Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

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The Days Are Just Packed

First thing in the morning, I called the head librarian of my home town, to discuss the possible help she might extend to Project Ben-Yehuda. We're meeting on Tuesday.

Then hopped on David, my faithful steed, and hit a lovely little Tel-Aviv bookshop called Landsberger, with the express intention of buying two books and no more. The books are a textbook and an exercise book (Moment mal) for my beginner's German course at the Göthe Institute, starting this coming Sunday. Quite responsibly, I tried to avoid an actual visit to a brick-and-mortar bookshop, and asked the Institute lady whether I could obtain the books online. She said that Landsberger have an exclusive distribution license, so I absolutely must get it from them. Alas...

Flashback: Last night, having dinner with kritzit and hattie, I explained about this intended expedition. The Evil hattie immediately thought up a scheme wherein I shall be made to sign a piece of paper stating that I commit to purchasing just those two books and nothing else. kritzit, my own flesh and blood, obviously took Hattie's side. Judases all, I tell you. I refused to sign the incriminating paper, and so the two ladies harangued me and chided me for my weak will. I replied that I certainly do intend to get just those two books, but that since I don't know the bookshop, and since I'm a moose of my word, I don't want to make such a commitment -- one never knows what serendipitous treasures one might find in such bookshops. Hattie and Kritzit just went on to describe the number of shelves I'd need to store the swag I'm bound to drag back from that shop. Hmpf.

My mettle is, of course, stronger than that. This morning, then, I parked David semi-legally (standard practice in the woeful parking situation in Tel-Aviv), and strode purposefully to Landsberger's. It's an old-fashioned bookshop, of the kind that may still be found in Ben-Yehuda St. and Allenby St. in Tel-Aviv, but is quickly disappearing, sadly. They specialize in second-hand German books, but have a reasonable selection of new books in several languages. The proprietor is a benign elderly lady. I greeted her and directly asked for Moment mal. She nodded knowingly, asking "beginners?" (I nodded), and pulled out the two books. While she was putting them into a bag, I examined some nearby shelves, just for reconnaissance!

Then it hit me. Remember Kästner? Remember I said I'll order his complete works in German, in September? Well, guess what? It's September, and getting them second-hand today is faster and cheaper then ordering new editions online and paying for shipping from Germany, plus I get to support a local business. You'll grant, surely, that my buying the German Kästner set is by no means a breach of my commitment not to make frivolous, uncalculated purchases. And no, I did not succumb to the slipper slope! Despite Brecht, Böll, Goethe, Heine, and even Cosima Wagner's diaries(!), I stoically kept my hands where I could see them, and left the books on their shelves.

When I said I'll take them (eight small volumes), she was a bit surprised, and said "Ah, so the textbooks are not for you, I take it..." I smiled and confessed that they are, in fact, for me. She was confused, so I saved her the awkward question and explained that I intend to pick up German "very quickly". She smiled approvingly, paused a moment, and then shyly asked if I happen to be Russian. I smiled again and said that I'm not (I'm a born Israeli); she felt a bit embarrassed and explained that "it's just that young Russians usually show this sort of vigor in language study". I nodded and she asked me what I "do". I said I study classics, and that the reason I'm taking the intensive course at the Institute is that I don't want to juggle three foreign languages during the semester. She seemed very pleased, but was curious to know why I chose to study the classics. In lieu of an explanation, I told her that irresistible anecdote about Stolberg, quoting the German (ach, the hubris!). She smiled, and her eyes beamed at me very beautifully as she nodded with the magnificence of old age.

While my payment was being processed, an elderly gentleman entered the shop, greeting us both. He then peered at my little box, out of curiosity, and was surprised to see second-hand German books there. His eyes were all "What's a young moose like you doing with second-hand German books like these?" I said I love Kästner's works and want to read them in the original language, which I'm beginning to study seriously. He commended me, and proceeded to recommend a German humorist named Saphir, and Kurt Tucholsky too. I promised I'd give them a shot when I'm up to it. He fretted over not remembering Saphir's first name; he said "well, you can't find his stuff in Israel anyhow. Tell you what: when you're in Germany, give me a call and I'll tell you his name, I have a book at home." I smiled and said "Oh, I'm sure I could find his name on the Internet..." And he laughed and said "Ah, yes, everything's so much easier today..."

I bid both of them goodbye and left for David. Forgive my verbose report of this visit; I just can't tell you how inspiring it was, and how happy the interaction with those two folks made me feel. And alive, so absolutely alive! Never mind, I just can't put it to words.

Then I went to TAU, to do my good deeds of the week: I borrowed a book from the library for hattie, and photocopied a few chapters of some other book for ravell. Also replaced the video cassette I got for a friend's toddler boy, as it turned out that he already had that one. Got him Winnie The Pooh instead. Whee! Walking around campus felt weird, very weird. Somehow TAU felt quite far away these past two months. It was weird. It was also mind-numbingly, protein-meltingly August; inescapably August.

Then, around 16:00, I finally arrived at work. Amusingly, work was the most relaxing part of my day. I even managed to be ultra-productive and finish a challenging feature I was developing, way ahead of schedule. I'm generally pleased with my programming productivity: I am more than reasonably productive even when depressed or desperate, and quite sharp and efficient when I've got the good vibes. So I wrote a happy e-mail to the client, checked in the working source code, drove home, and whistled.

At home, I couldn't resist peeking at the textbook, and spent an hour reading some passages from it with my dad (who took three years of German at the Goethe Institute some 20 years ago). I'd read the passage and translate it, relying on my surprisingly wide German vocabulary and my general linguistic intuition, and he would help with those arbitrary particulae ('an' and suchlike) and those confusing compound verbs (suchen, versuchen, besuchen, ...) My dad thinks I can ace the course with little effort. I don't care about acing it; I just want to have German I can read with ASAP.

Good day. Good books. Good deeds. Good night.

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