Abigail Grahame, 38; Phoebe Grahame, 3; Dexter Grahame, 10; Yoram Grahame, 43; all from San Francisco, and flying to London
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So you’re all going to London now?
Abigail: We have family in London, so we divided the trip: London and then Israel and then London.
Dexter: Israel is a nice place, but the truth is that I’m forced to admit that I prefer London.
First of all, the London weather.
Rainy and gray?
Dexter: For sure. I don’t like it when it’s too sunny, I don’t feel as if it’s my true habitat. London also has a lot of attractions.
And there aren’t any in America?
Dexter: The situation in America isn’t so simple, it’s become scary.
Abigail: He’s afraid of Trump.
Dexter: My new president is pretty problematic.
Abigail, is your son always so articulate?
Abigail: Yes, he’s a very enchanting and independent personality, and simply an amazing person. It has nothing to do with me or Yoram; he was just born that way.
And where does everyone’s marvelous British accent come from?
Abigail: We’re originally from London, but we moved to America a decade ago, because of Yoram’s job.
Yoram, what do you do?
Yoram: I worked in all kids of different startups, I worked in Second Life and I worked for Douglas Adams.
The Douglas Adams? From “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”?
Yoram: Yes, in 1997, I was working for a company called Digital Village, which put out a video game called “Starship Titanic,” which Adams designed.
Did you actually work with him?
Yoram: In my first week on the job, a senior executive from Simon & Schuster, the publishers, visited our offices. It turned out that he was very religious. People knew I observed kashrut, so I was asked to help host him. In short, the first thing I had to say to Douglas Adams – my hero, the writer I grew up on and a declared atheist – was, “This is kosher and this isn’t, and if you mix things, then it’s not kosher anymore.”
Didn’t he have anything funny to say?
After the meeting I heard him complaining to my friend Alison, “What are we doing with all this nonsense about keeping kosher, this is the 20th century, for God’s sake!” So she said to him, “It’s religion, Douglas, it’s not dependent on the century.”
Abigail: I grew up in a very religious family, but I knew from a young age that I didn’t fit the normal mold.
Yes, your hair gives you away a little.
Abigail: My hair has been these colors since I was 18. I’ve already tried everything loud and colorful. But I’m still very comfortable with all my religious friends, and I’ll go to synagogue, even though people will come up to me and say things. I believe in God 100 percent and I’m proud to be Jewish. I have no problem with religion, but there are religious people who have a problem with me.
Why did you stop being religiously observant?
Abigail: Mainly because I don’t like being told what to do. I prefer to choose. And I choose from a place of knowledge.
Can I ask what the chair is for?
Abigail: Ten years ago I started to have problems in my legs, but no one knows what it is or why it started.
It doesn’t look like it gets you down.
Abigail: You can spend your life in depression or you can continue. And I really spent a lot of time in depression, but it’s just impossible to be miserable all the time, and I also had a child and I wanted another child.
So how did you get out of it?
Abigail: What helped me was psychotherapy. I live in California, a state where it you don’t have a therapist there’s something wrong with you. In therapy, I learned that it mostly has to do with letting other people be there for you. Besides that, for me the keyword was “surrender” – to yield to the fact that there are things that can’t be changed. That’s a lesson that’s very hard to learn. It’s not “f--k it!” and cope; it’s a slow change about how I think about life.
How do you think about life?
Abigail: Affectionately. I want to enjoy life as much as possible, to be with my family and to do what I love.
Arthur (Rani) Pfieffer, 40, lives in all kinds of places; arriving from Moscow
Excuse me, can I ask what the shouting is about?
I am basically a calm person, I do meditation and everything, and some people complain that I’m too calm. But not when I get upset.
I noticed. What happened?
When I got off the plane, I went through customs, through the green light obviously, because I know I don’t have anything [to declare], and if I did I would go through the red, because I am an honest person. But just as I went through I was called over. There is this terrible labeling here. I feel that this country, instead of going forward, is going backward, and it has nothing to do with politics. I’m talking about the nature of what has happened here.
I understand that you don’t live here anymore.
I travel around. I’m here a lot, and also in India, but the center of my life is really Tokyo, though I can’t say that I live there.
What do you do in Japan?
I have a company with Israeli partners who don’t live in Israel. We design all kinds of things for the Japanese.
What sorts of things?
Items for the home, designer things. Big department stores buy them from us and sell them. I’m also a yoga teacher, but that’s something else.
How many years have you been traveling?
I haven’t lived here for 10 years. It’s really stressful for me here, and I’ve realized that I get along in the world. I can’t be a partner to all the state’s actions, and the very fact that you live here makes you a partner. I don’t want that responsibility. Years ago I worked in a restaurant and had a few Palestinian friends there. Every time I spoke to them, they’d tell me how it took them 20 hours to get to work. I couldn’t bear hearing it. They were people who slept at my place, and I slept at their places – each of them was a story in his own right. I think they left; at least I hope for their sake that they’re not here.
Isn’t it hard for you to forgo home?
From a very young age I saw myself as a cosmopolitan person, and afterward I obtained a German passport, which made everything easier. I love this state and the country with its geography and landscapes, and the human capital is excellent, but it’s deteriorating with the years. People here are becoming corrupt whether they want to or not.
Do you see it happening to people you knew?
Yes. Not to mention the economic difficulty of living here. There’s no justification for it, not for housing or living costs.
Sounds like you’ve lost hope.
Could be, but it’s also because I preferred to look out for No. 1. All my friends here are treading water and not progressing anywhere, other than having children, maybe.
Do you have children?
No, but everyone does.
And you’re different.
I like the feeling of being different.
Most people don’t.
It suits me perfectly. It’s the reason I live abroad. For me that’s factor No. 1, for me to always be different. It’s a challenge and it’s enjoyable, and in every country it works differently.
Where is it best for you?
I like Calcutta [Kolkata], because it’s a huge city, but India is a messed-up country. I’ve been going there for 20 years, and nothing is developing because of mental and religious corruption. I really like Tokyo; my ambition is to live in Japan. Despite what everyone thinks, it’s not expensive there. Everything is organized and the people are nice and also polite. There’s no issue of religion there, which is both negative and positive.
How is it negative?
You walk on the street and nothing there has any soul, businesses are open 24/7, there’s no day off. People who come with a little faith find it hard, they have nothing to connect with. Things work differently everywhere. The Indians think they know how to be manipulators, but they don’t. But the Japanese do it well and subtly, so you don’t feel it.
And the Israelis?
I’m not into the whole scene. I want to make money, but only what I have coming to me. It’s an honest approach to business, that’s what you see in the world today. Everything is open and transparent.