There’s a small electrical goods shop not far from us that we’ve been using since we moved to Tel Aviv nearly 13 years ago, a father and son operation, the Gallantis. These days, the father looks after the shop on some afternoons and on Fridays while the son does whatever his Friday thing is — sailing or surfing some some other aquacultural activity, I think.
When I first met him, he was 74 and had just returned from several weeks in Colorado riding out with Harley-Davidson bikers. About three or four years ago, I asked him if he was still a Harley-Davidson biker and he told me that unfortunately, he’d had to give that up as it was no longer safe at his age., at which point he asked me to step outside the shop and behold something wondrous.
Curious, I followed him out to where his Vespa motor scooter was parked on the footpath, at which point he produced a USB stick, which he connected to a sound system he had rigged up on the scooter. He turned the ignition key and then switched on the sound. And just what was it that he had on the USB stick? Well, the roar of a Harley-Davidson accelerating, that’s what it was! Really! Nothing like continuing to instill some fear into car drivers at the traffic lights just so that they should know who’s still in charge.
On Fridays, customers are invited to join him for a chat and something to eat or drink while he looks after the shop and sees that the business doesn’t go under. Olives, sausage, cookies, sweets and more. The bottle in the picture below, taken perhaps four or so years ago, looks like it contains orange juice but the label says it’s vodka and I can guess what it is that’s in it and from the looks of things, some of the precious liquid had already found its way into where it had already been well appreciated.
Anyway, one morning last week, I went into the shop to buy an electric fan heater for the bathroom. I had the camera around my neck and Avi (Gallanti junior) was in the store. After I’d bought the heater and arranged for an electrician to come and attach it to the wall, he began to quiz me about the camera. As it happened, I had a portrait lens on it and with the aperture wide open, it does a fairly good job in low light conditions so he asked me if he could see what it was capable of doing. So I took two images and he seemed quite impressed. Actually, so was I. Because the light was poor and the lens aperture was wide open, I focussed on the eyes and as a result much of the rest of the face, warts and all, is slightly out of focus.
A couple of hours later, heater installed, I called Avi to pay. After the transaction had been completed, he asked me if I could do him a favour. Could I come back to the shop one afternoon or on a Friday morning and photograph his father for his family archive? There was only one special request and that was that there should be no artificial poses for the photographs; they should be as natural as possible.
So the following Friday morning, I duly went into the shop and explained his son’s request to the older Mr. Galanti, now 86 years of age. He really couldn’t have cared less; he had three clients in the shop when I arrived and their needs had to be seen to. Their “needs” included inviting them to eat some crackers and cheese and choose from a tot of whisky, vodka or limoncello. He was an ideal subject as he went about his business and ignored me totally.
Last week, winter let us know that it was here as we had a couple of days of near gale-force winds and all the electrical highlights that go with an Eastern Mediterranean storm — thunder and lightning and the rest, but at least in our area there were no electrical power outages, which is often the case. With all the work that was done on the street from the beginning of last year until just a couple of months ago, the drainage system still can’t handle 20 minutes of heavy rain as the street transmogrifies intro a raging torrent and the park becomes a sodden muddy mess.
The day after the rain had ceased, I walked down to Tel Aviv Port along the banks of the Yarqon, which had filled with a rather dirty brown liquid. On reaching the port, the sea was rough (although I’ve seen in rougher on many occasions) but what was in evidence was its murky muddy brownness.
While at the port on Friday morning, there is always something photogenic to record. Last Friday, it was large [not quite perfect] cauliflower …
… and a woman dressed in what I can only describe as Joseph’s Technicolor Peace Coat.
One can never be quite sure what one is about to come across on the city streets. The other day, I passed a small park off one of the small streets near home that I had never really noticed before and in it there was an installation by the Israeli sculptor, Yaacov Agam, entitled “Roots — Menorah”, which is a reminder of Jewish roots and Hanukkah, which was celebrated a fortnight ago. Agam is the highest-selling Israeli artist of all time, with pieces selling for up to almost $700,000.
As I’ve written before, I’m always amazed by what turns up on the streets everywhere — even when one is ultraconservative and patrols along almost the same route daily. Something always seems to turn up that either wasn’t there before or that you’ve never been observant enough to have noticed.
One day last week, I walked up to the eastern extremity of the Shlomtzion HaMalcah Street, to where it meets Weizmann Street and caught a glimpse of one of the more peculiar street animals I’ve come across in a long time. I actually had to stare at it for quite a few seconds before I realized that it was a tree — or at least what was left of a tree, although looking at it again, what else could it possibly have been?
Then wandering along Pinkas Street and heading for home, I came across this [somewhat pathetic] plea stuck on to an electricity junction box near the Hungarian Embassy. According to Google Translate, the Hungarian translates as “Free Worker, Free University”. Either way, it’s a protest. Given that Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister, was welcomed to Israel just a few months ago by his Israeli counterpart, the almost equally illiberal Bibi Netanyahu, I think the writers of this notice might have done a better job in protesting against government interference in Hungary’s instititions.
And talking of Bibi—who yesterday called an election in April 2019, less than six weeks after he had explained to the nation why it would be dangerous to the country’s security and immoral to break up the coalition and call an election—this is one of the team members who stand on street corners day by day and attempt to give away Bibi’s Freebie, Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today). Sometimes there are takers, mostly not.
And then passing a gift shop one morning in North Tel Aviv, I espied three members of the Zionist pantheon in the window—David Ben-Gurion, Theodore Herzl and Moshe Dayan. No Bibi, though, from which I concluded that it order to become a dollied up plaster bust in a shop window, you first have to be dead.
And just around the corner from the dolls, I came across someone on a street bench reading from something that wasn’t a smartphone or a newspaper.
And I couldn’t resist [yet another] hydrant picture although they appear increasingly infrequently these days. However, this one, next door to the building beside the local pharmacy struck me as different. It was one of those hydrant pictures in which the caption flashed up in front of me before I’d even had a chance to click the shutter button. It was a definitely a Jewish hydrant!
My neighbours seem finally to have understood that I usually go out mornings with my camera, so much so that if they see me without it, some of them ask me why or what’s happened. The neighbour below lives up the street and frequently makes comments about me and the camera although I don’t think he’s ever actually seen a single picture that I’ve taken. Daniel Versano is an Israeli businessman with interests in the The Netherlands, where he lived for many years and where he still visits frequently. So I caught him the other day on camera while standing beside his car. I pointed it as if to say that I hadn’t forgotten it this time and he cooperated with a pose of his own which, I suppose, said something about what he thinks of having his photograph taken.
These days, one of his principal claims to fame is that he is the real-life father-in-law of Wonder Woman.
Finally, walking through the park on Sunday morning, I thought it a tad chilly and I was wearing a cotton sweater with sleeveless jacket over it. Coming past the rowing club, I noticed in the distance someone who didn’t seem to share my feelings about the weather and the chill. She just come off the river after a hour paddling on a surfboard and as I had a telephoto lens on the camera, decided to click from a distance.
Then as I got closer, the photo seemed to become more interesting …
… or so I thought.
As I drew level with her, she turned to me and asked if I had just taken her photo a couple of minutes earlier from further away and I thought to myself “Here it goes, an admonition. Should I agree to delete the two previous images from the memory card or explain to her that once the photo had been taken in a public space, that was it done and dusted?” So, I was somewhat surprised when her request was that simply if I could please send her the photos. As I don’t usually carry a writing implement and paper with me when I go out (perhaps I should) and she certainly didn’t seem to have anywhere to put one comfortably, I agreed to send them to her by email or phone if she agreed to a third picture. So and snapped again and she then provided me with her mobile number and her first name. Half an hour later, the pictures were on their way to her smartphone.
Having done that, I decided to carry out a little experiment. What can you find out about a person you’ve never met before just on the basis of a given name and a phone number—nothing more? Within less three minutes, I had discovered that Galit Danin is a psychotherapist who lives in Tel Aviv with practices in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. At that point, I thought of becoming a little depressed and booking myself in for an appointment. On second thoughts, however, I don’t think it would have worked!
As a postscript, for those of you who enjoy music, one of the compensations of not having been able to travel together to London last month was that we were able to walk 250m down the street to hear a performance by the countertenor, Andreas Scholl. And then two days later, we went to hear both Tami and Shuli perform in a wonderfully fresh arrangement by Ilan Rechtman of the Saint Saëns Cello Concerto for cello and string nonet at Tel Aviv Museum. Enjoy!
And with that, I complete Post #171 of this blog, which I began three years ago this week, hoping that I might have enough material for just 20!
And to those of you to whom it applies, Season’s Greetings.