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No Clever Title – Sad Afternoon :(

It’s been a serious minute since I’ve blogged; did I really only blog once in June?!?!

Part of the reason why I haven’t been around is because I was researching and preparing for presenting my research at the AIS (Association for Israel Studies) Conference, which I’ll probably recap in a post soon. This was my first conference, and it was on the campus of the University of California-Berkeley. I spent a whopping 12 days in the Bay Area, mostly due to getting a cheap flight on American Airlines, which included 4 days in San Francisco where I met up with Ciara and did quite a lot of uphill walking by my lonesome; 4 days in Berkeley where I finally saw the university’s campus for the first time, spoke and moderated a panel, and made a ton of new friends from around the world; and then 4 days on an island hotel in Burlingame where I attempted to have a work-ation, and was somewhat successful, but mostly ended up entertaining myself in Burlingame, San Mateo, and Palo Alto, where I paid a visit to Stanford University. I got back at about midnight last night.

Now back to today.

I guess everything happens for a reason. This afternoon, I went grocery shopping at the Pick ‘n Save on the West Side, a different Pick ‘n Save than the ones where I usually shop, either the one in Middleton or the one on University Avenue. I was feeling annoyed at having so many heavy groceries and at a mom in the store who couldn’t get her kids to stop crying for the entire 15 minutes I was inside. I had just responded to a text from a friend and was about to close the car door on my groceries, when I heard a giant BOOM.

At first I didn’t know what it was, because it didn’t quite sound like the impact of two cars crashing, but it didn’t sound normal, either. I turned around to face the street, and saw what looked like a brown lump in the middle of the road. I walked toward it, thinking it might be a dead animal…but it was actually two lumps, a large chocolate lab and a small terrier, lying on their sides in the road.

They were still alive and breathing, but they’d clearly just been hit by a car.

All of a sudden about eight other people descended on that spot in the road. For some reason, as people drew near, I decided to stand in the middle of the street and direct traffic as other people tended to the dogs, both of whom were wet and bleeding in the middle of the road. Quickly, two people (an older man in a blue shirt, and an Asian woman in a blue dress) carried them gently out of the street and laid them on the grass across the road from the supermarket. A young couple who were nearby with their own dog went to their car and brought out towels and water bottles, which, being dog owners, they fortunately had in their car. The Asian husband/boyfriend of the Asian woman took pictures and videos on his phone, while his wife/girlfriend held the smaller dog (the terrier) down. He was able to walk and was very jumpy, but was also wet and bleeding from his mouth. The man in the blue shirt was holding the larger dog, the chocolate lab, who was still very much breathing, but extremely bloody, with her front legs trembling. We looked at their collars, and upon learning that their names were Kassi and Oliver and they had the same phone number on them, we surmised they had the same owner. I was holding my phone, so I was the one who called the number and deliver the bad news. The phone rang three times, and just before rolling over to voicemail, a man picked up, and the conversation went like this:

ME: Hi, are you the owner of a dog named Kassi?

HIM: Yes, that’s my dog…

ME: My name is Jacob. I’m here with her, and she’s been hit by a car. She’s alive but badly hurt. Are you also the owner of a dog named Oliver?

HIM: Yes

ME: He is also here, he’s been hit too. They’re both ok, but bleeding a lot. We’re outside the Pick ‘n Save on Maple Grove, are you at home?

HIM: I’m at work right now.

ME: Okay, can you come here? There are about eight of us with your dogs right now, we are taking care of them. When can you be here?

HIM: Ten minutes…

ME: Okay, see you soon. Again, I’m Jacob, and I’m with your dogs and a bunch of people. I’m the one in the red shirt.

Down the road was the car that hit the dogs. Fortunately, the driver had indeed stopped, but didn’t get out right away as he was probably upset and scared that he’d killed the dogs. He was a young teenager, and as he came over to us, I made sure to ask if he and his car were okay, rather than point fingers. Another couple had shown up by this point, a couple who had been a few blocks down the road and called the police on the dogs because they had passed them running around in the street and narrowly avoided hitting them a few minutes earlier. Someone else called the police and an ambulance. Finally, after about fifteen minutes, a large black pickup with its hazards on pulled up next to us, and a police car right behind him. The owner, a tall Latino guy, got out of the pickup. I probably said something stupid, like “Hi, I’m Jacob, and these are your dogs (well, duh) and they’re hurt (again, duh)” and remarkably, the owner was not too upset, just a little dazed and sad but overall grateful that a bunch of strangers (six at this point: me, blue shirt, Asian couple, and down-the-road couple) were there. Another car pulled up, and it was the mom and grandma of the driver of the car. We gave the dogs back to their owner. Oliver sprung up and jumped into the truck, but it took some coaxing from the owner to get Kassi on her feet. Once she was upright, it was clear that all four of her legs were shaking, especially her front paws, and she half got into/half was lifted into the truck. Everyone else (couples, owner, driver, mom, grandma, and police) went across the street to the parking lot of the store to exchange information, and not knowing what to do, I stood beside the truck and watched the dogs to make sure they were OK in there (Oliver was jumping up and around; I didn’t see Kassi but she was probably lying down on the back seat). After a few minutes, everyone came back across the street and went their separate ways. I told the owner to call me if he needed me, since mine was the number he had, and that I hoped his dogs were OK. Fortunately, there is an emergency pet clinic a little farther down the street so I don’t think that they had to travel too far.

On the whole, it was a sad experience for the driver, owner, and dogs, but it was good that so many random people stopped to help them. It’s not really clear who’s to blame here; the driver was clearly not expecting two dogs to charge out of the bushes and in front of his car, and the owner was clearly unaware that his two dogs had gotten loose. Either way though, two dogs were hurt and a guy’s car was dented in the front. It could have been worse though, and I’m glad it wasn’t.

Two things to take from this experience.

People, drive safely, and make sure you know where your dogs are when you are not at home.

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A and B C the Coast

I’ve actually been rocking and rolling through books this summer, and this one’s a good one. I actually sat at the Hubbard Avenue Diner for over two hours finishing it, and was nearly in tears by the end. It was a random pluck from the shelves at the bookstore, Allie and Bea by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

Allie and Bea: A Novel by [Hyde, Catherine Ryan]

Cover photo (Amazon.com)

I expected it to be a sweet and sappy story, a la Jennifer Weiner or Jodi Picoult. It was, and yet it wasn’t. Before reading Allie and Bea I was not familiar with Catherine Ryan Hyde but I’ve already gotten another of her books out from the library.

This book is a Thelma and Louise story for the twenty-first century. It starts when Bea, an elderly widow from Southern California who is out of luck and out of money after falling victim to a scammer. She packs her cat and a few possessions in her van, and drives away from her old life with no real destination. Meanwhile, not far away, fifteen-year-old Allie’s luxurious life collapses when her parents are arrested for tax fraud and she is sent to a group home. With the help of a friend who turns out to be not such a good friend, Allie escapes the group home and winds up on the side of the road. In desperation, she throws herself in front of Bea’s van in the middle of the night, hoping to attract her attention. Bea agrees to let her spend the night with her in the van, but after hearing Allie’s story and getting to know her, ends up letting her stay, as her unlikely travel companion. Together, they travel north through California, Oregon, and Washington, learning more about each other, themselves, and what has been missing from their lives. Their past (well, Allie’s at least) catches up with them in the end, but it turns out neither predictably nor completely absurdly.

This book kept me captivated right from the start. Hyde does a great job describing places and situations, and her characters are special; not perfect, in fact quite flawed, but they’re the kinds of characters you sort of dislike in the beginning but turn out to root for in the end, and not in a forced way. Bea seemed like a grouch in the beginning, and Allie seemed to bee too perfect, but as the book went on, their characters developed in a way that made them more alike than different. Their adventures on the road were fun and unpredictable, and in a way, it was a journey of healing, the further they got from Los Angeles and the more people they got to know and places they got to experience, from the twisty roads of the Oregon coast to the rocky shores of Washington state.

The ending was probably the best part. I won’t tell you what happens, but I’ll tell you what doesn’t happen. One predictable ending: Bea and Allie betray each other and part ways, never to see each other again. Second, even more predictable ending: Bea becomes so endeared with Allie that when the feds catch up to them, she adopts her and they legally become a family. Neither of these things happen, which is really refreshing. The ending is a mix of sad and happy, but overall provides a satisfying close to their adventure.

Oh, and third predictable ending: Bea and Allie don’t die in a fiery car crash or soar into the Grand Canyon.

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Just A Quick Update, Random Stuff, and Things

Well hello out there, readers of the Internet.

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged that I feel like I don’t even know where to start anymore.

What I’m not going to start with is my life right now; it’s kind of chaotic and stressful. Even though I’ve got a relatively fun and exciting summer planned, it’s going to be a summer full of work. Work on my writing, work on my reading, work on…finding work. Basically, more work than Rihanna can sing about.

As I look around my apartment right now (I guess I’m staying in and getting real, in a way, even though I was out until about an hour ago), I see remnants of my semester, just strewn around. A pile of papers on the floor, along with some books from sales and the dollar store. Some plastic bags, my green scarf, and my red jacket. Folded clothes, folded towels, unfolded clothes, unfolded towels. All my winter gear, lying in a heap on the futon, like a coat room at a party. A small air conditioner blowing lightly because it’s really hot in here. Receipts, dryer sheets, bandanas, dust. Stuff that belongs to me and stuff that does not belong to me.

What’s great about life? Hard to say in certain moments, but as I think about it, the answer is time. I have now and I have later. This random thought might not make sense in the morning, but basically, I’m just feeling like the last line of Memoirs of a Geisha, “even a stone can be worn down with enough rain.”

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And The Twelve Points Go To…

So, one of my secret/not-so-secret obsessions (secret in the fact that no one in America knows what it is or cares about it, but not so secret in the fact that if you ask me about I can go on and on until the cows come home) is the Eurovision Song Contest, or simply, Eurovision. It’s cross between reality competition and musical train wreck, treasured by few and despised by most, unless their country is in the final.

Today, for the first time ever, I watched it live on YouTube from Lisbon, in the hopes that Israel would pull off its first win in twenty years. I turned it on about midway through the performances, but it was the voting that made me literally shake. The jury voting came in, and Israel, despite being labeled as a contender this year with a genuinely catchy and unique song, was in a distant third behind Austria and Sweden. I was feeling pretty meh, but then the popular vote came in, and unlike the American election, it actually mattered in crowning the winner. I held my breath as one by one, the front-running countries got their votes. Once Austria, Sweden, and Germany were knocked out, I was feeling hopeful for Israel. It wasn’t until the final 4 countries’ popular votes were coming in that I realized that statistically, it was highly unlikely that Israel would come anything but first. And then, it happened…the winner of the fan vote was announced to be Israelpropelling its representative, Netta Barzilai and her song “Toy” to the top, and subsequently, the winner of the whole shebang. She tried not to try as she went up to the stage to accept her trophy, make a short speech, and perform a reprise. Oh, and this also means that Israel (most likely Jerusalem) will host the contest next spring.

What does this mean? Well, not a whole lot, but it does mean that music won out over politics this year, and of course, that my prediction (and hope) came first. The second placer, Cyprus, kind of grew on me, and I wouldn’t have minded if Eleni Foureira bagged Cyprus their first win.

Now that the competition is over, here are the rest of my top five favorites: Czech Republic had a sick sax beat with a hook and a fun music video, and coming in sixth was very respectable. I was also partial to Spain, which is perfect for a Viennese waltz, and, unpopular opinion: Moldova. The Latin-esque rhythm really got me going. Songs that I tolerated but wouldn’t write home about (if one wrote home about a song competition across the Atlantic) included DenmarkFinlandFranceNorway, and Sweden. These would probably actually round out my top ten.

Of course, with 40+ countries, not all songs make it, and about half of them fall by the wayside. Last year, Macedonia (The Former Yugoslav Republic of) submitted “Dance Alone,” and as soon as I heard it, I replayed it about a hundred times and then downloaded it onto my iTunes. I was sure it would at least make it out of the semi-finals. I was shell-shocked that “Dance Alone” ended at the semi-finals. This year, my “Dance Alone” Award went to…Belarus. Their song, “Forever,” would have probably been in my top five had it made the final.

In any event, congratulations Netta, and Israel. Next year in Jerusalem!