Friday, June 30, 2006

Summer is Here

A-Minus: 1 Month, 2 Weeks, 1 Day. Approximately.

For the last few days I've been on my heat wave diet. That's where I put off cooking and eating because it's so hot out that if I were to try to prepare dinner indoors, I might end up cooking myself instead of my dinner. So I wait for the planet to cool down slightly, and by the time it's cool enough to eat, all I have the energy to make are some steamed vegetables.

Temperatures were in the mid 100's this week. That's Farenheit, of course. The up side is that I should be loosing weight due to the incredible temperatures. But the down side is that any caloric savings I experience is neutralized by the fact that it's too hot to run, so I burn less calories as well. This is all some sort of subversive Neo-Con Zionist plot to cause global warming.

Meanwhile I've been going through all of my old clothes to sort through what will end up where. I keep finding perfectly good suitcases next to the dumpster, so many that I have extras now. I have an upcoming trip to visit the folks up north, and I'm thinking I'll load up one suitcase with clothes for my trip and then just leave it there, so I'll never need to pack another suitcase for my visits there, I'll just have clothes waiting.

Other clothes will go to Israel, but I want to take mosly new stuff with me when I go so I won't have to worry about clothes shopping for a while. Israel doesn't usually carry my size anyway. And the rest; my estranged grandfather's pimpin' silk shirts, snazzy jackets that were slick and trendy fifteen years ago, and shirts big enough to house me back in the days when I was 60 lbs fatter? Goodwill, here I come.

Also, sent off my first M-bag today. I managed to stuff 65 lbs of books into one of those little canvas sacks! It was so heavy that the postal employees couldn't lift it. They made me come behind the front counter and put it in the right pile. It should take 4-6 weeks to get there on the slow boat 'round the horn, and I'll be there in about 7 weeks, so I should have some good reading material waiting for me when I arrive.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More Visa Garbage

I consulted with the Israeli consulate this morning, and they consoled me on my connundrum concerning my misspelled name, and the consequent complications I'm having in consumating my aliyah.

How'se that for an opening sentence?

In plainer talk, since they misspelled my middle name as "Louise" instead of "Louis," I have to send my visa back through the process again and get a brand new one.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Notary to self: Get Apostille

A-Minus: 1 Month 2 Weeks 5 Days

Ever heard of an Apostille? Neither had I until a few weeks ago. Sounds like some sort of amphibious French cuisine. But no, it's actually something like a notary. Most civilized countries and Israel signed a treaty to recognize each other's Apostille stamps on official documents. These stamps are needed on birth certificates of immigrants in Israel who want to marry. I do, in fact, plan on getting married some day, and have a few minor details, like getting my Apostille and finding a girl, to work out.
Figure if a notary public can give a notary, he can give an Apostille too, right? Wrong. But he sent me on the right path, telling me that only the California Secretary of State can actually issue the Apostille, so I have to send my birth certificate to Sacramento. But then I learned that I need to have certified copy of my birth certificate which is less than five years old, which I don't have.
Hunting online, I finally found the form, which requires... a notary. So I went back to the notary, who notarized the form, to get the copy of my birth certificate, to get the Apostille. And all over my lunch hours.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Almost Famous

I received an email from Nefesh B'Nefesh. Turns out they have some publicity coming their way, and they wanted to know if they can use me as a subject for an interview. Of course! I told them.

But then I started thinking about it. I haven't even given notice to my employer about my plans, and it might mess up my schedule (and look vey low class) if they were to find out about my plans via the media. Also, I have some, eh, other plans, which you, my dear readers, will find out about in good time, and being publicized would throw a wrench in those gears as well. So I quickly wrote them back and told them to hold off for a month.

I've been spending my Sunday sitting here working, trying to make up the hours I missed when I went on my So-Cal vacation. At the same time, I'm getting all my computers up and running to sell. The place is getting emptier and emptier. Someone just came by and bought my fish tank ($95.) In a few hours, someone is coming for my computer desk, and someone else wants my box of screws.

Fellow Walnut Creeker and Oleh Chadash Adam Neril came into town for a visit for shabbes. We had an interesting discussion on living expenses, and it looks like the cost of living is a bit lower than I thought it would be. I should have sufficient savings to last about a year, G-d willing, once I get there.

As I ramble on, it's important to note that a soldier has been kidnapped by Hamas in Israel, two others killed. We should all daven hard that our kidnapped brother be returned to his family safely.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sellin' and Packin' Goes On and On

A Minus: 1 Month, 3 Weeks, 2 Days

I sold my antique mirror a couple of nights ago.

Last night, someone came over for my futon. When she showed up in her Chrysler sedan, I knew we were in for some work. I had to disassemble the whole futon, stuff the components into my hatchback, drive it over to her place, haul it all upstairs, and reassemble it. Grand total, it took me about an hour and a half. Fortunately, she paid me an extra $50 for the trouble.

Meanwhile, I'm packing up all my books into M-Bags. M-bags are these huge canvas sacks you get at the post office for shipping books and printed material. So far I've got about 150 lbs of books. Would you believe it's cheaper to ship M-bags to Israel than Canada?

Speaking of Canada, I bought my tickets for my flight to Toronto. I'll come into town on Sunday, August 13th, hang out there for a couple of days, then proceed to catch my Nefesh B'Nefesh flight on August 15th.

And the drum beats on...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

My So-Cal Adventure

A-Minus: 1 Month, 3 Weeks, 4 Days

Work has been quite stressful lately. Industry is experiencing a dire shortage of electrical engineers lately, so our company hired a subcontractor to help us with a job we're working on. The problem is, they are all Chinese and speak English at about a second grade level, so it's been very difficult coordinating mechanical and electrical issues, and I keep getting busted for design mistakes. Very frustrating. And they (my company) also seem to have great expectations that I am able to do tasks in which I have no experience, so it's doubly frustrating.

Add to that the burden of selling all my junk over the next month, and the stress has been piling up.

So I decided to get out of Dodge for a while. I took Friday and Monday off and drove down to S. Barbara (where I went to school) to see my old friends at Chabad of S. Barbara, and had a great time.

See the pictures below:

(Future Rabbi) Chaim Loschak. He looks pretty young, right? Looks can be deceiving. The 11-year-old fought me to a draw in chess.

Rabbi Loschak and his son Avi at Havdallah. Yes, they make Havdallah on Bud Light.

Havdallah. Notice the big black carbon smudge on the ceiling from decades of Havdallahs in the same spot.

Me with Lloyd, the S. Barbara resident charchiturist, chess master, and 60's drug experience storyteller.

Lloyd draws his Charchiture of me.

A close-up on the charchiture.

Making my grand entrance at Ventura to visit Christopher and Alicia. Yes, I'm still driving the rust rocket after a theft, a failed break-in, and innumerable bangs, scrapes, and collisions. You can see the sunroof where thieves tried to pry their way in with a crowbar. I had sealed the cracks with duct tape. Notice the streamers of duct tape peeling off the sunroof and trailing over the rear window.

My ex-roommate Christopher and his wife Alicia. And I remember when they had just met. Notice Christopher's Christ-like hairdo. Last year the look was ZZ-top.

The Stubbans took me to the Baron Herzog kosher winery in Oxnard. They even had a kosher restaurant, but it was too expensive to even think about.

Wine tasting at the Baron Herzog winery.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My So-Cal Adventure

Welding one of Christopher's projects. In the background you can see the cart that he's transforming into a rolling pizza oven.

At the beach in Ventura. The force of the waves was very effective at shoving seawater up my ears. Christopher didn't seem to share my problem.

A bizzare-looking rock formation at Morro Bay.

Seagulls Roosting in Morro Rock.

Morro Rock and Morro Bay.

On the jetty at Morro Bay.

I came to Hearst castle while driving up highway 1. This photo is taken from the bottom. I looked around the museum, but didn't want to take a tour, as it would have taken 2 hours and cost $25. Besides, it's the sort of thing that is better to do if you're with someone else.

The Bixby Bridge (or as I used to call it as a child, the Bigot Bridge) near Big Sur.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Pulling Up Anchor

A Minus: 2 Months, 6 Days

Leaving Walnut Creek is a far more difficult experience than I thought it would be. I've seen countless Israelis who leave Israel for America for a couple of years to make a little bit of extra money. It's a perfectly reasonable thing to do considering the unaffordable housing costs and tiny salaries in Israel. "Od shanah achat. Just one more year," they always tell themselves. Which turns into two years. And before they know it, they've been here 30 years, and have become so acculturated and hooked on the prosperity of America that they wouldn't be able to go back even if they wanted to.

I promised myself I wouldn't let that happen, that I would do my best not to grow addicted to the ease of life here. It wasn't such a challenge, and I have no issues about leaving the prosperity I found in Walnut Creek. Well, that's not true, I'll definitely feel the loss, but the burden is not insurmountable. My student loans are almost paid off, but I can still hear the little voice in my head, "Ephraim, now that you're out of debt, you have an excellent credit rating. Why not buy a house? Just as an investment for a year. Think how much better off you'll be when you finally do go. Od shanah achat." But the voice doesn't sway me.

For the last few years, I've been quietly planning my aliyah. I figured that when my moment finally came, I would be ecstatic. But, while I am happy, my emotions are mixed. What I didn't expect was to become so close to a community. I sit at the Shabbes table, look around at my friends, and wonder which ones I won't see again after two months. What will happen to my little kinderlach at the Hebrew School? Who will buy the sodas for the shul? Lift the heavy boxes of siddurim? Wolf down the leftover cheesecake from Shavuos?
But when I think of staying, my mind retches at the prospect. How am I going to meet someone and start a family way out here? What future do I really have here, besides work, work, and more work? No, I have to go.

And Gabi is going. He was never an "Od shanah achat" Israeli. Having left Israel 25 years ago, he made no promises of impending return. But then he decided to move to Florida. Mishane makom mishane mazal. A change of place brings a change of fortune. Well, as long as he was moving, why not bring his stuff to Florida, set up there, and go visit Israel for a few months. Pretty soon, Florida was just somewhere to store stuff, and he's now moving back full-time to Tel Aviv. We celebrated his aliyah with a barbecue last night (see attached pictures.)
And my own aliyah approaches rapidly.

My aliyah visa finally arrived from the Israeli consulate yesterday. This will allow me to land and immediately declare citizenship. It's actually an amusing piece of work. For those who read Hebrew, notice they spell San Francisco as San Frantzisco. Thought that was cute. Less cute was the fact that they misspelled my middle name.

Selling stuff has been going well now that I've found a successful strategy. I simply post everything I have for sale, all 150 items, on Craigslist on Friday afternoon, telling them to come by on Sunday morning at 10AM. Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night), I check email and answer any questions people have. Usually I have about 40 messages waiting for me, all of them signed by people promising to be there at 10 AM sharp, pleading with me to please hold their favorite item as they just can't live without it. Of these 40 people, probably five will actually show up. Of the five, maybe three buy things. I typically bring work home with me so I can have something to do (and build up extra hours) while I'm sitting around waiting. Then, I repost everything Monday morning, and Wednesday morning, to keep the ads current. Little by little, I've sold quite a bit over the last three weeks. It's to the point where I'm starting to move things into boxes. My apartment feels lonely without my stuff in it, but I think that really it's just exposing an emptiness that was already there.