Wednesday, July 30, 2008

august haze

birds chirping..energetically..
hazy freshness hanging the air.. the windowsill
distant rythmic beep of an alarm clock..
....riding the gentle warm breeze




Friday, July 25, 2008

The Ba'al Teshuva

The guest speaker was the world famous Ba’al Teshuvah Moshe (Mark) Wahrburg. Moshe’s story was so inspiring it never failed to fill halls and shuls with enthralled audiences. He had reached the pinnacle of fame and success in Hollywood and lived a life of debauchery and excess. And then he threw it all away after discovering his heritage, eventually becoming fully Orthodox.

The men and women in the audience were taken in by the drama and ultimate glorious ending.

A group of angels were congregating at the window, unseen. They were staring at the man in the last seat of the second row.
He was a very unspectacular looking middle aged fellow dozing off. Yet, the angels were staring at him and whispering in awe.
He was a somewhat successful accountant whose biography for the most part mirrored 90% of the rest of the room.
But what no one could possibly know, and if they would know they would most likely look at him with disgust and disdain, was how he had in the past done some pretty immoral things and had somehow pulled himself away and quietly done true teshuva. In fact he himself cringes when he thinks of his past actions.
There’s no glamour in that Teshuva. No one will come hear his sordid tale. And he himself has no clue of his heroics and that is precisely what makes it so lofty...

Yet here was a group of angels quivering in his shadow..because angels..they see a different world.


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

survival of the fittest

Why are we here as a nation?
.....our purpose.
Is live another day?
I've always found it ironic..
that the right wing..
..seems to hold this Darwinian view
of the world..and raison d'exitance
a primal..survivalist glance.. suvive..supersedes any other
value..we might have and pretend
to cherish and uphold...
and so...we'll stereotype...
and...react with hype..
fire and hate...and dont care
that others might suffer.. long as we survive..
the fittest..


Thursday, July 17, 2008

summer, home

Its that time of day
Again in the office..
Long summer day..
Guys..whose hunnies
are away..
Making plans..
Exciting..(don’t get me wrong)
Dinners..and shows and..
But I smile..and I glow..
From within..its true..
Because..I know...
I’ll be coming



Sunday, July 13, 2008

The 5:20 from Rava-Russka

Ever notice how really bad music somehow sounds pretty good on a really bad casette player?
That’s what was going through my mind as mile after mile of pastoral Russian countryside passed before my eyes through the light film of a dirty bus window and really trashy Russian pop was blaring loudly in my ears.
The ride from Moscows Sheremetyevo airport to our camp took about 2 hours as the 1960s era bus sputtered up and down the gentle hills using every gear at it’s disposal. I spent months teaching myself the Cyrillic alphabet and was desperately trying to read the signs on the side of the highway before they whizzed past. When we finally arrived it was already getting dark and the campus was bathed in soft dusk hues.
Holding my suitcase and battling the large hungry mosquitos I made my way to my building, showered and fell into a deep sleep.
I admit to harboring pre-conceived stereotypes of Russians and as I type this I can almost hear the accent each one of you readers hears in your heads right now. Well the next day those images seemed to be spot on. The greasy hair, tight spandex pants and barritone HELLOs.
I was finally introduced to the teen I’d be learning with. His name was Vlad and he intimidated me even though he was 2 years my junior. He carried himself like a gangster, always wearing a leather jacket and cap, the scent of cheap cigarettes hung around his tall bulky stooped frame like an August Moscow haze.
We learned every morning for an hour and a half and it was generally an icy affair. I just didn’t warm to him. He would sit there staring at me with lifeless eyes over his Russian pug nose when he wasn’t sharing nasty jokes in Russian with his compatriots. His favorite pastime seemed to be making fun of “stupid amerikan”. He’d come to visit my room almost every afternoon and had the annoying habit of touching everything in the room. With his head in all kind of weird angles like a goose as he craned his neck into every nook in the room finding curiosities like my camera and muttering ohh verry gooood. Then he’d suddenly say something like Amerikan people very stooopid..Michael Jorrdan very goood..O Genry verry gooood while I tried to concentrate on my book of O Henry short stories. I’d look up to see him chewing on a dried out fish that he just pulled out of his back pocket while laughing at my cans of pringles and peanut butter piled up 8 deep.
One day as I was sitting in the dining room, my back to an enormous mural of Lenin, eating bread and peanut butter with coffee and milk powder, Vlad came up to me and told me that his grandfather is coming to visit and he ran out to go greet him.
My first glimpse of Sasha Grinboim was of him carrying a months worth of belongings in a lurid shopping bag walking through the large cornfield that led from the road to the camp. He was shorter than average and looked absolutely tiny dwarfed by the large stalks of corn. Vlad was trailing a few steps behind. I approached him and offered my hand. He stopped and squinted up at me with sharp eyes. He asked “Die redst yiddish?” (do you speak Yiddish) in an unmistakable Galitzianer accent. I replied “avade”..(of course) with an impeccible mimicry of his accent that caught him off guard. My eyes automatically went to his enormous nose as I attempted to internalize this incredible appendage. The sun on my back suddenly made me exclaim “nu..lets’ move” in yiddish. It turns out he was indeed from a small town in pre-war Galitzia. My grandparents come from that region and so his accent was like music to my ears. Even more incredible, after the war he spent a year in the same town as my grandfather, the border town of Rava-Russka. The conversation flowed like a meandering river back in time, from place to place. His face was basking in the glow of this unexpected conversation from the past. Vlad was 2 steps behind making the kinds of impatient grunting sounds you might expect from someone thatfeels left out of a conversation.
I left them at the door to their building and I made my way to the small general store down the road to buy some round watermelon.
That night I found my new friend sitting by himself hungrily eating a thick hot soup with bread. He gesticulated wildly when he saw me and moved over to allow me to sit beside him on the bench. He continued our conversation as if we’d never stopped. Pieces of bread were flying in all directions from his mouth as he animatedly talked about the years after the war. He was living in Rava Russka and wanted to leave to the west and to America but he missed the last train out and the very next day the the Iron Curtain closed with a dull thud, trapping him behind, he explained with a sigh. “I was there...I was right there but the train was so packed I thought..I’d wait until tomorrow for the next train” he said in a frustrated tone.
But he managed to make a life for himself, immersing himself in Soviet society, slowly letting the past slip away. He shrugged as if to spite me and my imagined judging of his life. An awkward silence hung in the air between us. Suddenly his eyes became all wet and red as he remembered his childhood and the songs he’d sing in shul..and let a half tune escape his lips softly, terribly off tune, yet hauntingly familiar.

The next morning I woke up to the incessant sound of a fly buzzing against the window pane. My eyes stared blankly at the pale green peeling paint, my body immobile on the lumpy mattress as if held in place by the dusty sun rays. I was thinking about the miserable fly and about Vlad and the huge divide between us. I was beginning to feel trapped by him and unable to accomplish anything and I was really looking forward to a trip I was planning into the big city by train in a few days.
Somewhere in the haze of my thoughts I thought I heard a commotion outside. Pushing the sun rays off my chest I shuffled over to the floor to celing window and pulled the white curtain to the side, peering outside. In the distance I saw Vlad outside his building and the Camp Director running around with the camp interpreter, concerned looks all around. A small crowd had gathered and I had this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I hurriedly got dressed and ran out the door.
Vlad stamped out a cigarette as he rolled his eyes and intoned “my grandfather not feeling well..again”. Suddenly in the distance I heard an approaching ambulance, the tone of its two key siren horribly off tune. I ran into the room and saw Sasha sitting up in bed pale and sweating profusely. He was terribly agitated and kept krechtzing oy’s over...its over... He didn’t seem to notice me and he didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything at all. I rode with him, Vlad and the camp director to the medical facility (if you can call it that) in town.
A few hours later I was sitting at his bedside and he kept muttering ”...oy oy..die 5:20..Ich darf chappen die 5:20...I have to get the 5:20..” I whispered to him “..What? What?” Do you want to say something? He looked at me and cried softly “oy..the 5:20...” Vlad yelled at me angrily in Russian and from the few words that I understood it seemed he didn’t like the fact that his Grandfather was agitated about the past, and he blamed me for that.
We hitched a ride back to camp in silence.
I had this sudden urge to speak to my Zeidie and I arranged to make an international phone call. I called Russian Telephone service and 2 hours later I was at the rotary phone for my alotted time to call. I dialed the fifteen or so numbers until my finger was numb, strained my ear, and after 2 faint rings my grandfather picked up and was quite surprised to hear me. Aware of the prohibitive cost of every minute I asked him about Rava Russka and if he remembered someone Yissucher Grinboim. The name did not ring a bell, but he proceeded to tell me all about how he escaped the army and made the last train out of the Soviet Union. The train was packed, but he and a few friends managed to squeeze on board. That train, the 5:20 from Rava Russka was the last train to freedom. I felt my throat go dry and hurriedly finished the conversation.

Suddenly it was all so clear. I was there..right there on the platform, in the jostling crowd..5 minutes is all that divided me and Vlad... The whistle was blowing shrill, the smoke filling the station...

I went out into the cool evening air and saw Vlads sillouhette walking down the path to his building. I ran after him and put my arm around his shoulder and looked deep into his dark eyes. He raised his eyebrows and I just said..come on “Vlad let’s go learn something..whatever you want”. He looked at me and asked "David..what is your rush?’s late..” I grabbed him by the shoulders and said...”don’t you you see?....we have a train to catch..!”


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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

quick update

New story coming soon...

In the interim scientists have confirmed that the human tongue is beginning to develop a 4th taste zone to go with the 3 existing taste zones of bitter, sweet and salty.
Evolutionary scientist David Lake surmises that over the next million or so years the very very back of the tongue will become a new zone that tastes medicine.

His next study due out in a few weeks explores how many millions of years it will take for squirrels to figure out to stay off the damn roads...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

protection on the road

You can always count on GEICO for better service and better rates.
We at GEICO are proud to announce that we now offer Shemira BiDrachim Insurance policies at rates far below those offered by our competitors

Instead of $119 we offer superior service for only $99 a year.
Our service guarantees that every driver will have at least 1 child say Tehillim for him/her while they’re on the road. Not only that but we will install special sensors in the car that will notify us when you’re speeding or not wearing a seatbelt so that we can re-double our efforts. We will even know when you’re pulled over so that we can storm the heavens on your behalf.

Here is a real life account from a disgruntled customer of our competition.
“I was driving my brand new Lexus on the Thruway on the phone when I saw another car swerve toward me losing control. At first I wasn’t concerned because I remembered all those kinderlach saying Tehillim for me, but as he got closer I realized I’m in kid must’ve been daydreaming or picking his nose at that very moment! And the next thing I knew..I was laid up in the hospital..immobile. I called them up and gave them my name and my mothers name but they told me that the policy doesn’t cover Tehillim for recovery, and that would cost me an additional $49!

The bad news is..I broke 5 ribs both arms and my kneecap...but the good news is...I just saved 15% by switching to GEICO!"