"Our most ancient metaphor says life is a journey. Memoir is travel writing, then, notes taken along the way, telling how things looked and what thoughts occurred. . . .This is the traveler who goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places...as a pilgrim, seeking, wondering." -Patricia Hampl

July 23, 2006

A Movie Star Uses our Shower, We Feel Special

One of the perks of being a part of the Rochester Jewish Film Festival --aside from making sure that patrons get the correct half of their ticket stubs back to receive free ice cream at Friendly's--is being granted the priviledge to rub elbows with the occassional artiste. This year, when the board was asked who wanted to pick up one of the actors (who was to introduce his own film and open the festival), I involuntarily and excitedly raised my hand.

I've never collected an important person before: and I've certainly never had one in my care. As Heath and I drove to the airport to pick up Sirak Sabahat, an Ethiopean-born Israeli currently living between Paris and New York--it occurred to me that perhaps he wouldn't speak English (who needs English in New York?), and perhaps I don't speak Amharic, Eritrean, French, or Hebrew. But language was no barrier: upon seeing our very mod actor walk through the glass doors of Rochester's "International" Airport, I was relieved that he felt comfortable enough to exchange a friendly hello and a warm hug. Thank goodness: not a diva.

We offered to take Sirak out for lunch and then to the theater to prepare for his film, "Live and Become" (Va, Vie, et Souviens); but he explained that he doesn't eat much, nevermind the toll Western foods take on him, and only after 8 p.m. We offered him a nice shower and a place to rest at the lovely home of our festival director. To this, Sirak asked why he would want to use the home of a stranger when he would be far more comfortable using ours--and so, quietly hoping the other had wiped up the bathroom and changed the towels, Heath and I brought Sirak Sabahat, the "Israeli Brad Pitt," back to our home.

While Sirak showered and changed, we waited, in silence, at the kitchen table. Were this Israel, we'd have to ward off fans and paparazzi, or so it was explained to me later. But anonymity in America can be a blessing. Sirak, freshly dressed in white linen, was ready to explore Rochester, with only his new companions to share him. We brought him to the landmark George Eastman House--former mansion of the inventor of the moving picture--but Sirak was less interested in a museum than in taking a walk, with us, around the block. In the span of less than a mile, Heath and I learned why such a prominent figure in world cinema was so humble: this movie star was once a hunter, he said. He could feed and protect his family with his hands by the time he was eight years old. It took Sirak's family over a year to WALK from his home to the city where they would be airlifted, with hundreds of other Ethiopean Jews, to their homeland. Assimilating to Israeli life was shocking (as "Live and Become" touches upon), but more for his parents, who still do not understand what Sirak does--nor why he is known so famously in Israel.

When we arrived at the Little Theater, Sirak was asked three times to grant interviews--he wasn't thrilled to do it. A glimpse of paparazzi, in the form of our local news channels, made him slightly uncomfortable. But in front of our sold-out crowd, he softened, and his smile warmed the audience, as it had Heath and I. We had trouble letting him off at the airport that night. What a lot we'd learned that day--including why one should always wipe up the bathroom and change the towels.

July 16, 2006


Let me explain why this deserves a post: if you live in the greater Boston area, have managed to survive the perils of the Big Dig, and get out once in a while, not a month goes by without local punk-mambo band Babaloo!'s name coming up. Sure, it might be scrawled on the bathroom door of the B-Side Lounge, but that's honorable. Suffice it to say that my dear friend Allison and I passed many a Saturday night shaking and salsaing ourselves to the Afro-Cuban rhythms of Babaloo!, which became such a fun staple of our nightlives in Boston that we made it a point to seldom miss their appearance on a local stage.

So it came as a welcome shock that my beloved Babaloo! played gratis, downtown, this month, at a mini-fest called Pole-A-Palooza; typical food, vendors, music, and of course, the odd couple of people there you never expect would show up: for instance, Micah, who we'd just camped with at Keuka Lake (see previous post).

Before they began, and while they watched another band perform, I thought I'd take a moment to greet the band members to my hometown, exclaim my elation at their being in town; and to this, the lead singer commented: Hey--aren't you that girl we used to see at Johnny D's? Where you been, chica? I hugged him.

Heath was weary that the show would be anything worthwhile when the band went on late, but he and Micah (who'd thought he was leaving much earlier) danced for the entire set. With a few more Babaloo! converts in these parts, perhaps we'll have them back here more often.

July 02, 2006

Camping on Keuka Lake

Heath make fire!  White smoke bad!

Rain storms? Bah. We set out for Keuka Lake to meet up with some of Heath's old high school buds and their gals for a night under the stars despite the ominous dark cloud following the Ford Escape; but somewhere around Country Road 29, the cloud vanished, we remembered that we'd forgotten a flashlight, and we made it to the campsite. Despite Heath's history of resisting a foray into camping, he totally wowed me with his mad tent-pitching/rain fly skills: we were set up and ready to relax.

Friends Matt and Kate, recently married in South Africa, brought along all the necessary camping accoutrements--including Micah, Micah's E-Z tent under which to eat, and Matt's family boat, upon which we spent the late afternoon. Matt impressed all with his waterskiing moves, and Micah--well, some good attempts at getting up, but his blue mohawk was more entertaining.

A well-grilled dinner and some catch-up bedtime stories later, the July Fourth practice-fireworks and the moon overhead, it was a beautiful night. What rain clouds?

We took an early-morning stroll down to the lake and joined our friends for breakfast and Matt and Kate's travel pics from their Trip-Around-The-World: inspiring us to consider a sojourn to Argentina next year. Before long, it was time to pack up and part. We passed some local wineries on our way home, savoring the sweet air and the view of the lake. Three cheers for the great outdoors.

Passing the Keuka Vineyards