An Israeli Crucible: Tempo of LA
Posted by shiduri on August 3, 2006
… For those of you Bay Area folk who ever venture to the LA area, Tempo is a terrific restaurant and bar featuring live music every Thursday night… The following is a short story – mostly true – about an early experience with the LA Israeli community…
THE END OF SENIOR YEAR
By day, I slouched in the second to last row of AP government class and tried to make myself invisible. I ate lunch with the randy cafeteria manager, and pretended not to care when no one else wanted to sit with me. But at night I changed selves with a pair of black pleather pants that squeaked when i tried to sit down. I smeared makeup all over my face, and if I avoided direct light, my face was pentimento pretty — beneath the spackle of Clinique, you could hardly see the bumps and craters of what was my teenage nightmare. I spritzed my hair with panteen pro-v hairspray, and sprayed perfume between my breasts and applied a heavy coat of gooey red lipstick.
I heard Moti before I saw him — the heavy throb Haim Moshe on his car stereo pervaded the quiet evening. I could hear the eager squeal of breaks and the intrusive sound of his horn as he pulled up onto our driveway. In the hallway, I heard my mom’s scurry-shuffle as she threw open my bedroom door “Don’t go out there! Let him come to the door like a person! And don’t you think that lipstick is too dark?” The phone rang. “Hello?” “Hey baby! I’m outside? Didn’t you hear me honk?” I felt my jaw stiffen and my mom’s gaze fastened on me “Come to the door then…like a person.” I responded, for her benefit as well as mine.
“I look good baby, no?” Moti asked when I opened the door. He looked like a middle eastern skin-head — Kojack minus the lollypop crammed into a too-tight black body shirt. “of course you look good” I answered. He smiled gallantly and draped his arm across my bare shoulders. I could smell his thick afterwork smell – part benson and hedges, part Dolce E Gabana, and part something else. His arm was heavy and felt like a giant cobra as he guided me to his car.
“Did you miss me baby?” he asked as we squealed out of the driveway, his right hand kneeding my thigh. I obliquely nodded. “I missed you too!” he said, his hand moving up my waist. We drove in silence for awhile. “baby, do you love me?” he asked practically without a question mark… “Moti, we’ve been dating for a week…” I answered tentatively. I lit a cigarrette and relished the sensation of something familiar and secure as the nicotine raced through me. I opened the window and watched the smoke shimmy out into the quiet June night.
“Baby, you want to marry with me?” He asked, again more of a statement than a question. I bit my lip and tasted the warm coppery taste of my blood. “Will I marry you? ” I responded “Moti, we just met…” “yeah, i know baby” he said in his nasaly whine, “but you’re going away to Berkeley, and I think that we should get married.. besides, I talked to my lawyer and I’ll have to leave the country unless I can get a greencard………..” SO THATS IT. I was a greencard with a nice rack. “Baby, we should get married soon, before we change our minds…” He cajouled…. I didn’t answer. I just sat there and perhaps he understood my silence as acquiescence because he grabbed my head and pulled me into a rough, sloppy kiss.
We pulled into the parking lot of Tempo, the Israeli bar in the valley. The air was pungent with mingling perfumes, colognes and cigarette smoke as we made our way through the throngs of people in the front. Pini Cohen, the Los Angeles Israeli community’s answer to Ricky Ricardo was in full voice as he shook his hips and sang. All around us, women shimmied like exotic fish, while the men stomped and clapped in lusty syncopation with the waves of music. Moti pulled me against him as he began to dance. I stammered for breath — so many people around us, reaching, grasping, groping, and I was pounded and swept along by the insidious current… I broke away and stumbled to the bathroom.
I could feel the hot music sweat through the pale blue walls as I crouched on the cracked tiled floor. Getting up, I turned the faucet on full-blast and stared at my almost unrecognizable reflection in the mirror. Mixing soap and water between my hands, I watching the little bubbles snatch pieces of overhead light. I pulled my stiff ringletted hair back into a rubberband and bent down over the cool water spray. I began to wash my face, gently rinsing it with water as the makeup ran in rivulets down the drain. I dried myself off with my tanktop and went back into the club.
No one looked at me when I walked out of the bathroom, and I felt myself give into the music as I floated freely with the rhythm. I was relieved to be invisible again as I pushed my way through the heavy crowd. I passed Moti who was standing near the door. He looked at me strangly as though he knew that he was supposed to know me, but couldn’t figure out how or from where.