me and dada

me and dada, originally uploaded by Emmalen.

looking exactly like dad

frowny mom and daughter

frowny mom and daughter, originally uploaded by Emmalen.

looking exactly like my mom, as usual


IMG_0073, originally uploaded by michaeldolich.

Been feeling pretty pissed off and aggressive these days. Therefore, I'm a dude. A dead dude. At a party with all my close friends, many didn't recognize me at all... plus, wearing guys' clothes is comfortable! Big jeans, sneakers, giant shirt, what. Great for balls-out dancing. I was objectifying people right and left. He may return on Wednesday.


symptomatic, of course

Many of you know all about this, but here's the background and the update.

I won an award this spring for my work in the Jewish community. Associated with the award was an $1800 gift to be given in my name to "Jewish organizations" of my choosing. I found out, after traveling to Israel to receive the award, that half the money was supposed to go to an Israeli organization. I asked whether there was the possibility of petitioning for a change to that (previously unmentioned) policy, in order to direct the money to the organizations in my community (i.e., the work for which I won the award). They said yes, I could ask.

Then I asked and was told that it wasn't really possible. I wrote the below letter anyway, sending it to my contacts there. I doubt that it was forwarded to Lynn Schustermann, the living philanthropist whose money funds the program. I spoke with my contact there today and basically got told that it's not negotiable; there's no way to direct the full $1800 here, half must go to an Israeli organization or they can just "not give it" if I choose that.

All of which really bothers me! I'm sure it was an oversight that they didn't say anything about the distribution of the funding, but it has this sort of sneaky feeling. Moreover, it fits the pattern of what I see in the mainstream Jewish community: the older generation sees a need for young leadership, but isn't willing to trust or respect the choices of younger people. Their support is highly conditional; they want to find and raise up the people whose beliefs are the most like their own.

The result as I see it is that many young people (by which I mean anyone under 40--or even, 50!) don't want to participate in the organized community, because we don't see our values reflected there. I'm not even talking here about Israel politics.

So, what now? I have to choose an Israeli organization. I have to figure out how to break it to my good people here that they're not going to get the money that they helped me win for them. I have to discharge this anger somehow.
to: Lynn Schustermann
c/o: [some people who shall remain nameless]
from: Rebecca Ennen

Dear Lynn,

I am writing to propose that my Charlie Award tzedaka gift be allocated to two organizations in my home community. I am aware that you, and the Foundation, expect the gift to be divided between local and Israeli organizations. I deeply value the experiences that the Charlies trip provided me, and the opportunities that the award offers. I hope this letter will clarify my request and open a dialogue with you.

I am honored to have been selected as part of this program, and awed at your generosity and dedication to the Jewish people everywhere. With the great privilege of receiving a Charlie Award has come the great responsibility of selecting organizations to receive tzedaka from your foundation. As a professional artist and writer, I live frugally. Though I try to give as much tzedaka as possible, I never have the opportunity to make a large gift. It is with humility and gratitude that I consider where your donations will go.

I propose that the $1800 gift be split between two Philadelphia organizations, which are discussed in detail on my “tzedaka selections” form. I’ll briefly describe them here. Kol Tzedek is a young, diverse, and growing synagogue in a neighborhood with a huge Jewish population but no other synagogues. Jewish Dialogue Group is an educational nonprofit that facilitates dialogue within Jewish communities on contentious or taboo subjects. I attend and serve on the board of Kol Tzedek, and I work as a writer for the Jewish Dialogue Group. Each of these organizations has a tiny budget, one long-term employee, and little support from traditional/mainstream Jewish philanthropic sources. Both reach large numbers of people despite limited funding and would benefit hugely from a gift of $900.

As a young leader of my Jewish community here in Philadelphia, my primary responsibility is to cultivate and support the people, projects, and institutions around me. Of course, I want to support worthy work, wherever it is happening, and I think there are many who prioritize Israel for a variety of very good reasons. [name withheld] as discussed with me, both while in Israel and since then via email, the standard expectation of the Schustermann Foundation that half the Charlie Award tzedaka will go to an Israeli organization. He mentioned that though mine is an unorthodox request, previous recipients have successfully petitioned for a nonstandard allocation of funds. I highly value, and share, your commitments to Israel; yet as a leader in my home community I wish to first address my local responsibilities. That is why I have written to you.

For me, especially given my personal leadership roles in both of the organizations listed above, it is crucial to support these institutions I am helping to build. Further, I know from personal experience that my home community’s needs are great and that this gift from the Schustermann Foundation will go far.

It is impossible for me to describe how deeply I am committed to this community and this work. It is my Jewish home, and it is where my calling lies. For these reasons I respectfully request that your generous gift be given to these two worthy organizations.

With admiration, and gratitude,
Rebecca Ennen

Why am I so frustrated by this? I think it's because my little corners of the Jewish world are so underserved, and so disrespected at times, that I get so angry when I'm not taken seriously. More lightness and humor are needed, for sure. Again it all comes down to my current psycho-rhetorical obsession: how can we live right, and work for justice and beauty, without feeling crazy all the time?


consciousness baiting

In the past couple of years I've become (increasingly) radically feminist. As I grow more aware of gender oppression--let's be clear here, women's oppression*--I catch it more often. Of course. There's just more Friedanesque "click" moments. I've gotten pretty brave and articulate, when it comes to naming this stuff, but it feels as if the wellsprings and tributaries of misogyny multiply even as I map them. Navigation gets rockier when you start noticing the rapids?

That doesn't make a lot of sense. Anyway, the problem is that my raised consciousness meshes poorly with my tendency to judge, and I'm losing the ability to ignore this stuff. I get mad and sometimes caustic. Cases in point:

1. Watched P. T. Anderson's 'Magnolia' recently. How can a modern giant "thoughtful" ensemble film (about love and family!) fail the Bechdel movie test? And feature only crazy women, who sometimes get violently fucked? But it does.

2. Met with a professional colleague for a beer, in the course of which conversation he told me all about wanting to sleep with his 19-year-old "girl" students, because they are self-defeating and smoke cloves, then said he preferred older (than himself) divorced women, because they are 'so together' and smoke real cigarettes. Ideally they would be divorced. Dude, this is not an appropriate setting for you to objectify women!

3. Attended a rally in support of the SCHIP children's healthcare bill, with a couple hundred other people, organized by med student groups and the local SEIU. One union guy sees me talking to a (woman) friend and cheerily thanks us for coming: "We need more lovely young ladies like yourselves in this fight! To make the men come on board!"

...come on, this stuff is just a pile of crap. Excuse my language. We deserve better.

I was at a workshop this weekend with a lot of counseling on gender and sexuality issues, and maybe I started feeling a little safer and less hated and objectified. Returning to the usual mangle just reminds me how much energy it takes to carry the armor around every day, to use a smile as a shield rather than telling the truth. It sucks. I'm angry.

*yes, men do suffer greatly under gender oppression, to say nothing of transpeople. But honestly, there's no pissing contest. In terms of a) large numbers, b) cultural background breadth, and c) blatant hatred and violence, the ladies have it.


IMG_3164, originally uploaded by tovagee.

Me and sister-cousins Ariel and Tova, plus over-competitive boys Harris and Reuben, picked Cortlands ("it's a good all-around apple" said the guy) this weekend in western Mass. My favorite things: autumn afternoon light, leaves fluttering in the breeze, ripening crisp apples turning their red cheeks to the sun. The branches are just about exploding with fruit.


another brave soul

Vaclav Havel writes in today's NYT:
Whenever I reflect on the problems of today’s world, whether they concern the economy, society, culture, security, ecology or civilization in general, I always end up confronting the moral question: what action is responsible or acceptable? The moral order, our conscience and human rights — these are the most important issues at the beginning of the third millennium.
Amen. When are we going to get a president like that?

I have jury duty, for the first time, tomorrow.


metapost: more on the apparently not whiny rant

My buddy Challahman posted my talk in his dKos diary and at Street Prophets. Some interesting comments back, both non-Jews moved by the spirit of Yom Kippur, and an orthodox Jew noting that "if more people would follow Hashem's actual words, we wouldn't need the new ones."

I guess so, but my point was more that liberal Jews should act with serious devotion and seriousness about those things that we know are right. I respectfully submit that the orthodox are similarly failing to observe Hashem's word. Not more, not less, just differently; see "feed the hungry" and "protect the natural world," et al, ad nauseam. It's something that brings us together: most people, especially the middle class, have real trouble challenging the materialism and selfishness and apathy of our time.

Anyway, I wasn't trying to add new mitzvot to "Hashem's actual words," just calling attention to those of Hashem's words that we don't take seriously enough. Even those who don't believe in Hashem know what is right, and those people in my own community responded strongly to the concept of "commanding each other."

But I digress--few readers here need convincing of the seriousness of liberal Judaism. The point is, as another comment put it, that "Once people have seen that they won't be alone, they will follow. I have tremendous respect for people, be they politicians or leaders of industry or just friends, who are willing to put themselves out there simply because it's the right thing to do." Amen. Underline: we do know how to act rightly. We are afraid to be the crazy ones. We need to know that others will join us. Do more than just enough. Do your part. Period.


atonement review

You don't say "happy Yom Kippur!" (well, unless you're newly-outed atheist congressman Pete Stark, on NPR) but it was a sweet and poignant day for me. Funny to write a services review, but it means a lot to me that this holiday was a real moment of connecting, with my community and with the most high.

It was an easy fast in terms of hunger, but a deep one; my body was aching with muscle tension and fatigue and yet I didn't have trouble staying in prayer and open to the work. There was incredible turnout to begin with, absolutely packed for Kol Nidre and ~120 during the torah service. Maybe 80 for Neilah (closing prayers). Rabbi Ezra was very present and brave, calling on us to wrestle with our objections and doubts, honestly expressing his own failures and despair. He brought us to the possibility of real repentance and yearning.

The community generated palpable energy together. Michael was drumming all day. By the end of services I ended up in a big clump of serious loud spirited davveners and though my back was really aching I could feel myself buoyed on their voices and strength. Mitch spoke about not liking services, Emma spoke about loving services, and I loved knowing that our community embraces and transcends these important debates.

And, finally: despite my fears that the below speech was vague, trite, and whiny, it seems to have hit a nerve. People loved it. Or, as one said, I didn't like hearing it, but I knew I had to. I was thanked. I feel good. I did something, however small, for the little synagogue that could. Tired.
evil speech

I wrote this little doozy to present at Yom Kippur today. I kind of hate it, super vague and grimly stylized. I didn't want to make it too narrow, though, and I feel pretty angry about the state of my putative soul, so bring it on! Ultimately it's just whiny, maybe. I wanted it to be "from the heart" but I guess my heart just whines:

As is appropriate for today, I’ll begin by apologizing. I really wanted to speak today but when I was writing this I realized I’m not a scholar or a rabble-rouser and I don’t have a great story to tell you. This is more vinegar than honey. I’m sorry. I’m just angry at the insanities in our world and frustrated with my own tshuva failures. I’m afraid that other people don’t mean it. I am not trying to make you feel guilty. It’s better to mourn, learn, and change. Do we really regret our failures, or is this an empty ritual of self-pity and denial?

Let me be clear. When I say “we” I really mean each of us. I don’t want to be sloppy. I’m not acting out a rhetorical device. I’m not trying to speak for you. I want to be brave this year. It is ridiculously hard to be brave alone. I want to do what is right even if it is not easy and not fun and not fulfilling. I want us to be brave together.

It is easy to regret relational failures. I’m not always generous with my partner. I leave dishes for my housemates to wash. I come late to work, and have to be reminded to do what I say I’ll do. I don’t return phone calls. I am too hard on myself. People near you can be asked to forgive. That is acting like a private individual. We are part of something larger.

Maybe I am too gentle with myself. I have done things that only god can forgive. The machzor’s alternative Al Chet is very specific: we polluted our environment. We cut ourselves off from people of other races and cultures. We ignored important issues in our own country and community. We gave less tzedakah than we could afford. It’s just true. Ask yourself, what could I have given up in my life so that a hungry person could eat? Do I drive a car when I don’t have to? Who can forgive us?

I think, if I had more money, or more time, I could do better. That is an excuse, and a lie, and a sin. We have enough. We have enough to make us comfortable and to make us cowards, afraid to change or challenge the privileges we enjoy. You know what the things are, that you do, that are wrong. That seems petty, you say to yourself, this is not a big deal! I do enough. No. We have enough to do more.

We have become artists of the status quo—doing what is normal even when it is destructive, ignoring what is unspeakable because we didn’t make it happen. The Talmud says that silence is assent. When were you silent? Our many silences have led to horrors, even deaths. We are the lucky ones.

As liberal Jews we have a vague idea that the best authority is the community. We got rid of the priestly and rabbinical hierarchies for good reasons. We haven’t chosen other authorities by which we will consent to be commanded. We’ve grown out of being god’s children and into being god’s co-creators. Without a god that we can beg and placate, do we know how to repent any more? We have failed, again this year, to fulfill the work that we know is just and right. We like to call sin ‘missing the mark’ because if we called it evil, we might have to consider the foundations of our lives. We didn’t just miss the mark, we turned our backs on the bow and arrow. We gave up archery.

I want us to use what we do have—this community—to feel grounded and strong. Let us call each other to commandedness. We are who is commanding.

Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi said, “there is more good than evil in the world—but not by much.” What if we were really commanded to do right? What if we loved this fragile world enough to change it? Let’s imagine that we do have power. Let’s fantasize that there is a force of love and transformation in the world that we are part of. And let’s notice that when we settle for passivity, it is a crying shame and a cosmic moral failure. If there are angels, they weep.

This is not a guilt trip. Let’s reclaim commandment. Not blind obedience, but deep passion for the true. Let us do what is right, because it is right, even when it’s crazy and unpopular and troublesome and expensive. Let us be brave together this year, as it is written: the holy one gives us strength in our struggle, and blesses us with peace.


updates on the last couple posts

Another mini-review, this one more glowing, again from the good people of the City Paper.

The tomato sauce got made and is delicious. Also pesto.

Today at work we had bad doctors, and I discovered that I can effectively take eight-minute naps.

I am lonely. The postdeparture shabboses have been lonely. Weekdays less so, but still.


fringe props

Our first review is here: today's Inquirer calls it "a tableau of alive minds over dead matter." It's a hot-and-cold review, with no juicy comments on the script/language (my dept). Still.

Also, a non-review, but long shout-out-blurb, in the City Paper. Noted: production features full nudity, not intended for children. We did have a seven-ish-year-old the first night, with her performing artist parents, and all I could think was, that kid is going to grow up to be an engineer. She seemed to like the show!

As have my many friends who valiantly trekked to north Philly, including out-of-towners from Boston and, gasp, Mt. Airy. (They tend not to leave the Mt. Airy zone-o'-love-'n'-peace.) I'm so proud and pleased with this project.

Saw some other good stuff too--more soon--and I miss ND like crazy. It's been a lonely couple of shabboses without him. I need to seek out co-Jews
intentionally if this observance stuff is going to stick. I did have a great conversation about art and g!d with my Catholic ISABELLA coworker Rachel. Shallow but true: most of the great religious insights are to be found in all the great traditions. More surprising: we have the same gripes about our communities, too.


little coop apartment on the prairie

Oh, darling roommates. We're working our way towards full kitchen and living room function, which is getting us excited about living together and so forth. Also, apparently, we're writing emails to each other about putting food up for the winter. Domesticity is great.

I know this is a cheapo way to "write" a post, but I am trying to get more stuff up here. Quantity over quality.

AL wrote:
Through the farmstand, if we'd like, we can get 25 pounds of tomatoes for a mere $20, along with instructions for simple ways of preserving the tomatoes, so that we can bring them back to life in winter.
These tomatoes are delicious, but are cheap because they are "seconds" because some imperfection made them not retail-worthy. I don't want to be personally responsible for preserving them, but if I had some help, maybe we should do this?

RG wrote:
If they'll keep until, say, next Thursday, I'd be game..... but that seems like a long time to make 20lb of tomatoes wait around!

NS wrote:
I'd personally rather spend extra house time cleaning a little more, but we do need vegetables...how long do you expect this venture to take?

AL wrote:
Just to clarify, these tomatoes would basically be for the winter. It wouldn't take very long. The easiest thing to do is to roast them, then freeze them. Total working time is like 20 minutes plus time to clear out enough space in the freezer to freeze them in a single layer. So, really, not very long.
OK, right, I could even do this on my own, actually, if people would use the tomatoes in winter and if we could find space in the freezer for these tomatoes. Which is a perfect incentive to clean the fridge and freezer!

NS wrote:
I'm around on Saturday to make pesto and tomato sauce, anyone have good recipes? I'm not too experienced with cooking.
A, when can you get the tomatoes?

RG wrote:
I'm gonna be super busy unpacking and stuff on Saturday, but I do make excellent tomato sauce and would be happy to help you with that, N. I also do a mean creamy (tofu + Parmesan, or I guess nutritional yeast might work ) pesto, if you want that recipe. Regular pesto's easy too, just way more greasy.

AL wrote:
All, sorry, but before we get too excited, I might not be able to get those tomatoes after all. I'll find out later today, I hope.
In terms of pesto, the impetus for buying all the basil for pesto was that we have an obscene number of pignolas to get rid of. So as long as they're involved, all is well.


naked rehearsal

The show I'm working on now is set in a morgue and five of six characters are dead. And naked. They're going to have body makeup eventually (surely cold comfort) but for now we're just starting to work on being naked all the time.

Yesterday was the first naked day and we, ladies of the loyal production crew, pitched in to help the gender ratio and the camaraderie. The six actors, the director, and we three "staff" all stood on a circle, faced outwards, stripped, and turned around. Then we all giggled and said hello and shook hands and were polite. Director Dan commented on the absence of uncircumcised cast members (sic). Brief discussion ensued. Then we sang a song together! It was like naked preschool. After a while the staff put on our underwear (hey, it's hot in there) and sat around disinterestedly talking about how women's 'boy-short' underwear always creeps up your butt.

The actors got their team robes and made some naked sculptures. What a great job I have.


hit the ground running

I returned from the giant Israel debacle on Tuesday morning and after a too-brief nap, went straight to rehearsal.

I'm working on Romeo&Juliet (in Clark Park! August 1-5 at 7pm, be there) and the immense undertaking that is Pig Iron's latest Live Arts Festival offering (Sept 1-16, be there) and the Jewish Dialogue Group deliberation guide and of course the sainted Day Job as simulated patient. And that's just the stuff I get paid to do.

Did I provide these links before? Can't even remember. Photos of Israel upcoming but for the now, get on Facebook and become my "friend" and you'll see some other people's great photos (of me). I miss having noodle-around time with teh internets.

I feel overwhelmed. Physically tired and a bit shaky. I'll to bed, but first say: this too shall pass. I'm going to be circumspect in the fall about how much I try to do. Also, though: I love traveling and miss it. Haven't been anyplace new in a year and a half. Want to live abroad, despite having just moved into a bigger lovelier room in my apartment. Ugh, moving; sigh, new space. Hm.


praise them in the highest

Pig Iron, that is. Looks like they're hiring me as dramaturg for their Live Arts festival commissioned production: ISABELLA, aka Measure for Measure in a morgue. I will see dead people. Huzzah with a cherry on top.

I've moved my Israel return flight to accommodate the rehearsal schedule. Damn, no time to visit Nablus and the international human rights workers. I've started looking at my SP schedule with misty eyes; jumping into that will wait until September. Or, rather, I'll do my training and work the minimum hours to stay involved.

And we're looking for new roommates, and I saw a good show (
The Four of Us, by Itamar Moses), and there are all kinds of meetings and things dashing about. I'm teaching a clown workshop for non-actors, focused on presentation skills, for the next couple of weeks. That's sort of embarrassing because I don't think I'm qualified, but I planned it, and it will be fun. It's hazy hot and humid. I want some ice cream. Need to get some stuff done on the writing project. Ho hum.

On another note: outrage: the Gaza situation. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev (always spouting criminally ridiculous lies on BBC in his charming accent) says "it is not our intention to sit idly by during a human rights crisis in Gaza." Of course not, you effing salesman, you don't sit idly by, your government creates and aggravates the human rights crises in Gaza.


why blog?

not because I got an interesting new job (standardized patient)

not because I started writing a guide (scroll down) to the Israel-Palestine conflict

not because I saw the last episode of the Sopranos without ever seeing it before

not because I went to Boston and heard crazy news (George is engaged!) or saw wonderful people (happy birthday, Mom, enjoy that extra cheesecake)

not because I went to New York and heard crazy news (oh Louisa!) or saw wonderful people (all yall)

not because we had a great meeting with synagogue folks to theorize prayer

not because of all the random articles online that I bookmark in order to remember to share

...no, I save my writing for petty ludicrous hijinx:

Yesterday I flew from Boston to Philly. I packed a big backpack just about solid with books and clothes from the mothership (Forest Street) and my usual courier with the current book and calendar and water and (gasp) mesh pouch of sundry hygiene items. Nothing over 3oz, 4 tiny bottles total. I get to the TSA gauntlet, and feign naivete when the 7-foot-tall inquisitor guy asks me if I have a Ziploc baggie. In my mind, this should be appropriately copyright-tagged: "Ziploc brand resealable plastic storage bag."

I have no baggie. He says I can dump my stuff (perfume! no.) or go out to the newsstand, where they sell "Ziploc baggies" for 35 cents. I note the lack of people in line, exit the TSA danger zone, buy my baggie. My mother laughs at me. I reload, stowing the hazardous teeny-Tom's-of-Maine in a few microns of crisp plastic, sealing up those menacing eyedrops, and hustle through the gauntlet. Mr Inquisitor ignores me, now "wanding" a hapless teenage droneboy with a suitcaseful of trashy Tom Clancys and nondescript garb.

Sparing you the details of a plane-hop (though it must be asked, what makes these pretzels 'gourmet'?) and train-slog homewards, I arrive at my front porch in West Philly, fumble archetypically with my keys, and realize:

On the keychain is my 2" folding pocketknife, slim, classy, and razor-sharp. That little beauty went through a scanner twice without notice, and, as Laurel commented, "could definitely kill someone."


dear WHYY, I am so sorry

It's membership time, and when they did it last quarter, I joined. this time I have no reason to be guilty, but they've got me on the coals again. oy.

Cashflow isn't such a problem right now, but I'm still watching the expenses and holding my breath over the next few potential contracts. In case you hadn't heard, I lost my job at the msngrbag joint, so. Other projects abound, and the shekels aren't clinking like they sort of once used to. (Always the way: too much work, no time to blow the cash; less work, no mad-money.) I did take a cab last night, though, thereby puttin' on the personal Ritz.

But, dearest Marty and Terry and Doctor-Dan, I wish I had a little more to spare. Maiken Scott, if you're reading this, be assured that I feel justly shamed and rightly harassed by the pledge-drive begging, and I'm not complaining.


a zisn peysekh dir

Because RELoad is moving, and because it's Pesach, and because it's beautiful, and because I need some time to just bike around and get things done--I'm off work. Went to yoga, ran into Z there, had some great backward bending. I like thinking about my lungs' shapes, especially in Wheel pose.

Next up come the making of Sri Lankan charoset, my great contribution to Jewish cuisine. First, hit up the various foodsources. I'm thinking Supremo for matzo and suchlike, International Spice for bitter-melons (Sri Lankan maror!), and co-op for everything else. Planning to make matzonachos for lunch tomorrow. Today I'm firstborn-fasting. Yeah yeah, women don't count, shut up.

Morgan is coming! Zisn indeed. Liberation + visitation. Can't wait. I just miss my sweetheart, over there in the Holy Land. Better that I'm here, though; the potential for speaking about 'redemption' in the midst of that quagmire, well, let's just say that Israel starts feeling like a narrow place. Malka's there too now, post-Darfur-job. She's so amazing.

A little sweetness for you all: I've found that when I'm a-fretting (gawsh, over all the work these days) the best mood-fixer is at Cute Overload, where I found this clip of otters in love. Weep for joy.


spring redemption

...hi. how are you? I've been busy.

Closed "The Eye of the Storm" on Monday night. In two weeks "The Fishbowl" opens. It is so good that the weather has become lively and energizing.

I'm sitting on the couch in the new house, with no one else home for once--last night I got home before 11 for the first time in forever--took the day off work to do shopping for the show and instead I read a book and did my taxes online and caught up with some email. (How can I possibly owe them $60? I had a gross income of $5581! I'm going to re-do it on paper and see if I can legally weasel a better deal.)

One email contained the invitation and draft Haggadah for a friend's seder next week. Just beginning to look at the text I begin to weep. Devoted readers, you may recall a certain past surfeit of Passover writing--well, again my Passover-lovin' spirit awakens. Bonnie the catloaf is sleeping chunkily on the couch, the breeze is ruffling the houseplant leaves, I've got a bellyful of corn muffins. Got to eat up those grains, though with three non-observant roommates I'm just going to kasher/designate a small cupboard-section. It's a good time, because of/despite all the work I have to do.

Thinking over the past year, wow, there have been liberations in my life. Recently I read about the Jewish concept of 'liberation' as not unbounded, self-centered ability to "do whatever I want" but rather freedom from the false demands of the economic and social status quo, the (American?) idols we know so well. In the past year I've seen more and more the liberation that inheres in 'making your own rules,' not having no rules; living by idealistic and perhaps devotional principle with love and faith. The commentary in Michael Strassfeld's The Jewish Holidays says, "true liberation binds us, false service giving way to true." So, I'm learning. I trust the Process.

The people around me these days are really a great set. In theater, at work, at home, in the West Phila community, I'm a bit starry-eyed. Grateful.


"you know things are going to be different"

...was Abby-at-work's response when I told her the sad tale of how, mysteriously and in the process of moving, I lost my beloved dad-coffee-table and ONE of my favorite shoes. Yup, the right dansko is missing. The coffee table was parked on the porch awaiting summer afternoons with beer and iced tea needing a place to rest, and someone effing took it. I guess it's because I wrote that thing here about maybe (maybe!) adopting it out.

The shoes are a bigger problem, because I wear them basically every day. And they were from my mom. Hm: one dad item, one mom item. I'm growing more independent every day! I struggle forth in sneakers (bad for ice), boots (slightly cramped in the toes), and super-destroyed old junkers from an adolescent fling with dELiA*s.

Abby's comment reminded me how good it is to let go of things, and to let these mishaps be (somehow?) signs of new things to come. Ghastly but possible: the dansko era is over? I think I'll probably save up some money and replace them.

Practice for letting go of the bigger things. Next up. You know.


momentarily starstruck

If you look under the comments on my NPR post, holy mackerel! Maiken Scott left one! I feel foolish. She thought that I was annoyed by the pledge drive. Now I have to write something clever about how much I really like it. (I do! the drama, the psychological tricks, the pathos, the prizes!) It's amazing to think that really anyone is reading this, much less a Local Personality. Maiken, if you're here, tell me: did you Google yourself? Is there someone at WHYY whose job it is to track blog references?
pack em up roll em out git along

I am 98% done packing for the (rather low-key) move, and wow, where did all these paper clips come from? As I finally reach the surface of my desk, mining down through the paperstrata, and excavating the hardwood in that one derelict corner, under all the postcards for mediocre shows I didn't go to and ticket stubs for those I did--there are wild roaming paper clips. So many! I don't remember the last time I used one. (Thus, the roaming.)

Also, so many things to give away. There's a big swapfest planned for mid-March, and I am equipped. Then there's the stuff I want to adopt out only to good loving homes. If anyone needs a coffee table handbuilt by my dad and painted by me when I was eight, it's available (with or without memories/guilt).

The real guilt-engine is finding things I meant to work on or do something with--yards of unused fabric, half-written cards, piles of charity solicitations. I actually ended up sending out a bunch of checks for the latter. Well, that and the last Verizon bill.

I am really going to miss these roommates. Last night I was baking tofu and doing laundry (triple-tasking!) and took a break from packing to eat fresh hot banana-chocolate cookies by Becky in the kitchen with her and Colin and Jen and Jon. We talked about Inuits not needing to develop lighter skin pigmentation (large amounts of vitamin D in the diet) and putting the cat in the washer and the relative merits of Vegan Treats and V is for Vegan brownies. At midnight.

Well, onward. Hazel Avenue, you done good by me.


other people's problems
obsessed with NPR and its fascinating personalities

This afternoon I cooked an elaborate brunch for myself (cinnamon raisin french toast, smoky seitan) while enjoying the WHYY pledge drive/Car Talk/Prairie Home mashup. I had a rough couple of days this week and spent a lot of yesterday crying out some frustrations and feeling sorry for myself. As Garrison Keillor wavered sweetly forth, I started cleansing the kitchen of my minimal, and my housemates' maximal, mess.

In the midst of my self-pity and soapsuds, the pledge drive alms-beggars are Mike McGrath (You Bet Your Garden; the most overenthusiastic host on the airwaves) and Maiken Scott, his producer. I know her as the gentle cynic occasionally heard on Voices in the Family, greatest call-in advice show ever. Apparently she produces Mr. Annoying as well. Anyway it seems they don't get along--he kept loudly proclaiming that she was laughing ten times more at the PHC "Pretty Good Jokes Book"* than she ever had on his show. She gently and firmly agreed. They repeated this type of exchange, with varying concealment of nastiness, for two hours.

I figure, if Mike McGrath can have a fairly successful show on a major NPR station, while conducting an amiable siege with his producer, what right have I got to cry over my self-perceived lack of homemaking skills? Just saying.

Ooh! The icy February wind is making my windows shudder and my window-wrap flutter. Letting in the cold, of course. Now is the time to fill my Rubber Ducky hotwaterbottle, Anachronism of the Year, and adjourn to my dear sweetheart's warmer apartment.

*What do you get when you eat onions and beans? Tear gas.


from worse to bad
with linkipedia

For a while there I was reading The Painted Bird, which is a WWII novel of extreme (make that really extremely extreme) violence and horror about a little dark-haired boy trying to survive in terrifyingly backward, ostensibly Polish villages. Nightmares came, and dark horrid hate of society, fear of other people, etc etc. It averages a rape, murder, or severe beating about every four pages. Several folks noted that I seemed 'kinda blue' and I figured I'd pursue something funner.

No time to hit up the Walnut West for Book the Twelfth, which, though Lemony Snicket will beg and plead that it's unpleasant, probably won't be at all.

Well, serendipity ho! I saw the fascinating and well-done Children of Men last week. It's damn good, and right up my dystopia-lovin' alley. Come to think of it, the film has a certain WWII aesthetic, especially in the final ghetto scenes. Highly recommended, if you liked Blade Runner or A.I. or, heck, The Nativity Story. Anyhow. Didn't know it was based on a P.D. James novel, one of those known-to-be-crackerjack writers whose work I've just never gotten around to (cf. Toni Morrison, John Updike).

Anyhow I was eating (underrated, scrumptious) brunch at Kaffa Crossing with the honey, enjoying a fantastic latte. note: I have decided that in 2007 I will drink more coffee and more beer, because they are both so darned satisfying! On their little sharing-bookshelf, with cover out, stood The Children of Men, book in question. I read a couple pages and borrowed, with owner permission.

The point, I guess, is that I'm pretty easy to please. I will happily read about an apocalyptic future eerily resembling our own present, but not about a horrifying past that actually happened. (n.b. Kosinski's novel is definitely fictional and has been criticized repeatedly for grossly misrepresenting the Polish Catholic peasants who sheltered him safely, sans grisly beatings.) Can anyone suggest a novel of beauty and pleasure and happiness? I could deal with a sad ending, like maybe The Time Traveler's Wife. (Also highly recommended...hey, they're going to make a movie?!) Maybe it's time to make a long series of dates with Susannah Clarke.



I keep thinking about this.

Friday afternoon I cashed a lifetime’s worth of U.S. Savings Bonds. Most of these were birthday and Christmas gifts from my father’s parents, who passed on when I was three and nine. One hundred-dollar bond, issued in 1992, was the first-place prize for winning the Cambridge city spelling bee (first annual).

Total take: $516.83.

This sum represents $450 in face value, plus added interest due to several years of waiting. I have another $50 U.S. bond, and a $500 State of Israel bond from my mother’s parents.

Shortly, then, I will have about a thousand dollars seed money, dowry, estate, etc. It’s going into a sixmonth CD while I figure out some kind of ‘investment strategy.’ Two ideas I’m chewing, whilst holding my shortstack of Benjamins:

1. The child who got these gifts isn’t really here to enjoy them. I grew out of her. I feel like I cheated her: the spelling-bee winner dreamed of buying toys. Now I think of saved money as a housebuying fund. A thousand dollars: ridiculous! Because the child is gone, the enjoyment-value of the sum has diminished. The pleasure to be gotten from serendipitous cash is much lower, especially as I now ‘enjoy’ pricier wants and more pressing needs.

2. This money is pretty much what I have left from my grandparents, besides that child’s hazy impressions of our few visits. My father’s parents died so long ago that I have memories not of my grandmother’s sharp wit but of wearing Mary Helen’s diamond-sapphire set. My mother’s parents existed in a marginally terrifying parallel nursing-home world, with frankly upsetting smells, in poor health, wheelchair-bound, and increasingly addled. I was young enough to be shocked when Grandma would say to my mother, Ruth Ellen, because she was still only ever Mom to me. To finally redeem these little shreds of their separate financial accumulations—it’s quaint, sweet, tragic.

Two further thoughts are prompted:

3. Adult me remembers through the memory-lens of child me. Young Rebecca, who acquired these gifts, also acquired the images and impressions that I inherit. Have the mental deposits doubled in value over the years? Unequivocally, yes. I’m only starting to investigate the lives and personalities of these dear departed, and to mourn how much I miss and have missed them. It’s terribly sad to have just these slim recollections. Cliché (true): I would gladly give up the money if I could know my grandparents. Better: I didn’t realize that in growing up I would lose my (child) chances to enjoy their love and their money. I didn’t know I would grow into someone so utterly different.

4. If money can be traced, like genes, then this money is as interesting in provenance as I am. (Take that as you will.) Allowing for some poetic license, it can be said that the Ennen Five Hundred is the profits from our Pioneer, OH metal-stamping factory. The great midwestern microindustrial family business, where my uncles worked at checking sample sizes and whence my father ‘drove truck’ that long summer of blessed memory, earning a Teamsters card and a nightful of stories. The Goodman Five Hundred was scraped together from the Brooklyn produce stand, the extra five cents skimmed from the shvartsers (cucumbers: one for a dime, two for a quarter), the miles of crinolines that Fanny stitched, immigrant thrift and work-to-the-bone determination. It’s American money, both ways. I’m proud to have it.

The spelling-bee booty is a fitting coda: I, the ultimately privileged grandkid of many noble strivers, makes good, wins big. I inherit and cultivate smarts, savvy, and sheer competitive grit. Meritocracy at last.

I refuse to use any part of this sum to pay any kind of bills.