Eat, Pray, Fax

Manuscript Submission, Part I

Julie Gray
Sep 2, 2015 · 8 min read

Dear Reader! Let me be among the first to welcome you to your new adventures in the Middle East but first, yeah pinch yourself, you did this. Anyway, doesn’t matter now because it’s too late.

[Editor’s Note: Great to hear from you but where does this fall in the outline? I don’t remember discussing this title — ever. Please tell me the manuscript is at least a little compos mentis right now. You’re six months late on this. Publisher is making noises. Hard to keep up the excuses. Also: not crazy about alternate titles: “Nope” “No shit, Toto” or “Kill Me Now”.]

So welcome to your new life! Say hello, adventure and goodbye equilibrium! This is just the beginning of your much, much slower, less complicated but pretty inconvenient and annoying life abroad which will make a great book! [Editor’s Note: I’m confused by the tone here. Are you taking the manuscript in a new direction altogether?]

Just a few lil’ hints. You know, things that I wish I had really grokked before I made the worst decision of my life. I’m kidding. No seriously, there’s a lot of stuff nobody tells you about this simpler, more connected, good life outside of the United States even though they paid you a big fat advance to do it, right? I’m talking like Eat Pray Love big btw. Well let me tell you something, money goes real damn fast around these parts. But who cares. [Editor’s Note: Pls see terms and conditions of contract.]

Okay so first things first: Those people who told you that you don’t really need to speak or read Hebrew in Israel were dirty filthy liars. LIARS. This is a myth perpetuated by publishers who send you on “adventures” for a “book”. [Editor’s Note: We discussed this.]

Here, morals are different. If you perceive you might be getting ripped off even a little? You are correct. You can even ask — hey wait — Do I really need this 12,000 terra byte, data, wireless, 100 channel receiver thing on my pager and they’ll be like Yes. Yes, you do.

No is not a verbal expression here. Try to stay with me on this: words mean engagement mean yes. Not words means no engagement means no.

Yelling, on the other hand, is an elevated art form. Also big hand gestures and really indignant facial expressions. Practice those.

Weather and Clothing: The average year round temps are Hades++. Dress accordingly. Winter is Damp++. The houses are all made of stone and so they really keep in that heat in the summer — just like an oven! — AND this doubles as a nice meat locker effect in the winter. Buy slippers. And no, your rental does not come with a heater. [Editor’s Note: Relevance of last four paras?]

Except for the Central Bus Station, in Tel Aviv, personal safety on the street is a non-issue, honestly. Except the bus station which is one of the largest indoor bus stations in the world, with complex ecosystems of muggers, pigeons and dirt. Anyway. Lots of people get lost and mugged there. Lots.

Safety during a war is about knowing where your local bomb shelter is and what to do when you hear a siren. In the centre of Israel, we have about 30 seconds to make like a bunny and hop into a hole. Don’t think about it until you have to. Put your ID, your shoes and your keys by the door and go to sleep. The siren could happen in an hour. Or 3am. Don’t worry that it might not wake you up. [Editor’s Note: You got the embassy alert. Both paras too ominous. Ask yourself: does this translate into book sales?]

Safety on the bus: Just don’t think about it the possibility of your world going up into a horrible explosion. That kid with the huge backpack? Is probably just some kid with a backpack. There hasn’t been a bus bomb in like almost a year and a half, anyway. Take your fear, press it down into a very tiny ball of pure krypton-like cold fusion poison and then shove it away in your psyche someplace. Soon, you’ll forget it’s even there! [Editor’s Note: Wise to counsel anecdotal psychological advice? Or follow it?]

Sexual safety: They do it like bunnies here. STDs are rampant so be careful. But don’t worry, because if you are concerned, you can go straight to the clinic and sit for three days before you are berated and sent to the pharmacy where the pharmacist doesn’t really speak English so well and so will therefore hold UP the implement you are to use for “cleansing” and shout — this one? For the vagina? Is this the one? For. The Vagina?” You can just pretend not to hear him and stare straight ahead like that time you pressed the button for the next bus stop and realized it was not your stop after all but nobody else was on the bus and so the driver stopped and stared at you in the rear view because nobody else could have pushed that button so you just stared into the middle distance like it was not happening until the driver realized he had won the confrontation but not really because you did not give him the satisfaction. Anyway, sex. The men around here are not shy. They will as soon ask you to have a foursome with their pal and a monkey as they will ask you for a simple coffee. Same difference. It’s flattering at first, you know — a monkey! [Editor’s Note: Let’s talk. Soon.]

Medical Care — is free! Sort of. I mean — taxes are pretty high. Socialized medicine means forget everything you ever thought about bedside manner, nurses, waiting times or personal attention. But — if it bleeds, it leads, meaning you’ll get a heart transplant with no waiting time if you need one, but if you have any chronic or boring ailments, like oh say anemia or some hormonal imbalance, just go ahead and schedule twelve to eighteen months to deal with this before somebody actually listens to you. Your blood test results? You can find those online. In Hebrew. You have to analyse/Google) them yourself. [Editor’s Note: Please send medical records as an attachment. Thnx.]

Do not take the train to Jerusalem. It’s a pretty ride that feels super British Mandate but it drops you off at a station exactly nowhere from nowhere. Instead, take the bus to the CBS, the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, where security appears to be oddly lax but that can’t be right. Anyway. The CBS is a kind of a mini-mall with tons of soldiers with loaded automatic weapons and duffel bags, penguins with their nine children or hippies on their way to some kibbutz. Welcome to the Middle East. [Editor’s Note: Derogatory colloquialisms like “penguins” not helping. Cut off a whole market sector for upcoming book and I walk. I’m serious.]

Banks: No help. No English. No care. Checks, which we stopped using in the US like a million years ago, are identical to cash here. You sign it, someone grabs it — you’re liable for whatever amount they fill in and cash it for. You can try to protest this. This will take approximately 97 days and require many visits to various banks, bank managers offices, even the court where also English is not available except there are friendly students at the courthouse who sit at folding tables and offer to help you sort things out. In Hebrew. You’ll be sent upstairs, downstairs, upstairs again and then to a window that is closed until Thursday so [Editor’s Note: Incomplete. Is this resolved?!]

Moving on. Landlords. Remember how in the States, landlords have legal obligations and stuff? Not here. They will ask either for a huge cash deposit or for a blank, signed check. Yeah, you read that right.

You will pay rent by writing a check for each month in advance and signing it and giving it to your landlord, or baalabeit, which, resemblance to the god Baal? Maybe. Point is, thusly you cannot be late — they just cash them each month.

Landlords will not fix anything whatsoever. Ever. Nothing. They have no reason to do so because they have your checks already, see? Also, the idea that a tenant has “rights” is not a thing here. Know right now, save up in fact, because you will pay for any plumbing or electrical problem — maybe even your air conditioner goes on the fritz, right, or some other pre-existing structural issue that is like 25 years in the making. You will then fight to get reimbursed. You will lose this fight. [Editor’s Note: You gave out my fax number, didn’t you?!]

You will also have to pay something called VAD — a monthly fee somewhat like a homeowners association fee — to keep the general property “maintained”. “Maintained” in this country means swept occasionally by some old Ukranian lady who lives downstairs or maybe an Ethiopian refugee named Steve. Don’t dwell on this. Just pay the money if you know what’s good for you, goddamn it. You cannot fight the man. You’ll never win. Not ever. [Editor’s Note: I’m having my assistant Krista set up a Skype with you and your former therapist for Thursday.]

Government offices, banks, the Post, other institutions have different hours for different locations and branches. They are open five days a week at most branches but usually have a couple of days a week when they close mid-day until 2 or 3pm and then reopen until 6pm or so. Just put a cold compress on your eye twitch and practice acceptance. Living here is really good for acceptance if you’re like on a spiritual journey or something. [Editor’s Note: Meds? Refilled? Pls stay on this.]

If the DMV were in another, far worse universe, some kind of hallucinogenic Hellscape, you would be at the Ministry of the Interior. The entire experience at the Ministry of the Interior will be significantly mitigated if you bring water and food to keep up your strength. Also bring a book or some crafting.

You’ll need to both look up at the sign which says which number is next but also learn to recognize your number in Hebrew because if you so happen to be taking say your electrolytes and not looking when your number comes up, your turn will be taken and there’s nothing you can do about it because like you’re going to the mat with some Israeli lady in leopard skin spandex leggings and four kids, one in a stroller modeled after the Humvee. [Editor’s Note: Is this the woman who filed the complaint? Would this identify her?]

Get your national ID card at the Ministry and also every time you move. You will, initially move around a lot before you find that perfect expat place!

Remember — the Ministry knows all. They have to know where you live, or else where else will the credit card people who gave you a credit card that you didn’t know you applied for but received and used for I don’t know, you can’t remember, but then the bill came, you thought it was a circular because who prints bills with pictures of Bert and Ernie and then you moved because your landlady had illegally subdivided her property and the city was breathing down her neck so she breathed down your neck, so anyway you moved and [Editor’s Note: Incomplete. And what? Where are you? Is this why the manny was emailed from Shlomi’s Copy & Fax? I have some real concerns on the manuscript at this point. Can you get back to me?]


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Julie Gray

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Julie Gray Story Editing | Director @ Tel Aviv Writer's Salon | Writer @ They Do Things Differently Here & Tips for Writing in the End Times

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