Rooftop Chairs – Absorbing Tel Aviv

18/07/2013 20:21


Impressions are worm-like, they burrow and get lost, prevaricate. The following are the sensations of the lull while a wanderer forms an impression of somewhere.


The Middle East. I'm slumped on a crackled, ribbed felt rooftop. Brown pools of runoff water collect in the dips, seeping from clusters of tomatoes and peppers growing without shade. There are sofas up here, forgotten about though still sat on occasionally, and unwanted chairs left to perish in the fist of the sun. Endless stains, veined fissures and scorched-grey debris all pop to make this landscape as capricious as any other. Air conditioners and beer caps thrown together. On Tel Aviv's beaches the litter doesn't breed quickly enough to build a hotel with bottles and cans. People are picking them up for profit, like in everywhere that's new. Click.


I'm surrounded by other flat roofs of white, sand and almond buildings, stirred together like chilled coffee to house a population seeking out their dreams. With a tall spike of 25-35s, Tel Aviv has its own liberal microclimate of cafe-bar langour and an art gallery on Saturday. Market calls and sea breeze funnel up the avenues, and it's everyone at the beach beside luxury construction, flip flop obsessed.


In late June comes White Night – the anniversary of UNESCO naming Tel Aviv “the white city” – when most of the city's people fill the bars, warm streets and roof parties through until morning. The party folk submerge themselves collectively in the relaxed vibe of this celebration, strolling to the boom of electronic music, clambering up through apartment buildings to where it becomes loudest, ascending the fun until their fingers disturb the clouds.



A melodic city of palm trees and stray cats. Salty lips wake you with a derelict fragrance to a thousand boxes of aubergines. Baba ghanoush, tahini, halva, shakshuka, falafel, shawarma.... a frenzy of hummus and pitta, all wet with shekel-heavy beer and new price arak. Tel Aviv is an atmosphere to bathe and bake yourself in – a sticky, smooth spread of vivacity and “don't work too hard” humming out from trays of ice cube office towers set back from the shore. It hits you with sensory details. Sherut taxis driving with the door open. Electric bikes and manual green ones sprayed by waves rolling over the boardwalk. Jellyfish warnings in the newspaper, and textile merchants busy with handbarrows. Book spines on the right. Beards and glamour. Juice bars bulging with trophy fruit. Burning sand bordering a balmy turquoise sea, glistening beneath Old Jaffa – filled with fishing, bobbing vessels, art in boat sheds, stone alleys and old shoes. Tel Aviv is a high afternoon lava that breathes away from your toes but never leaves your shoulders; it's snoozing on a roof, hat cocked, as the sun droops and the air quietens of horns – pans rattle, clatter and rest. Click.



I can see every speck of these details from up here, standing on a bone dry sofa, in Israel, where the weekend starts early and Sunday has rush hours. There's an instinctive taste for spontaneity thriving in this chomping spot. Pop-up parties swell into secluded public spaces from the afternoon. Then new feet rush me to the zoo at midnight to drink wine, munching sweet-coated peanuts on the way – arid food, since those elegant, seductive houses with clean lines and simple curves beckon in reveries of the nearby Judean desert, in the way that a city brings out the taste for its opposite... emptiness, solitude and unavailability.


Access the south by threading through the Central Bus Station, the African refugees milling around. Israel's soldiers shuttle themselves on public buses in well-cut military service uniforms – four this time, with their weapons, serving three years each. The bus lands every few miles, on the long desert road where a man said “it's too low to get a suntan.” There's something here that should be ineffable... the frontier hinted with anti-invincibility. But no; I'm drawn to the desert like the playful birds – air match fit for gliding, thinned of urban culture-searching. Disambiguation.

The roadside is quiet. Silence can comfort everyone.

I whistle through my beak.

Things stop.



[Skip, To Much Later] Impressions get delayed, wriggle on the itching conurbation. The sound of an anomalous brush helps me into a doze; reimmersed in isolation, full energetic sleep. Only after you stop moving do you become trusting of ideas that arrive deep in the night... Find your body stewed with plasters, sweating like a plastic bag fetish, at home back in an abandoned building without ceilings.


Speak quickly before time runs out, say the clicks. Creaking along I crawl inside a handbag and juggle with crumbs, swollen lips and long lashes; knit the patchwork of the low life at first light, as diesel engines purr up. Stirring now. Force back gibberish then cherish it through split lenses, borrowed from that stranger you remember.... Blown around in fidget muttering. That accounts for the delay. A developing process can't be rushed or woken.


Imagine, for a soft head start, buildings the colour of crushed biscuits and white nougat... Beach buildings that sing with light, professional at reflection and worn by it ever so slightly. Tel Aviv. There's certainly life there to witness – a hybrid beach-modernity of forgotten chairs on flat roofs. A city to splash yourself with as a warm palette worms to the surface. Clinking bottles line the way; absorbed, swaying and heading for somewhere. Ideas and recent memories exist in fragments. Some need more rest than others to wash away the debris. Above the traveller's rumbling sleep the world has its job to do; air conditioners flick on for the welcome.



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Comments: Rooftop Chairs - Absorbing Tel Aviv

Nice one

Date: 20/07/2013 | By: Kenneth

Makes me want to check the place out and recline on a rooftop sofa!

Re: Nice one

Date: 20/07/2013 | By: Martin G

The desired effect. Glad you enjoyed it, cheers for commenting, it's always appreciated.


Date: 18/07/2013 | By: MG

More photos can be found in the Filthy Feet Photogallery:

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