Ugly Americans

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Ugly Americans

“What’s the derogatory term for Americans in a foreign country? ….Americans” unknown 

As Americans traveling the world we do apologize often for our behavior. But we may have outdone ourselves with Trump. Trump represents the America that the world hates. He embodies the worst anti-American stereotypes: vulgar, violent, cash-obsessed, racist.

 I had heard about the  Ugly Americans abroad but this was my first experience with them. We were at a beautiful resort in the Pantanal in Brazil where meals were served at community tables. There they were- loud, arrogant, older Trump supporters and the BF took the bait.  Sometimes I think we’re all too much like this. We are rude to people we don’t know precisely because we don’t know them, and we think it doesn’t really matter.  We treat people with differing political views as evil rather than consider that they have had different experiences and ideas. 

My boyfriend apologized the next morning and they agreed to talk only about the jaguars that we were all hoping to see . There had  recently been a huge fire in the Pantanal  and it affected and killed many animals. The safaris were like treasure hunts and we had been lucky and had seen almost all the animals including jaguars, 

The next morning out on the jeep with them we saw nothing. The Ugly Americans complained loudly and compared the experience unfavorably to their many trips in Africa and boat trip to Port Jofre. A vacation always goes better if you don’t compare.They wallowed in a swamp of complaints.They measured their stay in the Pantanal with an American yardstick instead of immersing themselves in the culture they came to see.

Their anger escalated in the afternoon. Again, we saw very few animals and we pulled up to go canoeing on this beautiful lake in the Pantanal. They were furious. He yelled at the guide.  “I flew five thousand miles to go canoeing. I’m not going and I’m going to just sit here and complain.”

Righteous anger boiled up inside me. I felt compelled to tell him that his negative energy was impacting the group experience and this beautiful place. He replied in a loud angry voice that i should shut my mouth and go back to Brooklyn (where I grew up). His response was several notches more intense than necessary. “You are healthy and you are here,” I answered and walked away.

I got into the canoe and begged my boyfriend not to say anything. He. agreed but when we got back to shore, the man stood in his path. The next thing I knew was that they had their hands on each other about to fight. “I hate you Hollywood types. You think you are better than everyone,” he said.  It was right out of Trump’s playbook.

The wife would stand in front of the jeep so I couldn’t get on without asking her to move or go around to the other side.  If I tried to talk to my German friends sitting behind me, she would get involved and push me out of the conversation. No one liked them but everyone was trying to keep the peace and talk to them so that there would be no more incidents and we would see more animals. I haven’t seen bullies like this since  junior high school.

We bonded with the hardworking  staff and the other lovely guests from all over the world over our dislike of “the Ugly Americans.” i tried to avoid them as much as possible but staying in the same lodge it was difficult. They were still complaining in the doorway as we were leaving.

Just to be clear, every country has horrible people who are loud, rude, and arrogant, and these people are horrible when they travel and, presumably, horrible at home. It’s not limited to a single country.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

36 Hours In San Francisco, California With Jet Lag

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36 Hours In San Francisco, California With Jet Lag

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”
 Oscar Wilde

People from LA (me included) love SF. Its ok to call it SF. But don’t call it San Fran or Frisco – they hate that. I love that their rich people are Techies not Hollywood types. They appear. less materialistic than we are. Techies walk around in hoodies, a t-shirt with the name of one of their first failed start ups, headphones and no eye contact. It reminds me of growing up in NY. I love how geographically tiny it is. It is only seven miles and i have walked from one end to the other in a day. I love how they think their food is better than ours and it is.

I have spent a lot of time in SF so when I had to the chance to spend 36 hours between planes, I avoided all the tourist spots like Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Union Square. There are so many neighborhoods with their own cultures, appearances and even weather systems. Bring a jacket it is not LA – even in summer.

I chose Japantown. Before World War II, San Francisco had one of the largest populations of Japanese outside of Japan. However, that all changed in 1942 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced all Japanese by birth or descent, including Japanese Americans, out of the neighborhood and interned on the Pacific Coast outside of the city. After the war, many chose not to return, shrinking the neighborhood into the small size it currently is today.

9:00pm Check into Kabuki Hotel. I love anything Japanese and the Kabuki Hotel with its Japanese/ art inspired/ hipster vibe was right up my alley.

I have terrible reverse jet lag (flew in from Iceland) . My night alternated between boundless energy and crashing sleep. I knew the next day would be rough.

10:00am  I love the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was there when it opened and was excited to see the new renovation.

There was an Andy Warhol Exhibit, interesting photography and a wonderful San Francisco Mural by JR. The people in the JR Mural move. Don’t miss it if you are there.

11:30am Walk through the city. My cousin Linda has lived in SF most of her life and is the best person to be with in the city. She knows everything.

12:00pm  We walk to Embarcadero and have lunch at Delancey Street restaurant. It is an inspiring bistro type restaurant, book store and event space. The room is welcoming and the food is delicious. The service is great and it supports a wonderful cause. Delancey Street is a rehab program and everyone who works their is well trained and rebuilding their life.

1:30pm More walking. We walk back to Mission Street.

2:00pm. I had never been to the Contemporary Jewish Museum. The building design is clean and modern. They only had one exhibit at this time.

2:45pm  The United States’ second largest Martin Luther King Memorial, titled Revelation, was built in San Francisco in 1993. It sits behind a 50’ x 20’ foot wall of cascading water. Located in the Yerba Buena Gardens, the memorial is a lovely walkway constructed under a 120,000-gallon reflecting pool.

3:00pm  As I said my cousin knows everything. Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens  is my new favorite tea place. There is a wonderful selection of teas from all over the world. Service is friendly and the food is unique and delicious.

4:30pm I started crashing and went back to hotel. There is traffic. Apparently Uber and Lyft are causing major congestion in the city.

530pm  I forced myself to stay up and get some  sushi at An Sushi.

It is located at the very nearby Peace Plaza Mall.

6:30pm. Shopping at Daiso. It’s like the 100 yen store in Japan but most things cost a dollar fifty.  Everything is so cute.

8:00pm Sleeeeeeeep.

10:00 am  Kabuki Hot Springs is quiet at ten AM on a weekday. They have a hot and cold pool, steam room and sauna. I opted for a shiatsu massage which definitely helped with the jet lag.

1230pm  The nearby Japanese Mall sells many  authentic and not so authentic Japanese things.

I ate some yakitori and matcha tea and went to the airport.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Things That I Have Learned About Him After Being In A Relationship For Two Years

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Things That I’ve learned About Him After Being In A Relationship For Two Years

“It reminds me of that old joke –  you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that’s how I feel about relationships. They’re totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”Woody Allen

He is great at birthdays, flowers and Christmas.

Never travel with him when he is writing. Even if he says “it won’t be like the last time.” It will. Travel anywhere with him when he is not writing. He is a great traveler. 

He has excellent musical taste.  If he says let’s go to this concert or hear this musician, I just say yes because I know that it is going to be good. 

Always tell him he looks terrific when he does. He likes that. However, when an outfit choice is questionable and you mention it – then you are shallow.  

He is a popcorn hoarder. I am a popcorn sharer. It is less caloric if you eat out of one box of popcorn. He does’not get that.  

He is very generous with wine. Sharing a glass of wine is totally fine. Sharing a second  and third glass is fine also.

He is not a casual chef. Each meal is a challenge and has to be the best thing he has ever cooked. Every dinner with guests is a chance to try some new difficult recipe he has never attempted,  It is always delicious but a bit stressful. 

My dog does not like him. He expects dogs to just like him. That is what dogs do. Not Banksy – he is jealous. It has been two years and Banksy still acts like when he gets back into bed he is attacking us and when he leaves the house  he is stealing something.

He gets bored driving down the same street. He prefers to drive the long route if that is  what his car navigation tells him to do.  If he asks how should I go, it is best if I don’t answer because he will only follow part of the directions.

He doesn’t like it when I tell him to turn left three times and he already knows that. He also doesn’t like it when I don’t say anything and he misses the turn.

If I mention that I like a song, he learns how to play it on the guitar for me. That is really sweet. He is like my high school boyfriend. 

 Relationships are not easy but we work at it.  I think it will  turn out that by taking a chance and moving in together  we will gain a lot more than we lose. Love wins.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Coffee Addiction

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Coffee Addiction

“It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” Dave Barry

I started drinking coffee at sixteen when I began dating. I ordered a cappuccino in an Italian restaurant after dinner. It kept me up all night but I didn’t care. I was doing something very grown up – like alcohol and weed. I was in the experimentation phase.

 It evolved into instant coffee in the morning. Instant coffee was everywhere. Coffee was not a culture yet. It was just one of two caffeinated hot drinks with free refills. 

When I was diet conscious in college for no reason, I drank black coffee with fake sugar.  I could not buy artificial sweetener because I was not allowed to eat food with chemicals. I grabbed handfuls when they brought it to the table and hid it in my house.You could always find some Sweet n Low in my pockets. 

After I got married and moved to LA, I became a serious coffee drinker.  My plan was to arise at 4 a.m. and take some whole beans out of an airtight but never refrigerated container and  roast each bean individually over a wood-burning fire. This never happened. Every morning I ground those beans by hand not with a mortar and pestle but an automatic coffee grinder. I used a French press, waited four minutes and poured the coffee. I was going to be the kind of wife that made perfect coffee.

Starbucks and Coffee Bean stores were showing up everywhere.  I was a regular coffee user by then. Barista became an American word. They are sometimes nice and  sometimes annoying. There is nothing I hate more than when they correct my order in their own special lingo. They do it in a condescending way as if they are enlightening me that the correct term is Venti. I don’t want whipped cream on a soy latte. I’m ordering soy because I don’t want dairy. I don’t like anyone perky talking to me before i have coffee. I don’t come to Starbucks for questions. I come for coffee. 

After years of Starbucks, I found out that there is extra caffeine in their coffee. It doesn’t matter because it is three pm. I have to pick up my children from school and drive them to their activities. I am sooo tired. The morning caffeine has worn off. Is there a faster way to consume it? Maybe bathing in it? My children learn that I have a coffee dependence. I know the location of every Starbucks and Coffee Bean on the way to all their after school activities. “I just need to stop and get coffee”, becomes a familiar phrase that they hear all their lives.

Years later the best part about going to bed is imagining the coffee I am going to drink in the morning. At midnight, I think – only seven more hours to go. It’s more important to my body than oxygen or my left kidney. It is definitely a full-blown addiction. 

The unthinkable happens. For health reasons, I had to give up my afternoon, decades long, extra-large sized cup of coffee. I forge a special bond with blinding headaches, nausea and not getting anything done. I want to murder everyone I see holding a paper  coffee cup. The dog was worried about me. 

Eventually the symptoms disappear. The matcha fills a bit of the void. I’m more hydrated because I drink more water. I sleep more and my stomach doesn’t hurt. I can probably do coffee soon but the withdrawal was so severe that I never want to experience it again. Sometimes I go in a great coffee shop just to smell it brewing. I can crack at any time. But also I can change. Who knew?

Fly safe,

JAZ

Going To The Library

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Going To The Library

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein

Towering bookcases. Shelves for miles. That smell I will never forget as long as I live. I spent a ton of time in many beautiful libraries in New York which was odd considering my mother was legally blind. 

There were so many books and worlds on those shelves. I think it is one of the reasons I know how to entertain myself. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV and  beautiful old libraries were our winter or bad weather “family field trips.’ 

My father would go off somewhere and read. My mother went to the record section and listened to something she would always say was amazing. We were left to roam freely around the children’s section by ourselves, picking up books, reading a few pages and putting them back until we found the one that we couldn’t put down.

 The first time I ever walked anywhere without a parent besides school, was to the small neighborhood library. I was ten or eleven years old and I walked with two friends. It was  sixteen blocks.  I felt very scared and very grownup. I didn’t know that my mother was walking several paces behind us.  She let me be so proud of my independence and didn’t tell me till many years later. 

My children always did the summer reading program at the Beverly Hills Library. I wanted them to be as comfortable in a library as I was.  One day, my four year old daughter wanted to stay in the library by herself and work on her project.  I remembered my mom and hid in the back of the children section for an hour so she could have that alone in the library feeling.

 Growing up in the library, you learn to be observant. You also learn there are creeps hanging around the library — like everywhere else (ever been to a Starbucks mid-afternoon?) Through your superhuman power of observation, you know when someone is sketchy and you follow your instincts. You know when to hop over to a more crowded section of stacks, or to let a librarian know someone’s being a weirdo.

The library was  where I could check out as many books as I wanted, so naturally, it was one of my favorite spots in the world. I believe I still have a few overdue ones. 

No matter what was happening at school or at home, I knew once I walked into that place of quiet and organization, my thoughts would calm and my mood would lift. It was a way to leave the real world outside.

Fly safe,

JAZ

The World Is Smaller

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The World Is Smaller

“Music in the soul can be heard by the universe”. Lao Tzu

The world shrunk a bit more when people started posting youtube videos. The planet is full of normal people  having normal lives  and not always the crazy place the media makes it out to be. Music, dance and singing has always been a way to engage people in a common conversation. People want  to feel connected to each other and they are just as curious about us as we are about them. Here are some of my favorite youtube videos that show this.

Hungary

England

China

Australia

Brazil

New Zealand

Israel

Thailand

Tanzania

Fly safe,

JAZ

The American Half Smile

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The American Half Smile

“Peace begins with a smile.”Mother Teresa

I’ve perfected it. It is known around the world as the American half-smile.  It is a smile that does not reach your eyes. It is faking kindness for a second to be considered a polite person.

I grew up in New York where you don’t have eye contact or smile at anyone – just in case they suddenly have the urge to lunge at you, steal your money and slit your throat. I had to learn the half smile when I moved to California. It is a dead giveaway that you are American. Most cultures do not have this.

In China, Russia, and Eastern Europe , people don’t smile on the street. It is impolite to show emotions in public to strangers. Smiling at strangers make others question your motives or your sanity. 

Before  the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese authorities wanted to get more people to smile . Their approach was to encourage Olympic stewards to clench a chopstick between their teeth to develop their smile muscles.Russian border guards were also instructed to be less intimidating and smile more to be more welcoming to visitors. The  French tourist authorities also occasionally attempt similar measures. In Norway and Finland they say when  a stranger on the street smiles at you, he is insane, drunk or American.

 When I was younger and spending a summer on Mykonos, I moved into a house with other people. I immediately introduced myself. I was going to be living with them. “You’re American yeah?” said the very cute Australian guy.  “Yes, I guess you can tell by my accent.“ He replied that only an American would walk into a room and introduce themselves to everybody.

Studies blame our friendliness on the immigrants. They say that countries with less homogenous populations learn to smile and get along with all different kinds of people. 

Also Americans love their white straight teeth. By and large, the American dental care is far superior to most countries. Not everyone in the world flosses. We flash our smiles  around like the Amex cards that a few non-American businesses take. Un-naturally white, perfectly straight-toothed smiles have “U.S.A.” written all over them.

Fly safe,

JAZ