Israel is a nation under constant existential threat, every day, every hour, every minute. And so it shouldn’t surprise me that there is heightened security wherever I go. There are security guards outside grocery stores or mall entrances, checking bags and waving a metal detector over each person who enters. There are heavily armed security officers and walk-through metal detectors outside all public transport stations … and patrolling and guarding pedestrian underpasses. This world of anticipated violence, of begin on guard all the time against threats to the very existence of a people and its land, seems so foreign to me … and then the realization that there are other religions and peoples who feel the same existential threat not just in the Mid-East but across the globe. This is the world we live in, have lived in, and will sadly probably always live in. Violence begetting aggressive defense and offense in the name of preservation for a way of life. It’s a tragedy of time, energy, and emotion. It weighs on me because I so often live in my bubble of affluence and fortune, typically blissfully ignorant of struggle and threats. And then I feel guilty for being frustrated with me and my life; who am I to complain when these sorts of things exist? And that selfishness just makes me feel worse about everything because I do indeed complain, wallow, and bemoan the world but have little or no hope of changing it.
For a while now I’ve been hearing the footfalls of mortality around me. And not in a creeping way. It’s been sprinting toward me and I’m just feeling… adrift and alone. A friend of mine recently said when she suggested a few things to perk up my mood that I seem to be if not delighting in than preferring to wallow in misery. I’m not sure I agree with that; I just feel resigned and broken. And as I said, who am I to complain? I’m not sure I’ve evolved or changed much since I was a boy; there were moments of maturity but more often than not I seem to have reverted to an entitled, ego-centric, bratty fool who thinks he knows more than he really does. Who am I to even be writing this stuff here?
I hesitate to even post this sloppy bit of prose. It represents all too well various things I hate about my writing, but more what I hate about my attitudes, actions, and being. Even more so than the usual daily updates, which of late have been wearingly poor, I try during these marathon adventuring tours to reflect upon and ponder about my life, the universe, and everything. But, again, even more so than the daily blog posts, these are typically self-indulgent, banal, and excruciatingly unfocused. If I felt like people were reading this I’d be more inclined to edit/censor. But seeing as how few to none read this, well, what does it even matter?
This Tel-Aviv/Tunisia Two-Fer trip cost a small fortune but I had built it as a means to hopefully shake off this melancholy funk I’ve found myself in. Though I had been looking forward to this trip for months, now that I’m here, I’m dreading each day as surely as I did the dawns at home.
Today has been a day highlighting my failings and shortcomings and poor planning. It’s been a day of increasingly poor decisions and reverberating consequences for those same poor decisions.
This morning I clonked my knee on the way be it the Airbnb’s bedtrame. Then on trying to get around to the other side of the bed where my phone was charging, I clonked my other knee on the other side of the bed frame. At least it’s a balanced pain then right?
It turns out this AirBNB is also terribly located for anything I’ve got planned here. The two day tour trips I’ve got in the next few days have a 6:30 am pickup at single hotel in Tel Aviv… an hour’s was away. I could GETT a taxi for $17 and a half hour ride based on estimates but given my ride last night that $17 could wind up being 50% more.
I decided I’d walk to the hotel this morning to figure out the route beforehand. It was also kinda, sorta on the way to the marathon expo being held at Rabin Square. Plus it was down by the beach so, ya know, what the heck.
Aside from cutting through a bus parking lot to hypotenuse the route and save me a few minutes according to google maps, it seems relatively straightforward … and I’d really rather not taxi it if I can avoid it. I’ve got a bad feeling about taxis.
I actually have a bad feeling about this whole trip. I pulled out my Canon camera for a tripod assisted photo only to have it fail on me. There was a lens error and the retracting lens cover was jammed, rendering the camera unusable. This is a new development, albeit a failure that has plagued some of my previous Canon models. I had tested this camera before I left, grabbed an empty memory card, and everything was fine. I had considered bringing a spare camera, even had it in my bag at one point, but removed it due to weight and space considerations. I’m feeling incredibly dumb. I texted my mom and brother about it saying I was near tears. Steve tried to be supportive and suggested just going and buying another camera. Considering how much trouble I had ordering a falafel for lunch, even with the English menu provided, I feel like I might as well be tasked with retrieving the Golden Fleece.
I should point out that another poor decision occurred here at lunch. I couldn’t figure out why there were two prices on the falafel but I assumed it was lunch/dinner prices. Turns out, as I realized as I sat down with my pita at a table on the sidewalk, that since I said I would “dine-in” I paid a higher price than if I had taken the food away… to an empty park bench three steps from where I was sitting. One could argue this was a learning experience but I should have known from my previous travels that there is often times a price differential between eating in and taking away. I just felt stupid… and cheated out of a few shekels for being stupid. No wonder the guy behind the counter said, “Good choice” when I said dine in. It was all pure profit then. Sigh.
The Tel Aviv Expo is billed as “The largest sport and active lifestyle exhibition in Israel.” There were the usual-usual suspects in vendors – Garmin, Cliff Bar, Adidas, etc. Some localization of yogurt and protein bars that had the same logo and color scheme for Danon and PowerBar respectively, albeit the wording was all in Hebrew so I can’t be entirely sure they were one and the same. But the genre of vendor was consistent to what I’m used to. I did stop at a couple of the “Selfie-Filter” booths, although I think I did it wrong each time. I really, really hate my slouching, chunky pose in the confetti but, shrug, I’ve kinda given up anyway so who cares?
I’m sad to say I’ve become the cliché ugly American. For some reason I expected there to be a lot more English here in Israel. But of course it’s in Hebrew – why I thought there’d be a higher percentage of the English alphabet and translations I’m not sure. Arrogance, I suppose. I feel bad as I don’t even have the simplest of Hebrew sayings at the ready. Shalom I guess would cover hello but I feel even more self-conscious in attempting to say something in Yiddish or Hebrew or any other dialect in play here.
To make a long story short, when I got confused as to which line I needed to be in to go for my packet, a woman approached me and spoke in Hebrew trying to tell me. With my dumbstruck look that defines ugly Americanism, I mumbled, “English?” and she said, “Yes.” But her English, while infinitely better than my Hebrew, was clearly a chore for her and despite knowing the words she needed to say in Hebrew, she couldn’t find the translation. Eventually she directed me to a line and though it turned out to be the wrong one, the nice volunteer working there took pity on me and helped me out.
I was supposed to sign a waiver but it was all in Hebrew. She summarized, “Are you healthy?” And I said, “Yeah.” She clicked through a bunch of pages of, scrolling right to left at Hebrew is written, and tapped various check boxes signifying I had read and agreed to whatever it was. She handed me the tablet and said I just needed to sign it. So I either signed a waiver or we can only hope that somewhere there’s a really good contracts lawyer.
Having wandered back to my AirBNB I thought I should take the walk to the marathon start line to kinda get a feel for how long that will take on Friday morning. It turns out there’s a shorter way via the Tel Aviv University Campus and a longer way circling around Luna Park. The longer way is less turns and easier to navigate I discovered by walking it toward the start.
The Start Line To The Finish:
I don’t know – it doesn’t look like 26.2 miles OR 42.195K to me.
I’m settling in for the night, trying to find a restaurant nearby with an English menu option and finding it very, very difficult. A few stray thoughts from the day… thoughts I couldn’t figure out how to shoehorn in above… which is baffling as the above is a Cobb-ian style mess of a leftover word salad.
- Tel Aviv is a mixture of Santa Monica and New York City. The Mediterranean Sea waterfront section has that beach town vibe while strolling through the more urban area at times feels like a walk near Central Park.
- Given my non-existent Hebrew language skills, I’m reminded that there’s a reason I’m ever-obsessing over pictographs. Though ideograms are designed to convey their meaning through drawings and symbols regardless of language, sometimes I need some text to really understand the Pictionary clue I’m looking at.
- I bought myself a soda to try and get some caffeine into me and power through this jetlag. As I opened it, it exploded all over me. Of course it did. That’s how this day, and most days, seem to be going:
- I am incredulous that I’m running a marathon in a few days… but I have a bib and t-shirt to prove it:
I’m trying to enjoy myself but maybe other people are right — maybe I am just meant to be resigned. Maybe that’s my resting resigned fate. Despite my best attempts, I seem to keep making mistakes and building regrets rather than memories.
And that includes this cruddy blog entry. Apologies if you read it. It’s yet another instance where my selfish needs outweigh the potential worth to others.
Tomorrow I’m off on a day tour that includes a return trip to The Dead Sea (I previously visited it en route to Petra on the Jordanian side). The first time I went I didn’t have enough local currency for the mudbath. Perhaps its mythical (though some say empirical) remedies will help clean up my act, attitude, and ennui.