At 4:00 AM Vizan calls to ask me something about his new novella. "Just a second" I say, "I need to pay."
"Where are you?"
"At the AM:PM on Sheinkin. I'm buying a bag of Doritos."
He knows about my recent romance and needs not ask me what I'm doing downtown at this time, which is a pity because I would have loved to poeticize in his ears about the evening. "Why don't you come over?" he asks instead, "Haddas is here, and Sivan."
"No thanks, I really need to sleep. I'm working tomorrow."
Still, I decide to skip the cab option and walk home through the quiet streets, my mind full of soft music by Moustaki. At the entrence to the market a buxom older woman in a ragged sweatshirt pushes in front of me a supermarket cart full of large, freshly baked, hyssop topped Palestinian bagels. "So good to see you!" she exclaims, "You will kickoff my day."
I reply that I don't want a bagel, to which she responds vehemently that I have to give her a little money to supply her with luck for the day ahead and that the bagels are all from Abu Al-Afiya and what's 12 sheqels for two bagels. I barter her down to one for six (not a barter at all, I know) and head down the silent market with its closed stalls.
A bakery is open, smelling just fine. Elsewhere, a vendor of greens is arranging his stall. The night is surprisingly warm, the sea is black and full of promise of journeys to come. I make it on foot all the way to Jaffa, blissful.
Daniella comes to Jaffa to interview George Hinnawi, Israel's most famous butcher. He tells her a bit about the lives of local gourmands, then lets her taste raw lamb and she loves it. When all is done she calls me to let me know she's in the neighborhood.
When she arrives with the best ground lamb the local currency can buy, I try and coax her to cook it, but we end up cooking an omelet with spinach and mushrooms and good Danish cheese and having artichoke and salad and red wine and black coffee (that she did buy) and tea with Thai condensed milk (great stuff).
At one point our mutual friend Jeff calls and invites us to go Boar hunting. He's producing a film on the pork industry in Israel and wants to join hunters in the Galilee to complete his research.
"What will we do with the boar?" Daniella asks.
"We'll skin it and eat it," I presume.
Daniella is obviously not vegetarian and she doesn't keep kosher, but she doesn't eat pork. She's a true environmentalist who cares for this world for a living. nonetheless, she will join the hunt. How cool is that?
I appreciate cool people and especially people who are fun to eat with (though Daniella will remain dear to me even if we had to fast on a desert island). She keeps saying how much she loves the city and especially its Fridays. that's funny because when you cook at home you don't know anything of what's going on in the city on Friday. On the other hand, it's spread out in its entirely outside the window and beyond the soft screen of rain.
My neighbor Hamada owns a nargila joint (a "hookah dive"? what would such a thing be called in English?) just off Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa. I hit it tonight past midnight for some social lonelyness, planning to sit a bit like the old Palestinians do: smoking and musing innertly and silently.
The place is full of people, most of whom know me from the neighborhood. they're all doing exaclty that. There's a big T.V. screen showing a tournement of some new mix between boxing ans wrestling. I prefer traditional boxing if only for the flexible ring. When a guy gets knocked into that kind of ring it extends into the crowd and there's always a fear\hope that he would sault over it and land on someone's face. Here the ring is solid and the fighters only land on each other's faces, but they do so very passionately.
Somehow this is the perfect thing to stare at while blowing smoke in perfect peace. Maybe because there's really nothing to comments about. Every few minutes a new fight begins and some other guy gets demolished by the other. The only bit of conversation I exchange is the following dialogue with Hamada:
Me: So who do you root for?
Hamada: Only Hapoel.
Hapoel Tel-Aviv is every Jaffoite's favorite football club. To me this means that nothing matters except what you love most simply. I, for one, love sitting quietly in warm company. remembering my Irish friend Tom, who was a boxer in Boston, and how he knocked a guy out before my eyes in the second round at a U.S. Army faciliy in Dorchester, remembering friendly nargila places in Alexandria, Aqaba, Nazareth and New York, remembering that life can be as calm as apple flavored smoke.
I have an extra ticket to a concert of Haydn's "The Creation". Alon the photographer "picks the glove" and joins me outside the concert hall.
Since my invitation cought him on his scooter, doing errends around town and dressed quite casually, he actually passed on the way at a shop and bought himself a sharp new shirt.
We get fifth row seats. This is great because all three soloists take a very mild and gentle approach to the singing and the acoustics hit us just right. Haydn is Haydn, completely graceful. The piece may be lithurgical but the Libretto (sung in the original English - Haydn used a German translation) is infused with values of the enlightment and somehow doesn't feel altogether religious.
Hell, it ends with a love duet, between Adam and Eve, of course.
"...But, without thee, what is to me
The morning dew, the breath of e'vn,
The Sav'ry fruit, the fragrant bloom?
With thee is every joy enhanced,
With thee delight is ever new."
"With thee is every joy enhanced," No kidding. How can I not think now of everybody who appears in this post: Vizan who casually calls me so late at night, Haddas and Sivan, though I didn't get to see them, even the bagel bandit, who ended up keeping me fed on my long walk, Daniella with her appreciation of Fridays, Jeff with his boar adventure, quiet Hamada and broken nosed Tom, Alon in his new garments and my downtown lover, who's waiting for me out in the night, making sure I'll have more material for this happy post than it can contain.
Don't forget my show tomorrow: Saturday the 9th at 9:00 PM, Cafe Lin, Ben-Yehuda 104, Tel-Aviv. I don't promise bliss, since I never got to test the sound system there, but that should also be kinda fun.