Wednesday, November 30, 2005

You're never fully dressed....

There are so many reasons my husband is a great guy, and why he's so darn lovable. But he has this one talent/quality that sometimes makes me want to strangle him, and other times makes me laugh so hard milk shoots out my nose, and sometimes its both reactions simultaneously.

Bryan is one of those guys who, no matter how hard he tries, will always look like a bit of a disaster. So much so that he's stopped trying. This is not to say that he doesn't care at all what he looks like, or tries to dress like crap. It just means that no matter how hard he tries, something goes wrong. Sometimes he'll go for a few days without shaving. I'll complain and he'll go back to shave, but somehow he will *always* miss this one tiny spot right under his right nostril,to the effect that the remaining cubic micrometer has an alarming way of looking much like a booger. On the days that this occurs, everything else will be right with his appearance.

His shirts, which all started out their lives as wonderfully trendy pieces of clothing, have all developed battle wounds from one thing or another. My personal favorite story (and this is something that could happen only to Bryan) was his pink dress shirt. I wondered why he owned any pink items of clothing at all - despite the fashionableness - but then he told me he was invited to a wedding where the dress code was "Glamorously chic" and this was my husband's impersonation of such a style of dress.

On Simchat Torah Bryan was wearing his pink shirt, and turns up after shul with the entire sleeve ripped from elbow to wrist. I was curious how such an incident could have happened - I mean, I know the man-dancing gets rowdy, but only Bryan looked like he'd been in a fight. Somehow, somehow one of the shul members managed to catch either the sights or the trigger of his pistol on Bryan's sleeve (it wasn't the butt, and the barrel was in the holster) and rip it. You're probably all scrathing your heads, thinking "Huh?" much like I was, but there you have another classic Bryan story.

Anyway, since he starts a new job in 1 week, I strong-armed him (literally) into buying 2 new shirts for work. We bought a lovely light blue one, and a more blue-blue shirt, and 2 pairs of cordoroys. Well, about 1 hour after we arrived home from shopping, I said, "How about you wear that lovely new blue-blue shirt we bought today, to synagogue tonight?" And he said, "I can't". He said he wouldn't tell me why because I'd "get cross" with him.

Eventually, Bryan 'fessed up that he had .....wait for it....already managed to make the brand-new shirt dirty before removing it from the shopping bag! Apparently, when we'd stopped at the bakery on the way home, a small amount of warm chocolate filling had escaped his croissant, fallen straight into the shopping bag in his hand, and gotten to the shirt. Now, most people, when noticing such a large amount of their croissant falling from their lips, would check to see where it had landed. But not Bryan. Nope, he just patted the bag closed (thereby grinding the still-warm chocolate into the new shirt) and went on his merry way.

But that's not all.

Bryan has since been to the cleaners twice since the shirt incident last Friday. But he has not brought the new shirt in to be cleaned. Last night, when I asked him why, he said that he did a cost-benefit analysis and decided that the 14 NIS that he would have to spend on cleaning the shirt must be added to the overall purchase price of the shirt, therefore bringing the final purchase price to something he would never had paid for the shirt.

Therefore, his solution is that he will wear the shirt for the next 2 Friday nights, underneath a jersey/sweater, thereby hiding the chocolate stain, and only then will he bring it into the cleaners, because then it would be worth it to pay the 14 NIS for the dry-cleaning.

I pointed out that none of his existing sweaters match the shirt in any way, but he thinks that if royal blue and orange (the color of his favorite sweater) are good enough for the previous South African flag, then its good enough for him to wear to shule. Or alternatively, he could simply go buy another sweater, in order to have one to match the shirt that he could wear along if he'd only pay the 14 NIS.

To quote another happy couple I know "No, no ladies, I saw him first. Back off, he's mine".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Never Rent When You Can Buy

As part of the big move to Ra'anana, Bryan and I embarked on 2 more mini-adventures, which have made our aliyah far more complete.

The first Adventure: Subletting our apartment (in our language) or "Trying to break our lease" (as the landlord put it).

I figured this would be very simple - we had no trouble finding someone to assume 6 months of our lease, and there was a definite clause in our contract about allowing someone to assume our lease if we had to leave.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Israeli landlord. I assume that many of you already have, so you'll understand what I'm talking about. With no regard for the law, even less regard for people and with $$$ signs in his eyes, the Israeli landlord is a breed unlike any you've ever met in the old country. Our landlord is actually native French, and he has been thus far the worst landlord I have ever had.

We called the LL as soon as we knew we were definitely moving, and when we had a vague idea that it woulnd't be too hard to find a new tenant. His immediate response was to accuse me of lying, saying that I knew in advance we were going to be leaving, but was only telling him now. I pointed out that if that were the case, would I have enrolled in school in Jerusalem, requiring the purchase of a car and 1-hour commute each way? Would Bryan and I have spruced up the apartment, springing for all kinds of repairs the dear landlord wouldn't?

I think I got the point across, and then the LL started on 'if you would have told me Bryan didn't have a job and you were in school when you moved in I would never had let you have the apartment because you're unreliable'. I'm not sure what difference that makes...for all he knows we are retired quabillionaires at the age of 30 and anyway, we've never been a second late with the rent (he had 12 head checks, so we couldn't have if we wanted to, plus 2 months cash deposit, plus guarantors, plus a shtar hov - a surety bond).

Anyway, with those rants out of the way he started listing his "requirements" for subletters: No singles, no roomates, no unmarried couples living together, no homosexuals, no tourists who would be likely to leave after finishing our lease, etc. I explained to him that although he considers all of the above "unreliable" tenants, the risk to be assumed was ours - we were willing to stay on the lease and simply sublet the apartment. But the LL didn't care about that. He said he'd have to think about it for 2 days.

Then we found a woman who was quite keen on subletting, so much so that even though she knew about the crazy landlord, she still wanted our place. I called the LL up, and let him know we had someone stable, her cousin is a good friend of ours, etc. After yelling at me for not giving him his full 48 hours to think he said he'd spoken with some buddies and his demand was this: He would "allow" us to bring in a subletter, IF the the subletter agreed right now to not only finish out our contract but to add an extra year onto the lease. Basically he wanted to better his situation at our expense. He said that when we met with him the first time we told him we were likely to stay in the place for more than one year if all went well, and he had chosen us out of all the available tenants for that reason, and now he was going to have to find a new tenant come June, because we were irresponsible and LIED to him about staying in one place for more than one year. I told him that the way he was treating us, even if we weren't moving to Ra'anana we would be leaving come June.

Anyway, he went on and on, while I sat and fumed. The next morning I called our lawyer who told me that it was totally illegal, both the tacking on of the extra year and his refusal to allow us to sublet to some of his "undesirable" subgroups. We decided to see what a phonecall from our lawyer could do, but before we even got the chance, the LL called to say he'd spoken to a lawyer who told him he was being a bit harsh (and illegal) so he said he would be willing to meet interested parties.

We've come far enough - the woman who was originally interested will be taking the place. She lied to the LL and told him she would seriously consider re-signing at the end of June - except she knows she's leaving the country. Good for him, he'll have to look for a new tenant without any help of ours. Of course, his new "requirement" is that not only do we have to stay on the lease, not get our cash deposit back and not get our head checks returned until the end of our original lease, but the subltter also has to bring gurantors, head checks and a deposit. Which we won't allow. He basically wants 2 leases on the same palce for the same time period.

This is a perfect advert for why everyone who can, should buy a place as soon as is feasible. And secondly, from my experiences, whenever possible do NOT rent from someone who owns the one flat and uses the rent you pay, to finance his mortgage payments. They tend to be cheap as hell, require unbelievable deposits, and hard to get deposits back (I am still waiting for mine from the flat I moved out of in July - and I even have the k'tav siluk saying I have fulfilled all my obligation and am owed the deposit of $300 back). If at all possible, rent from a large company, who has a manager/managing company that is unrelated to the owner.

Our second adventure - buying a car in Israel is another post unto itself. But I pose the following question to those of you who have read this far: Would you buy a new Toyota Corolla or a new Citroen C4 knowing the prices were the same, the service at Citroen was better, the warranty at Citroen was better, the financing at Citroen was better....Please explain your answer (not: I always buy Japanese or I hate the French):)


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Far From the Home I Love

When I started this blog, it was generally to receive free therapy from the general public vis-a-vis my dating dramas. Those dramas have largely come to an end since getting married, and the new dramas in my life are usually no longer subject to public examination since they involve my husband, a patient and generous man who doesn't have the same "let-me-pour-my-heart-out-to-the-world-and-see-what-happens" attitude that I do.

However, a new drama has arisen that can/should be shared.

Yet again, during another wonderful Shabbat at Chez Treppenwitz, a innocent chat between Zahava and I has led me to a groundbreaking, life-altering decision. The first one involved dating Bryan at all.

Bryan has been more or less out of work since making aliyah. For the first year this was ok, as he studied in both Ulpan and a yeshiva and didn't really intend to work unless something wonderful fell into his lap. However, since about January 2005 he's been looking for work, whilst working part-time in the family business. He really started concentrating his efforts in about June, but even since then nothing came his way.

He would follow up on every contact he received, send his CV out to everyone who said "Send us your CV, we'll see what we can do", had it translated to hebrew to increase his odds at Israeli companies, and try every possible route of protekziya we had (which everyone knows is the best way to get a job in Israel). But nothing worked. It seemed that even when Bryan would get interviews, he was constantly being undercut by people who had far more protekziya than him. I mean, he'd get to the 3rd interview for a particular job, the head partner would discuss benefits, hours and methods of transport to work with him, the HR person would tell him to wait for 5 minutes and she's be back with an offer, and then he'd be told "well, we have one more candidate who just came in, we'll get back to you...." and that would be the end of the story.

In early October he did get a job offer, but it seemed totally unviable as it involved a move from Jerusalem in order to get his commute down to a do-able distance, and I am still in school in Jerusalem, and we have no car, and a lease that goes until June. Plus, the money they offered him didn't seem to be worth the move. So we turned it down. This job, mind you, was the only job Bryan had applied for where he had absolutely no protekziya, and had simply appllied through the internet, through a website that helps place accountants in suitable positions.

Anyway, Bryan is generally a cheery, happy, laid-back kind of guy. But I've been noticing that the lack of working has really been taking a toll on him. It is clearly pretty hard for a guy who is supposed to be the chief bread-winner not winning any bread. Not simply from a financial perspective, because thankfully we had a bit of savings to live on, but from a "worth" perspective.

Anyway, following another meaningful conversation with Zahava, I made a decision, sort of. Zahava mind you, doesn't even realize she's helping me make life-altering decisions. She's simply cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, while little Yonah, her almost 2-year-old, happily bathes in the dog's water bowl, and schmoozing with me on the side. Zahava made me realize even more how important it is for Bryan to work, and that the salary offered to him was the same as what her husband makes, and is actually decent for Israel. The wheels started churning, but I didn't tell Bryan.

The, a few days later, we had occasion to spend the night at a community that is in the Merkaz. And I took the bus to and from school that day. And while the 2+ hour bus ride was not wonderful, it was do-able. So I called Bryan from the bus, and told him to call this place that had offered him the job 1.5 months ago to see if it was still open. And it was!!!

So, to finish the story, in less than 2 weeks, Bryan and I are moving to Ra'anana! And Bryan starts work at BDO Ziv Haft (a big 5 accounting firm) in 2 weeks, but will be onsite at a client in Yokne'am (near Haifa). So we'll both be having long commutes, but Bryan is so happy he gets to work that he just doesn't care.

At first, I was really upset about my decision. But I knew it was the right move. I wandered around our apartment singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof, "Far from the Home I Love" for a couple days. But I could see it was starting to upset Bryan.

And now I am sort of excited about the move. Its a big adventure, since I have never lived anywhere in Israel besides Jerusalem, which I know like the back of my hand. In fact, Israel to me = Jerusalem, plus the Gush Etzion bloc. I have exactly zero friends on Ra'anana (though Bryan has a few plus some cousins). But we're doing it.

As the cold sets in Jerusalem, I think there couldn't be a more perfect time of year to move to sunny Ra'anana. Of course, in the summer I'll be so hot I will wish I was never born, but that's 6 months away. And I think about the cool Ra'anana places - Cup O' Joe coffee, Meatland (with its boerwors), American-style malls - and as Bryan adds, and money to actually spend in all these places.

But the best part of all is the happiness on Bryan's face.