I always wished that there was a more dignified word in English for "spring".
I needed a new way to pray. The old ways had lost their credentials.
Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.
Sap strained to reach the tops of trees.
I went down for my annual examination.
We learned Asaph's name in Hebrew class.
I taught the children about dandelions. I thought it was crucial.
I continued secretive visits to the West Village.
The kids continued to age.
Without warning, the roses arrived.
We arranged to drive to visit a friend of Asaph's in Connecticut. The Israeli global positioning system-based geographical navigation application program for smartphones took us through odd sections of north and northern Manhattan.
The friends were a male, non-heterosexual couple with twin children through surrogacy. Asaph had been friends with one of the guys back when the guy was in a relationship with a different person. After the children were born they broke up (but owing to proper planning there was no custody issue), and the original friend was now partnered with a large man of ambiguous ethnicity and murky national origin. The original friend was very nice and all smiles; he was from Utah. The two children were eerily beautiful and also ethnically ambiguous.
We got stuck in traffic jams.
Once we entered Connecticut, the quality of the road improved theatrically.
I reminded Asaph that my home town had been founded by settler-colonists from Connecticut.
After much stopping and starting in the pouring rain, we arrived at their house. We walked up the front steps in the dark and wet. The house was built in a late mid-century modern style, owing to it having been built in the latter part of the middle of the previous century. There were many levels and lofts and open stairs and numerous opportunities for small children to fall to their severe injury or worse.
A bigger problem was that they owned two large retrievers, and our children were frightened. They clung to us panickedly and wouldn't let us put them down (the children, that is). Our hosts had assumed that we would stay in an upper loft bedroom, but, given that it was completely open and had only a decorative cable railing between it and a precipitous drop, as well as no door to keep out the dogs, we were grudgingly led to a room on the lowest level.
This room had heavy sliding wood doors that were slightly broken but still functional for keeping out the dogs, although their snorting muzzles would push through menacingly any time we opened them. The kids screamed in horror and terror.
We managed to get the children to sleep, and we ate dinner with Asaph's friend and the large guy of ambiguous ethnicity.
He said that he worked for a company that sold jet engines.
Stupidly confusing jet engines with the submarine manufactory in Groton and trying to make conversation, I said, "Oh, there is a lot of that sort of thing around here, isn't there?"
He looked at me with contempt and made a scoffing sound.
"No, there are only three companies in the world that make jet engines."
I felt like I should feel like an idiot.
It turned out that the ethnically ambiguous guy's family were so-called retornados from Mozambique who fled or were expelled to Portugal during that African nation's decolonization. But he was clearly not of 100% Portuguese descent. This explained why he looked like some form or type of Latino, but he was not cheerful and friendly like one. He was unfriendly and snobbish like a European.
We went to bed.
The next morning I took the kids outside. The grass was wet, but I needed to keep them from waking up everyone else. I also had to keep them away from the dogs.
We kept walking around the house in circles.
Finally everyone got up. The dogs were temporarily put outside. One dog was so old that it had to wear a diaper.
We would tell the kids that the dogs were outside and couldn't get back in to reassure them, but then the Mozambican retorno would let the dogs back in. I wondered if it was just to torment us, since the dogs seemed happy outside, to me at least. But I didn't know.
We decided to go look at the new house they had bought and that they were renovating.
I took a photo of the ethnically ambiguous boy child's ethnically ambiguous hair. It had a blond patch right in the middle of it.
We drove a short distance through a poor Hartford neighborhood, then through a richer Hartford neighborhood, where we saw orthodox Jews walking outdoors on their Sabbath.
The new house was also from the middle of the last century. It had been completely gutted and was peopled with Mexican workers hammering and sawing and doing other typical home construction and renovation things.
De jure it was still a pool.
"A frog! A frog!" was yelled repeatedly by the small persons for whom I was responsible.
I was worried that our children would try to drink the water. Our hosts' children were old enough to know not to.
Their children were really quite sweet.
I wanted to live in a bamboo forest.
The kids ran around everywhere. I wished we lived somewhere where the kids could run around.
We went over to some white azaleas. Our hosts' daughter picked one of the flowers.
"White, like a bride," she said, softly. I thought this was an interesting and weird thing for a girl with two fathers to say.
We then drove to a playground. The nice non-Mozambican and his kids came with us.
He brought pizza with him from a place that he liked. Since I had admitted that I was not a vegetarian, I was expected to eat a pizza covered in thinly sliced prosciutto ham and mozzarella cheese. I felt sickened by this combination of milk -- a symbol of life -- and meat -- a sign of death.
But I ate it anyway.
Asaph wanted to go visit someone with whom he had worked in the past. But we had to wait until that person's child woke up from a nap. I walked around the tony town for an hour while the kids and Asaph slept in the air-conditioned rental car.
It all seemed very wholesome and American.
Finally the time arrived for us to go visit the person with whom Asaph had worked.
It was a very stereotypically Connecticut couple with a small and blond child living in a stereotypically Connecticut home.
The house was vast and immaculate. We were offered large glasses of white wine and a variety of cheeses. The couple's small and blond child wasn't used to sharing toys, and our pushy kids were able to just barge in and commandeer what they wanted.
After they had destroyed the small blond child's stockpile of toys, we went outside for bubbles.
We saw chipmunks. Our kids tried to hunt them down.
For unclear reasons, our son took off all his clothes and started running around like a madman.
I worried that we had overstayed our welcome. I went to wash my hands before we left.
We arrived back at the home of Asaph's friend and his Mozambican partner. There was more wailing and weeping about the dogs.
We went to give the kids a bath. I noticed that there was a view of the Hartford skyline from the loft bedroom.
We went down to the kitchen area to feed the kids. Our hosts had prepared macaroni and cheese, but because there was a small amount of broccoli mixed in, our kids wouldn't eat it.
"Why are your kids always whining?" asked one of their kids.
The Mozambican wanted everyone to sit down for dinner, but we said that we would prefer to put the kids to bed before we ate.
I looked into the kitchen and saw the Mozambican make a face filled with disgust and contempt at our request.
I didn't really feel so welcome there anymore. But maybe I was wrong.
The next morning I took the kids outside for a walk, since we couldn't stay inside, owing to the dogs.
It was a beautiful day.
As we loaded up the car to leave, something bad happened.
Our daughter and I tried to entertain ourselves while Asaph stayed with our son in the hospital.
There was a gazebo that reminded me of the gazebo outside the hospice room where my mother had died.
I let our daughter take some photos.
Eventually she took a nap on a public bench, like some kind of vagrant.
Our son was finally discharged. We had planned to spend the day with my cousin's Italian wife and their Italophone son in New London. My cousin was on sabbatical in Berlin, capital of the Federal Republic of Germany.
We decided to try anyway.
The short drive was somewhat beautiful and mystical. There were rain showers with sun shining therethrough.
We arrived in the mysterious town of New London. It was very exotic for Asaph: part New English fishing village, part nuclear submarine manufactory.
We found my cousin's wife's house.
Her Italophone son was not used to aggressive children like ours, even though he had been enrolled in a Jewish school (although he was barely one-eighth Jewish -- an octoroon). He graciously let them expropriate his toys, speaking cryptically in the beautiful yet mildly robotic Italian language with his mother.
We went to a nearby beach. I noticed that my cousin's wife and I were wearing similar shirting!
No one was very excited by this beach, sadly.
We went to a historical site. There was a large boat from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in view.
Our kids ran around the historic fort. It was kind of chilly.
We then said goodbyes and headed back to New York.
The drive was tedious and un-enjoyable. The kids slept.
I was growing so tired of my job.
My Judaism class had ended, and I only had my Hebrew class once a week.
There were summer rains.
Things related to my kids made me feel nostalgic for my own childhood. I remembered how I had walked to school in first grade.
I arranged to visit an old friend in San Francisco, in California.
My friend was dying from a fatal neurodegenerative disease.
I looked out the window at regular intervals.
The beautiful landscape in the West was often accompanied by increased turbulence.
But it was generally worth it. We crossed the Sierras.
We flew over the Central Valley.
We traversed the Northern Coast Ranges. I thought about the terrible drought.
Finally we descended into the beautiful San Francisco Bay.
I was pleased to see that the seating in the heavy-rail public transit and subway system had been replaced with something more sanitary since my last visit.
I emerged at the Civic Center/UN Plaza Station.
I noticed a new typeface on the street signs. I had mixed feelings, but I understood that it had been required by the Federal Government of the United States.
I passed a church where persons I knew had been same-sex-married many years ago, when the idea of it being legal was considered a vain, foolish, or incongruous fancy.
It had a lovely garden unaffected by drought.
I arrived at the assisted-living facility where my friend was residing.
I had steeled myself for the sight of his dramatic decline. It was good to see him, though.
He had a nice view.
He joked that it was the nicest apartment he had ever had, but that he wouldn't be able to enjoy it for long, owing to his upcoming death.
Most of the other residents were simply senior citizens. Most of them would outlive him, he said.
Was this "ironic"? I wondered.
That night we ordered Thai food and sat and watched a 2012 American action thriller film starring the actor Jeremy Renner.
That night something disturbing happened. I tried to act like it was nothing, but I was sad.
The next morning I took a walk. I saw a market in which I wasn't sure I would feel comfortable, owing to the status of Jerusalem (القُدس).
I walked by the Roman Catholic Franciscan social-service agency where I had worked when I had lived in San Francisco as a very young adult.
I walked to a retail store of a consumers' cooperative selling outdoor recreation gear, sporting goods, and clothing to buy a new backpack.
I then walked to the famous farmers market held at the famous San Francisco Ferry Building, part of which was based on the Giralda (الخيرالدة), a former minaret that was converted to a bell tower for the Cathedral of Seville in Spain.
There were hundreds of people eagerly sampling and purchasing and eating a variety of local and organic and heirloom and sustainable and small-batch and humanely gathered fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, meats and eggs, as well as kindly prepared foods and drinks. I overheard many excited conversations about the taste and texture and other characteristics of what people were putting into their mouths. I had never seen such an ecstatic gustatory bacchanal.
I tried to buy a cup of coffee, but I only saw a shop selling artisan micro-roasted coffee and it had a line of around 40 people waiting.
I started walking back towards my friend's place.
I passed an establishment from the old San Francisco. Much older than my time there.
It was a beautiful day. You couldn't deny that San Francisco was a beautiful city.
In fact, since its takeover by relatively wealthy persons employed in the high-technology sector, San Francisco looked, superficially, better than ever, with the exception of some incorrect graphics in its signage.
I passed a bunch of young persons waiting to eat brunch in a restaurant. I used to do that! I thought.
Never again, I thought.
I was cheered by the fact that my friend resided in the formerly Japanese neighborhood.
There were signs of their former presence everywhere.
There weren't many actual Japanese persons anymore, however, since there was no reason for anyone to leave Japan, other than earthquakes and such. But then California wouldn't be a logical place to flee to.
That night I went to go have dinner with my former roommate from college, his wife (who was my former roommate from the last time I had lived in San Francisco), and our hilarious mutual friend, MiHi.
I decided to walk from Japantown (日本町) to my friends' house in Noé Valley.
I passed the building where I thought I might have taken Spanish classes in the evenings from a variety of Argentinian and Guatemalan and Spanish instructors.
But I wasn't sure. The neighborhood had changed.
I passed the terrible diner where my young friends and I would eat late-night dinners back in those early 1990's. I would always have a bagel with cream cheese, tomato slice, and red onions and a side order of french fries with a cola. None of us ever drank alcohol.
I passed the small Russian Orthodox church that was very out of place in the neighborhood where my last San Francisco boyfriend -- who had since moved to New York and who didn't speak to me like the rest of my former boyfriends -- had lived.
I arrived at my friends' house. I greeted their children (who ignored me) and my former college roommate's mother, who was visiting from France and who would babysit his children that night. I hadn't seen her in a decade. She was a very nice woman, and incredibly small, or petite, as they would have said in France.
We discussed our mutual friend's dramatic medical issue.
MiHi arrived, and we drove to the neighborhood where we were going to be having dinner.
It was a neighborhood I had never even heard of before, much less ever visited.
There were a variety of micro-brewed beers for sale, as well as some artisanal beef jerky, which MiHi enjoyed with great gusto. I presumed that everyone around us was some sort of technology millionaire or a servant of one.
Then we had a nice dinner.
I tried to navigate us back to my friend's assisted living residence, but my geographical navigation application program for smartphones had been set to Hebrew and we had trouble understanding the directions.
The next day my friend and I went to the nearby Japanese shopping center. It was somewhat difficult to travel on the hilly streets with my friend's wheelchair. We had several so-called close calls.
My friend went to eat in a sushi (すし) restaurant while I browsed.
I saw a beverage with which I had been obsessed in high school during an intense Japanophile period.
The beverage had since been renamed to decrease amusement.
I continued to wander.
I ended up purchasing a number of Japanese items. Some were useless, others useful. All were wonderful, like most things from Japan.
I got my friend from the restaurant and we went back outside.
We made our way back to his apartment. He needed to rest.
I hadn't realized that the famed Sutro Tower was visible from my friend's window.
My friend was facing his fate with an amazing about of good humor. I couldn't believe it.
I was reminded of a passage from my favorite philosophy book by American journalist, author, and etiquette authority Judith Martin.
We went out to a fancy and fashionable Indian restaurant for dinner. My college roommate and his mother joined us.
I was asked to go order drinks from the bar, since it would take some time for the restaurant to find a table that could accommodate my friend's wheelchair. As I stood there waiting for my college roommate friend to come back to tell me what drink his mother wanted, a disheveled and blond man in his early 30s came up and ordered a drink and an appetizer. He turned and looked at me.
"Hi, how are you doing?" he said. He looked like he had spent all day exposed to sun, ocean air, and cannabis smoke.
I just nodded and smiled. I was afraid to talk to him.
Then, I thought: why? Why not be friendly to this person, even if there is a chance that he is totally annoying? I'm not in New York right now, what's the harm?
"What is that drink you ordered?" I found myself saying.
"Oh, it's really great! You've got to try one!" he enthused.
We then proceeded to have a conversation about his unusual cocktail, and other items from the menu that were worth trying.
For just a brief moment, I was like a normal person.
After dinner we walked back to my friend's apartment.
The next day I took a walk back up to Nob Hill.
I went inside.
I said a prayer for my sick friend. For whatever that was worth.
I went back to say goodbye.
We weren't sure if we would see each other again. We both pretended that it was certain that we would.
I decided to take another long walk, with the airport as my semi-final destination.
I saw a place where my Argentinean Spanish teacher had tried to bribe a doorman into letting in one of her students who had forgotten his identification card, but the doorman had just looked at her confusedly, since bribes were not culturally appropriate in California in those days.
I passed a place where I had spent many days and nights sitting and reading or pretending to read. I had never noticed the acute accent.
I remembered when these palm trees had been placed in the median island of Market Street. There had been protests that they had been too expensive and that the funds should have been spent on the poor and sick.
I walked down into the Mission. It was fancier than ever before.
A taquería that I had loved to patronize was still there, amazingly.
I descended into the heavy-rail public transit and subway system.
It got predictably foggy as we approached the airport.
There had been great improvements since my day!
I sat in a brand new terminal and enjoyed local and organic and heirloom produce while I waited to board the plane.
Something alarming happened during the flight.
I listened to a lecture about how Jews should deal with Christian missionaries. It contained some interesting passages:
"Christianity is a reprehensible spiritual system. The belief that I have to believe in a dead guy who died 2000 years ago in order for me to have atonement in my relationship with God is absolutely appalling and reprehensible" "You are responsible for your own actions. You don't need blood. You don't need atonement." "Christianity is a false, a deeply false and mendacious and corrupt spiritual system that is bad for the world."
Sad anniversaries happened again.
I read an interesting book about a non-heterosexual American Jew's visit to Afghanistan in the 1970s.
There were lots of drugs.
Spring slowly became summer.
The last flowers of spring were blooming. Soon the park would be all green and smell of linden.
We had our annual visit from the drummer David Ashkenazy, in honor of the Gregorian anniversary of my mother's death.
Afterwards the kids were skeptical about the commemorative dinner I had prepared.
We went up to Asaph's now former co-worker's country club in Rye.
The sand was quite hot, but our son, unlike the other kids who accidentally wandered into it, did not scream. That concerned me. I hoped it was just his desert genes.
There were interesting amenities in the locker room.
There were two young men who seemed to be around 18 years old and who attracted attention.
After a disastrous attempt to wash the kids off in the shower after they had stormed the club's dining room, we went home, disgraced.
I was always pressed for time.
Only rarely did I get to go for a run in the park. Sometimes I had to take a vacation day to do so.
We had more summer storms.
We made our annual trip upstate to my friend Christopher's Catskills weekend house.
We arrived at the town where we attended a parade in honor of trout each year.
We paid for parking in the lot of a diner full of angry and ungentrified locals. I went in to use the toilet. I was greeted with substantial surliness.
It was chilly outside too.
The parade began.
The town was still an extreme mixture of gentrified and destitute.
We ran into someone with whom we had hung out in Israel many years prior, long before the kids, at many nightclubs over the course of a night. He was with a group of muscular and tattooed non-heterosexual guys with dogs.
I felt embarrassed that he had seen me in that prior incarnation. Now I was pure and wholesome and paternal and maternal.
We walked across the river.
I couldn't tell if one business was gentrified or impoverished. They sometimes looked the same.
We waited in line for baked goods at a place that was definitely new and fancy.
We headed back to get sandwiches. The wait was interminable.
After what seemed like hours of waiting for incompetent service, we drove to the home of Christopher and his fashion journalist boyfriend.
They had a very small and old dog, who showed no interest in our children. And yet our children were still terrified!
It was tiring.
We gave them a bath in the large, clawfooted bathtub.
There was an extensive selection of artisanal soaping to choose from.
They had had their balcony outfitted with benches made of reclaimed rusted slaughterhouse metal.
There were decorative Thai cockfighting cages strewn about.
It was too cloudy to enjoy a sunset.
I showed the kids a dead dragonfly.
The kids tried to enjoy their dinner while warily eyeing the dog.
After the kids went to sleep we enjoyed a delicious dinner of locally gathered fiddle-head fern fronds.
In the middle of the night, our son started screaming hysterically. We brought him into our bed but he kept crying. It was a mystery. Eventually he went back to sleep.
I was unsettled.
The next morning we took a walk to the road, so that Christopher and his fashion journalist boyfriend could sleep in relative peace.
I was reminded of dinner.
I thought about how we didn't have ferns in the woods in central Ohio, for some reason.
A friendly and earnestly earthy man rode by on a bike with his toddler daughter. He stopped to talk to us, since, when there are no other people around, you have to talk to anyone you encounter. It was one reason why people moved to New York: so they would never have to talk to anyone.
He invited us to come by his house later.
We went back inside for breakfast. We had yogurt whose packaging listed the names of the cows who had helped contribute to its production.
We decided to walk over to the house of the earnest guy. There was a disastrous attempt to put our kids on his bike to take a ride. There was much wailing and weeping.
I pointed out a stationary modeled owl used as a bird scarer for the family's garden.
No one really understood.
Back at the house we managed to get our son to touch the dog!
We decided to go have a picnic somewhere. We scouted out various locations.
Spots either seemed too dangerous or too boring.
We eventually decided to eat by a river at the home of a same-sex female couple who owned an antiques and taxidermy boutique and community-shared agriculture dispensary. One of the women was French and had long hair. The other wasn't French and didn't have long hair.
They weren't home, but we had permission to enter their property.
We made our way down to the river bank. There was a fire pit filled with shells.
I tried to show the shells to the kids, but they weren't interested.
There was a rusted tambourine high up on a tree.
We sat at a picnic table and enjoyed a lunch that had been purchased at one of the non-gentrified stores. It wasn't good.
Asaph then wanted the kids to be able to splash in the river. But we were right near a small but quite fast-moving waterfall, and I was also sure that the river water was contaminated with and by flagellated protozoan parasites. We held them by both hands as we let them splash a moderate amount on a rock that had water flowing over it.
"Look, deer feces!" I screamed, pointing to something on the rock, as substantiating evidence for my fear of the flagellated protozoan parasites.
Later I looked closer and saw that it was just a bunch of tiny pine cones.
We left. We had to go home.
We drove back through Jewish areas where Asaph's mother had gone to camp.
I had wanted to go see the impoverished ultra-orthodox community of Kiryas Joel, but we didn't have time.
I saw something that looked like a Japanese temple up on a hill by a New York State Thruway junction. I was excited!
Later I learned it was a steakhouse.
Back at work, photos from the annual parties in Tel Aviv (تل أبيب) started to appear on my wall.
I was weary and wary of the constant promotion of Tel Aviv as a non-heterosexual male vacation destination.
A photo of a non-homosexual Israeli muay Thai (มวยไทย) boxer got my attention, however.
Anyway, none of those things had anything to do with my life.
I bought some fair-trade Tibetan-style Jewish blessing prayer flags, made in Nepal (नेपाल), as part of my attempt to Asianize Jewish and Israeli culture.
People didn't talk about Tibet (藏区)very much anymore.
I still dreaded weekends.
We had an unfortunate incident with a very tall Israeli babysitter.
We went to an event for non-heterosexual families at a museum I feared because of the germ concentration. Many nice people we knew were there, however.
Later I learned that the museum had been closed all day and only opened in the evening for our small group, so that made me feel better.
School photos were attempted at our kids' daycare center, with hilarious results.
We went to an annual picnic for non-heterosexual families held at the church with which I had had an affiliation.
Our daughter was shocked.
We decided to try to walk back along the river.
We kind of felt ridiculous, since there were non-heterosexual guys in varying states of fitness everywhere.
I was shocked when Asaph briefly removed his shirt as we strolled.
Why did we need more chaos? I wondered. I thought about the person whom I had attempted to "follow" on social media but whose ridiculousness was just too much to take. Presumably this had been his idea.
We did some summer flower-viewing to counteract the chaos.
Asclepias tuberosa, I remembered.
The day of the big parade we just stayed near home visiting various playgrounds.
We found a new Israeli babysitter, for help with nights and weekends. Her name meant "fruit of God", but she seemed normal and even had a tattoo.
She had never been to the East Coast of the United States before. She didn't understand why it was raining in the summer.