Iphobic

Iphobia. You know what it is. It’s the sinking sensation in your stomach when you walk into a classroom and 200 students are staring down at little screens. It’s talking to someone in person and being interrupted by incessant little buzzes reminding them how popular they are. And it’s knowing that unless I want to be a self-righteous-friendless-loser, I will have to join the game, and get a smartphone too.

Yes, I could stick to my ideals and be strong-willed and just not get one. But I am more selfish than idealistic, I don’t want to always be the last one to know what’s going on, to be left out of conversations and to sit in traffic because I don’t have Waze.

Of course, most of the bad things about not owning a smartphone are in fact the good things. I still work on my sense of direction and if I am completely lost I am forced to roll down the window and ask the other driver. It takes too long to text someone who has WhatsApp (by the time I’ve punched the buttons enough times to get to the right letter, they’ve already sent a new message, and then I have to exit the message I’m writing so I can see what they said), so I just give up texting altogether and call the other person, who is usually pretty taken aback by the sound of a human voice.

But who am I kidding? I’m a student. I am on the computer all day, only I waste my life in front of a big screen while everyone else wastes it in front of little screens. My attention span, like everyone else’s, is getting shorter as my inbox gets longer. I, too, look at pictures of people whose names I can’t remember and I too convince myself that all of this horrifyingly isolating technology is actually connecting me with more people. I can come up with a list of excuses why I should get a smartphone. But like every stupid thing we do, the reason is probably just because it’s there. So, world, I have come to terms with my fate and am ideologically willing to accept a smartphone.

So, uh… you can just have it shipped to my house.

Marco Polo Solo Stays Home

Traveling is inhaling pieces of world.

When I explore a new place, I try to push aside the me in me. I empty myself of plans and presumptions, making room for the life around me to seep in. Since January I’ve been inhaling: stale motorcycle fumes and crisp Colorado air; I’ve been hearing new words and dancing to new beats; I’ve met people of different colors and calibers. I reached new heights, looking down from the crest of a continent; I got hit from behind and sank low into strong-smelling fears I never thought I would encounter.

I had intended to travel longer. I wanted to fill myself with more stories as my pockets emptied and time ran out.

But when I came home from America, I realized I had inhaled a little more than my body could hold. An exhalation was inevitable; but if I did it thoughtlessly, in between travels, I would scatter millions of moments into the air and they would never be mine again.

I have to unwrap all the presents I’ve been given, and they have to break up into little cells, to flow in with the rest of my blood, to form connections with the person I was and to turn me into the person I will become. Now, they are simply moments. I must turn them into something, into me.

Traveling shakes me up and throws me down; it forces me to find my own steady ground in this senseless, spinning mess. But if I do nothing with my memories, they will sit on the shelf collecting dust like old family videos. As William Faulkner said:

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”

Putting words together is my way of making a little sense of life. But sometimes, I have to arrest my own motion in order to do so. Do you remember the story about the poor villager who goes searching for treasure and later discovers it had been in his own home all along? If I am still searching for something, I can’t have to have to look too far.

My next journey will begin in a little over a month, only this time it will be in a seated position. I am going to live and study in Jerusalem and maybe be a bit normal for a while. I got a glimpse of the world; it’s big. And, contrary to prior beliefs, I am not. But although I may be smaller and less significant than the planet, I still have a shockingly large appetite. And there are still a few thousand places on the menu I want to try.

Watch out, world, I’ll be back.

What People Do When They Have Too Much Money

The population of Aspen comprises two types of people: the Very Rich and the Very Intelligent. The Very Rich go to Aspen to ski, golf, and to check off items on the list below. The Very Intelligent go to Aspen to attend meetings at The Aspen Institute, or simply to be Very Intelligent in a mountainous setting.

Being neither, it is quite surprising that I got there at all, and further yet – on a private jet. Somehow I did, and although I learned a thing or two from the Very Intelligent people, what I really gained insight on is the lives of the Very Rich. Here is what they do with all of their rich-ness.

My feet getting accustomed to luxury

  1. Get facelifts.
  2. Attend dinner parties, benefits and other events they cannot stand.
  3. Host dinner parties, benefits and other events they cannot stand.
  4. Buy a dog of an obscure breed and show off that he is superb at doing X. Usually something unheard of, like fetching a ball.
  5. Send the dog to a spa.
  6. Actually, I am not kidding.
  7. Get their kids tested for ADD, ADHD, Stupidity and all sorts of conditions that we all have, just don’t have the money to know about.
  8. Buy only organic food.
  9. Buy only organic food for the dog.
  10. Buy second homes.
  11. Buy third homes.
  12. Buy Ferraris.
  13. Buy yachts.
  14. Buy private jets.
  15. Buy good ol’ pickup trucks.
  16. I am kidding.
  17. Eat gourmet.
  18. Hire personal trainers to get rid of the “gourmet” around their waists.
  19. Hire a nanny (Hooray for nannies! Hooray for people with too much money)!
  20. Hire a chef.
  21. Give the chef a list of allergies and restrictions regarding each member of the family. During a different nannying job, I was warned about a kid who was “allergic to caviar”. If I would have been asked what “caviar” was when I was his age, I probably would have said a musical instrument.
  22. Hire a cleaner.
  23. Hire a driver, pool person, accountant, gardener, personal shopper…
  24. Hire a house manager.
  25. Above all, hire a shrink.
  26. Buy top of the line kitchen appliances and never touch them.
  27. Buy top of the line bike tools and never touch them.
  28. You get the idea.
  29. Shop for clothing at stores with Italian names.
  30. Eat at restaurants with Japanese names.
  31. Bite out of snails, slugs and other slimy creatures with French names.
  32. Swear by gurus with Sanskrit names.
  33. Engage in an activity in which you have to pay for the upkeep of tens of grassy acres, buy special old-people clothes, lots of little sticks, a little cart to drive your little sticks around, hire a person to drive your little cart with your little sticks around and throughout the whole day not even break a sweat – and consider it a sport.
  34. And then, due to all the stress caused by completing this whole list – get another facelift.
  35. Repeat until money runs out.

No, those little hairy things in the stroller are not humans.

Jewish Grandmothers 101

*Note to my own grandmothers: this is not about you!

I am not particularly fond of generalizations, but I think a few things can – and should – be said about Jewish grandmothers as a whole. I am excluding the fit blond ones I saw in Aspen because I think most of their Jewishness was taken away with their face-lifts. They are loving and lovable, but they can, in some cases, be somewhat unbearable (anybody read Portnoy’s Comlaint?) In order to understand their behavior better, we must understand the two intrinsic fears that guide them through life.

  1. The child/grandchild will go hungry.
  2. The child/grandchild will not get married/marry a goy.

All the following actions are directly linked to Fear #1:

  • Forcing food down your throat, verbally or physically. Physically includes that guilt-inducing glare.
  • Having three refrigerators, all full. And a barrel of cranberry juice and a lifetime supply of almonds in the pantry.
  • Giving you second and third helpings and then asking you why you are not hungry.
  • Freezing food. Some even slip into an unbreakable cycle of putting all fresh food into the freezer, and eating only defrosted foods.

In order to demonstrate Fear #2, I will share a real life example.

It is a Friday evening in Aspen, and it is my day off. Since I am Jewish, I figure the coolest thing to do would be to go pray. The woman next to me strikes a conversation, and within a remarkably short time, collects all the information she needs:

  1. I am Jewish
  2. I am a girl

After double checking that all of this is true, we move onto the next topic: her grandson. He has a college degree! He’s smart! He’s handsome! So, what do I think? I’m single, right? I would love him, she says knowingly. “But… you know, he really loves Florida. I don’t think he’d ever move from there. So if you’re not planning to move to Florida, don’t even bother.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. But she continues.

“No, you know what? You should still call him. I want you to call him. Here, I’ll get his number…” and she runs off to yell at her husband. “Okay, here’s the number,” she says, pleased with herself. “Will you call him?”

Um.

No.

1. I do not want to.

2. We are at shul, it is Friday night and you just said he was religious.

3. I am not looking to be set up with the grandson of a woman I just met. This ties into issue #1.

The husband settles the dispute: I am to email him after Shabbat.

“Okay,” I finally say, wondering how harshly G-d will judge me for lying to two nice people on a Friday night, in shul. Yeah, I’m probably going to hell. I walk over to the kiddush, happy to get a chance to get a better look at the food. As I am happily noshing on some cheese and crackers, I see the grandfather walk over to me. I look around. No grandmother. But what’s that in his hand?

And before I know it, a man I do not know is waving a photo of his grandson in my face.

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I know not how, but you must be punishing me for something! A few days later, as I am walking around town, I see them on the other side of the street! I duck back into the store I was in, casting furtive glances and practicing my James Bond moves, until I am certain they are out of sight.