Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taking the “new” out of New Years

We are already into the third week of the new year and I am waiting for something wondrous to happen.

You see, I have this fascination for new years. Somewhat of a childlike expectation. As if something different is supposed to happen simply because of the way we artificially separate time. I can’t help myself. It begins with officially toasting in the New Year with warm anticipation (although at times it is more like a heavy sigh of relief at having made it through yet another year). Actually, it begins even earlier than that - during the last week of December when making New Years resolutions in front of a roaring fire in the company of my closest of friends. Maybe it is the seductive lure of the fire, but we really do seem to believe that we will stick to these resolutions each new year.

Looking back, I don’t have a very good track record when it comes to New Years resolutions. The only time that I can remember carrying one out, in recent history, was the year of  2011 when I pledged that I would - no matter what - get my book published. And actually succeeded in doing so.

Maybe the shock of my actually carrying through with a new years resolution is what spurred my two close friends to not only declare significant resolutions for 2012, but also set out with a fierce determination to carry them out. Meanwhile, for the first time, I am left with no resolution at all for the new year and time is running out.

I suppose that we cannot make a resolution until we decide what it is that we want. And I keep coming up with a blank. Sure, I want to continue with my writing after taking this first big step. And I am also working on a screenplay.  But what is it I want out of all of this. Another book? Endless adulation? A smug sense of worth?

We think that if we could go back thirty years, knowing what we know now, we’d be much more in tune with our needs and desires than we are now. As if hindsight would create a better world. But it doesn’t work that way, does it. If we don’t make the same mistakes again, we will make other mistakes. Perhaps just as big, perhaps even bigger. There comes a time when you have to accept where you are in life. Accept it and work on making it better.

Does this mean I should give up on the idea of opening up a pub in Yellowknife? Would such a decision negate all that I have gone through and have become, or would it be a natural continuation to all that came before it. From hot desert to cold desert. From a small dysfunctional community to a slightly larger one. Okay, Yellowknife is much larger than my small desert community. But I’m sure that I could find a community just as small and isolated, not too far from Yellowknife. A community probably only accessible by dog sled or small plane. But how much beer would get sold? There must be a tangible level of possibility for any New Years resolution in order to turn it into  a feasible goal. Otherwise, what is the point? I learned this from a redhead. 

“You really should try living somewhere normal for a change.”
Normal. Here she was staring at me from across the room, knowing all that she knew about me, and yet talking about normal.
“Normal? Scarborough was normal. About as normal as you can get.”
“Don’t confuse normal with a comfortable middle class community of WASPs and  Father knows best,” she said.
“Why not?”
“Have you been to Scarborough lately?”
Point taken.
“What’s a normal location in your eyes?” I asked.
“A nice small, comfortable apartment in Tel Aviv. A short walk to take in some culture or eat at a good restaurant. A stone’s throw away from an evening stroll along the promenade by the sea.”
“Have you been talking to Adva?”
“No, I have been eavesdropping.”
She would always have the upper hand, living in this invisible world of hers. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get both feet in.
“There is only one problem with that vision,” I said.
“What’s that?”
“The people.”

Maybe that is the key. Both the Negev desert and the Canadian Arctic offer places where most people wouldn’t want to even visit, let alone live there. I probably missed my calling in not becoming a hermit, but then they didn’t have Internet back then.

But I am no closer now to a New Years resolution than I was when beginning to write this piece. Am I doomed to now wander through 2012 without any direction at all? When does a nomad simply become someone who has lost his way?

I am open to suggestions. Can anyone suggest a New Years resolution for me?

Friday, January 13, 2012

If airplanes were meant to fly

When our first child was three, we took him with us on a trip to Canada.
“We are going on an airplane!” we told him, much to his delight.
At that time, a bus took us from the old terminal building at Ben Gurion airport and drove us to the foot of the plane, where we climbed the steps up into the airplane.
After settling in and after a long strenuous 12 hours of keeping Edan amused during the flight, we finally landed in Toronto, heaving a sigh of relief as we walked through the “sleeve” from the plane into the terminal building.
Edan looked back at the airplane through the terminal window.
“When are we going up in an airplane?” he asked.
“We were just up in an airplane,” I answered, patiently. “That one,” I said pointing back to the airplane  through the window.
“No,” Edan said, pouting. “I want to go up in an airplane.”
Adva and I tried to dig deeply into our collective wisdom and convince Edan that we had been up in an airplane, but no matter what we said, he was not convinced, and it was clear that he would no longer trust anything that we said, not then, not ever.
For Edan, airplanes had nothing to do with being on the inside looking out.

There is a life lesson here. I just have to figure out what it is. And this year, 30 years later, I travelled the airwaves from Israel to Canada yet again. Or so it seemed. Now you never really see the plane on the outside. You walk into the plane through a sleeve at the new Ben Gurion terminal building and out of the plane through a sleeve at Pearson International. Yes, the plane does appear to take off, and there is constant turbulence through the next twelve hours, and then there is the bumpy landing. But were we flying? Really? Sometimes flying reminds me of that magic trick where the magician goes through one door on the stage and magically comes out through the door on the other side of the stage. Magic? Illusion?

All a matter of perspective, I suppose. I live in two parallel worlds: one in Israel, and the other in Canada. They both appear extremely far away from each other during the year. “Worlds apart”, one might say. Yet, all it takes is to walk through the door into a plane, count to 43,200, and walk back out. And “magic” - your body has been transported from one side of the world to the other, while your mind struggles to keep up.

I am waiting for “Beam me up Scotty” to become a reality. Many things which once seemed to be  science fiction have since become reality. Why not that also? The airline unions may have a problem with it, though. I can see the ensuing strikes as airlines move to body transportation machines. Of course, not everyone could be transported at once. There would still be lineups. Baggage might become an issue. Body weight might have to be factored in. They may still have to serve food and drinks while people wait in long lines. Maybe even play movies on widescreen tv or hand out handheld video players to entertain people while they wait. I’m sure that airlines, or whatever they may call themselves then, could tweak out a substantial profit.

And, as with anything, many people will look back with romantic nostalgia to the days of flight in an actual airplane, when this happens.

“When I was young, we travelled from continent to continent by flying in an actual airplane!”
“Gee dad, what was it like?”
“Well, if you looked down, you could see mountains. And they actually served us sitting down. No standing for hours awaiting your turn in the transportation booth. And the movies were better...”

Some people have a problem with change, of any type. They are used to something one way, and this makes that thing sacrosanct by default. For some people, the cinema came to an end when they moved from silent movies to talkies - and transportation lost its romantic appeal when we no longer rode the rough seas in a ship but flew high above completely detached from the earth below.