He’s back and so’s the other guy

Brandon Returns

Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, he’s back! I walked into Power Coffeeworks last Thursday morning, and there was Brandon, at his post merrily roasting along. Because of the holiday schedule, he had not been there for over a month at the time that I usually show up. While even getting their sublime version of an iced latte with oat milk is sufficient reason to be on the premises, having a chat with the proprietor makes it even more worthwhile. I wasted no time in catching up with the latest news and views coffee-wise. How are the plans going, I inquired?

As of the summer, Brandon had an investor. They were going to move the coffee roaster out of the Agrippas location – something that the municipality was pushing him to do – and move it to a location near Efrat. They would do it up right, having a coffee bar, maybe even a rooftop garden, the whole nine yards. But then reality reared its ugly face. The investor went bankrupt, and Brandon was left, if not with egg on his face, then with unroasted beans in the hopper. He would have to devise a plan C, or is it D?

You can’t blame him for being a tad discouraged. He had worked hard to build up his business, and then came COVID. Post-COVID and he was ready for the next big step when the ladder got yanked from under his legs. At least you’re still in business, I reminded him, unlike a lot of other business owners

Then we began discussing family history and genealogy in general. I was wondering later how we got onto that topic. But, for once, I remembered our thought processes. Brandon was telling me about his neighbors in Efrat, perhaps a little older, whose kids are out of the house. The other day, these neighbors were out doing some work in their yard. My buddy was bemoaning the fact that he would never have a few free hours to do something so unessential, what with a houseful of young ‘uns to deal with.

Well, that got us started. I had to freely admit my limitations as a procreator, not just me, but our immediate families. Brandon just happened to have on his phone a copy of a photo taken around 1910 in Lithuania before a migration to South Africa. There posing stiffly for this studio portrait was Brandon’s grandfather, about five years old, and his grandparents. Whether or not you think you can imagine how the two elders were dressed, the fact is you can. Somewhere along the line, someone is your past looked like them: the man with a stern face, a long beard, and the weird flat-topped yarmulke that was all the rage back then; the woman in her best we-have-no-money finery with a shawl covering her head.

How’s that even possible?

We did a little mental arithmetic, and I announced that Brandon’s great-great-grandparents and my grandparents were exact contemporaries. How is that possible?, he asked and you ask. And so I went through the genealogy (and if you’ve heard this before, stop me or skip ahead.) All four of my grandparents, like Brandon’s, were born in Europe in the late 1860’s. My father was born on the Lower East Side in 1900; my mother in The Bronx in 1903. Frank and I were born in Manhattan on that glorious day, March 16, 1941. Natania was born in 1987 at Morristown General Hospital. (Tina was born in the Ukraine in 1983, but she didn’t show up until 1995.) Brandon’s family has been busier and more efficient progeny-wise than mine. That’s how. Any other questions?

I sat down at the counter as I usually do, waiting for my cup of caffeinated nectar.

The first time I had met Mira, the young woman working the espresso machine, she reminded me – and I told her so – of the archetypal female, tall and healthy, on a 1920’s style kibbutz, getting up at 4AM to milk the cows. But this day, she was all excited; her grandparents were showing up, and she would be making and serving them some coffee – which is a big deal when you’re beginning your life as an adult. I half-whispered to her, Some of us don’t have grandparents anymore; some of us don’t even have parents. She smiled; she understood. Enjoy it while you can; don’t take anything for granted.

I had a number of important tasks to perform that day. Ezra and Shoshana’s son, Boaz, will be a bar mitzvah very soon, and I will be the official Provider of Liquid Refreshments for that event and the trial run, when Boaz will put on tefillin for the first time. Hoping to keep the quality of the spirits high and the price tag low, I visited two of my go-to emporiums; sure enough, there was a ten shekel difference in the Tomatin Legacy I had in mind from one store to the other, something to keep in mind. As Binyamin (Bibi) Franklin put it, a shekel saved is a shekel earned.

Do we need another bakery?

Someone posted on the Secret Jerusalem Facebook page, alerting us to the somewhat exciting news that Feingold’s, a bakery in the Talpiot neighborhood, was opening a branch in the shuk in competition with several other Ashkenazi bakeries I the area. My question was whether they would have challah on Thursdays? Some bakeries do, some don’t. Only one way to find out. The answer, delivered by a young English-speaking saleslady, was Only on Friday. That doesn’t help me, but then you can’t have everything. What they did have when I was there were assorted bagels. Being a glutton for punishment, I took two home with me to sample later. It should be understood that the term ‘Israeli bagel’ is an oxymoron. There are some things that Israelis don’t do well; for instance, using the turn signals that have been standard equipment on automobiles since the dawn of time. I could climb on a rooftop and scream out, Bagels must be boiled, bagels must be boiled, until I was blue in the face, and it wouldn’t do any good.

Speaking of which. Feingold’s in the shuk is on Haafarsek, right off the main drag, Mahane Yehuda. As I was talking to the young lady, explaining that saving a challah or two for me would be of no use because I am NEVER in the shuk on Fridays, I could hear someone with a bullhorn nearby. Another guy yelling about the absolute necessity of returning Netanyahu to power, otherwise the world as we know it will come to an end. At least he’s probably not blocking traffic, I reasoned.

Our neighbor reappears

I turned the corner onto Mahane Yehuda proper, and there he was: not ANOTHER guy, the SAME guy, my neighbor down the block, the one with the car festooned with Likud banners, posters, and flags, whom I wrote about in my last post. He was the one with the bullhorn. My timing couldn’t have been better. Another guy came charging at my neighbor, screaming at the top of his lungs, although without a bullhorn. I couldn’t make out what either of them was saying, but my best guess is that the other guy was on the political right of Likud. I was upset with the Likudniks the previous week for marching through the shuk, getting in everyone’s way. This guy seemed to be upset with the former prime minister’s very existence on the planet. After 30 or 40 seconds of giving it his best shot, the haranguer turned and started walking away. But then….. he got about 20 feet, turned around, and came back for another round of insults. That’s when you know that trouble is a-brewing, because he has thought of more to say and he’s going to say it. Round two, involved yelling even louder and sticking his finger and his whole person centimeters away from the face of our Likudnik. In this part of the world, as long as you DON’T TOUCH, you can get as much in someone’s face as you want. To his credit, our man didn’t flinch. He had the bullhorn, so he didn’t have to raise his voice to be as loud as his opponent. Plus, he’s probably been through this before – perhaps many times – so he wasn’t going to get bent out of shape unduly. When the anti-Likudnik finally ran out of words and spittle and started to walk away, my neighbor bullhorned after him, ‘Puti, puti.’ I have no idea what that means or even what language that’s supposed to be in.  If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. I hope it’s not anything that doesn’t belong in a family-oriented publication.

I looked around the street, and there were all these folks with a bemused expression on their faces. Life for some must be so humdrum that two guys yelling at each other about the merits or demerits of a well-known politician can pass for entertainment. I just thought of it as another episode in the on-going depressing political wars here in The Land. I think of the elections here on Nov. 1 and the ones in The States a week later.

All I can say is: No good will come from any of it, so Gather ye rosebuds while you may. So sayeth Robert Herrick, and he knew a good thing when he saw it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s