Friday, June 29, 2007

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

Tonight, the new officers of my synagogue will be installed, during our regular erev Shabbat (Sabbath evening) services. I will attend and wish them well.

As a corollary, my sentence as an officer and board member is up.

On the whole, my service in lay leadership has been a net plus for the shul. But to be honest about it, just barely.

It's also been the most severe test of my faith in my adult life.

I derive the most satisfaction when I'm tutoring students who need some help pronouncing or chanting the blessings they will lead at their bar/bat mitzvah.

Also from singing unabashedly during worship.

Even from schlepping furniture, housewares, pots, pans, shoes, kitchen appliances, children's toys and unrecognizable lumps to help set up for our annual "Treasures and Junque" flea market-style fundraiser, last weekend with Monkeyboy.

(He and two other very good kids helped set up the children's toy and stuffed animal area. And he understands he's not too young to do a mitzvah).

I walk away from this experience with enormous admiration for the clergy, professional staff and lay leaders I've been working with. (In one case, where I started out skeptical, I walk away in a state of near hero-worship.)

But some time will have to elapse before my taste for participation in synagogue governance returns. Maybe a lot of time.

The issues and attitudes I've confronted have unsettled me, right down to my bones.

I'm thrilled with the Jewish education Monkeyboy's getting in 2 hour increments, twice/week.

I'm thrilled on Saturday mornings when a bar/bat mitzvah demonstrates hard work in having prepared to lead worship and hard thought in having prepared to teach the congregation about the Torah portion (s)he's just read, in his/her short D'var Torah.

With the alleged adults, I'm less thrilled.

The most interesting dilemmas I've confronted must, of necessity, remain confidential. Mostly out of respect for others. Occasionally, out of embarrassment. And always, because it's not fair to air one side of a story where folks with competing viewpoints have no opportunity to respond.

Throughout the Exodus narrative --- from our miraculously escaping Egypt at the Sea of Reeds, to the Revelation at Sinai, to the 40 years of wandering in the desert to the conquest of Zion --- G-d calls us a "stiff-necked" and "arrogant" people.

Smart Deity, that Almighty. Must have had some experience dealing with the governance of houses of worship.

Because my friends who serve as Elders or Deacons or whatever title their particular denomination uses, tell the same exact stories.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

It's Just a Number

My Blogger profile changed without my taking any action yesterday.

The bastards!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Book Recommendations

A) Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader Once I pick it up, I cannot put this one down. It's a must if you're a Springsteen fan.

And now, from the sublime to the ridiculous:

B) Don't Hassel the Hoff Is this guy in on the joke or not? (You know, sorta like Shatner, who I've concluded definitely is.)

This memoir/autobiography suggests not, as do the drunk tapes that surfaced during his custody trial. But his appearance in the SpongeBob movie had me thinking he gets it.

And he won the custody hearing. Make of that what you will.

I'll be darned if I know. (I just gave the book to friends as an archetypal "bathroom reading" book.)

Thursday, June 21, 2007


My friend Jeremy says this today:

"Nice to see Slammin’ Sammy Sosa hit his 600th career home run on Wednesday. That, of course, makes him the career home runs leader among all active players who are not being investigated for steroid use...."

Here's a link to the piece where he says it.

Respectfully, I beg to differ:

I found the image above on this "Cubs Suck" blog.

And this one:


I'm sure he was "juicing". His anemic stats the year he got off the juice and played for the Orioles are pretty good evidence, if the pics don't do it for you.

As to whether he is currently "...not being investigated for steroid use...", the investigating committee headed by former Senator George Mitchell is bein' kinda quiet about who, exactly, it is investigating (except for the messy negotiations with Jason Giambi and his lawyer(s)).

No denigration of Jeremy or his blog is intended here. Reasonable people can differ. The mark of adulthood, as I have often observed here before, is the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. I hope I've succeeded.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blessed is the Judge of Truth

Baruch Dayan HaEmet is something Jews traditionally say when we hear the sad news of a death.

I said it when I read an obituary headlined Gabriel Cohen, 81; Jewish Educator and Activist in today's Washington Post.

I hadn't thought of Gabe Cohen for many years before tonight. The last time I saw him he was head of the Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) in Rochester, NY, when I was a teenager there. He had a real influence on my Jewish education, my attachment to Israel, and my image of what a mensch was.

I learned a lot more about just what a special soul Gabe was from his obituary. He lived a righteous life. Do me a favor, give it a read.

As a kid, I knew him as a good grown-up to go to for advice, or for resources to put on a youth group program, or for help funding a 2-month high school study trip to Israel in my senior year. After I came home, he taught me that part of my responsibility upon my return was to report back to the community on what I had learned, so the community would fund future kids' similar trips.

I appeared on a local morning talk show for Gabe once and another time spoke at a Rochester Jewish Federation luncheon, promoting the American High School in Israel program he'd helped me win funding for. He gave me rides, helped me feel confident, and afterwards assured me I'd done him and the BJE proud. I was 17 and I felt like king of the world.

In the spring of my senior year he recruited me to play guitar and sing in an extravaganza he produced in the Jewish Community Center theatre for Yom HaAtsmaut, Israel Independence Day. I still sing some of the songs I learned for that event. I'll surely be humming some of them in the next few days

The world is poorer for Gabe's passing

Baruch Dayan HaEmet.

Heaven or Hell?

Playtah's most recent post got me to thinking about where'd I'd be spending eternity, if you believe in that sort of thing.

Which reminded me of an old joke. (What doesn't?)

In heaven:
The chefs are French,
The police are English,
The mechanics are German
The bankers are Swiss, and
The lovers are Italian.

In hell:
The chefs are English,
The police are German
The mechanics are French,
The bankers are Italian, and
The lovers are Swiss.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day Weekend

The four hour drives, on Friday up to Pennsylvania and on Sunday back, were wearing, but the time in between was wonderful.

My brothers-in-law are great to visit with, and very gracious hosts. Upon arrival at their house, I promptly collapsed. A couple of hour's nap did wonders for improving my disposition.

(Does a bulletin go out just before I take a road trip asking every idiot driver on the Eastern Seaboard to please line my route and proceed to tailgate, switch lanes erratically, speed up, slow down and just generally make nuisances of themselves. I swear, one must.)

Whilst I slept, everyone else walked around beautiful downtown New Hope, PA and equally picturesque Lambertville, NJ. Monkeyboy got to see an old railroad engine that's being restored, and got to spend time being the center of his uncles' attention. He loved it.

That night, RFB's brother made us a sumptuous meal on the grill. Then we all watched Ice Age in hi-def. I forgot how laugh-out-loud funny that movie is.

Saturday in Philly was great. A hilarious ride down in a hybrid-car outfitted with GPS navigation, plus a driver and front seat passenger whose faux bickering are at least as funny as Oscar Madison and Felix Unger ever were.

Brunch was at a diner in the neighborhood L. lived at while he was in veterinary school. And then on to the Franklin Museum complex and King Tut.

RFB had arranged not only 5 tickets, but also five walking audio tour dealymabobs. The narration was done by Omar Sharif and was very informative.

With a little time to kill, Monkeyboy got a chance to play at every hands-on station in the "Physics of Sports" gallery. (So did I). And we both got to ride a "sky bike". That's a bicycle on a steel cable tightrope, suspended three stories above the museum's 1st floor. It's perfectly safe, and there's a net underneath, besides. It was way cool, and RFB's heart should start beating again any minute.

L. and B. had made reservations for us at a lavish restaurant on a boat permanently moored at the harbor. All four adults had decadent meals and desserts. Monkeyboy had grilled cheese, french fries and the most chocolatiest dessert you ever saw. Chocolate cake? Check. Chocolate sorbet? Check. Chocolate pastry? Check.

By the time we got back to New Hope, we were almost ready for bed, but caught about half of "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll" on one of MTV's Hi-Def channels. I never get tired of that flick. And the more we watched, the more Monkeyboy got it that Captain Jack Sparrow was partially based on Keith Richard.

Sunday morn, I was presented with a really cool kaleidoscope RFB and Monkeyboy had bought in town on Friday, while I napped. It's beautiful. (A toy for Father's Day. Ya think they know their customer?)

Then it was time to pile back into the car and dodge imbecile drivers on the return trip home, but not before L. and B. put on one more foodfest, this time featuring home-squozed OJ, yummy french toast, and sliced fruit and whole blueberries in milk.

Wowie-zowie, what a great weekend.

Hope yours was, too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tut, Tut

This week has been nuts. I cannot wait for the weekend.

It starts tomorrow. We're travelling up to visit RFB's brother and his partner, north of Philly. On Saturday, we'll troop on down to Philadelphia for the King Tut Exhibit, dinner on a boat, and who knows what else.

RFB became a Tut fanatic when she toured the original exhibition in the 70's, as a teenager. When this new Tutstravaganza was announced, more than a year ago, she reserved tickets faster than one would have thought humanly possible.

We'll wind up driving home on Father's Day. RFB and I had already decided to stop between Eastern PA and home for a nice Father's Day lunch. Not junk at a roadside fast food joint. We'd get a cupcake with a candle.

Last night, Monkeyboy realized that travelling to Uncle L. and Uncle B.'s house tomorrow will mean missing Field Day and the last full day of school tomorrow. He's got a summer birthday, so he's also missing the "let's-acknowledge-all-the-Summer-birthday-kids-at-once party", too. This bummed him out.

I told him about the Father's day plan his mom and I had worked out. I invited him to join me. Now we're getting two cupcakes with candles at lunch on Sunday. Maybe even three.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Be There, or Be Oblong

Saturday and Sunday, yours truly will occupy the CFX Children's Stage at Celebrate Fairfax! from 11:00 am to 11:45 am.

On Saturday I'm a solo act. My duet partner has final day of Little Legue festivities to go to, including a team picnic/party at a nearby lake. Potential groupies, please take note. :)

On Sunday, Monkeyboy joins me on three solos.

Most of you live too far away to make it, plus it's way out at Fairfax Government Center and kinda early in the morning. But if anyone does come, please identify yourself, if I do not recognize you first.

If you get bored, I'm usually right next to the petting zoo. 50 cents and you can feed a lamb, duck, yak or llama.

Peace Out!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sign of the Times?

Thanks to my cousin Debbie for this one.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Not News

Your Social Anxiety Level: 24%

You have low social anxiety.
Of course very unfamiliar or strange situations make you uncomfortable.
But you can pull through and handle almost any social occasion with grace.

Thanks to Tara, at e.clec.tic spaghetti for pointing out this test. I'm 4% less socially anxious than she is.

As my mom is wont to say: "Give him a flashlight and he'll do two shows and a matinee."

Monkeyboy and Ted

Photo Credits: RFB

Photo Credits: Monkeyboy

Friday, June 1, 2007

I Love The Quotations Page

There's a lot of wisdom at The Quotations Page.

You can pick almost any page, at random, and find a doozy.

One good place to start is with Einstein.

I found this there:

"Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That's relativity."

And this:

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

But these two, taken together, are my favorites:

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."


"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

Whaddya think?