Friday, March 19, 2010

Long Lost Friend

Calling my home a villa sounds pretentious to me, but that is the standard term here. When I think of a villa, I think of a romantic, or maybe an elegant, or even a rustic house with a lush garden. A villa sits on a winding, tree-lined, preferably country road, not on a suburban grid like here. Grids may be practical but they are not romantic whereas villas are. I looked up “villa” in the dictionary and found various degrees of approximation to the truth: “(1) a country residence or estate, (2) an imposing country or suburban home of a wealthy person,” or bingo, “(3) Brit. a detached or semidetached house.”

So, Manuel owns one villa and I own another (both with swimming pools) and we rent out both during the summer to holidaymakers, mostly Brits, but also sometimes to Russians, Czechs, Poles, and Norwegians. Manuel has a small in-law apartment tucked in behind his villa, and during the summer, while the visitors are holidaymaking at my villa, I go and stay with him in that tiny apartment.

I manage the business (and reap the profits) and my advertising consists of year-round ads I place with two online companies where vacationers can rent holiday homes directly from owners. I don’t know if you can imagine my surprise when, on 30 May 2009, I received an inquiry through one of them from an Irene L, the L being the first of a long string of letters of a distinctive last name.

Irene was my best friend growing up. We met in the first grade and were best friends through grammar school and junior high, drifting apart in high school until I drifted across town with my parents and ended up graduating from LA High. After that we didn’t really stay in touch, although we did meet once, about fifteen years ago, at a reunion at Dalya’s in Santa Monica.

A while back I started thinking about Irene and tried to find her on the internet. I found someone with that name who had written for the LA Times, but didn’t get any further. I’ve never mastered internet or any other kind of research, and in a little while I gave up.

Then, that Saturday in May, I read this inquiry for the villa: “are you the Dvora formerly known as Dorothy B. that I grew up with in LA, CA?”

I was stunned and wrote her back immediately. “Yes, this is me. Where are you? What are you doing? How did you find me? Are you coming to Spain?” What a strange coincidence that Irene should want to rent my villa.

But Irene wasn’t looking for a villa to rent in Spain. She had the same idea I had had, to find her old friend, but she went about it with more ingenuity and more determination than I had.

She wrote me back. “I'm so glad that I found you! I'm plotzing!” Ah, familiar words that you never hear in Spain from where the Jews were expelled in 1492 and where only a handful have returned. Thus, here people do not plotz or shlep, and there are no klutzes, shlemazels, nor nudniks, although there is the occasional ganef.

There is something very lonely about being the only one of your kind for miles around. I feel almost like Ishi, although he had it worse being the last of his while I only suffer from being alone.

It turned out that I had inadvertently made her search much more difficult that it might have been if I had just left things alone. “I actually started looking for you a few years ago. It took me that long to figure out your current name. Every once in a while I would try again but usually came up with nothing. I didn't realize that you changed your name from Dorothy to Dvora.”

Irene looked for combinations of both with my maiden name. Then she wanted to pair both with my second husband’s name, but all she could remember was Joe. She went on with Dorothy and my first married name which led to someone, but not to me. Who would have thought that I was using a new first name and, although married three times, the family name of my first husband (who is like a brother to me). No, I hadn’t made it easy.

Having several names during the course of my life has caused me many problems recently, what with the bureaucracies of foreign governments whose citizens do not change their names, not even for marriage, and who don’t seem capable of understanding that I am who I say I am. And in fact, I don’t really want to be Dvora any more. For one thing, the Spanish can’t say De VOH ra because that means to devour and sounds ugly to them. So they say DE voh ra, which I don’t like and which isn’t me. Dorothy might be nice. There are a handful of people, Jerry foremost among them, who still call me Dorothy. I kind of like that -- makes me feel young again.

“Finally, I Googled Dvora Treisman & the pieces started falling together. I found your ‘Notes From Barcelona’ in a 2003 OWA newsletter. Could this possibly be you? Then I found the name Manuel L. linked with yours. It looked like you might have been married in Reno. Is that correct? It's amazing what you can find online.” Yes it is. It’s actually a bit disconcerting.

Irene went on, “I had no idea that you moved to Spain! I found some other items that you wrote, and thought it might be you when I read about the Polish mother in L.A. Then, I found your home rental ads and thought I'd take a chance.”

Irene always was both forthcoming and shy, so it took a little bit longer for her to actually DO something. Apparently as with many of us, wine helped. “Last Friday night, fueled by some wine and egged on by a friend, I sent the e-mail. I'm so happy that I did!”

Irene and I have been in regular contact ever since. I tried to get her to come with me to the Vaughan English program at Gredos last fall, (see the blog post of October 2009) but she couldn’t. Eventually we agreed that, if I could manage (afford!) a vacation this year, we would meet up in France. Last year’s bookings (i.e., my income) were a disaster and I didn’t think I would have enough to even get me through the year. But so far I’ve managed and this year promises to be better, as I’ve already had some bookings (and deposits) for this summer. Those deposits are helping to carry me through (not that the E-store on this blog is getting me anywhere). If I have enough total bookings, I will be able to buy groceries and cat food and go on vacation in the fall. If you live in northern Spain, going to southern France is pretty easy and not too expensive.

So that is our current, tentative plan. Irene and her husband Marty will travel to Europe, and after a couple of weeks either she or both of them will meet me in Avignon where we will spend some time together after which Irene may come and visit with me here for a while (unless, God help me, I’ve sold my villa by then). All these details have yet to be worked out.

We’ve already exchanged a few bits about our youth, but Irene suggested that we wait until we’re together and then compare notes on what we remember. This will be a real treat for me because, having no brothers or sisters, and no old friends close by, I have no one to do that kind of sharing with. So, better than a booking, my ad has given me a long lost friend.


  1. Wow! How terrific to reconnect with a long lost friend and find there's still a connection.

    And your villa looks beautiful; I've never seen a picture of it and had imagined a cottage-type house. No wonder you haven't left Spain.

    Thanks for sharing the details of your life so

  2. Alberto José MiyaraFriday, March 19, 2010

    Ah, familiar words that you never hear in Spain from where the Jews were expelled in 1492 and where only a handful have returned. Thus, here people do not plotz or shlep, and there are no klutzes, shlemazels, nor nudniks, although there is the occasional ganef.

    I myself am a descendant of those Jews who were thrown out of Spain and I don't know what these words mean. On the other hand, I use words like jaireado, sagená and fishuela, which may be utterly unfamiliar to you.

    My point is, one reason you don't hear "plotz" or "shlemazel" where you live may be that Spanish Jews were expelled in 1492. But another very relevant reason is that they didn't speak Yiddish.

  3. Yes, Alberto, you are quite right. The Jews who were expelled would not be speaking Yiddish. It is my own, European Jewish culture that I miss.

  4. Fascinating story of friendship recovered.

  5. Wonderful story, Dvora. I just found three high school friends on Facebook, and two of them actually live here in Johnson City, TN! This is even more remarkable because we all grew up and went to school in Jacksonville Beach, FL--not exactly the expected move to leave a big city in FL to come to a small town in TN. I'm so glad you found your friend, hope you get to meet in Avignon.

  6. I'm ferklempt from reading such a heymisha story. Look forward to schmoozing and kibbitzing soon.


  7. Geez, even in the US my environment didn't include much Yiddish -- I only know schmooze and kibbitz. Such a colorful language!

  8. Hi Dor, (that is probably what I called you so many decades ago)-Of course, I remember how close you and Irene were to each other and
    I am so pleased that she persisted to find her lost long friend and what
    it has meant to you. I hope you inquired about her brother Meyer who
    sometimes palled around with David and I during our old L.A city
    college days. You, I and so many others share the need to come full
    circle with old, familiar friends and faces that add meaning to our lives
    no matter how long it's been since we've seen them. What has always
    puzzled me is why so many others couldn't care less.

    As a former teacher, I was thrilled when one of my favorite students
    answered my querry on Facebook as to whether he was the Jacob
    Segura I had taught in south central L.A in l966. For you see, he was
    the only Jewish student in my first class assignment among a wonderful class of minority students who I've never forgotten. His
    parents,who fled to the hills of Athens during the Nazi occupation
    of Greece, made it a point not to infuse him with a Jewish Identity; so
    I took it upon myself as his mentor to introduce him to all things
    Jewish including bringing him to Friday night meetings of Hashomer
    Hatzair( for those who may not be familiar with this youth group it was
    dedicated to the Zionist and Kibbutz principles in Israel-which,by the
    way was where I met Dvora in the late 50's-

    When Jacob and I decided to meet late last year in an Orthodox restaurant on Pico and Robertson Blvds. he revealed to me something
    that made a great deal of sense. I asked him why he was not brought up in a Jewish community and he replied that he had just asked his
    mother that same question as he was driving her through the Fairfax
    neighborhood in Los Angeles. His parents had made a decision when
    immigrating to L.A from Greece( after the War ) that because of the Holocaust they did
    not want to be identified as Jewish in case history repeated itself in the
    United States.

    So Jacob, forty four years later, is a Lawyer in Beverly Hills, has four
    children, three of whom have graduated from UCLA and is happily
    married in the Orthodox community of Cheviot Hills.

    So who shall we look for next, Dor? Love, Butch

  9. I love hearing from you Butch, you and Shel and Evie and other old friends. Not everyone posts their comments here, and not everyone comments at all. But it is nice to hear from at least some people so that I know that what I write doesn't just go out into a black hole. Thanks for writing!