At first I searched for something clever to say about fifty five, how it was different, staring us in the face, perhaps something to do with two digits of five arranged like vase. But this train of thought was not too constructive, all it yielded were white sheets of paper, some phrases and letters and commas, all too predictive. I sat on top of my writers-block wall, accepting that after fifty five years I could say nothing at all, which would end with a bang of a loud painful fall. Oh, how distressing, what a depressing sensation, but my stairwell to redemption came from sheer accusation. Was it not Imma, who sixteen years before me, did not come to the aid of a child stung by a bee? And was it not rumored that except for a few hugs and kisses, and pulling the stinger and icing the welt, not much more compensated for that hurtful neglect? If you ask me breast feeding counts, and white cocoa in the morning, and new clothes every week, and hunting down every teacher who made your day bleak, and cleaning, and teaching, and sharing quality time, and giving advice whenever it’s needed, and mending the pieces when it was not heeded. Cajoling, encouraging and prodding us forward, ‘you have so much to give, get it out of your gizzard.’ Praying on supermarkets to hunt down our food, Friday fifteen course dinners to share with our brood, with your friends that she likes and those not so much, did that every stop her from feeding them lunch? Hungry or not, with or without appetites ‘the least you can do is take one small bite’ How many times have you heard: ‘I have cut, I have mixed, marinated and cooked, I have toiled, broiled, and boiled, if you do not eat all of this will get spoiled!’ Not for a moment deterred by our cold leaving indifference, she whips up alternatives and chases the distance, holding sandwiches overflowing with turkey and chives, between bleeding fingers that got in the way of the knives. ‘Go build a Sukkah we’ll observe like the good Jews that we are, Yeela and Elad have come all the way from Afar.’ The architect and the soul of our community Seder; with matzoth, and kneidlach, and two dozen seats, potatoes and yams and whoever likes beets; even carrots and peas, and Moses and miracles parting the seas. Margaritas for the drunks and Pepsi for us, all greeted with smiles never making a fuss. Yom Kippur is a day when we get to reflect, but who gets much done when all share a bed? Huddling to fend off hunger and thirst ‘when three stars come out, who wants honey cake first?’ When illness sets in and doctors are fumbling will she not disregard what they are prescribing? ‘I know what you have, you have had it before, and all these antibiotics should go out the door.’ You should know that is it hard to discern the social good from its rife, therefore heed, and have patience and learn from her life. Picking good friends is not easy, she knows, precise as a minuteman she picks your friends from your foes. Social threads might need mending; you need to be blending, always stand tall in the sororities you’re attending. What else counts as caring or shows some remorse for one bumble bee that took her life’s course? How about skiing for togetherness and gambling for bonding, and movies and pot-lucks and carpools withstanding? Does helping pick college and making a dorm more like home, bring some closure to minutes when you felt left alone? ‘I have some drapes for the windows linens for the bed’ – does that make up for something wrong that was said? Embracing your every initiative and creative ideas, knowing that if you wrote stories you would all be a hit, languages are the keys to succeed, French, Spanish and English especially Chinese. Your teeth are straight, and you all play the piano, and some shoes and some cars; one of you even went to Milano. Not much more came to mind, except maybe five phone calls a day, just to see how you were, very near, not as close, even far, far away, some texting and skyping, and some e-mails for giggles, and buddy bags loaded with cookies and skittles. Suitcases filled with supplies and some books and a kindle to go, with some coffee or toothpaste and chocolate and soap. Never missing a tournament where you played flute and trombone, and the French horn and big drums, soccer, and basketball and trips to the mall. Stories, and poems and music and concerts, is it so much to ask that your books will be published? It did not come easy that none of you is an ‘ignoramous’, all she asks is that you all become very famous. So when fifty five followed in fifty four’s footsteps, was it any surprise that we all knew the concept? Nothing much for a bee that stung once and fell dead, except for a kiss and a pat on the head, and a hug and some more, and a warm hearted smile, ten cuddles an hour, a hundred a day, how many thousands over the years would you say? Indeed it’s just one of those days which are not all that different. It is one more of those days which we hope last for years, if just for that finger that dries off the tears.
A collective objective perspective.
Happy Birthday Imma.
September 2010 give or take
After I put the city to sleep yesterday and watching over it until 5 o’clock in the morning, it let me doze off until 8:00 AM this morning. After the equivalent of an overpriced continental breakfast (Australia is as expensive as Europe, but the company is paying so who gives a damn), we headed out to see the city. We walked down Spencer Street (you’re welcome to follow on Google Earth or Maps) across the Yarra River – which is to Melbourne what the Thames is to London – an attempt to fill the city with running natural water which flows from West to East after a bend which everyone references as a landmark. We walked along the south bank past the Crown Palace hotel and Casino and went up to the 88th floor of the Eurika tower for a view of the city. Having identified the landmarks we fell back down, taking the elevator which is considered one of the fastest in the world and the building the tallest in the southern hemisphere. As far as tall goes – it is like saying the tallest in Australia and Antarctica – but the locals seem to take great pride in both. We tried the National Art Gallery which is national to Victoria State – Sydney must have one too. As it turns out Tuesday is the day that most exhibits are closed for some Australian reason. The only exhibition open was that of European Masters – but we were not sure if the name referred to masters of the arts or masters of the Aborigines so we moved on to the Royal Botanical Gardens which are like non-royal botanical gardens only the signs on the plants are so small that only royalty can walk the garden and know what is growing there ‘James, could you hop over to that tree yonder and tell me whether its a Eucalyptus or a water Lilly…’ There is an impressive assortment of palm trees growing in a grove set aside for palms which can survive the Melbourne climate which is anywhere between oceanic and freezing when the south ocean decides to get the best of things. A sign which we could read without James’ assistance (note that James is like Jesus was far as apostrophe s’es go) promised that additional palms which were more accustomed to warmer and more humid climates were to be found in the glass houses – but the glass houses were closed for whatever the reason.
We headed back towards the rives and downtown. Melbourne downtown is a mix of modern architecture of glass, steel and chrome and quite a few older cathedrals which let those scant few remaining christens and murderers of Christ such as ourselves amuse themselves while the Asians roam the streets. One of the most striking examples of this modern architecture is ‘Federation Square’ which every sight seeing clip of Melbourne starts with. We headed for the square after visiting the world wars’ memorial site which is located between the river and the botanical gardens. The square is paved like a brick wall with shades of desert sands deranging from light yellow and cream to darker shades of granite red. The combination and shifts in color are somewhat unsettling, but this exhibition of bad taste is dwarfed by the train station across the street which is a reduced replica of the Big Ben in bright orange and yellow. One cannot help thinking that the people of Melbourne were desperate to show the world that they have a little bit of everything.
Federation Square is surrounded on three sides by buildings whose architecture represents a trend where the scaffolding is left to stand and the building is removed. The scaffolding is then connected with sheets of glass, rock and plastics with escalators moving through open space, moving the sight seers in search of purpose and self. If you do get to the square you might want to visit the Australian Center for the Moving Image (movies) which has some very interesting displays of the history of film making and video games. They also have an exhibition of Tim Burton’s work – the meshigineh that created Scissor Hands, Batman, the latest version of Alice in Wonderland, Willie Wonka and more smiley-horror films.What I found fascinating were drafts of scripts and cartoons which Tim drew throughout his career, which bring to life the creative process. One memorable item is Willie Wonka’s headgear – braces which look more like snow chains – the amount of detail and creativity that went into making these movies and the creativity of the man is impressive, even if babies with nails in their eyes is not my cup of tea.
We crossed Flunders Street and walked into ST. Paul’s Cathedral. The organ was playing by itself – sounding the all too familiar tones of Christian religious plumbing – minimizing the believer and glorifying the institutions which tell the followers how to believe. We paid our dues by following the isle to the alter and back out along the side wall, lined with bronze plaques honoring great dead people of the faith. We existed back to the street and settled to catch our Mediterranean selves is a kebab and Shawarma stand in a nearby alley. Nourished we continued to roam the downtown – which finally qualified for the mundane repetitions of a western city with little history of its own to speak of. The cultural blanks are filled by patterns of 7Eleven’s next to MacDonald franchises, and Subways paired with Hungry Jacks. Department stores and tall office buildings – shopping bazaars with fake marble floors and mirrors on every back wall, between and beneath the buildings, traffic going the wrong way and a Starbucks where I refused the marshmallows and cream in my hot chocolate. I saw no reason to change my Starbucks name is the southern hemisphere – David is was and David it remains. I like to tell myself that David is almost a Palindrome in English and definitely a Palindrome in Hebrew – therefore I can use it all the same in upper and down-under countries. .
Tomorrow we have our meetings with our customer – which is the reason we are here in the first place. Based on what you’re read you can safely conclude that it is also the only reason to be here. If you’re planning to go to Australia you can safely bypass Melbourne.
You’re probably surprised to hear from me. Seeing a Biblical Jewish name on the class roster caught my attention. I have to admit that when I found out that you were a dog I was tempted to back away. I found myself confronting a touchy dilemma. If I did ignore you I could be accused of being an animal hater, and with a racist bent at that. Being the private and reserved man that I am it was difficult to openly share my inner conflicts, therefore I chose to drop you a few reassuring lines and flee overseas until the fallout subsided.
We have only been together for a dog-week, hardly enough time to strike a relationship. However, our Jewish names are not the only thing we have in common. Judging by your looks, I would say we are about the same age about seven dog years give or take a few months. I am a tad older but its character more than age that counts. We both feel the economic pressures of the times. Many of my ranks have been downsized, off-shored and out-sourced, as have many of your closer relatives. Greyhounds and Salukis have seen their mats by the fireplace handed to more physically attractive and marginally more intelligent Dobermans. The Doberman, in turn, has lost its stature of butcher guard dog to the less messy Rottweiler, which was fortunate to be employed, now that killer dog positions have been banned. Pit Bulls can no longer find jobs and have reverted to eating the neighbors. It is fast becoming a dog-eat-dog world out there. As secure and lovable as your species seems, your downfall might come when genetic research conjures a less fierce breed of Chihuahua that will not bite off the finger that feeds it. Have you seen what they can clone and cross breed these days? They are talking about reviving the Wooly Mammoth from the few strands of DNA which they found.
We share more mundane common ground as well. I believe it would be fair to say that no other member of your species is more humiliated by the barber, but rest assured you have my sympathy. I took many hair cuts in my time, and my memories remain fresh despite the fact that it has been many years since my last visit. I vividly recall the helpless feeling not being able to control the outcome. The horrors of facing society the day after still bring a chill to my spine. But you did not have hair cut around the tip of your spine! You say? That is a fair point, but I was circumcised, the ultimate tip cut of no return, where mistakes do not grow back. Of course you get to lick your lower parts, or have they neutered you?
As I passed through Airport security I thought of you in that bag you live in, passing through the X-Ray machine, both of you seeing each other’s internals. Without implying too much about your social status I assume we both fly in the mind-your-own-business class. In the newer planes there is an opening in the bulkhead which separates the privileged from the likes of us. Looking through that window I can get a glimpse of how the elite dine and sleep while I struggle to keep blood circulating to my legs and avoid pressure sores. But I’m not bitter; such experiences give me an opportunity to see how you live most of your life.
You might have been spared the humiliation of the health food mania. I cannot remember when I last had a genuine piece of meat dripping fat on my plate. I have been reduced to greens and beans, fish and lentils, white turkey breast without its skin, nuts and bolts. Do you know that my teenage boys will forgo premature sex to go to Tony Roma’s, so severe is their deprivation? On rare occasions we sneak over there. Do you remember ribs? I have seen dogs which have been forced to eat fruits and vegetables by demented owners who have lost sense of caninenimity. Some dogs can no longer tell the difference between a hamburger and a Portobello mushroom.
There is this veterinary clinic situated right next to a 7-Eleven (I have learned to spell the name of this establishment thanks to the feedback I got from the class) in Sunnyvale, a block up from the corner of Wolf (it’s just a name of a road) and Fremont Avenue. Perhaps when I come back we could meet in the small parking lot up front. I’ll buy us some beef jerky and we can sit by the clinic window and watch a cat get a colonoscopy or something. That would be nice.
You’ve been a resident in Shaked for 24 years
One would think getting rid of you, would bring one to tears.
However over time you’ve brought nothing but strife
You don’t do your job, so now you get the knife.
If you’d only aided in digesting some meals,
perhaps we would adhere to your desperate appeals.
But i read on Wikipedia that humans need you not,
we can do well without you. Oh snap! You still feeling hot?
In about a weeks time, Shaked can enjoy foods with fat
chocolates and cheeses and fries, how ’bout that?
Good riddance to you, you organ of woe
(Chukes, will you keep it in a jar, just for memories and show?)
So to all gallbladders out there who try to pull shit,
just know that we’re onto you. you aint so legit.
Shaked I sure hope that you feel better soon,
for now enjoy the drugs that will fly you to the moon.
And if you can smuggle some happy-pills for your pal,
I’m sure she wont mind… it might raise her morale.
But that’s not the point, the point is that you get better quick
so that we can go get some coffee or go catch a flik!
“Please listen carefully and type the confirmation ID that the phone gives you:”
When the dog barks, (or if someone knocks, …)
When a bee stings, (or when my iPhone rings, or my timeline pings, …)
When I’m feeling sad,(or bad, mad, glad ’cause there’s a message on my iPad, …)
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t hear so good!!!
So I switched to a Mac 🙂
“Dad, leave me alone, I’ll clean my room later.”
“No, you’ll clean it now.” I could be so inflexible when it came to such unimportant things. Clean your room? Who cares. I couldn’t even blame myself for ending up like my own father; he never asked me to clean my room. I was simply a jackass. I tended to pick fights with her over things that I didn’t care about. We’re so similar, that fighting was just too easy. Only rarely did I remember that I was her father, and it was in my job description to take the high road. What a shame that I was never good at doing my job. Behind the closed door, I could hear her blasting away on a harmonica she must have dug up from the depths of her drawers. She knew how to play just well enough for me to know that she was now in her room defiantly not cleaning. Living proof that music speaks louder than words. In the kitchen, the sink was piled with cups stained brown, bowls, bits of crisped rice and flaked corn; all memories of the nutritious breakfast that was consumed minutes ago. My wife had asked me to take care of the mound before she left for work. ‘I’ll clean them later,’ I thought and sat down on the sofa to read, accompanied by the music of a wailing harmonica. My daughter’s book was sitting on the coffee table; “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”- I had no idea what the book was about, but I could tell by the name that it was great. Yes; I judge books by their cover. I took the book in my hands and it opened naturally to page 117. Something about a young man taking care of his little brother. The sentences were long and choppy at the same time. I wasn’t used to hearing the narrator’s thoughts so directly. ‘She’ll tell me about this later, once she’s finished the book.’ I don’t know how she became such a literary snob, but when I offered her to read “The DaVinci Code” she practically spat in my face. I put the book down; that was enough reading for one day.
“I’m going out for a while, see you later,” she called from the door.
“Wait! Is your room clean?”
“What do you think?” She smiled at me and left the house, leaving a trail of perfumed scent behind her. It always made me nervous when she left the house. Parenting makes you so vulnerable. I truly wonder if my life would have been better without that trail of sweet scent always lingering in my nose in my thoughts.
I got up to go check her room; for no reason other than to get angry that she didn’t listen to me. The floor creaked under my bare feet; a pseudo-warning: there is no point going in there. As if I couldn’t let her laughter haunt the air too long. Always the masochist. I burst through the door, expecting to catch her in the middle of ignoring me; as if I hadn’t seen her walk out of the house a few minutes prior. Her room was spotless. There wasn’t even an imprint on her blanket from where she sat to tie her shoes. Her desk was clear of any garbage that had inhabited it and I could see a picture of my wife and me, staring back from her mirror and smiling. Laughing at me that I had been so foolish. Why did you come here?
I went downstairs and there was a different book on the table. “Catch 22”. Her favorite. I sat down again. The harmonica started to play. I tried shutting the book hard, as if the opening and closing of the tired pages was what orchestrated the music in the far room. The music kept playing. “Keep it down!” I hate it when she doesn’t listen to me! I got up, furious that my voice meant nothing. I told her to clean her room, and there she was playing her harmonica. Who even bought her that stupid little instrument? I banged on her door, losing all sense of proportion. In all honesty, I liked hearing her play. There was something so sincere in her music, even if the notes were random and had no lyrical coherence. But I was already angry, and she knew it. War. Louder and louder the little harp was blasting from the other side of the door as my banging became uncontrollable. I opened the door, my fist pink and raw from the abuse it had just endured against the wooden armor that stood between my daughter and me. The room was empty. The music stopped. Her bed was made. A streak of golden sunlight crept through the closed blinds, and gently hit a spider web in the making. I stepped inside to brush away the silky strings, and flicked the spider away. She never liked spiders.
I sat down in the living room once again, and held the book close. Still “Catch 22”. This time the crease was on the last page of the book. My eyes started to read.
Yossarian gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.
I could smell her from the yellowed page; a defiance to the cold existential claim in black print. She was there; I just heard her music. I was angry with her a moment ago. The front door opened and closed, “Hi Dad!” I looked up, and saw nothing. Before my very eyes, there was absolutely nothing. The music started to play again. I knew that matter could be taken away. I remembered. But I also knew that the music was mine to keep, and that was absolutely everything. I closed my eyes trying to consume the notes in the air. Her audacious melodies not willing to leave her father alone in the world.