Friday, July 22, 2011

Why Guinness always tastes better in Tel Aviv

How far would you go for a good pint of Guinness? A 5 minute drive? 20 minutes? How about two and a half hours?

There is a quaint little pub in the heart of Tel Aviv, neatly tucked away opposite the Dan Hotel, close to the American Embassy, and just a stone's throw away from the Mediterranean. One would think that I could find something a little closer to the middle of the desert, where I live. And yes, Guinness has been spotted in Beer Sheva, the sleepy southern cow town, known as the "Capital of the Negev". And yes, I have even tasted a pint or two there. But no, it cannot come anywhere close to a pint of Guinness at Molly Blooms.

So, what makes Molly special, so much so that she continually seduces me into making the long two and a half hour sojourn up into her arms from the desert? Is it the lure of the sea; the interesting assortment of people wandering in from Hayarkon Street; the unique  atmosphere created by parts shipped in from the mother country; the waitress who grows increasingly stunning as I work my way through the pints? Or is it the taste of a skillfully pulled pint, running through pipes religiously prepared for its journey.

I was once told, during my christening period into the wonders of Guinness when travelling through Ireland, that the taste could be significantly different from pub to pub – all depending on how it is drawn. It was there that I joined the quest for the perfect pint. Some feel that this quest is quite similar to the search for the perfect woman. Yet most, in their later years, seem quite content to sit back and drink their pints and watch their women, for the Irish know that both together are the closest to heaven that they will ever get – at least in this world.

A friend of mine first discovered Molly Blooms, when it was just opening, many years ago. He lives only a short jaunt away, but he convinced me to make the journey up to try out this new pub, and the rest – as they say – is history. Since then, this has become our "office" and we meet there whenever I can make it up from the desert. Ronald, my friend who will remain nameless, always waits to watch me take that first sip of Guinness. He says that my whole countenance changes. A sense of tranquility sets over me and I become a new person, or a better part of my old self. I discovered long ago that  Guinness is much more than just a beer: "mother's milk", I like to call it. Others may scoff at this. But I know what I know. My friend, however, can neither agree nor disagree, as he doesn't drink Guinness, even though he is originally from London. But at least he has left his distressing Carlsberg habit behind, now choosing a darker blend, even though it may only be Tuborg. But there is hope for him yet.

R, as I will call him, becomes increasingly insightful as he drinks.  I become amazingly brilliant, but then I am the one drinking the Guinness. We have come up with plans to become rich and famous, write the great American novel, solve the problems of the Middle East, know what it is that women really want … to have all these revelations of genius evaporate away on the train ride home. We keep promising ourselves that next time we will write it down. But we never do.

So yes, Guinness always tastes better in Tel Aviv. You know the feeling, where the best of friends meet, to share that special place and that special moment – and all seems well with the world.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Where tooth fairies fear to tread

Yesterday I sat in the dentist’s chair, with the sound of a drill boring into the bone in my mouth. I felt like I was in a road construction crew, with me as the road. The drilling finally stopped, and then for some reason the dentist had to start hammering. All in the process of raising my sinus and putting in an implant.

This wasn’t my first implant, although it was my first raised sinus. There is a commercial on Israeli television advertising “direct car insurance” without the middle-man agent - mocking the fact that we are simply financing the agent’s rich lifestyle in not going the “direct insurance” way. Well, I feel like I am supporting a whole dental clinic, with the dental work they have done on me lately. Yesterday I asked where Carmit, the head of finances at the clinic, was. “Gone away on vacation,” they told me. “Of course she is,” I thought. “I am probably sending her first class.”

And I ask myself - “What is the point?” Is there any point in investing so much in such an old horse? Maybe the money would be better spent in a continuous supply of whiskey. The good years are clearly behind me. Adva, my wife, gets mad at me when I talk like this. Go figure.

Dentistry has gone a long way, since I was a child. I remember the sound of the drill and my sister’s screams, as she went into the dentist before me. My sister, being three years older than I, has led the way through much of my life. She has met all of the milestones, such as turning 30 (officially “over the hill”), well before me, preparing the way, so that by the time I reached such milestones, they were quite anti-climactic. As was the pain in the dentist’s chair, taking my turn after her. It was never as bad as her screams built it up to be.

All in all, the pain has been taken out of the dentist equation since then, with all of the drugs that have been developed. Although I often manage to be the odd case out. The last time they had to pull out a tooth, when it was discovered that it had become shattered under a filling, it had to be taken  out in bits and pieces, a process that took much longer than expected. And towards the end, the anaesthetic had worn off and renewed anaesthetic would not take. So the last bit, including the sewing in of stitches, was done without pain killer. Did it hurt? God, yes. How did I take it? In quite a philosophical vein, actually. I figured that at this time of life, I deserved the pain. For what exactly? Does it really matter? If we dig hard enough, reasons can be found. And the pain was welcome in a weird masochistic sort of way.  It was probably the only exciting thing that happened to me in the last couple of months.

But yesterday, the treatment was quite painless. The young Israeli dentist, in gleefully arranging his tools, told me to raise my left hand if there was anything wrong. But I just settled back and the left hand never went up. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could approach life that way?

Left hand goes up. “Ah... God,” I say, “this is a bit too painful.”
“Yes, I know,” God responds, as s/he goes on drilling.
“Ah...,” I say, shifting uncomfortably in the chair, “why did you tell me to raise my hand if it won’t change anything?”
God smiles and stops drilling for one brief moment. “We like to give you the feeling of control over your own destiny.”
With that, God chuckles and pulls the goggles back down over his/her eyes and goes on drilling. Who says the gods don’t have a sense of humour.