Friday, January 25, 2013

Try To Stay Home

 

- Do you mind if I share your bench?
- No, sit down. Where are you from?
- I've been here many years. Originally I'm from Europe.
- From Italy?
- Yes. Where are you from?
- I'm from here. Though I just got back 10 days ago.
- From where?
- I've been in Europe most of the last 20 years. This time I was away about a year and a half.
- Where were you?
- Budapest, then Tel Aviv.
- What were you doing?
- Writing little stories and looking for a practical basis of life and not finding it.
- Doesn't sound good.
- It was terrible. From an economic point of view. But that's the wrong point of view.
- What's the right one?
- Artistic, emotional, intellectual, actually any point of view other than the economic.
- Everyone has to live.
- Well, in the economic world I live in everyone definitely doesn't have to live. I don't have to live. That's the message the world sends me. I have to live my life on another basis.
- How's that possible? You shouldn't talk that way. Everyone deserves to live. How are you living? Where have you living these past 10 days?
- It's a ridiculous, long story. Do you want to hear it?
- Yes, tell me. I don't often meet people like you.
- Well, first, I was in Tel Aviv and wanted to come home.
- Why?
- I was homesick. I was sick of Israel.
- Why?
- It's a terrible place.
- You had a terrible time there. Why?
- Because Israelis use money to isolate themselves from each other. No one needs to care about anyone or anything but acquiring and holding onto money. It's a catastrophe of human nature. Israelis are blind to each other except as sources of money and power. The human being has vanished.
- I find that very interesting. It explains my experience with Israelis here in Beverly Hills. So you wanted to come home.
- Yes. But I didn't have connections here in L.A. anymore. My family is at war with me. The only person I knew was a childhood friend and one year college roommate who I had lost contact with long ago. I looked him up and called his office in North Hollywood - he's a doctor - but he wouldn't come to the phone. Finally he talked with me. I told him I had to come home, and needed a place to go to. After a lot of protest he finally said, OK, call him when I arrived.  When I arrived three days later and called him at his office he refused to come to the phone.
- So you had no place to stay? And he didn't care?
- That's the economic world. In that world, no one cares about anything except in their spare time. It's not just Israel. Israel is the extremity the rest of the world is moving towards.
- Then what did you do? Where did you sleep?
- I didn't sleep. I spent the night at a 24 hour restaurant in Westwood. The next day I was on the way to see if the Chinese woman I used to teach English to still lived in Beverly Hills when I saw outside a temple down one street a security guard, a sort of philosopher, I'd talked to a few times. I went over and said hello, told him my story, and he said go talk to the rabbi, here's here: he's the top guy, the most powerful rabbi in the city.
- Is that true?
- Probably. It is the richest temple in the city, with its congregation of Jews from Iran who took out all their money and escaped before the revolution. The rabbi was in the temple, sitting on one of the audience benches, and I went over. Explained my situation. He said, what do you want me to do about it? I said I was from this place, and was coming home, and wanted some help to do that. What could he do, he asked? Did I want money? No, I wanted to be treated as what I was. I wanted to believe there was some civilization here, where when someone returns home he is welcomed back in some form. The rabbi looked at me like I was a lunatic and said nothing. Then he said, look around, we're all old people here. Young rabbis will be coming in a little while. Wait. I went outside and waited. In a few minutes first one man, then another, then another came up to me where I stood before the door to the temple, asked me who I was. All three turned out to be rabbis. When the most powerful rabbi in the city came out the rabbis went over to him. The big rabbi simply pointed at me, and throwing out his fingers signaled they should go back to me and take care of the the problem I represented. So they came back, and asked me what I wanted them to do. I repeated what I'd already said. Come to their sport and cultural center they operated, the old YMCA, they told me, at 7:30 that evening.
- And you went.
- Yes. They were having a festival for little kids, hundreds of them were milling about in and out of the rooms. The rabbis were there, gave me tea, a sandwich, told me to wait. At around midnight, the kids had gone home, and I was invited into the office, where were the three rabbis from the temple, and the grey bearded head rabbi of this center. The head rabbi proceeded to interrogate me. Was I a child molester? A criminal? Why was I in Beverly Hills, not New York? What happened to my family? I answered all the questions, showed them a background report on me from the same agency employers and landlords use, a cafe acquaintance had paid for the report when she wanted me to work for her a couple years ago and sent me a copy of it. At the end, the meeting broke up without resolution. One of the rabbis asked me if I knew of a cheap hotel in the neighborhood, he'd pay out of his own pocket for night, it was almost 1 in the morning by this time.
- Did the rabbi pay?
- Yes.
- So they're not so bad.
- The next night once more I stopped by the center. Another one of the three rabbis was there. I told him if he really wanted to talk with a member of my family, I'd found the mobile phone number of my brother in New Jersey. Did he want to call? He did. I listened to their conversation on the speaker:
- This is rabbi Yossi in Beverly Hills. There's a man here, he says his name is Rex. Do you know any Rex?
- Yes.
- He says he's your brother. Do you have a brother by that name?
- I do
.- So this man here is your brother?
- I have a brother named Rex. But I don't know if he is there. How does he look?
- He has grey hair.
- Does he look Ok?
- Yes, he looks Ok. Can I ask you some questions?
- Yes.
.- Is there anything we should know about him?
- Like what?
- He's told us he's just returned to L.A. and doesn't know any one here. Is that true?
- I haven't seen him in ten years. It could be true
.- Is there anything we should know about him?
- If you want to know if he is violent or steals, the answer is no.
.- You and he have the same mother and father?
- Yes, that's correct.
.- This situation is difficult to understand. You don't seem very interested. Why aren't you interested in him if you really are his brother?
- I got tired of him.
- You got tired of your brother?
- Yes.
- Why, if as you say he doesn't do anything wrong?
- He gets angry sometimes.
.- And does what?
- Says hurtful things.
- Says hurtful things?
- Yes
.- What do you recommend we do?
- I couldn't say.
- There's nothing more you want to tell me?
- No.
- What did the rabbi decide?
- Not to do anything.
- Where did you go?
- The 24 hour restaurant.
- All night?
- No, I met there a piano teacher who used to give his lessons at a church near where I was living 2 years ago.  He was having dinner with a couple a girls, students of his. He asked me what I was up to, I told him, he wished me good luck, and left. But he returned a little later, and said come to his house for the night.
- That was lucky.
- Yes. The next night, it was the 24 hour restaurant again.
- You can't live that way.
- No. But the day after, the piano teacher came to find me at my usual Starbucks, said he'd decided to pay for a couple nights at a hotel for me. I slept through those days and nights, and when they were up was walking by the Jewish center on the way to Westwood when the rabbis outside asked me in to join in the prayers. This kid was there now they'd suggested I meet before, but who I hadn't be able to reach by phone or email. I ended up staying with that kid that night. The next night he wasn't home, so it was the 24 hour restaurant.
- What about the Rabbis?
- What about them?
- They won't help you?
- There's nothing in it for them.
- What are you going to do?
- I can always go back to Israel.
- I thought you hated it there?
- I was homesick so I came home. I'm glad to be here. But it is an economic world here, and as I said, I don't live in that world. That world doesn't want me, and I don't want it. I can't ask what is impossible.
- But you said it was the same in Israel.
- It is. It's worse. But here the economic world is actively at war with its competition, the human worlds. You can't live here without money or a place to live. You'll be preyed on by the violent, both by violent officials and the violent for the hell of it. Israel is not at that point.
- You should try to stay here. It's your home.
- I'm trying.