awhyzip: (libtext)
I hope you've read my previous post about Rice n Easy. I'd originally intended that as a sidebar to the post that follows!

After having my parents take me to Rice n Easy, I wanted to swing by the Acme Surplus in Thornes because I needed a large cheap amount of safety pins. I promised it would be quick, so we all walked over. I did not realize that my dad had never been in acme surplus before.

He hates to shop, and was hanging back by the entrance, not willing to help me locate the pins. I did not see him at the moment that his gaze must have begun wandering around him. ... If you know my dad at all, you can imagine the glow that lit his eyes then. Barely had I finished paying for my purchase, then my dad was calling me to "look at this!" from the shirt-rack at the front of the store, "$3 shirts!". He was so moved by the tools aisle that he practically begged me to let him buy me a multi-head screwdriver/wrench tool as a gift! My dad... wanted to spend money... in a store. I couldn't tear him away from the place! He was even lingering over the gift-wrapping rolls as Ima & I exited up the stairs.

"I never knew this was here before!" Abba kept saying, thrilled.
I was thrilled, too. It's fun to happy-surprise people, especially when I'm not expecting to. :-D
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I am sitting here at home in Northampton. I am accidentally here; I was meant to be in Cambridge teaching right now, or else still at the Retreat, doing I don't know what with my Havurah. But, I am at home and I just finished reading a book by Jonathan Rosen: The Talmud and the Internet. The book is about 130 pages long. It is light in the hand and small sized. The cover illustration has as a backdrop a reproduced page of talmud, smudged just enough that you can see the words but don't read them. In the book, the author muses about his place as inheritor of two cultures, both Jewish, one American, and one Holocaust European. He reflects on the stories of his grandparents, of his literary heros, and of Talmudic sages. Rosen writes that this book began as an elegy for his grandmother. As I read the book, I could listen to him explore issues that are important to him, issues that are also important to me and on my mind. There was no sense of a finalized argument being put forth; this was not a monograph. There were some passages, where the voice I was reading on the page could easily have been mine, rolling forth from my mind as if I had thought the words directly to paper for the next paragraph.

Rosen is clearly an educated Jew, familiar with Jewish sources as well as modern liberal higher education. The respect he expresses for the traditional texts of our people parallels mine. Neither of us live in the halakic, traditionalist, world, nor do we want to, but our modern lives naturally are and must be informed by Jewish as much as by the "Western" canon. To contextualize our lives, we draw on a collection of stories, value statements, and associations, such that I believe we share, of course enriched by family experiences.
Rosen describes his first trip to Europe. In one passage he half-jokingly explains that the symmetrical layout of a page of Talmud exists that if you should, God forbid, drop your Talmud in a puddle, Rashi would at least be farthest from the mud. As Rosen describes several sections earlier, a page of Talmud has a special and distinctive, almost mandala-like, layout. I recall walking in to a friend's house not seven nights ago, and recognizing instantly the wide, black volume spread on her coffee table atop a small pile of books. The content of our evening had nothing to do with the strictly Judaic, being filled with performance art on queer marriage rights, shoulder rubs, and Indian spices (just as Rosen's trip was filled with pilgimages to Chartres Cathedral and a dissertation on Milton). Nevertheless, there is for me a... a... an indwelling presence of Judaism then. I describe it as this, making the association to the Shechina, "in-dwelling presence" of God. For me, this is the awareness is at the heart of my spiritual life.
The indwelling presence is elusive. It is also flexible and wide-ranging. Everywhere? I could riff on each topic's Jewish connection; they would range from joking to quiet moral imperative. Judaism covers all my moods. Nowhere? Everything had some other sufficient reason for which it was done. I live a modern life. I struggle to describe what contemporary Judaism is.
In my Hebrew School class, I am yearning to pass this on. I want to give as assignments non-particularist books like The Giving Tree and Amos and Boris and Could be Worse! so that the families can learn to read all books with Jewish eyes, even if the protagonist is not named Moishe!

Yesterday evening, I discussed with my mother the plans I am passionate about implementing at E. Ch. Lower School. She knew that a curriculum has been written that approximates my idea of the books. I am lucky and grateful to have such a perfectly-tailored professional resource in my own mother. And my father, too. In fact, it was from his bedside stack of books that I took this Talmud and Internet book. And surmounting the 15-book stack, a wide, black volume. (If this were a short story, I would say it was a Talmud, for the parallelism, but as this is Livejournal and real life: it was a Tikkun, whose two-column bold-and-pale layout was just as distinctive at a quick peek.)
awhyzip: (Default)
Avoid Harvard at the start and end of the academic year. The streets are filled with students and parents, and half of them don't know where they are going. The start of the year is worse, because more parents come, and they NEVER know where they are going.
Avoid late night routes on the Fourth of July, for the drunks.
Routes by malls are a bad idea by the end of December, because of Christmas.

If a bus is running late, and there is another one just behind it, it might skip its last stop. You probably always suspected they do this -- well now I KNOW they do. My bus wanted to cut the last corner, so the bus driver asked me if I wouldn't mind getting off just a bit early. It was a gorgeous day and I did it. Then he turned down a side street, and disappeared.

Sometimes, when the buses don't open their back doors to let off passengers, it is because the dispatcher has told them not to. I heard a dispatcher ordering all busses that were going to a certain square to only use front doors.
And I think it said to pull up door to a police officer there. I imagine a wild, hush hush, police operation: suspect fugitive is on the bus. Plainclothes officer scans every face in the crowd. Suspect trickily steps off the back exit and fades away down the road, under the shade of a green tree.
I don't know if that's what's really happening.

By the way, I've decided not to go home this weekend. I might change my mind about Saturday, but for sure I am not leaving today. I will hang around this new apartment a bit longer before I drive off for more stuff to put in it!
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I feel like a misanthropic old man, settin' in his front porch and drinkin' gin.
Except the front porch is just the doorway to my room, which has a view down the stairwell, the rocking chair is me with one foot braced up against the wall of my closet to hold me in place in this new wheelie-chair that I picked up from the Take-It-If-You-Want-It bin on the other floor, and the gin is a single-serving box of Lucky Charms. ... And I'm a girl.

Today is yet another day on which I have "finished everything" and yet still have more to do. I handed in the Historical Linguistics take-home final which I had be consciously putting out of my mind while I stressed over the two papers that were left after I handed in the other paper. I figured I could do it in three days which I had coming, so I didn't worry about it, but then I ended up only having 2 days to devote to it and, no, it needed more than that. But it's submitted. I will do no more. My remaining task is one that I had un-consciously put out of my mind until yesterday: the write up for my Independent Study. That professor says to email him something Sunday night -- he understands real deadlines =)
" 'Senior grades close on May 5, or three days after the final, in all cases no later than by 10am on Monday May 12'. " He reads this on May 7th. "Ah, so what this really means is that on noon of the 12th someone from the registrar's office will give me a phone call reminding me to submit a grade if I haven't. ... On Tuesday at 5pm, the assistant registrar will come to my office and sit there until I write something down. ... Email me something by Sunday night; I will read it on the train ride over."
On the other hand, my Spanish professor refused to let a classmate stay 5 minutes past the end of the exam period in order to fill in the last question (ie. "Describe what you have learned in this class."). He also refused my final paper because midnight had passed. I don't know how I feel about that. In a way, it was great, because then I could say, "Ok no matter on the rest of this! I am going to bed," and know it was really the end. On the other hand he didn't take my paper. No-one ever has stuck to the rules like that on the first try before in any of my classes here. There's always some late-policy dealing. Not there! I'm kind of left feeling "Can he DO that?!?" (although of of course he can).

What always strikes me as absurd when I think about that professor and his sticklerness for deadlines is that his grading-syllabus is a mess! The 2nd to last day of class he had a discussion with us as to how to allocate the 20 marks that were supposed to be given to the "short compositions." I don't know exactly how many he had planned to assign, but we only ever did 2. And the first one was returned ungraded. So we decided how to re-allocate the 20 points, spreading them 10,5,5,0 among the other categories. OK, but then we never did the fourth of those remaining things (which was in-class oral presentations). It was pretty clear even on that penultimate day that we would not be getting to oral presentations. So there are still 20 points unaccounted for in everybody's grade.
So I can't even guess how I will be graded in that. I can't even guess. I want to be confident, but his track record is weird.

People are moving out of my dorm. Actually, there are lots of folks still about, -- folks and their folks (haha very punny) -- but they are not the people with whom I am friends. Those people are busily going back and forth, packing up, or they are already gone. I don't like the people who are still here because they go up and down the stair case, carrying boxes of stories to which I am not going to be privy, and gossip and talk loudly but never say "HI" to me. If they're not going to talk to me, I don't want them shouting they -- are not fun to eavesdrop on. The academic buildings and computer labs were very empty, though. The air is grey with mist, too, which softens noise.

Tonight my very good friend Ellen is arriving from NYC. I've arranged with the girl next door for Ellen to squat her room. But Ellen insists that we come meet her at the bus station. We were going to anyway, that was the plan, but now that I've suggested otherwise she's insisting that we all go to South Station for her and not meet at North Station which is where our commuter rail (but not her bus) goes. When we were going to have dinner in Chinatown (which is at South Station) that made sense, but I don't think any of us really want to at this point. Sigh.
I'll be excited tomorrow to have her, but right now I am feeling low-energy. Ellen insisting that at the least *I* have to meet her makes me annoyed to be the one who has keys for her. She has a point, but I don't want that to be the case. I don't see why meeting her in one station or the other increases her "wandering around looking for you" time, which of course I want to minimize.

Sometime I definitely want to back out of every social function because working it out is less appealing than I can stand. That is how I feel today. Grumbly old man.


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