Drew T. Noll © 2023, all rights reserved

Sunday, December 24, 2017

White Noise

My Mother, Photo by My Father - 
The bones of our lives bleach in the naked sun when we tell our secrets. We all have them, you and me, but rarely do we find the opportunity or desire to knock on that particular door. I walk past bleach-white cow bones, a jawbone, vertebrae, and a rib or two … almost every day. They reside within the Bone Grotto in the nature reserve near my home in Zikhron Yaakov. Many times I find the bones there scattered into new arrangements, as if other beings … a jackal, boar, or human disturbed their previous formations, like constellations seen for the first time with new eyes … through a new type of telescope.

Down the hill from me, in a town called Jisr ‘aZarka, built by Turks using African immigrants resistant to malaria for the clearing of swamps around the source of the Tananim Stream, a print of an image hangs. It’s called The Dream, and is a visual reminder of a dream that I had once had about my mother … and her decline from health and ultimately her death … zikhron le’brakha. The story of my mother echoes beyond the last movement of her chest, with breath borrowed, with life infected. My mother died of a broken heart, zikhron le’brakha. God had failed her, the only thing that makes sense to me … now looking back. She was only a child, an only child, so … even though children nowadays are grown so much faster, her life path was set by others … far her senior. This is the story she told of her journey, anyways. As a storyteller myself, it’s hard to know how the actual truth weaves into the telling, but I, as a human being and as a once loved son … have to believe that truth lies between the bones; even though my mother’s bones became the cremated remains of my memories … once vital and vivacious … once a beautiful woman, my mother … playing the guitar, the flute, singing … planting wayward flowers into the SoCal garden controlled by my father, a manifest urban planner planning his domain. My mother died years ago, now; but, I haven’t missed her as much as I do now … sitting here in my bomb-shelter studio writing this. She loved me more … the most. She loved me with all of her heart, broken as it was. I was her first born, her hope. And, in my last conversation with her, this amazing woman that brought me into the world, as I merely uttered words over the telephone from far, far away, I live with and I know, to this day … that I was the one ... actually, that failed her.

We all have our lives and our worlds to inhabit, loved ones or not, and our thoughts and experiences define who we ‘will’ be… always. Often I imagine living in the jungles of Mexico or somewhere in South America, only seeing the light of day when the seasonal swells have risen on the Pacific Ocean,  and wandering down out of the shadows of living to ride the biggest waves all year. There are actual people that do this … year in and year out. I’ve heard of some and I’ve known some that aspired to be. I have yet to meet one. I imagine the lonely worlds that these individuals would inevitably inhabit … just each of them and God, mano a Mano. I imagine them as I descend the mountains nearby on a mountain bike, full-bore and without purpose … other than to forget, and to remember. I imagine them as I sit in front of an empty canvas … or screen as I write … mano a Mano. I failed my mother because I was the prodigal son. I failed because I didn’t follow the prescribed path. She should have known, you would think, the moment that I refused to wear the brand new polo shirt she had bought me. She should have known when my grades came in with F’s in anything I didn’t care for, and straight A’s in everything else. She should have known that I was cutting my own path, or so you would think … at least I would like to as I look back on my mother’s life and death. She died of a broken heart, I already said, but really it was a broken womb; my mother died of neglected and unchecked uterine cancer, and in the world that I inhabit … this means that my mother’s cancer started in the same place that I did, in her womb. My father died of cancer also, but his was a heady, cerebral kind of affair, being a brain tumor, not connected to genetics but to randomness and/or so-called environmental issues. Stress killed my dad, while birth killed my mom.

Once my mother died, a few years ago now, the courts took over … with lawyers and judges and all. The system took charge, as it should have. I relegated my last conversation with my mother to the ongoing insanity that lead up to her death. She couldn’t speak because of a medical device strapped across her mouth, enabling her to breathe; but, she could listen, and she could hear if she chose to. I imagine her husband, the alcoholic carpetbagger that she had bailed out of jail and then secretly married in Las Vegas, holding the phone to her head as she listened to me tell her how she had broken the law, broken the family trust, and broken her children’s hearts. It was the last conversation that I had had with her … and it haunts me to this day. I woke one morning from a terrible nightmare. I was expected to organize the arrangements, the billing, and the disasters that had already come to pass. I was the first born and was compelled by hand to try and put all of the pieces back together, as if ‘I’ were all the king’s horses and men. In my dream, using my skills as a carpenter, I hammered and screwed the parts together, hoping that tape wouldn’t be needed … all the while knowing that resorting to mere tape is a death-sentence. As I connected one part, the first would fall off, then the next, as I would attach the first again. My time became consumed with repairing the past. I stopped breathing and my face turned from red to white. But, in the last moment before I disappeared into nothing, I awoke to find that it had all been a dream! I was so excited, so enthralled … that I immediately flew straight up into the air. I hovered above my town, Zikhron Yaakov, and then began to fly. I flew over the path that I daily walked upon to get to my ‘then’ job at the German Christian Zionist’s doing marcom and website design. I was so damn happy … not to have to deal with all of the emotional stress of managing from afar my mother’s would-be whereabouts. I was so damn happy that I flew. I flapped my arms displaying an embarrassing display of complete insecurity living in the world, and I flew … far above anyone that could ever care or even want to. I flew.

My mother’s remains were entombed within an urn. Her husband had them burned and compacted thus. My mothers’ children weren’t allowed to speak to her … on the phone … anymore. She died. I have had a sweet‘n-sour relationship with my mother, starting way back from the time of my father’s death … and now, just now, my mother has finally passed to the next world. I realize that, today, I miss her almost as much as I miss my father; but, I suspect, with God’s help, that my connection with her will now be able to grow … and maybe even to bloom into something tremendous and altogether alien to my current whereabouts … bistrat Hashem.

I love you Mom, Drew.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The End

In the real world we dream. In the dream world we create with our legs spread wide across a chasm of despair—at least perceived “despair;” since, after all, in reality it’s only a dream. The first dream that I remember … was a repeating dream that happened over and over as a child, but repeated itself throughout my life as an adult, as well. Back in reality, as a young teen, back in Laguna Beach, California, we would gather at the mouth of a drainage culvert next to our Little League baseball field with candles and matches. The concrete pipe was only a meter and a half high, so … being the tallest of my compatriots, I had to duck the entire way or else scrape my head on its top. They later installed a pirate jail-door type of grid over the entrance to our underground maze, but back in the days of my youth we were free to roam the tunnels there as we dared to do so. Flashlights had already been invented, but we were young and batteries were expensive … so we used candles instead. Hot wax would drip onto our skin as we descended into the concrete tunnels, causing brief discomfort and collective grins after conquering the temporary pain from wax burns. We descended beneath streets and parking lots. We descended below earth that had been installed after a canyon had been filled to create usable land, covering an inland waterway where sailboats had once moored and skipped about. The mall that was built above us was called Boat Canyon, for just that reason. As we traveled the tunnel’s length, we passed feeder pipes that were too small to enter, dripping water that pooled down to the larger pipe’s trough at the bottom. The entire way we had to walk spread-legged on each side of the tiny stream meandering down its center, or get wet-feet and have to return topside asap. We continued through the darkness, all the while attempting to visualize the real world above us, and where we were. At some point, off in the distance, we could just make out tiny streams of sunlight breaking down the darkness that was candlelit around us; so, eagerly, we continued on…

The stark depths that we had journeyed only solidified the answers we sought, which were just under the surface of our ‘real’ thoughts … waiting to open and to blossom unto the world. I’ve seen it first-hand as my eldest son, then only three, sprinted to the front window of our suburban home in Boulder, Colorado, emanating the sounds he had heard from a passing garbage truck … Bbbrrrerrr … bbbrrrerrr… and with naked abandon looked at the machine that changed his world view, or, no matter … meshed into it with ‘perfect’ precision. I’ve seen it as the shuk salesman, in the Arab quarter of the Old City in Jerusalem, came out of the backroom smiling, wearing an Ivy League hoody ready to bargain in English on a really bitchin lighting fixture that now hangs over a semi-mural covering my kitchen cabinets. And … I’ve seen it as I’ve read the words that have been handed down for generations, for thousands of years, from a time that has been so removed from our daily lives that it has been launched into the realm of dreams and of nightmares for all ‘practical’ purposes; in the Torah.

As a young teen I had many problems with societal norms. My legs had been casted and braced for Osgood-Schlatter’s disease for years, causing me to separate from the world at large. I was incapable of team sports. I was shunned on the playground. I was labeled a freak. So, when I found friends that accepted me I found that they were all younger than I was—which is one of the reasons that I was the tallest as we explored the tunnels under Boat Canyon. The next canyon over was called Laguna Canyon, and there resided the Boy’s Club, an after-school hangout with a gym, a woodshop, and other meeting opportunities for young teens. Mostly I loved hanging out in the woodshop, but my father was a college basketball star and wanted me to play too. My brother and I joined the league and did our obligatory team sport. We sucked, for the most part. I was always the tallest, so always put as the Center. This was the time just before my Osgood-Schlatter’s kicked in, so I was unable to use that as an excuse for my incompetence as a basketball star … which, actually, caused me to rebel and to seek attention in other ways. I became a ‘problem child.’ And … the principle of the Boy’s Club became my nemesis, and I his. So, as it turned out, a lifetime of reliving, over and over, my revenge upon the principle of the afterschool became my subconscious feeder-tube. I emerged from a manhole and lobbed a hand-grenade at him. He exploded, but then morphed into a gazillion tiny versions of himself, which I then tried to squash underfoot. Eventually, after saving many of my younger compatriots as they were overwhelmed with the gazillion tiny principles of the afterschool, we ran away back to the safety of the tunnels below.

The tunnels always lead downwards, to the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean. The way led us under the mall that was built upon the canyon of boats, and we passed manholes letting light in from above. At each vertical pipe junction there was a maintenance ladder installed that would allow workers to descend into the tunnel we now traversed. We crisscrossed against traffic, as all ‘young’ teens should, and ascended the ladders, catcalling and finger poking through manhole finger-holes at passersby. Rarely would we hear a response, and more often than not we would recoil as a passing car would threaten to smash our fingers poking through the manhole cover-holes, just like white worms expressing existence to the air above. The water in the bottom of the tunnel became thicker as we descended downstream, with moss and debris collecting at its edges. The sound of traffic overhead became a distant memory as we inched our way downwards, deeper and deeper into the backfilled and artificial earthen tomb. The worry was always that we would run out of matches, or our candle would go out and we would be left in utter darkness. There was an extra-long expanse as we tunneled under the Pacific Coast Highway, and we all feared the time we’d spend completely isolated from the universe there. All we had, then, was each other. The candle-glow on our faces was theatrical from the bottom up, causing adrenaline to rush at every glance. The path was long before us, and after, with no light in sight, but we continued on in spite of the younger one’s protests. I was the tallest, so I went first, ducking, hopping, and skipping as I went, hot wax creating abstract sculpture down to my wrist. I was the first to see the light, but not the first to boast of its existence. The tunnel was coming to an end, and the ocean waves began to resonate around us and bounce off of the tunnel walls … Wwwishhhhwaah, wwwishssswaah… We emerged from the concrete tunnel and stepped onto the warm sand. The ocean stood before us, as if waiting patiently the entire time. We emptied out into Diver’s Cove, a place I knew intimately from snorkel adventures and blowhole diving. The sea air drove its way into my lungs and I breathed a sigh of gratitude for all that existed in the world. It was ‘truly’ the beginning.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Gibush Training and Bagpipe Girl

The Gift, by Drew Doron Noll, All rights reserved © 
The sound of wailing broke the silence one evening, as I sat on the deck watching the sun set over the Mediterranean Sea. It emanated from the nature reserve nearby, but wasn’t the typical howling from jackals that we had all become used to. It was a sound as distinctive as bagpipes from Scotland; and … as a matter of fact, it was exactly that, but it was coming from the darkening woods of Baron Rothschild’s burial plot, Ramat Hanadiv. The sounds carried over the crisp air in a ghostly manner, as if they didn’t exist on the same plain that I sat within. It was exciting and spooky at the same time. I thought, then, of making it a painting, or of writing about it, or even hiking into the woods to follow the sounds over the hills and through the trees. Someone was out there, wondering perpendicular to the trails, playing with the Universe. The sounds faded, eventually, but would return occasionally as the seasons changed and the green began to sprout. Other times the sounds would erupt unseasonably, and the rumors began to ruminate throughout our sleepy neighborhood enclave. It was a girl, I heard, she was tall and blond, she was playing bagpipes, she was an apparition … I heard. I spoke of it too, to my children and friends, and to others. I passed on the stories I’d heard, and I passed on my own experiences listening to the wail wondering across the setting sunlit shrubs in the nature reserve.

My son had graduated from high school and was now training hard to get into the IDF. He would disappear into the nature reserve and run, do pushups, find a tree to do pull-ups on, and walk through the bushes carrying a log over his head, challenging his mental and physical abilities as far as he could push them. I told my son about Bagpipe Girl, like I’d told others, so I wasn’t surprised to find out that he’d also heard of her … and heard her playing in the woods, as well. Bagpipe Girl was becoming famous throughout our neck of the woods. Someone said she was from Benyamina, a town nearby; another said she was from Zikhron and that she played bagpipes professionally. I pictured a parade, then, meandering down the Midrakhov, our local walking street that overtook the founder’s road in the middle of our town. Bagpipe girl was the leader in my vision, parting the crowds of tourists as the parade progressed down the cobblestone paved hill, followed by high school marching bands and stilt-walkers, as if the Purim circus had come to town.

Bagpipe Girl also entered my son’s repertoire of stories. He told me once of his encounter with Bagpipe Girl. He had a perplexed look on his face when he told the story, like he wasn’t sure it was the same bagpipe player that ‘he’d’ heard stories about. When he told the story it was a matter-of-fact kind of process, with my son explaining how he just decided to walk towards the wailing foreign sounds he’d heard emanating from across the nature reserve. Then he began to express frustration as he relayed how he topped the hill in front of him, all the while carrying the log over his head, and then realized that Bagpipe girl was still beyond the next hill’s horizon. So he continued on, the sounds consuming the mist around him, towards the eerie music emanated from somewhere off in the distance. He climbed up the next hill, watching the trees round over as the horizon flattened them all into visually rolling plains. Then he looked down into the next forest depression, the valley below. Bagpipe Girl was still beyond sight and understanding …  it had to be the next valley over … he must have thought, so my son trudged on, and with log overhead he put his back into solving the mystery once and for all.

I know the woods throughout the nature reserve intimately, having walked off-trail for years now, attempting to discover dens of jackals, hyenas, and moles. I’ve seen gazelle grazing and galloping, and I’ve seen families of wild boars trotting into the underbrush away from foreign interlopers. A variety of ants, scorpions, and dung beetles are always underfoot in the nature reserve, with birds of prey, their predators, circling above. The central gardens, where Baron Rothschild and his wife are buried in a cave, I’ve only had the opportunity to visit once or twice, but I know every section of the garden’s exterior wall, lined with shrubbery and electric fencing to keep out the ‘wild’ animals. There are bush trails made by wild boars foraging for grubs, then entrenched by visiting cows from a nearby ranch to reduce foreign vegetation and weeds in the reserve. I have spent time maintaining these pseudo trails, moving wayward stones and clipping encroaching branches, so have a good idea of exactly where my son and Bagpipe Girl met that day.

Like wondering planets hovering with atmospheres bouncing and circulating, my son topped a hilltop bristling with trees … then the vista before him opened wide—a wide expanse between trees from horizon to horizon. The clearing unveiled itself, spotted with stones, lonely shrubs, and rotting branches, only to feature Bagpipe Girl placed in its center. She was wholly alone, and entirely happy. Surprised, she lowered her instrument from her lips and stared. My son did the same. He had anticipated Bagpipe Girl; so … with an escalated heartbeat, and an endorphin/adrenaline flooded bloodstream, my son’s jaw dropped, as did the log over his head. They stared at each other and a knowing smile crept upon their shared face. My son learned that Bagpipe Girl had brown hair and was of a normal height. I know this because I, much later, also witnessed her stepping from between the bushes with her instrument toted aside. We, too, had a smile, but I sense that it was a different sort of smile. The face that my son shared with Bagpipe Girl was unified into a collective grin. Atmospheres had collided and a knowing wonder had been set free. The moment was momentary … then my son turned, as did Bagpipe Girl, and they both disappeared, once again, into the shade of the forest.

My artwork is currently showing in the group exhibition: Tehudat Zehut - Resonance of Identity, organized by Ramat Hanadiv, that explores spatial identity and regional sustainability. Please come and visit the various exhibition sites around the region! 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

My Beloved and a Corpse

Skateboarding in Boulder, Colorado with my son, Josh.
My new skateboard was a dream-come-true. I cut the grip tape with scissors myself into the Chinese symbol of harmony in the Universe, a Yin Yang intersecting red and black wave curves with opposing dots to symbolize balance … perfect for a board deck. With red Kryptonic wheels, extended-axle kit Bennett trucks, and a laminated deck with a shaped kicktail, I was the envy of skate-rats across the expanse of my universe … our neighborhood. We lived in Laguna Beach, California, and rode the hills from our middle school at Top of the World down to the Pacific Ocean at the bottom. In the 1970s and 80s, we were the first to bomb Park Ave., Skyline Dr., High Dr., and other insane drops from mountain tops on tiny planks with plastic wheels. Most believed we were insane, doomed, and beyond the standard reason that we were fed with sharp forks by our parents and teachers. But, we were the future, something I knew in my cells. Our generation would go on to spawn adrenaline junkies and extreme sports the world over. At the time the only thing I wanted to do was to skate, surf, and to ride my BMX bike on the trails we cut into the hillside using my father’s shovels; trails that looked down onto the Irvine Bowl at the Festival for the Arts, a venue for local artists to peddle their wares. I rode my skateboard every day that first week, and sleeping with it every night was the norm, so it goes without saying that it was coming with me in the car when we had to go to my dad’s company picnic. The family had to show face at the annual event in order to face-time to the establishment that put food on our table. In the car my skateboard was either on the floor under me with my feet visualizing the ride in my head, or nestled next to me in a loving embrace. I was in love … so fondling and wheel spinning to my heart’s content was also the norm.

Normally the company picnic was held closer to home, in Irvine, where my dad designed suburban living arrangements. This time it was a long haul inland, away from the hills and my friends. And this time, like always, I had to sit in the back seat where I would inevitably be cursed to feel carsick the whole time. I’ve had an issue with motion sickness my entire life, and I do still today. Growing up, it caused me to hate everything from roller-coasters to road-trips; and today, when I am unable to drive myself, I still turn white at every stop, start, and banked turn in cars, on boats, riding trains, and traveling by plane. I am plagued to this day with an inner-ear torture-chamber wreaking havoc and mayhem upon my sanity when compromised into erratic motion without sitting in the driver’s seat, without being in control. This biosuit malfunction has made me quite controlling, as you might imagine, and when I can’t control the situation my operative strategy has always been to regress into myself, control what I can, and concentrate on the horizon and everything calm and reassuring in the Universe. The epitome of this idea happened to me while whale watching off the coast of Madagascar’s pirate island of St. Marie. The waves were 10 feet high, and through the sporadic rainfall, as I barfed over the side of the boat we had hired, I stared at the horizon and tried to center myself on a point in space. As I longed for the stability of the shore, the first whale sighting of the day happened in exactly the view I had focused on to meditate. It breached tail and all, and I heard myself utter a cry to the rest of the boat, “Whale!” They all turned, thankfully focused on the opposite horizon, to see me puke in the direction of the behemoth as it splashed down and then sank into the depths.

After the company picnic it was the same; like the good son of an urban designer father, I politely whined to my parents in the front seat of the car that I would like to get out. We had been stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for an hour on a winding country road and the starts and stops were pushing my central button. I wanted to throw up my guts. We were in unknown territory, even for my parents, and they were reluctant until the traffic became so thick that reckless abandon crept into their processing software. They stuttered agreement to let me out of the car, stating that they’d catch up to me when traffic began to move again. I grabbed my skateboard and flipped it onto the street, barely shutting the door behind me. Then I was gone. Immediately my stomachache went away. I was sailing, slaloming through parked cars lining the center of our side of the street. Oncoming traffic was sparse, letting me carve excess speed out of every turn in the opposing lane of traffic. It was a mountain road that we had been traveling on, and we were moving downwards into a wash-canyon. The shoulder on the right side of the road was large enough for me to carve a turn right back in front of each stationary car. I imagined the look on the faces of each person stuck in traffic as I sailed past, free of the bondage of the wheeled prison cell that encompassed them all. I was finally free, and in that moment I remembered my family stuck in the car behind me. They must have seen me as I disappeared over the curve of the horizon, as it disappeared into the unknown. My tether’s reach was beyond their knowing, but I was still aware of theirs. I was space walking into the unknown, bringing their awareness with me. Even if they didn’t see it yet, I was their liaison to what was to come.

The traffic began to fidget again. Then I had a moment of depression as what I perceived as orange traffic cones began to move. The cars morphed and then inched forward. My stable world had begun to collapse. Worried about the future, my mind began to creep into my subconscious mind. I began to vociferate about the oncoming wave of uncontrollable torture. I was reentering the physical world. I was going to be landing soon and I had no idea where that would be … well, I knew exactly, but didn’t really want to; that’s the real truth… My parent’s car caught up to me quickly. I tried for a while to skate in the opposing lane as my lane of cars moved past me, but realized it was a futile attempt and waited on the side of the road instead. Once inside the car we all felt … even me … a sigh of relief at finally being on our way home. Every breath was a nourishing relief. We banked and curved again around the mountain road turns, still a distance to the bottom of the wash-canyon. Then the cars slowed again, brake lights and flashing Kojaks forced one lane of traffic flow. A winch on a boom arm was actively pulling a cable stretched into the ravine below. With a low hum, heard through our open car windows, the apparatus pulled a silhouette form up out of the shadows. The evening light shone from behind him, but when he was high enough to see we saw he was dressed in biker black leathers; it was obvious, the black, because of how white the man’s skin was. Limp and stiff at the same time, the man suspended in midair, as we traveled around a hairpin turn on our way home from the company picnic, was dead.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Faith, Art, and the Junk Collectors

Gallery, Studio, Photographed from the Loft —  
It was mad hot. There was no aircon in the family van. There were places for my feet on the floor if I jiggled them a bit … and then we skidded to a stop, again. Invariably we left skid marks at the recycling areas all over our little hilltop/beachside town of Zikhron Yaakov. We were building an art center smack in the middle of town, and really had no choice. There were limited resources and we needed to recycle, reuse, refurbish, and repurpose … or RRRR for short. So, growling in the heat and humidity, with the windows rolled down so a hot wind would whip across our faces, we collected the junk that had been thrown out by our neighbors. Talking about art and artists of old, careening through the streets with junk teetering from our roof and flowing into our laps, we were living. My partner, a religious man, had already developed an eye for the good stuff. I learned as we went how to RRRR, but understood right away the level of faith required to do so.

Faith, I believe, comes much easier with limited resources, and life can be a hell of a lot more fun when it is less planned out, and even challenging at times. For instance, in my mind’s eye I can still see the look on a woman’s face as she careened around a corner on a mountain road in Madagascar with her child in her lap, while riding a homemade go-cart carrying hewn stones down to the family’s shack. The stones would be pulverized by hand into gravel for building materials. As she banked those treacherous turns, she wasn’t thinking about the cash at the end of the day, even though it would mean food on the table for her offspring. She was thinking about the line she had chosen while riding a cart down a mountain road. She was grinning with glee as the go-cart, most likely a cart that her husband had made by hand from collected junk and tree trunks, held the road and then slid around the corners as both she and her offspring leaned into each turn.

On one of our forays into uncharted dumpster alleys my partner and I found ourselves wandering around a once grand hotel built into the hillside above the sea. The pool glistened with a sparkling blue, like a mirage in the desert, since it was empty of water, painted blue, but full of debris. The hotel structure was broken and exposed, rusting and crumbling down the cliff it was built into. We entered a courtyard strewn with makeshift furniture and dead potted plants, where an elevator of sorts awaited our arrival. It was a cable car that rode on a track down the cliff side. Once we entered it, and the door closed us in, we began to descend with a squeaking rumble pocked with twangs and bangs. The levels were marked as we went, and just as I became used to the pattern cascading by us we stopped suddenly, causing me to lurch into the glass window that had revealed to us our descent through a tunnel down the hillside. The door opened and once outside the cable car, the dilapidation of the building was less jarring as much as its vast emptiness was. On occasion a person would wander out of a once hotel room and stare as we passed, like someone not sure if they were yet afflicted with the latest zombie infection.

The state of the structure reminded me of a building I saw in Baja California recently. It was also a hotel that had been left to the elements after becoming a failed venture due to the conflagration of imported design techniques and building materials with a class five hurricane. There were stories told of couches flying out of windows as the wind hit the building, breaking the glass and flattening the drywall right through the hotel. All that was left were bones and lawsuits with billowing curtains fluttering in front of the sunrise over the Sea of Cortez.

At first I felt put upon every time we skidded to a halt in front of some pile of junk, but as time moved on I collected patience and smiled along with my partner in our art center endeavors. I began to trust that there was a higher purpose as we sweated fumes up and down the hills inside our squeaking van. I developed faith. It is said that every day we must put our energies into developing faith. Reason comes naturally with a little time and study. Faith, I’ve found, is a daily adventure. When I wake up in the morning it takes me a long time to actually get up. Then on my way to the bathroom I mutter a prayer thanking God for giving me another chance at living. On Friday morning last week my morning prayer was more of a mumble than usual. I had finished collecting junk for RRRR for the week, but it was time to remove a tooth that had been with me and my biosuit for a lifetime. After hitting my head on a palm tree while giving the dogs water, concussing my brain as it sloshed inside my scull, stepping off a step backwards and stumbling while ensuring that whiplash would set in as well, I cracked two teeth, one of which would need to be removed since it died during the accident. After almost two months of debilitating pain and the inability to eat properly I was finally going to pull it.

I sat in the dentist’s chair and … as the hygienist and dentist spoke behind me in Arabic, I began to get claustrophobia. My white head became whiter and a cold sweat began to breakout across my forehead. I get panic attacks all the time, so am used to them and know what to do when they hit. If I’m feeling vertigo from being too high up, I descend. If I’m feeling confined and compressed, I stare into the distance. Luckily I had a view out the window of the dentist’s office to the north, towards Mukhraka. This is where Elijah the prophet battled the Ba’al prophets with a bonfire lit from heaven. He had such faith that he even dowsed the altar to be burned with water before praying to God for a sign. Today a Franciscan monastery stands on the site written about in the Bible. From its rooftop the view is stunning for kilometers around. It only took a minute or two to pull my tooth, and the dentist and hygienist were stellar in their communication, switching freely from Hebrew to English whenever they wished. All it took to quiet my worries was a little faith, and a great view.

We’ll be opening our doors to the Zikhron Art Center in September. We are planning on having two operating studios for teaching art to children and adults, a professional gallery that will show local and regional artists work, and a coffee house featuring intimate gatherings for poetry, storytelling, and acoustic music. If you are in the area, or just visiting, please stop by sometime; we’d love to show you around. Please visit us on our Facebook page, also, and have a great day!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Moshe and Worlds of Time

Carnival in La Paz, Mexico — 

When I left Israel to fly to my Niece’s wedding in Southern California I was reeling from pain and loss. It’s difficult now to recall how I felt then, since so much has happened in the interim, but I remember walking in the woods. I remember crying to the Universe. I remember a feeling of loss, but more of confusion, since, even today, the loss still hasn’t set in. I remember standing in the hall of the hospital twiddling my thumbs, with nothing to do but to wonder about life, about friendship, about love, and about worlds other than this one: There has to be other worlds, right? I mean, maybe the fact that there are, according to scientific observations, so many distant, habitable worlds in just our Milky Way galaxy alone, it is an indicator of how our perceptions have been utterly warped by our individual belief systems into thinking like cartoons. You know, like: in this bubble goes the fantasy of Martians and Venusians, and in that bubble goes spacefaring sci-fi groupies from Andromeda, Betelgeuse, and the Cigar Galaxy, and in the bubble we like not to notice lays Heaven, Hell, and other nonsensical cultural extrapolations, etc, etc, etc… I remember grabbing a bunch of stuff and shoving it into an overly large pink bag that I was displeased about having to carry with me. I remember sitting on a train, on a plane, on a couch in an airport, and I remember the Harry Potter advertisement surrounded by overly-aggressive TSA people when I landed in LA. My dear friend Moshe, who I last saw hopping off a gurney, and like a superhero had skipped down the hall to the toilet, had left this world to explore some of the non-terrestrial realms. Sometimes, you know, I just want to stop and breathe, to skip a heartbeat and live between the lines. Sometimes I wish I could fly with my own wings. And sometimes I just want to get lost inside the threads of the sweater that my grandmother knitted for me. It’s a strange, surreal world we inhabit during this life, I just have to say.

When we landed in LA I was shocked by how I sounded like all the people around me. My accent is a perfect LA accent it seems. It didn’t matter who I overheard speaking, white, Midwest-looking Caucasians in surf trunks, islander Hawaiian-ish wannabees, Hispanic ancestor tattoo-ites , Asian-fusion skaters, or Rappy-black and big people with sport’s trunks, they all sounded like me. I walked down the Venice boardwalk, a place that I still know today via the smells, the soot, the sand, the vendors, and the cacophony of people, and I felt totally at home. We all spoke the same language. We were all part of the same tribe. At first I reveled in this awareness, but later I became fearful that my true identity would be revealed if I were to get into a longer conversation with anyone. They would know, eventually, that I had abandoned them all. I was always a searcher, as many of them believed themselves to be, but I had continued the search into other uncharted realms. Really, I felt like an explorer of old, something of the likes of Magellan, Columbus, or Shackleton, while walking the gauntlet of sunglasses kiosks, teeshirt stands, and anchored wayward musicians on roller-skates. I was home, but with a totally different skin, like another species. And it scared the crap out of me … just like in the movies.

After a brief Shabbat with other nephews at Chabbad, we headed south behind the Orange Curtain. The wedding was at a golf course, and the view was stunning as the sun set over the putting green. I was shocked again, not by how similar I was to the people around me, but by how different. I’ve been a practicing Jew for 30 years, the last 10 in the Jewish homeland of Israel, and I was not prepared for the cultural differences. I wanted to say mazal tov to everyone, but the act of holding my tongue in the last second and muttering congratulations was enough to set me aside. I was a foreigner. I had traveled half way around the world from my own homeland, only to attend the wedding of my only brother’s daughter and found that my home was no longer the place I grew up in. I was a stranger in a strange land, even though I spoke with the same accent, the same vocabulary, and the same exact memories. I was a foreigner, so I began to blend in. I began to speak to the people around me, sharing, laughing, and smiling. I danced with my other niece’s fiancé, like I was with the familiar yeshiva boys. I thought of my dear departed friend Moshe when we danced, which made me feel more at home. My nephew to be made me lead, which I guess is proper, since I was the elder. I spoke with my uncle and my aunt, the half-brother and half-sister of my father, “Z"L”, of memories and of blessings for good, positive communications to come. We all got really drunk, probably because of me and my flask. And that was that. My niece was now married, lock, stock, and two smoking barrels.

We flew to Baja California for our own honeymoon. My only brother and I hadn’t seen each other in only a few years, since his visit to the Holy Land. We dressed up for Carnival, swam with the whale sharks, boated with calving grey whales, and surfed the giant break of Todos Santos. Then, 10 days later, we departed and parted ways at LAX. It was a strange new blip on the map of Drew and Trent, brothers born 2 years and 2 days apart in October. He’s a very accomplished and respected principle of a landscape architecture firm, having followed almost exactly in his father’s footsteps; where, I have always been a wayward travelling beach philosopher and poet. It mattered not to the world I had been posthumously exhumed from, it mattered not to the shadow I attempted to cast onto the casket of my ancestors … it was all designed from worlds removed from our collective ability to understand, and to grasp unto sweaty, greedy palms. I was not my father, even though I am told that I am the spitting image of my honored ancestor. I learned, speaking with my oh-so-loved and missed uncle and aunt that … my father’s ancestor, his grandfather, was a catholic priest from Austria. He left the fold and left for ‘his’ promised land, California, the land of Hollywood and gold. His son, Mr. Anderson, married my grandmother when she was 16. When she grew she sewed in Hollywood for the stars, like Lucile Ball, and others. The movies … yes, this is how I know where I came from. I love them all. The cinema is paradise for me. I am a Californian, it seems, deep in the core of my genetic being. And I know this because I love the movies.

We landed in Israel, after our journey through time and space, to be hit the hardest I’ve ever been hit by jetlag, that stealthy slick bitch. She twisted us into a knot that is only now being untwined. It ‘is’ like Israel, however, to ramp up the input feed like that. So maybe jetlag was only the messenger, after all. I arrived to set up a mini-retrospective of the last 4 years of work I’ve been doing. I knew something was brewing when I was on the other side of the world, via email, but had no idea how fast it would occur when I arrived. The next day the curator arrived at my studio and we huffed it to the gallery the following day to hang the entire exhibition; well, except for the unframed works, which were added in the next few days as they were completed. It was totally Israel style: now and big to me, impactful, and totally stressful … well, maybe that’s just jetlag talking, I still can’t say. There is, however, a real energetic shift when arriving in Israel from elsewhere, at least there was for me, having come from such a close and personal cultural cacophonous amalgam. I felt it hard, and bad, and good; like my own personal surround sound system blaring truth of self in booms and breaks and breaths directly to my brainstem. I was home.

Please come and visit my exhibition at the Zikhron Library Gallery, or visit me online at www.doronoll.com. Looking forward, and have a great day!

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