Trivial Pursuits {?} - Chapter 6, Part 1

Eos and Otis lived by themselves at a very unusual part of Los Angeles called Park La Brea. I was assuming that her parents were paying for the five-room flat with the nice parquet floors downstairs and the white wall-to-wall carpet that’s soft under your feet in the upstairs bedrooms because Eos sort of seemed too young to be able to afford such a great place by herself.

Park La Brea has a few entrances, but each one has a gate and a security guard out there so you have to stop and tell who you are before coming into the place. Unless, of course, you live there—then you have a sticker on your car to drive through. In Israel we have security guards everywhere. Even if you are just going into the mall, basically you have to open everything you might be carrying so they can poke their noses in. One time, I went to the canyon—that’s how we call malls in Israel—for some shopping with some few friends of mine in the small city of Netanya on the Mediterranean Sea. Only we couldn’t shop that day because there had been a suicide bombing just at the entrance of the mall that killed some five people, if I remember myself right, including the security guard. It was during some years where there were lots and lots of these suicide bombers, but usually they were on buses, not going into the canyon.

Of course, that’s not why they are having the security guards at Park La Brea. The way Eos explained it, it’s to keep the riff-raff out—a new expression I made her explain to me. She also said that basically anyone can wander in by foot, right past the security guards, because there’s a lot of people walking from the Farmer’s Market and Grove mall at one entrance, and the ancient La Brea Tar Pits at the other.

There are lots of nice landscapings around the place, lots of colorful bougainvillea and small pathways to walk around. You hardly know you’re in the middle of Los Angeles, it’s so quiet. And there are lots of playgrounds for all the children and a café, and swimming pool and exercise room and all kind of stuff like this. They have movie nights and big costume festivals in Halloween, Eos said, and puppet shows and most of the hundreds of apartment buildings look exactly the same. They’re sort of garden-style and groups of them share a common interior grassy courtyard area. Eos said that in the 1950s, Park La Brea was a much more cool place to live than now and that even Charlton Heston lived there once.

When she explained to me this, of course I had to share all my Charlton Heston-related trivia knowledge for her—because what good is knowing all these things if you can’t show off sometime. Eos knows a lot though, too. Like she knew that Cecil B. DeMille picked Heston to be the part of Moses in The Ten Commandments because DeMille was thinking the actor looked a lot like the Michelangelo Moses.

Okay, so this is a very famous movie and a pretty well-known piece of trivia. But what she didn’t know is that this statue, which is sitting at a church in Rome called San Pietro, or some such thing as this, shows the Moses with horns sticking from his head. Why? Because of a mistranslation of the Hebrew word karan in the Bible. So basically this word is a verb that can mean both to radiate light but also to grow horns! Eos was laughing when I told her this one and I did too because, well, it’s just a funny mistake for such a famous sculpture to have. You would have to agree, I think.

Anyway, Eos took me around Park La Brea the week after my Jeopardy! mishap and showed me all what there was to see, which was very nice. My dad had agreed that I could stay with her in the extra wall-to-wall carpeted bedroom—wall-to-wall carpet is something that no kibbutz in Israel has because it would make the rooms too hot in summer—and each night that first week I got a lesson on how to operate the video equipment and also how to change the litter of the cat poop box and all kind of things like this.

When I was younger, once I volunteered to help some children in the country of Jordan for a couple of weeks. It was basically a whole group of volunteers from my village and we went down to the tourist town of Eilat where you can then cross into Jordan. Israel and Jordan are having peace between them for some few years at that point, so basically it was easy to gain access. It’s not like if you had to go into Syria or Lebanon at the North.

So my group had a video camera in this trip and I was sometimes the person in control of it. I remember filming all kind of places, especially the beautiful, gigantic buildings of Petra. There are many very nice statues carved from the rocks there of the Nabataean gods and goddesses, like Dushara, which is sort of the Zeus figure, and Al-'Uzza, something like Aphrodite you could say. If you don’t know the Nabataean people, they were traders living some 2,000 years ago in this place around Judea. They are a mysterious people of which not a lot is known, so I enjoyed filming as much as I could from there to show my family and friends back home in my village.

But the video camera we were having was nothing as good as Eos’s and it did take me a lot of time that first week to be introduced to smooth zooming and holding it steady and framing people the way Eos showed me to.

“Always keep the subject either to the far right or the far left of the frame,” she kept telling me.

I just assumed the person should be in the center, but she said that was too boring and too easy. She said she wanted it to look a little like this famous photograph by Arnold Newman, who I had never heard of by this point. Eos had the photograph sticking on her refrigerator with a red letter E magnet holding it up and every time we did a test shoot in her small living room which opened onto the common courtyard, so she’d go to the even smaller, but very functional kitchen, take down the photo from under the letter E magnet and run back into the room with it.

“Like this Fareed!” she’d yell, but smiling each time. “Come on. You’re so smart but you can’t remember something so simple. Look at the photo.”

And each time I looked and saw this very small head of the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky sitting in the corner of the picture holding his head up with an arm resting at one end of a very large, black, grand piano. Most of the photo was the piano, with its lid sticking way up in the air at an angle like a triangle roof of a house or something, and then little Stravinsky there in the corner wearing a very fashionable 1920s kind of suit and tie. He was made so small by the giant piano he almost looked like a midget. Of course, Stravinsky, who wrote one of my favorite pieces of classical music, Les Noces, which is French for The Wedding—was a very small man anyway. But he certainly was no real midget like one of those from the Lollipop Gang.

And so it wasn’t really that I forgot to put the coat rack, which we were using as the dummy-person for making a test video, at the side of the frame, as much as I just thought her idea was maybe kind of crazy or something. Because, well, where was the big piano to take up the rest of the frame like in the very attractive Newman photograph she kept getting out from behind the letter E magnet on the face of the refrigerator?

But I really liked Eos, and not just because her hair was thick and wild and she was so dark and smooth-skinned and pretty, but because she was really funny and so down on the earth. She had this easy-going way about her, like maybe we knew each other for years. I felt comfortable by her and eventually learned to trust her vision of artistry with the side-framing idea—especially because it was her video project after all, not mine.

One night, we walked over to the outdoor café area where there is this big fountain that the kids like to play around, and she bought me some bagel and lox sandwich platter that I found ta’im meod—very tasty, with all kind of little green capers on it that I’d never tasted before. It’s funny, but the bagels in Israel aren’t very good and are much different than the ones in California. They sell them outside at little carts, stacked up on a wooden stick threaded through the center of the bagel hole in many cities like Jerusalem, for instances, and they are salty, maybe like your soft pretzel here.

So anyway, we were eating dinner there in the nice light of the setting sun and Eos was telling me how much she wanted me to win that day on Jeopardy!

“It was your accent, really,” she said. “When I heard you speak, I immediately started rooting for you,” she said.

“It’s a bad one,” I said.

“No! I love it. Don’t take it like that, dude,” she said, smiling. “I honestly never met anyone with an Israeli accent before. It sounds so primordial and cool.”

“So you liked my bad accent and that’s why you wanted me to win?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “Sounds whacked, I know. But ya gotta pick someone to root for each time, otherwise the job just gets so frickin’ boring. Like I’d rather be watching my leg hairs grow, you know what I mean?” I laughed at that one so hard that I almost spit out a caper. Eos laughed too and said, “I was totally sending you the Joe DiMaggio question telepathically, hoping you’d pick it up.”


“Y’know: from my brain to yours, through the ether.”

“So you know sports trivia?”

“Not all sports, no. But my dad is a humongo baseball freak. From the time I was like four or five he was taking me to games and teaching me how to keep box scores and forcing me to memorize players and positions and all that jazz. It was pretty intense for a kid, but I was into it.”

“So you clearly knew the Joe DiMaggio.”

“Dude: my mother could’ve gotten that one—come on!”

And we were laughing again and if I can remember myself right, I think I threw a couple grapes at her that were sitting on the side of my lox sandwich platter. She told me how her father was from Detroit, Michigan, and how even though she grew up in Lodi, New Jersey, her team was the Detroit Tigers because that’s the team her dad grew up watching.

“My dad was such a die-hard,” she said. “Before there was satellite TV and Internet radio—you’re not gonna believe this—he’d call up his friends back in Detroit and make them hold the phone up to the radio so he could listen to the games live. I mean, talk about a hardcore fan. Yeah, my dad’s pretty awesome. When I was a kid, we used to plan family vacations back to Detroit around when the Tigers had home games and who they were playing. My dad hates the Indians, so he liked to pick games between those two. Of course, whenever the Tigers played a team in the New York area, like the Yankees, we’d go. We even took Amtrak to Boston a couple times to see them. I’m telling you, it’s a little borderline unhealthy sometimes. Lucky for me I guess I’m into it, otherwise I could be the kid complaining that her dad was never there for her, or that he loved baseball more than me and all that crapola.”

“Does your mom follow the Tigers too?”

“She puts up with it all. More so now since she licked cancer. She’s got a better attitude about most things.”

“What kind of cancer?”

“Lung. Worst part was: she wasn’t even a smoker.”

Check out previous chapters of Trivial Pursuits {?} right here.

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