Saturday, March 31, 2007

Edward Scissorhands

Last night, I saw Edward Scissorhands, the silent dance-theater piece by Matthew Bourne. Oh Yes, they made the fabulous movie into a fabulous play.It was beautiful, clunky in some moments and occasionally indulgent, but over all, I felt that the idea was not wasted. If you saw this movie as a kid you would love it.The dance of the avant-garde lawn sculptures is worth it alone. Lots and lots of geometrically shaped, jete-ing pachysandra. More of it in the world, I say.

I was glad not to feel, walking out of BAM, that it was better left undone. Although, I'm sure some critics have, honestly, I haven't looked. Everything will get someone speaking out against it.

But, it is true, that so often things are made from plays or books into films and shouldn't be. It is especially offensive when perfectly good stories are turned into Ice Capades. Not everything is better on skates, Disney

The next thing I'm planning to see is Point Break LIVE! In, fact, I can't believe I haven't made it there yet. It's only running in New York and it's an adaptation of your and my favorite Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze surfing/bank robbing flick. And they pull someone different from the audience to play Keanu EVERY NIGHT! I hope they pick me.

If you can make it tonight to the closing of Edward Scissorhands I recommend it.

My only wish was for Johnny Depp to be there, but that doesn't really diverge from the norm.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This Old Man

Gordon comes into the Burp Castle and we talk about NPR.
We talk about NPR and he says witty Octogenarian type things. I don't bet on him having a lot of teeth. His bottom lip meets his nose.

Gordon wears a tackle vest looking thing. Very Henry Blake from MASH 4077.
Gordon used to be a social worker, now he lives alone near Webster Hall.

I have recently discovered that my beloved old coot is a tricky one.

After he asked me why I wasn't off getting my PHD yet, he ordered a Stella and put a ten dollar bill on the counter. If you have ever seen me around regulars at the Burp Castle, you might have noticed that I am not quick to pick up money. I figure, nobody's going anywhere. Especially if they're planning on coming back. Especially if they look over 82.

Well, Gordon and I left that ten spot unattended to, the bill that would have covered his one drink, if I indeed decided to charge him. (Gordon, in my opinion, has earned his free beer at this point.)

Gordon left to use the bathroom in the middle of a conversation he and I were having about Barack Obama. He thinks Obama is too young and is pulling for Edwards. He silently nodded through my opinions about Hillary.

When Gordon returned and we picked-up our conversation, I noticed his ten dollar bill had whittled its way down to a five.

There was now a five on the bar under Gordon's Stella.
Abe Lincoln peering skyward through a passable pilsner.
Since I wasn't planning on charging my last, only, and oldest customer of the night, I didn't much care. I, instead watched, with bewildered amusement, as a few more minutes passed and a few more dishes were done, a few more tables were cleaned, and the five was gone- replaced by two singles and an empty pint glass.

A kind tip for a beer on the house, only I wasn't deciding to give Gordon a free drink. Gordon was.

Gordon has moments when he reminds me of my grandmother. My smart and charming grandmother who would talk you out of your last dime if you gave her ten minutes- and your last dime.

I cannot wait until I can plead Alzheimer's.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I don't have all that much to say about it, but this is me, in the Negev, on a camel.

Between Two WORDS

As fate would have it, last night, I saw a chassidic love story, called Between Two Worlds. It was based on a play entitled The Dybbuk written in 1914. A woman I know played the lead and she and her lover gave wonderful performances. At one point she played a Dybbuk in a wedding dress. More female roles like that, I say.

And Israel is haunting me. I have met more Israelis, in New York, in the past week, than I think I did while I was in Israel. I have met a bunch of strangers who did the free Birthright trip; The woman who does my eyebrows almost moved there; The girl I picked up my new eyeglasses from told me she got a better tan when she was there.
Not to mention the plays I'm invited to see. Apparently half of New York has been to Israel.

Israel- The Jewish Bahamas?

When I was in Jerusalem, I saw a play completely in Hebrew. It was a translation of Life is a Dream by Calderon de la Barca. I read this play about 10 years ago, and needless to say, had very little idea what was going on. But it happened. In two hours, I watched people captured, released,love, cry, consumed with envy, and forgive- all without understanding a word.

I do have to say, although I felt helpless from beginning to end, I understood something very new (or very old) about our relationship with language. During the play, I saw all those things(fear, love, hate) but I came one small huge step away from feeling them. In the dark of a language that was not my own, I saw how deeply we are triggered by the word. In our own languages the codes we have get inside us. Body language does only half the work. The word sears us. I forgot that, I think. I was reminded during a the King's, stationary, 12 minute Hebrew monologue. Where everyone one was laughing except the three fake Jews in the front row.

The chassidic love story on the other hand, I got every word. When a frum Jew says "you've come to steal my heart," in English, to a secular female, you just get that.

Oh, the places Jew will go.

Let's pretend I never said that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Now, was that bird an Arab?

So, I've been a slacker and I'm sorry if you've been checking in.
Coming back to New York has taken a little more out of me than I thought.
The clock and time and who the hell was George Bush to redesign Day Light Savings, anyway?. That didn't help. I see 2 am a lot. I see 6 am. I feel like it shouldn't take this long, but a few people have told me it is one day for every hour difference. I'll buy that, it sure feels that way.

They loved me in Newark airport, the Jews. I was asked a litany of questions before I even left New York (New Jersey, for you sticklers). They weren't crazy about my last name. They weren't too keen on me not having any Hebrew.

"What is your Hebrew name?"

See. I knew I had one. That I knew, but since I had never been Bat Mitzvahed and all, I didn't pay too much attention to it. I knew my sister's for some reason -vaguely, but I decided not to lie.

"I'm sorry, I don't remember."

The security agent took my passport and said she would be right back. It was clear that I was not Jew enough for El Al. My grandmother always teased me for looking too much like a shiksa.

When she returned:

"I have reason to believe that someone may have given you a bomb or another item and placed it in your bag."

I had to report at Noon.

After a bag check, a shoe swab, and escort to the plane I was permitted to enter the State of Israel. Some of my compatriots did not fare as well as I did. There were strip searches, lost cameras, and one guy was so upset after he got to Israel, he turned around and went home.

The group of us that were asked to step aside, were wondering just what it was that flagged us. Did we look different? Were our answers insufficient? What made us look like a terrorist would give us a bomb?

I realized after a little bit that every one of the Israelis who just put me through the ringer, had probably been in the IDF. El Al knows how to keep the skies safe for the Chosen People.

You know what is beautiful, like mountain, Mediterranean beautiful? Not being able to read advertisements or sales pitches because they are in Hebrew. That, my friends, is worth a ten hour transatlantic flight. There are no English cognates in Hebrew, nope, that's right, I couldn't even get close.

"Hey, Rachel? What do you think that says?"

"Box, box, squiggle, ccchhhaaa."

"You think that means they have falafel?"

I am wearing a red string around my ankle. It is supposed to ward off evil. I put it on just before I stepped down to the the Kotel, just before I washed my hands and approached the wall, near the ramp that might start another war. I was supposed to make a wish and tie it. I forgot. So the red string represents a red string, until it falls off. Then, it will simply be gone.

Did I tell you I watched a bird be murdered? Yeah. By a fisherman near the Andromeda Rocks in the old port city of Yafo, which is part of Tel Aviv. He cast his line behind him and asked our unmanagable group of Americans to please move back. I still say it only happened because he was focusing on us. Distracted, he cast, and somewhere, above the ocean, his hook met with a the breast of a passing bird and struck him dead. The bird took a nosedive and sunk into the ocean. A single feather fluttered, spiraled, and followed its body down to the sea.

The entire group I was with fell completely silent for the first, and only time in our ten days together.

I screamed, "he killed a bird!" Just in case no one had noticed the bird, now a death brick, fall into the western most waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

If that bird's religious affiliation had been known, THAT may have been a political act on the part of the fisherman. We didn't ask, and he kept fishing. The bird's carcass looked like it was helping the angler's endeavor. Our tour guide moved us along.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Israel: It's complicated

You'll never believe what Israel has as a national problem.
No. Not the Palestinians.
Nope. Not Iran.
If you say Global Warming, you're ice, ice cold.

Stray, stray cats.
They are considered the squirrel of Israel.
The Zionists are overrun by feral cats.
In Tel Aviv.
In Jerusalem.
In the Negev Desert.
They tried to kill the cats one year and got a rat problem. They swiftly went back to the cats.

I'm back in America and I am getting used to not seeing things in Hebrew. English is the third national language in Israel. Arabic is second,it sweeps across road signs and shawarma stands and looks like dancing.

In Israel, in the Arab neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to see houses built with only a completed first floor. The second and sometimes, third floors are left for a later date. The houses are designed deliberately as such so that when it is time for the family's son to wed, there is a place to build a home. Arab men are not permitted to wed without their own dwelling first being secured. Sometimes, in the desert, these bottom heavy domiciles look like ghosts.

In Israel, there is pain in the hills. Like one of the dead Zionists said, the future of Israel, is in its desert.

Hebrew is a mostly made-up language.
From the Torah, they did the best they could. They, of course, had to figure out how to say things like ice cream and computer as time went on. Video game. The Internet was never mentioned in the Song of Songs.
New Jew, new Hebrew, is the sentiment.

Sometimes Israel, the way it is built, the secrets that it has, feels like a Disneyland for Semites. Some Semites more than others.

In the Dead sea. You do not swim. You cannot swim. You float, only.
Any attempt to swim and the water will try to kill you. If you go under the surface the water will keep you, and sting you. It is too heavy to come up through. The water of the dead sea is toxic and healing all at the same time. If the water gets in your eyes you cannot open them from the pain. The Dead Sea tastes like putting your tongue on a battery and it takes several minutes for the pain to subside.

You can not stand or you will cut your feet on the salt deposits and spines of unidentified rocks. Lie on your back and the Dead Sea keeps you up all on its own. I have never felt anything like it. Its surface feels like mineral oil and its waters cradle you. If you pull your breasts out, they will float like Buoys.

They have signs cautioning for camels like we do for deer and you can feel the people feel God in the land. At the Kotel, and at the Dome of the Rock you can feel the two religions, both so strong in their beliefs, turning their backs on each other. It is cold in its separation and more stifling than frightening to see the amount of guns on peoples' backs. In both religions, the women cover their hair.

On Sunday, I stood where the The First and Second Temples used to be and where Muhammad, made wings, and went up to heaven.

I saw where Jesus Christ was crucified at Golgotha.
On the slab, where Christ's body was laid out, people took off rings and laid them down so as to have them blessed. People blessed oils, and candles, and incense. People kissed everything in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that they could.
It's funny, but of all of the religions trisecting Jerusalem, Christianity feels out of place. At the fourth Station of the cross, where Jesus met with Mary, there is a sock and brassiere shop. The Jews and the Muslims seem to have the strongest lock on the Old City. The Christians aren't putting up much of a fight.

You feel the air change in East Jerusalem where the Muslim population is not "Israeli-Arab," where they are not citizens of the State of Israel, but instead Palestinian.

In case you were wondering, yes, there is a Palestine.

You can see it on the hill from the The Temple Mount. Because Palestine is both it and and beyond it.

In case you were wondering, Israel is complicated. After two weeks, I see the murk of the region only more. I see it like Dead Sea mud.

I see an Israel that should exist, because it is as much in the history of the Jews as anyone's. Who the hell hasn't taken that land? The Arabs got it from someone else, too. That land has been lost and reclaimed like a Title.

They offered the Jews Uganda when this all started. Before '48.
Some people thought they should go there.
Brooklyn has the second highest Jewish population in the world.

Third Temple in Williamsburg?

I have more to say after I sleep.
Thank you for welcoming me back.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


So, the Dead Sea stings and cuts your feet. The future is in the desert, they say here in Israel.
Greetings from Zion.
I am staying on longer and will have time to write when not in the group.
Alive and Tan and in Jerusalem,