Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On this last night of Hanukkah, enjoy the two following posts, the audio recording of which may be found at many thanks to Ryan Singleton.

Happy holidays.

Christmassakkah, Part 2: Friends from the Neighborhood

My Christmas memories are an amalgam of simultaneous dread, distortion and melodramatic nostalgia that could have all occurred on the same Christmas that I was seven, nine or twelve.  With the Tree-Returning Incident, for example, I said I was nine but I may have been seven.  Or twelve.  That event may, in fact, have been the same year my father and his brother chose affirmative action as the topic of discussion to best celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. 

I do not recommend this...ever.

Grandma -a lady who believed that you could outgrow being Chinese and thus had very little perspective to add to a discussion on affirmative action- was there and I had to give my bed up to her  -I always had to give my bed up to her and I felt this was a great injustice since no one else had to give up their beds.  She and my mother only ever greeted each other through clenched teeth.  Like all good Jewesses, my mother decorated the house in all its Christmassy fashion, right down to the red bow on our Westy terrier, who, quite matter-of-factly, chose my other uncle's foot as his fire hydrant.  Andy Williams was singing carols on the record player -yes, indeed, I said "record player," people.  My father even bought a 3D puzzle of Yuletide London, which tormented us into believing that at least three pieces were missing.  Everything was perfect, especially the twelve-foot tree my father erected after three relentless hours of fir needles and curses.  The arena was optimized for the self-destructive forces of sibling rivalry and familial angst.  In other words, the scene was primed for the Bumpuses's dogs to destroy our turkey.

Yes, sir, affirmative action.  Not the least probability that such an intellectual venture could spew forth such vitriolic tidings of Christmas joy.

Two hours after the table was cleared, my father and uncle were still asserting liberal and liberal-liberal standpoints with their overly assertive Italian eyebrows.  I had long ago immersed myself in the foam-and-picture world of 3D London to avoid any verbal spillover.  The debate was no longer about affirmative action. It was simply about anger.  Although the Tree-Returning Incident and the Great Affirmative Action Debate may or may not have been the same year, something nasty had undoubtedly gone viral in our home at the holidays because this may also have been the same Christmas on which we thought family friends had lost their son to a fatal car crash.

The Houstins* moved with us from Long Island to the same neighborhood in Connecticut.  Brian and my brother played soccer together.  I remember not liking them because when my parents vacationed in Hawai'i for their fifteenth anniversary, leaving my brother and me at the Houstins's home, I held my s*** in for all five days. It was my way of saying, "Mrs. Houstin, I find your peculiar brand of cuisine most displeasing, your disposition most unkind, and your oddly masculine voice somewhat petrifying. I shall, therefore, not defecate this morn."

My father warned my brother that Brian was the kind of a**hole that would one day be driving a car in which the passenger would be killed, that Brian wouldn't die.  My brother paled when the prediction came true.  We actually received a phone call reporting that Brian died in the hospital, to which my mother buried her face in her hands.  I didn't understand why.  The other boy was dead on impact.  I knew his father and had heard that he was a nice boy.  We didn't like Brian.  And, he killed somebody else on Christmas Day.  I remember thinking the wrong boy died when I heard that Brian was still calling the hospital nurses "bitches" after the accident.

Sometimes I don't understand Christmas.  We struggle so much to be with the ones who we love but who we can't bear to be near for longer than it takes to say, "Hello."  We try to please the ones who don't want to be pleased. We try to talk casually with people we can't chat with.  We try to love the people we wish were dead and try to be sad when we think they actually are dead.  You needed to be vigilant to avoid catastrophe.  You could never let down your guard lest you allow a poor discussion topic to enter the room.  And, then we spend the rest of our lives wishing we had back the Christmasses that went bad.  Is this the meaning of Christmas?  Love the friends and family you have now because they might be gone tomorrow?  Love them because you might not have the chance to love them ever again? Is the message of Christmas Spirit so obvious?  Is it this contrived?  This trite? 


Christmassakkah, Part 1: Jews, Christmas, and Returning the Tree

When I was nine, my mother instructed my father to return our Christmas tree to the local Christmas tree vendor because it was too small and simply not Christmassy enough.  My mother is Jewish.  My father refused.  She took me with her and brought the tree back herself.

In the history of Christmas, I don't think anyone has ever returned a Christmas tree, especially when the customer's predominant religion requires said customer to be celebrating Chanukkah at the exact moment that he or she is returning said hypothetical Christmas tree.  In this case, however, my mother was a veritable Lucy to my father's Charlie Brown.  Although this may have been my father's passive aggressive plea against having to erect a twelve-foot tree under our family room's vaulted ceiling, my mother would have none of it.  Everyone driving by on Branchville Road needed to see our tree for miles in either direction from our massive bay window as if it were the light of Baby Jesus himself.  An eight-foot tree was simply not enough Christmas for this half-Christian family.

So, with my mother I went to return our tree on a frigid December morning.  I pulled my hat down over my face -there were no eyeholes- not in order to hide it from the cold, but rather to hide my embarrassment from the Christmas tree vendor whose expression bordered the line between frustration and disbelief.  My mother was incredulous that the vendor would even sell this sub-par Christmas tree to a well-paying family such as ours.  Not only did my mother return the tree but so hot was her fervor that she opted to take her patronage to a different vendor entirely, effectively conveying the message, "Your business, kind sir, sucks and, therefore, you will not receive our monies this morn.  Good day."

Such is the wrath of a Jew on Christmas.

My mother and I drove to another vendor on the other side of town, carrying with us her refunded money and a complaint about the former vendor. The new vendor listened to our woes, confident that his inventory stored only the straightest, largest, and fullest Christmas trees. A superhero of Christmas tree sales, this vendor immediately led us to the plus-size models, all of which were ten feet or taller. My mother bought a twelve-footer and waited patiently and triumphantly outside the car as our new Christmas tree hero strapped our new new Christmas tree to the roof of our car.

Every holiday season, my mother made it her mission to Christmasize the house, right down to the empty wrapped boxes on the landing, the additional four-foot tree in the living room, and the Christmas menorah that once belonged to her father. She even hung a name-embroidered stocking for our very waspy terrier, Spencer.  Spencer had his own holiday bow.  Thankfully, I didn't. In her younger years, my mother even went so far as to paint her own wooden ornaments and hang one, in particular, that read, "Shalom."

I wonder what so motivated my mother to become such a champion Christmasser, being a Jew, and all I come up with is this: when we are no longer what we once were, we embrace  something...anything.  She saw the writing on the wall.  Chanukkah had nothing on Christmas.  It was popularized by a couple of rabbis in Cincinnati to make Jewish children feel better about their lack of presents in December.   My mother had one son who half-heartedly embraced his bar mitzvah and one who would never have one at all.  She was losing.  Sons are supposed to be the religion of their mother, damn it!  We didn't care.  We wanted presents.  Eight wasn't enough.  So, what does she do? If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  And while we're at it, we'll celebrate Chanukkah, too!

Our holiday season was packed.  That year, my father spent hours raising the twelve-foot tree my mother and I purchased, dropping countless f-bombs and sweating profusely from his Italian brow.  After the fallout cleared, we lit a fire, blasted the Andy Williams Christmas Album, and chased the dog away from the lower tree limbs and rogue ornament hooks, as we leaned and contorted to decorate the branches we were too short to reach.  Each year, we had the shiniest star, the classiest white lights, and coziest holiday dinners.  We lit our menorah and donned our tree, opened the small gifts on Chanukkah and the big ones on Christmas.  We liked Chanukkah but we admittedly liked Big Brother Christmas a little bit more.

And, no matter how big or awesome it was, we communally hated that f***ing tree. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nothing Weird Ever Happened On Thanksgiving

My happy Thanksgiving post......

Thanksgiving was never exciting.  It was never hostile.  It was usually quiet.  All except for the drive to my aunt's in Pennsylvania requiring a pleasant morning cruise across the George Washington Bridge to the Palisades.

With eight million other families.

Through a land of ash and fire-spitting smokestacks that is New Jersey.

With my family.

If you've never travelled this route with an Italian (who just so happens to be your father), then you've never truly experienced the splendor of such a sensational expedition.  Road space was only a slight issue as my father was quite adept in diminishing the front end of a twelve-food span closest to the forward car to seven inches, give or take six inches depending on whether he was accelerating or slamming on the brakes.  Once he determined the car in front was being operated by an incompetent driver, he'd swerve into the middle lane, close the next gap and weave somewhat more speedily back in front of the former car -with a comfortable two inches to spare.  To say this was exhilarating on the Jersey-bound lanes of the George Washington Bridge, the roadway about 212 feet above the Hudson, is sort like saying the Empire State Building was never really all that special.

In the interest of full disclosure, nobody died.

Were you the offending driver, you'd be assaulted by a most hostile barrage of expletives, a sharp, upward "what-the-f***-are-you-doing" hand wave, and the darkest, angriest furrowed brow ever imaginable.  You would not actually hear the obscenities through the windows and white noise of speeding cars, but you would clearly understand what was being said as my father would deliberately over-annunciate his message to compensate for lack of sound.  This was especially thrilling as embarrassment coupled with fear of high-speed death forced my body deeper and deeper into the seat.  We'd reach Jersey and I'd look wistfully for the Statue in order to displace the panic with oblivion.

Of course, if we had left the house ten minutes later, we'd likely not be moving at such pace.  Rather, we'd be crawling over the bridge amidst the exponentially thicker density of vehicles packing the roadway.  There would still be a lot of cursing.

This adventure, by the way, was by no means exclusive to our family.  Plenty of other fathers racing down the interstate spat out these most lovely compliments while careening towards the slow-pokes disinterested in reaching their holiday destinations.  For those faster and more aggressive than my father, he simply cursed back, "You f***ing a**hole!" for so nearly threatening his family and car.

Unscathed, we'd emerge from our death-skirting speed race upon reaching our destination.  We'd collapse onto the couch, weary and exhausted, pop in the Star Wars Trilogy or The Godfather, wait hungrily for the turkey to be sliced, and anxiously dread the drive home in three days.

Our holiday wasn't so different from anyone else's, at least not in the Tri-state area.

Okay, maybe the meal wasn't so different from anyone else's.  But, Thanksgiving felt like the one holiday when we weren't different.  There exists in this country the notion that some are more American than others.  On Thanksgiving, however, no one asked if I wore a yarmulke.  No one asked if we spoke Italian in our house.  On Thanksgiving, we were an American family.  At the time, I wanted to get the heck out of there, especially with the impending doomful drive home.  It's trite, I know.   It's cliché but, in retrospect, I'm grateful that for one night we could feel ordinary.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Mustachioed President

President Obama's critics seem to have made an unlikely comparison between Mr. Obama, himself, and the notorious villain we all love to hate, Adolf Hitler. You see, if you look carefully at this picture, President Obama and Mr. Hitler share one defining characteristic: the mustache. 

Really, Mr. President, you should think twice about styling your facial hair in such a dismaying manner. I have to believe that when he posed for this picture, he had failed to familiarize himself with the facial hair fashion of former war criminals responsible for systematically annihilating millions of their citizens on the exclusive basis of ethnicity. This is certainly not what we expect of a president, Mr. Obama. You had better shave off that mustache and fast! Another mistake like this, some other ill-advised beard and your critics will be calling you a Muslim or something crazy like that!

Well done, Obama critics, in keeping our nation's standards high. Good eye, ol' chaps. We do not want our leaders to be mistaken for evil-doers. We have to keep that president of ours on his toes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Brief Eulogy for James Gandolfini

                                                                       Photo courtesy of

With the passing of James Gandolfini, most will remember him for The Sopranos, a show certainly worthy in television history; but I remember him for a lesser role, one which did not earn any awards and barely, perhaps, a credit. I remember him in True Romance as Virgil, a wise guy, one of Vincenzo Coccotti's (Christopher Walken's) hired thugs feverishly in pursuit of Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette), as they flee a murder with a bag full of cocaine. Arquette plays a call girl hired for Clarence's birthday, Slater an employee in a comic book store, Dennis Hopper his father and retired cop, and Val Kilmer the image of Elvis who tells Clarence to kill Alabama's pimp (Gary Oldham). The film, directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino, is ripe with other cameos, including Michael Rappaport, Bronson Pinchot, Tom Sizemore, and Brad Pitt. It is a film in which the male audience members are supposed to fall in love with Alabama, the females, sorry for Clarence, admitting they would also sleep with him on his lonely birthday, and all parties vehemently loathing Virgil for the manner in which he assaults Alabama.

When Virgil finally catches up with the couple in their hotel room, Clarence is out. Virgil begins with pleasantries before unloading his massive strength upon her face, which includes throwing her body from her throat across the room and tossing her through a glass shower door. The fight climaxes as Alabama, with blood streaming through her teeth, stabs Virgil in the foot with a Swiss Army knife, torches him with a flaming aerosol can, and shoots him multiple times in the chest. It is Tarantino violence in a way that only Tarantino can make violence. Of course, the couple escapes in the end -no spoiler alert necessary since the movie is twenty years old and I imagine those who have not seen it yet are not going to see it now- a happy finale and the beginning of the couple's new life together. 

As a teen, I loved this movie and, sadly, never thought much of Mr. Gandolfini's character or acting prowess until now. I always felt he was type casted: it was not a difficult challenge for him to play a gangster. In retrospect, though, I imagine it was nearly impossible to play a role in which he so badly beats a woman likely only a third his size. I am no media critic but I imagine that in many ways, those brief abusive moments in True Romance demanded more from Mr. Gandolfini than the entire six seasons of The Sopranos. I also imagine that will be a fairly unpopular statement, with many readers deeming me a motion picture lightweight. I also do not care: anyone, even me, can pull out their best mafioso I-tal accent and pretend to be a wise guy. It takes a truly inspired actor to play a part that no one could possiby like. Virgil loses from the start and, at 51, Mr. Gandolfini loses too early. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"I Am A Hitler Teapot..."

Photo courtesy of New York Post

It is a good time to revisit this subject now that we have all had a chance to blow off a little steam.

If ever I were to buy a teapot that looks like Adolf Hitler, surely it would be this teapot. Clearly, its cutesy, abbreviated mustache top and swooping combover handle offer security of liquid containment and optimal pouring comfort when one desires a fresh cup of Nazi java. The teapot is professionally attired in black-tie, raising a gold whistle bell salute to der Fürher, and ready for the cover of a quippy New Yorker cover

A magnificent marketing scheme, J.C. Penney. Perhaps, I should not judge this editing mishap. Maybe the time is right for a new line of hip, minimalist teapots designed in the likeness of deceased dictators. A stand mixer wobbling with Stalin's military garb and pot belly? Or, a slow-cooker with receding hairline glasstop resembling Kim Jong-il? Who's with me?


I wonder if the teapot still looks like Hitler when turned spout forward or if it is just pareidolia. 

Oh, Adolfo, how you have managed to stay with us for nearly 70 years! You are the nutty great-grandfather no one wants to invite to family functions but who inevitably manages to arrive, always whining about the Jews and wearing the same sweater from last year's Christmas and the same style of facial hair, just a little thinner. You have left little bits of posthumous memorabilia and, even generations later, we cannot seem to abolish your ghost from our daily lives. If, now, we see you in teapots, tomorrow we may see you in our coffee mugs, our favorite reading chairs, the printed text we read, even our stool. This is societal post-traumatic stress of epic proportions and we just might need a giant dose of talk therapy to help regulate our emotions.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Nazi Who Was Too Old

I made the mistake of reading the reply tweets to an article about Hans Lipschis, a Nazi guard stationed at Auschwitz, that has recently been taken into custody in Germany on the basis that he committed war crimes. He will be prosecuted. He is 93.

The tweets on his hash tag -yes, he has his own hash tag- include "let him die alone leave the poor man alone [sic]," "his 93 wat u gna do to him end his long life [sic]," and "At 93?" For the time being, ignoring all egregious grammatical errors, I question the morality of these comments on the basis that a) I am not entirely sure that the people responsible for prosecuting Mr. Lipschis are checking up on Twitter's #Lipschis and b) most nonagenarians are not implicit in the systematic and systemic mass murder of a third of an ethnicity's entire population.

"Oh, sure, that geriatric beat his wife and burned his dog more than a half-century ago. But, and I quote, 'wat u gna do to him end his long life [sic]' in the name of justice? Phooey! Let that cute, little old man live!"

What if Hitler managed to stay safe in his bunker until the ripe old age of 93? When people found him, would the populace have said, "Come on! He's old. 'wat u gna do to him end his long life [sic]' 'At 93?'" What if it is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev 70 years from now? Osama bin Laden? Perhaps, for the sake of argument, we need less high profile figures. How about a member of the Taliban who raped women and beat children? A boy soldier of the Interahamwe armed with a machete in the Rwandan genocide murdering a Tutsis child? Or what if one of the men involved with the rape of a five year old girl in India escapes to anonymity and lives until 93 before anyone finds him again? Raise your hand, please, if you would be content to allow anyone linked to the plotting and execution of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to escape with impunity until old age.

Some argue, "If you were a German citizen, you could not say "No" to the Nazis," or that "many of Germans were simply too young to understand." Like our former pope, Mr. Ratzinger, yes? At the beginning of the movie Downfall, Hitler's real-life secretary discusses that youth and ignorance, in retrospect, were no excuse for revering der Fürher and for allowing the events of the Holocaust. I agree.

I saw a man with a swastika tattooed on his arm today. My wife had just had a procedure done at the hospital and the nurse and I were wheeling her to another office in the building. He was in the waiting room wearing a black tank-top, wearing mostly black, with a girlfriend who was texting on a black iPhone and also wearing mostly black. Between the two of them, they had many black tattoos. None were of an Auschwitz prisoner identification number. The swastika, of course, stood out to me, being one of an extreme minority in the oh-so-diverse state of Maine. I had a thousand reasons to discuss with this fine gentleman the amorality of his tat, the embarrassment he brings to the human race, or simply to tell him the insignia is facing the wrong direction (a funny, albeit unwise, prank). Then, I sobered up. I had my wife to tend to and my children to think about -a father should not be risk a physical altercation, especially with a stranger. Maybe he had a knife. Maybe he would follow me. Maybe he had a gun. I wanted, and still want, him to know that he and all the Lipschises of the world should be prosecuted for the environment of fear they instill in normal people and their children. I wanted to declare in his face, so he could feel the heat of my breath, "I'm not scared of you."

But I was.

He wins.

Lipschis wins.

Hitler wins.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dear Belieber

                               Photo of Bieber's angelic silver jacket courtesy of

When a modern teen icon interfaces with a teen icon whose posthumous "fame" awakens humanity to the injustice of genocide, one must seize upon the opportunity.

Friends, it is not every day that Justin Bieber visits the Anne Frank House nor does he frequently sign Ms. Frank's guest book so eloquently, wishing intimately that Anne would have been a "Belieber." Note that this term is, in fact, forever etched into said guest book, begging commentary in every social media arena. Comedians have found new fodder. Jeff Ross tweets that Anne would likely have not been a Belieber, but rather a Ke$ha girl. Amy Schumer tweets "Dear Kitty, I know I should focus on the certain genocide we are all facing, but Joey from New Kids is too dreamy #belieber." Well played, Ms. Schumer, well played. I wonder: would Ms. Frank have had her own hash tag?

Regardless, after a day of contemplation and soul-searching, I beg to differ with Mr. Ross; I beliebe Anne would have been a Belieber. And perhaps, if we may beliebe in this, we may also beliebe that Justin's allure might have been potent enough, even in war, to penetrate Adolf's ears so that he might have hummed an occasional Bieber hymnal to himself. And, perhaps, even in war, such emotion flowing from Justin's lips might have softened the hardest of white supremacists and appealed to Adolf's better sensibilities, thereby giving him pause before initiating his Final Solution. Friends, indeed, if our celebrity idols could have such impact, if North Korea and the United States may potentially find common ground in Dennis Rodman, might not have Ms. Frank and her kin and the six million Jews of Europe been spared? Could Bieber have deliebered victims of the Holocaust to safety had he been born multiple generations earlier?

Oh, sweet Bieber, I beliebe.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Suits, Weddings, and Funerals

Picture of G. Clooney impressed with his attire courtesy of

As a general rule, most of us prefer to be plussed, rather than nonplussed, the term "plussed" meaning the most opposite of "nonplussed," relevant for purposes discussed here to circumstances in which plussing may yield respect, and established as a word exclusively for the purposes of this article. In other words, Mandy Patinkin's character, Inigo Montoya, put it best in The Princess Bride when he said, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

My father always said that I should have two suits: one for weddings and one for funerals, the former by far more practical as it doubles for interviews, the latter a darker commentary on the nature of "dressing to kill." I managed to pick up a couple suits before my wife and I left New York for Maine. The Men's Warehouse was having a two-for-one sale and, at the time, I remember thinking it would be rather difficult to find a tailor in Maine. I have never had less of a need for suits.

When I was in high school my father came home after buying two suits totaling three-thousand dollars. He was a garmento in the garment distict of the City -for anyone from Boston, "City" does not refer to you. Every night he would come off the Metro-North Railroad and the garage door would go up at exactly 7:42 p.m. One particular night, he walked in two suits richer and three-thousand dollars poorer. My mother was nonplussed.

I did not acquire the fashion sensibility exhibited by my father in this anecdote and instead took to nappy shoulder-length hair, denim overalls, and flannel shirts. It was the nineties and I had no qualm about expressing the real me: a Grateful-Dead-with-all-the-assumed-connotations-listening, My So Called Life-loving, wannabe-hippie, counter-culture, sex-crazed kid. Again, my mother was nonplussed.

I was plussed.

I was so plussed that in all my nonconformity, I did not notice my conformity, the same conformity for which I was so disdainful of my father's suit-wearing conformity.

It was not until college that I began to acquire a more tidy style, though my shorter hair was due more to my thinning hair. These days I keep my sideburns long for that nonconformist edge but I have entered the age of daddy-casual: collared shirt, a v-neck sweater, jeans. Even then, I feel out of place in Maine. I went to a funeral here where most wore black t-shirts. I thought I would be out of place without a blazer. That's Maine for you. My father would disagree and say that it is about respect.

Regardless, this is the real me: daddy-cas'. Smooth. Maybe not three-thousand dollars smooth, but the garmentos might at least like my shoes. I keep my suits covered in the closet and pull them out for weddings or a funeral, the former being far more frequent for now. They are good suits, too, good for plussing people. That might not be the most important thing but it is fun to pluss people. I like to pluss if for no other reason than, when strangers see me with my kids, they might think, "That guy looks like he's got a lot of respect for fatherhood. He doesn't look like a bum. I'm plussed by that dad."

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Brief Note on Passover

I have no idea about Passover. It seems like every other high holiday: somehow or other the Jews escape some unearthly pestilence or an unjust, violent persecution. Regardless, a few years back, it was a good excuse to be dismissed early from a faculty meeting so I could call my mother before sundown.

On Passover, there is something about Seder and pig's blood; something about famine and disease; maybe something about gefilte fish and calling home before dark. I cannot even say whether I have actually ever celebrated a Seder. In fact, I ate pork and drank gluten-free beer two Passovers ago. As it is, I am writing this well after dark.

It is what it is: Passover and me are like Karl Rove and Ru Paul sharing a basket for an Easter egg hunt. Involvement in Passover may be forever ambiguous but, no matter what, I damn well better play along and call my mom.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

New Short Story

Please check out my new short story, entitled THE TRANSPLANT, live now with Hobo Pancakes (

Warning: It's political fiction...or is it?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

James Earl Jones as a Short Old Jewish Woman

Picture courtesy of Mattinee

Rarely have I encountered other Jews and not felt the need to prove my Jewishness. There have been those times when I've thought, "Well, I'm more Jewish than him but at least I'm not that Jewish." After visiting my wife's high school pals, though, I was reminded of a night when I felt the perfect amount of Jewishness. Katie and Jason's New York wedding gratuitously nestled itself into Autumn: breezy, brisk, early signs of the turning foliage. Winona Ryder and Richard Gere were not present but I would not have been surprised had they walked in and positioned themselves next to the bride and groom.

I left my car with the Battery Gardens' valet, a man possibly in uniform, possibly not, and appearing as though he might drive off with the car and my tip. Meditatively distracting, the sunset-silhouetted Statue of Liberty backdropped the chuppah, which was made from white birch limbs grown, though memory may be fabricating this, in Katie's home state of Vermont, a locale not commonly known for its abundance of synagogues. An elderly female rabbi, donning gold flowing garments hosted the ceremony, speaking as if she were reenacting James Earl Jones' "People Will Come" speech in Field of Dreams.

For the first time since my grandfather's funeral almost ten years earlier, I wore a yarmulke -I fully intended to keep it just never know. Prior to the funeral, I hadn't worn a yarmulke since middle school when I attended Aaron Hochberg's bar mitzvah, a rite of passage I, myself, avoided for fear that such a display would prevent the New England female coterie from allowing me to second base. In the interest of full disclosure, I also kept Jason and Katie's wedding program for self-educational purposes, as it contained information, albeit humorously presented, about the Jewish tradition, intended as self-tutorial for the bride's Gentile family.

There were lots of Jews.

There were lots of Jews from Long Island.

There were also lots of Gentiles from Long Island.

There were lots of Gentiles from Long Island who were likely better Jews than me. Although, if it came down to it, I'd bet on Bruce Willis acting a better Jew than my actual Jewish self.

Still, I felt at home at this wedding. Not because of the yarmulke or the chuppah or the Jews or the Long Island Gentiles -clearly not because of these things since these did nothing but make me feel less Jewish- but rather because I felt like I was so much nearer to the average height of the room. Although the DJ, a hipster Obi Wan, was the tallest man in the room by at least a foot, the average height couldn't have been more than five-foot-six. Yes, I was short the average by three inches, but I fit right in and I realized why I identify with my Jewish side: nobody's big.

At the wedding, I didn't have to muscle past anyone's armpit to get to the bar or punch somebody in the thigh for a turn at the urinal. No cricks in my neck, no meathead jocks snickering at the impossibility of my manliness, and, no dancing my head into somebody's elbow.

I hadn't had so much fun at a wedding, perhaps, ever. It was communal fun, right down to the horah -Wikipedia told me this was the circular, hand-holding dance as the bride and groom are lifted onto chairs (I needed Wikipedia because this definition wasn't in the wedding program). This was a tax bracket who came of age in the eighties so there was no shortage of Bananarama and Boy George. I once liked to dance when I dated a Latina girl fifteen years prior but it was a competitive, angry dance. Since then, the interest fizzled. Now, I was among my people. I danced.

As the end of the wedding approached, DJ Obi Wan played the last song, a tune with an anthemic whistle, resolute, determined. A song of relentless advancement. I thought, "I love this song. I need this song." It was motivational in a non-Anthony Powers kind of way. It felt sincere but it certainly did not feel Jewish. It was a far cry from Klezmer despite the um-pah, um-pah bass. During our visit with Katie and Jason, I seized the opportunity, asking if they recalled the name of the song.

They both answered: "Home."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Walmart and Jews

Walmart, I applaud and thank you. Yet again, you bless us with your worldliness and cultural sensitivity.

Finally, dress-ups to pique my children's awareness of their heritage and identity -as I struggle with these myself- have stocked Walmart's high-quality shelves. A costume with which my daughters may finally embrace their Jewish roots: the "Dress Up America Jewish Mother Rivkah Children's Costume!"


Dress Up America's™ line of Judaica costumes is exquisite, covering both gender roles of Jewish lifestyle. Boys' costumes even include payos for hair styling. Thankfully, they have a King Mordechai costume specifically for Purim. Now, I can finally have my kids dress up for that irreverent holiday in order to celebrate that time when Jews were almost annihilated but suddenly saved at the last minute.

Now, young Jewish children can authentically pretend to be their parents. Now, little Jewish boys and girls, who were so desperately yearning for make-believe costumes they could identify with, may participate in that global game of pretend in which all children act out stories of the Old Testament. Even better, adults can dress up as rabbis for Halloween without the least possibility of ridiculing a civilization that so rarely, if ever, becomes the butt of jokes.

And, may I also extend a warm and heartfelt tip-of-the-hat to Dress Up America™ for their exploration in culturally sensitive costuming and dress-up play with their Japanese Girl, Egyptian Girl, Dutch Girl, Mexican Dancer, and Deluxe Indian Girl. Never mind that their Mexican Girl and Sexy Mexican Girl are, in fact, the same costume. I hear they are currently developing a line of both girl and boy Sambo costumes, due out this summer.

The Brooklyn-based company, a locale where there is, of course, no shortage of Jews, in no way, whether purposely or accidentally, further instills opportunities for trick-or-treating Gentiles to ridicule Jewish Orthodoxy and other ethnic stereotypes. And, how clever a business move to distribute through Walmart, a historically socially responsible institution, whose actions have never raised doubts regarding the ethics of its own business practices. Well-played, Walmart, well-played, to acquire such a valuable avenue for promoting ethnic tolerance through culturally educational paraphenalia.

Thank you, Wal-Mart, thank you. Now, I may genuinely educate my daughters on how they should look! No more of these Gentile garments, girls. Let's go eat our matzoh and search the couch for pennies.