Friday, March 13, 2009

Fer Sure

Fer Sure

My beloved makes a good point in his blog about the smug obnoxious certainty of neo-atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. He, also, to my surprise, lauds Obama for his inaugural address nod to non-believers. I compliment him on complimenting Obama and his reaction hammers in that this is a mere aberration and that it is still not okay to express optimism about Obama. He is however a total cuckold to Obama’s other competition for my affection, when the kids work the remote for me, Plasma. Oh, Plas, I yearn for you and even watch an interview with Octomom. Dr. Phil, America’s stentorian judgmental father, morphed from referring to Octo as a deranged sicko to being her best friend and touting a charitable organization for her little darlings and I’m sure the ratings have nothing to do with it.

Spuds and I attend a Friday night Shabbat service at our little temple and it weirds me out that every prayer seems to end with “for Israel.” Maybe it is the luck of the draw with this particular service but with 1.5 billion Muslims, 2.1 billion Christians, 900 million Hindus and only 14 million Jews in the world, I get the special requests for Israel but maybe it would be prudent to pray for everyone else too. The thought of the teensy proportion of the world population represented by my tribe makes me tetchy and I am guilty of overplaying the Holocaust card. The word “Jewish” conjures from me the most graphic of concentration camp imagery. When I see Haredi vans with dozens of children, I feel a pity for the little girls in their frumpy long skirts and little boys with their conspicuous earlocks and yamulkes for their forced separateness, their narrow world. What is unimaginable to me as anything but metaphor is taught to them to be the true and only word of God. I believe in zero population growth and while I know it sucks for the planet, part of me is grateful for the ultra Orthodox overachieving breeders. The Holocaust resonates and the future of 14 million Jews feels fragile. There is a tacit obligation that people who practice their religion moderately keep mum about zealotry at the other end of the spectrum and while this doesn’t sit well, I wonder who would be qualified to determine the point at which religion crosses the line from benign to extreme?

I don’t eat pork or shellfish and haven’t for a long time although I still remember a delicious scallop cerviche I used to make. The meaning is different now than it was when Himself came home, newly Jewish from the mikvah, eschewing treif and I joined him, honoring his choice to make a Jewish home and family with me. It was a step toward becoming more observant, during a time when we even flirted with membership at a modern Orthodox shul. Now it’s just a twitter. While we attend temple a few times a year, we are for the most part unaffiliated and it is unimaginable for me to forgo bootcamp and weekly post bootcamp gossip/therapy breakfast in favor of the Saturday morning service that I used to attend, ahem, religiously.

Choosing what not to eat is a subtle reminder, and there isn’t much else to remind me these days, that I am a Jew and the God I beg for strength and mercy is Jew-ish. This is not by virtue of current commitment but because this is the tradition that ushered me to prayer. It’s a mixed bag for me being a Jew in a world where the Orthodox refuse to codify humanitarian labor practice into the tenants of Kashrut and Bernie Madoff smirks on the front page. I long to feel good, particularly because Spuds has set an autumn bar mitzvah date, about being a Jew.

Purim approaches. The apocryphal book celebrates feminine smarts but climaxes in a ghastly bloodbath of cruel revenge. We embrace the getting drunk enough not to recognize the name of bad guy Haman part but go over the icky denouement real fast at our temple. The Orthodox, all boozed up, manage to read the whole Megillah. Women are seated separately in most Orthodox congregations. The Torah is interpreted to forbid homosexual relationships. Families sit shiva, as they would for a death, if a child marries a non-Jew.

I probably wouldn’t have made a big deal before we married if we hadn’t agreed to raise the sprats Jewish. It became important as we embarked on it but early on, I probably would have opted out. I have produced two Jewish children. I sprang for one Bar Mitzvah and the second one looms. I do not know for how long my kids will identify themselves as Jewish or if any children they have will feel a connection. Nevertheless, I have done my bit towards the six million but many other Jews, if they have kids at all, don’t raise them towards any particular Jewish identification.

What will become of Jewish? Is it doomed to wither into some a vague cultural remembrance, latkes on the Christmas buffet? I don’t know if Judaism’s legacy fading into little more than culinary tradition is any more objectionable than the ultra orthodox repopulation project and a resulting hegemony of zealots who forbid the ordination of women, and renounce homosexuals, gentiles and fellow Jews who are more moderate in belief and practice. It is a new millennium and the nature of faith and religion will inevitably change. I hope that someone says the Kaddish for me when I die and I hope that the force of religion in shaping the world during and after my days, is a good one.

Bernie Madoff, it seems, will never walk free again. He is told before the hearing that his bail may be permanently revoked. Is he hyperconscious of every morsel of food, the comforts of bed, closets of fine clothing, wife Ruth breathing next to him? Do they make love? Does he love her? Is his love for her his great redemption or is he, cynical and mercenary, merely using the attractive affable blonde? Ruth interviewed two writers pursuant to creating a tribute to honor Bernie’s sixtieth birthday. Later she notified them that she’d rethought the project and jettisoned it because Bernie is such a private person. If you know your husband had a fuck of a good reason to be private, you wouldn’t go around telling people that he’s private, let alone consider subjecting him to the scrutiny of biographers.

Is Ruth in on it? Does she love him? How does she feel when the courtroom bursts into applause when bail is revoked? Will she love him when he sits, fate resolved, in prison and she is left to endless legal brokering which will probably result in her ending up with a lot less money than she would like to have? Was he her hero, lifting her out of lower middle class stultifying Queens? Was Madoff so fearful and ashamed that he shielded her completely from his criminality? “Honey, just a little business technicality, it would help me with a bit of red tape. Go to your brokerage account and take out ten million. It’s too boring to explain why. Just help me out.” Or has she known for months that the heat is on and forever that this was a possibility?. Many Madoff victims report that the conversation in which Madoff indicated that the fund was closed was followed by a very pleasant interaction with the warm and charming Ruth. Bernie, later, and apparently at Ruth’s behest, capitulated and magically the closed fund opened. Was Ruth in on the con or was she proud of her sway with her otherwise hard as nails businessman husband? Did she make his last breakfast or did the cook?

My Volvo is returned to me with new transmission and new expensive other part. I test drive the new transmission in Griffith Park, a bit of recreational driving it is fortunate that only coyotes are witness to. I am free too of the tyranny of driving Himself’s car. Aside from the mud and brisket stains on the upholstery which I know he resents me for, having borne the mudbearers and baked the brisket, it is kept pristine. The coin holder and its contents is removed before I am bestowed the key. Himself, consumes in his car nothing other than an occasional sugar free mint. My car, on the other hand, is an all you can eat buffet.

One does not use the heat or air conditioning in Himself’s car unless there is a radio alert for weather related health risks. The radio switch, and any knobs moved to a position of temperature alteration, which must have been the result of an extreme life-threatening climate emergency, must be returned to the neutral position when operation of the vehicle ceases. In that no eating or drinking is to take place in or within 25 feet of the vehicle, the removal of litter is, of course, unnecessary. Used Kleenex is what pockets are for although Spuds advises the 16 year old never to accept a Kleenex from Dad because it will have been used previously to clean bird droppings from the windshield. I survive an entire two weeks of car sharing. busted only once for not setting the trip odometer to zero upon filling up, as this provides a back up representation of gasoline supply because while the arrow that drops from full to empty appears functional, it is apparently suspect.

I stop on the way to rehearsal at the Home Depot and there is a truck selling hotdogs and they smell good and hotdogs, because they can be eaten without utensils, are good to eat in the car. I tell the guy to garnish ‘em light because these are contraband in Himself’s car and we discover that hot dogs have been not at all lightly garnished. Gallant Spuds, rather than further mar his dear father’s upholstery, sacrifices his white t-shirt and clutches his script to his chest concealing his ketchup spattered shirt for the entire rehearsal. Having dodged the bullet on that one, all senses must have taken leave when a few days later, I allow Spuds to select at the Farmers Market a bag of popcorn and a bright blue Freezee and a hot pink Freezee and they are so bright and I remember which car I’m driving and the lady has no cup lids. God is on our side and we arrive in Hollywood sans drip and popcorn sea. Alas, now my wagon is returned, minimizing a bit my occasion to sin.

I struggle with the Jew thing and I struggle with the car thing. I love cars. I especially love American cars of the fifties and sixties. Enormous, gas swilling, road hogging cars that would make a Prius owner puke. I know better and I do strive to be a better citizen of the planet but I love to drive and I love to drive fast and even though it’s been decades since there’s been an American car cool enough to fuck in the back seat of, I hate to think of this mythical American enterprise ceasing to be. The golden age of the automobile is so quintessentially America, big, brash, sexy, solid. It saddens me to think of the U.S. car industry disappearing but I am unable to think of a single beautiful American car manufactured since the 1960s, so maybe it really is time to pull the plug.

Christopher Hitchens avers with certainly that there is no God. Dr. Phil tells octomom she’s a crazy skank and then later with the same self righteousness, encourages viewers to donate money for her brood. The Orthodox are sure that if only men form a prayer minyan and that the same men fuck only ritually pure Jewish women and that the Torah they teach to their scads of children is absorbed as literal and not literature the Messiah will come, which will be good for the Jews. The big three automakers arrive in Washington, hangdog and via commercial air, to beg, confident that they will absolutely be able to turn things around and create an American car that the world will fall in love with.

I have made it through another week. There is a stack of bills on my desk but the utilities are on. Himself is weary from his soul sucking work and we are frequently shell shocked by teen troubles and the travails of a small business. I have felt lonely for him, such has been the weight of his cares. I lack Christopher Hitchen’s certainty that there is no God and even though we put the extra plate on the Passover table, I’m not holding my breath for our messiah. I do not know if my pal Obama can fix the economy. I don’t know if the big three automakers can ever again make a car worth fucking in. I do not know if there will be any movies or cop shows worth watching on Plas while I sit weekend vigil with grounded sullen teen. But despite the pernicious doubting and in a time of such uncertainty, I am certain that my beloved’s darkness will lift and our companionable companionship will be all the sweeter, for having slipped for a moment from our grasp. In this certainty that my beloved agnostic cynic will shine with me again in the white light, I am certain too that God has blessed me immeasurably.

Shabbat Shalom.


FionnchĂș said...

Jews, Volvos, God, hot dogs: wowsa. You managed deftly to bring them all together sweetly. I'll topple into my grave no wiser than I am today, I fear, about the Big Questions I ask day and night. I simply feel as I age that I cannot expect solutions packaged and presented. Blame my caution as it tugs against my romanticism. I guess I prefer my religious cogitation with a copy of The Forward and time to myself. Having no Yiddishkeit kischkes or tuches, I suppose it appeals more to my mind than my guts-- for food or kitsch. As to the great unanswerable question of the future of the ever-dwindling Tribe, I confess how my time at the local (or any?) temple passes about as slowly as it does during the VH1 show Niall's watching-- a program righteously if confusingly castigating our media frenzy... for paparazzi and gossip!

I can pass on hot dogs. I miss slippery shrimp and pork chops, but if lettuce was treyf, it wouldn't have been much of a sacrifice or commitment, right? As woeful as I stand otherwise, at least I've stuck to that decision.

For my battered Volvo, scratched with luggage scars, stained irreparably with muddy brisket, I flinch at more damage done itself. No, I don't name my cars like your pal, but I do feel embarrassed at its blowsy bag-lady fashion sense. At the rate it's being savaged, it'll look like Ed Kleinholtz' piece illustrated above. Too bad my Desert Gold S40 sedan never had a chance to witness such frolics in its back seat, seeing the little angels have occupied them for nearly seven years of famine and feast, biblically speaking.

By the way: that infamous LACMA art installation, ten years or so ago, I used in my Ethics class after a teacher was censored for exposing her charges to it. She took her students to the museum and lectured her little angels about the wages of not "sin is death" but indirect payment due via unsafe sex. God's pretty cruel.

That being said, Shabbat shalom, l'cha dodi, likrat h'olam. xxx me

Cari said...

Re: Priuses? Prius'? Whatever the plural is...during our month of snowstorms in February most Priuses? (Aargh!) ended up in ditches. They may be gas efficient, but not an all weather vehicle by a long shot.