Friday, March 21, 2008

Greetings from Sami's Desert Ranch House

Today is Holy Thursday or to those of the Protestant persuasion, Maundy Thursday, the day when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, "that you may love one another as I have loved you." It is also erev the full moon of Purim, a Jewish holiday celebrating not only bloody revenge but also honoring a Jewish woman of pluck and wit, and a sexy one at that. We are headed off to the desert me and mine and my mission is clear. The fifteen year and I ebb and flow and his indolence during the week of vacation ( in all fairness, most of his friends are not on break) has gotten on my nerves and we have had our share of brittle moments. He is suspicious of being confined with us in a rural environment for more than 72 hours and I myself have trepidations. I so long for both of us to put down our guards and maybe it’s hard to impossible at fifteen, I do want him to have a moment when he consciously feels loved by me.

It is six months now since my father died and his office is still untouched. He took movies and slides and photographs throughout his life. When I was fat, it was difficult to be photographed and my father’s constant presence with his camera caused embarrassment not only in the moment but also weeks and now years, down the pike. My dad’s imperative to photograph seemed very much in defense of the quality of his life and person. He worked painstakingly on large albums and it is thanks to him that I have documentation of my wedding and my growing children.

I have carried a camera with me for the last several years. I take a lot of pictures of the kids and other weird stuff because digital is so easy, particularly easy to erase, but I don’t do a large amount of photo sharing. Sometimes I want to take a picture but don’t because it seems that it will intrude on an experience but conversely, there are sweet seconds I remember fleetingly in my mind’s eye that I regret not having preserved more permanently. I write these words here a couple of times a week, much in the same spirit my father would pour over his albums with visitors, trying to assure myself and others of the quality of my life and the person I strive to become. I realize that since my father’s death I have assumed the solo role of family photographer and that there are very few pictures of me with my children. As they grow more independent it seems more incumbent to record their faces is the same frame as mine even at the cost of interrupting a moment.

I write now on Good Friday/Purim from Sami’s desert ranch on the outside of Twentynine Palms. I found Sami’s ranch on a search for vacation rentals and chose it mainly for its remarkably low price and last minute availability this holiday weekend. Sami is of Middle Eastern descent. He owns an ironworks business in North Hollywood and offers another vacation rental in addition to this desert one in Branson, Missouri. The decor is an amalgam of Middle Eastern, American rustic, a few pieces of pure kitsch and lots and lots of iron. Objects that one could never dream being fabricated in iron, certainly can be. My kids filched a Cup ‘O Noodles from the pantry which also holds an industrial size container of cumin and some vessels I recognize as being used in the preparation of Middle Eastern cuisine. The house and kitchen have womanly touches. The book and video collection is far from extensive but is respectable. I wonder about Sami and Mrs. Sami and how they came to an ironworks just blocks from where I grew up. Tonight I will bake a Challah here and make Shabbat. I wonder what Sami and Mrs. Sami believe and how they worship and if the prayers that have been prayed here at Sami’s desert ranch are the same as the ones I pray.

After a snit about Elliot Spitzer I got myself into a bit of a froth when I was (respectfully and affectionately) compared to Carrie Fisher and I chewed on the stereotype of scrappy, wise cracking Jewish broads for a bit. I do think a lot of Jewish women have cultivated our wit and intelligence to compensate for the diaspora culture that renders us outside the norms for sexiness. At this season it is natural to think of clever Esther, the paragon of smart and sexy Jewish women. But, this brought me full circle to Elliot Spitzer’s big dick. Purim is a really fun holiday but an accurately translated megillah is a veritable bloodbath, a Tarentinoesque extravaganza, in the biggest of big dick kinds of ways. Smoot. Smote. Smite. A lot of Jewish stories, as they were most likely written down by men, revel in military superiority and the murder of foes with a bit of friendly rape on the side.

The humility of foot washing is one of the most vivid Christian images to me. When himself boarded the Maundy Thursday morning express, a man screamed, "You think you can take the motherfucking train but you’re still going to burn in hell." An evangelist who sounded like Cheech Marin, scolded on the radio as we made our way to Sami’s desert rancho that if we didn’t believe in Christ we were doomed to fiery hell. Can you imagine how this would have pissed Jesus off? But, he would have forgiven.

We told the boys last night, under the almost full moon, about how we met nearly twenty years ago, brought together by our love of words and of music and how lonely we both were before we found comfort in each other. The fifteen year old said it sounded like a John Cusack movie and I was touched that at least he could approach the history that resulted in his birth on some emotional level.

I was sure Himself wasn’t listening to me as I babbled on in the bed about the violence and hubris of the Bible and I suggested that perhaps the only true way for me to reject the big dickness and violence irrefutably ingrained in western religion was Buddhism but that I knew very little about it. Alternatively, a colleague made a movie recently about a group of women in San Diego who worship female bloodcycles. I have yet to see the film and remain completely open, but I doubt you’ll find me chanting on the beach in a red cape.

This morning I sat in a Jacuzzi, works in iron and desert horizon as far as they eye could see. I made Himself take a picture of me and Spuds, which not only intruded on the moment but has been erased due to what appeared on one of the subjects as a turkey neck in the INCREDIBLY HARSH DESERT LIGHT. There is one less photo to document the quality of my life and the person I have become. The fifteen year old sleeps still after having found a channel that seems to have Family Guy on 24 hours a day. Spuds rose at the crack of dawn to complete his usual rigorous calisthenic routine but even my little republican has succumbed to the spirit of vacation and he dozes on the sofa.

Himself sits on the porch. He is reading a book about Buddhism. He took time out of a hectic day yesterday to get it from the library and he is reading it so that he can tell me about it. This says more to me than any interrupted moment or vainly deleted photo about the quality of my life. I didn’t even think he was listening. It is very quiet here. My heart is full.
Shabbat Shalom. Gut Yom Tov. Good good Friday. Happy Easter and love from Sami’s Desert Ranch House.


Cari said...

Interesting you should comment on the Bible and religious radio. I'm currently reading a book called "American Fascists; The Christian Right and the War on America" by Chris Hedges, published in 2006. The book itself is mostly a rant against scary insidious fundamentalist Christianity, but the author had the ability to infiltrate rallies, Christian broadcasting awards dinners, etc, so it does make for an interesting "insider's view". It's also somewhat prophetic in view of what has come to pass in 2008. I recommend this book if you can get through the yelping dog verbiage (and you're not a fundamentalist or evangelist Christian). Especially now.

harry said...

Your writing keeps getting better and better.

Tell Leo the John Cusack was little facile, beneath his usual.

Happy all things spring and renewal, with or without blood, to the Casamurphies.