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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Please don't call it 'Hashgachat Pratit'

Last week I tried several times to write about the two wonderful people who ran the Beit Chabad in Mumbai.  I wanted to give readers a small sense of the special people whose safety they should have been praying for.  But each time I tried, it came out sounding like a eulogy... and I simply wouldn't allow myself to give up hope.

But Saturday night, when I found out that all of my hopes and prayers had not helped, the words just poured out.  I have attempted to take that sea of words and edit it into something manageable.  But I'm not nearly ready to post it. 

Not yet.  Maybe tomorrow. Maybe.

Right now, all I can do is stare at the little plastic card that slipped out from under my passport when I was putting it away this morning:


Over Shabbat several people used the words 'Hashgachat Pratit' (sort of a personal protection, presumably provided by G-d) to describe what had allowed me to return home from Mumbai five days before the carnage began. 

Yes, I stayed at the Oberoi Trident... and yes I was privileged to eat dinner with Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg (may their blood be avenged) nearly every night that I spent in Mumbai. 

But I have to be honest... I am having a lot of theological trouble grasping why people would imagine I was somehow worthy of such 'Hashgachat Pratit' while so many others apparently weren't.

Those who were actually there in Mumbai during the attacks and who managed to come out unscathed are likely experiencing what might be best termed 'survivor's guilt'.  My brush with these events was not nearly so close, yet every time someone tells me how 'lucky' I am, or how 'Hashem must have been looking out for' me... I want to hide my head in shame. 

I only knew two of the many people who were murdered in Mumbai... and I didn't even know them that well.  But I did know them well enough to know that they had paid full fare for their place in this world (and the world to come)... and by all rights (and by merit of their deeds) deserved a long life filled with the pleasures and rewards of children and grandchildren. 

I walked around my sleeping home last night feeling like someone who has managed to steal a winning lottery ticket without anyone being the wiser.  Surely if they were undeserving of another night with their beautiful son (and each other), how in the world am I allowed such riches?

So I have a small favor to ask.  If you know me, and you are relieved at my safety after the events in India, please just say so without bringing G-d or luck or 'Hashgachat Pratit' into it.  I am having a theological crisis right now that cannot bear even one more person suggesting that whatever guardian angel was sent to sit on my shoulder was somehow stronger or more worthy than the ones sent to look after those who perished in India.

Posted by David Bogner on November 30, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (45) | TrackBack

Friday, November 28, 2008

What they don't consider odd is worrisome

There was a terrible joke that made the rounds back when East and West Germany finally reunited.  It went something like this:

Speaker:  Hey, I just heard that the first act of the re-unified German Parliament was to declare their intention to kill all Germany's remaining Jews... and two postmen.

Listening:  [after a long pause] Um, I don't understand... why two postmen?

Speaker:  What, wiping out Germany's remaining Jews doesn't strike you as odd,... but the death of two postmen does???!

The dark humor that made nearly everyone who heard the first line of the joke helpless to avoid responding with the second, was that the idea of killing Jews was neither new nor novel... but the seemingly random addition of the two postmen was.

Early in the reporting from India it became clear that the attacks were centered on tourist centers, with two luxury hotels and Mumbai's largest train terminal bearing the brunt of the attacks. And most of the reports seemed to fixate on the disturbing fact that Americans and Britons seem to have been singled out by the terrorists.

Yet, seemingly unremarkable to the media, also among the targets singled out for attack was a house in a mixed residential/commercial area that is well off the beaten track.  From the outside it is rather non-descript, and in fact if you didn't have good directions, you would never know it for what it is; the home of one of Mumbai's few orthodox Jewish families (I know, having eaten there several times last week). 

Yes, of course they reported it... but the attack on Nariman house/Beit Chabad didn't strike them as odd... or at least no more odd than the rest of the coordinated attacks.

Here's why it should have.:

Mumbai is a city of over 18 million people, yet there are only about five thousand Jews living there.  And of those, only a few dozen are identifiably Jewish outside of the synagogue.

Heck, the entire country of India - with a staggering population of over 1.1 billion people - has only about 15 thousand Jews!  I'm not so good at math, but I think that if you try to express the Jewish population as a percentage of the overall Indian population, you're going to end up with a lot of zeros to the right of the decimal point.

So isn't it weird that nobody seems to be talking about how statistically odd it is that this Muslim terror group sought out and attacked an unremarkable home containing one of India's only identifiably orthodox Jewish families.

Apparently the breaking news from Mumbai has demonstrated anew that targeting Jews is not unusual... even when just finding Jews in India to attack is harder than finding Samoans in Iceland. 

So why is that unremarkable?  And more importantly, why does the rest of the world continue to push us to understand and excuse murderous Muslim aggression against us... even when they hound us to the end of the earth?  Yet we're the racists. 

The answer is that attacking us - even in a country where just finding us is like finding a needle in a haystack - is considered completely unremarkable... just part of the natural order. 

Yes, the press dutifully reported that Jews were singled out for attack.  But they didn't seem to find it particularly odd.   In this scenario the Jews are the afterthought's afterthought that should have begged the question, "Why them?".  But Jews are apparently supposed to die... not postmen. 

Posted by David Bogner on November 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 27, 2008


It felt odd to be sitting in Israel, calling friends and business associates in India to make sure everyone was OK in the wake of a brutal terror attack... but that is exactly how I've spent my morning.

Despite its attractive and exotic 'strangeness' that draws Israeli tourists like a magnet, India and Israel share many parallels:

  • We are both ancient peoples working the kinks out of our new/modern states.
  • We both freed ourselves from the yoke of English rule and declared Independence within six months of one another.
  • We both have had to deal with ongoing problems from a restive Muslim minority despite the creation of neighboring Muslim states (Jordan and Pakistan, respectively) that were explicitly intended to prevent such problems.

The hotel in Mumbai where I spent four days last week has now become ground zero for most of the hostages that are being held... and the Chabad Rabbi and his wife who hosted me for many meals (during last week's trip and my previous one) have both been taken hostage and are reportedly both unconscious. 

There is still reportedly fighting going on at the Chabad House and the most recent news is that one of the gunmen has just been killed 

The only small glimmer of hope in all this is that the Rabbi's (and his wife's, obviously) toddler son and nanny were released during the night.  It is from the nanny that they found out that the little boy's parents are unconscious.

Many of the international news outlets are still shying away from calling this series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, 'Islamic'... but I can assure you that this terror is not the work of a Buddhist or Hindu group.  It is, once again, the religion of peace. 

The exact reasons for the attack remain unclear (at least to me), but the deliberate targeting of foreigners... and Jews... in a country that has been extremely welcoming to both, is the hallmark of Islamic extremists.

I join many others in expressing my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in this brutal attack, and add my prayers to all those who are hoping for a peaceful resolution to the hostage scenarios currently playing out at the Trident/Oberoi complex, Taj Hotel and Nariman House (the name by which the locals know the Chabad House).

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Shower.  Sleep.  Repeat.

Posted by David Bogner on November 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Tipping Point

As some long time readers may recall, I am a bit of a germophobe.  Nothing serious, mind you.  I function quite nicely in the real world and have no problem shaking hands or getting dirty playing sports or camping.  Heck, I even respect the 10 second rule (regarding how long something that falls on the floor remains edible).

But for some reason, every visit to a hospital sends me all OCD with the hand washing.  Even visiting a sick friend in a hospital makes me want to bathe in alcohol gel.

For some reason, from the moment I walk through those electric doors, all I can think about is all the drug-resistant infectious diseases that are lurking on every solid surface of the place.   After all, hospitals are full of sick people.  Sick people shed germs and pathogens just by the very act of 'being'.   And the doctors, cleaning staff and visitors spread the nasty stuff around fairly uniformly as they pass through the facilities.

In fact, one of the things that has had me increasingly alarmed as I watch my hospital stay go from a few hours to a few days, is the contemplation of the nasty stuff to which I've been exposed (check in with shortness of breath... check out with Legionnaire's Disease).

But the bathrooms are particularly suspect in my humble opinion.

Every time I have to go near the bathroom I find myself scrubbing my hands and arms to the elbow like a surgeon getting ready to do particularly tricky operation.  So you can imagine that the idea of stripping down and actually exposing my whole body to a hospital shower was about as appealing as eating my meals out of a bedpan.

Also, I'd been resisting the possibility of taking a shower here at the hospital because at any moment I fully expected to be sent home.  I figured, why expose myself to some unspeakable chimera growing on the walls just to wash off a little, essentially benign, B.O. (I know it has to be OK because my body produced it, right?).

Anyway, yesterday I reached a tipping point of sorts.  My revulsion at the state of my personal hygiene finally surpassed my fear of the drug-resistant flesh eating bacteria growing on the shower floor.

So yes, I did feel better after having washed three days worth of accumulated crud off of my body.  But throughout the process I couldn't help but wonder if I was improving or degrading my actual health situation.

Oh, and for the record, alcohol hand gel works just fine on feet too. 

Posted by David Bogner on November 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Still here

Yes, I mean that both literally and figuratively.

Sadly, I am still in the hospital (Brits can feel free to ignore the word 'the'), and it seems I will be staying at least until tomorrow.  It's always one or two more tests that need doing... and more poking and prodding just to satisfy the ever-more-senior docs that show up at my door. 

I must have something particularly interesting/uncommon as the crowd of eager young medical students who jammed themselves around my bed to hear me 'presented' this morning was roughly twice what it was yesterday.  I felt like the class slut at a meeting of the physics club. 

And of course, despite my ever-growing chart, I am obliged to share my entire medical history with everyone who parts my curtain.  I have begun my most recent renditions with "I was born on a stormy June morning in 1961...", just to see what level of detail they will tolerate.

I'm thinking next time around I may just have to try three part harmony like in 'Alice's Restaurant'. *  Speaking of which... it's almost that time of year. 

*  Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie (lyrics and youtube)

Posted by David Bogner on November 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

How to scare your spouse so badly she'll threaten to kill you...

... in three easy steps:

1.  Ask her to help disconnect you from the tangle of wires and tubes connecting you to the nerve-center of your ER cubicle so you can go to the bathroom without having to suffer the indignity of a bedpan.

2.  When you return from the bathroom, let her begin re-assembling the intricate web of pressure cuff, heart monitor and pulse/oxygen leads to their previous functioning configuration.

3.  When she plugs in the wires for the heart monitor, pretend you are having a seizure.

If I hadn't already been in the hospital, I have no doubt that Zahava would have hospitalized me (once she stopped screaming and grabbing her head in alarm, that is).

Posted by David Bogner on November 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (33) | TrackBack

Give me their address

Breakfast arrived promptly at 7 AM... over an hour after the vampires had swooped in for their morning snack.  Somehow that struck me as unfair.

Then I surveyed my breakfast tray and the real unfairness set in:

  • Hard boiled egg (randomly cooked for between 30 and 40 minutes to ensure the yolk is good and 'dusty').
  • Weak coffee-like liquid that has me pining for instant/'Nes'.
  • Sliced cucumber (nicely aged to a shriveled, rubbery consistency)
  • Whole tomato which will be ripe in the next week or so (plus airline-type butter knife with which to puree slice it)
  • The only two offerings of Israel's famous dairy industry that are too bland/phlegm-like for me to consider eating.
  • Two slices of bread that would actually be tempting had they given me something palatable to spread on them (e.g. butter, etc.)

I know, that's more nutritious calories on one tray than many Africans see in a typical day.  Fine.  Send me an address and I'll spring for the postage, mmmkay?

P.S.  Zahava has promised to bake muffins and bring them for the nurses today (sort of a bribe to treat me well), but I'm thinking the nurses may never get to see those muffins.

Posted by David Bogner on November 25, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good news and bad news

The good news:

It is looking like the docs are pretty much settled on viral pleurisy as the cause of my symptoms.

The bad news:

They want to keep me here until tomorrow for more tests and observation just to be sure.

Posted by David Bogner on November 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

A new theory is floated

Zahava says that when all the tests come back, the cause of my current medical problems will turn out to be 47 years of swallowing chewing gum.

Posted by David Bogner on November 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Clues & Hints

They continue to offer me really horrible food (best quote so far: "Try the chicken, it's from today"), which can mean one of two things:

1) They have no immediate plans to cut me open.

2) They are trying to torture me into signing myself out AMA.

Posted by David Bogner on November 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Hadassah Ein Kerem

Since 8 PM last night

Trouble breathing, irregular heartbeat and fever

Tests so far: Blood (gallons), ECG, Chest CT, Endless poking and prodding by doctors, nurses and janitorial staff

Next up: Echo cardiogram

Best guesses: Pluracy (sp), non-specific viral infection, scurvy (ok, I made that last one up)

Everyone happy?

Posted by David Bogner on November 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Shortest short story

On a bet, Hemingway once presented his friends with a six word short story:

"For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn."

l can beat that by half:

"Hospital food sucks."

[posted from my cell phone]

Posted by David Bogner on November 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Friday, November 21, 2008


My flight from Mumbai landed in Israel at 3:20 AM, and now at 5:10 I'm in bed with Zahava curled up next to me, and the familiar sounds and smells of my sleeping home... family... life... all around me.

'A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it'

       George Augustus Moore (1852 – 1933) "The Brook Kerith", ch. 11 (1916)

It's so good to be home.  Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on November 21, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All a matter of context

[I saw the following over at one of my regular reads and promptly sprayed a mouthful of really exceptional coffee all over my computer keyboard]

He’d been playing outside with the other kids for a while when he came into the house and asked her, ‘Grandma, what’s that thing called when two people sleep, like, in the same bed and one is on top of the other?’

She was a little taken aback, but she decided to just tell him the truth. ‘It’s called sexual intercourse, Darling.’

Little Tony just said, ‘Oh, OK,’ and went back outside to play with the other kids.

A few minutes later he came back in and said angrily, ‘Grandma, it isn’t called sexual intercourse. It’s called Bunk Beds. And Jimmy’s mom wants to talk to you.’

Posted by David Bogner on November 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trep's Travel Tips (part I)

[written in the departures lounge at the Chennai Airport]

Here are some tips I've been meaning to share... so while I'm waiting for my flight to be called, I'll jot down as many as I can.  Feel free to add your own:

1.  Use a full-service travel agent wherever possible (the kind with a 24 hour emergency number).  You may save a couple of bucks using the on-line deals and airline portals, but when flights are canceled or rescheduled... or you need to make a change to your itinerary mid-trip... it's sure nice to have someone who can do the grunt work for you.

2.  Get your immunizations!  If you are going to the third world (or any developing country, for that matter), go to your doctor and get whatever immunizations are recommended for your destination(s).  Make sure you go well in advance of your trip as some shots need to be given multiple times.  Also, if you are going to a country where Malaria is prevalent, make sure to get a prescription for malaria pills (and take them!).  If you haven't had a Tetanus shot in the last 5 years, have your doc throw one in for good measure.

3.  Don't be shy about demanding the good seats on the plane.  Someone is going to be enjoying the extra legroom in the emergency exits and bulkhead seats... it might as well be you.  Your travel agent might be able to help you with this, but more often it is up to you to check in as early as possible (many airlines allow you to do this on-line up to 24 hours in advance) and try to get your seat assignment locked up.

4.  Eye shades and ear plugs.  I can't place enough emphasis on the importance of these two things in your travel kit.  If you have the bucks (which I clearly don't) spring for the Bose noise canceling headphones which can double as a portable concert hall for your iPod.  You will sleep on the flight like never before.

5.  Tank up on water for a day or so before the flight and take a half an aspirin (or a whole baby aspirin) before you board.  Make sure you also drink during the flight and get up to stretch at least a few times on long flights.

6.  Dress in loose clothing for the flight and wear slip on shoes.  Not only will the shoes make security go easier, but the combination of kick-off-able shoes and loose breathable clothes will make your flight much more enjoyable.  I actually bring a pair of pajama bottoms (Old Navy) and an old tee-shirt in my carry-on bag and change once the lights go out.

7.  If the flight is not full (a rarity these days) try to scope out an empty row while people are still boarding.  ten minutes before they close the door you can jump over there without attracting too much attention.  Stretch out and enjoy!

8.  If you are the kind of traveler who has trouble falling asleep, don't bother with Ambian and other prescription sleep aids.  I have it on good authority from an anesthesiologist that Benadryl is just as effective at inducing sleep (if not more so), and it is not habit forming or an overdose risk.

9.  Get on the good side of your flight attendants.  Compliment them on a pretty pair of earrings of a handsome watch... and ALWAYS thank them for the littlest thing they do for you.  They have a thankless, mind-numbing job.  Anyone who takes the time to treat them with respect will be singled out for extra-nice treatment.

10.  When you land make sure to go to the bathroom while you have only your carry-on to worry about.  Once you get your luggage you are helpless (unless you are traveling with someone who can watch it for you).

11.  Hopefully you booked your hotel in advance of your flight.  Most good hotels have a hotel courtesy shuttle.  The day before your flight fax them your flight info and ask them to send a car or van.  Having that guy standing there with the little card with your name on it is a welcome sight after a long flight.

12.  OK, you didn't arrange the courtesy pick-up.  Your bad... do it next time.  Meanwhile, NEVER take a ride with one of the parasites that stand around the arrivals gate saying "Taxi... you need a ride... touring... hotel... really cheap...".  Sure most of them are just trying to make a living, but some of them are going to take you to a dark alley and take everything you own.  Do you really want to play those odds.

13.  While we're on about security, I never take the first taxi offered to me... even if I have been standing in a long line.  Call me paranoid, but I like being able to choose my own cab.

14.  When you get to your hotel, be nice to the people checking you in.  They often have the ability to upgrade you to nicer rooms if the place is not full.  give them a reason to do so.  Also, ask what services are included in your stay.  Free breakfast, bottled water and laundry services are often there for the asking if you know to ask.

15.  On the subject of laundry... hotel laundry is your friend.  Whether it is free or not, your really only need three or four changes of clothes (at the most!) and I have often gotten away with two on shorter trips.  Having freshly washed, pressed and folded clothing is a huge morale boost when you are away from home... and nobody cares that you wore that outfit the day before yesterday. 

16.  Bathroom swag.  I can't help it... I'm addicted to bathroom swag.  Especially in the really good hotels.  Not only do the soaps and shampoos come in handy for those tiyulim and camping trips... but sometimes you can sample moisturizers and lip balms that you would never have bought on your own.  Oh, and those little shoe buffer things are priceless for a last minute touch-up before an important meeting.

17. If you aren't a member of the members club at the hotel where you are staying, ask to join when you check in.  It is free and will usually get you a free paper on your door in the morning and maybe a happy hour pass for drinks in the afternoon.

18.  Don't be a tip victim.  In many places in the world there will be hordes people who will try to get a tip for simply standing near you during some part of your transit or for simply touching your bag as you get out of a cab.  Tip generously when someone is a genuine help but handing out tips to everyone within arms reach is going to attract more vultures... not less.

19.  I always read up on the local culture where I'm going and try to learn a few basic phrases of the local language.  But once you are settled in your hotel, ask a clerk or waiter for an explanation of any local customs or costumes you find interesting.  If you ask with respect you will get an education that can't be found anywhere else.  If you are lucky, they will offer to give you the name and location of the best places to shop for local gifts and handicrafts (i.e. not the usual tourist crap).

20.  Sleep on the side of the bed away from the phone.  I can't remember who gave me this bit of advice, but pound for pound, it is the best travel advice I have ever received.  Sure you have to skootch over to answer your wake up call in the morning... but that also helps make sure you don't roll over and go back to sleep.  But everyone sleeps on the side of the bed by the phone so that part of the bed is more likely to be lumpy and saggy.

21.  Stay away from the 'courtesy bar' at all costs.   Why pay 6 bucks for a candy bar (or 12 for a can of nuts) when you can buy them for real world prices within a block of the hotel.  Better yet, make a note of all the stuff that always tempts you in the courtesy bar and buy a bunch of it before your tip.  I usually bring a bottle of wine to enjoy at some point during long trips.  I put it in a tube sock in the checked baggage  to keep it safe.

22.  Sign up for a service like iPass before you go abroad.  They have WiFi hotspots all over the world (including the Chennai departure lounge) and it will let you surf the web for free in airports, cafes and hotels nearly anywhere you go.  Yes, there's a fee... but nothing like the fee most places charge for an hour's worth of service.

I have more to add but my flight to Delhi has just been called.  Feel free to share your own travel times.

Posted by David Bogner on November 19, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Monday, November 17, 2008

Risking a Thrashing

Scanning 'The Times of India' over breakfast yesterday I was struck by how similar the concerns and interests are all over the world... but the little differences remind one that you are abroad.

For example, the headline "Mob thrashes pastor in Bhayander" immediately caught my eye. 

First of all, the word 'thrashed' has been so completely co-opted by sports writers and color commentators in the US that I had to actually look it up to see what it really meant off the field of play. 

It turns out that 'thrash' means "to beat soundly with or as if with a stick or whip".  Yikes.

So, reading on in the Times of India article:

"Around twenty men suspected to be from the VHP barged into  the prayer hall of a Christian sect at Bhayander at 12:30PM on Saturday, stripped the pastor and thrashed him after accusing him of converting people"

Now, I'm not a fan of violence (mob or otherwise), and I certainly don't take lightly the idea of a religious leader being publicly stripped and flogged because of his beliefs.  But as a Jew, that penultimate word in the article made me reserve judgment for a moment. 

There are literally dozens of religious groups operating in Israel today who are actively working to proselytize Jews.  Yes, it is illegal for them to do so... but they are quite adept at tip-toeing along the boundaries of legality with semantic hair-splitting ("It's not a prayer meeting, it's a party!  With free food and drink and lots of people your age... why don't you stop by?"), and the penalties make a slap on the wrist seem severe by comparison. 

Considering how we have faced centuries of organized predation and forced conversions, it bothers me to think about well-meaning missionaries coming to the Jewish State for the sole purpose of trying to pick off the strays and stragglers of the dwindling herd known as the Jewish people.

So, returning to the topic at hand... yes, it is the little differences, like the use of the word 'thrash' in its proper context, that remind me that I'm not at home.  But by the same token, I have to admit that I wouldn't mind seeing those guilty of trying to convert my Jewish brothers and sisters stripped and thrashed by Israeli mobs. 

Throughout our wanderings, Jews have been powerless to defend ourselves.  And when faced with a choice between death or apostasy... many have chosen death.  So now that we have our own country it galls me to think of groups planning trips, allocating budgets and setting up Israeli offices... all with the sole design of stripping even more limbs from small, fragile tree of my people.

Perhaps we could learn something from this Indian mob.  Yes, they were arrested for their attack, but the modest legal penalties that exist, both in India and Israel, for proselytism is hardly a deterrent when placed alongside potentially 'saving a soul'.  Maybe it's time the world realized that the price of a Jewish soul may very well be the kind of medieval corporal punishment that was previously reserved for the Jews who refused to convert.

OK, I knew that I'd be risking a thrashing when I wrote this piece... but based on two emails I just received, I should offer the following post script:

I know that there are many non-Jewish readers of treppenwitz, and I'm sure some of you will have been disturbed by this essay.  I am very pleased to be able to give a glimpse of my Jewish/Israeli world to people of other religions and nationalities.  But if you were truly bothered by this post, perhaps you should honestly ask yourself... 'Am I a birdwatcher who is genuinely interested in the beauty and habits of those I observe?  Or am a simply interested in bagging a game bird for my collection?'

It really is that simple.

Posted by David Bogner on November 17, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (63) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 16, 2008

He Travels, I…. Count…. Down

[A guest post by Zahava]

So. Wanna know how it’s going over here at Chez Trep’s during the wandering Jew’s absence?

Perhaps this description of a typical exchange with Yonah while his Abba is away will help share the 'love.'

Zahava: “Yonah, did you have a nice nap?”


Zahava: “Okey, dokey, then. Let’s go upstairs, shall we?”


Zahava: “Okey, dokey, then. I’ll go upstairs, you stay down here in Abba’s bed, mmkay?!” [Zahava begins to take her leave from the room…]


Zahava: “Honey, if you want to come upstairs with me, I'll wait for you, but you need to actually move in my direction.”


      [Zahava ascends the stairs as the melodramatic shrieking swells behind her]

Yonah: “Ima I need HEEEELLLLLPPPPP! Ima, I don’t want to be alone! Ima! Ima! YOU GET BACK HERE AND HELP ME! I AM TALKING TO YOU! IMA! IMA! IMA!”

Zahava, (conjuring a façade of calm that she really doesn’t feel): “Yonah, you are a big boy. You know how to climb the stairs. I will be upstairs with Grandma and Grandpa. Please come join us.”

My mother-in-law: “Wow. He doesn’t really sound refreshed. I take it he's awake.” [unspoken mental response: "Ya think?!"]

Yonah (who is now half-way up the stairs and truly hysterical): “Ima! Ima! YOU GET BACK HERE! I AM TALKING TO YOU! IMA! IMA! IMA!”

Then, in a clear shift in strategy: “Ima! Ima! I HAVE TO MAKE! I CAN’T OPEN MY PANTS! I AM GOING TO MAKE IN MY PANTS!”

Zahava, (suspicious of the new tactic, continuing in a brilliant rendition of CALM!): “Yonah, I will help you when you come to me. I am sorry, but after the way you spoke to me I am not coming to you. You are a big boy, you have been going to the bathroom by yourself for a long time.”

Yonah (who realizes he is stuck and not getting me to come to him): “Ima! Ima! ARGH! ARGH! ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! ARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

My mother-in-law: “He sure is loud, isn’t he.”

Nerves frayed, I rise from the couch to get a glass of water from the kitchen. As I cross through the living room, the door to the downstairs opens, revealing a tear-streaked little boy.

Yonah, (sobbing): “Ima! Ima! I AM VERY ANGRY AT YOU! I AM VERY, VERY ANGRY AT YOU!”

Zahava: “Yonah, I understand that you are upset, but you may not scream to get my attention. It hurts my ears. It hurts my head. You are a big boy and I know that you know how to speak nicely.”

Yonah, (sobbing, but with a little less conviction): “Argh! Argh! Arrggghhhh! I want a hug, Ima.”

Zahava: “I’m sure you do, honey. Tell me that you're sorry for screaming and come over here and I'll give you a hug.”

Yonah, (quietly pulling himself together): “Okay. I'm sorry for screaming.”

Sniffling as he draws near he whispers, “Ima I love you” as he buries his head in my lap.

Zahava: “I love you too honey! Do you need help going to the bathroom now?”

Yonah: “No. I don’t have to make.”


My father-in-law (good naturedly): He’s a little tyrant…..”

So…. Ummmmm…. yeah. That pretty much sums it all up.

Hmmm, and only 5 more days to go. Well… at least we're more than half way there, right?

Posted by David Bogner on November 16, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Um, no... but thanks for playing!

There's a site called 'Gender Analyzer' where you can enter the URL of any website and it will analyze it (the website... not the URL!), to see if the author is a man or a woman (along with the degree of certainty they place on their results).

The funny thing is I am very friendly with someone who has actually written a very sophisticated algorithm for doing exactly that... so I'm curious to see whether he'll weigh in on the results this site gave when I plugged in the URL for Treppenwitz:
Um, only 61% certainty that I'm a woman is ambiguous at most, right?  I mean you'd have to score over 80% into enemy territory to be considered all "ah 5, 6, 7, 8...".   

Maybe it's like the 'Magic 8-Ball' ["Not clear... Try Again Later"] where your results are kinda random.  But damn... I've tried it like ten times and the results keep coming up the same!  Anyway, good thing I'm secure in my masculinity or these results would have really chipped away at my self esteem.

[hat tip:  Book of Joe]

Posted by David Bogner on November 15, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Calling Dr. Bombay

Okay, I haven't had much time to take pictures, but a few of you have emailed to say 'nu?  photos please' so here goes:

First up is a thoughtful little thing I've seen in all the airports here.
It is a sponsored ad panel that has a little shelf and charging cables for pretty much all the popular brands of cell phones... plus an outlet for plugging in any unsupported charging cable.   I mean duh, what a great idea!  Who hasn't been trapped in an airport with a dead or dying cell phone battery?  Here's a closer look:

Next is something you see all over the place here in Asia; a swastika.  Yes, I know it's an ancient religious symbol over here and has nothing to do with the Nazis or any modern skin-head movement.  But spotting one still never fails to knock the wind out of me.

My afternoon meeting yesterday was canceled because it was a holiday that my outlook calendar failed to warn me about (the birthday of Guru Nanak Jayanti).  So I took the opportunity to wander over to a local park with a tuna sandwich (I'm really getting sick of tuna and kabanos, let me tell you) and a can of coke where I watched a local cricket match (or practice... I have no idea which) on a beautiful sunny day:


I have to admit, after watching for almost two hours, the game is still a complete mystery to me.


It was a hot day, and at one point after I'd finished my coke I went over to a nearby street to see if I could locate another cold drink.  That's when I spotted this stand.  They basically take freshly cut sugar cane, put it through a mechanical crusher and sell the resulting juice:


Now, because of the whole kosher thing I'm limited as to what I can eat when abroad.  But looking at the entire process from start to finish there really was no possible problem... at least from a kashrut standpoint.  But because of my ingrained fear of consuming 'street food' - even 'street drinks' - in developing countries, I decided to pass up the sugar cane drink, and maybe... just possible... I spared myself a case of 'Delhi-Belly'.

The last set of photos for the day are from the elevator in my hotel here in Mumbai.  On the way up to my room after checking in yesterday, I spotted a reproduction of an old map of the city (from when it was called Bombay) on the elevator wall:


When I show you a close up of the lower right hand corner you'll understand why I got a bad case of the giggles the first time I glanced at it:


Instead of "... De Bombay"... I thought it said "... Dr. Bombay"... and I actually donkey laughed and snorted in an elevator full of people.  Yes, I was pretty over-tired from my early morning flight... and yeah, I watched way too much TV as a kid.

Have a nice day.

Posted by David Bogner on November 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack