Grapefruit Juice

My feet hurt, and my game left ankle is mighty sore, and a sweat rash is making my thighs sore. But I did get to Jerusalem, finally, and spent a fair amount of time wandering around the Old City.

And wandering it truly was. I had no map, no plan, and no clue. Oh, I did have the GPS on my Samsung, but the battery died (did I mention it was my Samsung?) and I was on my own. I spent the afternoon getting well and truly lost in the Old City. I never did find my way to the Kotel, and in fact I think I managed to visit every part of the Old City EXCEPT the Jewish Quarter. Let me tell you, wearing my "Srugim" T-shirt to Jerusalem didn't seem like such a clever idea after all.

But hey, it was an Experience, right?

Well, I'm closing in on 50 years old, and there are some "experiences" that I can do just fine without. Getting lost rarely adds anything worthwhile to my appreciation or understanding of a place.

But let me tell you about the grapefruit juice.

On my way in to the Old City, I stopped at a vegetarian restaurant on Jaffa Street and ordered their broccoli quiche. It was splendid, magnificent, delightful. About two-thirds of the way through my meal, a waitress walked by carrying a glass of what I took to be grapefruit juice, searching for the party who had ordered it. I cannot say with certainty that it was, in fact, grapefruit juice, but at that moment I was seized with an obsession with grapefruit juice. Foolishly, I left the vegetarian restaurant without ordering a glass, thinking the craving would pass. It did not.

I continued on to the Old City, and proceeded to get utterly lost. The whole time I was thinking: Where is the Kotel? Where is the Jewish Quarter? Where can I buy a map? And WHERE CAN I GET A GLASS OF GRAPEFRUIT JUICE?

I passed one stall that proffered various fresh juices, but grapefruit wasn't one of them. The vendor offered me bottled grapefruit juice, but I was having none of it. My heart was set on fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

At long last, after a tedious hour or more of blundering around the shops and stalls, I came upon an Arab selling fresh-squeezed juices. I soon learned that grapefruit juice was available on tap. My exultation was unbounded.

He was a friendly, balding guy in his fifties. He asked if I was from America; I said yes. He asked what state, I said California. He flashed a smile. Where in California? San Francisco, I said. Oh, the Bay Area! he said; it's beautiful there. It emerged that he had grown up in Riverside County in southern California. He missed the area and was hoping to go back soon.

For that brief moment, we were not a Jew and an Arab in the Middle East, but Americans talking about home.

He handed me the cup of the precious elixir and I asked him the price. Twenty shekels, he said. I produced the appropriate banknote from my wallet. "Ashroon," I said, "shukran." He smiled broadly. "Afwan," he replied.

That grapefruit juice tasted good. I continued my drunkard's walk around the Old City, drinking the pulpy, sour, delicious stuff until the straw made slurpy noises at the bottom of the cup.

Eventually, with the daylight fading, I somehow stumbled my way to one of the gates. I don't know which one it was, but it was on the eastern side, which for me is quite literally the Wrong Side Of Town. I found my way back to Jaffa Street, and followed the rails back to the Tachana Merkazit to catch the 405 back to Tel Aviv.