Posted by Mihal Levy
If a person is born in America, raised in America and English is his/her first language doesn’t that make
me American? Well, logically - yes. But in reality, not at all. Let me explain.
My parents were FOPs (Fresh Off the Plane) in the 70’s and landed in, of all places - Hollywood, of course (well, first Westchester-LAX and then ended up in Hollywood). Fast forward to the birth of their firstborn, a daughter, a year after their arrival. Still FOPs, only now with a newborn - an American newborn nonetheless. Hebrew is their first language. English their third or fourth (right after Yiddish, Polish, Romanian). They raise their daughter speaking Henglish (a combination of Hebrew and English). Luckily for the daughter, she is able to pronounce the “th” sound naturally, not found in the Hebrew language (and completely unprounounceable by almost any Israeli I have ever met). Unluckily for their daughter, however, a supposed native English speaker, she attends her first year of formal education at the age of four, pronouncing banana - “Bon-Non-Ahh.” And pegged an outsider from that moment on in both her native birthplace of Hollywood and her virtual one of Israel.
That little girl was me (in case you hadn’t figured it out by now). The journey has not been easy. And entering elementary school with an accordian-fold briefcase book carrier while everyone else had backpacks did not make it any easier (of course they were not rolling backpacks back in the day, but the kind you actually wore on your back - go figure). Lunches with hummus pitas (see my previous story - The Great Lunch Divide) didn’t help me fit in either.
When friends would come over to my house, they would say things like “how do you understand your parents? I don’t know what they are saying.” Of course I understood them…what they were saying, anyway. My friends didn’t understand the whole breakfast for dinner concept or why my parents spoke to me in Hebrew when they were upset. So, I thought maybe I should get some Israeli friends.
So began my quest in my early teen years when it finally hit me….like an overwhelming spray of Drakkar Noir sprayed directly into my nostrils. (For those unaware of the ‘chosen’ cologne for the Middle Eastern population, you now know: good ol’ Drakkar.)
I quickly found my friends by following the strong stench of the cologne. And if that was not enough to identify them, there were the beepers (now I am really dating myself) permanently attached to their hips…not to mention get-rich-quick schemes they or their parents were involved in, like opening a booth at the swap meet or a cart selling junk at the mall. At the time these were the things I could relate to because of my parents’ friends (thankfully, my parents never got involved in the get-rich-quick schemes…but I’m sure they thought of it).
I thought this is probably where I belonged. I liked the food. I spoke the language. I knew the ins and outs of it all…but I was American…only my American friends didn’t think so and my Israeli friends didn’t think I was Israeli. I couldn’t win.
I later thought that maybe it was because I should actually be in Israel. I was sure I would be happier in Israel, so we went on family vacations many summers. And those were always a nightmare…besides the great food, fun nightlife and the ability to speak the language, it was always tough. Store clerks would yell at me when I would ask a simple question like, “What do you mean?” in Hebrew with a perfectly good accent, or ask the store clerk to help me count my change because I didn’t understand you could have half of a cent, and what did that look like. They looked at me like I was slow. I always had to explain that I wasn’t from “here.” They would shrug and laugh and I can never forget one store clerk in Tel Aviv who said, “Yeah, right, you are from Hollywood?” I nodded and said yes, but didn’t realize she was actually mocking me. They didn’t believe it. I had the Israeli name, the FOP clothes and the accent. My name was great growing up and turned into Mee Haul over the years, so began the U-Haul jokes and more. Fun, fun. Why couldn’t I have had the name Jane? Jill? It would’ve made my life that much easier, but I digress…
Then there was my large extended family in Israel that I would visit in the summers. They never understood why I spoke to my parents or brother in English while we were vacationing in the Holy Land. Was I hiding something? Keeping secrets from them? No, that was my native language. That is what I spoke at home. I even explained that I thought in English and dreamed in English and the translation got lost somewhere between my brain and my mouth every time I tried to express a thought in Hebrew. No matter how much I always tried to defend myself, there was some misunderstanding that got lost in translation. (I am sure until this day there is at least one cousin or aunt/uncle that is still holding a grudge for something I had no idea I had even done.)
So, I finally realized that I was just not meant to fit in L.A. or Tel Aviv and have since gracefully accepted my fate. (I’m still wondering why trips to Italy years ago made me feel more welcome than my “homeland.” But that is a whole other blog.)
So, happy birthday to a country that has thoroughly made my life all the more difficult. Happy early birthday to my mom as well (who’s as old as a country - Israel) for not making it any easier on me. Israel, despite what you have put me through quite often…I still honor you and what you stand for; the holy Mecca for many religions and vast cultures. Wishing you peace; happy birthday and a million more. And today I celebrate you in my Isramerican way by eating falafel and apple pie.
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April 16, 2010 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
“Do you like Beyonce?,” is all I heard as I was daydreaming and about to walk into my happy place - the bookstore. I can’t remember what I was daydreaming about, but it was definitely not Beyonce. I snapped out of my daydream about to enter the bookstore, where I could get lost for hours in the stationery section alone. (I must’ve been a writer in my past life…) Then i heard it again, only louder this time. “Hey, do you like Beyonce?”
I turned around since at this point it was probably not the voice in my head, because it never once had mentioned Beyonce in the past, the voice in my head, that is.
I turned around and there he was “a Homie” as he introduced himself, “Hi, I’m a Homie.” He took off his hat and bowed revealing tattoos on his neck, face and shaved head. I think the only place I didn’t see one was up his nostrils, but then again I didn’t look that close.
I said, “Hi?” (as a question.) I was not sure what Homie wanted from me, but decided to stop and find out. Maybe he was a fan of Jew Mama (because many people stop me and recognize me from my blog…ok, they don’t…but maybe HE was different).
Homie continued, “Why did you walk away when I asked if you liked Beyonce?” I answered, “because I was thinking about all the books I came to purchase.”
“But how could you be excited about books anyway?” Ok, now I was officially having a conversation with Homie in the middle of the bookstore…so I did what any other non-Homie Mom in a hurry would do and I continued the conversation.
“You’re also in the book store, you tell me…”
“I’m only in here because I followed you.” At this point I began to worry.
He continued, “I just saw you and and wanted to tell you about my latest CD because you look like a Beyonce fan and hip-hopper (first time I’ve ever been told I look like a hip-hopper, maybe my Mommy garbs of jeans, a sweatshirt and flip flops merited the hip-hop look).
Homie ended up telling me all about his new hip hop project with a Beyonce-like singer and a CD that was only $5, now soliciting inside of a book store. Although I may have looked like a Beyonce-hip-hop lover (to Homie, anyway), I was not.
Even though I didn’t buy a CD, I wished him well on his journey of hip-hopping and CD sales. He said that although I was not a fan of “the hip-hop,” I was still cool. Cool in Homie’s book was alright with me.
I continued through the book store and couldn’t help but think of Homie and his impression of me. Of course he was probably just trying to sell his CDs. I finally found what I was looking for - some books for my son, not me this time.
I headed to the register to pay and encountered a hippie wearing a tie-dyed tee with dreads in his hair. He began to ring me up, “You are a country music fan, right?” I was SO not a country music fan, as much as I was not a hip-hopper.
“Actually, I’m not a fan. I appreciate good music, but it is just not my thing,” I said once again.
He seemed shocked, “Really?”
“What made you think I was a country music fan, just curious.”
“I don’t know, you just look like it.” Should I have told him that moments before I looked like a hip-hopper and nothing changed from the time I left the children’s section to the register?
He continued, “Oh, so what type of music do you like? Favorite band?”
I answered truthfully, “Metallica.”
“You don’t seem like the Metallica type.” But I did seem like the hip-hopper or country music “type?”
“Well, I guess you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” I replied. (Bad pun intended.)
April 13, 2010 | 11:45 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
Glee returns from it’s hiatus tonight on Fox at 9:28 pm (returning to 9:00pm slot next week). And I am thrilled to be dusting off my character shoes and returning to musical theatre as well…vicariously through the cast members of Glee. (I hung up my character shoes long ago.) But with Glee’s new day and time slot, the hit musical comedy television show will go up against Lost at the same time. Will it be good news or bad news for Glee?
All is not lost for Glee (excuse the bad pun). Lost will still have it’s viewers and Glee will have theirs. Just for the record, I have never watched one episode of Lost. I am not even sure what it is about except for a group of people stranded on an island. Is the Skipper there too, a millionaire and his wife? See how much I know about the show. What a Gleek I am. So I don’t think there will even be a competition and if by some strange reason someone is both a fan of island adventures as well as teenage musical comedies, there is always TiVo or the VCR. (Does anyone even own one anymore? Oh, wait, I do.)
So whether you are a Gleek or a Lan (lost fan- I made it up), enjoy your Tuesday evening however you choose to spend it. And for those who are indecisive I say unbiasedly- why not get lost tonight…in a high school musical dramedy.
April 8, 2010 | 1:07 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
Tiger Woods is front and center, yet again, only this time in an ad for Nike.
I have not written about Tiger Woods due to the overhype of it all and wanted to avoid more free press for Mr. Woods. But when I came across Nike’s latest ad, I decided to write. The ad made me want to turn in my New Balance running shoes and go out and grab a pair of Nikes instead. (No, not really.)
The ad aired last night on ESPN and is a black and white close up on Tiger Woods, who remains expressionless and still and does nothing but blink (that’s when you know you’ve really made it - when you don’t have to do anything in a commercial but collect residuals.) As the camera zooms in for a close up, there is a voice over from his deceased father, Earl Woods, “Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive, to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And, did you learn anything?” Then the ad cuts to the Nike symbol and ends.
Deep or just plain creepy? All I kept thinking was, “huh?” Why? What was the purpose? Well, even though it is quite obvious that Nike wants everyone to talk about the ad. (Unfortunately I am included in that pool now.) Is it really going to kick up Nike sales? I’m just saying…
See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIYejgkqd0o
April 6, 2010 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
I got “me time” yesterday for a few hours. Well, let me rephrase that: “me time to run not-me errands,” which is usually how “me time” works. (And what I mean by “got” is that it had to fit into everyone else’s schedule, of course.) Where was I going? First stop - the mall. Ugh. Those of you who know me, stalk me or read my previous posts know that I HATE the mall. In fact, I dread going there, but somehow it ends up on my to-do list quite often. Usually because my son wants something from the Disney store or to drive the arcade cars that suck up all the quarters from the bottom of my purse. In this case I was heading there to return some items I purchased online (hoping to avoid the mall in the first place). I was now heading to the mall, because more than I hate the mall, I hate the post office and couldn’t imagine going to the post office to mail back the return items and wait another week and a half for my son’s summer tees to come. So…back to running “not me errands.”
On my way to the mall, I thought about actually doing something for me. But what would that be? I could not think of one thing. What do moms do to pamper themselves? According to most of my mommy friends the answer is simply “shower or sleep in,” two things that are quite rare in mommies’ worlds. Well, since I already showered and sleeping in was null at this point, I thought, “I know, I’ll get a manicure.” That sounded like a pampering sort of mommy thing to do. But something about waiting in a crowded nail shop with the fumes of formaldehyde and acetone just to be soaked, filed down and talked about in a foreign language did not appeal to me. And just as this thought came to my mind, I spotted a Rite Aid on my right and turned into the parking lot. Aha! I would purchase a new nail color and just manicure myself later…plus we could use a few things at home.
So, after I picked up toothpaste and soap, I headed to the nail polish section. And there it was - “Sally Hansen - Insta Dri.” The quickest mommy manicure that dries in seconds. I read the label. “Dries in seconds (as I mentioned) and only needs one coat.” I was ecstatic and they were on sale. What more can a mommy-on-the-go-on-the-way-to-non-mommy-errands-who-hates-shopping-and-manicures ask for? I bought two (because it was buy one get the second half-off). So I chose a lime green one and a pink one. I paid the cashier and hurried to my car.
I gave myself a quick polish of lime green. (A little brighter than I had intended, but what was I to do now, head back in for nail polish remover? Well, I could, but I didn’t.) So voila…after one coat on ten fingers I debated painting my toe nails as well since I was wearing flip flops, but a guy behind me was honking and waiting for my space (I didn’t know that). He was lucky that it was quick dry polish, otherwise he may have to have waited even longer. (You’re welcome, mean guy in a gas-guzzling SUV with a Napoleon complex!)
I backed out and headed on my way to the mall with freshly “manicured” lime green nails. I felt great! It doesn’t take much to make me happy. I arrived at the mall feeling I had done something for “me,” and it only took less than a minute to do (give or take a few seconds to choose the color).
I arrived at the cashier to return my items. The cashier noticed my nails and said, “I like your nails,” then looked down at her own and said, “boy, do I need a manicure.” I wanted to fill her in on my secret, but thought again…maybe I’ll just let her wait ‘til I write about it.
April 5, 2010 | 11:00 am
Posted by Mihal Levy
Yesterday, Los Angeles not only rocked but rolled as a 7.2 earthquake hit Mexicali, not too far from the San Diego/Mexico border. Reports explained that the “rolling” lasted for forty seconds, which felt like hours. Feeling a little woozy, I still tied my running shoes up for a quick run when the quake hit, only I thought it was me and not the earth shaking things up.
To confirm reports (after the shaking subsided), I logged on to Google and then Facebook (a valid news source, of course) to confirm that the earth did, in fact, shake and I hadn’t had too much caffeine; as well, as to see if my friends in San Diego and L.A. were safe. (Being a native Californian gives one an inherent feeling of needing to confirm the fact that there was an earthquake and needing to know the size and epicenter as well for some strange reason. Perhaps to see if it was, in fact, “the big one?”) Lo and behold there were updates from many of my “friends” in the area of course. (I put the word friends in quotes, because how many people out of your 500+ pool are truly your friends?) All was ok, but what wasn’t ok was the number of people that actually updated their status during the quake.
Correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn’t we run and take cover before we update our statuses, or at least wait for the shaking or rolling to subside. I understand Facebook is a source of validation (I don’t know how anyone ever felt validated about their decisions, career choices, gigs, opinions or even what they were going to eat for dinner before Facebook), but before validation or the comfort knowing that others experienced it as well, please take cover and make sure you make it through to update your status afterward.
Reading the updates, I realized that living in California automatically makes people experts in the field of earthquakes (myself included). Even the infamous woman at Cal Tech (who happens to be at Cal Tech during ever major earthquake since I was a toddler and happens to appear on the news shortly after each hit) has nothing on the California resident experts. She is not the only expert. Talk to anyone living in California and they can give you the same information she does, only without a seismograph.
From the updates on Facebook yesterday and having grown up in this shaky state, I realized that we truly are earthquake experts - seismologists, in fact. Whether someone has lived here all their life or for a good few years, they become experts. How can you not? I realized that we all share the same knowledge in fact.
Here are the things that Californians just know.
1) Know the scientific term for the type of earthquake that hit. “It was a rolling earthquake.” “A couple of quick jolts.” “More of a rocking-type motion.” (Just a few of the familiar descriptions.)
2) Can tell you how the latest quake compares to all the others. “This was more like the one back in….” And everything is always compared to the Northridge quake (I was attending Cal State Northridge when that one hit - just had to slip that one in here).
3) Use fancy words like “seismologists, epicenter, faultline, Cal Tech, and seismograph,” when talking about the quake.
4) Can tell you where the fault lines are located.
5) Can tell you the size of the earthquake and the epicenter of it. “That definitely felt like a 7.0 at least…and it must have been centered around here, because we really felt it.”
6) Will joke about the quake when it is over, even though they were scared beyone belief during the quake. “That was fun!” “Oh, it’s over already.” Or the famous one yesterday as it hit on Easter - “Maybe that wasn’t a quake at all, but a return visit from JC.” (He was Jewish - it was both Passover and Easter…so perhaps?)
7) Will prepare an earthquake kit immediately following the quake, drive quickly through tunnels, rearrange hanging pictures and glass objects on high shelves, reinforce bookshelves to the wall and even plan on moving out of state for up to a couple of weeks after each earthquake hits, then they we quickly forget.
8) Don’t usually take cover until the rolling, jolting or shaking has gone on for over a few seconds too long.
9) Don’t even take cover until they are reassured that it actually is in fact an earthquake, asking the people around them, “Did you feel that?” “Are we having an earthquake?” And once confirmed, they move into hiding or a doorway, because who drops and covers like we did in elementary school any more? And no one wants to feel stupid if they are the only one dropping and covering.
10) Can even predict an earthquake by the weather. “It is definitely earthquake weather lately, you know what that means…” or “We haven’t had an earthquake in a while, I can just feel it…it will happen this week. You’ll see.”
11) All bring it up in almost every conversation for at least the following week and recap where they were and how they felt (often denying the truth, of course, that they were scared out of their minds). “Did you feel it? Because I didn’t even feel it, I mean, I felt it…but it didn’t feel like anything, really…I wasn’t even sure it was an earthquake…I just went on with what I was doing…so used to them by now..if you know what I mean.” But what the person really meant was, “I was scared sh!&less and didn’t know which way to run. The whole time I kept thinking…I hope this isn’t the big one, I hope this isn’t the big one. And that is just what every Californian always wonders: “Is this ‘the big one?’”
We have had quite a few “big ones” and unfortunately so have many other countries as of recent. There is nothing to do but “ride it out” and be as prepared as we can be (whatever that means), but whatever you do in typical Californian style, just don’t Facebook and ride. Wait until the ride is over and the validation that you receive is that you made it…what more can you ask for? I know, I know, a comment on your status update…or even your blog.
By the way - you can add me on Facebook: JewMama
April 2, 2010 | 12:08 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
My Glee saga continues as I prepare for the audition or contemplate auditioning…still. Since I am too old to begin with (geez…who knew that 30’s was old?) I am hoping that I will “get in” another way. What that way is - who the heck knows? Any suggestions? Still wishing my fellow Gleeks who are auditioning -Break a leg!
The following tips to help you move up the pool o’ talent ladder in the audtioning process were taken from a private source (OK, who am I kidding - I made them up.) But, if they work, let me know.
Tips for your Glee audition:
1) Break a leg. Literally! Show up to the audition in a wheelchair - a second disabled person on Glee? On crutches, perhaps.
2) If you are pregnant, that may get you extra points. A second pregnant character perhaps? A pregnant Cheerio aka Pregger-io. (And no I am not pregnant, but if that helps get the part…)
3) Sing a really cool mash-up. Ie: I got a feeling by Balck Eyed Peas and Copacobana y Barry Manilow. (Wait, don’t take that one -I may use it.)
4) Practice, practice, and practice being geeky or Gleeky by walking around annoying people and singing through the halls of your school, college, workplace, Synogogue or any hall for that matter. For some, geekiness may come easy, for other it will be work. Luckily, I have a natural knack, so I am good.
5) Wear a really short skirt with knee-highs to the audition like Rachel Berry. (I’m sure many women have gotten their part by wearing short skirts. Don’t quote me on this…but rumor has it - it can’t hurt.) Maybe that’s why I haven’t “made it”. Hmmmm…probably need to invest…maybe I will raid a school uniform store. Target?
6) Know the show inside and out, so when you get to the audition there won’t be a doubt in the casting director’s mind that you are unfamiliar with their show. Plus - you may just get the part for the pure fact that they are tired of hearing you talk about it. Just to shut you up. Either way, you win.
7) And if you get the part, mention me. Start with “I have a really talented friend…” In fact, even if you don’t get the part, please add “I know I didn’t get the part, but please consider my friend Jew Mama.” And we’ll do lunch.
Break a leg and get your Gleek on…but don’t forget those who helped you along the way….like (*clearing throat*)...me.
April 1, 2010 | 12:00 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
What do Ricky Martin, slaves and a four year old have in common? All three were a big part of my week. Let me explain…
Ricky Martin came out on the day of the Passover Seder. Was it a coincidence that this occured on a “freeing” holiday that represents freedom from “slavery,” both literally and figuratively? My son, however, thought it was just “really weird” - the holiday, not Ricky Martin.
I have always known Ricky Martin was gay, I must admit. Why? Because Ricky and I go waaaaay back to the days of Menudo on ABC before his bon bon shaking days (only he does not know it). Menudo was the Latino Jonas Brothers back in the day, as us old folk like to call them. (OK, so I just made that up.) It was obvious to me that Ricky Martin was gay because I was seriously infatuated (only I think I called it “in love” back then; now I know better what love really is). And every guy that I was seriously infatuated with in my early high school days was (as I later came to find out), well…gay. I had a knack for falling for the “musical theatre type” man. (Disclaimer - I know not ALL musical theatre men are gay, but the ones I ‘loved’ were, and there was nothing wrong with that except for when I actually wanted them to love me back. Nope, they weren’t interested in me.) Thankfully my gay friend soon after high school knocked some sense in to me. He said, “You can fall in love with the musical, but don’t need to fall in love with the cast.” I got the message loud and clear, and soon after both my friend and I were very happy when I got to attend many musicals for free and he ended up with many boyfriends. (I’d like to say - thanks to me.) So, thankfully, my obsession ended after high school. My love for Ricky Martin faded as well, but I guess that was just what growing up does (you realize that being in love with someone doesn’t guarantee they feel the same way about you - a concept foreign to teens, or to me, at least).
So, fast forward to today (not by much; high school was not THAT long ago for me…ok, it was…) when I heard that Ricky Martin came out - I was not shocked, but was happy for him. It must have been tough to try to keep up an image that wasn’t real for him (because all artists stay true to themselves, right?), but perhaps the music industry figured that since fourteen year old girls bought most CDs and those fourteen year old girls are 30+ years old today, it is ok to come out today. (And on a Jewish holiday that represents freedom.)
Ricky Martin got me thinking about the meaning of actually being free. Are we, really? Or do we tend to conform to ideas that others uphold for us? This year marked a metaphorical “coming out” for me as well on Passover, where I spent it with the people I love the most. And felt “free at last” from the chains that bound myself and my family to others’ expectations and ideals for what is right and wrong for us. Thank you Ricky (and Passover) for making me truly appreciate the meaning of ‘freedom,’ which is definitely a state of mind. I guess we are all slaves at some point in our lives to our jobs, our families, or ideas that don’t necessarily fit with us. Letting go and becoming our true selves is what frees us from the ball and chain of the slavery that binds us. I look up to people like Mr. Martin, who must have struggled for years with announcing who he is. Whatever someone’s struggle is, it is true freedom to face up to who we are and be free of others’ expectations or the limitations set upon us.
It has taken me years to fully comprehend all of this and the way the Passover story relates to me. Perhaps it is because I have my own family today and my own ideals. My ideals may not mesh with others, but I have realized that it is truly my family (my husband and my son) and their opinions of me that matter the most to me. Thank you, Ricky, for stressing this for me this year without even knowing it (just as you didn’t know we were in love - you and I). Thank you also to my husband who is the most loving and genuine person I know, who has taught me the meaning of freedom as we celebrated it these past days of Passover together.
I tried to spread the message to my son this year about being free and told him the story of Passover, quickly going over the ten plagues, when he said, “That story is really weird.” And who blames him for thinking that way? - Frogs? Blood? Parsley dipped in salt water? He may get it one day…or his rendition of it…and that is okay with me, because he is free to be who he is always as well.