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Friday, June 05, 2009

People-watching over breakfast

So, Ben Chorin, Mo Chassid, Mo's son and I all met for breakfast at the new dairy place on Emek Rafa'im (Luciana) around ten this morning.  It was a beautiful, warm morning with a nice breeze stirring, so we sat outside on the wooden deck overlooking the passing vehicular and foot traffic... shaded from the sun by huge umbrellas.

As we were tucking into our eggs and salads a rather corpulent man who looked to be in his 60s walked into the place with an enormous dog (a Bernese Mountain dog, I think) with a small red cowbell hanging from around his neck (the dog, that is... not the man).

He had a gray goatee (the corpulent man, that is... not the dog) and was wearing white shorts, a summery shirt (with tzitzit hanging out), a small kippah and eccentric eyeglasses that if worn by a less affluent person, would probably have been considered strange.  As he stood surveying the open tables for a likely place to sit, an unlit cigar that was at least ten inches long and easily as thick as my wrist, jutted from one side of his mouth.

Before picking a table, the man went inside the restaurant (leaving the sweet dog to wander over to our table for a scratch behind the ears), and emerged a few moments later with a big Tupperware filled with water for his canine companion.  He placed the water in front of his dog and began murmuring sweet nothings to it in Yiddish.  That is, I assume they were sweet nothings.  I don't understand a word of Yiddish... but his tone, and my vast experience murmuring sweet nothings to my own dogs, leads me to believe I'm pretty safe with this assumption. 

Once the dog had been watered, the man selected the table next to ours, toppled into his chair and signaled to the waitress for a menu.

I should mention at this point that the conversation at our table became quite spotty the moment the Yiddish speaking fat man with the big (Yiddish understanding) dog appeared on the scene with his cigar jutting from his mouth like a gun on a battleship. 

Once he'd settled into his seat and had ordered his breakfast, the man began a routine of patting his pockets that could only be a prelude to setting fire to his cigar.  Ben Chorin leaned over to me looking nervous and whispered, "I think he's gonna light that thing". 

Sure enough, the man located a box of wooden matches after searching only two pockets, lit one (a match, that is... not his pocket), and went through an overly elaborate lighting ritual that is familiar to anyone who has ever watched a a cigar smoker who is aware he is being observed.

I thought for a moment about complaining (I hate the smell of smoke), but since the breeze was mostly carrying the smoke away from us, I decided it wasn't necessary.  But I did whisper to Ben Chorin that the guy looked like a character from Mad Magazine.

Ben Chorin leaned over with a big smile and said, "This is really just too great... this guy with the white shorts, the big cigar and talking to his dog in Yiddish... this is almost too good to be true.  This is Gan Eden!"

I had to agree... as far as people watching goes, this really is as good as it gets.

Posted by David Bogner on June 5, 2009 | Permalink


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New dairy place on Emek? Name? I'm starting a list of all the places I want to try once I get there - and if the people watching is that good...all the better!

Posted by: Jesse | Jun 5, 2009 9:14:56 PM

i love how you take a simple happening and totally recreate the scene for us. thanks for sharing. Shabbat Shalom

Posted by: Hadassah | Jun 5, 2009 10:03:13 PM


Posted by: SaraK | Jun 5, 2009 10:11:07 PM

Should have given him the URL of the blog. Would have been fun to see his reaction.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 5, 2009 11:19:13 PM

Fantastic post. I was right there experiencing it with you. People watching in Israel is my favourite activity. Better half is looking for all the historic / archaelogical stuff and I'm wanting to find a Cafe Hillel / Aroma with street tables so I can take three hours over breakfast and watch the world amble by.

Posted by: Noa | Jun 6, 2009 12:31:56 AM

Neither of your (mameloshen speaking)companions could translate? Perhaps there is a special "Dog Yiddish" that one must study first ? I dunno....Great story nonetheless.

Posted by: Shmiel | Jun 6, 2009 1:15:13 AM

DELICIOUS story. Loved all the soto voce asides. I agree with Noa: I feel like I was there. (In the story -- not with Noa.)

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Jun 7, 2009 12:05:01 AM

just on the off-chance you haven't seen it... I haven't perused it yet, myself, but am just tickled over the premise:


hope it's nice. Roger Ebert referred to it in a movie review a bout a movie he was obviously bored by. ;o/

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jun 7, 2009 5:16:03 AM

Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows how I feel about having to breathe smoke. Nevertheless, I give this man lots of points for getting water for his dog before he sat down to eat.

Posted by: Rahel | Jun 7, 2009 3:42:48 PM

This short weekend in Yerushalayim, starting with (but by no means limited to) our lovely breakfast with the fat, cigar smoking, dog-loving, Yiddish-speaking, weird glasses guy, has confirmed for all time (not that it needed to be confirmed), that this city is one wacky place. OOS enjoyed the opportunity to finally meet you and Ben.

Posted by: moC | Jun 7, 2009 4:31:04 PM

A lovely moment. Thank you for sharing it.

I have the unhealthy habit (although a non-smoker myself) of loving the smell of tobacco, and especially cigar smoke. My Grandfather Eades smoked a brand called 1888's and we used to have the balsa wood boxes they came in. He helped engineer the highway that runs along Oregon's coast and I miss the quiet moments we shared watching old b&w movies late at night.

Posted by: christopher | Jun 8, 2009 10:11:45 AM

Our dog understands a bit of Yiddish. But he never would have tolerated being left alone outside. He would have cried and cried until every pretty woman around, or man with food, came and gave him the "oh you poor thing" pet/scratch/treat. He's very, very good at that.

I was just reading about this restaurant. If I get a chance to go, I will certainly keep an eye out for a fat, cigar smoking, dog-loving, Yiddish-speaking, weird glasses guy. :)

Posted by: Alissa | Jun 8, 2009 11:53:27 AM

It sounds a lot like the manager (or perhaps owner) of the Hess store in Jerusalem.

A couple of years ago I was there buying sausages for a jambalaya and there was a Burnese chained outside with a dish of water in the shade of a tree.

I surprised the owner by recognizing the breed and not calling it a St. Bernard as many people apparently mistake the dog for. He was amazed that a girl from Brooklyn knew the difference. I told him I was weird that way...

Posted by: Devo K | Jun 12, 2009 11:36:43 AM

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