~ Monday, December 10, 2007 ~
I stopped posting a year or so ago because my love life turned inside out, and it consumed my thoughts to the point that I didn't feel like anything else mattered enough to write about, but for the sake of other people's privacy, and my own, I didn't want to make any of it public. I gather from little snippets I've been reading that it's public now, at least in the circles that matter, and I think I'm ready to write about it, too. Besides, I've missed blogging.
The incompletes are still incomplete, and thesis continues to limp along, though sometimes it feels like one foot is moving forward and the other one is nailed to the floor. I have sudden inspirations and grand ideas that contradict one another, or realisations that I'm sure I can expound upon until I sit down and try, and after an hour of typing I realise I've wandered into the Wilderness of Digression because I don't really know how to talk about what I'm trying to talk about. I start worrying that I've lost my ability to write philosophy, if I ever had any to begin with, and to assuage my fears, I go and write long emails to people in which I argue in favor of or against some idea. It doesn't work, but it's led to some awfully interesting discussions.
I have two library books that are several months overdue. I've been holding onto them because I intend to use them for the papers, and I'm afraid that if I return them to the library, the librarians will unfold all the corners of pages I've got folded down as markers, but I've had them for so long that I'm not allowed to renew them anymore. I figure I should just buy them by now, but I haven't yet.
My room fluctuates from pin-neat to comfortably messy to uncomfortably messy. We are currently at the nadir of the cycle. I need to do laundry.
In addition to the tutoring job, which I still have and which I love more than any other job I've ever held, I took a job teaching at a nearby synagogue's Monday School, where I teach 4th- and 5th-graders about prayers and the Hebrew language and other Jew stuff. I took the job during the end of summer, when there was a lull in demand for my tutoring services at the same time as there was an increase in my expenditures, and the educational director wooed me with promises of gaining new tutees through my work as a classroom teacher (this has not come to pass). I'm not exactly sorry I took the job, as every experience is educational, but honestly, the primary lesson I take from this may well be that I should learn to stay out of classrooms, because classrooms have students, and students have parents, and parents have issues. I like most of the students, and I think they're into the stuff we learn, for the most part, but I like tutoring so much better that I'm pretty sure I won't be coming back.
The funny thing about that is that I wasn't planning to even be here in New York beyond the end of 2007. I was supposed to be done with the masters degree by now and off to California for the next chapter of my life, and I feel sort of vastly inadequate that I'm not, but on the other hand, my income is not negative for the first time in my life, and I have remarkable freedom here, and I've made some good friends, and on top of all that, it's New York, and I really do love this city, in spite of the little things that I don't love.
Today, while I was on my way to Monday School, I passed a young Chassidic boy who looked like he was the age of my students. He had posted himself on the corner, like they do, and he called out "Excuse me..." as I walked by. Figuring I knew what was coming, I turned around. "Are you Jewish?" he asked. Bingo.
Now, my hair was down, and I was wearing my black hat (vaguely newsboy-ish), and I'm half-Russian and currently pasty-white (it's Winter here), so it would have been harder for me to look any more Jewish than I did. I laughed. "Of course I am."
"Ok, well, do you have a menoyroh?"
"A what? Oh, a menorah! Yeah, I've got one." This is funny, because I made my own little cheapy menorah out of a cereal box and foil when I realised it was Chanukah and I didn't have one. I was proud of my creation, but when my mother heard I'd been reduced to such Dire Straits, she mailed me a real one overnight, which was awfully thoughtful of her, but what she didn't realise is that there's a value to having things in the apartment that are unimportant and disposable. The Advocate understands this, and was lamenting to me only yesterday about how she wants more space, but can't bear to get rid of anything. In her case, it's mostly furniture, but for me, even the possession of a Nice Menorah is a liability. Even now, as I type this, it's staring at me with all its guilt-infliction-power on. "You're not treating me with proper respect," it glowers. "I should be dusted and polished and displayed in the window, not set carelessly on the edge of this coffee table you picked up off the sidewalk without even washing. You are a Bad Housekeeper!" Soon, I tell it, and glance in the mirror at the cereal box menorah, whose candles are burning low in the window. Anyway, my menorah-tally is greater than 0, and I told the fellow on the corner as much.
"Well, we're giving out menoyros, but if you've got one...." He showed me his supply. They looked pretty high-quality for street-corner donations. "You lit already, right?"
"What, tonight??" It was a little before 3 in the afternoon, and the sun sets early these days, but not that early.
"No, no, the past six nights."
"Oh, sure, yeah."
"Good!" He looked pleased, but a little awkward. I'd taken away his usefulness, I guess.
"Well, thanks anyway," I told him. "Happy Chanukah."
It surprised me, how it stuck with me, how happy the encounter left me. I guess most 11-year-old boys I see aren't so eager to talk to strangers, much less to find out whether they can use a menoyroh, but it's more than that. Usually, the people peddling religion on the street corners have a message for me that is about as far from "Good for you, you're doing it right!" as it can possibly be, and, well, I guess I have a delicate ego, because I like approval, even when it comes from people who don't know anything about me except that I've been lighting my menorah. There's also a little bit of feeling like I'm finally part of the club, instead of one of the outsiders. It's validation. Brooklyn is a comfortable place to be Jewish.
Compare this to the little mini-experience I had yesterday afternoon, when I was foolish enough to venture into the wilds of Connecticut to meet a new student. As her father drove us from the train station to their house, we were doing the requisite small talk, and he asked me where I went to school. I gave him the whole list, starting with CUNY, then Stanford, and then Drisha and RRC. "I was going to be a rabbi for a while," I said, to explain the latter two.
"Now that's interesting," he said. "We're Catholic, but I've always been interested in the different sort of...philosophy...of Judaism, and the history, and why the Jews rejected Christ."
I didn't burst out laughing, but I sure wanted to. Instead, I carefully told him that there's lots of information addressing that question online, if he's interested in reading about it. Granted, I'm a little touchy about that topic these days, but still, the guy's in his 50s if he's a day, and if he's so interested, why has he not done any of his own reading about this? Rejected Christ, my carefully concealed horns.
Which brings me to the main thing I haven't talked about on here yet, and the reason I sort of stopped blogging almost a year ago. I'm romantically involved with someone who would never marry a Jew. His name is The Saint, and he sparkles and shines, but the religion thing is the cause of much angst for both of us, especially him, since he'd like to be married and raising children already. Still, we soldier on, I because I'm just that crazy about him, and he because I guess he hasn't met anyone else yet. Indigo remarked to me last week, quite accurately, that if she'd told me a year ago that a year from then I'd be completely wrapped up in studying the LDS religion, I'd have never believed her. And yet, I find it a little thrilling to think that I can't predict things after all, that I don't have my future all figured out, that life still has some surprises in store for me, that it can still turn my world inside out. It's almost like I'm four years old again, and there are still wonderful new things to discover. This time, of course, my heart is going along for the ride, and a lot of the time it's painful, but on the other hand, what a ride it is.
~ prattled by Miriam at 8:43 p.m. [+]
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