Tag Archives: California

Confessions of a World Cup Slob

21 Jun

Plates and cups clog the kitchen sink.  Empty beer bottles roll back and forth in the front yard.  Dirty, sweaty clothes pile up in the laundry room.  This is the life of a World Cup slob – me!

This is what the World Cup does to some men – turns them from Metrosexuals to Neanderthals.  The few times I looked at myself in the mirror the past 10 days, I don’t recognize the image.  The clean shave has been replaced by a prickly stubble; the eyes are bloodshot from staying up past 2 in the morning; the hair’s wild.Kitchen sink

What’s even better (worse?) is that I don’t have to report or answer to anyone.  Days before, my wife and daughters flew from Israel to  California for a summer vacation.

I have the entire house to myself!

During the World Cup, other than part-time work, I don’t do much.  Weeds sprout in the garden undisturbed.  The sun beats down on the uncovered lawn furniture.  My dog howls for attention.   The trash can in the kitchen smells.  Ants crawl on the countertop.  The toilet bowl has many colors;  white is not one of them.   The towels are crunchy.  The bed is unmade; the decorator pillows are on the floor.  The fridge releases an echo when open.

But I’m happy.

World Cup

World Cup

The Wold Cup – the celebration of football (soccer) – comes once every four years.  Over 160 nations compete to be in the Wold Cup.  Only 32 make it.  For me, it’s not just a celebration of the beautiful game; it’s a celebration of life.  Fans in the stadiums all over Brazil jump for joy, hug strangers, shed tears of victory or defeat.

For many fotballers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  They’re at the top of their game.  These superb athletes represent flag and country.  They fight with the skin of their teeth.  They defend, attack, score, pray, rejoice.  It’s the ultimate rush.

From the comfort of my armchair at home, I cheer and heckle, watch replays of goals in slow motion, somehow feel the unbearable Brazilian heat, the cold, the humidity, thirst, exhaustion.

pile of clothes

It’s great to hear old-timers speak of past World Cups: 1966 in London, 1970 in Mexico City, 1994 in the United States.

I AM such old-timer.  As a kid, I watched a Wold Cup game in 1966, on a black-and-white TV, in a crowded cafe in Rome, with my father.  I watched the 1970 Wold Cup on a giant screen at the Forum Sports Arena in Inglewood, California, again, with my father.  And I watched the 1994 World Cup in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, live, with a friend.

On the radio recently some Israeli women complained that during the World Cup they had turned into “sports widows or girlfriends.”  The talk show host responded:  “Listen, women, once a month, you’re unavailable for a week.  Once every four years, men are unavailable.

Equal abuse for all.  Laundry

The Final is almost three weeks away, but already, the World Cup in Brazil is destined to be one of the best.

Come July 14, a day after the final, I promise to shave more often, to tak out the trash, to wash, to kill ants, to clear out the fridge.  But until then, I’ll remain a happy slob.

A final note from where I’m reporting: Israel did not qualify for the World Cup.  But no worry — if there’s ever an accountants World Cup, I’m sure Israel will win.

Until then, Israel can only dream of reaching this event, as shown in this YouTube clip.

 

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vikings, Germans, Italians in Galilee

31 Aug

The year: 1970

The place: Northview High School, Covina, California.

I’m seated on a green lawn under a tree.  It’s lunch time.  Students line up to get burgers and fries.  Originally from Israel, it’s my second year in California, more specifically, Covina, some 25 miles east of Hollywood, in smoggy San Gabriel Valley.

Doretta with her daughter Angela and her son-in-law, Stefan

Doretta with her daughter Angela and her son-in-law, Stefan

The school’s mascot, the Vikings, is painted on the school wall.  I bite into my tuna sandwich and watch the horns on the Viking’s helmet.  The Vikings crossed the Atlantic to America centuries ago.  As a 15 year-old, I’m in a new land as well. Behind me, I hear a lively conversation.  It’s not the content, but the heavy accent that catches my attention.  It’s foreign.  Foreign?  Could there be another “alien” on campus besides me?

Bride and Groom

Bride and Groom

I turn around.  A girl, blond, is seated cross-legged, hippie-style.  She’s talking to another girl. They giggle.   “Hello,” I offer.

The blond girl introduces herself: “I’m Doretta.”

I tell her and her friend my name.  I soon realize she’s not American. “Where are you from?”

“Roma, Italia,” she says.  She detects my accent, most likely.  “And you?”

“Israel.”

And so began a friendship that spans more than 40 years.

I later learned she was an exchange-student for the year.  Her friend Beverly was her American host.  Doretta was a Junior then; I a sophomore.  During the school year we hung out together, spoke of our “Mediterranean” background, marveled at how Americans were strange yet wonderful.  We spent some weekends together playing tennis, eating fast food, lounging by the swimming pool in my apartment complex.  1970: Funny bathing suits.  Chlorine.  Weird hairstyles.  Rock and Roll.  Big cars.  Smog.

Bride and Groom in traditional Moroccan costume

Bride and Groom in traditional Moroccan costume

And then it was over.  She returned to Italy at end of the school year.  A year later, in 1971, I returned to Israel.

For the next three years we became the best of pen pals; she in Rome, I near Tel Aviv.  We sent each other long letters, colorful postcards from our travels, gifts, record albums.

“Surprise! I’m coming to Israel,” she announced in one of her postcards.

Doretta arrived in the summer of 1974 with her friend, Claudia.  I had them over my house, took them to the beach, to the south, to the north, to Jerusalem.  They then decided to tour the Dead Sea on their own.  Doretta sat at a bus stop, saw an Israeli soldier in uniform, fell in love.  Must be something about uniforms and guns that make women swoon.

She went back to Rome only to pack her things, and returned to Israel, to her man, David.  Doretta, a Christian, converted to Judaism, studied the Torah inside out.  She’d become Jewish.

Who was have guessed?

In 1982 I attended her birthday party in Israel.

I did not see her again until some 13 years later, in 1995.  My wife Pnina and I vacationed in Rome.  I told her about my childhood friend.  I reached for the hotel phone book and looked up Doretta’s maiden name, thinking I’d call her mother and tell her to say hello to Doretta in Israel.

Bride and Groom, Prince and Princess for the Night

Bride and Groom, Prince and Princess for the Night

“She’s in Rome,” her mother told me.  “David and Doretta have been in Rome for many years.  They have a daughter, her name’s Angela.”

We rushed out of the hotel and met up with them, spoke about old times.

Three years later, they came to visit us in Los Angeles.

Fast forward to 2013.  Doretta’s on the phone with me.  “Angela got married in Germany last month, to a German, but we’re throwing a wedding party in Israel in August.  You must come!”

And here the story came full circle.  Again I attended a wedding, this time her daughter’s, not half a mile away from where Doretta had wed 30 years earlier.

David, a Moroccan Jew, held the wedding party at Marrakesh, a Moroccan restaurant.  Most of the guests were his extended family and friends.  The groom, Stefan, and all his brothers and family came from Dortmund, Germany.

Doretta watches belly dancer move

Doretta watches belly dancer move

It was the most unusual party starting with Doretta, an Italian who’d become Jewish; David, an Israeli of Moroccan extraction, and a bunch of jolly Germans drinking and dancing to the sounds of Moroccan love songs, shrill cries to welcome the bride and the groom, drum beats, an alluring belly dancer, gold-laced costumes and fez hats from Casablanca.

I looked about the room.

No Vikings.

Moroccan Belly Dancer

Moroccan Belly Dancer

What started out as a casual talk in California by a timid Israeli boy with a good-looking Italian led decades later to a multinational, transcontinental fiesta only writers come dream up.

So, what do you think?  Was it all a random, chance encounter or was it destiny?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=maurice+labi&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amaurice+labi

or at BN.com

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/maurice-labi?store=allproducts&keyword=maurice+labi

The Men Behind the Olives in Galilee

23 Mar
Olives 1

The “Shaking” Machine at work

“It’s a blustery day,” would be something Winnie the Pooh would have said about one chilly day in Galilee last December.  I step outside my house in a hat and a windbreaker and await my ride to the fields.

Allon, a fifty-something farmer, and a longtime resident of Kfar Tavor, shows up in his truck.  “Get in,” he says.  “We’re running late.”  Ten minutes later, we arrive at a large olive grove.  The ground is heavy and soggy.  I climb onto a large tractor that makes its way to the first row of  olive trees.  It’s a race against time.  The rain will soon return, making the picking of the olives much more difficult.

Allon at the Controls

Allon at the Controls

Allon is a seasoned farmer in Galilee.  He’d also gone to California’s Central Valley to learn the latest farming methods.  He owns thousands of almond trees.  And a small vineyard.  But today he’s working as an olive-picking contractor.  He’s renting out his Italian-made equipment.

For me, who’d long thought apples, oranges, chicken breast (and olive oil) came from the supermarket, today’s a vivid reminder of how a farmer’s life  and fortune are unpredictable.  Olive oil is big business.  The olives must be picked within days or the entire year’s crop will be ruined.  The olive press facility is booked solid, operates 24/7.  There’s a time slot assigned to this one harvest.  You don’t show up, they’ll press someone else’s olives.

The farmer wheels his tractor inside the grove, unloads a stack of empty crates.  Allon goes to work.  In his hands he holds a joy-stick with levers, controls the “shaker” machine remotely.  Move one lever up and the mechanical arm of the machine snakes its way towards the tree trunk.  Toggle another lever and the clamp, the “mouth” of the machine, wraps itself around the trunk like a noose.

Loosening the olives off the branches with sticks

Loosening the olives off the branches with sticks

This is when the men show up.   Six farmhands, all foreign — Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese — spread a wide tarp on the ground, at the foot of the tree.  It’s cool, the sun has lost its punch, yet the Oriental men cover their faces in scarves, bandannas, sunglasses.  I question Allon.  “They don’t want to burn their skin,” he says.  “To them, black is not good.”  He then signals them with a head nod.  The men produce long, stiff wood sticks.  They swing the sticks and whack the olive branches overhead.  Again.  Again.  And again.  That’s the first step in “loosening” the tree.  If the trees could talk, they would cry.  Whack!  The branches quiver in the wind.Olives 2

Allon smiles, exposes a wide gap in his teeth.  It’s time to bring in the big guns.  “Stay to my right,” he tells me, urging me to keep away from the long metal arm that slithers towards the tree.  He illustrates how the clamp grabs the trunk.  “It’s like sex,” he explains, motioning to how the arm glides under the tree canopy, under its “skirt.”  The sexual references don’t end there.  As the expert in the field, pun intended, he says the ideal tree trunk must have an “erection” – in other words, straight and without a bend.  “This way the clamp can get a good grip.”

He laughs.  I can’t help but laugh too.

One final toggle of the joy-stick and the show begins.  The tree begins to shake violently, as if possessed by demons.  It’s no wonder the Italian machine is called “The Tornado.”  The branches shake; they’re out-of-focus.  The noise is similar to that of a blender at full grind.  Hundreds, if not thousands of olives are released from the tree, glide in the air, and fall as casualties on the tarp below.

One tree done.  Five hundred to go.

“Why do you push the schedule to its limit?” I ask, thinking one false move, someone calls in sick, the machine breaks downs, and it’s all lost.

“It’s a calculated risk,” he says.  “We wait until the last minute because that’s when the fruit (the olives) are at their heaviest.  They’re at maximum ripeness.  And they carry maximum oil.  They WANT to fall off the trees.  We just help mother-nature.”

The men lift the edges of the tarp and push the olives — green, black, purple — to the center, and from there, to the conveyor belt.  A large air blower blows off the leaves before the olives are dumped into the crates.

These Oriental men replaced the Arab men of yesteryear.  The men are “imported” to Israel.  Allon is their caretaker.  The men are under a work contract for a few years.  When done, they’ll return home with the money they’d saved.  In the meantime, Allon provides them with shelter (bungalows in a nearby village), medical care, and wages.  A Thai man calls out to the Chinese man in Hebrew: “Bring the crates over here!”

Hebrew is the one thing that unites them!

Each crate contains 900 pounds of olives (400 KG)

Each crate contains 900 pounds of olives (400 KG)

Within two days Allon and his crew will have picked the olives off the five hundred trees.  They will turn bare.  The fruit will be hauled to the olive press in an Arab village.  After four nights of pressing and squeezing, the fruit will surrender its juices and produce the finest olive oil.

See you at the market.

____________________________________________________________________________

Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teen-age daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.

He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com or BN.com.