Life is Full of Surprises!!!


Life is Full of Surprises!!!

May 11, 2011
Masada Siegel
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Life is full of surprises
By MASADA SIEGEL, Special to
Monday, 18 April 2011
Whoosh was the sound as the bat hit the baseball, which was rapidly headed in my direction. The crowd watching spring training baseball jumped to their feet, hands reaching toward the heavens.

Room at the Four Seasons at $16,000 a night

It was a storybook spring day, with the bluest of Arizona skies. We sat on a hill in the green grass, surrounded by the intoxicating scent of orange blossoms, while the trees gently swayed with the breeze.

Chris turned toward me and asked, “Where do your stories come from?”

Laughing, I said, “You see that ball. Half of my stories come out of left field. Life is full of surprises.”

His blue eyes twinkling, he playfully touched my baseball hat and said, “Tell me a story.”

Giggling, I leaned back in the cool grass and said, “A few weeks earlier, I was in Italy, on my annual Roman holiday to see good friends Elena, Ramy and Sergio. Yes, sightseeing, shopping and simply enjoying life was on the to-do list.

Florence, a magical city, was calling, so while I was bleary eyed and jet lagged, I hopped on the train and watched the cityscape turn into the rolling hills dotted with flowers.

The broad avenues were lined with shops showing the latest fashions. It was mesmerizing peering into windows filled with leather purses, sparking jewelry and glamorous clothing. The streets twisted and turned into cobblestone alleys. Everywhere you looked, from the displays in windows to the statues, was filled with phenomenal artwork.

I arrived at my palazzo. Yes, I have a vivid imagination, but no, I was staying in a place fit for a princess, with rooms ranging up to $16,000 (US) a night.

Lobby at the Four Seasons [Masada Siegel photos]

The Four Seasons in Florence was once home to the Medici family, specifically Cardinale Alessandro dei Medici, archbishop of Florence, who soon became Pope Leo XI. Walking in the hotel was like wandering around inside a painting.

A short walk from the hotel was the kosher restaurant, Ruth’s. I had been there two years earlier. In my exhausted state, I wanted to sit down and enjoy a meal, as I often eat on the run.

Alas, I walked into the restaurant, but every table was packed.

The manager, Simcha Jelinek, kindly told me to come back in 10 minutes. Wandering around outside, I asked an Italian woman for directions. She did not quite understand, but an American woman walked over and said, “Hi, I speak English. Can I help you?”

Ana, who was originally Brazilian, had lived in San Francisco, was recently divorced and was doing her own version of the book Eat, Pray, Love. Intrigued, I invited her to lunch. She told me about her adventures, and when she asked me what I did for a living, I said, “I’m a journalist – I write.”

As we were leaving, at the entrance, I stopped, dumbfounded and blurted out, “Oh my God, that’s my story.”

“What?” Ana said.

It was the fourth time I walked by the restaurant entrance, and just then I noticed that a story I wrote, 48 hours in Florence, which was published in the Jerusalem Post, was posted under the restaurant’s sign.

At that moment, Simcha was walking out, and Ana said to him, “Do you know – she’s the author of this story.”

He was so excited. He hugged me and kissed my check and said, “What a wonderful story – I gave it to the synagogue and to the other restaurants you wrote about in the neighbourhood.”

Frankly, I was stunned, never before having seen my story posted in a restaurant, no less in Florence, Italy. What made it even more special is that it was under the name of the restaurant, “Ruth’s,” which happens to be my mom’s name.

Chris started to laugh, “Wow, the most interesting things happen to you. You have great stories.”

I shook my head, “I didn’t chose to write, writing chose me. I just like stories, reading them, writing them, experiencing them.”

That reminded me of a recent conversation with actor and comedian Larry Miller, who is passionate about acting, writing and telling stories on stage.

Miller has appeared in more than 50 films and hundreds of television shows. One of the memorable moments early in his career was his role in Pretty Woman with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.

He explained the importance of storytelling in Jewish culture. He said, “It’s because Judaism believes there is power in words. I believe with all my heart that Judaism is a word-oriented culture. It’s all about the words, sentences, inflections. It is so deeply ingrained in our people, it’s perfect.

“The Torah even stresses how important each word is. The concept of storytelling is as deeply Jewish as the commentary of the Torah.”

He grinned and continued,“ Everything I am – it’s like it’s tied up in a DNA strand, the concept of me being a storyteller without being Jewish is just impossible.”

Miller said that he doesn’t believe it’s a coincidence that Judaism has such a rich history and places such value in communicating ethics and humour through storytelling, citing examples from the Torah,.

I nodded. It made sense. Judaism is a culture wrapped up in constant learning, and, most often, it is through stories that morals and meanings are conveyed.

Everyone’s words and actions reverberate around the planet, spinning like a baseball in motion, however, most of us never realize the results of what we do, for the bad and the good. Call it a coincidence, or a bit of divine intervention – either way, it makes one stop and take notice (OK, maybe after the fourth time of walking by my story).

So perhaps the lesson I learned in Florence was we don’t always need the power of a bat to hit a home run and change people’s lives, just the power of the pen.

Masada Siegel can be reached at

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