Musings of an Israeli in America

by Brian on July 6, 2021

in Covid-19,Politics,The Old Country,Travel

It’s been several years since I’ve visited the U.S. – cancer and Covid kind of got in the way. But here we are, my wife, Jody, and me, and while it’s not exactly culture shock, this Israeli fly on the wall is noticing all kinds of things that seem new. Here are a few random musings, in no particular order.

1. Wearing a mask for the duration of a 12-hour flight wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. And my fellow passengers were surprisingly compliant. The truth is, I’d already gotten comfortable with masking up indoors (even when it was no longer required) during a pre-flight visit to my optometrist. One of the employees was coughing. I didn’t want to get sick – not even with a head cold let alone Covid. Keeping a mask on is a good way to not ruin a long-planned vacation. 

2. Anti vaxxers are everywhere. The best response I’ve settled on is to simply not engage. You really can’t convince anyone anymore. Like Brandon, the sweet young man I met in Florida. “I’m 23 and healthy. I don’t see any reason to get vaccinated,” he told me as I bit my tongue. I wanted to warn him about Natan and Noga, who I wrote about in my previous column, about the dangers of the Delta variant, but nah. At least he wasn’t denying the pandemic outright. (I met a few of those too.)

3. The Impossible Whopper at Burger King tastes just like a regular Whopper. The Beyond Meat Burrito at Del Taco is nearly identical to its beef version. Which is fine if you like Whoppers and tacos, but if you’re looking for a more transcendent vegan experience, fast food will fast disappoint. 

4. As bad as the political vitriol between Bibi and Bennett got these past weeks in Israel, it’s even worse in America. One sign in particular that shocked me: “F*** you and F*** you for voting for Biden.”

5. Pancakes are overrated. When I first envisioned this trip, I dreamed of going to the nearest IHOP every morning and eating a stack of fresh blueberry buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. I was disabused of this notion after my first syrup-drenched meal: Portions are enormous and any attempt to clean my plate was met with a fullness bordering on nausea. 

6. Uber is awesome. This will come as no surprise to anyone who’s a ride hailing addict anywhere but Israel, where the Transportation Ministry refuses to allow Uber, Lyft and the rest to operate. The ease with which you can order an Uber, the low prices, the interactive map that shows you exactly where your driver is, not needing to pull out cash, have all convinced me that driving your own car is no longer an absolute necessity.

7. You need a reservation to buy something at an Apple Store – at least at the one I went to. “I’m here to make your day,” I said to Nevada (yes, that was her name) as I entered the store in Coconut Point, Florida. “I know exactly what I want, and I’m ready to buy it right away.” “Sure,” Nevada replied. “I have a salesperson available in three hours to help you.” “But I don’t want to wait three hours.” “Well, you could go outside, order what you want on our app and then we’ll get it ready for you right away.” Which is what I did, but still…

8. All across America, Covid restrictions are being lifted as if the pandemic is over. (In Florida, where I started my trip, it never happened at all, of course.) Look, I’m all for removing indoor mask mandates when the case numbers drop to the low two digits, as they did in Israel. But there are still 10,000 cases a day in the U.S. And as we’ve seen with the Delta variant wreaking havoc with our post-pandemic plans in Israel, we are far from being out of the woods. I was feeling relatively safe when I left home three weeks ago; in America, I’m masking indoors everywhere, even if the signs say you don’t need to.

9. One-hour weed delivery. My biggest health-related concern about traveling to America (other than catching Covid) was that I wasn’t comfortable bringing the medical cannabis I use nightly for my chronic insomnia on the plane. Well, actually, the Israeli security guard said as long as I have my medical cannabis license with me I could take it through Ben-Gurion Airport. “But I can’t tell you what will happen when you get to New York.”

Fortunately, recreational cannabis is legal in California, the second stop on our trip. Order online and you can have your high within an hour – it’s the Amazonification of marijuana. But the strains in California are not the same as what I’ve ascertained, after months of painstaking trial and error, work for me in Israel. As a result, I didn’t get more than two to three hours a night of sleep for the first two weeks. 

That is until Jody and I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast in Northern California. In the afternoon, Bryce, the owner, came by bearing a surprise gift: a brown baggie of my favorite strain for sleep (the oddly named Gorilla Glue). Unbeknownst to us when we booked the place, Bryce is pushing to brand his establishment as a pioneer on the “cannabis tourism” circuit. The 2.5-acre property grows several varieties of cannabis. “There’s no extra charge,” he said brightly. “We believe in sharing!” 

I was out like a light for the first time in weeks. 

I first shared my American musings on The Jerusalem Post.

Burger King Impossible Whopper credit: Burger King.

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