scared thrilled scared thrill scared thrilled

I find most things in life both scary and thrilling. I suppose I should hope it's always this way, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of work.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Tights on men. Just for cleaning house?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Enemies Online

There are two primary value-added functions of Facebook. First it allows a productive, real-time connection to people whom you’ve just recently been introduced to. It helps develop friends. Second it helps one reconnect with those long-lost friends from life’s previous chapters. Elementary schools, former clubs and towns where one used to live. All come back to life, bunched together into intertwining groups on Facebook.
What if, instead of a site for connecting with old friends, there was a sight for connecting with old enemies. It’s always been my opinion that the people I disliked most in the world were the ones who exhibited the qualities I most disliked in myself. My enemies are a motley collection of the worst of me. The arrogant, the selfish, the just plain stupid.
They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Presumably the primary reason for such an unpleasant choice would be so you could watch their every move, always prepared for them to strike, banking on proximity to give the edge to your early-warning system. But there’s another reason why you should keep your enemies close. Either they have hurt you, you have hurt them or you have hurt each other. An enemy knows things about you that your friends either do not or have chosen to overlook.
Most of the time I too prefer to overlook the tough and nasty things living inside me. I avoid confrontation with my demons. When I am wronged I hold it tight like my last lighted match. When I wrong I abandon the memory so effectively that it’s not long before I can honestly wonder why in the world that person is so hostile towards me. But in the interests of personal growth and development, this is poor strategy.
It would be better to be made to face all the difficult bits of one’s past; to confront full on your errors, and to share your own grievances. And here comes the big idea: An online network where you connect with those who know you in a way your friends do not. A network for the sharing of grievances, the illumination of wrongs, the sharpening of criticism. The goal would not necessarily be to make friends out of enemies, though this may happen. The real point of such a site would be for me to understand how what I do and who I am affects the people around me. To identify those nasty spots in me and cut them out with laser-like precision. While it’s true you can learn much about a person by looking at their friends, I think a person can learn just as much about themselves by looking at their enemies.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

leaving 1

The countdown is on and the first number is a 10. Ten days before I leave this place.
I arrived here unafiliated. Not Jewish, not Palestinian, not aligned politically. I’ve lived down the street from a silver-coated manger, down the road from a wall whose nooks and crannies are stuffed with paper prayers, in the shadow of a gleaming dome. Yet none of these sites are what drew me. I feel like I've been on a pilgrimage, and visits to all three sites have played an important and contributory role. It's funny how changing everything outside, the air that touched my skin, the rain that wreaked havoc with my frizzy bizzy head, the faces that filled my gazes, left so much room for plumbing the depths inside. My pilgrimage brought me to the Holy Land and to the Profane Marty. In the swirling madness of this land I've found clear notes of the peace I've been seeking. It's difficult to think about leaving.
In this fractious region I've made my home, on both sides of the wall that divides it. Each day I leave my office, a slick and modern restoration of a beautiful and ancient fortress, and ride my bicycle to the checkpoint. The sun sets early here, and it's usually down by the time I leave work. Dodging the glare of car headlights and army spotlights, I duck along a muddy path (last night there were some donkeys loose, frightened and blocking the way). The confused glances of the unfortunate youths in their green jackets who check my passport (why is this not-arab guy going in to Bethlehem at night, on a bicycle, wearing a tie) gave way some time ago to nods of familiarity, practiced phrases of English and, most recently, a call to “come visit us again”. I told them I would see them in the morning.
The change is immediate. I have been in poorer places in the world than the West Bank, but I have never cycled through them in the shadow of a wall, a physical symbol of the reason for the potholed streets and the rubble-filled gaps between the homes that line them (oversimplification alert).
There are, I think, more cats in Palestine than people. This comes in super handy when the garbage men go on strike (I would strike too if my paycheques were months late) and the bins start to return what they’ve received back into the greasy streets. It’s amazing how much can be piled onto a small bin before this happens. The cats love the garbage. They can make a serious dent in it too, and they love to jump out in great numbers as you walk by in the middle of the night (heart goes thump thump THUMP THUMP THUMP). They still burn garbage in the bins here. It’s a shock the first time you see it. The first time the acrid taste hits your tongue and the blue smoke fills your lungs, coating them with plastic. After a while your concern shifts to things like “I hope there were no cats in there when they lit it!” I’m a dog person I guess, but I still like cats.
It’s not like I’m returning to a place I didn’t like. Seattle was a home to me in the truest sense. It is interesting to me how I have translated that place into my home of the last months. The French café where I took my daily quiche and sat alone with the newspaper became a Jewish bakery where I sat with an Americano and read the same paper (God bless the New York Times/International Herald Tribune). The bar in the alley where I would sit and drink with old men became a falafel shop where I sit and smoke with old men. The daily motorcycle ride over the QA bridge, with its view of the Olympics to the left and the Cascades to the right, which honestly made me catch my breath every day, was replaced by a morning bike ride along the flowing skirts of Bethlehem with a view of the valley where the angels appeared to the shepherds, spotted with the descendents of those shepherds and their sheep and goats, with the hills of the Judean desert beyond. The catchy-breathy effect is the same.
I don’t know where exactly I’ll end up in this world, but I hope that the richness of each place I’ve been is carried with me, translated in a new language and given a new heart. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but so far it’s worked this way.
So it’s hard to think of leaving. But life and oceans both have their currents and swells, their tides and flows. How could I love the ocean so much and hate life for imitating it?
I promised myself a while ago, after reading my friend Mike’s blog ( that I would make my entries short and poignant, that I would ask for the friendly responses I crave, and here I am blathering on, multiple beers deep, and not even leaving space for you all. So maybe, if you like, respond with some idea about how the homes you’ve had, the places you’ve loved, which have been translated and reborn in new places and new homes. This could be a phd thesis, or it could be ramblings made in a noisy bar in Jerusalem with a long and mostly uphill bike ride staring you in the face.
A final parting thought, old and sugar-soaked tea bags held by the string look a lot like dead mice held by the tail.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Visit

I said goodbye a few days ago to my sister Holly and my brother in law Josh. They visited for 10 days and it was a pleasure to have them. I feel at home enough here to take ownership and pride in the showing off of this crazy and beautiful region.
So, a few pictures just to say what what.
1. St. George's monastery in Wadi Quelt. This was a 6km hike in from Jericho. The ravine was so beautiful, with caves where monks used to live, and some caves where monks still live. We tried to give fruit to one, but no go. We probably would've caused him to break his 20 year vow of silence or something. I couldn't live with myself if that happened.
2. lunch in a Druze village in the north. They make the best shewarma I've ever had with these huge crèpe-like pitas and lots of pickled beets...mmmm
3. moustache in full effect with Wadi in background. Yes, I realize I can't grow anything in the middle. Thank you.
4. my feline doppleganger.
5. my handsome family.