Monday, August 28, 2006

The Smell of Death

The smell started about 9 days ago. It came in through the toilet and the bathroom. Tel Aviv heat seemed to have reach it's peak in the last week and I was certain a new mold colony found it's way into a deep corner of our small bathroom. I lifted the plastic tubs and sniffed, I opened the cupboard and stuck my head in. "Is it from the inside or the outside??" I yelled to my roommate in the living room. "Outside, definately outside" he replied. "It seems it's from the inside" I stated. For days I was convinced it was a terrible mold from the polluted, summer city. We took to closing the grated windows and keeping the door shut- it seemed to take the smell away.

When P Bonez came over before the weekend, he stuck his head into the bathroom, into the cupboards and whiffed around. "Listen, i've worked in a hospital and walked past the morgue, that's the smell of death" he stated convincingly. I then walked into the kitchen and climbed onto the countertop, where I opened the window that looked into the small, closed- in courtyard. I squinted my eyes into the tree, to see if I could see the nests of birds my roommate talked about, I squinted onto the ground, three floors below to try and focus on some cat carcasses (this was, after all- Tel Aviv, where the street cats are of a more aggressive breed.) I looked up to the apartment above and said to P and roommate: "Those are flies up there, near the windows.. but they aren't near any other windows". As they both walked up to the window we debated whether it was really out of order to see a few flies, but then again- this was Tel Aviv, when is there NOT a fly harassing you when you are out and about?

Our doubts and noses were put to rest when my roommate answered the door yesterday morning to two paramedics asking whether the elderly woman above us had any family. Hugh offered what was a speculation between all of us, but refused to really confront before. "The lady could possibly have passed. She has cats." he told them. Hugh said that the paramedic stressfully placed his hand to his cheek". "Cama Chatuleem ( how many cats)??" he asked. "Arbe (many)", replied my roommate.

What sickens me most about this whole situation is that the paramedics left the soiled items in health department bags at the top of the staircase. They were finally dragged down early this morning, but not after leaking (plasma looking stuff) onto the staircase. I spent the morning with my co-worker, trying to find who is responsible for this case. "As long as it's not the carcass, it's not a health hazard" says the health dept.

It is a shame to die alone- and I will never own a cat again. My curiousity can't help but wonder what this woman was about- but if I didn't bother more than a "Boker Tov" to her in the mornings when she was alive- I can't really justify the weirdness I feel in her death. But death, it's a pretty weird thing- and for such a finite moment of life, it comes in so many forms.

Each cat I walked by today, I shuddered- I am praying that there wasn't an open window where these cats were walking in and out of, because most of us know what cats do when unfed and within the parameters of death.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The beach. and Israel

To the left is a picture of the beach less than 2km's where my mother grew up in Bolinao, Pangasinan, Phillipinnes. We'd walk into the brush of the nearby jungle to arrive there, using a bamboo stick to clear the way and scare the snakes away. That is the warm water of the South China sea where my Grandfather would take me off his small shoulders and dunk me as I raised my legs higher into the air to create a larger splash.

Bolinao is the place where my small friends would fall into large holes full of insects i'd never see again, a place where we washed in baths next to the pigs shed, crying from the fear of the grunting swine next door. It is where stories of spirits and ghosts floating in the dawn captured my miniature imagination. Bolinao is the place where I sat on kitchen floors scooping out mangoes as the sounds of jungle wildlife played on soundtrack outside. My days in Bolinao were filled with visits to my Aunts classroom and watching as my other Aunt tended to her patients. Older memories of Bolinao are of my cousins and I, riding down the coast in a 4x4 jeep and cooling off in an underground, freshwater cave, then later accompanying my uncle to rooster fights that angered me because animal rights never reached this large island. (" We eat the rooster, Susi" echoes my uncle's voice ,"We just get some entertainment and gambling in before!".)

I'm thinking of Bolinao because I've been thinking a lot about my progression here in Israel and my desire to make her a permanent home. If Mom was able to leave her home and create a new one, it's in my blood to accomplish that as well. So, I have taken measure in setting up a savings and investing in bonds/stocks/mutual funds hoping that with a little luck and a couple years time, i'll have something to show for it (and not just a really nice purse).

Another challenge I am facing is: how do I make Israel a home for my family? My family doesn't carry the same identity with Israel as my friends families do, that being spending their vacation time here, investing in property, retiring here- how can I make the Doring family a permanent fixture in Israel? Actually, unbeknownst to my mother, I have decided that I shall make the effort in finding my mother a "companion". But no no, not just ANY companion- a Jewish companion. Because even if I find her a Jewish companion in the U.S, with my charm and rhetoric, it'll guarantee me seeing my mother at LEAST once a year, if not more. It'll be quite challenging, because Bry and I will most likely be the toughest children to impress. But i'm working on it. I imagine a lot of people may not agree with me to do this, or hope for this- but oh well.

Would love to upload some pics from the wonderful, long weekend I had, but Flickr, geocities, and blogspot all have no desire to cooperate with me. It shall be left up to the imagination the eventful and Scandal-less weekend I had. I am sad to find myself at my desk on a Sunday morning- I would rather be having tea with politicians and their prostitutes. Or writing Mad-Libs on my couch- but what can you do. This year is making me realize the amount of growing up I am doing and I suppose I must simply accept that it is what it is.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Grief Cycle Finale

After the deaths, I began reading extensively about grief. I read spiritual books, academic books, books written by authors on grief, poetry, case studies- I wanted to make sure I understood the physiological aspects of grief, I wanted to make sense of death religiously, I wanted to make sure I would experience my own cycle- fully and realistically, so that I could make my sadness beautiful and continue on from the tragedies and a whole person.

Joan Didion's book: a Year of Magical Thinking was something I could recommend to my friends- she had a writers way of speaking to those that didnt understand. She had a way of making me understand the thoughts in my noggin' and put it in perspective. Another analyzation of grief I stuck to deeply was Elizabeth Kübler-Ross 's theory on the cycle of grief. I read and re-read her analyzations, I tried to decipher which stage I was at, I always wanted to assume, since I feel I can adapt easily to situations, that I would advance through her cycle with a trophy in the end. After five months, I told the head of the IDF's Girlfriends of Fallen Soldiers group, that I think I was already at the acceptance stage, she looked at me with soft eyes and responded: "There is no way, given the circumstances that you have reached that level". I was in denial stage still.

As time passes with losing two of the most important people in my life- I get caught in small moments where I reflect the times where my innocence was a reflection of my age and period in my life. I get caught in pockets of thoughts where I blink and I am back in a life I could never have possibly anticipated until it was mine to live. I have reached acceptance stage. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross failed to mention the guilt that is carried onto the stage of acceptance. The IDF support group didn't. I have fears that in moving on and feeling for someone else, I would alienate the bond I had with Tsiki, that it would make his parents feel the memory of his son is diminishing with time. I know better than that- I know my ability to continue with my own happiness is a big relief to everyone. But it doesn't mean I still don't have the guilt.

The most beautiful thing about the Girlfriends of the IDF group is that they help every woman realize that what they are feeling is normal. And with 135 soldiers that fell in the last month, it is not a surprise than a handful of groups have been created to accomodate these Girlfriends, these Fiance's, the new brides. It will be no surprise when new additions will sit behind me as I speak to groups about the girlfriend group, and they will be in shock at their suddenly displaced souls and new reality.

Making sadness beautiful has always been my goal through the last year and a half. Finding a reason to look at the world as beautiful and promising was at one time almost impossible. Carrying my basket of reasons at this moment and accepting death as a reality (esp. in Israel) has become my small fortune. I agreed with Aviva Zornberg when she lectured at her weekly Parashat Shuvua that: grief is the closest relationship you can have to g-d, it is a time where your soul is wide open and in your pain, all your beliefs are challenged.

As summer has reached it's peak and the humidity is following us like a stray dog. I am confident to admit that although I have certain hesistations, and a dab of mistrust with Fate, my heart handled all the possibilities that the last month of war presented and despite the stress and the troubled times, I still call Israel my home and my heart is quite ready to get on with the next season and more amazing weekends that I have the fortune of having.

Now I just need to win the lottery to buy that car i've been whining about.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Brilliant Brother

alias pail

has been a solo project of bedroom recordings, lo-fi antics, tricking friends and roomates over the years to record. original influences came from lo-fi pop and twee pop, biggest idols being the pastels and jesus and mary chain. there is also a small element of folk in the songs, derived from artists such as woody guthrie and simon and garfunkel. alias pail is now pursuing sounds more into fragmented pop, electronica, and experimental music.

alias pail's current project has been recording original songs in japanese for a split CD with my pal foot foot, one of alias pail's favorite japanese underground bands. my pal foot foot is signed to majijick records and also run their own label, shukaak-haaksu records. the project serves as a study assignment in japanese (alias pail's favorite second language) and also to feed the fanship of the overwhelming influence of japanese underground music that plays a big part in alias pail now. artists such as nikaidoh kazumi, tenniscoats, maher shalal hash baz, and nagisa ni te all voice the similiar amateur and earnest approach to pop music that alias pail enjoys. a music video for "dollboy" is currently in production. the intent is to promo the video and japanese songs in the summer. alias pail then shall develop a laptop, loop based live sets for performances in the late summer.

:: samples ::

yo sis! - alias pail
dollboy - alias pail
3 little stones - alias pail with (steve dacosta of plinth)

:: connect ::

alias pail blog
alias pail myspace
alias pail homepage
alias pail purevolume

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What war?

As of Late, Israel has been kicking my ass. The people I consider my family here are on vacation in North America and have generously left me their auto for use during these three weeks. Albeit an auto simplifies life in terms of shaving off up to two hours of bus waiting and riding a day, there still doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day I can allot myself to singing in the shower and whistling and skipping into random walls of limestone.

After work and my Bnei Brak (an orthodox city on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, for those of u at home) tutor and before my shiur last night, I realized how booked up I am. Busy with things I must do in order to establish myself spiritually and culturally in the sort of lifestyle I feel I will mold myself into as I get older. Finding the time to do laundry is my biggest challenge. The underwear your mother told you never to wear in case you got in an accident- yeah... That underwear is saved for times when time is not found for it.

After finding the time for tomato soup, I arrived with a layer of sweat only Tel Aviv humidity can decorate ones face with and sat down next to my favorite survivor Jean.

Israel has been kicking my ass for a number a reasons. Although I can support myself without incident with my current career, at the end of the month, I really have nothing to show for myself except a stocked fridge. My father would be rolling in his grave if he got news of my currently inability to save. "It's not what you earn, it's what you spend" he would constantly say as I rolled my eyes and retorted with "dad, times have change- life is really expensive these days." Life is pretty expensive here in Tel Aviv.

As I slid myself into the bench next to Jean, I whispered "I know you're a successful business man, I need some pointers how I am to establish myself financially."

Jean in his German/Polish accent and bad hearing: "What!? You need Money?!"

Me: No no, I need some advice on how I can build myself financially with what I have

Jean: Yeah?!?! hmm.. How much you got? $100,000???

Me: err- if I had that, I don't think I would be too worried at the moment, Let's just assume I have nothing and can save ----- Shekels each month.

Jean: How much is that in dollars??

Me: err.... --- dollars

Jean: we'll meet for coffee after our Shiur on Wednesday, I'll advise you.

Sigh of relief. Honestly, I know what he's gonna tell me: no more bottles of your favorite cabernet, no going out to eat, those yoga classes bought on a package deal but unable to make each week because of being locked out of your apartment, go for a run on the beach instead. No big dinners with your friends once a week, only afford what is necessary- which is basically anything that fits on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And at the end of all my budgeting and savings planning, he'll say "you'll be grateful when you get older".

And I know he'll be right, but I'll still tell him Israel is kicking my ass and I believe in her and I believe in what I'm doing, but that imaginary ticket of easily attained new cars and affordable living and drinking and general rowdyism of U.S life is waving in my face and I imaginarily sigh to that imaginary ticket and I wonder: is this all worth it?

Then at this point (we are still in imaginary scenario's) my closest friends say "of course it is, it's Israel- who wants to be an armchair Zionist?!!" and I imaginarily sigh and state: I can't even afford a car that would simplify my life 50%, in the U.S I could afford one waitressing!!".

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Science fair memories

Sometimes you can believe in something and not live up to it.

When I was a kid, there was the annual science fair. At 7 years old, my brother constructed a mechanical lego robot to enter. At 6 years old, mini- Ginrod found a sick (as in not flying) bumble bee in the grass in front of our condo in Germany. I remember an eldery neighbor explaining the bee was sick and I would have to nurse it back to health. She advised me to mix sugar with water and hopefully, the bumble bee would suck it up with it's stinger.

I took my bumble bee up the stairs into our home. I created a bumble bee environment specifically catered to it's natural environment (ie: a small bowl with leaves and two flowers that are often taken for weeds). I created it's nutritional supplement of sugar and water and the bee stung me. I continued my care for the bumble bee until he silently passed only two days later.

I remember announcing to my mother that I would not be attending the science fair, because my science project, had passed away, I then punished myself by sitting in my bedroom.

Mom came into my room with that book "My book of science projects" and continued to offer other options that I could present in the Atterberry Elementary school Science Fair. Everything seemed to complex to my 6 year old self and I finally settled on taking a cactus (that I did not grow) to the science fair.

The 3rd graders were proudly shooting off their vinegar volcanoes, displaying their glowing green goo while my brother was displaying his engineering genius with his robotic lego man (he actually did become an engineer). I showed loyalty to my cactus long enough for my teacher, Mrs.Perea, to imposter interest in this small plant (which looks just like the mini-cactus sitting on my monitor right now). I then ran off to watch the majesty of volcanoes with the 3rd graders.

Mrs. Perea would eventually leave Germany and leave us her parakeets and canary. Once a day, we would allow the parakeets to fly around the condo, and inevitably, the blue one would prop itself on my father's beerstein and drink some beer.

I did not win a prize at the science fair. I don't think I believed in it enough.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Quality of life

My Wednesday Rabbi stated yesterday that miracles aren't affective anymore because they wear off. That one cannot rely on miracles alone for faith- we forget too easily the fortunes we carry in our pockets.

In hearing this, guilt flickered in my heart. He was right. At the same time, I felt that guilt because I needed a few miracles to inspire me to get me where I am standing right now. I needed them in the form of vivid dreams, in the form of the organization that helped me when I first started out here, in the form of friends, family, work visa's, conversion approval from the Bet Din in Jerusalem, and general sanity during tough times. But he's right, miracles are easily forgotten. Especially here. And if my biggest miracle in Thailand was making it to the toilet after a spicy meal, miracles around these part far exceed the miracle norm.

Oft times before I go to bed, I think about some place in the U.S, where the same postmaster has had the post office open for twenty years and there are oak trees and flower beds lining the streets. I think of the team of children I cart around in my mini van to the house with the wrap around porch and the mutt of a dog that we adopted from the pound. I don't have that, but obviously never wanted it- not in that form.

There was a man who was a quadriplegic. He kept returning to the hospital every couple months with acute pneumonia. He couldn't move, except for his mouth, which, by breathing through a device, moved the wheelchair for him. After many bouts of pneumonia, some doctors suggested they stop treating him and let "nature take it's course". An ethics committee was called and they sat on the topic. One Doctor took the lead after many hours of discourse. He asked the doctor across from him "on a scale from one to ten, how do you rate your quality of life?". After weighing his past, present and future, the Doctor questioned replied "ehh-a 6/7". The Doctor who questioned Doctor #1 asked the 2nd doctor. "What do you rate Dr. #1's life?". The second Doctor thought and replied: "If he thinks it's a 6/7 then I'll have to give that to him as well"- He said. In fact, most of the Doctors sitting down rated themselves with those numbers.

The committee went to the paraplegic and the Lead Doctor questioned the paraplegic. "Mr. Heinz, given your situation, on a scale from one to ten, how do you rate your quality of life?". Of course, after much thought Mr.Heinz responded "probably a 9/10. I know it might surprise you, because I have been so limited so much of my life, but I cannot express what joy life around me brings to me and still having the ability to see all those sunsets and taste the food- i don't know anything else, but in that alone, i appreciate the ability to have such experiences.

Fair enough. Simple story right? Not a surprise- but it can be debated on certain levels.

It's a good enough example of why my peers and I choose Israel, how we're crippled with our history, yet it's all worth fighting for. It's the most spiritual place I've ever set foot on. I always maintain to my friends who are atheist: "step foot in Jerusalem and tell me there is no G-D."
We're spoiled by life- miracles are explained by science. Dancing in the kitchen is blamed on the wine. Most people only cry when a sad, fictional movie is playing in front of them. It's as if people are determined to take the fun out of everything and rationalize it with logic. Sure- an aeronautical engineer can explain why a plane flies. But my brain cannot digest how you can stick something so big in the sky.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. I'm turning the news off and running through Jerusalem with a pink Tu Tu on and a radio on my shoulder.


Monday, August 07, 2006

The Art of War

Yesterday afternoon, my work converted our conference room into a blood donation room. I got to know my co-workers on that whole "what kind of woman are you when a big- ass needle is stuck in your arm way".

It's the least we could do in times of war here in the Holy Land.

A few years ago, me and a couple friends went to donate blood in T-town. Afterwards, I went into the Oklahoma summer heat and played ball for a few hours with my homeboys. Last night, After a pre- blood donation avocado sandwich and post- donation Yoga, I became disoriented and had to weakly enjoy a cherry popsicle at a friends near my Yoga lesson..

My roommate made a good point over the weekend. In regards that our soldiers ARE our civilians. In this country, everyone is a soldier and many men are on duty as reserves. Yesterday's tragedy was a reflection of that notion when 12 reservists were killed while preparing to go to the battle front. Everyone I know was a soldier and most people I know are waiting for that call to go back in. It's a way of life I would never be exposed to had I not moved here. It's a mentality so specific on it's own that I can't think of another country that shares the same efforts with it's citizens during times of conflict. A world population is literally watching the war on TV, why do we not watch Iraq on TV? These questions float.

Watching the news, I have an absurd attraction to it. It stresses me out, I am worried, yet I must watch. But your guess is as good as mine how this will pan out. I have never carried the desire to learn about the politics of war. I read "The art of War" lightly a few years ago and never thought I would need to understand it. Now I am somewhat forced to.

In 2006 the Art of War has reached a new peak. In a world of's and You Tube, War is more propaganda than ANYTHING else. 54 people killed.. oh yeah.. 52.. well, maybe 37. The world becomes shocked and dismayed and what Israel is "doing" in Lebanon. The average death toll in Iraq far exceeds us any day but the media has dulled our senses. In 2006 the Art of War has reached it's Zenith with a combination of and Photoshop, when respectable news agencies such as Reuter's publishes Doctored photographs, I think we know who is winning the Proganda war and who is winning the Real one.

....Or do we?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Drunken Brunch

After a respectable amount of planning and equivalent amount of stress, my Friday afternoon Susi is 26 and made it through the year Drunken Brunch was as I hoped. I sat back on my couch and stared at all my friends. My heart melted. I felt like the most fortunate person Friday afternoon.

It was only a year ago that I wept for the hand of cards Spring of 2005 brought me. It's been a little more than a year ago that all my belongings came with me in two large suitcases, and no beginning in sight, but it was a beginning wasn't it? I was able to sit back and realize the fortune the plate of 2006 allotted me, words cannot express my joy at what my friends and I have accomplished. My liver is punching me right now for celebrating after a Fasting Holiday.

This birthday carried so much meaning for me. I may even admit that this could have been the best birthday I have ever had. It was more than just a celebration of age, for me- it marked a celebration of a new life I have chosen to live and I have the support in friends and family to prove it.

The ongoing effects of the war were not forgotten. Friends are still in their posts in the army. Soldiers are still falling and soon I will share everything I have learned about life and loss to new women that are beginning their grief cycle with their raw losses. I did not forget these women, and although I marked my birthday with a soulful sigh of relief that I have accepted my past and cherish the opportunity that I can continue to live and love, I did not forget that there are young women who will not be able to celebrate the upcoming year because their pain has only just begun.....

I shared with my Jewish learning tutor in the last week a big "secret" I felt I had to hide from her until she came to know me better. In many social circumstances in the last year, I felt I was under a magnifying glass- waiting to be ripped apart, I sometimes felt I would never fit in because of certain choices I "permanently" made with myself would affect public opinion. I told my tutor about my tattoos and asked if this is something I should share with my Rabbi. She looked at me like I was crazy. "Susi, the choices you made in the past, in regards to tattoos etc does not affect the person you are becoming now" she explained. " "I don't think you understand, I am really tattooed" I stressed. "And although my tattoos have become a part of me, it pains me to think that people would think my values aren't the same as theirs because of them". My tutor brushed off my worries with the rationale: "do you really want to be around people that would judge something like that and question your spiritual worth". "You're right", I responded, "I'm not in highschool anymore- I can't bother myself with other people's expectations". I left it at that. She was right.

In the last 10 hours I have been thinking a lot about my conversion. I began around Passover and am enjoying this natural progression of my learning. I made a conscious decision not to pressure myself too much so that all that I learn would sink in naturally. But when P Bonez inquired yesterday when I was going to take it to another level, I became a bit defensive- I also realized that he was right, this is the life I am going to be leading for the rest of forever- it is time to take it to the higher level. So I feel I need to make the next level of commitment and re-adjust my weekends to allow myself a schedule where I can spend every weekend with the proper people that will instill a proper habit of Shabbat.. Every weekend. I have no choice but to really learn the prayers, and the sooner the better.

So- friends in Israel, feed me and teach me, and don't get mad at my tattoos. Because it's only a matter of time where I won't be the token Shabbat Fairy anymore!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The worth of a necklace

Symbolism in my life is huge. Ginrod..Perhaps a little bit superstitious? Dreams mean something, coincidence even more, and so when I woke up this morning, clicked my electric toothbrush on and looked into my mirror, my heart stopped for .0258692565 of a second to realize my neck is naked from the Opal Hamsa that decorated it for the last two years.

With my mouth clamped around the still brushing-electric toothbrush, my fingertips searched my room, tears welling in my eyes. I frantically pulled my bed away, toothbrush finally put aside, hanging my head under the bed, looking for that opal gleam. I ran into the living room, lifting the cushions, this time breaking into full stream of tears. I was late for my number 20, 7:14 bus to get to work.

Two years ago, Tsiki presented me with that Hamsa necklace. He proudly printed off as much information on the Hamsa as he could. He gave this necklace to me as a belated birthday

I wore it ritually since we lost him, it was a memorial to him- symbolic to me of his memory and of that whole world of spirituality we often ignore when our rationale seems to be making sense. Sometimes I'd try and take it off and wear another necklace in it's place, and then I'd find myself putting it back on before I walked out the door. I always said to myself "it'll fall off on it's own, and then it'll be symbolic".....then it would be as if time and life are telling me it's ok to put what that Hamsa means to me in my silken bag along with all that is precious and fragile to me.
-I lightly laughed to myself: couldn't my symbolic loss of the Hamsa have waited 15 hours? For the fasting grief day of Tisha B'av, also known as the my birthday. Losing my most valuable object, that was a birthday present on my birthday? Wouldn't that be humorously right-on-the-dot symbolism?? I feel quite naked right now, and a bit mournful. I hate to put too much meaning on material objects, but I really didn't want to lose it, if anything for it's beauty.

What's a Ginrod supposed to do? Start a campaign? "There's destruction and pain in Lebanon, my fellow countryman in Haifa have been living in bomb shelters while hundreds of rockets land around and above them... but can someone please find my Opal Hamsa!?!?". It's almost a disappoint to myself to even have typed that.

As I have symbolically lost it, I will symbolically get over it, and symbolically free myself of putting worth on material objects, because having too many symbols around might turn into idol worship. It's even worse than drinking wine with Gentiles!

happy Wednesday.
present to "keep me from the evil eye when he couldn't". That necklace was the most valuable object that I owned.