Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On the Red Sea with the Surfin' Rabbi

I lived over the Benton Way offramp of the 101 and spitting distance from the Rampart Division Police station in an apartment on Occidental Blvd. for a number of years during my late twenties. I was teaching and working at Budget and spending time with Kaz and Bob and Richard. We saw a lot of movies and concerts and appreciated the novelties of cable t.v. and videotapes. This was the apartment where I heard REM and the Replacements for the first time and I remember vividly the delicious revelation. The first time Bob came over I fed him a big slab of turkey meatloaf and a baguette with Grey Poupon and told him it was pate which he believed. I did practically no dating during this time and there was genial time well spent and loneliness too. I had lived for a number of years with a boyfriend and this was my first foray into single adulthood.

I was lying in bed alone one night when I heard the big glass window shatter in the living room below. I couldn’t tell whether the screaming smashers were inside the house or not. I called the police and the line was busy. I called my dad. He was there, from Beverly Hills, in twenty minutes and he made sure I was safe and boarded up my window until the landlord could fix it. I remember too, a number of times that my mother defended me, usually by writing what she called “a stiff letter.” My mother was fueled very much by grudging and paranoia but she did love me and put energy into righting what she (alas, too frequently) perceived as injustice.

There was a command performance at the fifteen year old’s school with the surfin’ rabbi, who is also the fifth Spanish teacher to be employed there since it began, newly chartered, in September. An aside here, and perhaps Kaz can verify or refute, but I believe that I read somewhere that Spanish teachers suffer diminished mental health more frequently and with greater severity than educators of any other subject. Our face to face meeting with the surfin’ rabbi, confirmed what I suspected from our phone conversation. The surfin’ rabbi is wound very tightly and this is pretty much the observation with which I began our meeting. This is not to say that the fifteen year old is exonerated. He is, I am sure, guilty of snarky comments and eye rolling and chronic fidgeting. The fifteen year old is fifteen years old. We should not have been summoned to school for a showdown to discuss these endemic annoyances, which a professional teacher could have allayed with much less drastic measures. ESPECIALLY WITH GAS AT $4.00 A GALLON. (I am becoming my parents.) I felt myself in fierce mother mode and quite self righteous to have defended my firstborn and imparted to him the message that even though you screwed up, these repercussions are unfair and I will defend and protect you.

I have no parent to defend and protect me anymore. I thought I was an adult but recently I find myself very much at sea and doubting my navigational abilities. I lay this, and so much more, at the feet of my beloved and overwhelmed him. We both pray for less potential overwhelmingness in our lives and for the strength to survive the inevitable overwhelmingness that there is.

Passover begins on Saturday and seems bloody and vengeful and labor intensive this year. The Jews trusted in Moses to defend and protect them but the whole lot bought into the notion of a God who stilled the beating hearts of innocent first born sons, ignoring the keening of their innocent mothers. Is this the God I want to friggin’ lead me out of Egypt?

I look each year this time at my personal Egypt, which this year has to do with being parentless and scared in the world. Himself points out that I have a circle of stalwart employees and friends and family and even trained professionals, in addition to the milder God, who, as a mother, I hold close in my heart. The Red Sea will not part like it did for Charleton Heston but somehow, we will tread waves and swim and ride with the current and spew water from our near drowning lungs. There is no Moses or rabbi, surfin’ or otherwise, to shepherd me across. I am anyone’s child only in memory but I am a fierce mother of children conceived in my love for my beloved and his love for me and this sustains me, and again and again, will keep me from falling astray and it will lead me out of Egypt.


harry said...

As Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries told a conference of adult ed students at Marshall High in 1986... "Who you are, is enough."

FionnchĂș said...

As every rabbi also tells us, not to mention some Haggadah footnote, the meaning of Egypt is "Mitzrayim," or narrow place. We're all stuck there, often, in a jam as plagues seem to hurl down upon us within or beneath whatever heaven and earth toss at us. Like the mythical Exodus, the fact is not that Passover probably did not "really" happen, but it's the metaphor that works for us to remind us of digging our way out of the muck (Irish word= "muc"/pig!) into what may be a forty-year desert tramp, but that land of milk and honey better be up at the end of the long road, right?

There's a strain of Tibetan Buddhism that claims the nirvana is the same as samsara, if only we can tell the difference and force ourselves into realizing it. The Hebrews kept bitching, and if I was there with your ancestors I'd be moaning too about the fleshpots. But, the JuBus might concur that even the desert has its manna-- as well as "mana," the energy around us that brings peace and light. xxx me

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