Chapter Twenty-Nine

Ed: Read Optional

Know More / Know Less.
More about Israel/Palestine than you may care to know.
This chapter seeks to address some pivotal historical markers—
primarily for those in the know. If you don’t care to know
more, skim on along, to know less.

“Sometimes you can go for 
broke, and that’s exactly 
where it may leave you.”

          “Aww, Brian’s a good guy…a little eccentric, maybe. But seems basically harmless in that respect…”

           “He says stuff like, ‘if I don’t see you in the future, I’ll see you in the pasture’. Real confidence builder…who says crap like that? Plus, I hear he’s pretty religious.”

           “Well, he can’t be perfect…”

           Not quite Buck’s power breakfast in Woodside, but Harmony Grove was as close as the Marina would ever virtually come. Sitting pretty on a sunny northwest corner where Avila Street met Chestnut, HG was electromagnetic for the realty, tech and telecom set… business as casual, biz caz to the mega degree—everything but the soaring redwoods and Silicon airs. Still, the juicy circuitry and connections were there in force, kicking back with a Hefeweizen and Sierra Nevada Dark Ale, founding partners strategizing before our very eyes.

          Outside here, otherwise soft power brunchers were spread lazily across a wood plank bench that spread across the frontal width of the leafy, contra-chic restaurant, along with their couchant kids and pets. Between bookending planter boxes, below a marigold spray of hanging flowerpots, Harmony Grove’s benches and tables sprawled haphazardly around the corner, from an ocra Spanish-style commercial space, a balmy Marina half-block trimmed in aqua-avocado green.

          “He also happens to hold the passkey to the wallet, Jason,” said the more fired up front man for this start-up dream team. “He could turn out to be our angel, our rainmaker. He can be a fruit fart, for all I care…” 

          “Yes, but…” Both nascent upstarts were apparently unfazed by the Richter rattler, not missing a pitch.

          “Listen, upsell the package, don’ be hating on it, OK?  You take care of the eyeballs, I’ll take care of the glue.”

          “I get it, I get it, OK? I just don’t know if I totally dig it…”

          “Didya feel that,” I asked Reese Paulen, steadying myself through this resettling crosswalk. “Had to be a 3—3.5 at least…”

          “Bit of a shaker, I daresay,” Paulen said, rejoining me. “Took me back to scrambling under classroom desks and into grade school doorways.”

          “A real shelf bouncer…or a Shoah shaker, doc? And what is that, anyway?”

          “Hmph, honestly. Shoah happens to be Jewish scholars’ Hebrew term for The Desolation.” Paulen had a just wondered what sort of Middle East Studies selection he might find at the longhair Books Ink store across Chestnut Street. This brief distraction had led him to duck in and buy a hardcover edition of Michael Oren’s ‘Six Days Of War’ off a window display, which he was leafing through as we spoke.

          “Sorry, not following.” I’d been looking instead over at the tiny Pita Hut two doors down on the other to ease my jitters—having myself lived for a spell on those juicy Souvlaki and Babaganoush specials in fatter times. Regathering, I rested momentarily beside him on a small folk-art public wait bench curbside, facing Harmony Grove’s storefront seating.

          “The Holocaust, Herbert. The ultimate impetus for the U.N. commission and resolution establishing the State of Israel in the first place. That and the collective guilt…”

          “Guilt? What does…”

          “Never underestimate the guilt factor, my friend. Trust me, victimhood can be a very worthwhile thing…”

          “Yeah, tell me about it,” I replied, unnerving remembrances accordingly stirred, scouring about the scene for seismic damage. “B-b-but isn’t that, like, an overestimate?”

           Soon catching my hungry eye was Harmony Grove’s pine-framed menu, fastened to its portal’s corner support column—freehand chalk postings on blackboard slate, under glass. The multi-colored, neatly scribbled entries highlighted homespun dishes the likes of Country Baked Eggs, Pear Chicken Salad, Organic Veggie Chili and Hot-pressed Cuban Pork.

          Around and beyond the doorway, late-rising downtowner couples soft power brunched away at shallow bowls of lumpy, way pricey oatmeal, picked at crumbly, carrot-bran muffins, MBAs kicking back in oversized Stanford, Haas and Tuck tee shirts, beside surfer slackers sporting sleeveless Cabo and Escondido tanks and polarized Maui Jims. All were basking like sea lions at a bench row of patio-style discoid tables, over beakers of black coffee and tall pilsner glasses of house-squeezed OJ. Nothing like down time in the sunshine after a stressed-out week riding fast-moving monster waves, be they in O’Neill wetsuits or white collar power ties, strapped to sex-waxed longboards or big board monitors and Aeron chairs.

          “Believe you’re confusing the over-under,” doc sighed, at the same time tapping his foot to that sidewalk jazz combo’s e-minor take on Dizzy’s Pickin’ The Cabbage. “Happens a great deal at the present. Now, then…”

           For my part, I was confused, instead centering more on Harmony Grove’s style clash, peering further through its front window wall for quake debris, flashing suddenly on the not-so-distant go-go 1990s history of the place. Back then, upstarts fresh from frat houses and beer pong scratched out bootstrap schemes on folded paper napkins; the Netscape offering had dilated everybody’s wild eyes to the gold rush fomenting on the World Wide Web.

          Instantly, goofball dot-com hairbrainers attracted eureka lightbulb consideration. Creativity met e-commerce; raw innovation met real world investment. Post-adolescent pipedreams were stoked at tiny HG tables, soon fed into the VC pipeline. Napkin jotters met bean counters and balance sheeters over Venti Grandes, dealbakers elevator-pitching dealmakers for outrageous start-up rounds.

          The HG incubator hatched search engines, shopping bots, social networking hubs—B to B, B to C, C to B, C to C and Google knew what else—over buckets of microbrew, at least until the bubble burst. Suddenly, seed money turned seedy and after some overdue diligence, the wallets drained the kiddie pool, pulled the plug with some delirious-to-serious redness infecting their bottom lines—tech as in wrecked, from Montgomery Street down to Sand Hill Road. Killer apps turned into instant fatalities, the 90s were Y2Koed by the Naughts—and even to Bay Area angels, the numbers no longer added up.

          Still, it was here where not insignificant bytes of the Internet penciled out in heady Bubble 1.0, and well could again in Webs 2 and 3.0. Lot of good such entrepreneurial spirit did me, however. These days, all that vision and balls-out energy fried my hard drive, made me want to run a chewed-over #2 Ticonderoga through my eyes.

          “The British, for instance, had guilt in spades, over how they had stifled Jewish refugees’ safe passage into Palestine in the 1920s and 30s to assuage the hordes; how they had mishandled the overall Balfour and Mandate administration of the region, then undermined Yishav’s Yossi Harel,” Paulen continued, poring over Oren’s table of contents. “How a distinct and defined Jewish state had never quite come about before the war—Churchill and the Soviet Union notwithstanding. Leaving Jews defenseless against European atrocities. Leaving the Jewish people deserted, orphaned in this world once again—with Rommel’s Nazis marching south toward the Levant.”

          “Yet for a momma’s boy, he sure was big on cigars.” Increasingly unnerved, I attempted to lighten the load, a moment’s breather, tended toward being as arbitrary as circumstances might allow. Better to bust back out of this Marina shake and breakage altogether, back uphill to higher, rock-solid terrain…yeah, and maybe that Saturn blimp will scoop down on evac, dropping an airlift rope ladder and all

          “He was also big on controlling the Mandate, until he couldn’t any longer.” Paulen looked up, annoyed, seemingly equally determined to probe and lecture on. “Winnie long had had a Jewish homeland in mindalbeit as a colonial project. Then again, he was up against the deep-seated anti-Semitism that ran through England’s ruling classes, Westminster to Buckingham Palace.”

          “Brits, bigoted? Not a chance—just ask the IRA’s Gerry Adams or Bobby Sands…” Now he had managed to raise my latent, cynical Ire. Hell, couldn’t we just change the subject, maybe talk about our better days?   

          “Case in point, they equipped Jewish Palmach fighters early in World War II, then abandoned them as a threat to British control in the very region they were set to decamp anyway. This, while Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti was commiserating with Hitler as Axis powers began annihilating Europe’s Jews. Then Brits actually attacked refugee ships, blockaded them back toward German death camps. Little wonder Haganah commandos joined Irgun and LHI to step up Euro refugee immigration toPalestine.”

           And yet, there was no dot-bomb hyperdeflation or Nasdaq panicking in Harmony Grove—and presently little or no discernable temblor disarray. Hard to tell, though, as the ol’ Chestnut haunt looked much the same today as in the Clinton Era, however smugly the worse for wear. Even from this bench, I could see HG’s dimly lit interior still bore its rustic patchwork decor: somewhere between chalet shanty and chuckwagon chic. Beefy Mexican food servers and busboys continued to juggle trayloads over knotty, uneven wood plank floors; earthy tribal weave hangings still covered barnwood-trimmed walls.

          Overhead, old wagon wheels, cross-country skis, logging sawblades, wicker-wood highchairs and a Sierra foothills tool shed of corroded rakes, hoes, mud-crusted spades and tiller discs hung at odd angles from a night sky ceiling. Seating ranged from padded stump stools to a pair of ski lift chairs, complete with centerpole, roof to floor. In all, the place still looked like a farragoed lost-ranch rummage sale, successfully serving up simple high country fare at steeply citified prices. Reminded me some of Nederland or Ward—not that Ward—Ward, the upcountry Colorado town.

          “And as for the U.S.,” Paulen continued, “we were black-eyed by FDR’s foot dragging in the run-up to D-Day. ”

          “What in God’s name did Roosevelt do,” I snapped back to ask. Trouble was, our olden times weren’t worth a nickel or dime. And dimes and time were definitely on the line right now—time to press ahead…

          “It’s what he didn’t do. History suggests FDR knew all about Germany’s death trains and extermination camps. He heard special pleadings about the Final Solution—the ovens and mass starvation—like, from activist rabbis and a Zionist Hillel firebrand named Peter Bergson, as early as ’40-’42. Roosevelt wouldn’t even bomb Auschwitz, despite the cries of U.S. Jews, every sixth Jew on earth being exterminated by that time. Indeed, one-half million Jews throughout Palestine braced for a last Masada-like stand.”

          “Cries, or whispers?  Besides, after Pearl Harbor and all, FDR had a hell of a lot on his plate, didn’t he?”

          “Red herring, Herbert, mere revisionists climbing up the smooth walls. That doesn’t excuse our government’s America First neglect of Nazi atrocities even before December 7, 1941,” doc insisted, compartmentalizing his attention span into his newly-bought volume’s Chapter One. “Truth was, Roosevelt just didn’t want to be bucking Charles Lindbergh and seen fighting a ‘Jewish War’. His administration was filthy with anti-Semites.”

           But noticeably different these days was Harmony Grove’s everyday clientele. Meaning, it was now more on the order of turbo carriage trade, via their Audi T/Ts, Boxsters, if not Lexus hybrids, Beemer X-5s or a Volvo SUV—Volks, Honda Civics and tinny Yamaha motorbikes, all grown up—parked, gathering costly citations, on tightly curved neighboring side streets.

          Rising to slide over for a closer look through front windows, peering deep into the now quite shady Grove, I could guesstimate from sporadic first-hand experience that its root network resembled less an entrepreneurial hothouse than a mossy branch office. Paulen quickly joined me to view upmarket role players stayin’ local this glorious weekend, playin’ it way down home: Queued along a fence posted rail dividing the sublit room into one-third/two-thirds parcels, HG’s order line seemed currently peppered with freelance independent contractors operating out of their remote homebase, with third-year law students setting out on a Bar Bri course, erstwhile hackers cum spy and malware geeks talking spoofing bugs, denials of service, widget jailbreakers, enterprise mashlets and tripping up the new Apple Store’s Genius Bar as they inched toward the rear end serving counter. It and an open kitchen were framed in rough-cut pine, with more multi-colored chalkboard menu panels angled side by side overhead amid broader drab earthtones and natural grain—the brightest focal point in the entire cluttered, pretendingly unpretentious place.

          “Still, the real Jewish War, if you will, began as World War II came to a close,” Paulen continued, as we pulled away from HG’s front windows, returning to the wait bench, there still curiously vacant. “With the underground movement to drive backbiting Brits out of the territory…”

          “Stern Gang,” I blurted, dropping my newspaper in the process of sitting back down to his right, what with some of HG’s frontbenchers glaring backatchus. “The Haganah Militia…”

          “Why…yes, among others.” He seemed surprised at my namedropping, couldn’t help but notice Nathan’s envelope sliding halfway to light once again.

          “So they were kinda like terrorists, right?” I scooped up the Times, pushing the letter fully, more firmly into the fold. “Namely Irgun Zionists bombing out Jerusalem’s King David Hotel?”

          “Insurgents, freedom fighters. Remember, they were Israel’s founding fathers struggling for the descendants of Jacob, ever mindful that the Jews had twice been exiled from their covenant land—their temples destroyed in 586 BCE, then again in 70 CE—exiled to Babylon and beyond. They may have trickled back some to Tiberias by the 11th century, but had otherwise been praying in vain for a full return to Zion for 2,000 years. And those prayers would at long last be answered, no matter who or what.”

          “Sort of ousting the occupiers, victims routing victims. Rampaging gangs on threatening loudspeakered trucks is what I read.” With that, I retreated, seized up some at the gut, spindling the newspaper like a wringing a washrag. I rose restlessly again, moseying over to gaze into HG anew, noting the warped, stained wooden benches backed against the length of its western

          Planted on shaggy, rip torn cushions was a residue cluster of laptop regulars, bandwidth hogs piggybacking onto house Wi-Fi, keyboards tapping away hour upon hour under the clatter of crockery and tableware, ambient Radiohead surround sounding about the room. Overriding e-mail, flinging logic bombs, fomenting flame wars, setting botnet trap doors, fomenting DDOS bombardier attacks, further clogging the blogosphere and freakosystem overall: They fingerscratched at touchpads, mousal-navigated through a blur of meme scripts and bookmarked Websites, CCFL/LCD screens flickering in their drone faces like celluloid frames in some kinescopic short, illuminating the unstrung snowshoes and splintered canoe paddles, the weathered boat tackle and horsetack wall mounted over their shoulders. Yet while the black hat hackers sniffed around SQLs, SHA-2 hash encryption, and dumped data all over the Net—spasmodically sipping guarana-ghinko drinks and spooning at Happyoca pudding—more conventional action stirred just the other side of HG’s railing.

           “Oh, come now, Herbert—I see where you’re going with that,” Paulen shouted warily my way, again taken aback by my nuggets out of nowhere. “As if there had been an actual established dominion to unseat. Yet, it did work for them, now didn’t it?”

          “Work for who,” I asked back, barely over the jazz combo’s rather stale cover of Diz’s ‘Salt Peanuts’ across Chestnut.

          “For the insurgency—Zionists pioneers like Chiam Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion,” Doc beamed, rejoining me near HG’s front windows. “By 1947, the British had turned their ‘Mandate’ over to the fledgling United Nations—this was after turning another Exodus II survivors shipload back to Germany, I hasten to add. Still, desperate post-war Jewry, unwelcome in Europe, continued arriving in Haifa by the rusty boatload, singing ‘Hatikvah’, regaining, embracing their natural sovereign right.”

          “Well, the U.N. was founded right here in San Francisco, you know,” I dodged, particularly our refection in the large windowpane.

          “Pu-leese—my parents attended the Civic Center ceremony—it was their mutual point of pride,” he replied. “In any case, a United Nations committee endorsed a two-state solution partitioning the territory into separate Jewish and Palestinian entities, with the UNSCOP administering Jerusalem as an international city as first promulgated by the dratted Sykes-Picot. That was the U.N.’s resolution in 1947, for godsakes, 1947.”

          “Yeah, and I suppose there was no saying no to Holocaust-surviving Jews, and the Palestinians figured to roll over. A 50-50 split, was it?”

          “Close enough for government work, with Israel’s first president, Weizmann’s leadership, I might add. Jewish people embraced Resolution 181, the partition of Palestine into two separate nation states—56% binational Jewish, 44% Arab. But the Arabs rejected the plan outright anyway, as they had the Peel Commission two-state provisions in 1937. So instead of a fair, sensible Middle East solution, Israel got the original Intifada—into a full-blown war for independence. Young Jewish paramilitias and Pan-Arab armies gathering to destroy Israel at birth. ”

          I glanced in, through the sliding windows, at real estate vultures in weekend seersucker, gingham, knit ties, and flowery pantsuits, commiserating on HG’s four-long surplus theater seats, plotting Sunday walk-through strategies, under moody, drop-chain amber lantern lamps,  offer sheets spread over driftwood tables before them, keen on flipping pre-war Marina gems before the coming fall.

          Beside them, huddled over burl coffee tables, shifting on tree trunk stools and wood stump foot rests, V-neck headhunters plied recent Sloan and Wharton grads, new blueblood, sipping Red Tail Ale, upselling vitamin water allowances and matching 401Ks. Over nearer HG’s Avila sidewall of open windows, off-road warriors tinkered with their subcompact PC notebooks, massaging spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, combing through manbags, washing down mayoless tuna sandwiches with a hearty Cabernet.

          “Sooo, what happened with all that?” I quickly averted my gaze across Chestnut at the jazz combo, now jamming through a sloppy segue into A Night In Tunisia’, which in turn sent us skipping back to the empty wait bench once again.

          “Well, as much as Harry Truman disdained certain Jews like his inherited Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, and ‘Kiketown NY’, he had worked for his generous next-door Jewish neighbors as a child in Missouri, and felt the Jewish people overall deserved a home of their own, as did supporters such as Rev. Carl Voss. So Truman got behind Churchill’s lead, despite George Marshall and even his bigoted wife, Bess, and bucked D.C. resistance to help push the General Assembly to finally create the State of Israel in 1948: an ethical exemplar based on peace, liberty and justice as proclaimed by Hebrew prophets. Alas, the fighting had already begun by then…”

          “So you’re saying the Biblical Prophecy was reborn in war…” We took our seats, albeit with further renewed glares from HG’s front bench crowd.

          “In a manner of speaking,” Paulen ignored them, instead paging to his new book’s footnotes and bibliography. “As European Jews flowed into Israel, Palestinians and their Arab neighbors provoked the ’47-’48 War of Independence, figuring they could easily defeat the Jewish upstarts. Let’s just say Israel’s new immigrants hit their promised ground fighting.”

          “But there were a slew of displaced Palestinians, right?” At the same time, I caught him sneaking a corner-eye peek at my newspaper, which had unrolled in my hands like some unearthed scroll. “Over half a million running scared from their bulldozed villages with nothing but their kids and house keys? At least so claimed the Pan-Arab League.”

          “Plenty of Jews were displaced, as well, I’ll have you know. Some 6,500 were killed, 800,000 exodused from Arab lands overall, losing everything. It was a very fluid crisis.”

          “But not crammed into refugee camps…” When I glanced back, he was already speed-reading and dog-earing certain book pages, all but pulling out a yellow highlighter—not unlike the law students inside HG—to mark them up for future reference. “Many still there today.”

          “Better that than the death camps Jews had come from, wouldn’t you say?”

          “R-r-right, there’s that…” Dropping the H-bomb, what was there to say to that?”

          Further lording over Harmony Grove’s prime remaining window spots was a conclave of even heavier hitters altogether, decompressing finance guys shooting the breeze with some lounging masticates similarly draped around outside tables. Pitchers of Pacifico Clara and Trumer Pils seemed to lube that low-key banter—bond traders, hedge hogs, turnaround phishers, money-good leveraged wealth advisers and assorted quants paging through Barrons or pink and orange newspapers, tracking bond benchmarks or Standard & Poors. Dopamine flooded their greedy caudate nuclei like programmed trade triggers before SEC circuit breakers kick in.

          Over there gathered disciples of the London, HEC Paris and Chicago Schools, dressed in Varvatos and Dsquared khakis, frayed and faded $400 selvage denim, jacquard casual shirts under Abboud and Geoffrey Beene, brandishing Cole-Haan and black leather courier cases, toe-tapping pointy Paul Smith wing-tip brogues—logged off robotraders shedding daily terabytes and petabytes until Monday 4 AM. Debatable, dark-market topics could be heard ranging from the Black-Scholes model and mortgage-backed securities to timing paper barrels and shorting the subprime market—to cashing out off-book indexed derivatives and NINA loan bundles, arguing REITs, ETFs, FESs, MBSs, SPVs and SIVs—swapping re-remics and credit-default slop by the tranches.

          There was fretting over sovereign wealth funds, immoral hazards, flash crashes, Bernoulli’s golden theorem, headline risk, margin calls, dark pools, the dinar and Doha Round—marking assets to market; taking a haircut on naked shorts, layering Repo 105s, deleveraging synthetic CDOs or pumping and dumping their other toxic paper, at loggerheads over who Madoff with what.

          What with free-fall Fannies and Bear Brothers crawling onto broker screens, funds of a feather plucked together, leading indicators of break-buck blood on the trading floor, of a market in record territory, upside and down. Transfer pricing off-shore, off balance sheet financial products in the shadow: Therein, the spreadsheet crunchers numbly lounged, spinning their high-turbo data analysis, reflecting on where the Dow was a year ago, handicapping the Big Board and micro bracing for where the NASDAQ and some sucker-betting investment banks were rumored to be heading in Q3, black swans and CFTC swooping down.

          Harmony used to have two large center roundtables. I would hold court at them like Charlie Rose in dot-boomier times. But about now, I was hard-pressed to decipher so rich an alphabet soup, much less afford HG’s two-buck-fifty cups of Blue Bottle coffee.

          “That stuff sounds like so many casino bets to me,” I diverted, acidly writing all the financial kabuki off to the throes of moral bankruptcy—the drive to be faster than anyone smarter, smarter than anyone faster, gone haywire. “I mean, what’s really being contributed to society there?”

          “Ah, yes—the whole economic parasite hypothesis,” Paulen eyerolled, his anger side beginning to show in earnest. “Thy name is Goldman, Lehman—all those damned Jewish moneychangers at the temple of doom who are going to hell anyway? That where you’re going with this now?”

          “Hey, don’t go putting names in my mouth,” I hedged, with one last, wistful glance inside Harmony Grove, chafed at getting tangled up in such baiting again—this wasn’t going well at all. “I’m an Indiana Jones man, myself…”

          As we rose and headed off, one of the sunning surfers snarked, “Bout time, ’cause that bench is supposed to be reserved for crippled and old folks?” A big bored uptalker, he’d been staring at us as if we’d been parking a cobalt Mercedes in a blue handicapped zone. “See the little signs on each side there? Like, totally rude, dude…”

          “Sorry, my faux pas,” I nodded, with a meek wave of acknowledgement, seeking no redux run-ins with the surfer set. “We sorta got caught up…like, totally my bad…”

          “Shall we,” Paulen hooked my arm.

          “Must have been something I said,” I concluded feebly, nodding as well to that upstart entrepreneur dude and his dubious partner to be—a couple of meta-tag optimizers and domainers still plotting and dickering, one little saucer-size table pod down.

          “More likely everything I said. As it happens, I’ve been getting more of that static lately, especially on campus.”

          “CU? I can’t imagine…” Which could have been because I was all but bowing to Superior Autobiographical Memory—an instant, unrelenting memory flow straining the caudate nucleus, and a temporal lobe bulbing way too large: agitated recollections nearly registering into double digits on the Richter Scale.

          “You don’t know the half of that either,” doc led the way, veering off-subject for the moment, as he stuffed the volume into his shoulder bag. “Well, will you looky there. That’s not Jack’s Smoke Shop as I remember it…”

          “And that’s not the Harmony I remember,” I glanced back at the woodsy lodge corner hang-out as we shuffled further down Chestnut. “But I guess I’ll just try to meet you the other halfway.”

 Care for more?

 Chapter Thirty. Buffeted by emerging
 technologies, a buffer zone of sorts is entered,
 echoes of telling, pivotal history all around…