A few weeks ago, my friend Sophie celebrated her birthday. To mark this important day, my friend Ronit (who also is a very good friend of Sophie’s) and I decided to take her out to watch Janis Ian`s live concert in Tel-Aviv. It was the kind of idea that all three of us, who have been “triplet best friends” since the happy days of High School, hoped would let us to spend some “quality” time together. I am looking back to the days we were young and restless: Sophie used to be so serious and creative, and today she is a gifted graphic designer. She creates jewelry, and she paints (when she has the time). Ronit is a CPA. She is smart and talented and she is a very empathic good- hearted person. She used to be so quiet and serious too. I, among all three of us, was “the trouble maker”. I still remember the look on my best friends’ faces when they noticed I got to school many hours after it started, and left way before it ended, escaping to the beautiful beaches of Herzliya (a city near Tel-Aviv). Sophie and Ronit were not my partners for naughty actions I took back then, but were my partners for everything else, and the love among us is the same love it was back then.
I am lucky to be “one of three best friends”. Throughout the years we have loved each other, we have been there for one another in times of joy and times of sorrow. We enjoy each other`s company, we like chatting and laughing and even just being there together, no need to talk. How many people are fortunate enough to have such best friends in a lifetime? I appreciate and cherish this friendship that lasted for over thirty years, with a physical distance – continents apart.
Since we moved back to Israel last summer, I get to see Sophie and Ronit quite often, and I get to enjoy their company, and this opportunity to go and see Janis Ian together had more meaning to me, then going with anyone else. While all three of us were soldiers, we used to listen to Janis Ian on my simple cassette recorder that stood in our room. Ronit shared a room with me for five months, and then she left to a different program and became an officer, while Sophie did a different program from the beginning. Sophie served as a teacher-soldier to disadvantaged kids, who did not have the opportunity to study as kids or teenagers, and got another chance while they became soldiers. I need to explain to everyone who does not know how the system in Israel works. It is mandatory in Israel for any 18 years old to go and serve our country for a few years (girls two years, boys three). People really start their adult life at age of 21. Anyways, back to what I meant to write, I spent a meaningful time sharing Janis`s music with Ronit, while I was able to meet Sophie on weekends every now and then, when we both had a break from the Army.
We drove to the Tel-Aviv port on Friday. It is always lively and nice there. It has many stores, cafes, restaurants, and a beautiful beach. It also has a farmer`s market that I love visiting. They have the best fish sandwiches, so if you ever get there, you should try one. We wondered around the shops, and the market, and took our lunches with us and sat in front of the stormy sea, and then went to see Janis, who performed in a nice cozy place called “Reding 3”. We took beers with us, and sat together. So excited to see her together, we were swept away by Janis`s beautiful voice and stories about her life.
Janis`s voice is so gentle, it just touches your heart. It then goes down to your stomach, the very inside within us. It gives you the chills, and it warms you, at the same time, and all you want to do is just sit and listen forever.
Janis shared not only her wonderful voice; she also shared her life stories with us. She started her career as a teenager, she was fifteen. A Jewish girl from the Bronx, and she flew up to be one of the very well-known singers around the world. Her songs crossed oceans and continents, and went inside many hearts.
Janis is sixty, and you can easily notice that she is appreciative of what she has achieved in life. She told us about the time she performed in California, singing a song about a black boy falling in love with a white girl. She said it was back in the sixties, and a bunch of people started protesting, while she was singing that love song. What a long way we have come since then, but she still cannot forget that night. She told us about her mom that at age forty went back to college, and only after fourteen years was able to graduate. How the diploma was hanging on the wall next to her kids picture, the two major achievements in her life. How she got sick with multiple sclerosis, how hard it was for Janis to see her sinking. Janis established a scholarship under her mom`s name, and she gives it to people who are eager to go back to school at a later time of life.
Janis told us about the love of her life, about her wife, and about the fact that they married, but their marriage is only accepted in specific places, and how complicated it is for her to be married and single at the same time.
And Janis sang. She sang all the songs I knew, and some who were new to me, and she took me back thirty years (How shocking…It is thirty years…), and I was so excited and happy I could share all this with my girlfriends. We enjoyed the music and the conversations we had, we enjoyed the little silence we had here and there. I enjoyed this show very much, and especially I loved the fact that Janis performed simply with her guitar, dressed simple, no wraps, no makeup, no hiding behind anything, just her and us, the crowed who accepted her with lots of love.
A once in a lifetime experience, no doubt.