Last night I went to fill my car up with ridiculously expensive Israeli gasoline, and I ran into the person who coordinates our community service events, which basically entail a few players going to a local school and playing basketball with the kids. He asked if I would come with him tomorrow to another school, and if I would inform my two other American teammates and tell them to come too. I immediately knew there was no chance my teammates were going to wake up at 9 in the morning unless explicitly asked by this guy, but I told him I would try. Lo and behold, I told them both about it, but come the morning neither one was waiting with me to be picked up.
I had been to one school before with my teammates but this was to be my first time going alone. I was afraid they might boo me and loudly proclaim that they had no idea who I was or why I was there. Thankfully, that was not the case. They were all really nice and seemed to be happy to have someone to play with. It probably helped that they were a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds so I seemed really tall and important. The problem was that they all assumed I spoke Hebrew, and they would excitedly run up to me and blurt out questions, then stare up demanding an answer. I would again and again have to say “No Hebrew! Sorry just English” To which they would either give up their question or translate it in the best broken English they could muster. Something like ”Where you came?” or “You have played?” I even got a couple autograph requests. When I was done signing one little boy wanted me to sign his arm, and was disappointed to find that pencil does not work on human skin.
A few funny things: When I asked them if they knew Kobe, they confirmed that they did. Then one of the kids casually inquired “You play with him?” Ha I wish. It’s funny that I could have told him yes and they all would have believed me. Also, as I was leaving, a kid who spoke surprisingly good English inquired as to where I was from.
Me: “Los Angeles, California.”
Kid: “Ohhh, Hollywood?”
Me: “Ya” (I mean Calabasas is basically Hollywood right?)
Kid: “You ever see any celebrities walking around?”
Me: “Umm, well, I saw Jay Leno once. Do you know who that is?”
Kid: “Ya. (As if everyone knew that. Then he drops the bomb, what he has really been dying to know, forget insignificant people like Jay Leno. He looks up eagerly.) “Have you seen Ashton Kutcher??”
I had to laugh at that. I had no idea Ashton Kutcher was famous enough for 10 year old Israeli kids to name drop him. The boy was disappointed to find out that I had yet to see Ashton, and I felt like a loser for not having seen anyone famous enough to impress him. Finally, on the drive back to my apartment the guy who coordinates this stuff started asking me about my family. When he found out that my father was a lawyer and my brother was going to medical school he reacted like that was the most hilarious news of all time. “Hahah. Just like a every American Jew! A lawyer and a doctor! Hahahhaha.” I found it amusing that he appreciated a good stereotype as much as anyone. All in all the whole day was definitely one of those things where you don’t want to wake up for it but then afterward you’re happy that you did. Good times.
A quick note about my recent cooking mishap. I had been reading up on slow cookers, or crock pots, (I know, it’s a really exciting life I lead) and I decided it was time to purchase one. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to use it. Since it was big and pot-like I just assumed it needed to be heated on the stove like everything else. The directions were useless to me because they were entirely in Hebrew. So, I dumped a bunch of meat and vegetables into it, put it on a low flame, and left it there for several hours. When I got back to the apartment from whatever I was doing I was upset to find that my roommate had turned off the stove. I was less upset when he told me that the whole thing was smoking and burning and that it seemed like it was going to explode. That’s when it finally hit me that the whole point of having the goddamn thing plug into a wall was so that you used electricity to heat the food instead of a flame. Too bad it took me minutes of staring at my melted crock pot to realize that. The feet had fallen off and molded to the stove top, the dial would not turn, and the whole thing was smoldering and ruined. But, with some careful cleaning and clever repackaging I was able to get it all back in its original box looking pretty new. I think I am going to be able to return it and give crock pots a second try, this time utilizing more of my good friend (who suspiciously never seems to be there when I need him most) common sense.
(Update: They accepted the return! Hooray for small victories.)
As for my most recent game, it was pretty much a complete 180 from my first effort. I played well and the team one by one point. The best part of the game was when we had gone up 1 with 9 seconds left and the other team called timeout. As we get to the huddle our coach tells us that we are going to purposefully foul their worst free throw shooter, send him to the line, and insure that we get the final possession. Even before he could finish his sentence the team started looking around at each other like “He can’t be serious? He wants to give them 2 free shots with 9 seconds left in a one point game??” By the time he had finished talking the whole team had these incredulous looks on their faces. Thank god one of the older players suggested that maybe that was not the best strategy, and wouldn’t it be better if we just played hard defense for 9 seconds? The coach could tell that popular opinion was against him, so he agreed to just let us play defense. It almost backfired when I slipped right as my man was catching the ball with about 2 seconds to go. Thank god I was able to recover and get a hand in his face as he released. The ball was right on target, hit back rim, bounced 8 feet in the air, rattled around a few more times for good measure, and finally dropped away. Bullet dodged.
One final anecdote to end with: Apparently my time away from the court caused me to bulk up beyond what anyone thought was reasonable. Even through a grainy vid chat and only being able to see me from the chest up in a sweatshirt, one of the first things my friend Erik told me was that I looked bigger. I had basically spent 2 and a half months eating and working my upper body. My arms are about as big as they have ever been. Still, it surprised me to step on the scale after I started playing again and seeing that I had gone from 183 when I arrived to 195. Woah! Definitely way too heavy, but it will take some time to shed since it has only been 3 weeks or so that I have resumed my normal routines. No one had really said anything about this weight until I went to practice with the first team yesterday, and it all of a sudden turned into the topic of the night. Almost everyone weighed (ha) in on the issue. I was told I looked like a football player. I was called Drew “Khalid El Amin” Housman. One player brought another side to the debate (if you can call it that) pointing out that he watched my last game and that I was really fast. People were not swayed by this logic, and the general consensus was for me to drop some pounds. I warned them that driving me to an eating disorder could have serious health consequences. All kidding aside, I would have to agree with them. I felt much more athletic at 185 than I do at 195.
In my defense, I played the most minutes on the team as the point guard in a high scoring, fast paced affair and my stamina felt more than adequate. Big PG’s need some love too people.
The coup de grace was when the head coach of Haifa came up to me during the practice. He is a man of limited English and few words.
Him “I heard you played good last night.”
Him “You need to lose some weight.”
Ha! That was pretty much it, end of conversation. Alright, I’m gonna go hit the treadmill and pound some slimfasts while you all enjoy your turkey leftovers.