Wednesday, October 29, 2003

I'm baaack.

I had a fun time over in the States. I spent a week in New York visiting friends before flying down for a few days to Palm Beach, Florida, where my brother got married.

The best thing about New York is its timeless quality. I am particularly fond of the Brooklyn Bridge, which I visited on a freezing cold day. The wind was whipping up off the Hudson cooling me even further, to the extent that I almost had trouble taking photographs.

I also took the time to visit Ground Zero. The last time I went down there was in early November, 2001, about a month and a half after 9/11. At that time, it was still a smoldering heap of rubble and you weren't allowed within two blocks of it.

The only time I remember visiting the Twin Towers while they stood was two visits to New York ago, in early 2000. At that time I looked up at the two edifices and shuddered to think that a car bombing 7 years earlier had nearly brought them down.

Today, if you didn't know what once stood on the site, Ground Zero looks like just another building site, albeit a largish one. People flock to the site and gather round the fences which surround it, but there isn't too much to see, really. Besides the memorial and explanation plaques, the only symbol is this big cross built from girders from the original buildings.

Those of us who remember will look at the following photo of this and see that something big is missing:

After a week of New York, I found that I was getting pretty worn out. A relative once told me that he enjoys going to New York but he also enjoys leaving. I have the same feeling. The place is too large, overwhelming, stuffed with things to do. I never feel comfortable just hanging around because I always think that I'm missing out on something. Which I probably am.

In any case, it was a bit of a relief to get down to Palm Springs which is almost the antithesis of NYC. There's very little to do there other than to kick back at the beach. Little bro got married at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Springs.

Apparently Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley spent their wedding night in the tower you can see above.

All together now: Eeeeeeew!!!

The place was originally built by the Post family, who had a lot of money and wanted to buy as much class as they could. As a result, the place is more than a little bling-blinged out. For example, just have a little peek into one of the ladies' restrooms:

Donald Trump bought Mar-a-Lago in 1985. In true Trump style, he has placed his stamp all over the place. For instance, guests are treated to a brand of mineral water called "Trump Ice" bearing the Donald's visage on each and every bottle. I particularly enjoyed this portrait of the great man in the bar/gentleman's club adjacent to the main hall:

The title of the painting, by the by, is "The Visionary".

It was a lovely wedding and everyone had a good time. The newlyweds are off running around Spain on their honeymoon and I can only wish them a hearty mazel tov and nothing but happiness.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

First off, props to my little brother who is getting married today. I wish he and my sister-in-law-as-of-four-o'clock-today nothing but the best health and happiness for years to come.

We've all gathered for the occasion in Palm Beach, Florida. After a week of fairly intensive running around in New York, it's a bit of a relief to be able to kick up my feet and enjoy a decidedly pretty view of the Atlantic. It's also a bit of a trip (in the mind sense as much as the travel one).

A couple of times in the last week, I've heard the cliche that New York is not really America. And when you travel from Manhattan to Palm Beach, you see what people mean.

Now, Palm Beach is the real America. You get the same kind of bland suburban architecture -- what I like to call genericana -- that gives little indication where you might be. When you drive around, you get the sensation that were it not for the occasional palm tree you might just as easily be in San Jose, CA or parts of suburban Boston.

I suppose the same can be said of the locals and tourists that you tend to encounter. In Israel, you don't get a lot of doughy blonde-haired people wearing golf clothing. You also don't encounter them en masse in NYC, so this part is a bit trippy for me as well.

The most salient feature of the area is the unreal number of mansions which line the coast here. And we're talking about the real deal here, not the kind of prefab McMansions that you find in gated communities all over the USA.

Don't get me wrong. I'm really not trying to come off as a pretentious European kulturcritic, even though it might sound like it. I certainly don't care to pass judgement over any of this.

The architecture may be bland, but it also gives you a comforting sense of familiarity. You may be thousands of kilometers from home, but you know how things work.

The doughy white people are perfectly friendly. And while it sucks that the owners of the big mansions also own a lot of the beaches for their private use, I find it nice that I can look down the coast and get a clear view of the beaches unfettered by a lot of hotels and housing. Try to find that in Israel.

America is what it is for better or for worse, and I learned a long time ago to try and take it on its own terms.