Saturday, April 13, 2013

Now it's gone?

Letting go           “You must take a picture of that,” I insisted as we walked in the direction of Javits on 42nd Street. I pointed.

On seeing the stocky young man in shorts and a t-shirt, my partner clicked her cell phone to camera mode and caught him just as he’d gotten the ten dogs he was walking to sit.  Thanks to a red light, I was able to ogle; there were dogs of all sizes, including an oversized brown lab. Leashes appeared to be woven together; it looked as if he we were wearing a living first baseman’s mitt. When the light changed, the biggest dog pulled off his leash. Remarkably, the lab sat and waited until it was slipped over his head.

As I would do for a few more days, I compared what I’d just seen to what I’d left behind in Jerusalem. In my two weeks there, I hadn’t counted as many as ten dogs on leashes; most were on their own. So were cats; few lived inside. In Jerusalem, there is no demand for dog shepherds.

Most people walk or run there, especially on the Sabbath. They have no choice. Public transportation stops at about 4:00 p.m. on Friday and doesn’t begin again until between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Saturday. In many areas, including where the light train tracks run along Jaffa Street, families stroll and children play in the empty streets.

All shops close, including internet cafes. Even the enormous central bus station, one block north of my B ‘n B, is shuttered. One of the busiest places during that time is the small park inside the traffic circle in front of where I stayed. All other days, that park is empty.

My flashback to Jerusalem ended abruptly; a taxi barked at me for taking too long to cross. In an instant, I was back in Manhattan following my partner to the CVS on the corner three lanes away.

Once inside, I stood near the electronic check out stations. I felt like an Israeli; I didn’t need anything. Indeed, I tried to recall whether I’d seen women in Israel wear eye shadow or lipstick. I wasn’t sure they thought there was a need. Indeed, pharmacies were few in Jerusalem. Those that I saw appeared to be good places to play checkers; they were quiet and small. The only big one I saw, near a section known as Talpiyot, was a fraction the size of a Walgreen’s. And it didn’t have a public bathroom.

I guessed its location in the Anglo part of town explained its size and its amenities.

“Let’s go,” said my partner. With a slight shake, I cleared my head; I had to be alert in Manhattan.

As we walked past a few more restaurants, I wondered whether they ever closed. “In the middle of the night,” I mused. Streets of Manhattan rested only then. That thought amused me. In Jerusalem, most restaurants, especially the kosher ones, closed on the Sabbath as well as many holy days.

The one we’d wanted to go to wasn’t open due to Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although Sabbath had come and gone, another day of closing was in order. That mattered to the five of us since it was our last night together; early the next day I had to fly back to the States. This was to have been our farewell dinner.

“I know a place,” said my son-in-law. He was gleeful. “It’s in a very religious community, Measharim. They do what they want. They’ll be open.”

We believed him. He had courted my older daughter in a religious bookstore only a few doors from the restaurant. By then, it was about 9:30 p.m. Minutes later, we drove onto the tight two lane main street. Hasidic families were everywhere; shops were busy, strollers were numerous as black coats and black hats.

“There it is!” announced my son-in-law. And it was open.

My younger daughter’s significant other created a parking space. We flew to the restaurant, a hot buffet with kosher entrees and vegetables that looked delicious. Behind the counter, three Hasidic men doled out the helpings.

As one of the men scooped up a portion of what looked to be chop suey for me, I almost told him to stop. He was giving me too much; vegetables were piled high too. Each of us had more food than we could eat. Trays in hand, we climbed narrow stairs to tables on the floor above the servers. Downstairs, there was no room for seating. The restaurant was that small.

And the food was delicious. Our family dinner was joyous. As good as it was, the cost for everything was less than fifty dollars, a bargain in Israel.

Eventually, we strolled to the bookstore, took pictures there. Until the owner announced closing time like a traffic cop’s instruction to move along, we laughed and reminisced. On Yom Hashoah, we were affirming life and love; our affirmation honored those who were lost to the Holocaust. We were determined that our heritage and its love for life would continue.

I thought of that as we said our warm goodbyes, as I reflected on the hugs I would miss once I landed in Manhattan.

                                                            B.Koplen 4/13/13

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