If you were to ask me, Fred, what do you think you’re really good at? I would answer, quick as a flash, being creative and thinking deep thoughts. Other things? Not so much. If you mentioned the word ‘handy’ to me, my response would be to sing, because that’s what I do:
There’s a minister handy
And it sure would be dandy
If we’d let him make a fee
So don’t you linger
Here’s the ring for your finger
Isn’t it a humdinger?
Come along and let the wedding chimes
Bring happy times
For Mandy and me
(In a better world – and boy do we need a better world – if you googled ‘lyrics to Mandy,’ you’d get this version, written by Irving Berlin and performed by the inimitable Eddie Cantor, instead of some drek by Barry Manilow. But I digress.)
Part 2 – I Can’t Deal with This
I’m asking you to envision the following situation; you’ll see why as we go along. It was a Tues. (Aug. 31 to be precise) at about 1:15 or so in the afternoon, and I was sitting on the couch in our living room. Once I finished my glass of cold brew coffee, I would have shifted to a horizontal position on that self-same piece of furniture, going into couch potato, pre-nap mode, preparing to tackle the NYTimes crossword puzzle.
Based upon what I have just described, do you think I would have been interested in getting off the couch, finishing my coffee in one gulp, going upstairs to put on my shoes, and leaving our apartment lickety-split? If you are the cautious type, you might want to say, I don’t think so, or Probably not; whereas a more decisive individual might declare, Not a chance in Hell or No way, Jose. So what transpired that caused this unlikely scenario to come to pass? Let’s take a deep breath and go back a week in time.
Part One – Where the Boars and the Hyraxes Play
If no one is going to show up for my Shabbat morning kiddush, well then, dangburn it, we’ll just have to pick ourselves up and have it elsewhere. That’s kind of an exaggeration for effect; we had planned weeks before to spend a few days with The Levines on their mountain top, where the boars and hyraxes play (knowing full well that by the following Shabbat in Ma’ale Adumim we’d be back to normal, the whisk(e)y would flow, the coffee would be poured, and the herring would be served).
To be on the safe side, even though we had just gotten our third COVID shot, on Monday, we went down to the parking lot under our mall to get tested (in and out in the blink of an eye – actually a swab up the nose). By Wednesday, we knew we were good to go; time to pack up, remembering to take the three bottles of rosé I had bought for them, the pound of Starburnt – I mean Starbucks – Sumatran coffee that Barbara had brought back from The States, and, last but not least, their copy of the new JSPCA calendar (photos of cats and dogs – no bathing suits required).
It started out without any long-range plan or fixed agenda. Michael and I would leave shul Shabbat morning, and I would, on occasion, invite him over for a shot of whiskey – an offer he was not going to turn down. It started to happen more and more often, until it became a regular occurrence. At some point, Ezra decided to tag along, and, at some time thereafter, during my Thurs. morning shopping excursion to the shuk, I would pick up a container of fake cream herring. (Let me explain: the herring is real enough, but the ‘cream’ is actually mayonnaise. Don’t ask; you don’t want to know.) Now if I’m having whisk(e)y and herring, I’m going to need some coffee to go with it, and if I’m having coffee, the least I can do is offer some to my guests. Or ‘guest,’ because by this time, the Hesslers were off to sandier pastures in Beersheba (see one of my previous posts).
Then someone we know began promoting the services of Farm to Family, which is not in any way a farm, but an on-line site that sells all manner of good things to eat. And there on page whatever of their site were the offerings from MordyZ Fish Delicacies, including real, genuine, actual, authentic, Ashkenazic creamed herring. Perhaps I’ve died and gone to Heaven? But no, Heaven has come to our apartment on Hakeren, here in Ma’ale Adumim, here in The Land. Not so long ago, Irwin decided that we were having too much fun without him. Would he be welcome to join us? Of course. There are other occasional guests, like Gil (lots of cold brew coffee), when he and Natania are with us, and The Levines – although Richard will eschew the whisk(e)y, the herring, and the coffee. Perhaps I should mention that I have added to my repertoire mixing cocktails – like White Russians, Boulevardiers, and Negronis — to the delight of those assembled.
More to come; I’m just getting started. Does that sound like sort-of-a-promise to you? That perhaps I haven’t exhausted the topic? It does to me; and I should know because I’m the one who wrote it. I concluded a recent article on Beersheba, Nor Any Drop to Drink, by saying just that. Then I began my most recent article, What Do You Do When You’re All Alone?, which took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r to write. Now it’s a few weeks later and my memory groweth cold and fades away like morning dew. Usually, Barbara takes reasonable notes during the AACI study trips, so I have something to jog my memory, but this time she didn’t. Not only that, but the few bits of information I had put together are not much help. Still, I will carry on, as the song goes, On a wing and a prayer, trying to reconstruct enough of what we witnessed and share it with you, my small but discerning audience.
Part of the blur in my brain relates to the singularity of the trip’s focus. As with most of the AACI’s study trips, there is a heavy emphasis on social action, whereby we meet with individuals and groups that are trying to make life better for folks in their community. All of this is inspiring, but it’s easy to lump everything together into one humongous Tikun Olam blob – as in, I can’t remember who said what and who’s doing what.
It didn’t start out that way, my being all alone, that is. Au contraire, mes amis. The weekend before my Barbara’s departure saw our apartment bulging at the seams with friends and family. First to arrive were The Levines, Barbara and Richard. They showed up on Thurs. June 17, timing their visit, as they often do, to coincide with a folk music performance somewhere near us (or at least nearer to us than to them). They had originally planned to head back on Sun. to their little house on top of the mountain, but then they were invited to a wedding in these parts the following Tues. eve., so that they would stay with us until Wed. It just happened that Natania and Gil (with Liel is tow) announced their intentions to accept our hospitality for the same Shabbat, which would make seven of us in our apartment. As you will see, that was just the beginning of the fun.
When you were in Israel in 1980, did you write any articles about your trip? You were there for five weeks, after all. I’ll bet Israel was very different then, and it would be fun to compare and contrast what you experienced then and what we can see today. Well, no and yes. Forty years ago, there were writers publishing books about their travels, but nobody was doing what we’re doing today. There were no platforms like WordPress to create blogs, there was no internet to send out these articles, and since only a handful of obsessives even had a computer to get the articles – had they been written – there would have been almost no one to read them.
There are times when someone asks you something, and you wonder whether it’s only because the person can’t think of anything better to say at that moment. At least five times during the pandemic, I was asked if I was ‘doing any plays.’ Umm, we’re all in lockdown; you can count the number of current theatrical productions on the fingernail of one finger – and that’s on a good day. We can’t even sit down for a cup of coffee and you’re talking about filling a theater. So no.
Once we got past reminding my interlocutor of the state of the COVID world, and to head off any further questions on the topic, I usually went through the motions of reminding one and all that, after being in the chorus of about a dozen productions with Encore!, I had announced my retirement once and for all before I wore out my welcome with the company. I tried in different ways to explain what I meant by that remark, but what I can say now is that I don’t want to be like Albert Pujols.
Sometime way back at the dawn of the current century, there was a man who had a lack in his life. He wanted to make a single cup of coffee that truly pleased his palate, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not find a way. He could have made a whole pot of coffee, and that would have been fine, but he only wanted one exceptionable cup. There was always something wrong, and that upset him. But Alan Adler did not spend his days moaning and groaning about his problem. Being an inventor, he did what he did best; he figured out how to solve his problem. He invented the AeroPress, and the world became a better place. His creation was elegant, and it was simple. At least, in his own mind, it was simple. Take a plastic tube into which you pour a scoopful of coffee (the scoop comes with it); pour in hot water up to a marked level; insert a second tube, which acts as a plunger, into the first tube and press down, expelling the brew into a cup, a mug, or a carafe of some kind – your choice. (Trust me; this article will make a lot more sense if you look at the video linked above.) As I said, simple. In fact, it couldn’t be simpler. Except for one fatal flaw; there are few thing in life so simplified that they can’t be re-complicated.
There is the idea that I should say something about the recent catastrophe up north, but I have nothing really to add to what has already been opined by others. Therefore, I will continue with my regularly scheduled programming.
(All together now: Tradition…….. tradition) We all have get-togethers with people we know that tend to recur year after year, which we look forward to with some anticipation. We might not think of them as EVENTS, but they certainly are traditions. For quite a while, our friends The Levines, Richard and Barbara, have graced us with their presence over various chol hamoeds, Pesach and Sukkot, and we always look forward to their arrival with a certain amount of joy. This year would be special, both after a year of COVID enforced absence and because we weren’t sure that Richard would be up to making the drive down from their mountain top up in the Galil. The two of them traditionally get low marks for able-bodiness, but recently Richard has fallen, if not on hard times, then certainly on hard pavements. Now both of them use metal canes to get around.