A Parody of Paradise
By Jared Oppenheim
It seems like yesterday that I walked through the busy streets of Tel-Aviv, with its sweet smell of sweat that lingered. Those days are the days I now long to grasp. They were my leisure days, days consumed with booze and the salt air that rippled between the cracks and pores of my skin, days where all I could do was think of nothing, as my mind dulled in the weekday sun.
I salute Tel-Aviv, with its Shalom, for good tidings sake. I salute Tel-Aviv for bottles of 10 shekel Arak, with all of its jolly popping courage and days spent dousing in the Mediterranean sun. I salute it for its hospitality and warmth, for its days of simple discourse, for its days of nothing, for its days of unwanted visitors and even less wanted friends, for the bubble I called home, and for the fanaticism that kept the day fresh, when there was only you, me and a bottle between us. Until dawn I salute Tel-Aviv, and fantasize about its romantic misgivings, misfortunes and wines, which were so sour that my chickpea was begging for a breath.Old Central Bus Station
There can be a lot to say about a city, a city which thrives on its landmark beauty and simplicity, while it’s self-serving urban life grows and envelopes other developing Israeli cities, creating a shield of loftiness throughout the land. This raving and departure drives the prepubescent city of Tel-Aviv. And at this I remind you, the traveler, how short a life this city has had. One hundred one years.
It began in mid-December, dear traveler, that I arrived in the city of Tel-Aviv. I was in a state of mind that made regret hold on tight, for I wasn’t ready to be living in another land. I couldn’t have thought much more than this at the time. When I arrived at Ben-Gurion airport I was greeted with the whole-hearted glory of inquisition by an immigration officer: my religious views and reasons for coming to this country were all too sloppy, plus my lack of faith almost gave the short man a right to deport me. But at another gander of my features he must have figured me a Jew, and so surrendered me to the slow air of the crazy city. Surrounded by tacky billboards that I couldn’t make out, smiling faces, and its cheap allure, I stepped into the heart of fundamentalist beliefs.
I spent my days in Tel-Aviv kicking the same can, essentially, making my rounds through the local joints, night after night living on bottles of beer and falafel. Being a musician I found myself in the right spots, and, for the most part, at the right times. Although once in a while I found myself in a slight state of awkwardness, a characteristic I can contribute to my ever-changing mental state. Many days I would frequent a café situated on the corner of Sheinken Rehov and Rothschild Boulevard, which actually was quite a drab spot. But every day from half-twelve to seven in the evening, I saw herds of retired or unsuccessful Israeli sportsman, poets and writers, drinking tea or bottles of Goldstar. The hooch would have to send them away in convoys late in the afternoon.
At the time I had two friends who lived in an apartment conveniently located above the café. I would visit them often, say hello, drink tea, watch the antics that ensued below. For the most part, we were the same as the desperadoes of the cafe, except we were young and watching them. I believe doing this made us take on some of their key traits, and we would buy our bottles of Goldstar around the corner too.
The days will pass quickly in Tel-Aviv. There are many hipster dive settings that a young jock might seek. You can ask a dame for a dance and end up with three, until your pants are about to roll off with sweat and sweet licorice. They just can’t say no, it is a matter of inconvenience. To get a man who doesn’t wear stock-green camouflage trousers and a standard issued Ak-47 is a common sign of female success. I have to say, looks don’t necessarily guarantee a night out, but I bet you a paraplegic would have better a chance with a woman than a soldier.
A Night on the Town
I suggest going out on a Thursday or Friday night. Remember this is Jewland, and Saturday is a holy day, so most places shut down. It just isn’t the day of the week, like in most countries. This, of course, threw me off at first. But it’s better to know this from the start, or you’ll end up chilling out Thursday and Friday, waiting for Saturday night to party.
There are a couple joints one should remember when wandering through the streets of this fair city. First of all, you have the Rothschild 12, and just like the name sports, its address is 12 Rothschild Boulevard. If you’re looking for a vintage type scene, with a great stage, live music precariously often, and an incredibly diverse menu of food, then this is the spot you should be stopping by. Located on one of the most known streets in the city, you shouldn’t have the slightest difficulty finding it. The only trick is that the entrance is around the back of the building. So when you walk down the grand boulevard, with all of its bright lights and young kids out for the weekend, you will hit an abandoned looking building and think, ‘Damn! That bastard played me. Fuck that travel guide!’ But no! Stick with it! Around the side you’ll find a happening little entrance, and depending on what night of the week you go, you can catch a variety of the best acts the city has to offer.
Then afterward you might be wondering where you can catch a little dive set. Well, your next stop will be the Mish-Mish, located at 17 Lilienblum. It’s guaranteed to satisfy all your hipster needs, while offering an array of nice peach-fish and passion fruit drinks; plus cunt willing to dance with you all night, and then take you home to let you devour into the ripe skin of her tanned flesh. This is a club, dimly lit and hidden behind a mirror, that you might finish the rest of your night in. The music plays loud, and the drinks are served late. And even if the catch of the day leads you astray, the bartenders are the best in town. With a variety of different DJ’s, the music may start at funk and soul, and then move on to electro-dance hall hits, then pop up to your latest hipster fix. All this in a little spot behind a mirror.
If you’re looking for a more intimate, tight, hot, sloppy and packed joint (reminiscent of NYC’s Lit Lounge), then get on down to the Micatronix. It’s at Ben Yehuda and Trumpeldor. This club was hot and fresh when I was on the scene. It has records covering the ceiling, a Pacman machine, DJ’s, and live music everyday of the week. At this club you can expect to be packed in like a sardine, but with affordable drinks and guaranteed good music, it’s worth it. If you’re there on a good night, you’ll catch the DJ playing an array of 20’s swing, mixed with surf and post-punk, and then ending on a high note with dance hall classics. Definitely the club to stay at to meet some of your new friends. To get in is a bit of a trick, though. Being underground this place does not have a web site, and you have to buzz an intercom where there looks only to be a broken down shop. Walk on over, watch out for people walking into the club, and then slowly inch your way to the intercom and buzz. BINGO! You’ve just found the Micatronix. Now dance!
If you really want to strut your stuff, walk straight to Florentin. It was once the artistic side of the city but, like all things, it came to an end. I was lucky enough to catch a slight glimpse of a dying phase here. This neighborhood is dimly lit at night, and filled with enough bodegas, laundry shops, food marts and, of course, a whopping amount of pubs, clubs, bars and stars, to keep you occupied. But for the most part, the show really goes on at the unadvertised house parties. And as for these few bars that lie beneath the surface mainstream, they are still on the border of mediocre.
A Day’s Outing
You might notice, dear reader, it’s almost impossible to get lost in this city. There is the center, which encompasses most of the urban living area, and it spans from Shenkin to Florentin and from the Central Bus Station to Ben Yehuda. It covers a vicinity of about ten miles, and anything is at most a 40 minute walk away. To navigate through this area, directly relate to the Rothschild Route, which is a boulevard that runs through most of the city center. If you follow your instincts and walk in a circular motion, you’re almost guaranteed to get where you’re going. In other words the city is small.
And if you’re worried about being surrounded by religious freaks, don’t be. The only fanatical man I met in Tel-Aviv, other than the massive amounts of soldiers, which are quite scary since they carry automatic weapons, was a stout man who slightly resembled Jesus. He played the card of being Jesus reborn. The man is just a sight to see. He can do you no harm. His followers, which consist of four women, and the giant picture of himself with his prophetic commandments, can be found at the Carmel Market.
The array of markets in this city extends from one end to the other. On a good day, with a pocket full o’ dough, you can walk about and spend like a mad man, stuff your pockets with tiskets and taskets of this and that, and revel in the fond Jewish memory of the overcrowded market places. But I warn you, before you know it you’re washed-up and walking back home with, more or less, no weight in your pockets. Fresh fish, flowers, breads, various halvas, barreckas ( pastries) and more, fill the air with the sweet smell of longing, regret, and satisfaction. You can spend days walking through all of them, through the allies, between the little chip shops, and then to the beach with its white, white sand and clear blue water. This might be the finest luxury of this city.Carmel Market
As I sum up my experience with the city of Tel-Aviv, and the country of Israel, I conclude that its yearning to be accepted as a great city of the western world is as apparent as day or night–and this destroys all the culture and heritage that the city once had. This may have been where they all went wrong; for this country that is supposedly the home of the Jewish people has now turned into a circus, manipulated and ring led by American motifs and endorsed by the British.
It’s a shame how the manipulation of a governing force can actually confuse its citizens so much that they can actually believe their neighbors, and once occupiers of their territory, are not entitled to the same privileges as they are. The complacency of the Israeli mass population towards negotiating with Gaza shows just how uncommitted they are to a resolution. I guess the greater shame is the safety and protection the Israelites feel, while their neighbors are imprisoned within their land without aid or support, forced behind walls that were erected to entrap them. Across the border, Zionist groups challenge Palestine and force them slowly out of their own birth right, even as citizens. And although I admire many aspects of Israel, and the goodness it has to offer, this is a dangerous game for them to be playing, especially for a people that have been played so many times in the past.
“I could have spent my till flippin’ flint… But well, ya know, a God fearing child only has so much to say in a place invested , infested, tried, and yet to be tested.”
Locations In Tel-Aviv
12 Rothschild blvd
Ben Yehuda and Trumpeldor
14 Carmel Street