At the beginning of Tel Aviv, we took the train with Elad, Jac, Owen and Ofir. But when Elad, Owen and Ofir got off and said we need to get off two stops later, they didn’t tell us we had to transfer so since we didn’t see the name of our stop we missed it and Jac, Max and I spent an extra hour to get back to Central Tel Aviv. Thank God for the courtesy of the 300-pound Israeli wearing an American flag bandana.
Max and I took a cab to his cousin, Lisa’s apartment to drop off our stuff. She’s so sweet, she said I could stay with her. Then we went to a nearby cafe, which was totally bohemian, with attractive waitresses, a punching bag, and a guy with a pretty dog. We ate a nice meal. I had a big plate of lasagna with salad, and then we discussed his business idea. I’m helping him write the answers to a $50,000 Carnegie Mellon University proposal, which is due on the 31st and is the first time they’ve ever done this, so we have no idea what they really want.
About five hours later Jac (which is how you spell it when you’re Syrian) came in, left eye-twitching from lack of sleep, and before he puts his bags down says, “Gimme an americano!” and as soon as he finishes it, orders another and rants for an hour about a specific aspect of the idea which will work, hardly letting us speak, and then the three of us looked at Wally Boats and the floating boardroom we’ll invite executives into. I can’t discuss it any further; I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.
I came to understand that writing a business plan is a lot like writing fiction. In order for it to go anywhere it has to be focused and concise. Create an idea and whittle it down to something understandable, something people want to implement, or read. Money should be an afterthought — revenue streams in a business are comparable to publishing. It’s like Michelangelo choosing his Carrara marble from the field and bringing the form to life by sculpting away the clutter.
After six hours of intense thought I was ready for bed. I didn’t want to impose any more than I had to and although Lisa offered me a couch I decided to sleep on the sectioned off porch; it was more private and I didn’t want to push my good fortune, although Max attributed it to my half-crazy Irishness from his prior experiences. I unfolded my sleeping bag, opened one of the shutters so the morning’s natural light would wake me and passed out. During the night, winds screamed and it rained so hard that I woke up at least twice, finally having to close the blinds for fear the rain would soak the floor.
At 7:30 I woke to submit my Indian visa application. I struggled to walk against the wind. I showed up early at the consulate and they told me to come back at nine, so I went next door to the Hertz and filled out the application which I had printed out at a local hotel, (Why not? the concierge said). When I entered the embassy there were already people inside. I took a ticket and a portly bug-eyed man asked, “What number do you have?” “259.” “Do you want to switch with him,” he pointed to the Indian guy sitting next to him, “I didn’t tell him he needed a ticket,” he said. The Indian guy protested and I gritted my teeth. “I’ve already waited long enough,” I said, but I gave it to him because it was fair.
A woman came into the room from behind the glass. “For those who came here for a visa, someone will be with you shortly.” She walked back behind the glass and sat. The portly bug-eyed man walked to her and began complaining about needing his visa immediately. He was Canadian. The soft-spoken diplomat said there was no way to expedite the process. He’d have to go to the visa outsourcing office, then call Toronto. He turned around and his bug eyes searched the room for sympathy. I walked to the glass window, told the woman I have a similar problem; my flight is out of Cairo on the 15th. “Nationality?” “American.” She raised her eyebrows.
I went to the outsourcing office. The fat man who worked there asked me if I was afraid to go to Egypt and I confessed, “A little.” I’m trying to convince Max to come with me, but he’s too pusillanimous (I know it a dick thing to say). But as far as my Indian visa, they still have to check with the American embassy, so it looks like I’ll be leaving Tel Aviv the 9th, if all goes to plan.
Then Max and I went to an outdoor market where the roofs dripped and Hebrew and Arabic and Russian floated above the kitsch and the Americana, the fish, meats, and fruit stands; the cheese samples and falafel carts, the clothing stores, the nut stands, the coffee roasters, the spice sellers, the flower shops. We heard a clip in English, “We have something like this in L.A.” We turned sideways to move through the throngs, trying to avoid getting dripped on, inhaling deeply, soaking in the colors, the people.
Then we sat in the David Intercontinental during an afternoon of winter showers. Max bought tea and we worked for about three hours. The palm fronds looked like they’re sticking their heads out the car window and there were whitecaps on the Mediterranean. Twenty foot glass windows showed Jaffa in the distance and bright sun shone into the eighty foot high ceilinged hotel cafe.
On the way home we walked the same route, and since it’s Shabbos, all the shops were already closed, or closing. Tomatoes, lettuce, and other produce lined the street and it stank of fish; I could have been in Bangladesh but I knew I was in Israel. I bought a couple of bottles of liquor for Lisa’s birthday, and as an appropriate thank-you for letting me sleep on your patio. Max bought some “Israelian” flowers. And I watched a pretty girl bike through the piles of sludge, chum, and rotting veggies. It only made me wonder what the rest of my trip will entail.