Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Breakfast: The Most Important Meal Of The Day

[Side note: Apparently, this is a very tzioni blog. If you google "l'shana haba'ah b'Yerushalayim" (in all various spellings, and even leaving out the 'haba'ah' part, except if you write 'leshana'), this blog is the first hit that comes up!]

We have a tradition in my house that each time we break our fast (except the daily morning breakfast), we have Entenmann's doughnuts (my favorite: a tie between cinnamon powder and white powder). This year, we forgot to get doughnuts on Friday. We still had bagels, but after we were finished with those, I said, "Does anyone else want...dessert?"

"I could use a piece of cake..." said my mom.

"Alright Erachet," said my dad. "Go to 7-Eleven and get us one of those nice crumb cakes."

"Well...Ima, do you really want?"

My mom shrugged.

"Hmmm. But I'm all in pajamas and everything!"

"I'm fine with whatever you decide," said my dad. "If you don't want to go, don't go."

"Hmmm..."

"Mavis, you go with her."

"Mavis has a math test to study for," my mom reminded everyone.

"And I have grad school essays to write!" I protested.

"Alright, nobody go. We don't need Entenmann's."

"Yeah, it's not even good for you, anyway! Who needs that stuff?"

"Well, I didn't mean that," I corrected hastily. "I just mean that if I can go, he can go."

"Okay, I'll go," my dad relented.

"No, no!" I said hurriedly. "I'll go."

After all, it was right after Yom Kippur!

"How about you both go," said my mom. "One of you drives, the other runs out."

"Well, I mean, I'm okay with not having..." I said, really not wanting to go out. "I mean, if no one else really wants anyway... I think I'd rather not go."

"Okay."

Pause.

"Unless, of course, someone really wants."

Everyone sort of shrugged.

"Whatever you want to do," said my mom.

Pause.

"Okay, raise your hand if you want Entenmann's," said my dad.

Everyone's hands slowly rose into the air - each of us with a somewhat guilty, apologetic expression.

"Okay, let's go," I said to my dad. "Before we change our minds and get too lazy. I'll drive, you run out."

"What?! That's not how it's supposed to go! I'll drive and you run out!"

"Fiiiiine."

"Actually...we'll both go out because I have to make sure they have the right things..."

"LET'S JUST GO."

And so we went.

...The things we do for Entenmann's.

Monday, September 28, 2009

We Are Keva: Post Yom Kippur Thoughts

"Thus far, we have spoken of Aseh toratekha keva in two senses: 1) making Torah primary in terms of values, and regarding our relation to Torah - and to God via Torah - as all-pervasive in our lives; 2) making it a fixed element of our day, with the attendant commitment and discipline. But there is yet another sense of keva which is implied in a baraita:

'Aseh toratekha keva' - how so? This teaches that if a person heard something from a sage in the beit hamidrash, he should not regard it as transient but rather as permanent. And what a person has learned, he must do and teach others to do, as it says (Devarim 5:1), 'You shall learn them and keep them to do them.' And so it says of Ezra (7:10), 'He prepared his heart to study the Torah of God and to perform it.' and afterward it says, 'And to teach statute and justice in Israel.' (Avot de-Rabbi Natan 13:2)

[...]

The latter portion of the beraita presents Ezra as an example of someone who made Torah keva. What was it that Ezra did? Above all, Ezra ensured the permanence of Torah. During his time, the Jews returning from the Babylonian exile had a very tenuous relationship to Torah. Chazal tell us (Tanna De-bei Eliyahu Rabba, Chapter 31) that when the Jews went into exile in Babylonia, they came to the prophet Yechezkel and said, 'We are now exempt from Torah and mitzvot, because a slave whose master has sold him is no longer obligated to do the master's bidding.' The prevalent conception in classical antiquity was that religion was only a function of geography and society: you worship the local gods of the country and society in which you find yourself. All the more so was this the feeling among the Jews in exile, since their entire national fabric had seemed to disintegrate. When they went to Babylonia, they felt they were finished with avodat Hashem.

We read in the books of Ezra and Nechemia that there was a great deal of assimilation and intermarriage among the Jews in Babylonia. Moreover, those who returned to Israel were certainly not of the more established strata, nor members of the intellectual or social elite. Ezra was faced with a tremendous challenge: to ensure that Torah would become permanent within that community. He made it clear that Torah is part of the essence of Klal Yisrael; it is not dependent upon geography, history, or society - it is keva, permanent and essential. He did not just explain and extend Torah through rabbinic enactments, but saw to it that the people understood that adherence to Torah was not negotiable; it is part of what being Klal Yisrael means.

This is what Ezra did, and this is what each person needs to do within his own environment, as part of his or her historical and social responsibility. If you have learned some Torah, 'ya'aseh vi'yelammed acher' - observe it and teach it to others. If you are in a community where Torah is in danger of disappearing, see to it that it does not disappear. Make it kavu'a. Make it clear that there is no vanishing American, English, or French Jew. Judaism is here to stay. It is your responsibility to make it clear to yourself and to others that Torah and avodat Hashem are the very backbone of Judaism. Prove that all the sociological projections about the end of the Jewish people are nonsense. We are keva." --By His Light: Character and Values In The Service Of God (pgs. 64-66)

I would also like to point out that Torah and avodas Hashem are not just things like "keep Shabbos" or "wear tznius." They also include behaving with integrity - both in business and in your personal life, treating others with respect (which does not mean agreeing with them. It just means, simply, respecting them), trying not to speak lashon hara, etc. We can't forget that we are members of the Jewish nation - the chosen nation - and, as representatives of that nation, we ought to behave accordingly.

One of the Rabbis in my shul spoke about respect. He mentioned that even someone you disagree with deserves your respect. For instance, Moshe went to speak to "Pharaoh, Melech Mitzrayim." Why did it need to say "Melech Mitzrayim?" We know Pharaoh is the king! But it's reminding us that Moshe addressed and treated Pharaoh the way one should a king, even though Pharaoh was enslaving the Jewish people.

There is always a way to do something and a way not to do something. Respect, aside from being the proper thing to give to a person (generally), will also gain you respect in return. And guaranteed, whatever you wish to say will be heard and taken seriously if said with respect much more so than if said disrespectfully.

Another Rabbi in our shul spoke before Yizkor. His speech was incredibly powerful - about seizing every moment you have with people, especially parents. There was one line that struck me more than the others - perhaps in light of the various tragedies that have happened over the last few years to people I knew, knew of, or heard about. He said, "Don't assume the laughs are always going to be there tomorrow. They can just be taken away." I think that's another thing we really need to work on: appreciating other people. Our family, our friends...they're gifts. Yet so often we treat them much more poorly than they deserve. I don't mean that every second you have to be kissing their feet, but I think we can treat each other, in general, much better than we tend to. Even people we love (maybe especially people we love).

This story might sound a little morbid, but it made me feel this exact idea very strongly. A girl in a class I'm taking told a story about her and her friends on vacation. There was a particular guy on the trip who was a good friend of hers, but she was really annoyed at him for whatever reason and so was ignoring him. That day they went to the beach and this guy slipped off a rock and drowned.

The girl said the biggest lesson she learned from that was never to hold a grudge.

Another sad story:

My Latin teacher from a few years ago wrote me a super nice recommendation letter for a summer internship. I actually had no idea what was in it at the time, but I was so grateful to her for writing it because I knew she was about to go away for the summer. However, I waited a while before emailing her to thank her.

She was killed in a car crash before I ever emailed her. I didn't know until later, but she never even got my email.

I know that most of the time, we don't lose people unexpectedly like that. Especially not young, healthy people. But the message of those stories, and of the Rabbi's speech today, was that you really have to (sorry for being cliche) seize the day and the moments you have with other people.

If you ever watch or read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, he talks about exactly that. Realize your dreams, strive for your potential, seize the moment, and appreciate the people in your life.

Wow...this post has gone in a very different direction than I originally intended. But okay!

On yet another tangent, a number of our tefillos today mentioned our being in exile. It made me feel extremely privileged to be able to go to Israel this year for Sukkos. I am leaving on Thursday, so I wish you all a chag sameach in advance!

I hope all your Yom Kippurim were meaningful and that your fasts went well. I have a funny story about our breakfast - maybe I'll write it up tomorrow (though it might have only been funny because it happened right after the fast when we were all a little light in the head, if you know what I mean).

L'shana Haba'ah B'yerushalayim!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Soaking It Up

Sometimes it's amazing how much you can learn just from watching your friends. It's not that you learn something so obscure - most things are rather obvious. But when I really feel that people I know are behaving in admirable ways, it makes me feel good: about them and about good habits I am picking up from them.

I think in general, it is good to surround yourself with people who help you become a better you. They don't even have to know that's what they're doing, and they don't even have to be trying.

On the flip side, sometimes you can learn how not to behave from observing people behaving incorrectly.

I know this is all super obvious, but I was just thinking about it tonight. Well, I've thought about it before, but I decided to write about it tonight, anyway. Sometimes I feel like I'm becoming a richer person by surrounding myself with good people, or just by encountering them during my day, even if I don't actually know them for longer than five minutes. I like soaking it all up. And I like deciding not to behave in certain ways. All this makes me feel like I'm learning to know myself better. :) (A bit late, huh? I'm already 23.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Subway Story

The thunderous rumbles of the subway are much louder than the steady hum of the LIRR. This is why it is somewhat difficult to listen to an ipod while on the subway. But today I stuck the little green buds of my earphones into my ears and put my ipod on shuffle, figuring I would give it a try.

As V'havienu's Hamalach Hagoel swam around my ears, creating a soundtrack in my head, the sudden sharp rhythms of rap beat themselves against my otherwise peaceful listening experience. I glanced in the direction of the sounds and saw that a rather gangster-looking rapper was sitting a few feet away from me. He, too, was listening to an ipod, but he was shouting the lyrics of whatever song was playing for the entire subway car to hear.

Across from him sat a little blond girl. She looked about three years old and she watched the rapper curiously, nodding her head along whenever he bobbed his to the beat.

Suddenly, I heard, "Stand up, Israel!" Pause. "Stand up, Israel!"

I paused my song and listened. That's when I first could tell that the rapper was not speaking coherently. Either he was incredibly drunk or there was something seriously off about him - or both. But for an instant, he spoke clearly. "Who are we? Israelites!" Then he went back to his slurring.

All the time, the little girl nodded her head to the beat as her mother napped beside her. I turned Hamalach Hagoel back on and the subway chugged onward, the strange ensemble playing in my ears for the rest of the ride.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Forgive Me, Humanity

Imagine what it would be like if you climbed to the top of Mt. Everest, looked out onto the expanse of the entire world, and shouted, "Forgive me, everyone!"

We're in the aseres yemei teshuva right now: a period when we're supposed to be thinking seriously about ourselves, our attitudes, our behavior, and our actions. We have ten entire days devoted to doing teshuva. In addition to doing teshuva before G-d, we're supposed to realize the wrongs we have done to other people and ask them for forgiveness. Really ask them, I mean. I am just wondering...do mass text messages really count? What about facebook statuses? Gchat?

There is a fear in actually asking someone for forgiveness. Doing so means facing the fact that you did something wrong. It means admitting to another person that you have wronged him/her. But what is teshuva? Is it not turning towards something wrong you did head-on, grabbing it by the ears, and cleansing yourself of it? Is it not looking at yourself and really seeing who you are? What you've done? What you haven't done? What you should have or should not have done? Admitting, "Yes, these great characteristics are me, but I have also done this wrong behavior?" It takes a certain amount of lowering of one's pride to do that. It takes strength to apologize. It takes even more strength to apologize with conviction, and to really try to improve your behavior, your attitude, or whatever it is that needs improving. And then, by the way, you can build up your pride again, for you can feel proud that you had such strength and acted on it.

It takes no thought at all to make your facebook status, "I'm mochel everyone, I hope you're mochel me!"

True - we may have hurt someone without even realizing it. But sending out a mass text message or a status on facebook is not asking for forgiveness. The sentiment is nice - and, honestly, it really is commendable to want to be able to ask everyone for forgiveness. I just don't think doing so in the form of a mass text really counts.

Of course, someone could say - how can I go over to all my friends and ask for forgiveness? That would take forever!

I don't know. I don't know what's correct or incorrect in such circumstances. I would try, for myself, to ask people who I think it is most likely I may have hurt or wronged in any way. Or who I know I for sure did. I doubt I've done anything specifically wrong to someone I haven't spoken to in a number of years, for instance.

Sending out mass texts is like walking around with a t-shirt that says, "Mochel me - I'm Jewish." Mochel you? For what? For being Jewish? For being on my friends list on facebook?

I'm sorry if this post sounds a bit harsh. I just think we all ought to consider how impersonal status updates and mass text messages are. I hope that for every mass text, there are at least a few personal forgivenesses being asked for, as well.

Besides, on the flip side, don't put yourself down so much. You probably don't need to ask all of humanity for mechila. :)

On the topic of teshuva (and to lighten the tone of this post), I read a nice, short article by R' Twersky called, "Teshuva: In Your Mouth And In Your Heart." It's a couple of years old, so it's possible a bunch of you have already read it, but it discusses how teshuva is not something completely out of our reach: that even if you think you've been immersed in sin for so long, your teshuva can still be accepted and that is not a reason not to try and do teshuva.

I believe this can extend to anything you wish to do in life. It is never too late to learn something new, to try something new...you're never too old to start something. My music professor at Stern had only just started learning to play an instrument, even though he had gone so long without knowing how (it was not a class in playing an instrument, clearly). So many great, classic writers did not start writing their magnum opus novels until they were well past middle age.

If there's something you wish to do - go for it. Who cares if you're not ten years old anymore? Or twenty? You don't have to have been a child prodigy in something in order to accomplish - or to simply enjoy yourself. And it's never too late to learn something new about yourself, too - like discovering a new talent. You'll never know if you don't try - and you only live once, you know!

I find that while I'm looking at myself and who I have been until now, I like to also look at who I can be in the future. But, of course, that is something that must be discovered, and it can only be discovered by taking chances, trying to new things, thinking about new ideas, etc.

I hope you all had an amazing chag the past two days and that you had/are still having an easy fast today!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Welcome To The Kitchen

"Has anyone been listening to me?" asks Ima, the menu for all our Rosh Hashana meals on a pad of paper in front of her at the table.

"Yes, yes," says Straight Man.

"Alright," Ima smirks. "What are we having tomorrow night for dinner?"

"Umm...challah, apples, honey..."

"New fruit!" Mavis exclaims. "What are we having for our new fruit?"

"I dunno..." Ima says teasingly.

"You know...what is it?"

"It's a surprise."

Mavis flings open the fridge and pulls out something long and green.

"It's this!"

"Mavis!" cries Ima. "That's a cucumber."

.................................................

Shana tova, everyone! May you all have a meaningful yom tov with inspiring tefilla and tables surrounded by warmth, camaraderie, fun, family, and friends. May you all be written in the book of life and may your tefillos be answered.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Days

Birthdays.

Oh yes, I have what to say about birthdays.

Birthdays are those days when you wake up and you feel like the sun should be shining especially for you (and wearing sunglasses and a sunny grin, just like in the pictures) and perhaps a rainbow or two should shoot across the sky, so you can walk over them and have adventures.

You feel like there should be a fireworks show, or at least some recognition from the very earth itself that today is a special day. And perhaps there is, for no matter what the weather, you appreciate it all the more because of how important you feel.

For some people (like me), feeling important is not a usual occurrence, so you look forward to it greatly; you look forward to that one day a year when you can unguiltily feel great about yourself. You smile and say, boy, I'm really glad I was born.

When you look on your phone and see the date, those numbers have a very familiar, friendly sort of look to them - they're the numbers that have gotten your heart trembling with excitement your whole life; they're your numbers, and now they're here! They're really here!

But, of course, as a very wise friend reminded me last night, birthdays are really just like any other day of the year - which is true. There is nothing inherently special about September 17th. It is the day I, along with many others, was born, but really, it is the anniversary of my mother giving birth to me. So perhaps it's my mother who should be getting all the happy birthdays!

In any case, today is Thursday, September 17th, and the only way this day will really be special is if I make it so by doing things I feel would make today a great day. Just like any day of the year.

So this post is not to celebrate my birthday, but it is to celebrate days in general - starting with today. On your birthday, you might walk around with this feeling like it ought to be written all over your face that it's your birthday - and you wonder why every passerby in the street doesn't notice. Right? Except they do notice: when you walk around with a huge grin for no apparent reason and shine it on everyone around you. They notice, even if they don't know why on earth you seem so chipper, and it makes them feel happier, too. And why can't that be every day?

Let's use the energy of birthdays to carry over to the rest of the year and make every day we can into a great one.

Have a great day everyone. :)



P.S. There is something especially apropos about my birthday (Hebrew birthday, too) always being right around Rosh Hashana. It inherently becomes a day of self-reflection, a day of hoping that I am headed towards furthering my potential (as opposed to off in a wrong direction somewhere), a day of wondering if I have been living the past year (and years) properly, and a day of making sure that I am a good person.

In addition, re: the fireworks video - I do not believe that wishes come true if you believe in them hard enough. However, I do think that true ambition begins with a wish. Wishes are what get people going (hopefully). Ultimately, if you let your wishes drive you forward, they will hopefully come true. And they'll have come true not because some genie granted them to you - those kind of wishes are somewhat unearned. They'll have come true because you granted them yourself. Because you made them come true by acting on them.

The other kinds of wishes are the ones you pray for, and they come in all various forms. I hope that we all have a meaningful Rosh Hashana where our prayers are heard and answered favorably, and that you all have a k'siva v'chasima tova.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tired Conversationalist

SJ and I return rather late from our various sojourns of the day (classes, really). N is sprawled on the couch in our living room (living room? living area), our new floor lamp on so she can read.

"This apartment smells like cooking. Like peppers," says SJ, glancing curiously around for what might be causing the smell. "Did you make dinner, N?"

"Yeah," says N. "By the way, I love this floor lamp!"

"Oh, thanks," I say (for I had bought it). "And I made dinner, too! But I didn't eat it yet."

"What did you make?" asks SJ.

"A peanut butter and jelly sandwich," I say matter-of-factly.

SJ rolls her eyes at my idea of dinner.

"Where did you get it?" asks N.

I stare at her.

"My peanut butter and jelly sandwich?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Prayer

Please God, allow me to have clarity in my thoughts and my emotions. Give me the wisdom to know what to do in a given situation and the strength to be able to do it. Please allow me the understanding to know what is right and what is wrong, even when the two are heavily clouded in shades of gray. Let me make good choices and give me the koach to be the best person I can possibly be.

Please give me the strength not to focus on the negatives in any situation, especially ones regarding other people, but to see the positives much more clearly. I wish to never dwell on other people in a negative way. I hope I can be able to remove myself enough from situations in order to see them objectively, and therefore not take anything anyone does or says personally. I hope to always give benefit of the doubt, and sincerely, not with any bitter feelings.

I only want to do good in this world. I know I am not perfect and that I will make mistakes. Let me recover gracefully from those mistakes and learn from them. Allow me the ability not to make the same mistake twice.

I wish to be able to face the world with wisdom and bravery, so that I might always know the right thing to do and have the strength to do it. I hope that I am happy with myself and the choices I make, and that I make them with the utmost integrity.

Most of all, I hope I rise to my greatest potential in order to be the best person, and the best Jew, I can be.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Life

Sometimes life is like a carousel. You hang on to your seat and get pulled round and round: a never ending cycle with the same scenes, the same faces flashing by. You become sick and dizzy of going round in so many circles, but you can't seem to let go of your seat. Your seat is what grounds you, what lets you know where you are. But it, too, is dragged in the cycle. Yet because it grounds you, you won't let it go.

Sometimes life is like a lazy river. You lie in your inflated tube and let the current carry you whichever way it goes. You drift without really getting anywhere. Occasionally, the river carries you under a waterfall and you get wet. Sometimes you like this, sometimes you don't, but you don't bother trying to steer your inflated tube. The waterfalls don't last too long anyway.

Sometimes life is like a roller coaster. You make a choice and throw yourself into something - a powerful thing which vehicles you upward. You're excited, filled with bubbling anticipation, like a pot just beginning to boil as you slowly climb upwards, away from the familiar scenes below. The higher you climb, the more silent the world becomes. You leave behind the regular buzz of the park and enter into your own universe where you're aware only of the wind, the approaching sky, the rumbling of the wheels on the track, and your own chugging thoughts. Everything else in your life up until now seems to have fallen away, behind, and you surge upwards.

Then, just as you're thinking about how you have to tell your husband, wife, friend, sibling, kid, parent about this wonderful, free, powerful yet frightening feeling you're experiencing, you reach the top of the climb - and then you go. With a giant whoosh! you're thrown into the ride, and you're moving so fast you can't even think about anything other than the wind in your face that makes it hard to see, and you try not to open your mouth so you don't choke on that wind, and everything flashes by so quickly that you hardly register you saw anything before you've missed fifteen other things that came after it, and you don't know how to make anything stop, but it's such an exhilarating feeling that you almost don't want it to stop, and yet somehow you desperately do, and you know that you're overcoming certain weaknesses (yet gaining others), you know you're growing strong (yet becoming increasingly tired out), you know you're getting ahead by light-years, and you know you're living in this moment, and no other moment, not in the past, nor in the future, because there's no time or energy to live anywhere else.

Sometimes you feel like you can't get ahead, and sometimes you feel like you're moving too fast. Sometimes you can't catch up, sometimes you can't fall back into step with everyone else.

Sometimes you don't know where you are - you're both too far ahead and too far behind, and you're amazed that such a thing is possible.

In all rides of life, what I find most comforting is that no matter how quickly or slowly I go, no matter if I'm ahead or behind, no matter where I am, when I get off the ride, I have family and friends who love me, and who loved me even while I was too busy in a different pace of living to keep up, or stay back, with them.

I find, so far in my life, and I think this applies to life in general, that the ones who are still there at the end of the ride - they're the ones who will stay with you during your whole adventure at the park (or, if you'd rather not think metaphorically, your whole life's adventure). They're there to go on other rides, both together with you and separately, and to always be there when the rides are done. They're the people really in your life.

So I suppose that at different moments in our lives, we feel we might be moving at different paces. This can be scary, or wonderful, or overwhelming, or exciting, or a mix of all different emotions. But no matter what, we should always recognize that we still have beside us the people and the things that matter, and we should make sure never to lose them. We should make sure they know that we are also there for them (to the best of our ability) - no matter how slowly or how quickly we are going.

It's good to have people we can trust. It's good to know there are people who, no matter how far or close, how quick or slow they are or we are, will always have that connection to us, so that at the end of it all, you can always pick up the phone or send an email or pay a visit, and it will be like you were never out of sync. Because you never were, really.

And it's good to remember that if we are making good use of our time, if we are making good choices, and if we are around good people - life is good. But sometimes it can be a wild ride (or a not so wild one). :)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Painter

We sat, the four of us, on a yellow sheet in the middle of Fort Tryon Park. The field was filled with people on their day off from work: a father and son playing baseball with a plastic bat, a toddler grasping fiercely to his mother's finger as he took a few steps, a couple with an actual picnic basket romantically eating squid on crackers.

"Look!" hissed my roommate, pointing to the road behind me. I turned my head and watched as a late middle aged man slowly walked by. His face was wrinkled and somewhat sad looking. His scraggly gray hair hung in streaks down the sides of his face. And in his arms, he carried one of the most beautiful paintings I had ever seen.

"Oh, I love Pointillism!" my roommate exclaimed, nearly jumping up in excitement. I did not know what Pointillism was. I assumed it meant the dotted way the painting was colored. Two trees stroked carefully and precisely in blends of pink and red stood on either side of a golden-colored road. Other pastels floated about in the background trees, as though the scene in the painting was a soft entryway into a magical fairyland, each dot a fairy come to help make up the picture.

The man with the painting passed by, and we returned to our picnic.

As the afternoon passed, it became time to go. We walked alongside the fortress wall of Fort Tryon Park, winding our way back towards the entrance. It was time to re-enter the world of cars, school, work, and responsibilities. Surrounding us was a brambling ensemble of shrubs, flowers, trees, and stone, with the bluish white sky shining overhead.

Suddenly, in the distance, we could see a man at an easel.

"It's the painter!"

We walked eagerly, yet cautiously, up to him. His painting was on an easel now and a paintbrush was in his hand. He had rested a few jars of paint on the fortress wall.

"Excuse me," one of our party suddenly spoke up. "We just wanted to let you know that we love your painting. You got us talking about Pointillism for about half an hour back there."

"Well, not quite half an hour."

"Is Pointillism common nowadays?"

"No, it's not very common," the man said. His voice was hardly a hoarse whisper, like it had not been used for a number of years and was trying to remember how to make sounds. "I'm glad you like my picture! I'm going to show all my pictures soon. This is my ninth one."

"Do you come here often?" I asked shyly.

"Every day," he answered, looking not at me but at the trees around him. "For about an hour or two. You see these trees here?" He pointed.

I looked where he was pointing and saw. There were the two trees from the painting, and where we were standing must be the road.

"How long have you been working on this painting for?" asked someone else.

"About four months now."

Four months!

We thanked the man and began an ascent up stone steps. As we walked, I thought - four months. Imagine working on a painting for four months and still not being finished.

Patience, I realized, really is a virtue. Because in order to have perseverance, one must have patience. And if one has patience, one can do things like paint one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. If one has patience, one can really do anything in the world.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day On The Job

I have a job. It's an unpaid job so far, but that could always change with time. This job entails charging my computer, going to the park, finding somewhere nice to sit, and writing. What do I write? Well, anything I would like! I can write about people. I can write about nature. I can write about the boats on the Hudson river.

You know why I don't title this post "first day of work?" Because this is not work. It's not play either, but it's certainly not work. I'm not quite sure what it is. Some combination of productivity and pleasure. And isn't that what a dream job ought to be? Doing what you do best and enjoying it? Sure, not every minute is going to be a party, but the overall idea of it should be what you really want to be doing.

And I really want to be a professional writer. So I am. Today is my first day. I'm just waiting for my computer to charge a bit more, and then I'm off to the park! I have no idea what I'm going to write about, but I have a feeling I'll figure it out when I get there.

Wish me luck!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Told Tale Of The Charted Road Of Credible Love

How I Met My Wife

Jack Winter, the New Yorker, July 25, 1994.

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my weildy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknowst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn’t be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make head or tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated—as if this were something I was great shakes at—and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had not time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d’oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myselfs.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savoury character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. “What a perfect nomer,” I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Familiar Faces

I just spent my first Shabbos ever in the Heights.

In some ways, I liked it much better than I thought I would. I was incredibly nervous to stay in for the first time - and alone. None of my apartment mates were in for Shabbos. After the last one left, I really felt emptiness settle in over the apartment. It wasn't like being alone at home - the Heights is still very new to me. It was like being alone in a new environment.

When I first realized that I was going to be alone in the apartment and that a lot of people were going home this weekend, I was sorely tempted to do the same. It would be easier. I wouldn't have to agonize over finding meals (which were hard to come by, since most people were not going to be in the Heights), and I wouldn't have to face the Heights on Shabbos for the first time alone.

But then I got annoyed with myself. Was I so insecure that any time Shabbos proved a bit difficult, I would go running home? What kind of independent young woman was that? So I made myself stay and I'm glad I did. Nor was I as alone as I felt I would be - at least, not most of the time.

Though I had never been to Mt. Sinai (the shul) before, I had heard a lot about it. I'd heard it described as "overwhelming," "such a social scene," and even "meat market." I have friends who "don't like Mt. Sinai" because it's too much of a "scene."

I have no way to compare it to anything because the only time I was there was last night. To be honest, I liked the fact that I was in a completely new place and yet knew so many people when I walked into shul. It made me feel less alone. And I feel like the scene is only there if you stick around for it and make sure you get in on it. Otherwise, who cares if there are a lot of people around? If you don't like it, you don't have to socialize with everyone there. No one's making you, you know? But then again, like I said, I was only there for last night's davening and it was kinda an off week - a lot of people were away because of Labor Day Weekend (side note: when I was in Israel for the year, the British girls were so confused why we had a day called Labor Day. They thought it sounded like a day when all women go into labor or something. Other side note: my bat mitzvah was on Labor Day. This year will be 11 years since my bat mitzvah. Yikes).

Anyway, I felt a lot better (and I mean a lot) when a particular friend walked in. You know how sometimes, when you're in a new place, or a strange place, and a friend from a much more familiar place in your life walks in, you just feel all your nerves rush out of you like jelly? And everything suddenly feels completely safe? Well, that's what it felt like. I was so astonished and happy and relieved.

Then I went to C2 for the Friday night meal. Two other girls were there and it was really, really nice. What was funny was that all Shabbos, I kept meeting people who are in school for education, which is what I want to do - and not only that, but in the two particular schools I'm looking into.

Night was harder. I was alone in my apartment, which wouldn't have been so bad except I felt awful. I really felt sick. I felt so bad that it actually kept me up nearly all night, and for the two or three hours that I slept some, I had really bad, detailed dreams where I was getting bitten by scorpions and other unpleasant things that hurt a lot. I remember pinching myself in my dream to see if it was real or not and actually feeling the pinch, but somehow knowing that it didn't feel quite right, that I didn't really feel awake, that I thought I was awake, in a filmy sort of awakeness, but...wasn't really sure.

Consequently, at around seven o'clock I finally fell asleep for a while (still with some weird dreams) and missed shul. I got up just in time to go to D2 for lunch.

D2's lunch was also really, really nice. A bunch of other people were there - but not too many, so it didn't feel crowded. One girl had just moved to the Heights and knew absolutely no one. She had been planning on eating by herself when one of D2's other guests met her in shul and insisted she come eat lunch with us. She turned out to be a really nice girl, and so was everyone else who ate there (aside from D2, I was not good friends with/didn't really know the other girls there, but we all had a really nice time together).

And some friends who are reading this will be pleased to know that I was not as shy at these meals as these friends might be used to or expect. In fact, I came away from them with more friends than I had before Shabbos started. And that is one thing I really do love about the Heights. I love the opportunity to meet new people and become reacquainted with others. It's like everyone is starting over in the Heights, so someone I never spoke to at Stern is suddenly someone I could speak to now. Girls whose paths would never cross mine in Midtown are suddenly in my path Uptown.

Due to the fact that I was still not feeling amazing - and I'm sure the fact that I barely slept on Friday night did not help - I went back to my apartment after lunch and didn't leave it again the rest of the day. I humored myself and the fact that I was not feeling well by spending the late afternoon lying on the couch reading a book from my childhood. (Those sort of books are always a source of comfort for me.) I suspect I felt worse because I felt a little lonely and little disoriented. I didn't quite feel like I was in a place I could identify. I know that doesn't make much sense, but it was like I didn't have a good grasp on where I was. Everything is too new here, too unfamiliar. For instance, even though I was not at my house, I would still feel at home when I stayed in for Shabbos at Stern. I even feel more at home when I go away to close friends, like when I go to SerandEz. But not here. Here I don't know how I feel, but it's not a feeling of being at home. Not yet, anyway.

I read until it began to get too dark to comfortably make out the words on the page. Then I reached a dilemma. I had forgotten to look up when exactly Shabbos ended. The only way I knew to find out would be to go online or call someone - neither of which I could do until Shabbos was over! Hmmm.

I figured I would just wait until I could see three stars, but the sky was really cloudy. At a certain point, I could make out two, and it was already really dark by then. It seemed really late. I couldn't imagine Shabbos wasn't over yet. I waited a bit to make absolutely certain it was late enough, and then figured I would make Havdalah for myself (another thing I didn't really prepare for...it was sort of makeshift) and then take a chance and go online to make sure Shabbos was really over. I had done the math based on when candle lighting was, but I couldn't really trust myself. What if I was wrong? What if Shabbos wasn't really over yet?!

It's one of the oddest things to go on your computer and check myzmanim to see if Shabbos is over. Luckily, it had been over for a while already.

Anyway, that was my adventurous Shabbos, which followed an adventurous Thursday. I've been having a steady stream of adventures on my own lately. It's interesting how that happens.

This post is more like a journal entry, huh? Well, I guess that's how it goes sometimes. I'm still feeling somewhat disoriented here, like I don't quite know where I am. But I really am making myself face this new place head on. Hopefully this disoriented feeling will go away soon, and then Heights will start feeling like home.

Though at the moment, the familiar feels like a breath of fresh air.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Behind The Door

They say you should answer when opportunity knocks. They say locked doors lead to adventure. The girl stood in front of the locked door, raised her fist, and knocked. It was a white door with a gold lock. There was a square sticker on the front of the door with the number 07 on it. Behind the door, she could hear movement. Scuffling. Zippering. She knocked again - louder. The scuffling did not stop. Someone was zippering - or maybe unzippering - ferociously.

She glanced around the hallway. It was a long hallway with an old tiled floor and white walls. Embedded within the walls were rows of locked doors, most of them unlabeled - not even with a number for an address.

A bit stumped, the girl turned away from door number 07 and leaned against the wall around the corner so she might think what to do. A minute or two passed. Still, no one opened the door. Each time the noises behind it got louder, the girl would hold her breath, bracing herself for the door being flung open - but it never happened. The noises merely returned to the zippering sounds.

Suddenly, she heard the tinkling of music begin to emanate from around the corner. Curious, she stepped lightly in the direction it was coming from, cautious not to make any noise. Then she saw it, more than heard. A slow fog of music, so tangible that if someone had asked what color it was, the girl would have answered that of course it was green, floated ethereally through the thin cracks between door number 07 and its door frame. She listened.

I will come to you...I will come to you...

Voices filled the music like a church choir.

The girl stood there for a moment. Then something - that thing that always knows when there is someone following you, even if you haven't turned around to look - that something inside her jumped, and she turned abruptly and near ran down the hall to the elevator. She jammed her finger into the elevator button and waited anxiously for eons before the elevator reached the tenth floor from the lobby. As soon as the doors opened, she jumped inside and pressed "door close," as though someone else was about to jump into the elevator with her.

Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. Lobby.

Quick, nervous steps to the open doors of freedom. A hurried "thank you!" thrown back over her shoulder to the man behind the front desk. And then she was through the doors and outside once more.

Once she could breathe again, the girl set off towards other adventures. Ones that didn't include long white hallways, zippering noises, or unidentifiable church music.