Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Go and Music

Tonight I left my daughter (age 11) to fend for herself (a rare occurrence) to check out the Jerusalem Go club and listen to a visiting folk singer.

Rachel dropped me off at a bus stop, and I lept out while the car was still moving and hopped right onto a bus continuing on to where I was going, cell phone in hand reassuring Tal that everything was all right.

A short time later I walk the neon lit shiny wet streets of the semi-deserted pedestrian center in downtown Jerusalem. Religious American post high school students hanging out on one corner, while punk Russian teens smoke on the next. The only people present as usual are the shopkeepers and guards in front of every cafe.

Into one cafe, Cafe Rimon, I enter past a double series of impromptu fences and metal detector, looking for the "Go club". I search all around and then ask the waitress and find 3 other people on two small round tables near the front. Between them, they have one magnetic Go board. Sam Freed is the organizer.

Back in his house, the club had so many participants that he could no longer host them. I went a few times, and I remember several kids aged 10 to 13, and about 20 adults. Sam says that winter keeps people away, and the kids aren't allowed to come out to the town center by themselves. He also assures me that a few others will be coming (only one does by the time I leave), and that some regulars do come, but didn't this week.

I watch a fierce game between two players while Sam eats his entree; Sam is the only one who orders, which I'm sure does not please the staff too much. One player had a four stone advantage. The game ends, but I'm not sure who won.

Since I've only played about three times, and I feel more comfortable on a smaller board, I play a 9x9 game, and am offered a four stone advantage. That's at least 16 stones on a larger board. I don't think I need it, since years of strategy games have given me something. Turns out I'm right.

One wrong move on my part costs me 1/3 of the board, which would otherwise have been mine. The rest of the board is easily taken, and my opponent says he is impressed (and I feel a little ridiculous at that).

Sam says he will come tomorrow to our game club at the cafe (not central, but somewhat roomier and nicer), and try to sway people to play Go, and learn a new game, too.

I leave at 8:45 on my way to hear a friend of a friend who is playing folksy music at a local space. She is Aliza Hava (www.alizahava.com). The place is about five minutes from the Go club. I have the name and street, but can't find the place, seeing as there is no name outside, and nobody inside (although the door is open). By process of elimination, I make my way in. Turns out to be a flaming left-wing social club - magazines on racks picturing only brutal Israeli civilians and hapless broken and twisted Palestinians, and a calendar indicating that the "Electric Intifada" will be playing next week. Not a place I expect to find a religious girl from New Jersey.

Aliza's brother is an anarchist activist, and somehow it came together to play there. It takes until 9:30 before she starts. There is an unnecessary amplifier and microphone in this 20 foot room, and the lights are dimmed. Eventually about 25 people are in the audience by the time I leave at 10:00. I hear about four songs.

Aliza's voice is really good, like Michele Shocked, and her playing is quite lovely. The lights illuminate only her left side, while a red spotlight on the floor picks out her strumming hand in orange fire every time it flashes. She plays a black guitar, and the spotlight looks like a crescent moon on the curve of her guitar. The melodies are soulful.

I invite her to drop by at my house on Thursday evening, when I will be hosting a music trio of my own, and she says she will try.

Finally a call from Rachel, a pick-up, and home we go.