Maira Kalman and MadMen on The Love of Walking

Love this video clip of illustrator Maira Kalman explaining her love of walking, as a source of inspiration and meditation. She beautifully describes the feeling I get every time I walk around New York for more than just a quick dog-pee around the block (and sometimes even during those walks).

There’s something so fun about exploring, discovering the tiny things you think others might not notice. I love finding children’s toys on the street; there’s a sad but beautiful juxtaposition between a bright and cheery toy lying discarded on a gray, grimy city street.

duck toy on street

What was serendipitous about discovering Kalman’s video today (thanks to Brain Pickings), is that last night I watched an early episode of MadMen, in which new neighbor and divorcee Helen Bishop explains to a group of perplexed housewives why she goes on walks around the neighborhood. A very interesting social commentary on how back then the value of “clearing one’s head” was not the shameless act of self-preservation it is today.

madmen helen bishop on love of walking

Hearing Much More Than an Accent

Leaving a friend’s apartment on the Upper East Side, I hailed a cab at 3am. I stood on the street waiting with my dog, for a cab with its light indicating it’s available. One pulled up, and the driver said out of his window “Just don’t let the dog on the seat.” I picked up Betsy, put her on the floor by my feet, to her dismay. The driver said “I love dogs. You know why I can’t let them on the seat. As soon as I saw you had a dog I immediately came over to take you. But please, not on the seats.” Fair enough.

Despite his thick accent, my driver and I spoke the whole drive.

His name is Godson, which gave me the funny feeling that this would be a significant ride. He told me of his love for dogs, and how he left his back in Nigeria. He said he’d rather bring things to there, than from there to here. I told him my dog’s from Israel, and he asked me how long I’ve been in New York.

He said, “If you really listen to a person, not just their accent, but the person, you really understand them.”

Even though he’s been in American for 29 years, when people hear his accent, they think he can’t really understand or speak English, and they stop talking to him. I said I can relate to that in some way; I know what it’s like to feel like your accent is all that anyone can hear, and everything else is sort of secondary conversation to a greater story.

Then he asked me if I was Jewish, and told me Jewish people are the greatest people there are. That Iran won’t get nuclear weapons.

I said “they might”. He argued, emotionally, “What? I thought you said you were from Israel. How can you say that?” I wondered if this was a language barrier – if his claim that they “won’t” obtain nuclear weapons essentially means they “shouldn’t”.

I have to admit that beyond hearing a few headlines in passing conversation, I have not been keeping up to date with this issue. My limited response was, “I don’t want them to get nuclear weapons – but that doesn’t mean they won’t.” Godson said, “I don’t believe you are saying this. They want to wipe Israel off the earth – they say that. If you aren’t against them getting a nuclear bomb, then you’re supporting them. You must protest this.”

To which I said, simply, “You are right.”

He said I sounded smart, and wanted to know what I was doing in Israel. I told him I worked for a company that helps people create their own websites. I explained that it’s for small businesses, or individuals that don’t necessarily know how to do computer programming. Excited, he told me he has a small business.

I got out of the car with his contact information, and the promise that I’ll build his business’ website in exchange for a couple of free cab rides. And, more importantly, the feeling that I owe it to the last 4 years I experienced — all the incredible people that became my close friends — to play a much more active role in understanding Israel’s current political situation.

He let me off once we got to my apartment. We said we would meet later this week, to make his website.

It was one of the most enjoyable cab rides I’ve had in awhile.

A Life Story Told in Arm Tattoos

This was sent to me today, and I can’t stop thinking about it. This woman speaks so beautifully, and so confidently about her tattoos and I’m inspired by how strongly she feels connected to them.

Storybook by Nora Flanagan from Emma Coleman on Vimeo.

She expresses the resolve I wish I had about my tattoo.

A Patriotic Crisis and Happy July 4th

4th of July Fireworks

July 4th is for some reason a holiday I just can’t find that much to complain about. It reminds me of Oscar the Grouch’s conundrum of being angry, which makes him happy which makes him angry which makes him happy. Which makes him angry.

Anyway it’s my 1st time being in the U.S. for July 4th in 4 years. I’m more excited than usual for fireforks. I imagine myself later on tonight staring up at a lit-up sky and contemplating how much my life has changed in the last few months.

Patriotic Crises of Late:

1. I cannot take my dog anywhere in Manhattan. I feel like that song “No Dogs Allowed” from Charlie Brown’s “Snoopy Come Home” movie is on loop in the background. The song made me sad then, and it makes me sad now. I walk into a bagel shop with her in my arms and I’m greeted with frantic “no, no, no!” I am aware that I’m not the right one in this situation, but it’s just so different from what I’m used to from Tel Aviv.

2. No one just sits around at cafes and reads. Everyone’s so busy and everyone has tight schedules and you’re expected to be places on time.

3. My gut instinct is still to say “Excuse me!” in Hebrew when I bump into someone. It’s really embarrassing and it makes me feel really awkward just to be around myself in the few seconds immediately afterwards. Thankfully it rarely registers in the other person.

4. I do really love not having to use the words “B’seder” at all. I absolutely cannot stand that phrase for some reason. Mostly because of the “r” sound at the end, which is physically and emotionally impossible for an American, in my opinion, to make without sounding like a huge tool. It means “OK” but Israeli’s use it as a response to “What’s up?”, which doesn’t make sense in English. Thankfully I’m not having that debate anymore with anyone.