And people wonder why I make fun of Boro Park…
Category Archives: Writing
“Who should I make it out to?” I asked.
“Zichron Yaakov Tzedaka,” she answered, her hands fumbling around one her many manila envelopes finding change for another teacher; she was always doing some chessed thing or another. I crouched over the desk and wrote out a ten dollar check. She handed me three red tickets.
“Write your name on it; the display’s past the double doors; put the tickets in there.
I nodded smiling; I had seen the display for the last week. Every day when I walked to class, the opportunity to win a set of linen or aMarc Jacob watch mocked me.
“You know this money is going straight for tzedaka,”
She nodded, “Ye, I know, that’s what I put this auction together for.”
I shook my head and laughed,
“No, I meant this money is lishma, yeah, I’m putting a ticket in, but I never win anything ever, Publisher’s Clearing House doesn’t even send me letters”
“Really, nothing? Ever? Most people have won something or another, even if it not a Chinese auction, but a scratch off lotto or the like.”
“Nope,” I said almost proudly, “Nothing. If it’s based on luck, I’m sure to lose. I’ll win you any game of spit. War, I lose every time.”
She shrugged lightly. “Drawing’s this Thursday.”
She left the teacher’s room. I left too, I was running late already, I had to pick up the kids, but make a stop first. My sister organized abone marrow/stem cell blood drive, and was harassing me to be swabbed.
“You have to show support for my effort” she said.
“I don’t have time.”
“You could save someone’s life,” she changed tactics.’
“The likelihood is small, and really, I just don’t have time.”
“I’ll pay the extra $10 dollars at the babysitter that you keep your kids there a bit longer and just do it.”
“Fine,” I conceded. “I’m doing this for you. Because, really, you know the odds, you’re the coordinator, and keep your 10 bucks, I’ll do it lishma.” I winked.
The whole thing took five minutes. Swab here, here, here, and here. Lost all my lipstick to the q-tip, but I got a nice membership card telling me I’m a donor, and did my second good deed for the day. Then I walked back to my car all the way across the parking lot, because there are never spots up front when I arrive – plenty now, but none then.
It doesn’t even bother me anymore, it’s my mazal, I’ve come to accept it. Am almost proud of it at times. and it keeps me from doing stupid things, like trying incessantly to call into the radio station, praying to be the 107th caller and win a new cd, a free pizza or something of the sort. I don’t hope for rain, or to make the bus, I plan ahead instead. It’s ok, don’t pity me, I’m happy, I just have nosort of luck when it comes to any sorts of odds.
My chicken soup was up, and the fish already made, when her name showed up on the caller id Thursday night.
“I won I won I won!!” I shouted by way of answering the call.
“Ummm, actually,” she started.
“You can’t tease me, calling Thursday when you’re supposed to be drawing the Chinese Auction.”
She laughed, “We drew the winners for the auction, have no fear, your streak is still alive.”
“Phew!” I joked, “Close call. So what can I do for you?”
There was a moment’s pause, and when she spoke again her voice was more serious, earnest, concerned,
“I volunteer for Gift of Life, you’re a match to someone, would you be willing to go for further testing?”
It took a moment to register.
“You won.” She said softly.
I guess I did.
“I won, I won, I won!” I repeated my opening line.
I broke my streak on the mother load.
(Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction, though inspired by real events)
The phone rings; it’s my mother.
“TYTT, don’t beat yourself up. You’re very busy, and stressed, so what if you didn’t write and made a cookbook for your sister instead.”
I breathed deeply, I love supportive mothers.
“You didn’t read the last paragraph did you, what I did was just a manifestation of an underlying trait which indicated a lack of passion in an area I thought it existed.
“Ye ye,” She brushed me off, “The cookbook was a one time thing, writing is not, apples and oranges.”
I smiled, maybe supportive mothers have a point.
“But there are always one-time things that get in the way.” I said tugging at the loose thread of her theory.
“Fine, don’t write, be a defeatist. What nareshkeit are you so busy with anyway?”
Well, if she put it that way…This is what I’m so busy with, or was so busy with – one of those pressing one-time things that spring me into action…
Driving home from the co-op one day my cochlea’s were stimulated. I was listening to Radio Kol BeRama – The Jewish Music radio station in Lakewood, when a song that I actually liked came on. The station plays way to much gravelly Carlbach for my taste, but I had no patience plugging in my ipod, and even less patience for song selection (I’m so freakin’ lazy, I know!) This song though was different. It had a sax, and no trumpet, a rarity in Jewish pop. The lyrics were a mix of a posuk and English words (buncha singers have been doing that lately, notably Avraham Fried and Benny Friedman). The vocals (a duet) were trained and smooth – another Jewish rarity. And I enjoyed. I even still remember where I was while listening to it – County line and Madison, waiting for the light to change, with Crystal Lake realty to my right, and Exxon on my left – it’s a long light; I didn’t mind.
I thought I recognized Ari Goldwag’s voice; actually, I was pretty sure it was him; his voice is pretty distinct; somehow he makes a bubble stuck in your throat sound good. Figuring a quick Google search would garner me the song, I got right to it – a good song it worth any time in the world, everyone knows that. But I didn’t find it.
I searched by the lyrics I remembered. Nothing. I combed MostlyMusic’s website for the song title (which I totally made up, but just assumed based on the song content). I went through Ari Goldwag’s discography, his website, nothing. I searched the lyrics again. Nada. And I gave up. For the time being, that is.
A few days later, I was bored, and writing takes too much thinking, so I took another stab at it. Nothing. Searched YouTube, all English Collections: fruitless.
A Motziah Shabbos later, I somehow ended up on Radio Kol Berama’s website. Once there, I figured might as well take another stab. I submitted a song request just a description of the song, and assumed artist. Of course I was in Brooklyn at the time, so I couldn’t tune in, and of course I was called away from the computer, so I couldn’t even stick around for a possible streaming. Strike three. Or so I thought.
I was frustrated, and disappointed. Seriously, how elusive can a Jewish song be?! It’s such a small world.
Fast forward a few weeks and a random perusal of my Facebook news feed, a friend posted an audio clip, with this message:
I have this one recording of this song, does anyone know who sings it and what album its from?
IT WAS MY SONG!!! And someone else was looking for it too! Misery loves company. Now that it wasn’t just me, I was spurned on to resume my search (I’m so altruistic, no?). I qualified for Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity. I went through the same motions as before, no change in results , none.
This time though, I ended up at the Jewish Music Review blog. In a moment of inspiration, I e-mailed them, maybe they would know. On this blog, there was an article about Yitzy Spinner’s new website. Could Yitzy Spinner be the second half of the duet? Ari Goldwag and he were in Miami Boy’s Choir together, did they keep up? I re-searched MostlyMusic this time under Yitzy Spinner’s work, again, nothing. I went back to Jewish Music Review, and clicked the link to Yitzy Spinner’s website, maybe it would provide me with more insight. It didn’t.
In the corner of the website was a “Contact Yitzy” link. Intended for potential gigs, I made other use of it.
Hi, I heard a song, Eilecha (I made up that title). A mix of Hebrew and English lyrics. I recognized Ari Goldwag’s and I think your voice singing it. For the life of me, I can’t find a record of the song anywhere. I loved it, and am desperate for a copy of it. Do you know what I’m talking about? Can you steer me in the right direction? Thank you.
Impressively, he responded within the hour,
Nothing that I can think of. Did you try going through Ari’s music?
Dead end. Again. But a stroke of genius prodded me, or maybe it was stupidity, because why didn’t I think of it before – E-mail Ari Goldwag. Easily, I found his e-mail address on his website. And he too responded quickly.
My heart quickened, and a smile burst forth when I read his succinct response,
it’s from Sheves Achim 2. I sang it with the Bell brothers.
or if you want just that track, you can get it on itunes
I found it!!! I spread the joy to my Facebook friend, who of course realized that she had the cd uploaded on her computer all along.
The resolution to this quest of course completed my life goals, and I lived happily ever after. Not really, but at least I got a song that I really love to listen to.
My friend’s thought I was insane for going as far as to e-mail the (assumed) artist to find a song that I heard once and enjoyed. I think it’s just indicative of my nature, and writing problem. Do I want in bad enough – it would seem not – again.
Sorry, supportive Ma, it’s not a defeatist writing, but a realist.
(I tried posting the song, but wordpress is not so generous with embedding mp3′s, so those of you who are friends with me on FB, can check it out, I posted it, or try the links above)
The bathroom was scented in soothing lavender, until she flicked on the light. Chipped tiles in pale pink, a plastic cushion on the toilet seat that let out a hiss when sat on, and too many tabloids in the rack beside the toilet cheapened the scent. When she inhaled this time, all she smelled was the alcohol base. Rummaging quickly, she found a pair a tweezers and rejoined the group in the living room.
The group was hunched over in a circle examining a foot. It was a regular foot, toes possibly a little stubby, with too many prominent veins, but a most ordinary foot by most accounts, except for the wooden stake thrust through it. The girl handed over the tweezers to an awaiting hand,
“You really think getting rid of residual splinters will help the foot heal, and take to the stake?” she asked, leaning in too closely.
“You’re blocking my light,” was the terse response. The girl frowned, gave her shoulders a slight shrug and backed off, retreating to a tartan couch in the corner. She looked around the room, lips pursed, eyes narrowed. The walls had been whitewashed some years ago, but even white fades, and the edges had a grey crumbly tinge. The rose linoleum floor was curling up and dying in the corner, and the Coach bag on the table was a lousy knockoff – the pattern didn’t even match up seamlessly.
Her legs crossed and uncrossed, then shifted weight to the other hip. This place was supposed to be cool, artsy really. Blow her mind – creatively he had told her. All she has seen was a lot of blood and some idiot volunteering to put a stake through his foot and let it become a part of his being. The point was to be one with the earth, and to take what you give, at least that’s what she understood. She wasn’t sure though, because they were using a lot of big words like trancendalize, and everyone else seemed to be in awe. So maybe it wasn’t that, because, that idea is stupid and art is not.
Moans and heavy breathing, gave pace to the movement, as well as moist air of sweat. Dirty gauze pads, and empty tubes of triple antibiotic littered the floor.
“Who was the idiot that didn’t sand down the stake?” Someone asked. There was an awkward silence, everyone considering turning on each other, when the serene voice of Sarah, occupant of the apartment and resident artist said,
“Be one, take what you give. Do you think lumberjacks sharpen their blades to ease blow to the tree? No, it’s a hack job. As is this, metaphorically or course. Sanding down the stake would diminish the integrity of our work”
Sitting on the couch, the girl frowned again. So she had understood what they were talking about, and this was it. This is what is meant to be an artist, this is what the starving artist’s life was – being an idiot and coming up with a stupid reason to rationalize it – make it seem almost intelligent and worthy? It was like being a teenager all over again, the only difference being the sequence of event: teens do stupid things then come up with a reason why they should have done it; artist think of rationales and then due stupid things to prove it.
“Where you going?” He asked, as started to make her exit.
“Home.” Was her one word response. She had time to be a purposeful idiot when she grew up, no reason to be one now when she could still get away with it all, protected under the teenage bracket.
I have so many childhood memories. Most of them involve me getting into trouble, or being embarrassed in some form or another. A story of my second-grade self just came up the other day while teaching. My students asked in wonderment “How do you remember that!?”. The answers simple, when you’re hurt, you don’t forget, because if you do, it might happen again.
I suppose when I think about it, I have the happy clichéd childhood memories, of sitting on our front stoop playing watermelon, and pretending that the etchings in the stones by the front of the house made a perfect hopscotch board, and playing tap tap trio, and eating ices, trading stationary and the like. They’re not individual memories though; they’re collective.
I don’t remember single times that I played elimination in front of the house. It was something we did every day. I don’t remember all savvy stationary trades I made, just that we did it often and I had a great collection. The only individual memories I have on these collective ones, are the bad one – where things went wrong – not super right. Like the time Elisheva Link bombed a ball into my belly and it hurt so much I sat out the rest of the gain and everyone laughed at my for being weak. Or the time Zahava Feller tried to trade my Lisa Frank stationary for her Snoopy reinforcements, and Miri, my sister, interfered and told her off for offering me such a bad trade. I suppose that should be a good memory, I was spared, but I remember feeling ashamed that I was almost conned, and why didn’t I know this myself.
I was recently reminded of a third grade tale – the time I returned a WAY overdue book to the Bais Yaakov libarary, and I was so afraid to tell Mrs. Florence, the librarian, because she was scary, she had a short pointy nose, blue eyes that bulges with veins, and of course the requisite high shrill of librarians. You can’t really blame a third grader for being afraid. So I put the book down on her desk, like it was any other return, and walked briskly away.
Later on in the day, there was a student messenger knocking on my classroom door. She held a note, which my teacher proceeded to read out loud. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember it, recounting what I had done, and the words “and ran away!”. My teacher read those words with much drama. I wanted to protest, to explain, and maybe deny, but I was just so embarrassed by my actions being revealed publically, not just revealed, but reprimanded, and in a way, almost mocked.
Why did they have to do that, both of them, the librarian and my teacher. What point and purpose was there for the librarian to write a dramatic note to my teacher? Address my mother, or me, or really address it, don’t just point out my wrongdoings. And why did my teacher read it aloud? What gain was there besides for just shaming me into more misbehavior.
When I was in High School, I met the librarian. I was helping out the school Chinese auction, and she was the grandmother of one of the heads. She came to “shep nachas” and put in a few tickets. I couldn’t view her as a grandmother. As a loving person. Someone who could care about someone else. I couldn’t reconcile that incident years ago, with that just being a facets of a person, or job really. It hurt me tremendously.
Most days I laugh at the story. Because it’s funny if you tell it over with the right voices and levity. But there’s a part of me that’ll never forget the eyes wide, and iced grip on the little girl’s heart when she realized that she was the subject in the note her teacher was reading.
People ask me why I teach, why I’ve always wanted to teach. I know I’m supposed to say that I love kids, and I want to share, and help them grow and all that too nice-smiley stuff, but really, most of the time, it’s that history doesn’t repeat itself.
The fish was orange, and had two thin diagonal lines running through its body in white. It swam easily, and agilely, swooping down to nudge at pebbles on the bottom, then darting upward to nibble at the flakes, Scott had just sprinkled in. I watched it for a few moments; it was pretty. Then it turned its body 360 degrees, and I got to take in its entire being; the left eye was missing, looking like a craft where a bored child scraped away a googly eye. No longer was I an admirer, but more of the can’t-look-away-but-it’s-gross observer.
Scott had been watching me all along, watching me, watch it. He saw what I finally saw, and laughed at my horror and disgust. He patted lightly at his hair, an unnecessary motion; it was perfect, as always.
“I think that’s the same reaction people have when they see the full me.” He winked.
I nodded, not sure of how this game was played and waited for him to start again.
“So you need a loan,” he said making money gestures. I nodded again and waited.
“You know my terms?” Another nod.
He chuckled and pointed toward the one-eyed fish.
“So you got already the full view.”
My stomach dropped, as I nodded again, accepting the horror behind the benevolent smile, and the possibility of becoming uni-orbed myself.
It’s a funny story how we became friends. Well, not really funny, ha ha, but more like, unlikely. She wasn’t my type, I wasn’t hers (still is that way). Aside for “types” we really have a lot in common, reading, writing, drawing, Harry Potter and a wicked sense of humor (well, mines not that awesome, her’s is).
She was G.O., main part in play, nah, I shouldn’t tell you that about her, you’ll get the wrong picture, thinking she was this uber-glamorous, popular charmer who we all secretly hated. No, Jennifer, was – no still is, one of the nicest, kindest people I know. Can never say no to anyone. Really generous, sweet, smart, eager, and all those kind of qualities, the REAL nice girl qualities, she also happens to be super-talented, but it’s so by the way with her, that we were able to forgive her her awesomeness.
Anyway, in 9th and 10th grade, while I frittered away class time, sleeping, making extraneous bathroom trips, and being an overall failure, Jennifer diligently took notes, answered questions, and was of course a model student. Except when she wasn’t – which was when she was writing stories with me. We’d write a paragraph or two, and pass ‘em back and forth, waiting to see what twist the other one threw, stretching the imagination. A lot of them were Harry Potter fan-fics, and we once wrote a story that was a lot like Mean Girls, but Mean Girls hadn’t come out yet – it did later, and I felt cheated of intellectual property, but never mind that. We wrote a lot stuff; it was fun, we each have some of it stashed somewhere in our parents’ houses. And we made a bet, with no real stakes, just a mental competition, of who would publish a book first.
Well, this past Thursday, Jennifer won. “Not My Kind, I Don’t Mind” published by IsraelBookshop, available online and in Judaica stores is written and sorta illustrated by Jennifer (she made all the clay figures, and then a graphic artist placed them nicely on the page).
“Not My Kind, I Don’t Mind”, is a really cute story about acceptance and love, with a nice moral at the end, a moral that I learned in 9th grade when I became friends with Jennifer. Maybe if the book had been around when I was growing up, I’d have made friends with Jennifer a little earlier instead of moping around with an attitude problem.
Check out the book, and even better, buy and enjoy it!
It being a success will keep my ego in check
Two posts I read recently on Freshly Pressed, either begged to be featured, or bemoaned the fact that they would never be featured. So based on wonderful statistics, odds and averages (2 posts out of how many?) I’m going to try the same schtick.
Dear Freshly Pressed,
Please feature me. I’m not particularly talented, nor is this post particularly insightful. Nor is it witty, intriguing, fresh, provocative, or any other word associated with good writing. What it is, is desperate. I’m desperate for attention. So desperate, I’m actually admitting this, as my motive (not the ulterior one). Or maybe I’m just such a self-aware, evolved person that I will not lie to myself, or others.
All I’m looking for is for a buncha people to read my post, like it, and a bunch others to write so many comments, that I, the blogger herself, won’t have patience to read till the end, and will be severely deterred to comment back. (I always have this with Freshly Pressed posts, too many comments, and likes, that I don’t even bother with my own two cents – for people who’ve already been Freshly Pressed, take heart in that I’m sure that there are many others out there like me [I’m so self-aware, I can admit I’m not unique without crying] and you are probably owed a few more likes and comments).
Ok, I’m done whining, rambling, and otherwise looking like a desperate fool. Now it’s your turn people of Freshly Pressed, give me a self-esteem.
(And the only way I have the guts to post something as self-serving and pathos-evoking as this is my knowledge that this is an experiment. And of course to make sure you know that I’m not as self-centered, focused and attention seeking as I sound I have to put in this parenthetical disclaimer.)
The entire class was huddled together on the itchy patch of commercial carpet in the kindergarten classroom. Our heads craned upward, captivated, watching our teaching tell us all about the wonderful, stupendous, and incomparable letter “C”.
“Ka,” she enunciated the hard sound. “Can anyone think a word that starts with this sound?” All around me, girls raised their hands quickly.
I didn’t have any word, or was really sure as to the letter “c”, but they got approving smiles, along with a “Good Job”, and “Excellent”.
I just wanted attention and approval. I raised my hand high, and “oohed” the loudest.
She called on me.
I was so happy. A deep breath, wild and frantic thought for a word, any word, and I said,
She said the right thing,
“Good try, Esther, but that’s a ‘p’, not a ‘c’” and she moved onto the next kid.
But her face.
Her face, of course, told me otherwise. With lips twisted in a hidden smirk, right brow slightly raised, it plainly said,
“Seriously? A ‘p’ for a ‘c’? Moron.”
The teacher’s comment on my end-of-the-year report card read.
Esther is very withdrawn in class, it has not impacted her academic performance, but it is of concern, relative to her social interactions with her peers. We will be noting it, and keeping an eye on her progress.
I know “Lo habeishan lomed” (the bashful does not learn), but for me, I think Fiero of “Wicked” had it right when he sang, “Those who don’t try, never look foolish”.
They cut the grass today and I breathed summer.
I inhaled the hot air, the mosquitos and ices melting onto my kitchen floor.
I took in barbeques, scraped knees, and ants traipsing across my dining room.
I drew in the blue sky, the open days, and hours on a park bench watching my son.
They cut the grass today, and I can’t wait to be bored.