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Home for New Year's Eve.

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on January 3, 2012 at 3:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Home for New Year’s Eve!

Although I remember New Year Eve’s out with all its rituals, drinking and “Joyful” parties designed to bring in the new year in with others, some you know and some you have no desire to know and will never see again, for the past 15 years the option of staying home was and is my first and only choice by far.

2011 was not a particularly good year, personally or as a human on this small blue/green planet and there is no reason to think–assuming one engages in rational thought which is a rarity these days–that 2012 will be any better. We humans seem to be bend on destructive behavior, personally and as a race, using the power of reason to rationalize and justify our behavior instead of modifying it to preserve, sustain and evolve our culture, humanity and species.

New Year's Eve is supposed to bring about some though and analysis to past behavior and the birth of and commitment to a plan for change, leading to a better New Year. Alas, these plans of mice and men usually don’t amount to much, as we all tend to go back to old habits and patterns.

Which brings me to New Year’s Eve. 2011/12. As has been my tradition for several years now, New Year’s Eve is dinner at home with my son and/or friends, watching several of Chris Curtis’ schmaltzy but very satisfying films. Although the first movie is always “Love Actually”,  the second is up for grabs. This year the choice for second film  was “Notting Hill”, which compliments “Love Actually” beautifully. However, this year we also had a very special unexpected delight, the weather!

Our food choice this year was Rosti. It is just up the street and provides delicious basic Italian food. There was no debate on the offerings. We ordered Chicken Milanese with roasted potatoes and broccoli, minestrone soup and pizza margarita with mushrooms. As always, while we wait for the food we went next door to "Nothing Bundt Cakes" for a chocolate/ chocolate chip mini cake and another flavor of fancy of the moment, this time red velvet won!

As we stepped out of the house to get the food, we thought we died and went to heaven.  A fog had moved in and the dry cold air was replaced with soft cool mist, soothing to the throat and lungs. Streetlights reflected through the trees in a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors, only made possible by the mist. It was like we stepped into a werewolf and vampire wonderland, the stimulating, not mutilating, kind. It is the kind of weather that makes one feel alive and happy to be so.

The evening just got better from there.  the food was delicious, the company delightful and Richard Curtis and Co. delivered two movies about love, first and mature, friendship of all ages and overcoming obstacles and loss to find that all elusive happiness once again. Schmaltzy? Absolutely. A little naive? For sure. However, filled with wonderment and humor which proves, every time, very nourishing to the soul, in a perfect balance to the food that filled our tummies and satisfied all those taste buds.

Happy New Year

Another Beautiful Grey Morning

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on July 27, 2011 at 2:06 PM Comments comments (1)

Another Beautiful Grey Morning

It’s morning, July 27, 2011 in Santa Monica, grey, cool,overcast, perfect.  The sun will come out in a few hours and that’s good too, but I do like “June gloom”, even if it is in July.

Climate change–very real–has been kind to us in Santa Monica, so far.  With oppressive heat waves in the rest of the country and overseas, floods, storms and weather gone crazy all around, we here on the west coast are enjoying tempered weather with cool breezes.

These are times of absence of rime or reason in our economy, politics and lives. These are times of pain and distress for many Americans and many of our fellow humans across the globe. These are times when it’s the little things that make all the difference.

The old adage of “Don’t sweat the small stuff” does not really work well when you lost your job and have not been able to find another in along time.  It does not work really well when your house is in foreclosure or gone, taking with it your dreams and hopes for your kids future and your own.

But things do get better mostly. And they also might get worst.  Life goes in cycles of ups and downs and the trick is to relish the ups and ride the downs, all without loosing faith in your abilities, your hopes and your dreams.

This is where my July 27, 2011 beautiful, cool, grey, overcast morning comes in. It was the perfect companion for my oatmeal with raisins, cranberries, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, almond milk and a little dark chocolate, eaten on this perfect morning and washed down with a strong and flavorful triple latte. Who says you need money to enjoy a perfect morning?

 

 


The Sublime Power of Massage

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on June 5, 2011 at 1:58 PM Comments comments (0)

The Sublime Power of Massage

Living off of Montana Ave. in Santa Monica has its advantages. For one, good to great coffee is available almost in every block. Favorites, being a coffee snob, are Peet’s at the street and Luxxe Cafe, around the corner. Several markets are also within walking distance with the reliable and less expensive Von’s at the western end and the more “Organic” and expensive Whole Foods on at the eastern end. We also have our fair share of eateries, some of the favorites being R&D for dinner and 17th street café for weekend breakfasts.

But that is not what I wanted to write about. Life was good here in breezy and cool Santa Monica, a few blocks from the beach. But then it got better when The Massage Place opened just around the corner. With a sixty-minute massage at $47, it is really an unbeatable bargain. Obviously not all massages are created equal and the experience varies by masseuse, I have yet to have an unpleasant experience, and again for the price (I usually tip $15 to $20) it is a bargain.

Last two massages are noteworthy since they are a perfect example of the range of experiences available. First came Jazz. Blond, athletic, inked full of energy and lovely. I was in the mood for a relaxing Swedish and she took me there. It was a meditation and an out of body experience of being gently knit into a mush. With strong hands, she applied just the right pressure at the right pressure points. Stress flowed out and dissipated as if never there.

A few weeks later, after a hard workout, a deeper approached was required. Fortunately, Chris was available, bringing a harder male muscle to play. My middle-aged body was in need of some deep tissue manipulation and Chris was happy to oblige. There was some pain involved, as there always is when force is applied to tight muscles, but the resulting relief and sense of well-being was worth every minute of discomfort as well as some soreness next day.

What is most amazing about this process, to which I came later in life–massage for a while was not a manly endeavor for me–is the mental benefits, which greatly enhance and magnify the physical ones. It is that sense of, again and at the risk of repeating myself for effect, well-being as well as a fresh start to your day or evening, having shed your stress and left your troubles behind that make a good massage a spiritual experience and one which I highly recommend.

Good Limited Depression = Good for the Soul

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on May 5, 2011 at 8:24 PM Comments comments (0)

Good Limited Depression = Good for the Soul

We all have ups and downs. I, for one, am very suspicious of people who are always up and sunny (It’s almost as bad as those who are always down and overcast). We are not talking here about the clinically depressed, a very serious issue that must be addressed and treated. We are talking here about the rest of us that sometimes get blue, life not always turning out to be a “Picnic”, to say to least.

When one of those days hits, I feel very fortunate if I can give into it, revel in it and make the most of its cathartic benefit. And that is exactly what happened last Saturday. Woke up to a grey misty morning–my very favorite kind of weather–tired and in a down mood. Being without son for that weekend I had complete freedom to do as I please. And so I decided to make myself a nice bowl of oatmeal (recipe in the recipe section), get my small non-fat latte extra shot from Peet’s and settle in front of my TV, Netflix on and enjoy my depression.

The big issue of the moment was, of course, what to watch? Being in that down mood what better than a melodramatic medical drama, so I settled on Three Rivers, a medical TV drama following the exploits of a transplant team in Three Rivers Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Important to note that this series only lasted one season which could be a very bad thing since it could indicate that it is frankly crap. However, it is also of limited episodes¬–so one could watch the whole series in one sitting-simply perfect for that limited one-day depression experience.

As it turned out, Three Rivers was just what the doctor ordered. With a nice mix of the personal and professional lives of a renowned surgeon Dr. Andy Yablonsky (Alex O’Loughlin of the current Hawaii Five-0 fame) and his team of transplant specialists. No doubt a tear jerker if you are open to the experience–which I was–sitting on my sofa, eyes moisture filled as the personal tragedies of people in desperate need of a transplant unfolded enhanced by hospital politics and personal turmoil of the staff. It was escapism at it’s best and it would not have worked for me at all, was it not for the blue mood I was in.

At the conclusion of my little Three Rivers marathon I felt relieved of all the negative and self-pity feelings that overwhelmed the start of that day. I was left with a great feeling of release and relief. I got it out of my system and recharged for the next day and the day after that and …, all at a very modest price and certainly much cheaper than therapy. The fact that a down day with a medical drama was all it took makes the limited extend of the problem clear. However, it also indicates that it is OK to take a day, once in a while and when appropriate, to wallow and feel sorry for one self and jump head first into a silly TV drama, and then snap out of it.

I probably would not have enjoyed this show as much any other time, and would not have followed it when it aired on network TV, but on that grey and moody Saturday it was perfection itself. I wish now there were more seasons of Three Rivers. Another blue day is sure to come and absent this show I might just be at a loss to find the perfect companion, Three rivers was, just when I needed it.

2010 is over - Farewell

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on January 1, 2011 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

2010 is over – Farewell


Winter freeze descended upon us with a vengeance. Being used to tempered weather in Southern California; this frost attack caught us by surprise. Not being one that likes heaters, and being one that is an avid fresh air connoisseur, I am presented with a dilemma: close all windows and turn heaters on in every room or freeze. My compromise is turning heaters on from early evening till bedtime, with one window slightly open for some air and then, what seems like seventy-five blankets to keep warm and toasty at night.


Considering carefully the year that ended at midnight last night, this arctic chill seems very appropriate. It has been a year of personal and national discontent. A year of mass unemployment, epidemic underemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies by the truck- load, death and injury for American and countless others in wars across the oceans, personal tragedies for those close and dear to my heart, and misery all around in generous doses. Then, we had to contend with the clowns in Washington DC (our representatives)–bought and paid for by rich and powerful corporations and people–with their childish bickering and selfish games, a ridiculously expensive and infantile mid-term election season, and a clear demonstration of very little concern for the country and the business of the people (addressed more fully in various Blogs available for your reading pleasure in “Age of Rudeness and Mediocrity").


Last year was not all bad, of course, and was certainly not bad at all for some (usually those who fare well in any kind of weather), but overall, a lot of us have seen much better and gentler times. I could go on with numerous specifics, of which there are too many to count, but instead, it makes more sense to describe my last day of 2010, since it is one filled with small acts of care and kindness that should be the model for 2011.


I woke up around 7:00AM, my usual time. Hesitating for a while if I should leave the warmth and comfort of my “Seventy-five”-blanket cocoon, I eased out of bed and made a mad dash to the shower–nothing like a hot shower first thing, especially if it’s cold. I then drove up to my favorite Peet's coffee place, an every day routine (We should all have a place where “Everyone knows your name”). I have been going there for years, starting with the closure of Seattle’s Best down the street, when Starbucks in their “Infinite wisdom”, bought them and closed down their stores–yet another act of corporate takeover which left us the lesser for it. I got in line taking $4 out of my pocket–avoiding the annoying flow obstructionism favored by some, who wait till after they order their drink to start searching for their money or credit card–for my usual $3.65 small non-fat Latte; add shot, when Kate behind the coffee bar, waved me away from the register. She smiled and said, “The latte I made for you yesterday was rubbish…this one is on me”. I sheepishly put my money back in my pocket and thanked her for her consideration and treat–proper way to end the year.


Leaving the Café I drove down the street and turned left on 11th street to drop off my two Netflix DVD’s in the mailbox. Stopping in a red zone at the corner, I was just about to turn the engine off when the car in front of me, without prompting or provocation, slid up one spot, providing me with a legal space to pull into, which I gratefully did. Not to be undone, when I arrived at the dry cleaners down the street next, a car was just parking right in front in mid-block, leaving insufficient room in front or back of it for another car. The wife got out and waited for her husband to join her, noticing me behind them. Realizing, again without prompting or provocation, that I would not be able to park my car, she walked over to her husband, who just got out of his car and was locking his door, and whispered in his ear. He turned around, smiled and waved at me, got back into his car and moved it forward, providing me enough room to park.


Not a big deal you say? Maybe not, but it did start the day in the best way possible, and provided a buffer for some of the usual annoyances that come with the on-the-phone clueless drivers, who also seem to always drive new expensive cars without blinkers installed, and like to stop in the middle of the road, just for fun.


The day seemed to just flow and get better from there. A visit to a museum for some healthy dose of culture and heritage, followed by a nice hike in the Santa Monica mountains–nature at its best and most grounding and uplifting– in perfect sunny and cool weather both with my favorite and only son. Back home for shower and change. Then the obligatory check of email, only to find a delightful and complimentary email from an old colleague from a business past, with much appreciation for my writing and work in these Blogs, a nice validation and something that is always a pleasure to hear.


We followed that with a nice early dinner at a favorite restaurant up the street, to celebrate end of one year and beginning of another. Then back home, after picking up some ice cream, for a nice flick to end the last day of 2010.


Granting that this was not in any way earthshatering, the day did hit a perfect pitch which not every day can and will do. Our lives are made of moments of grace stitched together by much longer periods of the dreary and mundane of every day responsibilities and just living. Balance is the key and the appreciation of the special moments when things just fit, fall into place and broaden the spirit; make it all not just bearable, but simply delightful and worthwhile.


I truly enjoyed the last day of 2010. While not making up for the rest of that year, if did leave me with hope and overwhelming sense of wellbeing and optimism for 2011, which I am sure will not disappoint!

Simple and Satisfying Tradition

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on December 28, 2010 at 3:01 PM Comments comments (0)

Simple and Satisfying Tradition


It is clear that we, primate based humans, like consistency and predictability. It is also clear that part of the attraction of religion, with all its rituals and structure is just that, stability and predictability. What does not work with religion is the stagnation of independent and personal thought and its replacement by other persons ideas–usually those long dead and gone–as well as the abdication of personal responsibility and accountability since “it is in the hands of God and, after all, he works in mysterious ways!”


Traditions, on the other hand, can be anything that one does on set predictable times or triggered by a particular event–first day of spring, third Saturday every other month, every winter break–you get the point! It is something to look forward to and one less thing to think about or struggle with.


The beauty of traditions is that it is completely up to us to come up with what works for us and makes us happy, and yes, they can change and evolve over the years. My son and I, post my divorce, created some traditions around films we like (both being avid movie buffs and writers). One of the first is “loveactually”. When originally released on DVD in April 2004, it became a favorite. It is one of those feel good movies one can watch over and over again. As it is a “Christmas” movie, it fits nicely into winter break for my son. Holiday, vacation, winter weather all tempt one to indulge and stay in to feast on good food and a fun, satisfying and heartwarming flick. And just like that, a tradition was born.


Every winter break, on a cold and hopefully rainy night (snow would definitely work even better, but we don’t get that in Southern California), we pick up food from our favorite Chinese restaurant and dessert next door at Mrs. Fields, and go home. We then get into comfys and settle in front of the TV to share two hours and fifteen minutes with Hugh, Liam, Colin, Laura, Emma, Alan, Keira and Rowan, as well as the rest of the superb supporting cast, put together by Richard, who so sweetly brings to life his funny and heartwarming script about Londoner’s and love over the weeks leading up to and including Christmas. And then, if were not too tired, we go for a double feature with “Notting Hill”, another dessert for the heart and soul without the harmful side effects of too much sugar.

Desks for Malawi

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on December 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM Comments comments (1)

Desks for Malawi


Struggling, as many of us do, to decide what to buy friends for Christmas, I listened with great interest to Lawrence O’Donnell on his show the other evening. He described a project he partnered on with UNICEF to provide desks to schoolchildren in Malawi, who have never had them, and are relegated to sitting on the floor–usually dirt floor–for the whole school day with up to ninety kids per run down classroom.


Having never heard of Malawi, I decided to explore and learn more about it. The Republic of Malawi is a Central Africa country, landlocked by Zambia to the northeast, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique to the east, south and west. It has a population of 15,600,000 people with a per capita income of around $280 per year. Mainly agricultural and with half the population under the poverty line, it has relied heavily on foreign aid to feed its people. The country also suffers from extreme natural disasters–from drought to heavy rainfall which contributes to its economic woos.


In addition, a catastrophic Aids epidemic claims the lives of tens of thousands every year, and until only recently, it has been a taboo subject for years. In 2004 President Muluzi launched a program to tackle HIV-Aids, revealing that his brother had died from the disease. With short life expectancy (57 years for women and 56 years for men) as well as a high infant mortality rate, education is a critical and required ingredient in getting the country out of dire economic straights and improving life expectancy and standard of living. Although the country has made real progress since 2007 in achieving economic growth, it still has a long way to go.


The “K.I.N.D: Kids In Need Of Desks”, MSNBC/Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and UNICEF fundraising drive, aims to raise at least $2,000,000 to provide 46,000 desks in the UNICEF’s Schools for Africa network in Malawi. It works out to $24 per student with desks costing $48 for two. Manufacturing is in Malawi, which provides jobs and stimulates the economy. There is no doubt that education is the one and only solution out of poverty, for people and countries, and more of it will directly contribute to making our world better for all.


In thinking about what to buy friends who pretty much have all they need, this seems to be a perfect gift. I donated two desks, one in each friend’s name, and to my delight they loved it and decided to spread the word and the wealth to others, benefiting more Malawi kids.


Should you decide to join the effort you can visit LastWordDesks.msnbc.com or unicefusa.org/kind and donate as well.  I hope that you do.


Happy Holidays

Here comes the Sun!

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on December 25, 2010 at 6:26 PM Comments comments (0)

Here comes the Sun!


After a wonderful stretch of eight days of grey and rain, the sun came. Morning sun in all its glory streamed through the windows and filled the house with light and warmth. Walking outside, one was struck by all the people emerging out of their homes–looking like they have not seen sunshine for months–faces tilted up and east like a bunch of sunflowers.


Sun is great after rain, especially if the weather is nice and cool. The air is fresh and crisp and the sun adds just the right amount of warmth and light to raise spirits and elevate mood. There are a lot of sighs of relief this morning. No rain means all that water will have a chance to soak into the ground with puddles and flood water receding, mud drying up. Cleanup can begin and reconstruction, where necessary, all under happy blue skies.


Walking up the street to my favorite coffee place, I could not help but think of how great it would be to have a cycle of rain and sunshine on a regular basis. Just like we had in the last few weeks, sun and chill for seven to eight days, followed by grey and rain for seven to eight days, followed by what I am hoping would be more rain.


As I’m writing this, the clouds are moving in and the sky is turning grey and misty. This brings back our temporary illusion of winter–something those of you in winter wonderlands in the East and North, take for granted. We, in Southern California, finally get to layer up to keep warm and dry, eliminating temporarily, any need to worry about areas of concern in our bodies that might not fit the California beach stereotype. We can stay in and eat comfort foods by a nice fireplace, albeit a gas one mostly. We can stay in and cuddle under the covers, practice-making babies or just have fun for its own sake.


And then the sun breaks through the clouds and off we are to stretch our limbs and generate a healthy sweat while jogging on the beach, raving up that cardio system and soaking up all that natural vitamin D. That is all while others here in the US and around the globe are fighting storms and snow.


Feeling fortunate to be where I am, I am left with the wish for more rain, to be followed by more sun, for that perfect balance that makes us appreciate and enjoy both.

RAIN!

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on December 21, 2010 at 9:38 PM Comments comments (0)

RAIN!


It has been raining for five days straight, or is it seven? And I’m in heaven. Southern California is beautiful. The coastline rivals the most popular and talked about Mediterranean shoreline, including the famous Riviera in France and Italy. The weather is tempered and pleasant most of the year, if not sometimes predictable and bland. Sunshine is nice, and good for you in moderation. But the warm weather brings with it dust, which mysteriously appears again right after you finish cleaning, the down side of living in a desert that meets the ocean.


Water is not in abundance in Southern California, not even close, so when the rain comes infrequently as it does, it brings with it moisture and freshness and life. The world looks better wet, as some of us do as well (hence all those product commercials showing wet glistening beautiful people, with very little clothing on). Everything around us shines and sparkles and smells so dam good. Being comprised mostly of water and coming from water ourselves, we are creatures that naturally gravitate towards it (Don’t ask me about those heat and desert people, I have no explanation for that except that something must have gone wrong there, but, I am thankful since there is more moisture and rain for the rest of us).


Rain, in my neck of the woods, does come with some inconvenience. After all we are not used to it and seem to loose our compass when it comes. People forget how to drive and slow down and crawl around in a daze. Streets get flooded due to poor drainage and unmaintained infrastructure, and people forget their cars were not built to float on water (more work for police and fire department). Tree limbs fall on roads and drivers use them as obstacle course training with delight. All of this resulting in substantial doses of frustration, especially for people like me, a little short on patience (and yes that is somewhat of the understatement). Please note that I do not mean to make light of those who have suffered serious damage to person and property due to the current rain storms.  We need to take this very seriously and make sure we are better prepared for the rain, when it comes, so we can enjoy it.


And then there is the issue of climate change! Yes our climate is changing, probably partially part of a natural global cycle, but no doubt, exacerbated and exponentially expedited by human activity, industrial pollution, fossil fuel dependency and overuse (facts agreed to by most scientists on the planet and any person still is control of his/her faculties, logic and common sense). One only has to look at what is happening weather-wise, in the last few years around the world as well as smell the air out there to get it.


If there is a silver lining here, it is my hope that with coordinated and considerable effort by all of us to do our part to mitigate and decrease this problem from becoming irreversible and catastrophic, we will get a wetter and greener Southern California, with more rain every year. Rain that will continue bringing with it sweet fresh moist air, seducing us to keep our windows open, putting towels on window sills to try and prevent intra-house puddles, just for the great pleasure of inhaling this great rain air. All we can do now is take deep breaths and enjoy.

The Power of a Simple Hug

Posted by Tsach Gilboa on December 9, 2010 at 8:16 PM Comments comments (3)

The Power of a simple Hug


I’m a great believer in hugs. Hugs as a rule, rock. Hugs from those you love and care for are of course the best, but don’t knock a simple hug from a friendly stranger. Under the right circumstances, it is just what the doctor ordered and it hits the spot.


A few days ago I was at the bank making a deposit and correcting an error (yes they do happen sometimes to the best of them, imagine that!) The line was long and I was in a rush and short on patience. However, I did wait patiently for my turn while people ahead of me confused the bank tellers for their social circle of the moment, as well as, for their therapists, engaging them in a plethora of personal issues better served elsewhere. After what seemed like an actual eternity, I was finally first in line when an oldish man walked in from the parking lot bringing with him dark clouds and an arctic chill. The lights flickered in the bank and my breath became visible, for a second, as he walked past me, cut in line, and headed for the teller who just became available. As I opened my mouth to protest, my eyes locked with a woman at the end of the line. She gave me a knowing look and an understanding smile. “Some people” I mouthed, “What can you do?” she mouthed back. It being my turn at the teller I went up to him and quickly concluded my business. While passing her on the way out I said “Thanks”. To my surprise, she leaned forward and gave me a hug. “Not at all” she smiled “Hope this helps”.


What can I say? It made my day. I was in a better mood, the clouds parted and the sun shined bright and strong in a deep blue sky. Just to be clear, I am not advocating we all grab any old stranger and hug them at any time we fancy, but with the right people (which depends on you) and in the appropriate and right circumstance, a hug can go a very long way to making our small world a lot better for all. It certainly trumps yelling, or flipping people off or any such similar shenanigans.


So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and hug someone.