Of the many benefits of living in Tel Aviv, being so close to the beach is probably my favorite. When I go running a few times a week, I can run up and down the coast. When I need some time to relax, I go to the beach. When I want to turn into a leather glove, I go to the beach. But really, the beach is a place where a bunch of weirdos do weird shit, and I somehow always happen to be there. Just my luck, I guess. So here are a few short stories about the Tel Aviv coastline, and the many weirdos I’ve had the pleasure of watching. We’ll start, however, with a story in which I am the weirdo/idiot. A Big, Gay Shabbat Miracle Tel Aviv Pride is one of the wilder parties I’ve attended in my life. Over 20,000 gay folks from around the world flock to the city in June every year to enjoy Tel Aviv’s beaches, night life, food and extremely generous portion of really sexy people. I’m sure Pride fests in other cities are great too — I’ve heard wild things about San Francisco, of course — but throw in the beach and the heat and you’ve just got a big, naked gay party. For the last two years, Tali and I headed down to the giant beach party that culminates at the end of the week’s Pride Parade. With a stage set up and famous DJ’s and celebrities bouncing around, it’s a gigantic, loud, chaotic shindig and it’s super fun every time. This year, we watched Bar Rafaeli akwardly welcoming everyone in English (“Welcome to my gays!”) and mayor Ron Huldai boasting just how gay his city is (He’s right). The music was great, and we found a spot with some friends to dance under a sprawling tent. It was a hot day, and everyone was a sweaty mess.
Guess who's ass got pinched more?
I think it’s because I’m small, but at gay events in Tel Aviv, no matter how close I hold Tal to my side, there are always a bevvy of gay dudes trying to get up in my business. That’s fine, it’s flattering, really. Tel Aviv Pride is the mother of all gay parties — it’s fun as shit for straights and gays — but naturally, it was also the time when my hair got tussled and my ass got pinched more than in the prior 364 days of the year combined. After a few hours, we decided it was time to head home, and we made our way out of the crowd. About half way back to our apartment, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. My hand brushed my side, where my keys usually hang, and felt nothing. I double checked, then triple checked. Tal had no keys; they were locked in our apartment. Ah, fuck. I’m happy to say Tali didn’t stab me in that instant. We were tired, sweaty, covered in sand, and now we were locked out of our apartment and it was almost Shabbat. “Sit right here, I’ll be back,” I said. I proceeded to sprint back to the beach, retracing my every step. I arrived back at the beach and it looked like a wasteland. The party had ended, and leftover was the collective trash of about 20,000 people. It was like trying to find your cell phone on the field after a Phish show. It ain’t gonna happen. But this was the beach, and sand is a tricky bastard. I frantically went back to each of the spots where we stood or danced. The clean up crew was raking all the trash into little piles — hundreds and hundreds of little piles. I asked a few if they’d seen a set of keys and they laughed. Seriously, every one of them laughed. That was encouraging. One guy saw me searching and approached me, asking what was wrong. For a second, I thought maybe he’d help me. Then he asked for 10 shekels. I promptly yelled at him in Hebrew, “Ani b’matzav r’tzini! Mah ha’baya shelcha?” which means “I’m in a serious situation here! What’s your problem?” That is not, in any circumstance, something people say in Hebrew. So he, too, laughed at me and walked away. A bunch of jokers on that beach. After 30 minutes, I gave up. It was getting dark, and I was going to need to find a locksmith who would open my door on Shabbat. I returned to Tali empty-handed and returned home, sitting in our stairwell searching for phone numbers of locksmiths who weren’t eating Shabbat dinners with their families. It took some perseverance, but eventually we found a guy who would come. An hour later, we were back in our apartment with a new lock on the door. Safe to say, the mood was kinda killed after that. The next day, we headed to the beach with some friends. Out of curiosity, I wanted to return to the site of Pride. Just to see. Why not? Maybe some dog would walk up to me with my keys in his mouth, wagging his tail. Stranger things have happened. Tal and I walked north up the beach along the water. At one point, three consecutive kids squatted right in front of us to poop in the sea. I took that as a bad omen. We reached the Pride beach and noticed a first aid station close to the street. I approached the two sun-crisped dudes sitting outside and asked, in Hebrew, if they’d found any keys the prior evening. “Explain what the keys looked like.” “Four keys, a chip to my gym and a bike key. All on a keyring.” He looked at me in silence for a few seconds, clearly playing up the tension of the situation. Israelis certainly have a flair for drama. He silently stood, walked into the office and came back with… MY KEYS! Someone had found them the night before — buried under the sand. That, my friends, is a Shabbat miracle. I hugged him and thanked him for everything. The luck of the gays saved me that time. And that’s why I support gay marriage. Among other reasons. A Bunch of Kids and a Boat Propeller Last weekend, my friend Joseph and I biked to Herziliya, a small, upscale beach town a few miles of Tel Aviv. It’s a beautiful bike ride and takes less than an hour. Plus, you end up at a different beach. The change of scenery is definitely nice. We parked our bikes on the beach at the lifeguard stand and sat down next to the sea. We weren’t sitting for more than 5 minutes when we noticed a crowd forming a few meters away. Investigating a bit, we realized what was going on: a large sailboat, with a motor and propeller, had drifted dangerously close to the beach. The boat was in front of the breaker, smack in the middle of the swimming area, where a hundred or so kids and families were swimming and playing.
Not pictured, the boat that's about to capsize.
Then the police showed up. Lots of them. Within minutes, there were a few dozen lifeguards and police officers standing at the shoreline, and everyone was screaming at the two dudes on this boat. Clearly, they could do nothing. They couldn’t try to start the boat, because they’d cut some kid in half. They couldn’t bail, because then the boat would drift and crush some kid. So they just kind of sat on the boat, attempting to push their way out of the crowd. Would it have been sensible for everyone to get out of the water? Of course. Did that happen? Of course not. Because these guys had the worst luck in the world, the tide started to pick up. Several waves pushed the boat dangerously close to completely capsizing… onto some kids. My favorite part was all the police officers, standing on the beach and yelling, as if that was going to help. One of them even yelled at me for taking the above picture, then proceeded to pull out his phone and film the whole thing. Good cop, that guy. Eventually, a tug boat was called and pulled the sailboat back out to sea. I can only imagine how fast the hearts of those guys were pumping. Their boat, however? Still busted. The Worst Escape Plan Ever One day, Tali and I were sitting on the beach eating grapes and sandwiches. Some guy walked by and Tal said, “He was weird.” Half the people on the beach are weirdos (the ungodly-tan guy who does yoga all day; the 70 year old men who play paddle ball for 9 hours at a time; the trash pickers; the French), so I took her word for it and went about eating my grapes and sandwiches. But a few minutes later, a crowd began to form. It kept growing and growing, and then police showed up. Just like in Herziliya, they just kind of stood there yelling things. No one had any idea what was going on. Then we saw the police send a man on a surfboard out towards the breaker, about 200 meters into the sea. After a few minutes, the surfboard guy reached the breakers, and out popped the dude who we’d seen walk by just minutes earlier — the ‘weird’ dude. It all became clearer: the police wanted weird guy. But none of the police wanted to get wet, and they certainly didn’t have a boat handy. On the flip side, what kind of idiot runs into the sea when fleeing from police? Did he think they’d eventually just give up? “Uh oh, Jim. Shift’s over. We gotta clock out. Hopefully we’ll catch this guy next time.” Did he plan to swim to Greece? Or just live on the breaker and eat barnacles for the rest of his days? I think the surfboard guy was like a police negotiator. But he was on a surfboard, which is a cool mode of transportation if you’re a police negotiator. Regardless, after a few minutes, we saw the runaway convict start to swim back to the shoreline. As soon as he could stand in the water, he raised his arms, waved, and blew kisses to the crowd. Then he bowed. Then police arrested him and ran him off the beach in handcuffs. That’s one way to go out. Let’s end this on a good note. Here are some of my favorite pics from our life on the beach.