5

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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1

Garbage Fashion

Some people describe others as the type that could “throw on a trash bag and look like a million dollars.” While I don’t look like a million dollars, that first part is kind of accurate to my recent experience. Let me explain further…

Last week, I took a friend out shopping. We went to H&M, where they were having some sort of crazy Thanksgiving/Christmas/Boxing Day sale. Originally, I was just going to be the ride, but I saw a black coat in my size that looked super warm and comfy, and it was $50 as opposed to its retail price of $80. So I bought it, and dropped another $10 on a matching black and white scarf and two pairs of gloves. When we got home, I realized I didn’t have a hat to wear with it…

Rewind to last month.

I’m walking down the street, and decide, today is the day I’m going to pick up some trash (if it doesn’t look wet, moldy, or gross) and throw it away. I start with some napkins and a scrap of paper, and then, what do I see on the sidewalk in front of me?

A brand-new black winter hat with fleece lining.

I look around for a minute, then shrug my shoulders and pick it up. I shake it, and nothing flies or crawls out, so I guess it’s finders keepers. I throw it into the back of my car and head off.

Fast forward back to the shopping trip. I drop off my friend and head home. As I park my car, I open the back and wonder where that black hat went. Fortunately, it’s still there, in perfect condition, and it matches the new coat/scarf perfectly. It makes my head look oblong if I don’t pull it down enough, but that’s the same with most winter hats.

And that’s how I essentially bought an entire winter ensemble from H&M to go with some garbage I picked up on the street.

1

Foiled by a French Word

Hey y’all, I’ve emerged from the crazy place I’ve been over the last week or so, alternating between stressing, running up and down the library stairs, sleeping in/staying up too late, sneezing/sniffling/dehydrated, and seeking out random places to get work done (including 1 hour of grading last night at Hurts Donut in Middleton, and 2 hours of reading/writing in a booth at Perkins) while trying (and failing) not to have too many sugary snacks. Even though I want them.

Today was actually relatively productive. Even though I didn’t get my day really started until about 12:30, at least I was up around 9 or 10. I headed over to Colectivo to get a cappuccino (yum), a sandwich (meh), and a cup of onion soup (…nasty), and proceed to discipline myself to work. First, I decided to read a book I’ve been meaning to send out for awhile. I gave myself one hour, and by the time the hour was up, I was 5 pages from the end of the 230-ish page book, so I finished it, ordered a mocha, and steeled myself for an hour of working on some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done.

So, there I am, typing away, click click click la di da di da, when all of a sudden my brain just comes to a screeching halt. I need a word that refers to an incredibly talented and versatile individual, but I cannot think of one. There is a specific word I’m looking for, but it’s in the wrong section of my brain and I can’t find it. I know it either is or sounds French, so I run through every possible French word I know. Panache? No. Savoir-faire? No. Je ne s’ai quoi? No. AUGGGHHH.

It’s. Right. There. But I can’t find it.

I call for backup. My parents are in Ocean City, and my dad and I have a several-minute long conversation about this word, which neither of us can think of. He asks my mom, who asks one of her friends who is fluent in French which is convenient because today is that friend’s birthday and she lives all by herself and my mom almost forgot to call her.

I get off the phone and start frantically writing words. Virtuoso. Au courant. Tour-de-force. One of these may or may not be the answer, I feel like I’ll know it when I see it.

I open up Google Translate and try out some French words, go to dictionary.com and thesaurus.com, make yet another call to my dad, and now twenty minutes have been spent on this one word and I’m so desperate that I open up the Wikipedia page on English words of French origin and go down the list, starting at A and getting up to C before realizing how ridiculous I’m being. After trying out a bazillion different possible words, I settle on “tour-de-force” and continue onward.

Up to now, I still have no idea what that word might have been, although tour-de-force is probably the closest I got. However, I came across some other French words that, in my opinion, should have different meanings.

Blancmange. It refers to a type of sauce, but I think it should refer to someone who is sophisticated enough to order the correct wine for the meal.

Legerdemain. It’s a lovely way to refer to trickery, but what it should means is, someone who is incredibly skilled at bookkeeping or journaling/blogging.

Demimondaine. It refers to something sordid. What it should mean: an aging leading lady (think Ms. Moore)

Peignoir. It has to do with a hairdo. It should refer to someone whose hair is so perfect that others doubt it’s natural.

Joie de vivre. Means “joy of living.” Should mean “let’s all jump around like we’re young lovers frolicking around Paris in the spring.”

And on a final, quite random note:

While I was grocery shopping today, I walked past the school supplies and for a moment, my eyes saw the word illegal pad” on a small notebook; upon closer examination, it was just an ordinary legal pad with an oddly placed logo. Who decided the legality of pads, anyway? What if I wanted an illegal pad? What would it look like? Would I have to declare it at customs? Would it be considered contraband? Would I have to throw it across the border into Mexico? So many questions.

17

Memories Down Field Trip Lane

Hmm…what to write about for today?

How about a story?

It’s the reason I started this blog anyway.

Oh, how about terrible school field trips? That’s a good one.

Let’s see.

::dig dig dig into the past::

One of the earliest ones I can remember was our sixth grade camping trip to Genessee Valley. Genessee Valley is a large park in rural Maryland, with a lot of things like ropes courses and zip lines. It was also my first time camping. It was a little scary, but my dad was one of the chaperones so that was comforting. Anyway, it was just one overnight, and for most of the time, we were split up into groups for things like trust exercises. (Crap, I realized I should probably change everyone’s names, so all names from now on are pseudonyms). I don’t remember anything too remarkable about my group, except that I stupidly dropped my cap in a rushing river, and in an astonishing display of friendship, two of the girls in my group, Natasha and Sally, fished it out with a stick. The group my dad chaperoned had a little more excitement; in the very first activity, which involved the whole group attempting to stand on a platform together by swinging on a rope and landing on it, they decided to do it from smallest to largest. The tiniest girl in our grade, Elizabeth, went first, and everything was going well until Michael, the biggest in our grade, swung, and like dominoes, knocked everyone over on the platform and poor Elizabeth ended up breaking a tendon in her foot – all this a few hours into the trip. She didn’t go home, but someone had to carry her around for the rest of the time there. Also, there was a tree-climbing activity, and one of the taller kids in the grade, Ivan, was unexpectedly nimble at tree-climbing. He was almost at the top, and couldn’t figure out how to get to the last rung, which no one else had been able to do. The instructor yelled up, “try to straddle it!” Of course, she didn’t know that Ivan had moved to America from Russia five years ago and had no idea what straddle meant.

Seventh grade was our class trip to Washington DC, and probably one of the worst field trips of all time. We were learning about the government, so we had plans to see the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and the Senate. As a bonus, we were to visit the FBI Building if we had time. I can’t remember the exact order of the sites, but I think that was it. At our first stop, the Capitol, our tour guide had a bad head cold and almost no voice. With sixty-something middle schoolers, and several teachers/chaperones, not to mention other tourists, guides, and tour groups, it was pretty futile to try to hear what the guide was saying. I wandered off to get a closer look at some of the artwork/statuary, and got yelled at by several teachers. When we got to the Supreme Court, we all had to go through a metal detector, which took at least 45 minutes, mostly because 3/4 of the class set it off in some way, including Tyler, who wore a collared shirt with metal buttons, which it took the security guards fifteen minutes to figure out. By the time we all got in, we were pretty antsy – plus it was almost time for lunch, so we were hungry – so naturally we were on the talkative side. We got about ten minutes in, down a stairway…and promptly got kicked out for being too loud. We were supposed to eat our lunches in a room there, but of course that was a no-go, so we ate lunch on a moving bus on the way to our next stop, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And another metal detector, so we had to go through that drama all over again. What I remember of that stop, I liked, but we were “running late,” so the teachers practically pushed us through with fly-swatters. Finally, we made it to the Senate, and it just so happened that we were…running early. One of the teachers asked the lady behind the desk what we should do, and she suggested watching the movie about Congress in the little room next door. So, we sat through this rather uninteresting movie, and when it was over, we came back out, to find that the lady who was sitting at the desk was gone, and in her place were two security guards. When the teachers told them who we were, they told us that the last tour for the day had left, and we’d missed it (thanks to “running early” lady). Of course, the FBI Building needed reservations for a tour, and nobody had thought we’d get that far, so we piled back on the bus and got home two hours early. Oh, and at some point, one of the girls got whacked in the head by an automatic parking gate.

Eighth grade was the big trip – the Big Apple, New York City. Like the camping trip, this was also an overnight, only this time we were in a decent hotel just across the water in New Jersey. It was mostly touristy things, but I remember really enjoying going to the Planetarium the first day. We also got to see Les Miserables on Broadway, which was really special, despite the fact that I saw it again on Broadway a few months later. Of course, it wasn’t fun being with a bunch of…people my own age who talked through most of the show. To make it even better, as we left the Imperial Theatre, I tripped and fell on a crack in the sidewalk, and it wasn’t until we got back to the hotel that I realized my sock was filling with blood. Luckily, it was just a bruise, and even more luckily, one of my hotel roommates, Sam, was an Eagle Scout, so he called room service for a First Aid kit and patched me up, which was super nice of him. With a bunch of rowdy eighth-graders spending a night in an out-of-state hotel, the teachers were probably as thrilled as the staff, but I don’t remember anything of that night – the room assignments were across three floors, with most of the boys on one floor, most of the girls on another, and the teachers and a few leftover rooms on another. Fortunately, my room ended up being one of the ones on the “leftover” floor, along with 1 room of girls, a room of teachers, and a bunch of regular hotel guests, so we tucked into bed right after the show and had a relaxing night’s sleep, unlike the other two floors full of kids. I must have been really tired, because apparently a lot of running and door-slamming occurred, all night long. Other highlights of the trip were shopping in Chinatown, where I bought the first of my wind chime collection, and for some reason, stopping at a pickle stand, where a bunch of kids with a video camera tried to sell us condoms.

And that’s what kind of field trips my school went on.

Ah, I miss the days when you could just get on a bus and have a bunch of grown-ups do all the planning for you.

10

Going to Pizza Hut in Israel

It’s been a while since I wrote an Israel post, and with the recent back-and-forth between me and Vanessa, here’s another story from Israel which I am surprised I had not yet posted.

Fast food restaurants in Israel are quite the experience. There’s basically two categories: the locals and the imports. Locals are places like Burger Ranch and Cafe Hillel; places that basically don’t exist outside the country. They’re sort of a mix of fast food and restaurant, and usually the fare is cheaper, more exciting, and better-tasting than the food from the second category, which would be the American imports, like McDonaldsBurger King, and Pizza Hut. It’s not a hard and fast rule – for example, I think Cafe Hillel’s coffee kinda sucks – but generally, employees at the latter restaurants are at the mercy of the internationally-focused franchisers rather than the local, so they have different standards for their employees. And, as we know here in America, the latter restaurants tend to pop up in the not-so-greatest parts of town, further weakening their reputations.

But anyway, the story.

One night I went to visit Ele in Rehovot. I got off the train and he and Janet were there to fetch me, with the task of going to the store to bring back dinner for all their housemates. After buying soda at a makolet, we stopped by the local Pizza Hut in crummy downtown Rehovot to get cheap and quick eats for the gang. We place our order, and I hand over my credit card to pay. She runs it and it doesn’t work. After trying it a few times, she says it’s not good. I say that it is, and she asks if she can see my teudat zehut (Israeli ID card) to punch in my ID number, and maybe that will push the transaction through. I tell her that I’m not an Israeli citizen, and neither are Ele and Janet, so we don’t have teudat zehut.

Then, the most redoinkulous and awkward situation commences (as if it could get weirder):

PIZZA HUT LADY: Do you have your American teudat zehut?

ME: Um, we don’t have those in America.

PIZZA HUT LADY: You don’t?

ME: Nope. It’s just an Israeli thing.

PIZZA HUT LADY: So what do you have?

ME: Well, I have my driver’s license on me ::innocently takes it out of my wallet::

PIZZA HUT LADY: Can I see it?

ME: Um, okay. ::hands it over:

PIZZA HUT LADY punches numbers into the machine. Nothing. She keeps trying.

ME: Um, ma’am…what are you doing?

PIZZA HUT LADY: I’m trying this number.

Yep, that’s right. The lady at the Pizza Hut kiosk on the main street in downtown Rehovot thought that my Soundex number would magically pay for a pizza. I guess worse assumptions have been made, but despite my insisting that it was just a license, and not connected to any sort of bank account (and it barely has a magnetic strip) she kept on trying, in vain, and even called over a manager to help her out, while we all looked on in wonderment.

Eventually, while looking around and noticing something across the street, I said “you know what, just wait a sec.” I gave Ele my license and wallet, took out my credit card, ran to the ATM across the way hoping it was functional (it was), withdrew money, and paid in cash.

And that’s what it’s like to get Pizza Hut in Israel.

1

The Best Little Breakfast in the Bahamas

Wow, a morning post! I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. I don’t know if it was because I was in bed for most of yesterday, but for some reason I was awake at 6:00 and out of bed by 7 or so. In between packing for the trip home tomorrow and doing some last-minute laundry, I figured now would be as good a time as any to share a fun breakfast story.

After my freshman year of college, I wanted to take a vacation somewhere outside the United States, because I hadn’t left the country for awhile. Normally, my dad would embark on these trips with me, as seen in previous posts, but since my grandmother had recently died, I recruited my mom to go with me instead.

Of course, the day we leave is the day of the London shoe bomber, so the lines at BWI are atrocious, people are throwing out liquids left and right, and we missed our plane. Despite having arrived at the airport at 6:30 AM, we missed our 8:30 AM flight, which took off only 25% full because the rest of us were waiting in line. I had a small panic attack at going to the airport only to have to go right back home, but through a small series of miracles, we were able to get to the Bahamas that night, at around midnight. Fortunately, we had not checked anything so other than the liquids we had to toss, we had everything we needed. The couple checking in before us at the hotel basically had only the clothes on their backs and whatever was in the woman’s purse.

Despite a completely harrowing day (and a terrible, completely overpriced dinner of sandwiches at the hotel), we must have slept very deeply because we both woke up refreshed at 9:00 the next morning, to a beautiful sunny day. Mom and I got a cab into town, and I guess the Bahamas decided to stay in its pajamas that morning because we were the only people in downtown Nassau. We were hungry, so we decided to look for something to eat, and we ended up walking through a beachside shopping area called Prince Roger’s Walk. I don’t know why we went in there, because it was mostly souvenir shops, but I spotted a sign that said “Swiss Confiseur” and smelled something baking, so we went inside to find a teeny cafe with one lady working there. All she seemed to have was a case of drinks and some breakfasts breads and pastries, but she had just finished making some warm apple turnovers and they smelled really good. We asked for two, and my mom got a can of orange juice, and I got a can of fruit punch. Getting her credit card out of her purse, Mom asked how much it all came to for the two pastries and two drinks.

Grand total?

Four dollars. 

One each for the pastry, and one each for the canned drink.

She handed over a five and we headed outside to enjoy our modestly-priced breakfast at a tiny table overlooking an empty beach, and for the first time all trip, we felt relaxed. Even Mom, who hates traveling and anything outside of her routine, managed to smile and acknowledge that this was one of the best breakfasts ever.

Who says the Caribbean is a rip-off?

8

That’s SoMG: The Curmudgeon of Liechtenstein

Take two!

That’s So Jacob presents:

That’s SoMG: Scandals, Secrets, and Shockers That Will Make You Slap Your Hand Over Your Mouth

Episode 2: The Curmudgeon of Liechtenstein

Germany, 1930s.

This is the story of my great uncle, whom I’ll call Uncle Herschel. Born and raised in Germany, Herschel trained as a telegraph operator before meeting his wife, a lovely lady otherwise known as Aunt Greta. Before the war, they had two children, Bert, who passed away of meningitis at the age of 13, and Rosalind, whom they called Lindy. (All these names are fake, by the way).

Anyway, when the war came to Europe, they sent Lindy away to live with some uncles in Dijon, France, while they weathered the Nazi storm in one of the most unusual places.

locator map of LiechtensteinZámek Vaduz na pohlednici

Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is a principality with only eleven towns. The entire country could fit inside the District of Columbia. It is so small that the Germans were not even interested in getting involved, which was lucky for Uncle Herschel and Aunt Greta.

Fortunately, as it happened, Uncle Herschel and Aunt Greta managed to secure visas for themselves to leave Liechtenstein and immigrate to America. They first tried to get Lindy to Liechtenstein, but apparently she was recognized on the train and had to return to Dijon. They then attempted to have a hearing for her to get an American visa, which did not happen. It is unclear why Lindy was sent to live in Dijon in the first place, but rumor has it she was messing around with a German soldier. Though Herschel and Greta immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland USA, they did not find out until the war was over that Lindy was among the Jews rounded up at the velodrome at Drancy and shipped to their deaths in Auschwitz. She was in her mid-20s.

Meanwhile, in America, Herschel got into business, and Greta was just…a stay-at-home wife. In no photo was Herschel ever smiling, and he treated Greta horribly. He refused to learn English, saying “let the Americans learn German and French.” Yes, he was that guy. They had no more children, mostly due to what happened one day in the 1960s, when my dad was still a kid.

Aunt Greta was found dead.

One day, she was found outside their home, and no one ever found out how she died. Though it is possible that she fell out of an open third-story window or was pushed, she most likely committed suicide by jumping. Nobody was close with her, not even my grandmother, who got along with pretty much everybody. My dad remembers very little of her, other than the fact that she was quiet and enjoyed knitting.

Uncle Herschel lived until the mid 1970s, and died at a ripe old age.

But mostly, he is remembered for always being grouchy.

The story was much better when my father told it, and we had photographs, postcards, letters from Lindy to her parents in Liechtenstein, including one where she describes wanting to go swimming in the river, but she knows that everyone will watch her and go “who’s that’s crazy person swimming in the river?” (Lindy’s words, not mine). The most unique object in this particular collection was Aunt Greta’s passport. Unlike everything else – the letters, the visas, the photos – for some reason, Aunt Greta’s passport was preserved remarkably well. We passed it around the seder table and marveled; it was as crisp and clean as the day she got it. It looked like it had just come out of the printer, aside from the outdated Nazi stamps and visas for Germany, Liechtenstein, and the USA.

And that’s my one connection to the nation of Liechtenstein.

In other news, the sign I have on my door saying “No Advertisements Please” worked for the first time today, as I came home to find pizza menus sticking out of every door but mine.

And although no Africans came to visit today, cheers to a five continent day: North America (Canada, USA, and Mexico), South America (Brazil), Europe (UK, Belgium, and Germany), Asia (Israel, India and Taiwan), and Oceania (Australia and Papua New Guinea).