It was evening, and then it was morning. Again.
We had dinner with two acquaintances of mine who were friends of Asaph. They were moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"I can't stand it when I see some woman pushing a stroller and there is a child next to her pushing a toy stroller. I hate that so much!" said one of them.
"Why?" I asked.
There was no answer.
Israel received some late-season rain.
I monitored the waters from my smartphone.
I knew it would not be enough to slake the parched land.
We flew down to Florida. On a plane!
I was shocked by how smoothly the trip went, although we had to wake up at four o'clock in the morning. I actually awoke at half past three.
Audra, our paid childminder, and one of her daughters flew with us, but they left us after arrival at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport to go stay with family members of some type or kind.
We went to Asaph's grandmother's apartment in Miami Beach. It was a relief to be somewhere warm and sunny. I made a top-secret phone call to an Israeli operative from the balcony.
She was an orthodoxly religious woman. Most of the other inhabitants of her settlement were that way as well.
She was very nice to me. I was shocked and surprised, given what I had heard.
She didn't approve of our son's hair.
"Our rabbi said that was עבודה זרה," she warned.
We took a nap on the floor of her bedroom.
Asaph's mother was there too, visiting from Israel. It was the eve of the holiday of Purim (פורים), which we couldn't be bothered to observe that year, although noisemakers were given to the kids.
We went to check in to our hotel. It wasn't the fanciest place, but we had a nice view.
Asaph's Israeli friend who had moved to Miami came over. He had a name that was the same as an Israeli girl who was a friend of the kids, so they were a little confused. Many Zionist names were androgynous, further proof of their wickedness.
They didn't want to take a photograph with him.
We ordered pizza and ate dinner in the room, because Asaph's grandmother wouldn't have dinner with us.
We all got up to watch the sunrise. I was adamant about teaching the children the importance of the moon and the sun.
"There it is!" I screamed, hysterically.
I was reminded of watching the sun rise with my dead mother in Sicily.
We tried to take a walk in so-called South Beach. I posed in front of the hotel where I had contracted scabies in the spring of 2000.
We walked over to a nearby hotel that was more stylish and luxurious to meet Asaph's mother and a friend and co-worker of hers. There were beautiful and fashionable young persons everywhere having various kinds of fun.
Our son had a good time running around with his shoes off.
The kids had their first margarita.
It was difficult to convince them that sand was something acceptable to walk on. But we finally succeeded!
As we walked back to the hotel, I noticed an eruv (עירוב) while teaching our daughter about the moon.
It was a beautiful night. Orthodoxly Jewish persons in frumpy and piously unseasonable clothing walked by.
Back at the hotel I resorted to reading the translations of chapter 3, verse 16 of the Gospel of John. I had always been a fan of this page, since childhood, owing to the Tamil and Sinhalese scripts. I knew nothing of the conflict therebetween back when I was a child.
The next morning Asaph took the children to the wildly overpriced breakfast buffet.
I only had coffee, but they -- meaning our Cubanish waiter -- attempted to charge me anyway.
We went to the beach where we saw a marine cnidarian of the family Physaliidae on the beach. I had initially thought I was seeing trash!
We went to retrieve Asaph's grandmother. She suggested that we go to a public park.
Mysteriously, once we got there, our son was terrified and clung to us in fear.
We realized that he was scared of a portable roller coaster that had been brought into the park for a private birthday party. It was unclear whether the birthday celebrant was an adult or a child.
We said farewell to Asaph's mother and grandmother and headed to Fort Lauderdale to visit my cheerful and optimistic friend Mark.
He and his same-sex lover lived near the highway. He told me that it was better to live near the highway than near the beach "because then you can get everywhere more easily".
Oh, I thought.
The dogs were remanded into one of the small and immaculate rooms where they were kept in times like these.
We tried to find snacks for the children amongst all of the whey protein bars our optimistic friend and his same-sex lover had in their kitchen.
It was time for us to meet up with Audra and her daughter to drive to Orlando, where we would be spending a week. We gave her a call and then typed the address she gave us into our smartphones.
She was closer than we had expected.
We began our drive across the state of Florida. I found the landscape to be very exotic. The combination of sub-tropical and tall, scrubby pines reminded me of a version or vision of Africa from my childhood imagination.
We drove and drove. Eventually we got hungry. We weren't sure where to stop, and ended up accidentally entering an American family-style restaurant chain featuring a large buffet and grill offering numerous hot and cold dishes.
I was horrified. We were charged simply for sitting down, since there was only one option on the menu: everything. I felt repulsed and disgusted and embarrassed at our mistake. The place seemed dirty, in addition to everything else. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched our daughter start to eat a plate of macaroni and cheese.
Our son wasn't hungry, so I took him outside. We walked around the parking lot for a while. After some time a bus pulled up and a large group of young men who appeared to be university athletes entered the restaurant. I wondered if we should go back in.
The others came out. The restaurant had refunded the price of my meal.
I posted about our mistake on a social-networking website. My cousin from St. Louis, who I knew had become extremely wealthy, contacted me, saying that she was at her vacation house in Vero Beach and that we should have gone there for dinner. I felt even more ashamed.
I made the mistake of giving our daughter my smartphone as we drove in the dark. A terrible noise erupted from her car seat as she vomited volcanically.
We had just passed a service area (we were on a toll road), but Asaph swerved and backtracked into it. Audra and her daughter helped clean up the mess. Asaph took our daughter into the service area -- which ended up being immaculately clean and nice and would have been a great choice for a place to have dinner -- to clean her up.
I was stressed out.
We finally arrived in Orlando.
Mary, who had birthed and born our children, was already in our suite at the resort that Asaph had arranged through his work connections, along with her boyfriend and their new son, whom we called Squishy.
My father was also there.
We tried to clean the vomit out of the car seat.
We went to sleep.
It was raining the next morning.
We had planned to go to a famous theme park in a famous entertainment complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (a town named after a street in Burbank, California), but we decided to go have brunch at one of the resorts associated with the entertainment complex where we were told that we could partake of a buffet with persons dressed up as characters created by the large media conglomerate that founded the complex. We thought this would be a cheaper compromise than a visit to the theme park, which our children would probably not remember as adults, or even as older children.
We drove to the entertainment complex. There was a gantry -- like a border crossing -- where we were stopped and expected to pay the parking fee to enter, but we were exempt owing to our brunch reservation.
It was like entering another country -- a pristine country like Canada or the non-Italian parts of Switzerland.
There was no trash anywhere.
We arrived at the luxury hotel and spa where we were to eat.
It was quite luxurious. I even agreed to eat the food.
Sadly, our son was terrified of the characters.
We had made a good decision not to go to the theme park.
We walked around the immaculate resort. It was very American.
We could see the famous fairy tale castle in the theme park in the distance.
Monorail! That's right, monorail! I thought.
Our children helped Mary push her new son.
We drove back to our resort, which was less luxurious and was not affiliated with the media conglomerate.
Despite the rain, the weather was warm, so we took the kids to the swimming pool.
I then went to the local grocery store. It was distinctively Floridian.
Because of Asaph's unauthorized use of geosocial networking application geared towards non-heterosexual men, he learned that two persons we knew from New York who had one child (in the same way we had) were not only in Orlando, but a few rooms down the hall from us.
They came over for dinner, with one of the guys' elderly father.
My dad seemed to be having a great time.
They menaced us.
Asaph went to Jacksonville, by bus, for the day, to do what he claimed was some work business.
This seemed implausible.
I decided to go for a run around the complex. The golf courses, the strip malls, and the subdivisions of similarly large houses, which all seemed mass-produced and lacking in distinguishing characteristics, gave a very Republican ambiance to the area.
Audra minded the children while I lay out in the sun.
I stayed by the pool for adults, where, several years prior, I had overheard a drunken conversation by a group of middle-aged persons that had been quite shocking to me.
I headed back because I didn't want to overdue it, ultraviolet-wise.
But then I was tempted by another empty pool on the other side of the building in which we were staying, owing to lizards.
I felt relaxed. Sort of.
It wasn't Greece, that's for sure, but it was nice enough.
Mary, her boyfriend, and her new son left for the airport.
That night our daughter started saying that she wasn't feeling well. I was worried.
When my brother, his wife, and their three sons arrived for their portion of the vacation, I went in to check on her. She was hot to the touch.
Oh no! I thought.
I had her sleep in the bed with me while we waited for Asaph. When he got home, she threw up on him.
She threw up a few more times during the night. I was panicked. I stayed up all night. Eventually I just went to the living room and watched television while she and Asaph slept.
It didn't seem like one of the normal stomach "bugs" that were constantly plaguing us, owing to her high fever. I kept thinking the worst. I sent a text message to my brother's wife, a nurse, in case she was awake. Owing to her one-year-old baby, she was, and she came across the hall to examine our daughter. She told me not to worry so much.
Our daughter was still hot in the morning. We administered analgesics and fever-reducers.
She acted mostly normal when under their influence, but not entirely. She kept rejecting pacifiers, asking for a "new one".
I started to formulate a theory. This wasn't a gastrointestinal virus, I realized. The vomiting had been a so-called red herring.
Our daughter played with my nephews.
While under the influence of the drugs, she was only slightly angrier than normal.
Once they wore off she felt sick again.
I took her out to the porch in our so-called unit. We saw a frog.
The frog became a bit of an obsession, for both of us.
"Where is it going?" she asked, when it started hopping away.
"He's going to sleep, with his family," I said.
This sentence made me feel a little bit of saudade.
The next day she was in better spirits, but still feverish.
We did the so-called lazy river anyway.
I could see that something in her mouth was bothering her.
I kept formulating my theory.
"The frog is with his family, sleeping?" she asked.
We talked about the frog quite a bit.
We told the non-heterosexual couple with the baby about our daughter's fever, in case they wanted to put bleach all over everything everywhere.
"She's very rich," I said.
I could tell he didn't believe me.
"Family is important," he said.
"Just prepare yourself; she's very rich."
We set out the next morning. It would take us two hours each way.
We stopped first at a petting zoo that would soon be made illegal, once the laws against speciesism were passed.
I enjoyed the exotic climate.
There was much annoying signage.
It was hard not to constantly roll my eyes at the strange capitalization of their assets.
The people who ran the place were mostly simple country folk, although the visitors were quite diverse, owing to Orlando's international appeal.
Our daughter's mood wasn't great, since she was still recovering from the illness about which I had been formulating theories.
We got ready to leave. I was anxious about washing the kids' hands in a manner that wouldn't end up making them even dirtier.
We headed off through scrubby cattle fields and orange groves along the turnpike towards the Atlantic.
The local nomenclature was very exotic.
I was worried that our daughter would get car sick again. We had to pull over when we were almost there to take a break.
My cousin kept sending messages wondering where we were.
"I'm drinking wine by myself," she wrote.
We started driving south down Orchid Island, the barrier island on which my cousin lived. I could tell from the space-based satellite navigation system that we had actually passed her house, which was hidden from the road by a large semi-tropical hedge. But we had to enter the development through a southerly gatehouse.
We arrived at the gatehouse. A very attractive young man whose countenance radiated wholesomeness greeted us.
Asaph attempted to flirt with him. I had to look away, so I didn't get to look at the attractive young man very much.
"Wow!" Asaph said.
"Shameless and disgusting," I said.
We started driving north along the houses.
"I believe you now that she is rich!" said Asaph.
We arrived at the house. There were some children swimming in a pool. My cousin emerged from one of the buildings.
I hadn't seen her since my grandmother's funeral 10 years prior.
She had a son approaching adolescence and fraternal twins who were just starting school. They were interested in playing with our kids.
I had brought swimsuits, but we didn't get to use their pool.
It was nice to see the kids running around in the outdoor luxury.
We went out to their beach.
It was cloudy and there were no other persons.
We went back to the house. Her older son gave me a tour of the facilities. There was an elevator, but even Asaph's father in Israel had an elevator in his house, so I wasn't shocked.
There was a guest room just for guests of the children, as well as a guest room for adults, as well as a separate guest house.
I used the bathroom in the guest room for children.
My cousin went to get us dinner "from the club". It was tasty enough.
We all sat and chatted while the kids played. My cousin mentioned that she had to go to Texas a lot because that's where her decorator lived.
She was very nice, even though I knew she was a Republican. It was very good to see her.
I wished we could have spent the night in one of the luxurious guest rooms.
Our son always acted much sicker than our daughter. He screamed when we gave him milk to drink.
I noticed that our daughter, who was mostly recovered, had a rash.
I made my final diagnosis: mouth blisters caused by coxsackievirus.
I was correct.
While Audra tended to our sick son, I tried to get in some premature aging.
As part of his wheeling, Asaph had gotten us free and costless space in a poolside cabana.
We later left the cabana because it was boring. We went to a hot tub.
Outside of the hot tub was a very attractive middle-aged man in a bathing suit with golf clubs adjacent drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette whilst talking to his interracial son.
I picked up some palm bark to give to the kids. I wished that all of their toys were like this and that our lives were free of cheap plastic Chinese crap.
Asaph insisted on all of us going to an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex for a lunch. It was uncomfortably hot. We got lost several times trying to get there.
Our son was still very sick. Audra finally stood up to Asaph (the rest of us were too afraid) and demanded to remain in the car with our sick and sleeping son. Asaph gave in.
Audra and our son sat in the air-conditioned car while the rest of us had an unpleasant and overpriced luncheon.
We flew back.
Asaph got into a huge fight with the Chinese man employed by an Israeli company who picked us up at the airport.
After we all got in the car with all of our things and with car seats installed with sick children inside, the driver said that we would be paying twice what had been quoted because we had too much luggage.
There was a lot of dramatic activity. I even participated.
The next day Asaph and I had a mysterious appointment.
I went downtown to another mysterious appointment the next day.
It was nice to be in the West Village.
We had gotten used to the warm weather in Florida, but in New York spring was barely beginning.
I went to my attractive non-heterosexual dermatologist for a treatment.
He always made me feel worse.
One of my cousins from my father's side -- who, coincidentally, was also extremely rich but who lived modestly -- posted a photo of her siblings and mother in Australia in the 1970s.
I had never been to Australia, but I was filled with saudade.
I had my shoes shined inappropriately.
The spring progressed in a gloomy manner. Still, it was better than the winter.
We went to a birthday party for a one-year-old whose non-heterosexual parents had suffered a terrible tragedy.
Our son had a good time.
We started taking the kids to the pool in our building, at great cost.
We went to another birthday party, this time for twin two-year-olds.
One of the dads present was extremely attractive, while the others were hideously ugly. It made it hard not to stare at the good-looking dad.
We were getting close to the spring holidays.
I learned about an obscure concept in my Jewish class.
I was impatient for flowers and leaves and warmth.
It had been too long!
Every day at work the floor shook and rumbled at regular intervals as detonations occurred for the building of new housing for billionaires across the street.
It was unsettling. It was like living in a war zone.
I went to an uptown analyst and therapist.
Asaph discovered a loophole that allowed us to cut our son's bangs.
I saw something in the store that we had not learned about in my Jewish class, even though I later learned that it was related to our son's hair!
We were getting closer!
We took advantage when we could.
I took the kids on a long walk up the west side.
We passed a radioactive statue of Shinran Shonin (親鸞), founder of the Jodo Shinshu (浄土真宗) school of Buddhism. It had survived the atomic blast at Hiroshima (広島市).
My task was to get a costless and slightly broken toy piano from an Israeli family that had offered it.
Then we went to the playground.
We got ready for the holiday. Asaph hired a man from Ghana to clean our house. He had lived in Israel.
"Did you like it there?" I asked. I knew -- based on my readings -- that African migrants were treated terribly in that land.
"Yes, I liked it a lot."
"People were nice."
"REALLY?!" I said. I didn't believe it.
"Well, not everyone was nice," he conceded.
I posted a photo on a social networking website.
"That looks like [an artificial script created by J. R. R. Tolkien]," someone wrote.
The time arrived.
We took the train to Asaph's orthodox uncle out in a hamlet and census-designated place in Nassau County, New York, United States.
We walked by black-hatted stern persons as we made our way to his house.
All of the men of the house, as well as many men from the community, were praying in the family room. I strained to hear.
Our children started bouncing a basketball in the large room adjacent.
Even though darkness had fallen and the prohibition against "work" (מלאכה) had begun, there was a terrible traffic jam on the roads leading from New York (city) to Long Island (we were very near the busiest international air passenger gateway in the United States) and Asaph's uncle's wife's father was still on the road, as was Asaph's great-uncle and cousin.
We tried to entertain the children as I watched the clock. It was going to be my bedtime soon, and we hadn't even started the ritual feast marking the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.
We fed the kids some meat and unleavened bread (מצה). Little did I know that our daughter would become constipated for the first time in recorded history during this holiday.
Finally the maternal patriarch arrived. Several persons, including Asaph's religious uncle's less religious son, surreptitiously consulted smartphones to learn that Asaph's great uncle and cousin had decided to turn back.
The ritual feast could start.
We almost immediately had to take the children out of the room, since they were acting up.
Act up, fight back, I thought, as an old person.
I thought about growing a large gray beard and wearing flowing robes.
It was time for us to leave. We were given full plates of food as others ate their soup.
We walked back to the train station.
Oh well, I thought. Next year in Jerusalem!
It was a possibility, even though I hated Jerusalem (القدس).
I went to Jubal's apartment the next day, thinking I was going to another diaspora ritual feast.
It wasn't one.
It was a somewhat awkward affair in which guests were expected to share personal information.
I just provided my Social Security Number and nothing else. I ate a large portion of potato and turnip.
Our son suddenly became severely constipated and feverish.
Could the fever be caused by this diet? I wondered.
I was exhausted by their constant sickness. I looked forward every night to falling into my bed.
I went downtown for my own private penance.
I had to take a call during the solemn collects.
The rest of the city was not in mourning.
There was fragrant joy everywhere.
It was a relief.
We walked back from the park.
To our charmless neighborhood.
That still had some appeal, in spite of everything.
The next day we met Asaph's great uncle, who said that he had ended up having a wonderful Indian dinner full of leavening the night that the traffic jam prevented his arrival at Woodmere, the hamlet in Nassau County in which we had had the ritual meal.
I taught our daughter the word "echo" (᾿Ηχώ).
We were enjoying our time in the park when a highly attractive and presumably non-heterosexual man in his 40s arrived with his medium-sized, solidly built, short haired dog whose early ancestors came from England and Ireland (the man's ancestors did not come from these places) to take self-portrait photographs, with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone to be shared on social networking services.
It was a kind of awkward, because we kept getting in his way but he didn't distance himself from us.
Also he was highly attractive, as mentioned.
I fled to New Jersey to commemorate the Christian holiday celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Our LORD: Peace Be Upon Him) from the dead.
It was quite a journey.
It took two hours. Each way.
I finally arrived at my host's house.
I was late. The party was in considerable progress.
Every single person present was a non-heterosexual male, with the possible exception of my male host's male spouse.
I described the Passover cleaning that we had undertaken to one of the guests. He scrunched up his face in disgust.
All guests were given a hand towel as a parting gift. Mine looked like a peştamal, a traditional Turkish towel used in the Turkish baths.
"I got you this one because I thought it looked Jewy," said our host.
I realized that he thought it looked like a tallit (טלית). It didn't.
I left at the moment when dessert was served.
At work I looked down at the source of all the explosions that made work very enervating and unnerving.
But billionaires needed housing too, I didn't think.
I had left my Pentateuch (חומש) in New Jersey, so I went down to the Village to fetch it.
I went for a run for the first time in many months.
I thought about transportation alternatives.
We went to Brooklyn to what I had naively thought was a cherry blossom festival (桜祭り).
But it was too early for cherry blossoms.
We ate some green-tea cake. Or possibly green teacake.
There were scores of persons of all ethnicities and races and nationalities (except for Japanese) engaged in a performance art in which participants wore costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character or idea.
I didn't care for this.
There was one small cluster of trees in bloom.
The kids fell asleep in the stroller so we walked through Brooklyn a bit.
I hadn't seen many of the new developments.
Our subway train was delayed as we returned to the Borough of Manhattan.
It was nice to be able to go back to the park.
Everyone had gotten very tired of staying cooped up indoors.
I made us observe Holocaust Memorial Day.
I had to explain it to Audra, since the candle kept burning.
A new lunar month began.
I took our son to the otolaryngologist for a follow-up.
There were orthodox Jews waiting to see him.
I went to my classes: Jewish and Hebrew.
I went to work: self-hating Jewish and not Hebrew.
I realized that my smartphone had been tracking all of my moves.
The spring got springier.
I kept sending unwanted articles I found interesting to my Jewish and Hebrew classes.
People never responded.
I again wondered if I should focus on a less popular conflict.
I went to pray about it.
I got no answers, as usual.
I still avoided taking the kids to playgrounds, as I found them dirty and dangerous.
But they were no longer content to take walks in the stroller around the neighborhood.
That disappointed me, since I had enjoyed that pastime.
We went out to Brooklyn yet again.
I wondered about the cleanliness of the playground where a birthday party was being held.
There was no way to wash the children's hands between each snack.
And repeated applications of alcohol-based hand sanitizer would have made me look insane, and probably wouldn't even have been very effective.
We strolled back.
Brooklyn was still lovely.
The next day we drove to Westchester.
It was another child's birthday party, in an idyllic location.
I loved suburbia!
The hosts had two completely non-threatening terriers, but our children were afraid. Our daughter dropped her bagel in terror, and one of the non-threatening terriers waddled over and picked it up in its mouth.
"The doggie ate my bagel!" she screamed.
She talked about this incident for weeks.
We made it home. It was the time of year when bedtime was a challenge.
I thought about how my life had been when I moved to New York over 15 years prior. I had become a totally different person since then.
Little of myself remained.