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Guest: “Capitalist Girl”

By Johanne Rosenthal

(Johanne has a successful blog named sunnysidehanne.com, featuring her original recipes)

When I sit down to relate the story of my soldier it feels as if I am relating a Bubba-miser, a fairytale, as if the snow that fell was really goose feathers, the moon in the sky a matzo ball.

The Norwegian boy’s dismissal of me stung and chilled my heart. We’d planned to meet at the theatre called East of Paradise. I bought my ticket and waited for my mercurial, oft distant Norwegian. I sat alone in the lobby until the doors to the theatre closed, sat through the movie, still waiting and wondering. I walked home through the slippery February Arhus streets pondering my next move. The next afternoon I walked in the Queen’s forest beneath the black Beech branches, along the strand, boots pushing aside the snow like an ocean liner parting waves. I craved the sun. Not this watery winter light but a fierce buzzing heat that would bleach my bones.

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Israel and Spain were my top choices, in my mind they were both lands of golden oranges, twisted olive trees and sloe eyed boys. Israel won because I knew that my Jewish grandmother would spit in the bucket if Israel was the destination. She did, a meagre spit, but every bit helps when you are a budget traveler. My travel agent had a connection on Kibbutz Nachshon and he arranged for me to volunteer there.

I arrived in the night and woke in early morning in the little shed I was to share with a German girl, Suzanne. She left for work before dawn and I laid there in that tin can of a room, filled with regret. What had I done fleeing from heart ache to this strange land? Three poppies waved outside my door, like old friends from Hydra, my childhood island. Just the sight of them steadied me. I wended my way to the communal dining room, stopping to ask directions from a tall dark man with a gold earring that glinted pirate-like in the dawn.

jojo pix 2So I began my time on kibbutz working in the pink flowered almond orchards, scything the weeds, filling my canvass sack with coral persimmons, weeding the cotton fields gazing at the soft hills of Jordan. Together with the other volunteers, we sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot “Looked over Jordan and what did I see?”. The months passed and my heart swelled in this strange land, I wandered the prayer clogged streets of Jerusalem, splashed in the fern guarded pools of Ein Gedi, danced the night away on thick wooden tables in the pulsing nights of Tel Aviv and fell asleep to lamenting songs of jackals. There were sloe eyed boys and fields of sunflowers that threw challenges to the sun.

My wandering feet drew me on to Egypt, and then to Turkey, Greece and round about to Denmark (where that Norwegian boy came to me, kneeling, to confess his regret and continued longing, like a perfectly wrapped present) and home to America.

Home. I was home and tried to settle in and be normal. I worked and saved, living with my mother. There was one problem. I would wake many nights from dreams of wandering, lost. Staggering to my mother’s room I would sob and tell her I had forgotten something, left something in Israel. I had to go back. She would sooth me and stroke my hair with her long dry fingers, telling me that I would go back. I did. Six months after I had come home I landed in Ben Gurion, stepped off the airplane to warm evening wind enveloping me in the scent of orange blossoms, lifting my hair high. Maybe that is what I love most about Israel it smells like turkish delight: confectioner’s sugar, pistachios and orange blossom

A friend picked me up at the airport and we arrived just in time for me to throw my back pack on my bed and head for dinner. Arriving at the base of the stairs leading to the dining room, I heard a man’s voice in the dark saying, ”You’ve been here before” as he clumsily rested his arm on my shoulder, his wide farmer’s hand slipping through my huge golden hoop earring. Trapped he tried to extricate himself from my wild hair and oversized earring with out further damage to ear or ego.

Sitting with his friends at a far away table he gestured to me telling them that he was going to marry me. They smirked.

After the meal I got up to make myself a cup of Nescafe and he came to our table and descended on my friends. Tell me something about her he begged anything before she comes back. Well Daniella said, she loves Joni Mitchell.
Just that day his Father had given him Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. He went home and played it. Loudly.
After dinner I was wandering the dark paths looking for my friend’s newly assigned soldier-room. Hopelessly lost I heard Joni Mitchell singing in the dark. Oh, I thought who ever is playing Joni must be nice and so I knocked on the door to ask directions.

jojo pix 3He was a soldier/kibbutznik with over two years left of service. He fell hard. It took me a few weeks but I too fell hard. Each month we’d cross off another square on the back of his belt, the thistles turned from green to gold. The first quenching rains of winter (yoresh) and last rains of spring (malkosh) before earth crackling summer. The waxy pomegranates bloomed, swelled and burst with seeds. I worked in the children’s house. He was a soldier.

It is a classic Kibbutz tale. The tale ends when the volunteer leaves the soldier and returns home with a broken heart and a good story. The soldier takes her to the airport, sheds a few tears and then marries the right girl.

But I clung to him like the seeds in a sunflower. Around the seasons we went. We wanted time together. Time without the army pressing on us. Time without me needing to leave the country every six months to renew my visa. We were tired of saying goodbye.

Hanaan came home every other week-end. He would arrive on Friday afternoon late. Bone-tired, sore, worn, he would find me where ever I was working and give me a huge hug and kiss. He smelled of freshly laundered uniforms and leather and the metallic, oily scent of guns. He smelled wonderful, sharp, safe, like the first snow of winter is about to fall. Magic and anticipation and relief. My soldier stumbled to our tiny nest of a room, lay his Galil in the corner and slept. When work ended for me I would rush home. Often special allowance was made for me because my soldier was waiting and I was sent home 15 or 20 minutes early.

On good days I would let him sleep till 6:30 and then wake him. We’d dress for Shabbat dinner, he always in a white cotton button down as is the custom for men and women on special occasions on Kibbutz. I would choose something simple and pretty from my meagre wardrobe. (My mother sent me care packages with shampoo and creams from home because I didn’t want to smell like all the other girls. Those kibbutz hotties who all used the same creams that they handed out for free each month along with tampons, aerograms and sensible items. I wanted to smell exotic like a capitalist girl) On the way to dinner he would pick a hibiscus (gold, red, pink) from a passing bush or a sprig of jasmine and tuck it behind my ear. We’d all converge on the dining room at 7. The air was gay and I can’t imagine that Paris in the Belle Époque held more glamour than those Friday evenings.

On badJohanne and Hanaan circa 1990 days Hanaan was un-wakeable. I would shake him and beg him to wake in time for dinner but he was too deeply asleep to respond. Our time was short. I would sit and cry into the night. Those ten days had worn him down. On Saturday he would wake after lunch and we’d walk in the Carob orchards and visit his family for cakes and coffee.

Sunday morning arrived. We’d wake before dawn. He’d dress in his freshly laundered uniform, polish his black boots and sling his gun over his shoulder. I’d fold his sleeves up sharply and turn down his collar. We’d walk together feet dragging with sadness until we reached the gate of the kibbutz. He set off towards the highway by the carob orchards just lit by the rising sun. I’d set off to work.

The tenth month of the second year was gridded his belt in weeks, the eleventh in days. On that day in May when we crossed off the last day our bags stood waiting in the corner. The next morning we flew to America.

[*****I’m pleased to post this tale written by invited guest, Johanne Rosenthal. Because I love her writing so much, I’ve been after her for a long time to send me something I could share. Finally, “Capitalist Girl” arrived. Bravo!!! I’ve known Johanne since she was three years old and sat on my lap laughing very hard, her feathery honey-colored hair tickling my nose. I’ve known Hanaan, her husband, only as a stalwart adult. This posting is to celebrate their twenty-fifth (25th) wedding anniversary. Below, a photo of my arrival on Hydra in 2013 taken by Hanaan with Johanne – in Black hat – and her scrumptious family enfolding, energizing me, after a long, tiring journey. Happy Anniversary Johanne and Hanaan !!!]

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A day out with Alison

Today I had the pleasure of spending time with my favorite author, Alison Leslie Gold.IMG_2321

We started out by shooting a Book Trailer for Alison’s upcoming novella Not Not a Jew. I set up my iPhone 6 with a lavaliere mike at a table in Brooklyn Bagels on 8th Ave, while Alison went to grab the most jewish bagel she could. With cream cheese and Nove-Scotia lox, of course. The vegan in me wanted to scream just a little bit, but I realize a jew without lox is like a fish out of water.

We shot some great footage which will get promptly put on YouTube once edited and finished.

From there we took the #1 train to Time Square to try and retrace the steps of Padric McGarry, the mostly drunk and usually incarcerated hero of another new Alison Novella, The Potato Eater.

Now, while The Potato Eater has not been officially out yet, the Kindle version IS selling, so go grab a copy!

Time Square was bustling as usual. We went to pee at the Hard Rock Cafe, from there found a comfortable seat in the traffic-free area on 7th ave, surrounded by shiny billboards featuring 40 foot tall skinny men and women wearing almost absolutely nothing. But that was Padric’s stomping-ground starting at age 16, so that’s where we were.

We sat there for about an hour shooting Alison discussing the book, Padric, and what his life as a queen in 1940’s was like. After that Alison took the train back home to go get some writing done, and I got lunch at Maoz, and sat at the High Line and got some quality work time myself.

 

… and I highly recommend!

Read this touching five-start review left on Amazon.com for The Devil’s Mistress by reviewerhttp://www.amazon.com/The-Devils-Mistress-Diary-Hitler/dp/1938371135 Jojo Rose:

“Alison Leslie Gold’s fascination with the Holocaust has led her to try and imagine the inner life of Eva Braun (Adolf Hitler’s mistress). Alison sheds reality and tries to create from the bare bones of history a fleshed out inner life of Eva Braun. Her tool for entering the mind of Eva is a fictional diary written first hand from “Eva’s” point of view.
Alison Leslie Gold’s other books on the Holocaust are non-fiction, and I highly recommend them. This book is a fictionalized account and must be read and relished as such. She brings to life the desperation of a young seventeen year old Eva, desperate to prove herself to her family, desperate to excel at something, anything. Her only form of valuable currency is her youth and beauty.
Alison Leslie Gold in no way romanticizes her characters, in fact her strong distaste and disapproval of the characters about whom she writes comes though clearly. You could say that her repugnance of Eva and Herr Hitler are a character in themselves that runs through the book like a dark thread.
This dark world entrances and revolts in equal measure. Ms. Gold finds success in the difficult task she laid herself. I recommend this book for all who seek a deeper perspicacity on the possible motivations of those people reviled by history.”


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Meet The Models: Exhibit Explores The People Behind The Paintings

An interview with Alison Gold on NPR.

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http://wuwm.com/post/meet-models-exhibit-explores-people-behind-paintings

“I thought of Matisse and his lifetime of models. In her novel The Woman Who Brought Matisse Back from the Dead, Alison Leslie Gold portrays the painter reminiscing about his models: Lisette Lowengard, Helene Galitzine, Greta Prozor. Gold says to do their jobs, those women must master the rigors of a pose. They must hold stock still “for hours and hours and hours,” she says. “Often in a cold studio. This is a testament to the models who stood there and didn’t shiver and try to control their goosebumps.”

Listen to the interview here

Review of Alison on LARB

What Gold modeled for me was the idea that the writer delivers stories that the reader needs. The point is to do that job well.

WHEN I FIRST HEARD OF Alison Leslie Gold in the late eighties, I had no idea what a visionary author she was, or how much she would teach me about the writing life…

Read more…

“Cook!”

HE RAISED his voice. “Cook!” Cook heard him and came to the doorway. “What do we have that would appease my sweet tooth?” Cook smiled, left and returned with a fancy box of marzipan that she pressed into the old man’s upturned hand. He pulled off the top of the box. Inside were little animals — a fuchsia cat, a lilac fox, an olive green pig … Matisse put down his scissors and took off his glasses. He chose a chromium-yellow bear. “Ah!” he bit it in half, “Good colors sing!”

 

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John Lightfoot

Called John Lightfoot in ‪#‎THE‬ WOMAN WHO BROUGHT MATISSE BACK FROM THE DEAD, just back from Vietnam where he’d been a medic and Conscientious Objector, John (who first glimpsed Claude when he enrolled in The Art Students League) is loosely based on the artist John Emmett Connors. Even though she had threatened to throw a brick at his head, Claude’s fate came to rest in John’s hands through the sex and art-soaked sixties and on to her death.

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