4:00am.

I’ve been waking up at this ungodly hour of the morning all week.  This isn’t surprising, as I am fresh back from Israel and my jetlag is something to be reckoned with.

As anticipated, home was a quiet respite from everything LA, a place to be well fed on proper humus and pita (why is all pita bread in Los Angeles so thin?), and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.  On a minor note, I also had a bunch of work (which means I apologize to all those folks I didn’t get to see.)

Here are a few highlights.

First and foremost there is my very pregnant sister.  She is 7 months along and looks the same as she always does, except with a huge belly sticking out in front of her.  Given that in my eyes she’s always 8 years old, you can imagine how odd this is for me.  Her belly manages to trump anything else that might be going on, in my head or otherwise.  It’s a case of:

It’s so relaxing (she’s pregnant) lying here (my sister’s pregnant), just my sister and I (she’s very pregnant) on the grass (with my pregnant sister).  The word “pregnant” starts to have no meaning and yet there she is, with her expanding and often moving (thanks to a very active occupant) belly.

I also took a trip down to Mitzpeh Ramon in the Negev Desert with my friend Haim.  Mitzpeh is a tiny town, and something of an artist colony, perched above the Ramon Crater.  The Negev is an amazing desert, with its myriad of color, its stark rock formations, and an ocean of quiet that drums into your very soul.  And right in the middle of the crater, we found (or rather, we were guided to by a friend of Haim’s) a natural pool of water.  A rarity indeed.  Apparently there have been several geological excavations going on in the area that have uncovered several large natural pools.  These were immediately sealed up for safety reasons, but this one was left unmolested.

A drive across the dusty desert, followed by a short hike along a canyon wall brought us to this rare and wonderful natural phenomenon.  The pool itself was really no more than a large puddle, having evaporated somewhat throughout the summer.  About 2 feet deep and approximately 20 feet across, the murky water has such a high level of salt in it that one could float, much like the Dead Sea.  And this is precisely what we did, the canyon walls reaching up above us to an evening sky dominated by a full moon.  One becomes once more aware of the quiet of the desert, accentuated by the sound of ones breathing, or the occasional splash, reverberating against the wall of rock towering over us.

Later, on our drive back up to Tel Aviv, we pulled over to stand and stare at the night sky.  The moon having set, and no light pollution to speak of, the sky was a brilliant display of stars, the Milky Way a smear of cloudy white that stretched from horizon to horizon.  And if that wasn’t enough to make you gasp in wonderment, a very cinematic shooting star cut through the heavens, thus gilding an already outrageous lily.

The one truly surprising aspect of my trip was a last minute jaunt to Berlin.  Yes, Berlin.  It was primarily a research trip, but that doesn’t change the fact that I got to spend 3 days in a city I love, speaking a language I have been studying, and enriching my knowledge of good beer.  Again, apologies to those people I didn’t get to see.

I’ve mentioned before that I am learning German, and I am now mostly through my German 3 lessons.  Accordingly, I can now talk about meetings I am going to have next Tuesday, what the weather is like in Boston, and how to find the castle gardens.  I can safely say, though, that in actuality I can do so much more.

I was walking along the banks of the Spree, when I came upon a collection of Wagons (or rather, trailers), hidden among the trees.  These types of setups are Berlin’s answer to alternative living, inhabited by people choosing something other that the typical way of life.  It’s part hippie, part social outcast, depending on where you go.  I wound up spending a couple of hours in deep conversation with a local who spoke not a word of English, but that didn’t stop us from discussing everything from women, politics, travel, and just how bad the wine we were drinking was.  By the end of it I was thoroughly exhausted, thoroughly drunk, and thoroughly impressed with my newfound command of the language.

That’s about it for now.  There are other stories to tell, for sure, and I invite you to ask.  (How was London?  What about the Cabaret?  What’s this I hear about a Calderwood Lodge mini-reunion?)  So go ahead, ask.  On one condition, though.  Let me know what you are up to as well.

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