Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Last stop - Beer Sheva

"So, this is it, then - the end of the line."

"Really? Can't I take a transfer? I hear that they are talking about setting up a separate line to Eilat." 

"Not in your lifetime. Chin up, old man. You've had a good, long life (more or less) and there is still time for you to do more."

"In Beer Sheva?"

"What's wrong with Beer Sheva?"

"I don't know, it's..."

"It's come a long way since you called it a cow town."

"Shh! They may hear you. I have to live here now. I don't want to get off on the wrong foot even before I get going."

"So what are your plans?"

"For retirement?"

"Yes, for retirement in Beer Sheva."

"I'll play it by ear. I have started to explore Beer Sheva by foot, which should also make my neurologist happy as she claims that walking is the best exercise the body and mind can share."

"So, everything is coming up smelling of roses."

"Are you making fun of me?"

"No, of course not. Well, maybe just a little."

"Anyhow, watch this space. Beer Sheva will soon take its rightful place beside the others... Toronto, Scarborough, Kibbutz Palmachim, Midreshet Ben Gurion - from Lake to Sea to Desert to City"

I welcome tips from those of you who know Beer Sheva well or are just starting out like me. 


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Is it ever too late to write love letters?

Is this you?

         *  *  *  *  *

Noises circling above us
faces behind bars of fear
waiting to cry, laugh, scream
looking any way
only not straight ahead

Pushing our way through the crowd
one of many
too much the same
trying to breathe
find a rock untouched to sit upon

Afraid that this is what matters
noises about us
waiting to take life away

Listen to the silence
unsaid, unseen
and taste
bitter sweet

Search for the unknown
beyond the noise and faces
below the fear and dry tears
where hidden secrets lie and beckon
for those who dare live among the living

Pay homage to your restless self
never lose sight of your beauty
and keep me close
if only deep within

Monday, November 23, 2020

You want it darker

So, where were we? Oh yes - The beginning of the end. No, don't look at me like that. We all know what the end will be. Is it time now for an intervention, you ask. Not for me. I am minding my own business. That is the difference between now and then. I am not writing for anyone else - just me. You may have stumbled by here. And you are welcome. Why publish as public, if at all? Let's just call it a whim.

I am listening to Leonard Cohen's last album - You want it darker. Leonard didn't wait for me. We shared so much throughout the years, but in the end, you left me behind. I have a lot of catching up to do. Meanwhile, you have left a trail of bread crumbs in your last album for me to follow. How long do I have before the pigeons eat them up?

"That's not an album you'd want to listen to more than once," my wife said. Meaning, that there is nothing there that you would hum to incessantly. Yet, I have listened to it countless times and I mark off the numbers one by one. The songs are no longer meant to be sung - two guitarists - running down through the sand dunes into the Mediterranean at the stroke at midnight. They are most profound when they are not sung at all.

I still have some words left. Maybe they are meant for my ears alone - secrets whispered into the silence - only echoes, if anything heard at all.

Many of you have already written me off. A disturbed mind, you say. Especially after reading my last book: When Winter Wind Wears Desert Boots. I wouldn't say disturbed. Tortured, maybe. We have reached The Winter in our lives. I once wandered into the desert and explored the hidden crevices, until my boots would carry me no more.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Windmills of My Mind

I feel that I am surrounded. Surrounded by silence where even my voice is not heard.

I have never excelled at verbal skills, whether this be the reason for my being an introvert or the result of being one. And the more my verbal skills deteriorated, so did my social skills, until they became almost totally non-existent.

But there has always been my writing. There can be found my love for words and the key to opening up the hidden secrets of my mind. My writing has enabled me to live in a world which is bearable and allow me to express myself, for better or for worse.

But things have changed. A few years back, I started my second book - When Winter Wind Wears Desert Boots - on a low flame but it soon became all-consuming. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. My body and mind both told me this, but not in unison. They had gone renegade on me and this lack of coordination between the two would become my greatest enemy.

I became a man with a mission. I was now writing a confession. Not a confession of things past, or things that still hadn't happened, but rather a confession of what it was to be human. And to finish it, I only had until the end of time.

It was with a sense of release, then, that I finished the book. It was out there now and no longer haunted me from the inside. I know that many who read it, especially those who know me, found it difficult to read. For they couldn't detach their knowledge of me from the main character in the book and it didn't make any difference to them that the events had never really happened. One close friend who read the first draft of the book told me to never have it published. "It will be your ruin," he said. Another reader - an English teacher - said that the whole book was just smut.

Do I regret the graphic portrayal of desire and search for intimacy? No, I don't. The book was not meant to make you feel comfortable.

For better and for worse, I am leaving this part of me behind. Call it a legacy, if you must.

It was not long after the book was published that I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. It was as if I had been working in the dark and somebody had suddenly turned on the light. The good news was that they knew what was wrong with me. The bad news was that it was only going to get worse with no chance of a cure. One of the many things that I was warned about was increasing speech abnormalities and I felt myself going full circle.

A year has passed since I wrote my last blog entry. I must do better. For if I lose my ability to write, then I have lost all. Right now I am working on my third book - a work of dystopian fiction which mirrors the type of world we live in today. And no, you will find it difficult to find a character who strongly resembles me. How close am I to finishing? Let's say that I am rounding third base and am on my way home.

It is a journey. You are welcome to travel it with me. Maybe at times, I will cause you to smile or even shed a tear. I will be happy to have you as a travelling companion.

And one day, in the distant future, a grandchild of mine may pick up my second book and try to attach the written voice to a vague memory of an ageing man with kind eyes but a stern expression.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Do the clothes really make the Man?

When I was a young brat, I abhorred going to church. This was not because of the empty teachings in Sunday School or the seemingly meaningless collection of different coloured stars for memorizing parts of the Bible. No, it was because of what I was supposed to wear. I dreaded the approach of Sunday, knowing that I would have to put on a suit and tie.

"Doesn't he look cute!" my mother would remark. "It's a shame that he spoils it with his penguin walk."

My penguin walk, as my mother called it, was walking with my arms rigid to the sides, trying to let the coarse garment of the suit touch my skin as little as possible. But my mother only saw this as an expression of rebellion, on my side. She didn't realize what a torture this was for me. God knows what psychological impairment in later years could be traced back to this Sunday ritual.

It was only in my adult years, when I was diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder), that we came to the realization that this had no connection to my being a spoiled brat, but rather was a neurological disorder which had only gotten worse over the years. It was then that I publicly announced to family in Canada and in Israel that I would no longer put appearance first. I was now a cranky old bugger who had certainly paid his dues to family and society over the years and was now putting himself first.

But of course, nothing is that simple. As the OCD got worse, I could not wear any shirt with a stiff collar (what I considered stiff). Which made shopping with me a real pleasure. First of all, to get me to go shopping for clothes was a challenge in itself. I still have shirts that I have been wearing the past forty years. For me, they are extremely comfortable, for they have been worn in, Adva insists that what I call comfortable, she calls sloppy, and I shouldn't be seen like that in public. I tell her that they are just for the comfort of the home. But then she catches me outside, wearing my old shirt from ulpan days, its colours extremely faded.

"You promised not to wear this in public," she says.
"I was just taking out the garbage," I reply, innocently.
The next day I find the shirt in the garbage. It is days like this when you have to count your losses and take it like a man.

"The clothes you wear to work is also a sign of respect,"Adva liked to say.
"Respect to whom?"
"To the people you work with."
"I have to crawl under desks to check connections and schlep computers. I'm not your typical office worker choosing his clothes to beautify himself."
"That's just an excuse," she says.
That is a real show stopper. She doesn't recognize my situation when it interferes with what she deems should be. And I thought I was the master of denial.

The thing is - Adva works in a high profile job and I am tucked away in a back office where most of my communication with fellow workers and colleagues from other parts of Israel and beyond is done mostly through virtual means. When I mention this to Adva, that most of the people that I work with don't even see me, she replies, "That doesn't matter. You see yourself."

That's another cryptic comment that I don't quite understand and thus cannot effectively respond to. Which is probably what it is meant to do - knock me completely off-balance.

So, what does all this have to do with the old adage: It is the clothes that make the Man. (Please note that this is the generic use of Man.)

Well, Adva - whether it is connected to her professional life or not - is continually looking more and more distinguished, while I am becoming more and more haggard. If I were to come to work, dressed the way that Adva would want me to dress, co-workers would probably ask me, "What, are you going to a wedding or a funeral?"

So, maybe I am beyond hope. Although, Adva would beg to differ. She views me as a modern-day Pygmalion. She would love to have the opportunity to dress me and make me into a real mensch.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Holding virtual auditions for characters in my third book

I am presently holding virtual auditions for characters in my third book (fiction).  You are welcome to virtually audition a character for a part in this book by going to the following link.

At this point in time, I will not reveal the book's title nor what it is about (already partly written) However, the inclusion of your character in the book after a successful audition will have a definite effect on the further development of existing characters as well as additions to and changes to the plot and sub-plots.

You may suggest characters based on yourselves or characters you have made up or are loosely based on people you know. As such, you may give the character your own name or a made-up name. (If you are basing the character on someone you know, do not give that character their real name.) Your character description can be as short or as long as you wish.

This is the first time I am writing a book this way and I think it may bring about some interesting results. You will be given credit in the book introduction for inspiring the writing of the book (unless you request not to be mentioned) and I will send you a paperback and ebook copy of the book when it is published.

If interested, please send me your character audition by filling in this form

Thank you,



Saturday, May 6, 2017

How many ears does it take to renew a Canadian Passport?

Those of you who have read my two previous posts:
will know of my Love Affair with the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. But, as with many relationships which seem so simple at first, things have become complex over the years. And the chief culprit in complicating this relationship is the Canadian Passport Photo, which caught us all by surprise when the new photo requirements were released many years ago. Take a look at how complex they have become:

Photo Requirements

  • required height and width of photo and height and width of face in photo
  • be clear, sharp and in focus
  • show a neutral facial expression (no smiling, mouth closed) and look straight into the camera with eyes open and clearly visible
  • have uniform lighting - no shadows, glare or flash reflections
  • show a full front view of the face and top of the shoulders squared to the camera (face and shoulders centered in the photo, head not tilted or turned)
  • reflect natural skin tone and be taken against a plain white or light-coloured background with enough contrast between the background facial features and clothing, so that your features appear clearly in the background.
  • be originals that have not been altered in any way and not taken from an existing photo;
  • be taken within the last six months from the date the application is submitted and reflect your current appearance
There is more, but I don't want to lose you, if I haven't already.

Shorty after the new photo requirements came out, so long ago, my son had his Canadian Passport photo taken in Beer Sheva. I took his filled out and signed application form together with the photos to the consular section of the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv. As usual, I started passing the form, pictures and cash through the protected window apparatus (back then you could still pay in cash). 
"Whoa," the consular official said, "Not so quickly."
That was when everything sacred about our relationship changed.
"Your son's mouth isn't closed."
I had no idea what he was talking about.
"It looks closed to me," I said, "and he isn't smiling."
"There is a small gap between his lips. You will have to get new photos taken."
Taken again? And then back again from the Negev, leaving very early on a Friday morning to beat the lineup? And still not sure that the new pictures will meet all of the requirements?
"I can hardly see the gap," I said, Canadian to Canadian which is supposed to mean something.
"There is nothing I can do," the official said, "I can't accept them now, knowing that they will be rejected in the end."
So I took the pictures back and gave them to my son, explaining the problem. He took them back to the photo shop where they had been taken.  This time when I took them back to Tel Aviv, they were accepted.

After this traumatic surprise, and with the date of my passport renewal and my daughter's passport renewal approaching quickly, I turned to my Israeli English Teachers group, asking for the name of a photo shop which already knows how to successfully take a Canadian Passport photo on the first try. I was sent the name and address of Photo Zion in Renaana and was told that the consulate unofficially recommended this photo shop. Since then, over the years, I have made a number of trips to Renaana (a two and a half hour drive, one way) to get a Canadian passport photo taken. A long way to drive, I know, but worth it for peace of mind.

Now, let's move to the present. Over ten years have passed since my first trip to Renaana for this purpose. I figured that, by now, there must be at least one photo shop in Beer Sheva that knows how to take a Canadian Passport photo. So I put out feelers to a number of facebook groups where Canadian expats were lurking and requested any info that someone might have about a photo shop in Beer Sheva that knows how to take Canadian Passport photos. Someone recommended Photo Life in Beer Sheva, stating that they knew how to do this. Buoyed by new hope, I set out for Beer Sheva. The Russian at the store - let's call him Boris - said that he knew how to do this. I am used to the photographer taking a number of photos, making sure that he got everything correct and then showing me the final photo for my approval. But, exuding confidence, he appeared satisfied with the first picture taken and then set about setting it up for printing. I was then given the two photos. Everything, in the long list of requirements, was apparently correct and I was ready to make the two hour drive to the Canadian Embassy.

Adva told me that she would go with me to provide moral support. We left early on a Friday morning and were at the consulate at 07:35. (It opened at 08:00 and I was already the third in line.)
"If the photos turn out okay," I told her, "I will make the Photo Life photo shop famous. I will let everyone know in the relevant facebook groups that this is the place to go in the Beer Sheva region."
"Why wouldn't everything be okay?" Adva remarked, the eternal optimist.
"Why are you taking your computer?"
"Oh, just in case it takes longer than expected." (Maybe she wasn't as optimistic as I thought.)

I am a natural worrier, but I did feel that everything was on board this time.
Pushing through my Adult Abroad Simplified Passport Application to the other side of the window, I followed with the photos. The consular official momentarily placed the photos aside and went through the form to make sure that all was there. She then went back to the photos.
"Just a second. I have to check something," she said, leaving with one of the photos. After a few minutes, she came back. "The automatic photo check is not up, but I see a problem with the photo."
That is when my stomach fell and the trauma returned.
"You are not totally squared to the camera."
"I'm not?" It looked kosher to me.
And then it came, after worrying all about smiling, mouth closed, proper contrast and measurements...
"I can only see one of your ears," she said.
Ears? When did ears enter the equation?
"They won't accept it," she said, "you will have to have it taken again. You should be able to have it taken for free at the same photo shop."
I carefully studied the photo.
"There," I said, "I see a part of the missing ear."
"That's just a little dust on the picture."
"No, I really think that is an ear."
She did me the favour of peering over at the photo again.
"Even if it is, we need to see both ears equally."
(You can see the passport photo at the top of this page.)
I began to wonder whether they keep making these things up. The idea of going back to Beer Sheva to get the photo taken again and waiting until next Friday to see if it was now okay was too much for me. I also was not in the mood to bring all this back to Boris at Photo Life.  I don't do well with Russian authority figures. Check out my blog on this subject: You want to leave Moskva!
"Is there a place nearby where I can have the photo taken? Where they really know what they are doing?"
"Yes, at the other entrance to the building. They are good, but expensive."
"No matter. I am not leaving Tel Aviv today until everything is done."
She put everything into an envelope with the Consular Section address stamped on it.
"You can put the new photos into this envelope and drop it into the Consular Section box."
"No, I will come back with them this morning to make sure that they will be accepted this time."
When I returned with the photos, I was directed to another consular official. I told her the story and she authorized the new photos and continued processing my request.
"What's wrong with these photos," she asked, referring to the old photos as she took the documents out of the envelope.
"The other official said it is not squared properly. You can only see one ear."
"Oh. Okay," she said.

So that is it. I am not setting out to make Photo Life famous among us Southerners. And if you are eligible for the Adult Abroad Simplified Passport Application, which most of you should be, then I suggest that when everything is ready, you go and have your photo taken at the place by the Canadian Embassy and submit your application directly after that. Take into account, though, that it costs 80 shekel to have the photo taken there. (It cost 29 shekel at Photo Life, but then, they weren't worth anything in the end.)

I am sure that other Canadians would be most interested in hearing about your own experiences in this matter and tips for survival. I know that I would.