Workmen’s Circle. 6:20 p.m.
I’m the second person to arrive.
It’s my first Shabbat in over eight years without my black undertaker suit.
Instead I’m wearing this striped ill-fitting number I got for $20 from the Jewish thrift store on Pico/La Cienega.
Though heavy and awkward, it will keep me safe from women who don’t look on the heart.
Thank heaven for small favors.
I’m the thinnest I’ve been in months — who needs lithium when you can have love? — yet I can barely button my jacket over my bulging stomach.
The boss (JConnectLA) wanders in wearing a stunning dress.
Then comes founder Cheston Mizel in something more orthodox.
By 6:50 p.m., we have a minyan and daven mincha.
It’s a small room and all the men seem to believe what they’re saying.
It affects me. I stop thinking about the blonde in the very short skirt.
I drop my cold cynical pose and open my heart by closing my book.
I meld with the intense Shlomo Carlebach-style davening but keep enough self-awareness to not sing loudly enough for anyone to hear me.
After mincha, out comes the alcohol. A few people take shots.
There’s a brief sermon.
We go into the welcoming of the Sabbath (Kabbalat Shabbat).
It’s weird being around people who believe what they’re saying.
I feel like I’m floating in outer space. And there’s nothing I can do.
Commencing countdown, engines on, check ignition and may God’s love be with me. Whoa, I’ve really made the grade and the papers want to know whose shirts I wear.
This is Major Tom to Ground Control: I’m stepping through the door and I’m floating in a most peculiar way and the stars look very different today for here am I sitting in a tin can far above the world, planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.
O come let us sing unto the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
There’s a Starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us but He thinks He’d blow our minds.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise, unto Him with psalms.
Men get up and dance around the bima. I join them for one round so I can peak into the women’s section. Yay, friends. I’d like to go and see them but I think I’d blow their minds.
I tell them not to blow it because it’s all worthwhile.
Let the children lose it. Let the children use it. Let all the children boogie.
O let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God: and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart, neither pick up that tasty book you’re reading by Martin Goodman — Rome and Jerusalem: The Clash of Ancient Civilizations.
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
While I spin bizarre blog posts in my mind, it seems that everyone around me is getting married having children.
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
It’s all worthwhile.
Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld rises to speak about the meaning of Jewish suffering. It was Holocaust Remembrance Day Thursday.
He chokes up.
The room goes silent.
"It’s a trick I use to get people’s attention," he jokes.
His father was a survivor.
He tells the famous story about a king wanting a one-word proof for God’s existence and a philosopher said, "Jews."
By all rights we shouldn’t still be around but we are just 60 something years from the Holocaust. Even though it appears God isn’t living up to his end of the covenant by keeping us alive (the divine promise is always to the Jewish people not to all Jewish individuals who get slaughtered like everybody else), we’re still hear praising Him.
Well, He’s a Starman waiting in the sky. He’d like to come and meet us but He thinks He’d blow our minds.
We move into Ma’ariv (Evening service). The loud sound seems to fade, then it comes back like a slow voice on a wave of haze. That weren’t no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive.
I can’t resist the book on third wave feminism resting on the book shelf next to me. I scan through an essay by a victim incest. She recalls how her grandad the holocaust survivor used to abuse her in the bathtub. Then she transitions to praying Kabbalat Shabbat (Welcoming the Sabbath bride) with her father at shul and how he’d point out racy sections from Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) while running his hand up her thigh.
Perhaps this isn’t what God intends me to read right now.
Holocaust survivor Eva Brown is the main speaker over dinner. She’s about 80 years old. She’s survived leukemia. Her voice doesn’t carry well but she speaks with clarity and passion.
One girl asks her why the Jews didn’t jump off the trains on the way to the camps and run away.
Eva points out they were heavily guarded.
It’s oneg time. The alcohol comes out. Within a few minutes, a tall Israeli guy has hit on half the women in the room. "You look like this Israeli actress! You should walk around the room showing off your beauty!"
"I have a hotel room nearby. Perhaps you’d like to come with me?"
How could any woman in her right mind refuse? But refuse they do.
Single Jewish men tend to have horrible social skills.
"Jewish men don’t know their level," one beautiful convert explained to me. "Their mothers told them that they could grow up to be president of the United States and they believed it."
There’s something weird about the way one bloke buckles his pants. They’re always a little high on the hips and a little too tight.
"They’re all left-brained," complains my friend Rachel*. "They have no emotional intelligence. There’s a guy who keeps asking me out. I have no interest. Perhaps when he gets the message, we can be friends."
I ask Jezebel* how many guys in the room she’s hooked up with. "Three," she says.
"How does that feel?" I ask.
"I don’t feel anything," she responds. "Sex is not necessarily a big deal for me. I’m like you."
I’m in high spirits and telling tall tales. One girl believes everything I say despite Rachel’s best efforts at deprogramming.
Why is it that some people just focus on the words and not on the meta-message? With Rachel, I can skip effortlessly from humor to heartbreak, from irony to sarcasm to exaggeration, without ever having to use markers to denote my new literary mode.
With most people, things are not that easy.
The alcohol’s flowing and the lights are low.
People start looking better. They sound more charming.
I’m connecting Jewishly.
I’m the life of the party, or at least of my table, which I don’t leave until 12:30 a.m.
Nothing can change us, no one can save us from ourselves.