the population grows, many analysts have reverted to working where they live, or living where they work. If one does happen to physically find an analyst the analyst will play two more tactics. The first is to make sure that you never get to the point you wanted to make. The second is that you will never ever try to bother the analyst again. I would like to substantiate these statement with facts. The events described below are true and are related to the second of three analyst visits which we had during the past week.

This analysts lived in the woods in hills covered by snow which rests eternally on the swamps which cover that surrounding landscape. In fact these are swamps where the water can somehow remain on the hillsides as well as the lower areas, and the snow does not melt in the summer. The analyst lives at the end of the single road which forks off the only road that led to the fork. The other branches of the fork lead into the swamps from which very few have ever returned. On the way down to the fork in the road we saw two female survivors running in the opposite direction. Michele said they were jogging, but I knew better. Joggers run in shorts and T shirts. These women were dressed in winter clothing. The way to the road which forks to the analyst’s residence is littered with misleading signs which direct you in roundabout ways that waste the valuable time that you had managed to cram into the analyst’s ‘over booked’ schedule.

Michele had somehow managed to allocate an hour and a half of this revered individuals time. Little did we know that revered analysts never have an hour and a half to spare. There real reason is that they do not know enough to talk about the subject matter for more than five minutes. As we would find out they attempt to hide this lack of knowledge by appearing busy. They appear busy by allocating short meetings, or by prematurely terminating longer ones. We left the hotel an hour and fifteen minutes before the meeting, expecting to have fifteen minutes to spare in the event of massive traffic jams. Still we got to the guru’s residence twenty minutes late. During the ride Michele called twice for extra instructions and special apologies so he could not claim ignorance for what happened when we finally got there. He knew that we were on the road for and hour and a half trying to get to his place. The limo driver dropped us off in the back of the house and we made our way around a brick paved path to the main entrances. Michele knocked on the door. Big mistake. We should have relieved our selves in the bushes before knocking The door opened instantly and a five inch white animal rushed from the house into the snow covered front yard. A second later a five foot man dashed into the snow searching for the five inch animal. ‘I think one of them is the one we need to talk too’ I told Michele. Looking from the outside into the hallway we saw a welcome sign. The sign was typed on a sheet of paper and said ‘Welcome Netliant, Larry Crume, Yiftah Porat, Michele [no last name]’

‘I guess you’ve known each other for quite some time is if you’re already having a first name basis relationship’ I told Michele. ‘No, I’ve never met the slob’. Reality had it that this was part of a ‘being rude on purpose’ tactic which only very-very important analysts allow themselves. Before Michele could respond the five foot man, carrying the five inch dog climbed back up the stairs and welcomed us into the house. ‘This is Foo-foo, I’m Mike’, he said. I recognized Foo-foo as a member of the snow-white-light-weight-never-shedding-exhibit-poodles that some breeds of people seem to care for. Personally I prefer a real dog, but then I’m not an analyst. We exchanged the regular fake ‘pleased to meet you’, paying our dues to the fake courtesy gestures which were not practices further.

After being on the road for an hour and a half one would expect only two things to follow the phony happy greetings. First of all one would like to find a bathroom. None was offered. The next thing one would like to hear is ‘Can I offer you something to drink?’. This didn’t happen either. Instead the five foot man stated that he ‘has a hard stop in forty minutes’. The term ‘hard stop’ when you are a guest in ones house is a bit awkward, but it did explain why he did not offer that we use the bathroom. Deep down analysts also have a bladder. They know that an hour and a half in a cold limo in the woods combined with the anxiety of being late fills one’s bladder to 75% of its capacity. Very few people can handle more than an hour of additional conversation with this being the starting point.

With total disregard to biology or courtesy he led us to a table in a side room. We could see the kitchen but we could not access it. We could imagine the bathroom but could not see it. I set up my laptop and prepared to present the company and its product. Twenty minutes gone and only forty left we spent the next ten minutes talking about the dog. ‘Does the dog bother you?’ Mike asked. ‘Oh, no you don’t’ I thought to myself. Bladder and all I have been in the US long enough to know that you never ever admit to being bothered by what appeared to be the ‘dog-of-the-house’. Its well known that its better to make fun of a family’s blind child than to admit the dog bothers you. ‘I love dogs’ I lied without blushing. I know I don’t blush when I say this, because the audience cannot even imagine that I could have it any other way. Seeing my obvious enthusiasm to discuss the animal (why else would I fly all the way from California for a forty minute meeting) the man opened up: ‘This dog is the sixth in the country’ he raved. The engineer in me rebelled against such a totally absurd statement that could not be substantiated in any way, but I kept my mouth shut. ‘The dog was a top competition dog, until one day it refused to perform any more’. I did my best and to cooperate: ‘so what happened?’ ‘The dog’s price dropped from 3000$ to a fraction of that price and we bought it for a rare bargain’. This was getting so ridiculous that it was actually amusing. We fly from California to meet this guy to hear about his bargain deal for two pounds of white non-shedding poodle? I think it was a poodle but I didn’t bother to ask.

Finally I decided that a decisive action was required to switch the subject to Netliant and its product. I picked up the one-of-a-kind animal and held it in my lap so that it could see the slides. Seeing that his pure breed was getting to see the presentation, the five foot man managed to focus his attention for a few seconds. I managed to get from the first slide (which has the name of the company on it) to the second slide which contains the company’s mission statement when the five footer decided to shift into high gear: ‘Its very important that you put the second slide after the first slide’ he said removing his glasses and give me the ‘live-and-learn-my-son’ look expecting me to show some appreciation for the free marketing lesson. I decided to rub the dog as a sign of gratitude for the rare insight. ‘Not all companies do that’ he continued. The animal was licking my fingers, it was eager to go to the next slide so I appeased it by allowing to press the ‘page down’ button. We managed another slide and got another bit of valuable feedback: ‘I like this slide’. ‘And’ I thought to myself. But then I remembered vagueness. There was no way we would get additional feedback about the slide and it didn’t really matter as it was the agenda slide. We had barely thirty minutes left and we were almost ready to begin’Do you know the Galilee?’ was the next question. I didn’t get a chance to answer. ‘Of course you cannot know it all, it’s a big place but I have family in a Kibutz there’. I couldn’t move to the next slide because there was nothing in the next slide about his family so I started strangling the dog gently. ‘They are in Ramat David next to the air base’. Now I got it. It finally dawned on him that we would probably remember the fact that he had not offered us anything to drink, and he was pointing us to relatives that would The dog made a sound which allowed me to flip to the next slide.

‘There is a typo on this slide!’. I should have asked where the bathroom was right then and there. Instead I apologized for the typo. This was a mistake. During the minutes that followed we received on of the most irrelevant lectures on ‘presenting one’s message’ that I had ever heard. By this point in time it was becoming clear to me that there was no way this character would give us a chance to tell him what we do. His focus in life was ‘Foo-foo’ and himself. All five feet and five inches of both of them. His strategy was to use the purchase of the dog in order to prove his prowess as a business man, and to focus on finding typos an means to convince us that he was the most valuable marketing beacon we would ever come across. I guess the latter was true if one considered his neck of the woods. The only thing I considered regarding wood and neck was whether it was worth while to snap Foo-foo’s neck like a twig only to see if he cared about the dog or the opportunity it gave him to talk about himself.

To change the subject I half dropped half threw Foo-foo on the floor. The animal attempted to bounce back, but I kicked it gently to the corner of the room . ‘Fast dog’ I said, ‘must have been a great performer’ ‘Did I tell you what a great bargain he was?’. There was no way I could insult our host by acknowledging that he did. ‘Foo-foo was the sixth dog in the country’ His eyes sparkled and his voice rose as he reached the climatic part where the dog refused to perform and its price dropped so dramatically.

‘Netliant can design in minutes what an expert does in days and weeks’ I tried. ‘I’m afraid we are out of time but what you have is very interesting.’ ‘Could we continue this conversation next week?’. ‘I also have a distant relative who knows some one who used to work at BMC.’ ‘Are you talking to BMC?’. ‘No’ I said, ‘but if your relatives have a bathroom I would love to meet them’. I don’t think he got it. ‘Is there anything else we wanted to talk about?’ he asked. ‘Is there anything we managed to talk about?’ I thought to myself. Michele helped me conclude the protocol with the usual ‘we are very grateful for your time’ crap, and we rose to leave. It was then that our host came to his senses. He finally understood that he had overplayed the bladder card. If he did not offer us the opportunity to use the rest room it was pretty obvious that we would use his lawn no matter what he said. ‘Would you like to use the bathroom?’ ‘Why, thank you dear’ I thought to myself, ‘what ever made you ask?’ but I toned it down: ‘that’s a good idea now that you mentioned it’. He led me to the back of the kitchen. I walked into the bathroom only to bump into Foo-foo’s traveling kit. There were a few plastic traveling cages and some blankets. I really didn’t care for the details, what got my goat was the fact that it seemed quite natural that I continue to share with the dog. For a minute I contemplated whether I should pee on the floor so that I really get to bond with Foo-foo, but decided against it since Michele might have been the next to use the bathroom.

He then threw us out of the house and into the snow, so that we could wait for a cab to pick us up. Michele was livid. She was cold, humiliated and hungry. I felt is was my civic duty to explain that we had just had the rare privilege of experiencing the epitome of ‘inaccessibility’ which makes a truly great analyst. He was rude, inhospitable, never let us get a word in, and used a depreciated poodle to help him lose focus.

It took us eight hours to get to the next neck in the woods where the next analyst lived. The next meeting was much more to the point, but we were not spared our share of ‘whatever’s’ and ‘hard stops’. This analyst replaced the poodle with ‘industry experience’. Since not all analysts have access to the poodle-that-came-in-sixth-in-the-country-but-one-day-refused-to-continue they have to revert to simpler tactics which in this case revolved around pretending to have real industry expertise. This approach makes this type of analyst more irritable and even less comfortable to deal with. Not only is the analyst frustrated because he didn’t get the poodle, he is forced to be on his toes and watch out for technical mistake which would erode his distinguished ‘industry expert’ aura. Indeed expertise is no where near owning the poodle, but there are only so many poodles to go around the analyst community. The reader would certainly pose the question whether it is prudent for an executive in a high tech company in the storage networking market to challenge the authority of the eye-opening analyst church. ‘What would happen if an analyst read this report?’.

WHATEVER

We have a conference call scheduled for next Tuesday to hear some more about how Foo-foo had depreciated and whether we had made use of the advice to correct the typo

Thank You Mary

Ten years ago, a little girl (I think) walked into Mrs. Huang’s studio draped in a baggy green shirt and baggy pants to go with it. After being told to spit out her gum, she sat down to play, nothing too memorable.

This little girl was me. A girl, whose previous piano experience consisted of an entire year of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’. I must say that after months of practicing this extremely challenging composition, I had created quite a theory for myself. I honestly believed, that with enough time, I could play any song starting on any given note. As you can imagine, I had absolutely no clue, as to how demanding the piano really was. So it is needless to say, that THIS Mary had a little challenge. To tell you the truth, I don’t exactly remember what I first played for Mary, but I remember coming out of her house with an entire book which I was told to practice for the next lesson. Oooh, the fights that went on at home every day. Every day consisted of a routine of whining, complaining, and unbearably annoying tears. This however, did not help me any. Somehow, my mother found the patience to sit with me and make sure I played, and somehow, Mary had the faith in me, to continue pushing my potential until this very day.

Every Tuesday, from then on, I would approach her house, open the unlocked, welcoming door, and make my way up her stairs. Each time I went up I was greeted by an ornate Bach invention, or a Beethoven sonata, or some Chopin waltz, dancing jovially through her halls. The more I went, the more stories I suddenly had to share, and the more I felt part of this indescribable musical bubble. Despite the fact that I still drove my mother crazy at home, it was as if some transformation came over me as I stepped through the door and sat in front of the black and white keys. Although my stubborn and mischievous self could never let my mom see a glimpse of the joy that these Tuesdays brought me, I shared this secret light with Mrs. Huang.

To call Mrs. Huang a teacher, a friend, a second parent are all understatements. There are no words to describe how amazing she truly is. She is the one who told me what I was wearing my first lesson. I don’t remember what I wore to prom two weeks ago, yet she, somehow, remembers what rags my tomboyish self decided to throw on that morning. When Mrs. Huang sees me, she sees an entire me. From the little girl until the person you see standing before you today. She knows every scar and every story, all of my strengths and also my weaknesses. She can tell from my voice when I’m stressed, or when I haven’t gotten enough sleep because I stayed up late working on a project. And it is with this care and attention that she treats each and everyone of her students. A warm, compassionate, tender understanding that not even the richest Chopin Etude could express.

There are things in life that you think will always happen to somebody else. For me, that was growing up. For me, that was today. I look at you, with this entire journey still ahead of you, and today I am your somebody. But at some point in time, believe it or not, it will be you. So embrace it now, every single note you are able to play, because someday, you will be standing where I am, and you wont believe how quickly it passed by. You won’t believe that your name is printed on the back of the program. Suddenly your Tuesdays will seem empty because you aren’t climbing the beckoning staircase; instead, you are working on a procrastinated term paper. But you will also be leaving with two best friends with a lifetime guarantee – the piano, and always and forever, Mrs. Huang. I will never forget what you have done for me. Thank you for everything.

Spring Cleaning

With spring upon us the time was right to ‘make some changes’. Not that I could ever understand why this has to happen every spring, (‘we changed that sofa last spring’) but that’s just the way it is. This year I think I finally got to the bottom of this phenomenon. It’s a fascinating story which I would like to share.

The need to change things when spring arrives is clearly a destabilizing factor of the family structure. As such, it is contradictory to the family being a fundamental building block of social fabrics which ensure our overall well being and prosperity. How could such a strong destabilizing force still be present after so many years of evolution? One would think that the rough edges would have been ironed out over the course of five million years since early man roamed the face of the planet. ‘What if it was the exact opposite?’ I began to think to myself. ‘Perhaps it’s not that the destabilizing force is inherent maybe it’s triggered by some other imbalance?’ Could it be a kind of ‘hole in the ozone’ of the normal balance within a family?

With this on my mind I continued to observe. You can look at certain patterns for years before you connect the dots. This year it finally happened I am quite certain that I have identified a meaningful pattern which is not random. Spring-change-urge (SCU) (also stands for spring-cleaning-urge) which is not yet classified as a disease or mental disturbance is brought on by highly energized pollen! The reason it took so long to come to such an astounding conclusion is because the very notion of ‘highly energized pollen’ seems so ludicrous that only a delirious mind could consider it. However, things are not always as far fetched as one would think.

To the casual observer pollen is about the gentlest means nature uses to spawn new life and bring on change. Pollen would be the last thing that anyone would associate with ‘energy’. Energizing pollen is not an everyday phenomenon even though it can happen in the middle of anyone’s living room. The conditions have to be right. I am sure that years from now there will be better ways to energize pollen. What I am about to describe will most likely be looked at in the same way that the experiments which discovered oxygen, electricity and gravity are looked upon today primitive yet insightful.

The trigger that causes the pollen to explode into the air with high energies is non-other than the ubiquitous hold tool – the fly swatter. However a fly swatter is not sufficient. It has to be in the hand of a person who is able to inflict a blow to a pollen carrying bug in a manner which causes the bug to reach critical mass. The bug has to be one which can reach critical mass in layman’s terms it’s called ‘juicy’ In children’s terms it’s called ‘IMA!!!!’ with four exclamation marks. Not all house holds have them, and not all those that have them are of the right type. For example our cockroaches are of the right mass but the wrong density which makes them impervious to swats. What our cockroaches need is a hammer blow. The problem with hammer blows is that it’s too costly to practice perfecting them. Furthermore cockroaches rarely carry pollen. What is really needed is something that has the complexion of a mosquito only ten times bigger. Now those we have in abundance. They start showing up in February and disappear in May.

No sooner does one of these bird size bugs fly in that either Osmo or Tintin panic: ‘IMA!!!!’ the cry goes out. Everyone knows that just ‘IMA!!!!’ with four exclamation marks means. Ima rarely waits to count the exclamation marks. There is a fly swatter ready in every corner of every room. The swatters are placed in a manner which minimizes Ima’s need to reach while she focuses on the bugs on the wall. A cat stalking a pigeon is a sloppy, unfocused, lumbering turtle compared to Ima going after one of these things. Ima knows she cannot ask Osmo or Tintin to point out the bug she moves in the direction they are running away from.

With astounding speed and agility which have been honed through years of protecting her young, Ima swoops up the nearest optimally placed swatter and with moves that have not been seen since the days of Michael Jordan and Doctor Jay she leaps and slams the doomed animal. There is a thunderclap like sound and a flash of light which is the result of the poor creature being ionized, and then all settles into a blissful calm. Ima drops gently to the ground, not bothering to look back. She gathers the petrified child she was protecting under her arm as she replaces the instrument of death back in its place ready for another day. I usually continue to stare at the spot where the bird-bug was until a scant fraction-of-a-second ago, seeing small pieces of ash dropping slowly to the floor or carpet where they will be lost forever in the accumulating mounds of dust and decay which we clean in the spring.

For years I have been watching the swoop, the pounce, the swing, the flash and listening to the clap followed by silence and ash. Every time I would admire Ima for her skills and feel a lump in my throat thinking of the totally unselfish love and willing to sacrifice for the children. Perhaps this is why I was so amenable to comply with the ‘let’s go get something’ which followed most kills. As time went by, dumbfounded ness was replaced by awe which was replaced with admiration which allowed me to start thinking again. As more and more kills flashed before my eyes it became apparent that there was more to the flash and thunder than meats the eye.

At first each occurrence seems to an isolated, quick, harsh and fatal event. A bug died, a child was saved and life went on. After a few years of witnessing such killings, a pattern began to emerge. As the number of kills grew over the course of February and March Ima would begin to notice that more and more things in the house needed to be ‘replaced’. What had escaped me for so long was the fact that indeed there was a connection between the two. There was an explanation to this. It took me years to realize that these were cataclysmic terminations of bugs being turned from matter to energy (god knows how many chemists stared at mold before Fleming discovered Penicillin). The energy was energizing non-ionized pollen which Ima was obviously exposed to. The thought seemed preposterous at first but all the evidence was to strong to ignore.

Every child knows that there are two ways to force matter to reach critical mass. One is ‘kinetic’ and the other is ‘implosion’. It’s hard for me to say which of the two actually occur during a ‘swat’, but I think Ima knows how to trigger both. A kinetic reaction is started when the bug is squashed from front to back driving its brain thorough its ass. Implosion is caused when a bug is squashed from top to bottom making it very, very, very flat and dead. The latter is the most common house hold death of a flying bug. However if the swat is not done with sufficient force, or the bug is not big enough the result is what is commonly known as a ‘squashed bug’ something that needs to be removed from the wall with a damp cloth.

I had come to realize that after Ima swats the wall remained clean. ‘Where did the bugs go?’ The natural reaction would obviously be to assume that the animals flew off only to return another day. Not in our house. For years Ima has been killing flies in droves with a single swing. Flies are faster than mosquitoes, especially big ones such as these. So where were the mosquitoes that Ima was dispatching? And the flashes, the claps and the ashes; where were they come from? ‘Think, man, think!’ ‘You are looking at the answer, you just don’t realize it’ I began telling myself. And then one of those swats it hit me: the flash was the mosquito being ‘converted’ to energy!!!! (keeping the exclamation marks because nothing is lost in nature). Einstein, Bohr, Fermi and Oppenhiemer would have all been proud of Ima. She had found a way to obliterate gargantuan mosquitoes by triggering a limited chain reaction which ionized all but slight remnants of their mass and whatever else happened to stick to their slimy bodies before they evaporated.

These were also the forces which unleashed pollen into the air. Nature has a way of resurrecting itself. Being closest to these blasts Ima was exposed to most of the pollen which was not ionized. This pollen was in highly energized form. As the death tolls rose, so did the pollen doses. When the pollen dose reached critical mass it triggered ‘spring cleaning’. This is really the subject of the story

As I fast forward things in my head I cannot help but become more and more convinced that there is no other possible explanation.

‘IMA!!!!’, whoosh, SWAT, flash, clap, ashes and ooze, ‘Let’s go and get us some Pearl Juice’. ‘IMA!!!!’, whoosh, SWAT, whoosh, SWAT, flashes and dust’, ‘The dishwasher has breathed its last’ ‘IMA!!!!’, whoosh, SWAT, whoosh, SWAT, whoosh SWAT, flashes and ashes, ‘Dry your tears we’re going to Sears’, SWAT, SWAT, ‘What an ace, we need to build some more shelf space’, SWAT, SWAT, ‘the carpet is dirty, we need a new floor’, ‘who broke the window? We need a new door’ the sofa has mold’, ‘ the freezer’s not cold’. ‘I just burnt the cake, the oven don’t bake’ ‘Passover is coming, we have to do something!!!’.

Sometimes one simply has to step outside the immediate frame of reference and take a look from the sidelines. Ima was infected and a swell of merchandise and cleaning activity was gathering. It was a process feeding on itself. The more anxious Ima became, the more lethal was her strike becoming. The more lethal the strike, the more pollen she breathed. The more pollen she breathed, the more anxious she became. A house hold chain reaction that could lead to financial meltdown. Something had to be done to slow down the reaction.

My immediate response was to try and save as many of the mosquitoes as possible. I would try to get between Ima and her prey as many times as I possibly could. Ima would stand and smirk as I danced around the room, clumsily hurling sandals and pillows at the skeeters. Needless to say that without DDT my kill ratio was lower than one in five. Ima did not want me to lose face in front of the children, so every now and then she throw a nonchalant swing at the doomed critters and raise the ratio back to 100% where it belonged. This was not a problem as these types of blows were while exceptionally aimed were of the ordinary non-ionizing kind. The bugs died a regular death. As they fell to the floor, their legs twitching their last I would gingerly pick them up and hastily throw them out before Ima got a better whiff of them. While this was a way to keep SCU from becoming more severe, we still had to cope with the current state of the allergy.

The first sacrifice we had to make as a family to support Ima in her helpless urge was to replace the dishwasher. For weeks Ima had done her best to cripple the poor machine beyond repair. Every now and then she would dismantle the front panel ‘just to make sure that all the wires were still connected’ ‘I didn’t know that you had to take the dishwasher apart after every wash’ I commented. ‘You cannot be too careful once it reaches a certain age’ Ima responded. Finally the machine would start no more. ‘See, I told you’ we both said Knowing what was going on I retracted my telling Ima and called Yossi to sign the dishwasher’s death certificate. I wasn’t sure exactly how Ima would handle Yossi’s fiddling with the machine, perhaps bringing it back to life, but I needed Yossi there to help me get the corpse out of the house, before Ima hacked the kitchen to pieces with a chain saw.

Yossi showed up faster than an ambulance. When I opened the door my heart sank. Yossi was fully equipped with tools designed to diagnose and fix a faltering electrical apparatus. ‘AZOV Yossi’ I said in a very load voice, knowing that Ima was listening to every word from the kitchen. ‘HALACH HAMEDIACH’ ‘and I just need your help to get it out of the house’. Yossi’s professional pride kicked in just when I needed it the least. ‘Al Tid-ag Iftach’, Yossi said in a deep calm voice ‘if it can be fixed I’ll fix it’ and he walked right past me into the kitchen. Ima greeted him with barred fangs which he mistook for a friendly smile. ‘Ma Nishma Gallia’, Ima dodged his hug and lunged for the dishwasher, hoping to break something beyond repair. She yanked the inside panel off the front door and turned to Yossi who was regaining his balance after hugging nothing but air. Yossi stared at the machine. ‘See it’s gone’ Ima said pointing in the general direction of the kitchen. Yossi must have attributed the behavior to anguish over a cherished family item, and pulled out a multi-function tester. As he kneeled to attach it to some of the exposed wires his eyes notices the charred remains of the connectors which Ima has been prying loose for months and exclaimed ‘Sh-ein ma la-asot’ The madness dissipated from Ima’s gaze and I started breathing again. Yossi didn’t have a clue what had transpired.

‘Tozzi Otto!!!’ Ima half commanded half asked Yossi and pointed to the dishwasher. ‘I guess you are right’ Yossi said, still not realizing that he was playing with fire. Ima disconnected the water and electricity to the house and for a moment we stood in the pitch dark kitchen (these things are always done at night when everyone is home from work) and then Yossi said in a calm deep voice: ‘LO TZARICH GALLIA’, ‘we can unplug the machine and just turn off the water feed under the sink’. Ima was damn serious about getting the dishwasher replaced and was not taking any chances, but the nice thing about SCU is that the person is still rational. Ima turned the lights back on and Yossi began to gently dislodge the dish washer from the cavity in which it had so faithfully stood for the past nine years.

Thrity seconds into it Ima was all up in arms again: ‘TIMSHOCH YOSSI!!!’ ‘TARIM OTTO KTZAT HU TAKUA!!!’. Although Ima was giving very sound technical advice I was starting to get nervous. Ima giving technical advice to Yossi I figured that at some point Yossi would humorously blurt out a ‘MA KARA LACH GALLIA’ and that would be the end of him. I quickly stepped to the machine, grabbed a corner and made load grunting noises. Ima seemed to calm down. ‘REGA IFTACH, HU TAKUA’ ‘Oh, so now I’m the idiot’ ‘better this way I thought to myself’. ‘ULY TENATKU ET HATZINOROT?’ Ima suggested impatiently. I was amazed at what SCU does for the technical skills of people. Ima was never that plumbing savvy and yet HALAYLA HAZEH SHTIE PE-AMIM!!!

Suddenly I felt crushed. Perhaps it was PASSOVER, not SCU, the whole theory was a flake. Ima simply needed a dishwasher which was ‘KASHER LEPESACH’. The first shock of dismay passed. As I quickly reviewed the evidence I realized that had it simply been Passover Ima would have replaced the dishwasher every year, yet that didn’t happen. ‘Passover could be a catalyst, but my theory was still sound’ I calmed myself.

With the pipes disconnected the dishwasher slid out of its space only to expose a rotting floor board beneath it. Still not getting it Yossi made another reckless remark ‘ATA Ro-eh Iftach’ he said pointing to the rotting board, ‘Biglal zeh ani mabsoot sh-habayit lo sheli’ ‘What do you mean’ Ima snapped and grabbed a knife. Yossi thought that she was going to use the knife to free up the rotten wood and kept talking: ‘Zeh ma she-koreh k-sh-yesh retivoot’ I moved between Yossi and Ima. He tried to move me aside, but I held on for his sake. Ima seemed to notice me in front of the knife, turned her attention to the floor board and started hacking it to pieces.

Yossi gathered his tools and helped me move the gutted washer to the front of the house where it would stand until Sunnyvale’s mayor sent the entire city into SCU. ‘If it happens to the Goyim, it can’t be Passover’ I continued to reassure myself. Through the emotional haze which I was experiencing, having saved both my theory and Yossi’s life, I could hear Yossi giving me advice how to fix the floor board and how to connect a new dishwasher. While I barely listened to what he had to say, there was one message in his monolog which did register in my mind: he was giving me instructions in a manner which clearly indicated that he would not be there to help. This was the greatest bad news I had had all evening. I did not want Ima and Yossi in the same kitchen when Ima was racing to install a new dishwasher three feet from the silverware.

Ima opened the Price Club (Costco) the next day and took home a dishwasher. It was waiting patiently next to the microwave when I returned home that evening. Not having Yossi there would mean that I had to install it twice. The first time was somewhat delayed because I had to replace the floor board and almost super glued myself to the inner panels of the kitchen counter in the process. Fearing that if I did not free myself from the hole Ima would have pushed the washer in regardless, I said final farewells to the skin of my finger tips and yanked myself from a would be grave and sat with my back to the cupboard nursing my raw fingers. ‘Zuz Bushy’, it was not a request. There would be a future time for healing. ‘The pipes are not tightened to the bottom of the machine’ I tried to warn. ‘They are as tight as you could make them aren’t they?’ Ima asked. ‘Yes, but I didn’t use the wrench, I used my fingers when I still had them’. ‘Well you cannot use your fingers anyway so it doesn’t matter wrench or no wrench’ was the cold blooded answer. Something inside of me started thinking that perhaps mankind needed to do something about SCU before someone really got hurt.

The dishwasher started leaking as soon as it was turned on. ‘You can fix that in the morning when (but not if) your fingers feel better, let’s go to bed’. I did not argue, I was overwhelmed by the pace and brutality of the personality changes. I woke up early and took six Advil so I could work at a reasonable pace. The drugs were starting to take effect just as Ima woke up. ‘Bushy, atta ro-tze le-ho-tzi et he-mediach?’ ‘Sure’ I lied. ‘How are you hands?’ ‘I’ve seen better’, ‘Good’ was the chilly answer. I really could have used some pity, ‘I guess I’ll have to feel sorry for myself‘ I strained to bring on waves of self pity as I set to work on the pipes. An hour and some Teflon later the new dishwasher was installed without leaks, on top of a new floor board.

‘Let’s go get the new bookshelf’ Ima said as she started the washer with a load of dishes With tears in my eyes I showed Ima my bleeding fingers and begged for more time. ‘We can go when you come back from work’. I was really getting scared. At this pace I would be dead in a week, and it would all seem like natural causes. No one will know about SCU and many other innocent people will be hurt. Ima continued to explain: ‘They have these bookshelves in the Price Club which are really nice.’ ‘I would like to get one of them and throw out the ones we have in the hallway in front of Yeela’s room’. For one it’s not a hallway, it’s a connecting space four times the size of a phone booth. Secondly, Yeela does not live here anymore, so why would she care about the pretty or not bookshelf that’s outside a room that is in a house she cannot see because she is not even in the damn country? And finally how do you get a seven feet tall, five feet wide by one and a half feet deep bookshelf into a room which is only six feet long, with less of five feet of floor space to work with. ‘You don’t play Tetris with closets and bookcases’. ‘Let’s go’ was the answer.

When we got to the Price Club Ima was razor sharp and arrow narrow. She zoomed in on the bookshelf like a hawk, and led the way right back to the cashiers not even stopping to fill her handbag with food sample handouts. ‘In and out of the Price Club in ten minutes with one item only’ I couldn’t help but quiver at the determinations that was driving such behavior on Ima’s part. She helped me hoist the oversized carton into the car as though it was a gallon of milk. My plan to lower all the seats along the right hand side of the car was immediately overruled: ‘Lets lower the back seats, slide the middle seats apart and then slide the box along its narrow side all the way to the front between the two front seats’ Ima suggested. I had to admit it was a way better idea. Ima’s three dimensional vision was superb, perhaps she had also envisioned how we would get the assembled bookcase into the hallway as well. As for me I would deal with the spatial issues inside the house when the time came. I was talking what life was dishing out one step at a time, hoping to live to see better days.

The assembly of the bookcase followed the usual do-it-wrong-dismantle-do-it-right routine. I had grown so accustomed to these do-it-in-spite-of-yourself kits that I did not expect anything else to happen. Somehow I could never understand what drives people to get these kinds of furniture and other home improvement kits such as dishwashers and toilets which they have to assemble on their own. Between the option of trying to be all you cannot be by assembling something that has been disassembled on purpose so that you could try it on your own, and admitting to what you cannot be and have someone who is all that you are not do the job right the first time I prefer the second option. However one does need to consider the fact that we are surrounded by idiots Idiots think that they can be by trying to do what you think you cannot, and you find yourself being all they cannot be proving to yourself that you are what you thought you were not. The bottom line: I had to assemble the bookcase.

On the second try the frame was assembled properly. I had Titin help me drag it into the tiny hallway which needless to say Ima had cleared of the old bookcases and books. We were fooled into thinking that it would somehow fit into the room by the fact that the frame twisted a bit without the back panel which we had not yet assembled, allowing it to be erected in a room with a height which was half a foot shorter than the length of the frame’s diagonal. I think its six grade geometry that’s needed to figure out the length of the diagonal of a seven by five foot rectangle. It’s a little more than nine feet. The room’s height was a little over eight feet which in other words means a little less than nine feet…

Cheated by the optical illusion of the distorted frame we returned the frame into the living room. Karma had us assemble the back panel. This required driving thirty or forty screws into the frame a process which one does not want to undo and redo. I keep saying ‘we’ but it was my entire fault Tintin was an innocent bystander caught in the SCU tornado which was sweeping through the house. With the back panel assemble we dragged the bookcase on its side into the hallway and tried to stand it up there was no way that was going to clear the ceiling.

Ima showed up and peeked into the hallway. The bookcase was lying on its side, a third of its length well into Yeela’s room. ‘Stand it up’ Ima said. Without arguing I tried before Tintin would say something that would get him in trouble. The upper side of the bookshelf would not clear the door way of Yeela’s room… ‘Pull it back’. I did the stair at the entrance to the hallway blocked the movement six inched later. ‘Stand it up’. I obeyed and still it would not clear the opposite doorway. ‘Take it apart and assemble it here’. I stared into the eyes of the woman I loved looking for some shreds of compassion none were there. ‘Clearly it fits against the wall so if you assemble it here’ ‘How could this be happening after all the good years which we had together?’ Desperate to save the relationship and myself I recommended one final three dimensional lift-and-twist idea: ‘Let’s move it back out and then push, lift and rotate simultaneously’ I suggested. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that Ima’s drive gave her the strength that could break the walls should the need arise. One hundred and sixty pounds of bookcase would not be an issue. ‘If I could pull this off perhaps we could work some emotions back into our relationship.’

We began to slide the bookcase from the living room back into the hallway. Just before it squashed me against the far wall I began to push it up and rotate its front towards the floor. The idea was to lift while rotating as far above the floor as the ceiling would allow, and rotated towards the floor as far as the doorway would allow. If we could get it to clear the doorway we could rotate it all the way, pull it off the stair and stand it up. It worked. ‘Get the shelves’. I did. ‘Now the books.’ I did. ‘It needs some support so that it doesn’t tilt forward when a earthquake hits’. ‘Did you realize what it took to get this to stand?’ ‘You need the same thing to get it to fall!’ ‘Get some support’.

All in all, a marvel of furniture Tetris allowed for a very nice bookcase to stand in a place in the house which no one sees at all. Tintin went to play basketball taking advantage of the last rays of sunlight. Ima went on to complete minor rearrangements here and there. I went to nurse my shoulder pondering what the future had in store.

‘IMA!!!!’, ZAP @#*,.,.,.,.

‘Bushy’, ‘Yes’ ‘The new dishwasher is too small.’

Why am I Here

Yeela speaks at the world wide convention of Jewish organizations in Jerusalem

In Israel, when two strangers chat on the street, they will always try to find how they’re connected. If they’re civilians, the first question following the introduction is likely to be: “Where did you serve in the army?” If they’re soldiers, who can identify where their comrade serves by the color of their beret, design of the tag hanging from the shoulder, and pins adorning the uniform, the conversation will begin with: “What part of the country are you from?”

It is the latter question that I always have difficulty with. Now, a year into my service, I have memorized the series of questions and answers that are repeated every time I am confronted with: “what part of the country are you from?”

“I was born in Jerusalem, but I’m not from there. When I leave the base I’m mostly in Tel Aviv, but no, I didn’t go to school there” ;.

“Why?”

“I moved to California when I was six.”

“Why?”

“My father was offered a job in the Silicon Valley”

“So when did you come back?”

“August 2002, three months before I began my service in the IDF.”

“Where does your family live now?”

“They are still in the states.”

“So you are here by yourself?”

“Yes.”

And now the most dreaded question of all:

“You left America for this??????”

To me, it is very clear why I came here, from where I drew the strength to leave my family, and why I am convinced that it was the only right path to the future that I want for my life. The problem is explaining it to the typical, cynical Israeli, who underneath the seemingly tough exterior, is moved and encouraged by the fact that people are not just leaving the country, but that a lot of them choose to come back.

I grew up surrounded by Israelis. I was active in the Israeli Scouts, a popular youth movement in Israel that branched out to the states, spoke Hebrew at home, and was taught how to read and write in Hebrew by my mother. Every year my parents would say that we would move back to Israel the following year. In reality the years passed my two brothers were born in the states, and I believed that my family would move back, together. I realized that I never developed a sense of permanence in America because of the fact that as a young child I was always told that living there was only temporary.

Twelve years passed and by the end of twelfth grade a decision had to be made. Every year sees a few Israelis who choose to return, and others that continue their lives in the states and begin their studies in a university. I knew that I would never feel complete anywhere else but in Israel. However, at the same time, I secretly feared being disappointed. I saw Israel through the optimistic eyes of the six-year-old that left 12 years e arlier. I knew Israel only during the summers when I visited and not what it felt like to live here all year round. I was afraid that it was my stubborn self who couldn’t let go of a childhood dream making the decision and not a responsible adult doing the best thing for her future. The fact that the acceptance letters from the universities I applied to didn’t change my mind convinced me that I would regret giving up this dream. I would never be happy knowing that I chose the path that everyone said made more sense rather than the path my heart and gut urged me to follow.

The only thing that held me back was a guilty conscience. How could I possibly leave my family behind? I would miss my sister’s sweet sixteenth birthday, seeing her when she passed her driving test, and how she is becoming an amazing young woman. I would miss my 12-year-old brother starting junior high and his first dance. I wouldn’t be able to hang up the phone on girls that begin to call him or hear how much his guit ar playing has improved. I would miss the soccer games, the holidays, the family trips, and celebrate all the birthdays over the phone. I was making the decision to leave the most loving and supportive family and my 10-year-old brother, the youngest, could not understand why I was doing this to him. The decision also included the aspect of living alone, which terrified me. I never had to make an omelet for myself, and my dad packed my lunch for me through high school. I never wanted to leave home, but I knew I couldn’t stay in the states and ignore the inexplicable emptiness inside me.

It was three months after I left home, when I joined the army that I realized how difficult it would be to be in the army without my family. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. Even with tear-flooded eyes I never regretted my decision. I realized that I wouldn’t have a mom waiting for me on Fridays when I came back from the base. She wouldn’t be there to make my favorite dishes or i ron my uniform. But every evening I would see the amazing sunset falling on the base and think how the sky never looked so beautiful, that the colors never looked so real or the clouds so serene; because this was my sky, my desert, my mountains and streams. Each pebble, flower, and tree is linked to the lives dedicated to this country. Lives of generations of my people who fought to gain, and to preserve, and to shape and develop. The feeling that I am a part of something so immense, part of the ongoing legacy of the Jewish people, is my source of strength. My home is here. I belong only in Israel

Those first three months of my service were training for the job I would do for the duration of my service; part of a spectrum of duties offered by the Education Corps. My training was specific for Education NCOs (non commissioned officers). Education NCOs are stationed in every unit of the IDF and are responsible for helping commanders fulfill their roles as educators, and instill in all soldiers values set forth by the army’s moral and ethic code, known as “The Spirit of the IDF”. The ethic code demands values such as: the protection of Israel, her citizens and residents, loyalty to Israel, respect of fellow human beings, responsibility, honesty, comradeship, the importance of every human life, and purity of arms. The IDF aims to pursue national security without losing sight of the nation’s heart and soul. Therefore, even today, with budget cuts being felt in many vital areas, it continues to support the functioning and development of the Education Corps.

With every moral dilemma I hear soldiers debating or discussing with one another or with their commanders, my belief in the Education Corps intensifies. Every time soldiers see Jerusalem for the first time or learn something new from the long history of the Jewish people or of Israel, I feel proud to be part of a people’s army. When David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, envisioned the establi shment of a united Defense Force in 1948, he stated: “Our army has a responsibility and duty not only in days of war, but also and especially during times of peace. The IDF must shape the character of our nation’s youth, and by that, the character of our military. The IDF has the historic-educational role that serves no purpose and has no place in other armies: to be a nest for the renewing nation’s soul, to be a unifying and bonding melting-pot for the different diasporas, and to instill in our youth a sense of our nation’s history and the vision of the future ahead of us.”

The IDF has held on to these principles set forth by Ben-Gurion, and the idea of an educating army that defends its country in ways that go beyond the merely physical. We are a nation that built an army that built a nation. I strongly believe that the army has built and shaped me as a person. It has given me the opportunity to learn more about Israel than I ever could have through a textbook. I feel that I am constantly growing and developing rather than standing still and watching my life pass me by. I have the chance to pass on my conviction in the continuance and progress of Israel.

Most of all, the army has given me a sense of belonging that I never felt elsewhere. It has weaved me into the Israeli society and I will never be an outsider or merely a visitor. Now I may still have difficulty answering exactly which part of the country I am from. However, I’ve learned to answer with a hidden smile, thinking that a few years from now when I run into a stranger on the street as a civilian, I will be able to answer precisely where I served in the IDF.

 

Independence

It’s 12:24 AM. I am in Yeela’s room staring at the energies coming from the bend in the road. Doing exactly what the Ma-asah-lee ordered and listening to the mixer in the kitchen. To the novice reader this seems like a sentence which says very little about anything. After all who doesn’t believe in energies coming from around the corner once you tear down the fence? And what’s so special about a mixer in the kitchen? To the more learned reader the statement I just made should be perplexing to say the least. How could the mixer be working if Ima is in Israel? Could she have left it running? Is she back? Is it the energies from around the corner running the electric device? Did someone break into the house to cook for us? Maybe its not the mixer but someone is breaking into the house? Maybe its Elaine making an opening for more energies?

All of the above are easy answers. Anyone of them could have been true, but not this time. This time its much greater than anyone could have imagined. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it. Suma is putting together a cake or cookies or something. It’s been going on for quite some time but its importance only registered in the past few minutes. The emotions that swept over me inspired me to document the event, lest we lose the enormity of its significance like so many other things that one forgets and takes for granted later in life.

To the best of my recollection it started an hour and a half earlier when I was cleaning the kitchen as Suma and Tintin were giving me visual support. This was nothing out of the ordinary. After all children learn that work is a pillar of society’s economic fabric by watching their parents do it for the first twenty five years of their lives. At some point Suma turned away, picked up a cook book and sat down at the dining table. As she began to read I was somewhat disappointed that she had begun to adopt Osmo’s and Tintin’s reading techniques: reading books with a lot of pictures on every page – it covers more pages in a given amount of time, and you can claim more books in your reading list. I didn’t give it too much thought and moved on to my next work station – the washing machine.

The washing machine is the first part of a clothing-triathlon which consists of the washing machine , the dryer and the ironing board. Clothing triathlons are held quite often unless one of two things happen: Either clothes are changed only once a day if they are worn on the body or clothes are changed once every few days if they are worn on top of other clothes. Unfortunately clothes in our family tend to stick to each other. I learned this from the number of sweat shirts which were lined with T shirts which I found in the wash baskets. At first I tried to control the rate at which dirty laundry was accumulating by following my own principles and not changing underwear. After a few days I found that this did not have any affect on the overall problem. I was therefore left with no choice other than to start the triathlons.

I’ll get back to the clothing triathlons. Right now I would like to focus on the tumultuous events in the kitchen which has triggered this writing. I realized that I has first hand access to one of those instantaneous turning points which are so common in nature, but somehow blend away in the conveniences of modern day living. I was witnessing a mature cub left to fend for itself by its mother doing exactly that. Suma was ready to become independent. Knowing this, Ima was away. Being hungry with only me around Suma had to fend for herself. Being ready she took out a cookbook and began the modern version of an independent hunt for food. Nature teaches us that this is a one way street. Once a cub is independent it will not turn back. What this means from a practical perspective is that this cake or cookies or whatever it was to be has to take its course no matter what the outcome. Based on what I had seen these past few days I don’t think there is a lot to worry about.

We’ll know in a few hours and until then we can review some of the less significant lessons which never-the-less should not be forgotten. Put in the right context they could serve us all well as we prepare the rest of out offspring for independence.

The first important principle is that when all other food sources are exhausted you can break off another slab of rice from the mass that’s in the pot that’s always there in the refrigerator and eat that. The definition of ‘all else’ is far from trivial these days. The list includes but is not limited to: Burger King, Iris, Karl’s Junior, Ginjah and Danny, Tony Roma’s, Ronit and Yossi, Little Caesar’s, Togo, Subway, Chicken wings, pop tarts, ice cream, cheerios, toasted cheese beagles, chicken sandwiches and cinnamon buns. Did anyone mention vegetables? The list being as long as it is meant that there was no need to think about the rice for the first ten days that Ima was gone. And then it happened that the kids did not want another hamburger, and they did not want to eat out (or was it me), and they did not want to nuke another sandwich, and I was not sure whether the eggs were too old even for an omelet. So what on earth were they and me to eat?

Its phenomenal how fate produces the metaphors just when you need them, or is it the energies?… At first you don’t realize what the metaphor is telling you, but the message gets engrained in your mind all the same.  It just so happened that the issue of ‘Time for Kids’ which arrived the day before had an article about the icebergs the size of Rohde Island which were breaking off the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica. I happened to read the article (I read these things so that we can justify having Time for Kids) and all but forgot about it. The day after I found myself staring at the round continent of (r)ice at the bottom of the (world)/pot and thinking whether I should break off another slab to feed myself (the kids could still have melaoach)… ‘The poetic beauty of the metaphor cannot be for nothing’ I told myself. Ima would have thrown this out ten days ago, but what are ten days to something which was kept at the frigid bottom of the refrigerator? The scientists said that it was very good ice that was breaking off the continent… Driven by the prospect of scientific discovery I took a tea spoon and began hacking at the (r)ice. Slowly, slowly it began to give way and a small pile of grains began to accumulate next to the parent slab. Every now and then I would empty the grains into a corning bowl, careful not to lose the mother slab in the process. If the main slab fell to the floor it would most likely have disintegrated into thousands of grains, and blended with everything that we had on the floor (the maid was fired two months ago) would not have been edible. At least not within the bounds of the experiment I was willing to conduct in the name of poetic beauty.

After a few minutes of hacking I had a ‘sufficient’ serving. I defined ‘sufficient’ as fulfilling three criteria: scientific, survival and hope… First of all it had to be a quantity which beyond all doubt would have negative effects on me had the rice been spoiled (the scientific part). Secondly it had to be enough to qualify as a meal should the kids finish all the melaoach (survival). Finally there should not have been too much of it so I could eat something I liked if the kids did not finish the melaoach (hope).

I nuked the rice for quite some time in the Microwave – just to be on the safe side and sat down to eat it. It had a pretty bland taste – very much like warm dry ice. I kept eating. It was a pure exercise in survival. On one hand this is not something that one would do in their house in the middle of a modern town with all the modern amenities for acquiring and processing food. On the other hand I simply could not have let such a metaphor go to waste. As I was munching the grains of dried (r)ice, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that its was rice that had sustained the majority of the populations on the planet since the days of early civilization. I was sharing the experiences of the people who had build the great wall of China and the Taj-Mahal or did the latter eat melaoach?

At the end of it all it could be that I had somewhat overloaded the meaning of the article with metaphoric meaning, but the lesson was there all the same. Rice can be eaten when its two weeks old. It doesn’t make for the greatest of meals but its edible. In fact I don’t think that rice in and of itself tastes at all no matter how young or old it is. Given that it lasts forever in its uncooked form, you can simply keep a bag at home and it will serve you well during leaner times. There is the minor detail of knowing how to cook it, but Suma knows where the cookbook is so there is nothing to worry about. All of these are important reassuring facts that are nice to keep in the back of one’s mind. I obviously kept the rest of the rice slab should Ima allow me to continue the experiment next week.

There are two more lessons which I would like to share: First of all kids can take care of themselves, they just don’t see a reason to volunteer this information to anyone, as it can put them on the road to independence long before their parents would urge them to do so. Secondly the un-moldy half of a tomato looks like a regular tomato when cut into a salad.

And this is how I came to know these things.

As I was eating my ancient rice Suma was cutting a young salad out of cucumbers and  tomatoes and a grandfather onion. The cucumbers came seethed in plastic which keeps them fresh for durations which can exceed the half life of uncooked rice.  The tomatoes were from an era which most likely preceded the (r)ice age and had no such protection. I don’t recall shopping for tomatoes and the location in which they were found at the bottom of the refrigerator was somewhat of a testimony to their age. The theory about the tomatoes’ age was further substantiated by spots of mold which some of them had in spite of the cold temperatures in which they were kept…

Suma was very methodical about inspecting each vegetable and the parts of it which she was willing to use. In parallel to sorting and cutting the salad Suma was making melaoach in the frying pan behind her. Tintin was wondering around drooling waiting for his spoils. Osmo was out on the town. Hungry as he seemed to be, Tintin did not dignify my rice with the slightest of glances. His perception of the food chain options were obviously farther extended than mine. I kept a keen eye on things waiting to see either a finger cut, the frying pan catch fire or have the smoke alarm go off. None of the above happened. Suma was cutting off the parts of the tomatoes which had mold on them and using the rest to prepare Tintin’s salad. ‘Tintin you have to have vegetables’. ‘Should I raise the issue of the mold?’ I asked myself. I decided against it. After all not only was she cutting off the moldy pieces, we were in a survival exercise.

To my utter amazement I realized that Suma had mastered Ima’s production-chain cooking habits and was going about it as if it were second nature to her. Within minutes she had Tintin happily munching his melaoach, and continued to make the salad while she set another piece of melaoach on the frying pan for herself. ‘I wonder how she’ll handle the salt part when dressing the salad’ I asked myself. ‘Bushy, how do you make the dressing?’ was my answer. I was elated – the child had realized through a process of observation that Ima’s way of dressing a salad was not to be imitated. Not having seen it done right the child still needed guidance. I showed her the old fashioned way of mixing lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and a LITTLE salt in a cup prior to pouring it into the salad (by premixing one achieves a more uniform distribution of the salt)… Not that I mentioned that to Suma. Not only would it have been unethical to pass judgment without Ima being there to defend her methods of dressing salads, it was redundant as well. The child had obviously drawn her own conclusions, having stumbled on salt deposits in previous salads…

Suma completed the salad and her melaoach and sat down to eat. She made sure that Tintin had his share of salad before she let him go about his business. Tintin was very kind to leave a piece of his melaoach behind. I wolfed it down with some of the salad and brought the rice lesson to a tasty end. A day later I would still feel fine. So the age of rice does not seem to matter.

All this flashed through my mind as I heard the mixer in the kitchen.

It’s now 14:49 and Suma has long since finished baking and left to get a hair cut. Before she left she discredited her work stating that ‘the cookies look like shit’. I was saddened by her lack of sense of accomplishment, but felt that I should let it pass. If what I was seeing was indeed true, then this might have been the equivalent of a sloppy first hunt – but a kill was made and that was a cornerstone event. I waited until Suma was out of the house and rushed to see the cookies. She was right – they looked like shit but only because they were brown. Other than that they were prefect. I tasted the one she had tasted and left for dead – it was very good, although I could see why she was so critical of herself. The cookies could have been rounder… Still concerned I tried the dreaded acid test – could I lift one from the tray without it disintegrating? Gingerly I half lifted half twisted one. I was surprised how easily it came off the tray without leaving so much as a crumb stuck to the pan. ‘WOW’ I thought to myself. It’s easier than lifting a shoe off the floor – and yet they never lift their shoes…

I almost missed the fact that the kitchen in which the cookies were made was  completely clean. I quickly looked into the dish washer – sure enough there were the mixer heads. ‘So she can clean a kitchen too’, ‘Where did she learn how to do that?’. What I found a bit puzzling was the fact that I did not see any bowl in which the dough would have had to be mixed. Could it be that the cookies were prepared directly in the sink? The details were of little importance. A full cycle of creating food from scratch had taken place and the manufacturing facilities had been returned to their starting condition, ready to be used again. I had a fully accomplished master-of-the-house taking care of things.

Staring at the cookie, amazed by its integrity is spite of the forces of physics which threaten to crumble it to dust it all came together for me. The kids could take care of themselves, however they only applied their skills where and when THEY deemed it was necessary… That’s why I’m eating old rice and doing clothing triathlons, while they dress up clean and eat melaoach and home baked cookies.

Let’s view this in light of some more of the evidence.

I recalled that Osmo has done a clothes triathlon a week ago. He actually ran the washing machine, moved the clothes to the drier, ran that and then setup the ironing board. I was made aware of all of this since the ironing board is located right behind where I sit to watch for energies so I couldn’t help but notice Osmo with the iron in his hand working on one of his sweat shirts. ‘Is that a clean sweat shirt Osmo?’ I asked. ‘Sure, I just washed it’. I found it hard to envision Osmo washing a piece of clothing in the sink so I responded by asking ‘how did you wash it?’ ‘In the machine’. ‘You can run the machine?’. ‘Sure, Ima taught me’. ‘And is it dry?’. ‘Yeah, I put it in the dryer’. This was becoming more than I could absorb but I still had to make sure that things were under control: ‘Did you make sure that there were no white garments in the machine with the colored clothes?’. Osmo, seemed confused. The look on his face caused pictures of lightly colored used-to-be-white underwear to flash before my eyes, however before I could query further Osmo assured me that there was nothing to worry about: ‘I only washed these two sweat shirts’…

I think this was one of those ubiquitous occasions where a ‘Batar Abu Gidi’ was appropriate. Here I was after years and years of indoctrination that a washing machine was an essential home appliance that one should use effectively so as to conserve energy and prolong its life therefore one should operate it when its full to capacity… But all of this was totally beside the point. Osmo needed clean clothes, Ima was not available to cater to his needs so he took care of himself. And now, based on the same logic he was trying to iron a sweat shirt. I could see that he was struggling. I recalled from the scant few experiences that I have had with ironing in my life that ironing when not done with coals was not as all that hard. Fortunately Ima happened to be on the phone and pointed out that irons unlike kettles leave the little red light on so you will know that they were hot. The little red light was not on when Osmo was ironing… After we plugged the cord into the wall things became a lot easier. Osmo took care of himself, but only to the extent that he had to. When he found out that I could iron it was all over. He let nature take its course which was to let the only available parent take care of washing, drying and ironing. By the way you need a hot iron to unlatch the top of the cinnamon buns icing top after it has been left with the icing side on the kitchen counter. The icing clings like cement but can be softened with heat…

The same principles seemed to work for putting clean clothes where they belong. They all know that they are the ones that put things back in the closets, unless of course they can pick them up on a need-be basis from Yeela’s bed… They’ll clear that only if they need an extra place to sleep. With Ima’s side of the our bed being vacant and all the space in the family room, that’s not likely to become a necessity any time soon.

As I reflect on things in the newly discovered perspective of this only-when-needed independence more and more things seem to support this finding. For example I vividly recall the hours after I dropped Ima off at the air port. I remember them vividly because I had three burned fingers to remember them by. I burned my fingers fumbling with the toaster-griller making melted cheese sandwiches for the boys lest they go hungry. I had tried to apply more pressure on the sandwiches by grabbing the front lids of the toaster not realizing that the bottom hot plate lining was facing forward at the edge… I did not give much thought to the fact that Tintin would show up every now and then, masterfully raise the upper hot plate, check the status of the beagles inside and lay it back down as if he were closing a book. ‘If only he opened books the way he opened that dangerous toaster’… I thought to myself as I dubbed my fingers in Aluvera.  The kid could operate the griller much better than I could. The next day he cooked chicken wings for Jonathan so Jonathan wouldn’t have to go home hungry. ‘I wonder if they’ll use the Aluvera when they run out of hair gel?’…

As I try to put all of this in perspective I believe that all in all this does not change anything, at least not until Ima gets back. We would need to make one more major push for food unless we go for the chicken at the bottom of the other refrigerator. Furthermore I think the brunt of the clothing triathlons is behind me. We should all be good for another six or seven days. If not I’ll do one or two more W.D.I. (wash-dry-iron) rounds. I don’t care so much for washing and drying but I can’t stand the ironing part. Its so damn hard to get one side ironed while not ruining what you just ironed on the other side of the garment. Maybe I’ll ask Tintin to show me how its done…

We would need to clean the house before Ima gets back. This will not be easy but I still have two full days to figure out how to position this a necessity to the kids so that they can show me how that’s done.

Finally from what I have learned so far there is not a shred of hope that they will ever feed the dog…

Daniel Turns Twelve

It’s not that we didn’t know it was coming. In fact we knew about it twelve years in advance, yet somehow there was some apprehension in the air. Some weird stressful feeling that does not usually accompany birthdays. Perhaps it was just me being more attentive and more involved than usual, and as a result sensing more of the subtleties that underlie the orchestrating of a birthday party.

Given that Daniel was born on February 3rd 1991 it was time for him to turn twelve on February 3rd 2003. With that a given all arrangement for the commemoration of the event would obviously have to take place prior to the day of the celebration. There was relatively little going on during the weeks prior to the birthday. I was aware of a low-key search for a site to celebrate at, which resulted in the selection of Durshire 739. The ice rink at Valco Moll came in a close second but the timing was bad: the place can only be rented for parties from 22:00. Knowing what I know now this would not have been a problem, however at the time it seemed a ludicrous idea to expose the children to the nightlife of Sunnyvale, which as we know belongs to the bugs after 21:00.

‘Osmo, why don’t we have the party at home?’. Asked Ima. ‘We’ll have cake and music…’. ‘And…’ I thought to myself, but then settled down assuming the twelve year olds can handle a dance party for a couple of hours. ‘OK’ Osmo agreed and with that completed his contribution to the event. Being the birthday boy that was perfectly normal behavior. We were therefore delighted when Osmo volunteered to print ‘a few’ invitations so that he could hand them to ‘his friends’. He prepared a template stating the date and time and address but without driving directions and printed a few copies… ‘How many copies can you possibly print on our printer?’ It’s going to be a nice cozy evening at home with a few of his friends.

I don’t know exactly how the invitations got handed out and to whom. Based on what followed I can only speculate. One theory is that some of them were posted on bulletin boards at various schools and community centers. Another theory is that they were anonymous and therefore were handed out as free passes from one person to another. All you needed was to make a copy of the invitation and you were eligible to share our residence for an evening.

At first there were no warning signs of the gathering storm. Then there were the one or two phone calls asking for directions which came from Wilma and Steve’s mother who both knew exactly where we live but wanted to make sure that it was indeed at our house. ‘Why would they want to verify such an obvious thing?’. I know responsible American parents who need to fill in a log of their children’s whereabouts days in advance, however this should have been a routine matter which does not require confirmations to these families. Somehow I put this behind me until we met Wilma at the basket ball game a week prior to the party. ‘When Benny told me that Brandon and Tom and Mike and Gonzo (which turned out to be a girl) and Duane and Bill and Matt and Duncan and Phillip and Alon and Jeff and Jennifer and Allison (not the one that eats at Mary’s every Thanksgiving) and Yoav and Hulk and Bulk and Lump and …’ I was no longer following the names right but I did get the message. Benny had most-likely shared some of the realities as to who else had mentioned that they would be coming to the party with his mother. When she heard the list she became concerned that something was terribly wrong with the invitations. ‘Perhaps his invitation got confused with the Homestead-Fremont football game?’.

Sensing some logistical short circuit that might cause the party to lack adequate quantities of essentials such as food, drink and accommodation we decided to ask Osmo how many people he thought were coming to the party. ‘About forty, why?’. ‘Oh, that’s what we thought you invited, just wanted to make sure’.

So a week before the party we received this rude awakening that the perceived number of guests had mushroomed while transitioning from perception to reality. Knowing the facts a week in advance was enough of an early warning. ‘We’ll order double the Pizzas – they’re only five dollars each on Mondays’ Ima said. If the pizzas were not a problem what else would you possibly need for a party?

The phone calls continued throughout the week, at a rate which matched expectations. If we were expecting forty people then five calls a day asking for directions is not out of the ordinary given that driving directions were not included with the invitations. I was quite at peace with everything until the call that came to apologize for having to pickup whoever-his-her-name was early. ‘Why that’s not a problem’, ‘OK so I’ll be there at eight’… ‘Eight was EARLY?’. I could feel my knees sagging and the knots in my stomach as I lay back the ear piece. ‘When is the party supposed to start?’ I asked trying to make it sound as innocent as could be. ‘At five thirty, why?’ ‘Because this lady just called to say that she would have to pick up her child a little early…’. ‘Did she say when she was coming?’ ‘Eight’. ‘That’s fine, the party ends at eight thirty.’.

So there it was. This thing had a time dimension attached to it as well. We would have forty kids for three hours. That’s twelve hundred twelve-year-olds minutes. The irony of it all was that such a large number is simply impossible to comprehend. It’s the ‘penny wise dollar stupid’ problem applied to time and children. We can all grasp what it means to have to entertain three kids for half and our (90 child minutes). However we simply cannot extrapolate the figures to comprehend what it would be like when the number grows to forty kids for three hours. ‘They’ll be fine, all we need is something for them to eat before the pizza’ Ima said.

On Saturday morning things began to sink in. A few critical hours were lost to Tin-tin’s basket ball game and driving him to camp with FOUR of his friends. Perhaps the lord was trying to give us one more chance to come to our senses. Nothing of the sort happened. We dropped the youngsters off without giving their complaints about the ONE HOUR ride a second thought. The lord however would not let us wander that easily. He summoned us to where Osmo and THREE of HIS friends were sitting on the fence watching someone else working. ‘Osmo, how are you?’ we asked cheerfully. ‘Bored, can I come home with you?’. Still it didn’t register. Lunch time came and all was forgotten. We would not be given any more signs as to what was coming. From here on history would take its course and lessons would be learned in retrospect.

‘I have to spend the next two days shopping’ Ima said as we drove back from the camp to civilization. ‘I have some presents to buy for the family in Israel and a few more things for Osmo’s party’. Was I getting soft or was I caught between a rock and a hard place? I think it was the first of the two options – needless to say that I was happy to join Ima through all of this. At the end of the first day the family in Israel was all taken care of and I learned how to say ‘A-ber-c-ro-m-bie and Fitch’, ‘Yeah, that’s it – Abercrombie and Fitch’. There was absolutely zero progress as far as the looming party was concerned.

Looking back we were playing the script of the perfect storm. Running into a twelve hundred twelve year old minute party with nothing but pizza. To complete the irony we went to see the movie ‘adaptation’ that evening. It’s a movie about a screen play writer who wants to tell a story about an orchid and struggles for months for a way to make it movie worthy. In the end a set of ridiculously incredible events provide for a true Hollywood like ending to his efforts, making his story ridiculous but movie worthy. ‘I really liked the way everything adapts to the absurd that movie making enforces’ I said as we were driving home. ‘It was an excellent movie’ Ima agreed. The devil must have died laughing… ‘Pizza for twelve year old for three hours?’ ‘How are you going to make that movie worthy?’.

‘Tomorrow we can start out by climbing our hill and then we can shop for the party.’ ‘There are a few more things that we need to decorate the room’. Hades must have spewed some lava somewhere on the planet when he heard that one. ‘So now balloons were supplementing the pizza?’. We slept well that night…

In the morning we climbed the hill. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. One of those clear chilly mornings without a cloud in the sky and the air is completely clear. Aside from the soothing beauty of the moment it also tends to lower the probability that one would consider the negative aspects of being stuck at home with nothing to do ‘when its such a beautiful DAY outside’… The party would be at night and there would be no place to go. By this time we were far beyond the point of no return.

Ima had things planned out down to the last balloon. A quick stop at Target to pick up makeup for Yeela and a CD (as in ONE) for Osmo ‘so there will be music at his party’. That seemed reasonable. ‘In the age of the boom-box and proliferation of CD’s he probably has all the music he needs’. From Target to ‘Deedums’ (Because Target opens before Deedums) to pick up a few things, a quickie to the Price Club for cake and a ‘few more things for Israel’ and back home to decorate the room for the party…

By 15:00 we were done. Balloons were hanging down from the ceiling and the walls all around the family room. A plastic sheet of moons and stars stretched across the ceiling, and colored stripes of paper were strung across the dining room. The traditional ‘Happy Birthday’ banner was strung along the walls and the cake was in the refrigerator. ‘What will they drink?’ I asked quite content with myself that this was our only remaining problem. ‘I’ll pick up some bottles at Safeway, nothing to worry about’ said captain Ahab.

Somewhere in all of this I think I was counting on two would be fantasies that put my worries to rest. I somehow recalled that when we were twelve we took care of our own parties and everything was fine provided that there was a house, a record player and records. Given that they had all this in the modern day and age versions I felt that we had taken care of the essentials. ‘Worst case, we always have Suma’s ingenuity to come up with something to entertain the gang’. ‘Not only a plan, but a backup plan as well’. Boy, was I proud of us.

Suma, Osmo and Tin-tin came back from camp that evening. I was glad to hear that the boys has a good time, at least for the most part. When I tried to talk to Suma I found it difficult to hear her speak. The house was relatively quite and my good ear was close to her so something else was wrong. SUMA HAD NO VOICE!!! If anyone had any doubts about what would happen to the fishing boat when their fax failed to receive the warning about the storm of the century, here it was in our version: the voice that could save the party was gone. But why would we need to save the party?

On Monday afternoon I could tell that Mother was getting a little nervous when she asked me to come home an hour before the party. Getting to be old and soft I was happy to leave work early and head back to make sure that everything was ready for our eldest son’s twelfth birthday party.

The first three people arrived almost on time. The look on Tin-tin’s face indicated that something was wrong. The size of the people was larger than Osmo’s. The amount of facial hair indicated that these people-boys were larger because they were significantly older than Osmo as well. How much older was quite irrelevant – the fact was that this size and age was beyond the operational envelope that we had set up to handle. In layman’s terms the first thirty foot wave had hit our fishing boat. There was no turning back now – we had to deal with events as they unraveled. ‘This isn’t the first humongous gathering of people at our house, we can handle this’.

Looking out the window I could see Tom Brittle on the other side of the street with someone larger than he was. They were standing opposite the house apparently waiting for more people to arrive. As Tin-tin stared in horror at the gathering of bigger and bigger people, I noticed that most of the parents were dropping the kids of and scurrying off without coming in to say hello. ‘Funny, normally they come and introduce themselves’ I thought to myself. I was still drained from bonding with the Hebrew Day School staff, so I didn’t mind not having to go thorough the ‘glad to meet you’ routine over and over again. My joy turned to apprehension when one of the parents did walk up to the door. It was an older lady who used walking sticks to help her along. ‘You are very brave’ was the only thing she said to me when she turned around and walked back to her car, the gathering kids letting her through. Seeing how she looked I dared not think whether she had anything concrete to convey other than the deep sadness in her eyes as she scanned the living room as though for the first and last time…

The lady seemed to fade into the drive way as a group of what would biologically qualify as girls stormed in the door. Tin-tin turned from worried to desperate. You didn’t need to be a four-child parent to understand what had just walked in the door. These were not the girls that you see in the Tsofim, not even the worst of them. These were hardcore street material and they were after our son and anything that resembled him.

The flow of hoodlums continued for thirty minutes. Every now and then a short clean young kid whom we know would walk in with a sheepish smile, but there were so few of them. Even Brandon looked like a darling young man as he galumphed through the door waiving his body as he went. By six o’clock the magnitude of what we had gotten into was well upon us. Ima did the only sensible thing to do and that was spend the next fifteen minutes trying to call Yeela and have her talk to Osmo who was nothing more than an innocent bystander in his own party.

From my perch next to Ilana’s statue-of-liberty wannabe I could see droves of people wandering from Osmo’s room and back to living room and the yard as though waiting for something to happen. I could tell that there was some up-beat music playing in the background but it seemed to have no affect on the behavior of the people. Every now and then I could see one of them stop, listen, move a limb in a manner that attempted to match the rhythm of the music and then move on. It turns out that music in-and-of itself does nothing for youngsters these days. It has to either have to come out of the mouth of a live singers with some leather upholstery providing minimal cover to their bodies, or be generated by large electronic equipment controlled by an individual known as a DJ. The music itself is totally irrelevant if the setting for a what appears like a religious sacrifice is not right.

Thinking back I believe I was partially surprised but not really disturbed by the fact that they were not really doing anything other than wondering through the house forming clans and dispersing them as their hormones directed them to seek other relationships. Suma was amused, Tin-tin was horrified, Ima was on the phone, Tweety was on the floor in the living room not minding a thing and I was on my perch watching time go by.

Apparently Ima was not completely disconnected when talking to Yeela. ‘We need the pizza and movies from Block Buster’ Ima said hanging up the phone. To my amazement I felt surprise but none of my uncooperative resistance to please nonconstructive young people. It was only six fifteen and with so much time left what could we possible gain by bringing the pizza so early? The movies somehow didn’t seem as if they would do anything to calm the moving herds. Perhaps they would help the kids we knew more closely, but all the new comers would have probably fallen asleep in an ‘R’ rated movie let alone the ‘PG-13s’ which we would have to bring. However experience taught me that at times like these it was best to focus on the task at hand. Perhaps with movies we could contain twenty of them and hope that the others would find something to do with themselves.

‘Get nine pizzas and three movies’. I did not feel the slightest inclination to rebel against these seemingly ludicrous numbers. ‘What the hell’ I thought to myself, ‘bigger problems need bigger hammers’. Being the experienced shopper that I am I double checked the price of the pizzas and wrote out a thirty two dollar check for nine five dollar pizzas… The poor fool at Little Caesar’s has no one to help him with the math, all of his friends were at our place. Block Buster was even easier – I picked a movie with Martin and De-Vito, another with Eddy Murphy and De-Nero and one with De-girl who want to play basket ball in the NBA. I paid our usual late charge for some movie which we never saw and drove home. On the way I stopped at Gadi’s to pick up a digital camera so that someone would believe us that all this ever happened.

Ima was waiting for me at the door as I walked up the driveway balancing nine pizza boxes. I could tell she has been counting the minutes waiting for my return and not out of pure love. When I set the pizzas down on the living room table some red headed org detached himself from one of the passing packs and walked towards the pizzas. ‘THAT’S A LOT OF PIZZAS’ he said in his gentle voice. For a minute I contemplated whether it was worth while trying to see if he could count to nine, but decided against it. I would later find out that his name was ‘B’ which most likely was a simplification of a birth-given name and as such did not say much for counting abilities.

B’s bellow caused the herds to stop and sniff. The scent of the pizzas had caught their attention at a time when they normally begin the hunt… Before my unbelieving eyes Ima grabbed two pizzas and a pair of scissors to defend herself and took the pizzas to the dining room table past the sniffing flocks. ‘The things that a mother would do to defend her young’ I thought to myself. Ima was risking herself to move B away from Tintin.

‘The camera’ I told myself, ‘turn on the camera’. ‘If these kids are what I think they are they know the implications of being caught on film’. Torn between the danger of being rushed by the mob before I could turn the camera on and not willing to let Ima walk with fish bait into the sharks’ pool I quickly turned the camera on and started taking pictures with the flask blinking wildly. It worked! They slowly turned away from the camera to the dining room table and started tearing at the pizza. Ima would grab two pizzas at a time and I would blind them with the camera as Ima would sneak between them  and place the pizzas amongst them. I was somewhat relieved to see little guys like Benny and Yoav sitting in dark corners munching happily at scraps they had managed to grab for themselves. TinTin was also mingling and munching somehow sensing that well fed apes did not pose any significant danger to the likes of him. Still one could tell that he would not let his guard down.

Seeing that the feeding frenzy would buy us too little time, and knowing that her voice was gone Suma called for reinforcements. Within fifteen minutes Nir and Omer showed up. I was relieved to see guys their size whom I knew could read and write and were not there to relieve themselves of any primordial physical desires. Suma, Nir and Omer calmly stared at what seemed to be a Martian landscape dotted with beings wondering in the eerie lights of the disco lamp and stated that a game of RAPE was all that was needed to adapt the evening to the needs to the participants and turn it into a memorable smashing success.

For those of us who grew up in a completely different era the very notion of using the term ‘rape’ in the context of a game was quite revolting. The name being as bad as it was, seeing the enthused reaction of the mob was all the more troubling. However the feeling that we had somehow wore the brunt of the storm was beginning to settle in. After all we had controlled them through their bonding, boredom, wandering and feeding. We were almost two hours into the frenzy without anything major happening, not even a pregnancy. Seeing this renewed our confidence and we were willing to take on new challenges.

The game of rape is a simple form of forcing a boy upon a girl or visa versa with the intent of having them kiss each other or avoid kissing each other. This all happens in the center of a circle. One representative of a sex in the middle of the circle and two representatives, one from each sex have to either kiss or prevent from kissing the one in the center of the circle. In order to determine who the two that go after the one in the center are the organizer calls their names. It was then that I learned that the boys were called after the letters of the alphabet (we already met B) and the girls had numbers. ‘That’s a good way to avoid witnesses being able to recite names’ I thought to myself. All of a sudden there was a whole new meaning to the term ‘K8’. From now on it means that the boy called ‘K’ and the girl called ‘8’ have to pounce on each other and the person in the middle of the circle to kiss someone or not.

Osmo handled himself quite well during the game. Being as big as he is he actually managed to compete successfully with the girls… Tintin hung around the coliseum for one or two rounds just to get the feel of the hyena pack and then crawled back to the living room. Brandon was ecstatic. Yoav had a blast. Benny was somewhat timid and Alon was flat out horrified. Ima sat on a chair next to the dining room table and couldn’t stop laughing. I was there with the camera and flash in case someone’s testosterone got the best of them. Nir and Omer took turns at five minute shifts reading from a random list of ciphers activating pairs of gladiators as they did. Suma was there to maintain a less macho setting which was important to keep things from boiling over.

The game lasted for over an hour! I think ‘J’ didn’t get to go and neither did ‘3’ but I really didn’t care. I was nearing eight thirty and the last thing I needed was for some parent to wonder in and see what was going on.  The movies were not an option but we still had the cake. Ima set it on the table and called the mobs to light the candles. Surprisingly there are traditions which even they respect. They gathered quietly around the table. Someone lit the candles with their lighters… Osmo blew them out and every one sang happy birthday as the first parents started walking in. I could tell from their looks that they could not believe their eyes. Somehow they were expecting what they had just missed and seeing what they had not expected.

By NINE THIRTY the last of the Mohicans has departed, even Vashti went home and by ten thirty the house was back in order. Ima still took a few hours to explain to Osmo that these girls were not right for him. Through the stupor of sleep I think it was all over by midnight.

What a lovely party it was. Happy birthday Osmo and many happy returns.

Someone up there had their last laugh and we were humbled by the experience.