Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rest in Peace, Toonces, the One and Only

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

How I Came to Get What's Special About Cats

Toonces, photo-bombing a picture of Phoebe

Growing up, there was Fluffy and Chummer and Jody and Tigger, but they were my friends’ dogs. Amy had a big, long-haired cat, but she didn’t hang out with us like the dog did and had an air of mystery accordingly. At home, we were allowed only turtles, so I didn’t really get what it meant to have a pet.
A relatively short time after Pat and I got together, in the early ‘90s, her sweet bull terrier Meghan Jonquil died of an aneurysm. I’ll never forget how, inadvertently, I offended one of our fellow Or Chadash congregants by announcing both the death of his grandfather (z”l) and Pat’s dog from the bimah (pulpit) that Shabbat.
Suddenly, I’m reckoning with the death of a being who represents the closest I’ll come to directly parenting anyone. At a moment like this, I wish I’d left it at turtles – with them, I was more so their siblings, since my older sisters mothered them.
Toonces’ sister Phoebe is lying on the table next to me as I write this and I’m trying not to feel survivor’s guilt in her behalf. Why did Toonces get cancer, but not Phoebe? Why did Toonces get cancer at all? Why did my father (z”l)? Both of their lives were cut short – his at 56 and hers at nearly 13.
Toonces and Phoebe almost weren’t Toonces and Phoebe. For the first 16 years of our nearly 24-year relationship so far, I denied Pat a pet. I didn’t grow up with a cat or dog at home and so I didn’t get it. No, I said, they’ll just smell up the house and you won’t pay attention to me once we have a pet.
Finally, I relented because I felt guilty. I was working full-time and earning a Master’s part-time and felt bad at leaving Pat alone so often. OK, we can get a cat from P.A.W.S. (the local shelter at the time), I said dolefully. We went down there and agreed on adopting an older cat, since they’re usually less popular and because Pat said that in their wildness, a kitten would drive me crazy.
We looked at cage after cage and I felt terrible at having to choose a cat and then leave the rest behind. We returned a couple of times to a cage with two gray-brown, striped American tabbies. The P.A.W.S. rep came over and said cheerfully, “Would you like two? They’re sisters.”
Oh, God, I’m a sister myself. We can’t separate sisters. The P.A.W.S. person told us that they had turned five in May. Pat & I agreed that each of us got to name one of them. I called one of them Phoebe and Pat called the other Muffin … but not for long.

Our first evening with them, Pat looked at the littler one and said, “You’re no Muffin. You’re a Toonces!” It might have been as Toonces was staring down at her from the ceiling beams of the laundry room. It turns out that Toonces was so scared of her new environment she remained on the ceiling for a week, except to use the litter box.

From then on, she maintained her Toonces-like reputation, routinely springing from a loose tile in our basement’s raised ceiling onto the back of Pat’s  La-Z-Boy rocker, surprising Pat every time. A woman once said to me, “I prefer dogs. Cats won’t obey.” It was then and even prior that I realized I adored cats for the same reason; intermittent reinforcement is the most powerful sort.

Phoebe and Toonces – well, really, just Phoebe, as Toonces never really cottoned to me (nor Phoebe to Pat, interestingly) – have claimed affection from us utterly based on their whims. I have loved the serendipity of it all. For instance, Toonces would join Pat unpredictably while Pat was eating breakfast and would walk into Pat’s newspaper-reading arms, and lean into her chest. She’d come to rest, hanging her front paws over one of Pat’s bent elbows. Pat called it, “Table.” Toonces would jump up on the table and slink toward Pat, and Pat would look at her and ask rhetorically, “Table for Toonces?”

Toonces really didn’t care much for my touch, but her little face was so cute and her mischief mostly funny, and she charmed me. I did not do the same for Toonces apparently; yesterday morning, amidst her lethargy in her illness, I gave Toonces a series of pets and she did as she did so often when I petted her: Immediately following, she bathed the very patches I had touched – the cat equivalent of wiping one’s hands on one’s pants post-handshake, in front of the person whose hand you just shook. Even so, I was amused. “Pat, look at that. She’s ill, but she’s still got enough strength to wash me off of her fur.” Kindly enough, when we petted her for the last time this afternoon, she let me, period.

Earlier today, Pat & I recalled that prior to Toonces’ meal time, she would sit up against a wall with her arms across her belly and would look remarkably like a person as she waited for me to feed her sister and her. And in the mornings, if I didn’t wake up when she was hungry, she’d walk over to my night table and start tossing books off of it. And at dinner time, when Pat called, “Kitties!” Toonces would run three adorable circuits around Pat’s La-Z-Boy before entering the laundry room, where she was fed, nightly.

For cats, I’ve learned, everything they do is socially acceptable as far as they’re concerned, except they’re not – not concerned … except with each other: Little Toonces was an especially good sister. Any time she heard Phoebe cry out, she was by her side nearly instantly, even though typically, her loyalty-reward from Phoebe was being batted on her little head. Oy, Phoebe, who’re you going to bat around now, just Pat & me? We’ll take it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lesbian Life BCE (Before the Cat Era) and Beyond

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Crystalizing My Lesbian Identity

The other morning, I was finishing up stretching after my indoor-rowing session in our house in Montclair, New Jersey, in the sunny room downstairs with the triple-glass doors. Just then, Randy Crawford's "Wrap U Up" began playing, according to the algorithmic personalization of the free music that boomed from the black Bose box on the floor.

I sat down in one of the four Carolish-era Herman Miller Eames shell chairs I had inherited when my mom (z"l) died 20 months ago, cracked open a Costco bottle of water and swigged as I looked out into our half-snow-covered garden. Listening to Randy Crawford's molten voice, I remembered a winter-night date more than a quarter of a century ago, back when I was renting an efficiency apartment near Ashland and Addison in Chicago. The apartment wouldn't have had room for a rowing machine, even if I could have afforded one then.

At a friend's party the prior weekend, I had met a tall, Midwest-born-and-bred classical musician with classically beautiful features. Our first date included dancing to late-'80s music in all its glory at a then-popular-and-now-extinct Chicago North-Side lesbian bar. After a marathon of songs, we paused only to go to the multi-stall Ladies Room. I was ready to return to the dance-floor when she kissed me for the first time. Against the sinks, in the bathroom.

"I don't want this in here. It makes it seem dirty." With her graceful hands and tender mouth, she tried to change my mind, but I was repulsed. We were too beautiful to be doing something so gorgeous in such an unappealing place.

"Let's go for a walk," she suggested and I was relieved. We left the club and walked out into sub-zero wind. We walked against the wind all the way to the Lake. No one else appeared to be there in such forbidding weather. I could hear my teeth, tapping together. She smiled at me and took the mitten off of one of my hands, and warmed each one of my fingers, in her mouth.

CE - Cat Era

Thrilling as it had been with the musician, and a number of other remarkable Chicago-area women in my twenties, Pat emerged as the kindest, funniest, most appealing, brilliant and magnetic among them.

Yesterday afternoon, on our way home from an afternoon ride in our station wagon to Chester, New Jersey -- which my wife Pat and I had read was quaint, according to Yelp -- we stopped at a grocery store and I whispered out of the side of my mouth, "Pat, look, sisters." For the first time, she didn't turn to look. We kept walking and I said, "I guess it's no longer such a big deal, huh?" Throughout our nearly 24 years together so far, the term, "sisters", had been code for whenever we thought we saw an apparent couple of two women. It was always exhilarating to be reminded that we weren't alone.

Pat always said I could blog about whatever I wanted, as long as I didn't invade her privacy with my postings, so I'll step gingerly around this point: For our first decade and a half together, I could enjoy intimacy in our relationship practically whenever I wished, and then we adopted two sister-cats, one of whom sleeps with us routinely. (Just ran this paragraph by Pat and she acquiesced to my including it.)

The post-rowing Randy Crawford tune and the book *Carol*, and the movie -- which I felt improved upon the book -- awoke my BCE memories. And then Pat gave me an article by Frank Rich, where he wrote: "Even today, Todd Haynes’s mesmerizing adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic novel comes as a shock—mostly for how much lesbian culture remains invisible to America at large." 

This post is my humble contribution to increased lesbian visibility.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Fever

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Feeling Extra-alive

Bike rides for the first time in a decade ... treadmilling with Pat this morning ... learning of -- and seeing -- this striking couple of pioneers earlier this week ... reading a magnetic novel ... seeing a post by a Facebook friend, expressing gratitude for her "cute nurses" as she convalesced from donating a kidney ... considering swimming outdoors tomorrow when I'm in Phoenix for work ... the unseasonably warm weather in New Jersey during this mid-November ... all of these experiences and possibilities are giving me Fall Fever.

Typically, Spring Fever is when I notice the same sex more than usual and remember that although Pat[ricia] & I are loyal and monogamous to each other, going on nearly 24 years so far, and with no plans to change our supremely faithful status, there are times -- usually in springtime -- when I feel surrounded by a museum show of women who remind me why I identify first of all as lesbian.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Davke on Yom Kippur

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Why Are You Leaving So Soon? Because We Want To

We are motherless, and fatherless, children -- both of us -- now, as of March, 2015. From Kol Nidre last night through Yizkor today, I've been moved, and now, am moved to write about what moved me, rather than remaining in synagogue, where I'd be feeling perhaps further moved, but also antsy.

Last year, we left right after Yizkor and I thought it was because it was my first one without my mom (z"l) and this year, we did the same; it's Pat's first without her mom (z"l) ... or is it a trend? Pat says she can't stand for such long stretches anymore. How will I feel when I'm 65, like she is now? Please God, let me live long enough to find out. Meanwhile, I had enough poignant experiences to last me through this High Holiday even though we left by noon on Yom Kippur.

Here's what moved me:

Pat and I ushered. We were among the very first people anyone saw as he or she entered the building. Probably a dozen people walked in alone saying that they didn't have a ticket. And many others walked in alone who did have tickets. A number of them walked in apparently riveted by their phone-screen, making no eye-contact even after we greeted them. What was each one's story? Why were they alone on Yom Kippur?

And then a pretty, ginger-haired woman hobbled in with a cane and was looking everywhere but at other people when I said, "Shanah tovah. Welcome. Would you like to use the elevator?"

Her eyes zoomed in on me and she nodded. As we walked together, she said she was meeting her two sons here and that they had been coming to our synagogue for years, though this was her first visit.

"Oh, you'll like it, I think. My mom [z"l] used to say that she thought our services, at any time of the year, were the nicest she'd ever been to."


"Yeah. She loved them."

"That's nice."

As we got to the sanctuary, I pointed to a box of kippot and tallitot and asked, "Would you like a kippah and a tallit?"

"Oh, no, I'm Orthodox and I'm very nervous."

"Don't be nervous ... I didn't mean to say that. Be nervous if you need to be, but you don't have to be."

"That's a big Machzor," she said.

"I think you'll recognize at least half of the tunes and you'll enjoy the service. I wish I could find you afterwards to see what you thought."

She thanked me for carrying her Machzor and showing her to her seat and we parted. At the end of services, she was gone by the time I reached where she had been sitting. As I passed her empty seat, I hoped she had stayed and hadn't left early due to there being, for example, musical instruments; Orthodox Judaism forbids making music with anything but our voices during Shabbat and holidays, as it's considered labor, and we're not supposed to work at those times.

Trying, unsuccessfully, to distract myself from missing my mom (z"l)

My mom (z"l) got too old to sit or stand for so long and stopped coming to our services several years ago, but on the Yom Kippur prior to her death, she decided she wanted to come for Yizkor, so we made it happen. I blogged about it here, how she met Edie Windsor and thanked her for her leadership and what a great experience it was.

Pat and I saw Edie today and Pat said later, "We won't have Edie around forever."

My mom's (z"l) name also was Edie. And that's for sure.

Including Edie Windsor, I was moved by a number of other gorgeous women. There's a young woman in the choir with eyes that make me miss my cats and long, black, wavy hair, and I am always interested in the stories of women who can pass as heterosexual and how they end up being true to themselves. Whenever I see someone in her 20s at our shul, I time-travel back to that age and how I was finding my way back to Judaism then, and living in Chicago, and so was going to the Chicago LGBT congregation, Or Chadash. It's where I met Pat.

Something else that moved me: Dr. Nathan Goldstein, our president, mentioned that this year, the shul was celebrating four b'nai mitzvah and that all of the parents of the b'nai mitzvah had met at our synagogue.

Rabbi Kleinbaum's and a Cooperberg-Rittmaster Rabbinical Intern's drashot (sermons) touched me, too because Rabbi Kleinbaum read the whole Emma Goldman poem from the Statue of Liberty in the context of the refugee crisis -- Pat had posted the poem on her Facebook wall days ago, asking whether we can be, once again, a country that stands behind that poem. And I was moved by the intern's drash because she asked, Do we avoid coming to shul because we feel we cannot be authentically whoever we are, however we feel?

She spoke of her sister's mental illness episode in 2007 and how we don't typically speak of such things because we cannot dare to be vulnerable. It made me want to come to shul more often, even when I'm not in a great mood. And it made me feel some relief, hearing a future rabbi speak of the need to talk about things we don't typically talk about, to remove the stigma and historical shame of them. I have relatives with mental health problems and I practically never talk about that.

There are a few more things that have moved me during this Yom Kippur so far:

During Yizkor, too, the Executive Director of Jerusalem Open House Sarah Kala made remarks in Hebrew about Shira Banki, the 15 year-old Jerusalem LGBT Pride Parade marcher who was stabbed by an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli and who died of her wounds. One of our Israeli congregants simultaneously translated into English and then our cantorial intern Steve Zeidenberg and the chorus sang "Shir L'Shira", a pop song that was re-dedicated to this particular Shira after her death, and which has been sung at demonstrations around Israel ever since.

Last year, when Broadway singer Sally Wilfert sang Broadway composer and congregant William Finn's "Anytime", I wept. This year, I couldn't let go, or maybe the wound is less fresh, but still, I became choked up because the words and her voice do remind me of my mom (z"l), especially when she sings that anytime I wash my hands, she'll be there. Until she died, my mom (z"l) never failed to ask me when I returned from the bathroom, "Did you wash your hands?"

Now that I'm back home and our kitties are slumbering near me as I blog, I'm moved by the little one, Toonces', capacity for snoring. She's so little, but so audible when she sleeps. And it's cute, and I'm hopeful about caring for such beautiful feline daughters.  

Yom Kippur is all about repenting and praying to be sealed into the Book of Life for the coming year. Please, God, if it be Your will, let Pat & Phoebe, the cat, and Toonces, the cat, and my sisters and their families and all of my relatives and friends and me stay alive and healthy for another year. Amen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Israel Autobiography in Photos

A Retrospective

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

1950-'52: Pre-history - My Parents' Experiences of Israel, Before They Met 

  1960s-'70s - Shohar Posters Designed and Manufactured by Moshav Beit Herut:

 1973: Coca-cola with Lemon and Soldiers on Rooftops; 2002; 2012


1976: Mom (z"l) and Dad (z"l) and Me; 2015: Bina and D'vori's Baby Noam

1980: Coming of Age; 2015: Middle Age

1985-'86: Ambivalently Flirting with My Future; 2014 Reunion

2002: Mom (z"l) and Me and Hebrew University

2012: Introducing My Wife to This History-laden Place

2015: Closure and New Beginnings

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Season

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Not Just Mother's Day

The Peonies are in bloom again. Nearly a year later.

One of the only blog-posts I ever read aloud to my mom (z"l), who didn't have her own computer, was one with pictures of peonies from May 18, 2014. It was about loss.

Just over a year later, I'm bursting from loss, or wish I were. Nearly a year ago, while trying to comfort me over my mother's (z"l) death, a rabbinical student asked me, "What do you want to ask God?" I posted this here already:

"When do I get to fall apart?"

"And how would God respond?"

"Never," I said because what would my falling apart serve?

Serving others is the antidote to self-pity, yet I want to wallow a little.

Pat's on her annual golf trip in Tennessee with her friends from her days at NIU and I must do all of the daily chores she'd be doing if she were here, since she's retired: filling and re-filling the pitcher from the rain-barrel, watering the plants, feeding the birds and local wildlife along with the kitties (I do feed the kitties daily already -- that's my job), making dinner, taking out the garbage and the recycling, dealing with the guy who needed to waterproof the front steps and walkway....These chores, it turns out, are a pretty nice way to connect with the world right around me.

And I've been doing more connecting than usual this past week, in part to distract myself from imminent, first yahrzeit of my mom's (z"l) death along with our impending trip to Green Bay to unveil my mother-in-law Bev's (z"l) headstone; she died unexpectedly of complications from a fall last month, exactly 10 months after my mom. I loved Bev (z"l), too, and also miss her. When we come back, we'll have my mom's (z"l) unveiling on the 31st of May.

My mom (z"l) is so present in her absence:

On Wednesday last week, she (z"l) was there among the caravan of Stamford [Connecticut -- my hometown, where my mom (z"l) lived for 50 years --] Tents trucks at Duggal Greenhouse in Brooklyn last Wednesday as I was departing from World of Watson, but she was not there to call when I wanted to debrief on the coolness of the experience of seeing a positive future for the world, augmented and aided by artificial intelligence.

My mom (z"l) was there at the Art of the 1990s show at the Montclair Art Museum on Thursday evening as I was telling a new friend how she and my dad (z"l) practically chose to move from the Village to Montclair because it had an art museum, but then chose Stamford, which had one, too, but was not there when I wanted to talk about the couple of interesting installations I saw as part of the exhibit.

My ever-present and shatteringly-absent mom (z"l) was there at the Agudath Shalom Cemetery when we visited her not-yet engraved joint-plot prior to the mezuzah posting ceremony in her memory, held at the Stamford Jewish Community Center Library, and was there at the Senior Lunch afterwards as Mr. Soifer, our Bi-Cultural Day School music teacher, smiled at me as he saw me moving my lips accurately while he sang the extended Kiddush over the Shabbat wine and gone when I wanted to tell her that one of her friends there had said, "Your mother was so valuable to me."

Rabbi Cohen, reciting blessings

Rabbi Cohen, my sisters Kayla and Deb, and me outside of the Stamford JCC Library, where our mom (z"l) volunteered.
The mezuzah was created by Chaya Magal and the roses remind us of our mom (z"l); her middle name was Rose.

She (z"l) was there at the Brookdale Park Conservancy-sponsored *Heaven is a Garden* book talk and signing at Watchung Booksellers on Friday evening, even though I should have been at Shabbat services instead, but gone after our dinner out with two new friends at a restaurant in Montclair that she liked, too.

Author Jan Johnsen, discussing her marvelous book,*Heaven is a Garden*
My mom (z"l) was there when Noga and Hilla, a gorgeous couple of Israeli friends with four kids, two of whom were with them, visited us in our newly renovated home, and there when I brought my giant case of Lego over to their four-year-old Shaked, and there when Uri, the baby, smiled winningly and there when we talked about *Fun Home* as a masterpiece. But she was gone when I wanted to call her the next day to wish her a Happy Mother's Day.

My still-here mother (z"l) was ultra-present when I picked up the tray she gave us some years ago that read, "Smart women crave good company" and which featured only a '50s-era, stylized illustration of women drinking coffee on it and tried to determine how to display it visibly in our newly renovated kitchen/dining room and living room.
My mom (z"l) said she thought of Pat & me when she saw this platter and got it for us; she had a good sense of humor.
And she was proud of the rest of how we re-assembled our home and of its major freshening. But she (z"l) was gone when it came time to eat dinner and then take a rest in the living room.

Our new kitchen/dining room/library

Our refreshed living room

Saturday, April 18, 2015

What a Beauty...and the Dog's Cute, too!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

A Catcall I Didn't Utter During My 'blade-Ride

It was an adorable dog -- maybe a not-yet-grown, ginger, Portuguese water dog, if they come in ginger, and I was rollerblading past him or her, across the street. The dog, I noticed first, and then the dog's comely parent -- a woman perhaps not younger than I with longish brown hair and a gleaming smile.

As I sailed past, I nearly did yell out, "What a beauty...and the dog's cute, too!" But didn't, and smiled to myself, and wondered, What would have been so bad if I *had* yelled it? It's such a gorgeous day today and both of us were in an apparently good mood, and why not flirt as I rushed past? If she had heard me and registered what I'd said, wouldn't she have been not unpleasantly surprised? But then, it's not like I was rollerblading in some faraway land, where I'd never, ever see the woman again, except perhaps at the airport, if she were a tourist, too. 

What if I ran into her at King's supermarket up the street? I'm sure I'd not be able to look her in the eye. That's the thing about being aggressively shy. And that's also the thing about reality vs. fantasy. It's easy to be socially bold when I feel safe. You can't catch me. I'm on Rollerblades. Hah! But she could let go of the leash on that gorgeous dog and have it chase and bite me if she weren't amused by my declaration and were sick of being objectified and this was the final offense and she wasn't going to remain passive anymore.

And besides, Pat's the most beautiful woman in the world to whom I've been exclusively devoted for all of our nearly 24 years together. Why am I even noticing anyone else? Because I'm also noticing the buds on the trees and every marvel of nature. There's actually a prayer we're supposed to say as Jews (to ourselves) whenever we see a beautiful person. There are also a couple for when we see extra-unusual people, and this site goes into them. This site tells us the prayer for spotting beautiful creatures, including human ones (see below).

How lucky I am to have a sunny Spring day and the able-bodiedness to 'blade around my town with confidence, and with the awareness of beauty around me. And how lucky to have this free platform to reflect on it, and good music -- the latest of which I heard was Louie Vega's faster, remixed version of "Dance"several minutes ago -- and two sweet cats, and a wife who loves me and who is the most beautiful, funniest and most menschlich person I know!

And how lucky that I showed some judgment and did not catcall at the woman and dog, even as it might have been playfully all right. It turns out that it has been more fun, perhaps, to write about it than it would have been to have done it. 

On seeing the small-scale wonders of nature, such as beautiful trees, animals, and people:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, shekacha lo beolamo. 
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, that such as these are in Your world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

When Did I Become a Sage?

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Feeling Self-possessed and of Service Accordingly

At 25, I was just starting what would become a real career, was romantically insecure and much less solvent, as well as a bit lost. I was also searching, earning, dating, and pursuing a career.

Twice this week, younger lesbians wanted to talk with me about my experience -- one along with her non-lesbian classmate, so that I could be the subject of their MBA project on women in business who advance change, and one who wanted tips on how to come out at work.

When did I become qualified to talk about this stuff? Perhaps by 26 if we consider the core definition of a mentor simply as someone who has been there before you. When did I become recognized for being qualified to talk about this stuff? Now, at nearly 50, when I'm so much more self-possessed.

I was touched by both discussions. The first of the lesbian women made it clear that she liked my response during our conversation: "Think bigger." And the non-lesbian classmate posted positively about our discussion on Instagram.

It was gratifying to be quotable/referenceable. The context for the quote was her asking what I'd have done differently in helping start up the LGBT Business Development team at work, which is still going strong nearly a decade and a half since its founding; I moved on to our Learning organization 11 years ago and remain proud to have made a lasting change at work.

The second discussion included the other lesbian, young woman telling me that when we first met and I talked so openly at work about my family-life, she asked herself subconsciously, "Could that be me one day?" 

When I was their age, I wasn't pursuing an MBA, nor was I super-successful at work. Instead, I was hunting for purpose, a partner and prosperity. Back then, I don't think I'd have foreseen that I could be me one day. And yet I have managed to become me. Thank God.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Soundtrack for a 50th Birthday Party

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

When I Have a 50th Birthday in July, God Willing, I Might Host a Celebration

When I turned 35, I hosted a party in our backyard and haven't hosted a birthday party since then, as my wife Pat never wanted one for any of her big birthdays. It seems appropriate to celebrate this upcoming milestone, which I hope, God willing, to be healthy for.

Right now, I'm having some scary health challenges, where I might have nothing wrong, or I might, God forbid, have cancer in my cervix, my endometrium and my breasts, and I won't know more until mid-December, so I keep trying to distract myself with work and Pat and cultural things like plays, the Rockettes and TV. Note added on December 29th and then again later: Am out of the woods, that is, the polyps in my cervix and endometrium are no longer there and they are benign. And had a breast aspirated in mid-January and that turned out fine, too, thank God.

Yesterday morning, I thought, if I'm healthy, I must host a party for my 50th this summer, and if so, I want it to feature music that would keep me dancing practically the entire time. And I hope that most of the people I'd invite would be willing to do a lot of dancing, too.

If I do host a party, I want to blast these tunes from our back deck and have family and friends spill out beyond the deck into the yard for dancing:

A few songs from my earliest years:


The rest are faves from my older sisters' records and then what I loved from the radio:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Buoyant Blues

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Escaping, Through Music, But Not Really 

Starting at 1:40, which is probably where it always began when DJs played it on WBLS-FM, the song almost makes me forget my grief. Almost:

It's a great time when songs like this are playing on the radio -- my dad's employed again and I'm learning Disco and Ballroom dancing from David Jones in my hometown, Stamford, Connecticut, so that I feel like I belong at the 11 Bar Mitzvahs and six Bat Mitzvahs I attend between 1977 and '78.

This song comes a year later, but it's the sort we Hustled to at all of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah receptions, and I miss it today. Who knew then that five years later, my dad (z"l) would be dead of common bile-duct cancer?

This next song...

...also gets good about 30 seconds in and almost makes me pound away the blues of my pastoral session from earlier today. A Rabbinical Intern at our shul, wants to know what God would say to me after I ask, "When can I just fall apart?"

"Never," God says, I tell her. He says, "Keep going. It won't serve you to fall apart."

At ~1:20 in, God might as well say:

Or He could be as Kind as a number of the Psalms and pledge:

The Rabbinical Intern tells me, "Let's look at Psalm Chaf Zayin. Keep reading."

I read aloud, "For my father and my mother [in that order] have left me; but the Lord will take me up."

"Do you believe that you can let God into your life to help you?" The Rabbinical Intern asks me and I'm almost embarrassed at her revival-style inquiry.

"I *can*, yes, but will I?" I say, barely aloud.

Last night on Twitter, a former Modern Orthodox Jewish day schoolmate and I had an exchange of tweets around an article that compared and contrasted coming out as Atheist to coming out as lesbian, gay, bi or trans. He's an Atheist and one of only three friends of mine who identifies as Atheist...that I know of. He's definitely not:

Didn't God give me this great music for dancing, escaping, wanting to live, for hope and joy, even in the midst of my sadness and fury?

Can't I shut my eyes right now, even as I'm typing and be transported through the furniture from *The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe*? Dancing the whole way! God, for a moment, I've become even younger than Bat Mitzvah age.

Now, back to the present, where I feel very alone. Indeed, Pat is not home right now, but even with Phoebe, the kitty, here in her plush bucket-bed next to me on the floor, I'm just by myself, except for my Disco and Funk friends:

What if I could time-travel and heed the eventual call of this video to go to Barbados for a weekend in 2010, for three days and nights of "Pure Rare Grooves"? There's no such thing as a geographic cure, they say, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to escape my mourning. I am parentless. I am childless. Who will mourn for me? Ok, that was melodramatic.

Ever since I went to a '70's dance party at my friends' Stephanie and Laura, I'm craving dancing in public, and there seem to be fewer opportunities for public dancing than when I was younger. "Don't stop me and I won't stop you," as this song commands:

"Are you angry at God?" asks the Rabbinical Intern.

Later, I think of an answer: Not when I'm dancing, or rollerblading:

Or "Funkin' for Jamaica" and getting to see the beautiful, female singer for the first time by watching the video, which I usually don't like to do; what they produce is always less appealing to me than what I see in my head. Not this time, though. And the mens' spirit is uplifting. They love making the music maybe more than any musicians I've ever seen.

The Psalm book I was reading from today had been a gift to my mom (z"l) from me. I inscribed it 15 years ago, in 5760 of the Hebrew calendar:

Dear Mom,
May these Psalms comfort you whenever and wherever you need comforting.

When the Rabbinical Intern and I were talking earlier, why didn't I notice that my mom (z"l) had underlined part of the last sentence of the very Psalm that the Intern asked me to read aloud, " strong, and let thy heart be of good courage...."