A Tel Aviv Love/Hate Story
Is it my imagination, I think, or does that giant mold spot on the ceiling above my bed look just like a dragon?
Under normal circumstances I might think that I’m losing it, but living in Tel Aviv is not normal circumstances.
After ten-plus years of living in this lively, fascinating, chaotic, colorful, always crazy city, nothing would seem less surprising to me than if the moldy dragon were to suddenly start spewing fire at me.
Should I bother calling my bitch of a landlord Linda this time, even though I can easily predict the outcome?
“Hi Melissa! Sorry sweetie, that’s awful. Yes, living in Tel Aviv is not easy,” she would say in her typical condescending, slightly German-accented manner. “Also in my apartment, I have the floor tiles cracking, and my shower is covered in mold. You should consider yourself lucky that you get to live in such a lovely apartment at a price much lower than I should be charging. But of course, even though the rent is so low, at just 6,500 shekels a month, I want you to be happy, so I will send the handyman to look at the ceiling again.”
Nothing would seem less surprising to me than if the moldy ceiling dragon were to suddenly start spewing fire at me.
And then the handyman would come, splash a measly layer of paint over the dragon, and tell me he’d see me again in a month, when the mold will no doubt come back.
Linda’s two-faced behavior—on the one hand motherly and caring, but on the other condescending and manipulative—reminds me of the two-faced city I live in. It’s energetic and intoxicating, full of interesting people and new experiences waiting to happen… but it’s also boiling hot, migraine-inducing, and it too often brings out the worst in people, our inner animal. And I don’t mean a cute fuzzy little bunny – I mean a beast.
As I’m debating with myself whether I should give up the fight with my “landlord” (referring to landlords by that name only boosts their already massive egos, if you ask me. I mean lord? Seriously) or whether I should try to get this mold problem fixed once and for all, I realize something: in the space of thirty seconds, I have turned a spot of mold into a dragon and a city’s population into a monstrous species.
I have got to take a vacation.
I open the window, only to hear five honks followed by an all-too familiar “Lech lehizdayen, ya be zona!” (“Go fuck yourself, you son of a bitch!”), which at least slightly masks the repetitive, endless coos of my pigeon neighbors. I stick my head out the window of my “architect-designed,” expensive mold-filled, cockroach-infested apartment in “the heart of Tel Aviv” (meaning on a main street, preventing anyone from sleeping ever), and I take in a breath of fresh air… or a breath of air, at least.
Tel Aviv is energetic and intoxicating, full of interesting people and new experiences waiting to happen…
And then a pigeon poops on my head.
That does it. I’m not fighting, I’m not giving up the fight… I’m taking my life back instead.
I take a quick shower to rinse off the pigeon poop, then head directly over to my laptop. A few clicks later, and it’s done. I’ve bought an open-ended ticket to Thailand. I leave tomorrow.
I need to breathe in actual fresh air, I need to remember that I actually like interacting with people, I need to hear something other than the sounds of the thumping bed from upstairs or the pee tinkling from the drunk man outside my window at four in the morning… I need an escape to nature.
A cold cocktail in my hand as I’m lounging by the crystal clear water on a remote Thai island, or the crunching of my hiking boots on the jungle ground should do the trick. Just a taste of nature, maybe for a week, maybe a year, and I’ll be refreshed, energized, back to myself. I’ll be ready to take on this incredible city again, to look the dragon in the eye and say “This is my home, bitch.”