the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting a lift

We spent part of Pesach in Jerusalem, leading me to come up with a few counterbalances to my arguable over-sentimentalization of life in the Holy City (though I continue to stand behind everything I said here):

1. Doing things we would normally have done if we had still been living in J'lem (hanging out with friends and taking advantage of free holiday activities - which unexpectedly led to the acquisition of a shockingly purple necklace made out of melon seeds!) is relaxing and vacationesque when you're staying at somebody else's apartment (thank you, R&S and B!) - even if you know the very same activities would have been somewhat more mundane if you had been staying in your (alas, imaginary) Jerusalem home, complaining about having nothing to eat aside from matzah and jelly.

2. Speaking of that imaginary Jerusalem apartment, our stay in the big J brought home the unsettling realization that the roomy elevator we have started to take for granted in our building here in Yuppieville would be a mere wisp of a dream in most buildings back yonder. I used to scoff at those under-70s who purported to need an elevator merely to reach the grand heights of the fifth floor. Even when I was pregnant and the arrival of a little one loomed quite close on the horizon, I haughtily figured - to the minimal extent I thought about it at all - that we could just park the stroller at the bottom and carry the kid up, no problem. And also that all those wusses out there were making a big deal out of not very much.

That, of course, was then - before I knew about the magical sleep-inducing properties of strolling. Yes, I had heard stories about parents putting their baby in the car to get the kid to sleep, but I had not yet experienced up close the full power of Motion the Magic Potion. This is no theoretical concept anymore, but a very real law of nature - which, like gravity, just is, regardless of whether you understand it - and RP exhibits its sway on her at least once a day. But here's the key: If I'm to get anything out of her tendency to capitulate to the charms of what Warren insists on calling The Chariot, then I need to bring her back home and let her continue her slumber indoors, so I can eat lunch/do the laundry/check my email/take a catnap. This is easy when you have an elevator - but significantly less so, as I saw firsthand last week, when you've got a whole lotta stairs separating the snoozer from the house.

And elevator absence is just one element of the bigger picture: the serious tradeoff involved in living in a city, where - to relegate a huge quality-of-life issue to four words - space is sacrificed for location (unless you've got a few million bucks, in which case you can a) have both and b) probably don't even live in Israel, but just deign to visit during the holidays while insouciantly pricing actual Israelis out of Jerusalem... but that's another story).

3. Too many Americans in Jerusalem!!!!! I constantly complained about this when I lived there and was quite forcefully reminded of it upon my return. I did not leave America in order to feel like I never left!


Monday, April 14, 2008

A conversation I would never have had in J'lem

I'm still fielding calls from people who saw my signs looking for a babysitter, and I had a brief unexpected conversation today with a woman named Esther. After we discussed the kind of hours I'm looking for (since I can use as many backups as I can get) and I made it clear that I don't currently need someone for the regular gig, she added, in a kind of hesitatant tone: "Well, you should just know that I'm religious."

I was rather taken aback that she would feel the need to point this out and said, "Okay, so am I." She said that was good because some people were bothered by having a religious babysitter. What can I say but "??!!!" I am definitely going to interrogate her about this further - if she decides to keep our meeting, of course (see Tip #1).

Pretty wacked out, hey? I wonder if babysitters in Jerusalem feel the need to tell potential employers that they're not religious. I am saddened but intrigued...

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Leave the lemon at the door

Recent experience (the direct result of my main babysitter being in the middle of exams) has led me to come up with a coupla hot tips for anyone looking to get paid to watch a kid (known in literary Hebrew as being a babyseeeeter [ בייביסיטר], though in a pinch an actual Hebrew word - metapelet [ מטפלת] - will do too.)

Tip #1. Show up.

This may be one of those things that seem kind of, well, obvious, but I have had no less than three women claiming to want to be paid to (in part) show up at a specific time, like for instance, when I need to leave for work. And yet they have proven this desire by... not showing up. And don't think they called to cancel, I might add.

Tip #2. It wouldn't kill you to smile.

So I admit it was a bit of an awkward situation. On Friday I agreed pretty much right away to take on the first babysitter I had spoken to who I really liked. She was at our apartment, where she had come so I could meet her and she could meet the kid. All was going well - and then the next interviewee showed up. I had thought I spaced them far enough apart, but the first one stayed longer than expected and the second came earlier than expected and, well, you know how it is (both of them apparently read Tip #1).

There are people who take a non-ideal situation well, but Applicant II was not one of them. In fact, I've never met anyone who fit the description "sourpuss" quite as precisely as she did.

She wasn't showing much of a happy face when I opened the door, and after I explained the situation in the most diplomatic way I could (including the fact that I had already picked the other girl to be my main alternate, but that I was always looking for other babysitters to keep in the pipeline), she went into serious bad sport mode, making these bitter comments the whole time. Like, "Well, I would have thought you'd want a mother." (The babysitter I chose is 20 and living with her parents.) And, after catching a glimpse of her: "She's obviously not very experienced, but whatever." And then, as she was about to walk out the door, "So do you think you made the right decision?" Well, if I hadn't been sure before you opened your mouth, boy was I sure as soon as you did.

Anyway, my new babysitter has only done her duty once as yet (tonight), but so far she's met both of my strict criteria. Not to mention, the kid didn't cry but did eat and sleep! Let's hear it for the first native Israeli (and an Iraqi yet) to be named Lynn! Eh, excuse me, Leeeeeeen. (No joke!)

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