It’s been a whirlwind in New York so far, after two years where all I had to worry about was learning to write a book, and writing one. A thousand thanks to the friends who’ve helped me with my transition to the big city. You know who you are, and you are the best.
Most of my energy so far has been consumed by networking with people who might be able to help with publishing and publicizing the book, looking for housing, and looking for a job. As for housing, I’m in a place in the East Village for a month with an NYU student and a guy who works at a comic book store (we’re always trying to out-nerd each other), and still looking for longer-term housing.
On the job front, it’s been harder than I anticipated to find a decent job in the city. When anyone gets a good bartending gig, they tend to sit on it forever, which means finding one for yourself is a matter of luck and connections. It was only through a connection with a friend from college who’s a regular at a Noho restaurant that I landed a position at possibly the best place to work in the city. It’s a high-end dim sum and Chinese BBQ place with fantastic ambience, amazing and creative drinks, and a staff that’s like one big family—Chinese cooks and Tibetan runners, an Israeli, a Swede, Aussies, Americans, people from every corner of Latin America, it’s a United Nations of food service.
Believe it or not, I actually enjoy working in the food service industry. You get to interact with so many people, and your whole day is spent in an atmosphere geared toward people having a good time. In general, like with traveling, it’s a shot in the arm to my faith in humanity. I find that if you treat people with kindness and respect, they almost always respond in kind. And if they don’t, it’s an indication of some kind of pathology or unhappiness or blindness in their life that hopefully they’ll be able to work through in the fullness of time, but it’s fundamentally not your problem.
Of course, everyone knows there’s a special place in hell for bad tippers. 😛
We share tips in a fair and egalitarian way (bartenders make about the same as waitresses, bussers and runners get a fair cut), everyone helps everyone else out, people are always playing little practical jokes and breaking meaningless rules while the managers roll their eyes, yet things go professionally and smoothly. I think the camaraderie among the staff is what gives it its vibe and makes the place what it is.
And we all understand that the job doesn’t define us, it’s just a reasonably pleasant way to make money. We all have creative interests outside of the restaurant, whether it’s painting, filmmaking, music, or writing, though admittedly the job takes a huge amount of time and energy away from those pursuits. Them’s the breaks until we make it big or find a patron like artists used to do in the old days.
I love New York because of the question you get when you meet someone new here: “So, what brings you to New York?” In that way it’s a lot like Ramallah and not at all like DC, where the first question is, “What do you do here?” followed by “What’s your security clearance?” People come to New York with a mission. The energy of the city at its best is of ambition that goes beyond money and status.
On the networking front, I’ve made tons of contacts and have endless more I want to follow up with, but I’ve barely had time to follow up with any of them because of all the time and energy taken up with finding a job and house. And then there’s trying to have a life—I have so man friends in the city I haven’t caught up yet with even though I’ve been here a month, and I have a standing invitation to a pick-up soccer game Tuesdays and Thursdays that I’ve still not managed to take up. I’m making the ultimate sacrifice of writing this email instead of watching the Real Madrid / Barcelona game because I just don’t know when else I’ll have time.
Then I was flattened with hay fever last week when spring decided to bust out all over (never had it nearly this bad before — still battling the congestion, coughing, sneezing, sore lungs, and losing half my body fluids through my nose each day, which is not a good thing when you’re starting work at a high-end restaurant), and now it’s time to do laundry and the one washer and dryer in my building is occupied.
Anyway, the point is, if I haven’t been in touch in person or over email in the past month, please forgive me, and please feel free to call or email me any time. Hopefully things will settle into a kind of equilibrium relatively soon. The weather is gorgeous, yellow flowers popping out of the sidewalk and trees blossoming pink and white and green, and once it all stops attacking my lungs with righteous fury, life should be pretty good. Definitely give me a buzz if you’re passing through the East Village in April, or NY any time.
There’s a huge amount to write about regarding Israel/Palestine/Washington, and precious little time to write about them, but I’ll give it a small go. So many things are shifting, so many little cracks are widening, it’s really exciting. The neocons are starting to slide out of favor and be replaced by Realists (who have their own problems, but at least they aren’t bat shit insane) like Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Colin Powell.
Netanyahu seems to have overplayed his hand when he spit in Joe Biden’s face by announcing new settlement expansion when the Vice President came to Israel to try to lay the groundwork for restarting peace talks. Etc. Obama is reportedly threatening to impose a two-state solution based on the Clinton parameters if Netanyahu doesn’t get serious fairly soon, which could have very interesting repercussions even if it might be too late to save a workable two-state solution, and now that he finally managed to push through health care reform(-ish), he’s got a little more political capital and space to work with.
And Palestinian non-violent resistance is getting front-page coverage in the New York Times, even if the Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner (whose son recently joined the Israeli army) seems able to tell only half-truths, to misrepresent history (Palestinian non-violence is nothing new, it’s been going on for decades), and to give credit only where it’s not due (the Palestinian Authority is not leading non-violent resistance—at best they’re belatedly jumping on the bandwagon). He never mentions that the route of the Wall is illegal, for example, and almost never mentions how many Palestinians, including many children, have been killed by Israeli soldiers during non-violent protests.
Israel has started cracking down in even more devastating ways, including this news that made the blood drain from my face: A new Israeli army order that could be a prelude to mass deportations from the West Bank. Now there will be much tighter control of the Israeli army over Palestinian life, and foreigners’ lives in Palestine, and possible massive loss of careers, friends, plans, real estate, university, especially for Gazans living, working, studying, or even born in the West Bank, for no justified reason. Another mechanism to try to demoralize and destroy the Palestinians. This decision takes everything out of the civil courts, which seem to have some kind of human conscience, and into the army’s hands. The army is known for brutally deporting first and asking questions never.
But it’s another sign they’re getting scared. They know their days of dominance are numbered, and the Palestinians’ renewed sense of solidarity and confidence is driving them insane. These sea changes are just the tip of the iceberg. The Zionist stranglehold on American discourse, while still extremely powerful, seems to be in inevitable decline. See this piece by no less than Netanyahu’s nephew comparing Israel ’s occupation to Jim Crow and Apartheid.
Cynics say it’s all political theater, all words and no actions, nothing has changed and nothing ever will. I don’t blame them, because in the past, the cynics have always been right. But cynics were always right about slavery never ending until it ended, about women never getting the vote until they did, about Apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union never collapsing, until they collapsed. Cynicism may be emotionally satisfying (the world will never disappoint my hopes again, because I don’t have any!), but it’s not very constructive.
Mistaking cynicism for wisdom is exactly what the people who support the status quo want you to do. Don’t fall for it. Anyone with any familiarity with history knows there are many reasons for hope. The brave people of Palestine, and the brave Americans and Israelis who are bucking and changing the mainstream discourse to support their quest for their legitimate rights, have many reasons to hope, not the least of which are each other.
Which brings me to the main point of this email. The good news is, my friend Rania’s husband will be out of jail in about four months. (If you’re not familiar with the story of my good friend’s husband’s brutal and unjustified arrest by Israeli soldiers, you can read the story here.)
The bad news is, so far I’ve only raised enough money to support the family until the end of April. Rania’s been trying all she can to find a job, still unsuccessfully—the economy in her area is devastated, and she’s a small-town girl and doesn’t have connections to help her out. Her extended family is struggling to survive as well, and his extended family is mostly poor, dead, or in jail. So I’m doing one last drive to raise $1,000 to get them through these last three months with enough left over to give them a little cushion after he gets out, in case he has trouble finding work, too.
If 100 people can give $10 each, we’ll have successfully helped a family through their darkest year and can finally put this issue to rest!
My Paypal account is email@example.com, or if you’d rather mail a check, email me for details. I have friends in the West Bank who can receive the money from me and transfer it to her account.
A thousand barrels of love spilled into the blue oceans,