My whirlwind tour across this fine country covering the Maccabiah games ended this past week and as I was returning the rental car to the agency I happened to notice a hard hitting expose on channel 10 morning news about a Ukrainian immigrant who was hauling a piano on his back. Turns out he was a concert pianist back in the Motherland. He proceeded to bang out a rendition of Rachmaninoff while propping the baby grand on his back. With a condescending smirk the news anchor promised that he (and by he he meant someone else probably) would help this musical genius fulfill his destiny and get him off the moving truck and into the concert hall. It reminded me of when I was growing up in Israel in the late 80’s and every janitor at every hospital here was a famous neurosurgeon back in the USSR. It never once occurred to me that I too would end up a ridiculously overqualified menial laborer torn asunder from my aspirations of greatness. After all I graduated Summa Cum Laude, a President’s Scholar. I had directed and produced a full length feature film. I was sure that the Israeli Film Industry would have reps waiting for me at Ben Gurion.
My first job here as a returning resident was at a well known sports bar on Tel Aviv’s boardwalk. I was friendly with one of the owners and he asked if I could help him on the eve of Yom Kippur treating the hard wood floors. It would only take a couple of hours and he would hook me up with a few hundred shekels. I was broke and in no position to say no. Besides I knew that the back breaking labor would be accompanied by a dizzying parade of hashish joints. So we got to work that morning sanding the layers of beer, spit and piss that had accumulated on the floor of that establishment. Towards noon it got hot and my head started to throb from all the morning drinking. J. noticed my discomfort and took a pill out of his pocket. I downed it thinking it was an acamol. “Whoooa, dude. When was the last time you did special K?” Never. I had never done Ketamine (horse tranquilizers). “Your in for a treat, man.” He says. And it was a treat. A hallucinatory and completely anxiety riddled trip compounded by the eerie silence of Yom Kippur. Joy.
My next job was for Reshet, one of Israel’s main content providers for Channel 2. I was an assistant editor on a game show called The Singing Bee. It was a poorly conceived karaoke show targeting the lowest of the low. I had to design the graphic of a little yellow ball as it danced in rhythm to the words of the song. I spent hours and hours timing that fucking ball so it would land on each word at just the right time. I had nightmares of big yellow balls teabagging me to death. Worse than that I couldn’t get all those stupid Eyal Golan songs out of my head.
When I got married I realized that I couldn’t rely on the whims of the producers in the TV and film industry so I set out to find a job in the only sector in this country in which one can make a decent living – the high tech sector. When I couldn’t get a job there I settled on working as a customer service rep for a company that sold prescription drugs online. It had all the trappings of an outsourced US company in Mumbai: a dry-erase board that had our current location (Phoenix, Arizona) our local time in said city and a listing of local attractions (in case someone became suspicious of the accents.) Most of us that arrived for the week long intensive training and orientation course were Anglos. The Israelis among us had to change their names (Alon became Alan, Reut became Rebecca) and learn to banter US style. We could choose from three shifts: AM (7-3) PM (4-12) or GRAVEYARD (12-7). The golden rule: never let on that you’re in Israel. I lasted three whole days. In their defense, they did pay me promptly for those three days.
My next job was at one of Israel’s largest subtitling and captioning companies. I got to spend the next few years overseeing and quality checking the subtitles of crappy reality television (Keeping up with the Kardashians, Real Housewives of every fucking city in the US). At my lowest point I was in charge of the subtitles for the X rated and pornographic movies that you can find on Pay per View, though why anyone would pay for porn these days when it is widely available online (and for free) is beyond me. I would spend entire days watching milf/teen/interracial porn and making sure that every “Oh My God” and “Yes” were properly translated and timed. Most people were jealous. “You get paid to watch porn?” Yup. I’m still paying for the lasting scars to my psyche.
I was a florist for an afternoon, a news cameraman for a major international news network that is virulently anti-Israel, a translator and proof reader for the extreme left organization Gisha, an actor in a video by Israeli Pantomime artist Hanoch Rosen, a video store clerk, an editor of wedding videos, a documentary filmmaker and a stay at home dad.
Throughout all this I have tried to keep my dream of making movies alive. At times it has seemed to me as elusive and distant as the farthest stars in the outer reaches of the galaxy. At other times it seems so close that I can touch and smell it.
We are all dreamers, all of us and we are all displaced in one way or another. We all could have been somebody or are still trying to be somebody. We all could use a little help getting to where we think we should be. If only channel 10 had the time to profile all of us.