Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Check Is in the Mail

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Are there any literary folks out there who read this (yes, InkAsRain, I know you do)? If so, I'd like to ask a question: Do any of you who write, as I do, and want to submit your work to competitions pay for the privilege of doing so? There are competitions that say entry fee for 1st item is $15, subsequent items are $10.

Of course, the monies collected end up being the prize winnings for the winners, but I do not like to submit my writing anywhere that I have to pay. I would like the judges to pay ME for the privilege of reading my essays or my poetry.

These aren't necessarily little-known literary magazines that request money up front, either. Some major writers' organizations and well-respected publications ask for entry fees, too. But I'm sorry -- I just can't write a check for that. I might as well throw those U.S. or Canadian dollars down the toilet...not to say that I can't win a competition, just that I don't want to sign my name on the dotted line in order to do so!

Modern-Day Mating Call

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Rose Marie. 1936. Movie starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. He plays a Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the Canadian Rockies. Film known for its song, "The Indian Love Call," which features those lyrics, "When I'm calling you-oo-oo..." Hard to forget those angelic voices singing that song.

Lunchtime today. Mall parking lot. Going back to my car. Heading towards the vehicle, I click the remote to unlock the car door, and hear the familiar "beep, beep" reminiscent of The Road Runner. Responding deeper-sounding "BEEEEP,BEEEEP" sounds from several rows away.

Hey, I think to myself, is this the mating call of the twenty-first century? And then I mentally hear the refrains of "When I'm calling you-oo-oo..."

Reality Speaks

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Yes, blogging is a free-form expression, but oftentimes it's just so frivolous. We touch upon surfaces, never delving too deeply because either we want to maintain our secret identities or it's just too damn hard to do so -- our words that have been floating in our heads and in our hearts don't necessarily want to see the light of day. But sometimes they do...


Seraphic Sleep(less)

It is 2:30 AM, and I cannot sleep because Karen is dreaming of Ariel; she moans in her sleep from wounds that will never heal. Three times before we went to bed, Karen, with tears slipping from her eyes, said to me: "Where is he? Where is Ariel?" Of course I had no answer and Karen does not expect one, but still, I feel that I should have something to say besides, "I don't know, I just don't know."

It is 2:35 AM, and I cannot sleep because Offspring Number Three has just learned that her close, close friend who lives in NY is very ill and -- for God's sake, my child has already lost her brother. Must she endure it all over again? Every so often a well-meaning idiot will tell me that "God never gives us more than we can bear." When I hear this outrageous cliche I really feel like punching the person who says it. Where did they get such a stupid idea? In fact, HaShem gives us more than we can bear on a daily basis. Yes, we manage to live through these terrible experiences, we manage to endure, to survive, but we are never the same, and we are often diminished by the suffering, irrevocably harmed. I do not believe that suffering is noble or holy; it is just awful.

It is 2:40 AM, and I cannot sleep because Karen is preparing for Pesach and every shelf cleaned, every corner mopped, every book opened and dusted for crumbs only brings home the fact that Ariel will not be sitting at the Passover seder with us. He will not be reliving the Exodus from Egypt with us. He will not be explaining to us his sharp and penetrating insights into the Haggadah. He will not be smiling at the Passover table, enjoying this wonderful holiday. Ariel's last Pesach was in the hospital, in the ICU where he was forced to celebrate the seder behind an oxygen mask, and our Passover table was that little slab of formica on wheels that's hardly big enough for two matzos. We recited the whole Hagaddah, but it was an effort for him and at the end, he fell back into an exhausted sleep.

It is 2:45 AM, and I cannot sleep because David, Karen's brother was just here in LA with his lovely daughter Jennifer. They live in Israel and they are deeply concerned about the plan to withdraw from Gaza. David knows what anyone with half a brain knows, which is that no good can come from this withdrawl. The Arabs will see it as just the first in a series of retreats designed to destroy the state of Israel. Does no one realize that when the Arabs speak of so-called occupied territories they are not talking about Judea and Samarian, they are, in fact, talking about the entire state of Israel? I read the Arab press. They don't even bother to disguisee their genicidal plans.

It is 2:50 AM, and I cannot sleep because numerous sleazy professors at Columbia University have built a Middle Eastern Studies department on a foundation of lies, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Americanism. And there are still people in my shul who are paying over fifty thousand dollars a year for the priveledge of sending their children to this corrupt institution. Are Jews so starved for status that they actually see nothing wrong with paying the salaries of the children of Edward Said?

It is 2:55 AM, and I cannot sleep because I am writing two scripts under intense deadline pressure and I have not been spending as much time as I should writing the next volume of The Hebrew Kid. I'm also afraid that I will never be able to make the second book as good as the first. I wrote The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maidedn while Ariel was still alive. He helped me. He inspired me. He made me a better writer with his criticism and insights. But now he is gone and I suspect that I'm not as good a writer anymore. Without him, my imagination stalls.

It is 3:00 AM, and I cannot sleep becasue I am sitting in the dark in my bedroom with my computer on my lap typing this blog. I am afraid to go to sleep because I dream of Ariel most every night and when I wake up my face is wet with tea

Posted by Robert J. Avrech at April 12, 2005 02:24 AM

An Eishet Chayil Diamond

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Unfortunately, earlier this evening, my husband and I had to go to a shiva house (a Jewish house of mourning) -- a friend of ours had lost his father last week, and we went to comfort the mourners and for my husband to daven.

I didn't know this friend's father nor his mother all that well. Sometimes we were together as guests at a Yom Tov or Shabbos table, but I'd only met the parents in total maybe half a dozen times in the 11 years that I know the son and daughter-in-law.

The man who passed away unfortunately had been suffering from the slowly disabilitating Parkinson's disease for the past five years or so. Little by little the symptoms showed themselves and the man started to need extra help for the little daily things we take so for granted. Help getting dressed, help bathing, help eating, help shaving, eventually help standing up and sitting down...because of the rigid stance that accompanies the disease.

This evening, however, I learned of the quality of life that this man had, thanks to his lovely wife, his true eishet chayil (woman of valor). They began to have some hired help, nurse's aides in the latter days, but all along the wife helped her husband keep to his familiar and daily routines. She announced to myself and another woman at the shiva: "I even helped him lain tefillin." The other woman asked, "You knew how to do that?" "No," was the reply. "My husband taught me...and so I did it for him all the time."

I was floored -- yes, such a familiar task to men from the time they turn thirteen years of age, a routine, although a bit difficult at first, that becomes second nature. Never did it occur to me that someone who wants to continue to lead the quality of Jewish life that he has led, who wants to follow this commandment of tefillin, but is somewhat handicapped to do so, should need the rudimentary help. For a wife to learn how to lain tefillin so her husband can continue the mitzvah is a most beautiful thing. I was deeply touched by this woman's fortitude and resolve to help her husband in such elemental ways.

She married someone with the last name Diamond, and in her earliest days of marriage after the second world war, she might have been a Diamond in the rough. But after so many years of a life together, and such a demonstrated dedication to her husband, she proved herself to be a most polished, refined diamond, complete with Clarity for what needed to be done for her husband and doing it. A true eishet chayil.

May Moishe Diamond's memory be for a blessing, and may his neshama have an aliyah. And may his dear wife continue to be strong, and healthy, and live to continue to see much naches from her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.