Sunday, November 7, 2010

”To feel shitty about yourself in Paris.. the same as feeling shitty 'bout yourself in Stockholm.”

The quote is from a song by Swedish Painter/Comedian/Singer-songwriter Robert Broberg and he should know, alternating successful shows and selling out sports venues, with periods of bad depressions. He has also spent large amount of time in exile, more specifically in Paris and New York City.

Robert Broberg, World champion of bad puns.
And basically it's just that simple. Wherever you go you take yourself with you, and the dream of becoming someone else by going to a new place remains a dream, and if you can't shake that dream and focus on reality, then changing city, work or country will eventually become a disappointing experience. I come to think of this when I bump into Ron at the laundromats. 3 out of 4 machines have big white notes on them with the text לא עובד!”, and my plan to finally get some washing done is immediately reduced to ashes. So Ron starts on a never ending litany of how he's been waiting in line for the 1 working machine for 1,5 hours and how the expletive people running this place are a bunch of incompetent bastards. But it doesn't stop there. He goes on to putting down everything and anything in Israel: The girls have their nose in the air, Israelis are shallow, they have no culture, they are close-minded and so on...all compared to his native USA. I try to interject some nice things about Israel, and he nods his head vaguely and say something like "sure I've met some nice people here, but they are one in a million" and "fine, there are some good ones I met but they are all trying to get out of this hell hole and leave for the US", and then he goes back to listing all the flaws of Israel as compared to The Land of the Free. There are 2* very typical species of Liberal Middle Class Americans, and Ron is typical of the kind that for some reason thinks it is impressive to speak very, very fast without ever taking a breath or giving pause to let someone else be a part of the conversation. It may have to do with The West Wing having been the cultural and political awakening of their lives. But while Aaron Sorkins master script was replete with people talking fast and using big words, the sentences they put together was also intelligent. Ron and his partners in crime were deep down in Mariguana heaven when the had their DVD box marathon evenings, and only caught on to the idea of speaking, really, really fast. And to whine about everything. So after 10 minutes in his company I'm starting to feel slightly suicidal...but I make a final effort to talk about something else, like his beloved USA:

”OK, so where are you from, Ron?"

”San Francisco"

”Aha, you said you had a college degree, what did you do in the US?"

"I grew weed, mostly. Yeah, and I was stoned for about 10 years and when you tell people here they're like ”Hey, that's so cool man!”

He lights up another fag on the but of the first one and I can't stand it any more so I tell him good buy mid sentence and run back to my Ulpan class. Reading dear ol' Ron is fairly straightforward. He hasn't had a great life. He is sort of good looking in an All-American way, but he doesn't have the social skills to match it, and comes off as a bit awkward. And when people around him decides it time to grow up, cut your hair and get a job he decides to go to Israel. And he ends up in a small desert town where nobody speaks English or understands his Claim-To-Cool....basically the man feels rejected and so he starts putting everything around him down, and nobody really takes his claims seriously because his critique rings shallow. And everyone who's been in Cali for more than a few days knows that it's everything he declares to hate about Israel.

But I can't help thinking that Ron is mostly a caricature of what a lot of us 350 immigrants are feeling. 15 years ago I could have been a Swedish version of Ron. And even if all of us didn't come here expecting a personal catharsis, the girls to be more loving or the culture to be less shallow, all of us came here with one question at the core of our reasons to make Aliya: Can we please belong here? Can we play with you? Can you please welcome us, give us a little encouragement?

The author, 40 k:s younger....
And like all other places, Israel is tough to charm, and the lot of most immigrants is, among many other things, the sensation of alienation. You don't speak the language, and the vast majority of the natives will not have the patience to listen to you fumbling attempts at speaking Hebrew. All the things you take for granted, like friends who know who you are since you were that girl/guy with pimples and thick glasses you are trying to gorget, are suddenly all gone and you're in an environment where nobody knows of you times at the botten, or of the times when you shone brighter than the sun. It's a freedom of course, but also a very lonely freedom. So we are somehow all being Ron, and we are all the new kid in the class who on his first school break walk over to a group of children and asking: "What are you doing, can I play with you?" And as everyone knows, it's the scariest question of all.

Of course, there are many things that are wonderful about being here, and many things that can help all of us Ronses. One is being prepared for it to be hard, and expect it to take a lot of time to bit by bit expanding you personality to cover an Israeli one. And another is doing the exact opposite of Ron - concentrating on the new things we like, in my case the strange anarchy that is present in every Israeli situation, being able to daven in a Mizrachi Shul, having found a Rabbi who is treating me like a son, and also having met already several people I'm sure I'll know even better in ten years. To do that you need to be open enough to like that things are new, which in turn requires that you are satisfied with yourself enough to forgive you're inner Ron for the bullshit he produces to excuse that he's to scared to say: "Can I play with you?"

And mature enopugh to happily accept the fact that ”To feel shitty about yourself in Paris, is the same as feeling shitty 'bout yourself in Stockholm.”

*Ah....the other type? He is much alike the first type but is concentrating on speaking really slowly, trying to sound a little mysterious, and using even bigger words to trash the US. Common for both types is that they at the age of 30 still consider themselves "kids", and that they smoke way to much pot. And if you didn't know that: Pot in large quantities is a superb deppresant, which is the reason why so many potheads have such an incredibly gllomy outlook on life. So kids - one spliff a months maximum! And for all you US patriots out there, there is a large amount of European caricatures walking the earth:)

1 comment:

  1. Thought provoking and very well written. --