Look long, look hard people: this is what rejection looks like. £6.87 in pre-paid postage, and they photocopy the same letter so cheaply even the signature is smudged. To top it off, I’m reduced to the generic Writer. Dear Writer , but last time I checked (now), Unpublished Novel #1 was very much attached to a name…
I had high hopes for this one – Ms. Davidson and I share truncated careers at the same two Reputable News Agencies (™) in the same chronological order.
But never mind. It’s not like I’ve been having a tough few days or anything.
On a related not: does anyone know a good spinal surgeon?
Sufi died today. She had been struggling with illness for many months, with adversity for over a year.
I have been writing this post for a long time in my head, and yet now that I have to sit down and actually put pen to paper, I don’t know how. She died in my arms and I dug her grave and buried her under a tree.
She came into my life with my wife. The first time I met my wife’s family (at her birthday bbq), I was so nervous that I managed to lock myself in the bathroom by breaking the door handle. I continued being scared until, just as everything seemed too much, this little white and brown dog decided she would sit on me. Decided, for I didn’t have a say in it. I must have looked comfortable, and so on she climbed and wouldn’t leave. Not that I wanted her to.
A few months later, Wife and I were playing house when her parents decided to take a weekend break. Sufi was due to stay with us for three days, but in reality she never left. By the end of the first day I had fallen deeply, unsettlingly, in love and after three weeks of me asking for “just one more day”, both my wife and her family had given up.
Sufi was not your normal dog. She was stoic and opinionated, angry and forthright, moody and difficult, tender and compassionate. She was perfect, and she was my best friend. She turned a couple into a family and showed me how wonderful the future would be. She dominated our lives as she dominated our bed and, until first Young Dog and then our daughter arrived, she would share all our experiences and never leave our side. When she began to get sick, we tried not to imagine what it would be like without her.
Now we know.
Though in time there may be relief in the knowledge that she is no longer in pain, for now there are only the callouses on my hands from where I dug her resting place beneath that shady tree, and waves of nauseating, unbearable grief. Nearly thirteen years after my wife’s mother saved her from abandonment in an empty lot, and six years after I fell in love, tomorrow will be the first Sufi-less day. The world is an emptier, colder place. And we miss her too much.
Walking Young Dog in our area, I got flashed by a vehicle coming up behind. Being the courteous resident that I am, I pulled aside to let him past (Kerem Hataymanim doesn’t really have pavements) but as he came alongside, he rolled down the window of his white van and leaned out, his gigantic middle age belly flopping over the door.
Him: “Brother. Achi. Listen to me. You want another dog?”
Him: “You want another dog?”
Me: “No thanks. One is enough.”
Him: “No achi. You are not understanding. Not as well. Instead. Bimcom. I take this and give you other one. You want?”
Sometimes a conversation just has to end. And sometimes you have to run somewhere with a locking door. Quickly.
Never invite an unpublished author to your wedding. We’re not particularly good at moderation generally; moderation with alcohol specifically. Therefore, an open bar – an integral and inseparable part of all good weddings – is a nightmare in waiting. Initially socially awkward, after a few drinks I’m funny, witty and even charming. After a few more though, I’m a bore, and nearing a bottle (an inevitability, really) I’m a train-wreck. Wife is very good at moderation, however, so I can always count on her to a)nbe bored, b) get me home, and c) be ruthlessly vengeful in the cold light of day. Blackout usually arrives with the second bottle, and so she can delight the next morning in running through a best-of of the most excruciatingly embarrassing moments in torturous detail.
Last night I apparently:
– Kept an entire table rapt while I listed most of the countries of the world without, unfortunately, ever finding a point.
– Couldn’t understand that an amateur singer wasn’t a professional. I was even more perplexed that the British Home office doesn’t employ singers.
– Was sure nobody would notice my chronic hiccuping.
– Didn’t recognise that I didn’t speak Italian.
– Found a set of business cards in my suit pocket and proceeded to hand them out to complete strangers.
– Left without Wife and sat down on the floor of a petrol station when I realised I had no idea where I was going.
All in all, it was a rather tame night by Unpublished Author wedding standards. I didn’t throw up in a moving cab. I didn’t insult the bride, or the groom, or any important close family. I didn’t pass out or punch anyone, and I even didn’t tell anyone that I hated them and wanted them to die. Maybe it was due to my three piece suit – unpublished authors rarely get to dress like a pimp, so for once I was feeling like a right Don Juan.
Sure I was still drunk as we made our way to the airport, and sure when the hangover hit it was (and remains) the definition of brutal (I’m pretty sure there’s now an orangutang sitting on my head an poking an ice pick into my eye), but even Wife resentfully admitted that, by my own yardstick, I had behaved rather well.
For her sake, I’ll make sure to be less well behaved next time… I know who I’ll use as my inspiration…
Milan wedding. No.
6am flight. No.
3am wakeup. No.
Creepy old man alone in the park. No.
Transsexual hooker with her John. No.
Topless jogger not jogging. No.
Gang of fifteen year olds getting drunk in the road. No.
Two men having a chat (as they both piss on our wall). No.
Long term parking full (due to never-ending holiday). No.
Invasive, racist, security check with a smile. No.
Emasculated poodle at check-in with curlers in his hair and owners from “Best in Show“. No.
Guy at coffee shop calling a name that’s not a name and then looking at me like I’m the tool. No.
Hours and hours to a shower and a bed. No.
No. Just no.
No, we mostly talked about writing. Why he is (frequently) published, and why I’m not. The general advice, the same as it ever was: persevere. Oh, joy! Just let me adjust the hose between exhaust and window…
As I travelled through Haifa, trying to find the exit to Tel-Aviv while my mind desperately pushed thoughts of perpetual poverty and unfulfilment into a cold dark recess at its rear, I noticed something strange: Haifa itself.
Tel-Aviv-Yafo‘s supposedly one city, but in truth the two are as separate as Tel-Aviv and Beirut. Sure you get a few Arabs shopping in Tel-Aviv’s malls and markets, and barbecuing in Charles Clor park on Fridays. And sure Jews head to the (gentrified) northern Jaffa to shop at the flea market and fetch themselves authentic humus. But for the most part the Jewish city and the Arab city do not mingle.
So it was a shock to see that in Haifa, they do. Many, if not most, street signs are in both Hebrew and Arabic (apparently the country’s second official language… no, really), and the nicest street I saw, full of coffee shops and quirky stores, had a mixed clientele that you simply don’t see in the country’s centre.
Of course, this could just be my eyes seeing things that aren’t there. Though “Red Haifa” is renowned as the most integrated of Israel’s cities, community relations in the country aren’t exactly… ahem… at their warmest. But still, I have to head back some time and explore more deeply. After all, it’s worthwhile seeing whether the impression I got is more than a fleeting feeling…
Unpublished authors work at home. It’s just what we do. But home in Tel-Aviv is usually a tiny apartment, a third of which is occupied by a ‘mamad’ or safe-room (more on that in another post), surrounded by a city going through one heck of a property boom.
That means you can’t take two steps without coming across a building being torn down, being built up, or being ‘shiputzed’ (renovated). Like our street: there’s knocks and clangs and drilling and shouting of ‘habibi!’ on three of our four sides. And someone in our building’s apparently trying to knock it down.
I’m trying to work. Work I tell you! KNOCK IT OFF!!!!
Old Dog is very sick. She’s got a heart murmur, is epileptic, suffers from often-acute kidney failure and is on a cocktail of drugs that would shame Ozzy Osbourne. She is also paranoid of anything coming near her mouth and, though nearly toothless, will try and gum you to death. This is surprisingly painful. Hence the tube sticking out from her neck.
Understandably, considering her condition, she spends a lot of time at the vet. Actually, not a vet, but rather the teaching hospital of the Jerusalem University veterinary school. This, surprisingly, is not actually in Jerusalem, but rather is wedged mid-way between Tel-Aviv and the – ahem – delightful city of Rishon Letzion. Her doctor is a rather statuesque lady with a lot of cats. As befits an Israeli cat woman of such standing, she has no social skills whatsoever.
A far from exhaustive list of examples:
1. After admitting her for “24 hours” (turned into two weeks): “She’s not doing as well as I’d like.” What we understood: “she’s gonna die”. What she meant: “well, because of the heart condition we can’t treat her as we’d like, but all things considered, she’s doing amazingly.”
2. After a week of not eating: “Well, we have to look at drastic options. We’ll have to put her to sleep.” What we understood: “she’s gonna die.” What she meant: “We’ll need to anaesthetise her and put a tube in her neck.”
3. Before the tube op: “Don’t worry, I’ll let you know before so you can come and say goodbye.” What we understood: “she’s gonna die.” What she meant: … actually, there was a good chance she was gonna die.
I usually leave quietly sobbing to myself (unpublished authors are notorious softies), and she usually calls me quickly to apologise for any ‘misunderstandings’ (no doubt tipped off by those of her students with fewer cats). But we’re really indebted to her – against all the odds, the dog’s still alive to fart and bite and be grumpy. And pee on the rug.
Hate to live up to a national stereotype, but I’m gonna talk about the wather.
If I tell anybody from ‘back home’ that I actually look forward to rain, they usually look at me as if I’ve just burned a winning lottery ticket. I must be, they figure, ungrateful and slightly unhinged. But here in the Middle East, rain isn’t a frustrating and inconvenient burden and a sunny day isn’t an unqualified blessing. With the cloudless sky comes intense, burning heat that makes the city unbearable, the people crabby and dangerous, the streets dusty and the air thick and rancid. For six months of the year, that’s the reality: nasty, brutish; dirty and filthy in a manner that no number of showers can alleviate.
But then, some time around Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, that never-ending heat suddenly breaks and a first few blessed droplets fall. Then the heavens open up and it’s as if all this city’s grime and indecency, its simmering agression and hostility, even its uncompromising ugliness are destined to be cleansed and washed away. Of course, no silver lining can be without a dark cloud: soon the roads will be flooded, roofs will leak, traffic chaos will reign and sewers will overflow to allow raw excrement to flow in the street…
The first rain fell last night and all those bad things haven’t happened. Yet. So I can celebrate and be thankful:
Winter is finally coming. Thank fuck for that.
Hipster, alcoholic or crack-head?