Just Above Sunset
June 18, 2006 - Beach Bumming at Chinky's

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A new column from Our Man in Tel-Aviv - Sylvain Ubersfeld - a photo essay on the beach scene there, and it's both odd and familiar.

Chinky Beach Tel-Aviv

Tel-Aviv, June 13th 2006


Until I moved from Ramat-Aviv to the south of the city I had to face the ordeal of driving in the traffic to reach my favorite beach on the Tel-Aviv seashore.  It was a costly, taxing experience although it provided me with an interesting challenge, consisting in avoiding paying the 15 NIS (New Israeli Shekels) of the private car park conveniently located across the overcrowded beach.  (I managed to do it twice in fourteen months, which provided me with intense pleasure at having beaten the system and defrauded the parking owner of 6,66 US dollars!)


Less than one hundred yards from my apartment, "Chinky Beach" appeared to be the logical place to go and bake under the Israeli sun.  Located at the end of the "taielet" the beach is accessible to normal human beings from Sunday morning until Friday at thre in the afternoon.  From Friday at 3:01 pm until Saturday evening, forget it, unless you do not belong to the "normal human being" group and you specifically enjoy having a limited view of the see, love stepping in dog excrement or in soiled diapers and appreciate the bathing and swimming commands and orders coming through a loudspeaker from the military-like observation shack normally operated by the municipality of Tel-Aviv!  "Ladies and gentlemen, there is no life guard on duty and swimming is forbidden!" - of course the thousands of beachgoers completely ignore the warnings and pretty soon swimmers and surfers find themselves attempting to survive  together while escaping collision with toddlers and grandmothers (the parents are on the beach having a beer while talking into their mobile phone). Needless to say that from Friday pm till Sunday am, I am on my eighth floor terrace, monitoring the movements on the beach with my binoculars, thoroughly enjoying the space of sixty square meter sundeck   drinking pastis and pitying those who have elected to stack-up on the sand (and I use the expression "stack-up" on purpose).


At the very end of Chinky Beach is a small beach restaurant with a very rude owner.  While patrons are seating inside trying to eat their salads the landlord walks around the place screaming food orders for the next business day through a mobile telephone while now and then he shuffles a pile of paperwork and invoices conveniently laid out in the open for everyone to see.  Patrons have to scream in order to hold even the minimal conversation.  Having survived a couple of lunch ordeals in that place I now only set foot in that shop when I am in urgent need of a retiring place (price tag, 1 NIS) or when one of the kids desperately want a mango sherbet on a stick .


I have put to use the extensive time I've spent on the beach to study the various groups and types of beachgoers, and after conducting intensive surveys I have found out, like mathematicians do, that life on the beach obeys certain rules one has to live with, short of giving up sandy pleasures and retiring into the seclusion of one's apartment.


In the same fashion that Judaism contains both positive and negative "mitzvoth" - commands from God, 613 of them altogether to be flawlessly executed by any observant Jew - there are also positive and negative rules which day-in and day-out apply to the beachgoers.  Enumerating all of these would be a huge task and only the most important are now engraved into the circumvolutions of my brain to be reviewed every time I set my bare feet on the burning sand in anticipation of the beach day.  For educational and familiarization purposes, I have retained the 10 most important rules:


1) Regardless of how close to the water you have set up your chairs, someone will find space in front of you to start up a family lunch party with all family members including children, dogs and at least one grand-parent.


2) The chair you have rented from the chair-master (12 NIS, 18 NIS if you add up a shemeshiah – umbrella that is) will have at least  one broken part, and you will catch one of your fingers in it while trying to fix the problem .


3) Regardless how much you shake your beach towels when you leave the beach, you will find sand in your apartment when you return from the beach .


4) Even if you try to find a chair on the beach far away from the shack of the beach-master cum first-aid station, you will never be far enough from his loudspeakers to enjoy a decent siesta on the beach


5) When the ice cream men will pass by your chair shouting "Artic, Artic" (a specific brand of sherbet on the stick lollypop) he will absolutely, positively be short of your favorite flavor and will offer you some kind of other flavor which you hate.


6) You will witness at least one argument between the chair-master and some young kids trying to beat the system and avoid paying dues for the chair.


7) You will have at least one encounter with a stray dog (ladies and gentlemen, we ask that all owners of dogs keep their animals on a leash) who will urinate on your beach towels after having sniffed around your belongings searching for the most appropriate place to pee. 


8) If you are sitting by a group of young folks smoking pot, or a joint, or whatever you would like to taste, you will NEVER get invited to join in !


9) When you will get dressed to leave the beach some coins will fall from your pockets while you're putting on your pants, and later on you will be able to observe a man with a frying pan like metal detector, headphones on the ears, collecting along the beach all the coins which fell from pockets including your own.


10) You are bound to get it at least ONE TIME by a black ball belonging to the 68 couples playing racket-and-ball in a space normally accepting an average of one-and-a-half couples.


Chinky Beach is a concentration of different cultural and social classes.  You can see there harmless senior citizens engrossed in the reading of Maariv (a local newspaper), a Russian couple in a pre-making out mood displaying to the public all the signs of a "healthy appetite," divorced fathers holding their children by the hand, bare-bum toddlers carrying water from the beach and pouring it with intense concentration in their eyes, over the remnants of a decaying medusa!  You can also watch the show of Tel-Aviv hot ladies walking all the way from Frishman Beach to Chinky in an effort to display to the general public (and possibly the single males) both their figures and their swimming costumes.


Chinky Beach, Like Any Other Beach In A Seaside Town, Has Its Local Characters Ranging From Shmuel  the Chair-Master to Yossi and Eran, the couple of municipal employees in charge of beach protection who patrol the shore in white t-shirts bearing the arms of the Tel-Aviv/Yafo "iryat " (municipality).  There is of course the man with the Vietnamese hat, pushing a bicycle in the sand (how tiring!) and selling pitah bread and bagels, the Russian masseur who proposes his services by showing around a placard in Cyrillic, Hebrew and English, and eventually the Korean man trying to take over the Russian masseur's business by offering same services at one third of the price.  There is finally the "recycler" - collecting aluminum cans from everyone, or beer bottles made of glass which once sold will yield some cash soon to be transformed in contraband vodka bought from the Carmel market just a few yards away.  He carries on his back a huge plastic bag getting heavier by the minute.


On Chinky Beach, by the end of the day, life calms down and return to a normal pace.  The bathing orders coming from the beach-master are less enthusiastic.  No family will ever believe that "the sea is dangerous today" or "there are thieves operating on the beach, please watch your belongings."


Families leave the place and the soiled sea shore - beer glasses made of plastic, suspicious organic elements of all kind - and a second lifecycle starts for a couple of hours: those blessed hours during which the sea prepares for the night and the sun slowly goes down over the sea, just like in Newport Beach or Nice, those blessed hours which are my favorite as I can let the train of my thought get away from me and float towards the Spanish coast a few thousand kilometers away in straight line, my eyes fascinated by the changing colors of the sky .


The parking close to the beach - you remember that I do not use it anymore, since I leave 100 yards away from the sea - is getting empty and the Russian toll collector is booking his day's take.  Between the seashore and the horizon, two patrol boats from the Israeli navy are speeding southbound, towards an other sandy beach further down the coast with no chairs, no restaurant with a rude owner, no beach-master and probably no ice cream either - Gaza. 


Note: Words in italics are actual announcements by the beach-master through a 3000-watt loudspeaker PA system.

Chinky Beach Tel-Aviv
Chinky Beach, home of the noisy beach-master -

Chinky Beach, Tel-Aviv
One is never far enough away from the dreaded PA

Chinky Beach Tel-Aviv
The chairmaster in white t-shirt, resting...

Chinky Beach Tel-Aviv
The few hours when life calms down...

Photos and Text, Copyright 2006 - Sylvain Ubersfeld




Editor's Footnote:


When Kathy Kohner Zuckerman was fifteen-years-old, in 1956, on June 24th that year, she met some surfers on the beach in Malibu and tried her first ride.  She went home and enthusiastically told her father all about how much fun it was, and all about the odd characters at the beach.  Her father, Frederick Kohner, a Czech immigrant working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, was intrigued and wrote a book, his first, about the scene down at the beach, an odd subculture at the time - and since the guys at the beach had nicknamed his daughter Gidget, that's the title he gave the book.  In 1957 it outsold Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" and two years later there was the first "Gidget" movie, with Sandra Dee doing her Kathy Kohner thing, followed by two sequels and the 1965-66 television series starring the absurdly perky Sally Field.


Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, the original Gidget, is now sixty-five and you'll find a profile of her in the Los Angeles Times, Saturday, June 17, here, including this -


When she left for college in 1958, Zuckerman left surfing behind. She married a Yiddish scholar, moved to Pacific Palisades, raised two kids and worked as a teacher and later a part-time restaurant hostess. When reporters called to ask if she was the original Gidget, she would answer, "Yeah, so what? Why does anyone care?"


Indeed, but she'd have fun at Chinky Beach, saying perky things in Yiddish.

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik

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