Mike’s Place: Iron Bowl Weekend
I find myself sitting in a Tel Aviv expat bar steps away from the American Embassy and yards away from the Mediterranean. The sea’s slow methodical lapping against the shore contrasts the scene inside. The crowd is a mix of expats and Israelis. The bar is filling and her inhabitants are taking their fill of alcohol.
The annual Iron Bowl game on the big screen, my boys in Crimson versus our in-state rivals…that cow college across the state. The decibel level has steadily increased and I find myself leaning to debate DH about the Alabama secondary’s poor showing in the second half. The live band is playing a rather pitiable version of Sweet Home Alabama, but the familiar riff and lyrics soothe my soul. The waitress asks for my order in Jersey-accented English.
Budweisers and billiards. The lonely American Marine desperately trying to get the attention of the scantily-clad blonde woman in the corner. For a brief moment I forget….for a brief moment I’m in a bar in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In reality, I’m spending my evening at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv with a lone solider in the IDF who still vaguely resembles the 18-year-old kid I met in college and his perfectly sweet, flawlessly pretty girlfriend.
Just for a brief moment, I forgot where I was. I almost forgot the tragic history of Mike’s Place. The suicide bombing that ripped through the bar in 2003, cutting short three lives and injuring 50. Israel has a strange way of reminding you where you are. Of her history and tragedy.
Tel Aviv Central Bus Station: First Day of Chanukah
Dreary eyed from my lack of iced café (I’m seriously trying to limit these delicious devils to once a day), I stumble into the empty Tel Aviv bus station earlier than usual this morning. I nearly pass the twinkling lights, Christmas trees and smiling Santas without taking a second glance. Then it hits me…
I stop mid-step. Jolted by the irony. Half the fourth floor of the bus station is decked out in Christmas décor. Twenty to thirty bare plastic green Christmas trees in heights ranging from cutsie to extravagant stand in the corner waiting for a forever home. Nearby, red and white trimmed Santa costumes (and naughty Santa costumes?) are carefully hung. Hundreds of baskets of colorful rhinestone studded ornaments and ceramic Santas plaster tabletops stretched down the center of the floor. Signs in jolly letters proclaiming Merry Christmas to All! adorn the walls.
A confounded Bride stands in the middle of this paradox, wide-eyed and awed. Where AM I?
Theory one: Jolly Ol’ St. Nick had one too many eggnogs, took a wrong turn somewhere over Italy and thought it would be hilarious to decorate the Jewish State’s main bus terminal.
Theory two: I wandered into the Israeli version of Punked. I’m still waiting for Kabbalah’s favorite boy toy, Ashton Kutcher, to jump out.
Theory three: Even though we’re a small minority in this country…we Christians sure do love our Christmas!
I walk back towards to my platform and wait for my bus. The aroma of fresh sufganiyot (Chanukah filled-doughnut) wafts through the terminal. Once on the bus, the nahag (driver) greets me with a toothy grin and hearty Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday!). Chanukah songs play loudly over the radio and a child next to me is drawing a picture of a menorah in blue crayon. Chanukah begins tonight and the whole country knows it. Israel has a strange way of reminding you where you are.
From The Bride’s family to yours…Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!