It started out without any long-range plan or fixed agenda. Michael and I would leave shul Shabbat morning, and I would, on occasion, invite him over for a shot of whiskey – an offer he was not going to turn down. It started to happen more and more often, until it became a regular occurrence. At some point, Ezra decided to tag along, and, at some time thereafter, during my Thurs. morning shopping excursion to the shuk, I would pick up a container of fake cream herring. (Let me explain: the herring is real enough, but the ‘cream’ is actually mayonnaise. Don’t ask; you don’t want to know.) Now if I’m having whisk(e)y and herring, I’m going to need some coffee to go with it, and if I’m having coffee, the least I can do is offer some to my guests. Or ‘guest,’ because by this time, the Hesslers were off to sandier pastures in Beersheba (see one of my previous posts).
Then someone we know began promoting the services of Farm to Family, which is not in any way a farm, but an on-line site that sells all manner of good things to eat. And there on page whatever of their site were the offerings from MordyZ Fish Delicacies, including real, genuine, actual, authentic, Ashkenazic creamed herring. Perhaps I’ve died and gone to Heaven? But no, Heaven has come to our apartment on Hakeren, here in Ma’ale Adumim, here in The Land. Not so long ago, Irwin decided that we were having too much fun without him. Would he be welcome to join us? Of course. There are other occasional guests, like Gil (lots of cold brew coffee), when he and Natania are with us, and The Levines – although Richard will eschew the whisk(e)y, the herring, and the coffee. Perhaps I should mention that I have added to my repertoire mixing cocktails – like White Russians, Boulevardiers, and Negronis — to the delight of those assembled.
At 10AM or thereabouts every Shabbat, there are knocks on our door, and the crew enters – usually including one or both of Ezra’s younger children (no schnapps for them!). My job is to set up the spread, recite the shehakol kiddush and take my share of the goodies to the couch in the living room. I never have had to worry about the conversation. My guests always have something on their mind, whether it be matters on two continents that have caught their attention, complaints large or small, opinions useful or not, family matters, the latest in gadgetry current or projected, or what’s doing in the world of entertainment. In other words, less than memorable chit-chat. I have a choice; I can let my guests have free rein to voice their opinion, or I can interject my own well-thought-out ones, especially on those occasions (there will always be those occasions!) when I am forced (forced!) to disagree. As it says on David Hurwitz’s T-shirt, Abnormal is fine. Stupid is not. At about 11:30, those who are leaving, leave, and we start getting ready for lunch.
And then, one recent Shabbat it happened. Michael, as we have noted, is long gone. Ezra, along with Shoshana and their two older girls, were in The States for a visit. Irwin, as you will see, was unavailable. Hence, I would be all alone for kiddush, with no one to listen to or bounce my ideas off of. What do I say to myself when I’m all alone on a Shabbat morning? I guess I’ll have to carry, even monopolize, the conversation, as I sit on the couch with my coffee, herring, and alcoholic beverage du jour in front of me on the coffee table in the living room.
So what is there to discuss? One topic that is sure to come up is the latest and the (not) greatest about COVID, at least as if affects our little corner of the world. (as in, Why aren’t people in the mall, on the buses, on the Light Rail, etc. wearing masks? And why is so-and-so harping on this matter ad nauseum on Facebook when and where it won’t do the least bit of good?) There’s no point tilting at windmills, methinks. Recently, I was sitting on a bus in Jerusalem with this Russian dude – unmasked – standing right next to me. I don’t remember how the conversation began – in English – but at some point I suggested that I would be happier if, as he was literally breathing down my neck, he would be a good sport and cover his facial cavities. His response was so extraordinary that it was brilliant: You don’t own the bus. I was too stunned to inquire how he had figured that out, but it did occur to me that prolonging the conversation would not go well. Plus I had left my clear-away-the-idiots-from-my-personal-space ray gun at home. My only protection was my high quality Sonovia (made in Israel) mask, which I tightened around my nose for added security. The only consolation I had from this encounter was that this random dude was indeed a random dude, and all the other similarly brainless twits with naked faces who waltz onto buses or the Light Rail are just random brainless twits. They’re not (yet) part of an organized political movement, as they are in The States, where certain elected officials and licensed media outlets are doing as best they can to kill off their own constituency. Why, one asks, why?
Then we found out that a third booster shot was coming to a health provider ‘near you’ – as in our local branch of Maccabi. Barbara was on it, signing us up as soon as she could, so now we are triple protected, for whatever it’s worth.
That ought to have been my only interaction with the medical establishment here in the Land, but I had something else going on. In consultation with my urologist, I’m about to – as in the beginning of Sep. – ‘have a procedure,’ meaning anesthesia. To make this happen, Dr. Weiner (what a name for a urologist!) gave me a referral (soon after Pesach) for an appointment at the clinic at Hadassah-EinKerem, which is a long way from home. (Just so you know: I keep writing ‘I,’ but, in reality, it was ‘we’ going to all these appointments. It would be ‘I’ alone having the procedure.) The hospital appointment was for the beginning of June, at which time a doctor checked me out and agreed that the recommended procedure was reasonable. I was told to get an ultrasound and return with the results. That meant going to our local branch of Terem for the ultrasound and then going to another facility in Jerusalem to get the results recorded on a DVD. Which I did. I returned to EinKerem, where a different doctor looked at the results and gave the go-ahead for the surgery, before which there would be a pre-op appointment to make sure everything is b’seder. For that appointment (are you ready?), I would need to see our new regular doctor, for him to order a battery of blood tests (As long as we’re doing this, let’s add x and y.) and prepare a letter about the general state of my health. Let’s not forget to get an EKG and an X-ray as well for the folks at EinKerem. That’s a lot of running around, a lot of time spent, but I understand the necessity. You can’t be too careful when surgery is involved.
Case in point, our good friend Irwin, who went in, a month or so ago, for an essential operation, having something to do with his neck and his spinal column ((I’m the last person to explain anything medical) and came out of it partially paralyzed, after suffering a heart attack in the middle of the operation. And nobody had done anything wrong. With all the preliminary precautions – the same ones that I went through – the doctors were unaware of how badly clogged his arteries were – which would have killed him sooner or later. Probably sooner, if his neck didn’t get him first.
Irwin was transferred from Shaare Tzedek hospital to a local facility, a nursing home with a rehab component – not a place you’d ever want to be. There are no empty beds at Hadassah-Mount Scopus, which has a top-notch rehab facility. Even better would be Tel Hashomer in Tel Aviv, where they treat all the soldiers who have spinal cord injuries. (hat’s being worked on.) At least he’s close enough now for us to visit him. Since he can’t make it Shabbat morning for kiddush, the least I can do is bring some of the good stuff to him – coffee and a few bites of herring. Does wonders for the soul – even if the body is not cooperating.
The situation at hand also does wonders for one’s sense of proportion. On a recent Thursday, the fellow doing the delivery from Farm to Family mixed up our order and gave me a bottle of pomegranate juice instead of the orange juice I had ordered. He realized his mistake minutes later and came back lickety-split, apologizing profusely for his error. I just looked at him. I just came back from visiting a friend whose left arm is now paralyzed and has minimal feeling in his right hand, and I’m going to worry about the wrong bottle of juice?
Oh dear; it’s after 11:30. We need to set up for lunch. I have at least two more kiddushes to do by myself, and there’s plenty more for me to talk about. For example, my daytrip with Brandon of Power Coffeeworks which was supposed to be up the Shomron but wound up down to Hebron, instead. Or our planned trip up north to join The Levines, and how the second part of this excursion, staying at a hotel in Tel Aviv, got put on hold. I guess I shouldn’t have worried about what I say to myself, after all. There’s always something.