The home of the spider

There is a flâneur inside all of us.  If I recall my art history classes well enough, once Paris was Haussmanized–many of the charming little streets were converted into wide, orderly boulevards–a new species of pedestrian emerged: the flâneur.  The flâneur was a window shopper, an idler, an urban vagrant who did not necessarily set out with a destination in mind; he walked around to see the city and maybe stop for a croissant every once in a while.

My flâneurism (which sounds like a dangerous combination of flan and aneurysm) manifested in some exploration of the Hadar, a commercial and residential district which, according to the map, my street borders.  I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent examining maps of Haifa in a fairly futile attempt to commit the general layout of the city to memory.  There’s the tourist map I keep in my purse at all times, and the one on my bulletin board at home, and there’s even one up in the office.   So I had my route planned out, and I successfully found the main shopping street with its endless noisy clothing stores and the department store wherein I found this happy couple.  Please take a moment to note his rakishly angled spectacles and her receding hairline.  Aren’t they cozy.

They do say love is blind...

They do say love is blind…

And this–jeans as art, or maybe the dryer broke:

Artist's house

Artists’ house

Once I had procured some houseplants and a muffin tin, I decided to retrace my route.  If I could accomplish that, I figured that would mean I actually knew the Hadar.

I did not accomplish that.

I suppose I was distracted by the unusually cool weather, the streets damp with rain, or maybe it was the dead cat in the street.  Anyway, I forget to take a turn and found myself in an unfamiliar area.  Unwisely, I decided to keep walking.  I suppose I hoped my “intuition” would lead me aright and my apartment building would suddenly appear in front of me.  Eventually, I swallowed my pride and found the friendliest looking person around (not a particularly easy task–Haifans are not the smiliest bunch) and asked for help.

“English?” I asked.  Over the course of the morning, I had gotten accustomed to the answer to this question being a shake of the head.  But it turned out she spoke very good English.  After she explained where I needed to go, she pointed at my map and asked, “Does it help?”  Good question.  As soon as I pull it out, I mark myself as an outsider, a foreigner.  But when I try to navigate without it, I end up seeing more of Haifa than intended.  Perhaps trying to make me feel better about my orienteering failure, she said, “The streets in Haifa are like the home of a spider.”  A very messy spider, I might add, the kind who eschews neat webs in favor of tangled nests where he stores his victims, including young women carrying Tourist Board maps.

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