This Wed, Apr. 8: Sari reads from “Slice”

Do you like fresh, hard-edged short fiction? Do you like beer and/or other alcoholic beverages? Are you not Jewish and/or not attending a seder this Passover? Are you in New York City? Then come to Pacific Standard this Wednesday, April 8 (yes, the first night of "Pesach") to hear Sari read from her excellent, newly published story "Patriotic Dead." She’ll be there with a contingent of fictioners from Slice #4, as part of Pacific Standard’s reading series. Details, you say? Yes…

Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 6:30-8 pm
Pacific Standard, or Jon & John’s House of Starchy Living and Temperance Den, "a cozy, relaxed West Coast microbrew pub"
82 Fourth Avenue (between St. Marks and Bergen Streets), Brooklyn

See you there?

Happy Jew Year

Heeb magazine, in commemoration of the new year 5769, has named A.D. to its Best of 5768: Comics list. Appropriate for a book with such a biblical title. Thanks, Heebs!

Finding “The Search”

The SearchDid you see this piece in last Wednesday’s NY Times? It’s about a new graphic novel about the Holocaust being used as a teaching tool in German schools. What really struck me about the samples of the comic they show is how the art apes Hergé and Tintin. Outside of R. Sikoryak, this may be the best “Hergé” I’ve ever seen. Typical for a mainstream newspaper piece on comics, it took some searching to spot attributions for the book, which it turns out is drawn by a Dutch artist named Eric Heuvel (and written by Ruud van der Rol and Lies Schippers). Looks like the book is a co-production of the Anne Frank Center and will be published in English this month or next. And it also looks like the same team of authors did a previous Hergé-style Holocaust book. I must have them! As a huge Tintin fan and a WWII buff, it’s almost like these books were made just for me. I’m shocked I never heard of them before.

Challoween

Last night Sari & I dressed up Phoebe for her first Halloween and headed over to Garden Place in Brooklyn Heights. Reports that the small residential street was the Mecca of kiddie Halloween in Brooklyn were not exaggerated. We saw all kinds of amazing & amusing costumes on kids and adults alike, including a whole Superman family (Superman, Supergirl, Superboy and Superbaby), the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl, and the Dish and the Spoon (as in “the Cow Jumped Over the Moon”). And Phoebe’s Bat-Cow costume was a hit as well.

Our little three-month-old was getting cranky, however, so we headed back home. Leaving the trick-or-treating hordes, we turned on to Joralemon Street only to almost bump into what I thought was the best costumed group of the night. It was a family of three “Chassidic Jews,” with the bearded rabbi in the long black coat and high stockings, the mother in her dowdy wig, and the little nine-year-old boy in his yarmulke and payes. It was only when I saw the family’s somber (even frightened?) expressions as they passed the happy chaos of Garden Place that I realized they weren’t dressed for Halloween. They were the real deal!

Even though I grew up with Chasids all around me and see them all the time in my neighborhood, their anachronistic outfits struck me as particularly odd last night, October 31st, All Hallow’s Eve.

Good Samaritans

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThere are a lot of Christians down here. Part of what made me eager to join up with the Red Cross was that it’s officially secular. But being part of the New York City chapter didn’t prepare me for how much of the national volunteer base is made up of Christians. You know, Christians — you can’t walk down an aisle in our barracks without stepping on someone reading their bible or psalm book.

That’s not to mention some of the other organizations we share our barracks with, like the teens and young adults in their orange “PRCompassion.org” (Pastoral Resources) T-shirts, or the large group of Scientologists in their yellow T-shirts (though I guess technically they’re not Christians).

I probably should have known it would be like this — as Red Cross relief workers, we do all wear crosses on our backs.

Most of the older volunteers I’ve met (and there are a lot of them) — besides tending to be non-urban — are regular churchgoers. The subject comes up frequently: how their church group does so and so, or this was “meant to be,” or “I feel blessed” about that, and so on. And of course our clients — Mississippians, black and white — are the same way. I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “God bless you” to me as they’ve walked away with their plates of food. This is Red State Central, after all.

I confess to feeling a bit weird about it all. Being around all these folks makes me realize how “urbanized” I am. Living in the Big Apple, you tend to forget how homogenous much of the rest of the U.S. is. I’m used to being around people of all different ethnic backgrounds and cultural traditions, and you really feel the lack of it here. As a youngish, liberal arts-trained Jewish guy, I just feel different.

Besides all that, I’ve always been irredeemably anti-organized religion, but I have to admit being touched by all these volunteers, joined together by faith, willing to come down en masse to help others, just like J.C. recommends they do.

At the same time, there’s something creepy about the culture the Christians seem to embody. Like they’re all part of this secret club where they communicate in code words, Despite it being all so… square, I detect is a kind of subtle smugness about them. It’s like they know everything’s been pre-determined (“meant to be”), so there’s no need to become too emotionally involved. It’s all part and parcel of the heartland ethic, I suppose, to rub yourself so smooth there are no edges left at all. Brrrr. It gets to me after awhile. Thank god (ha!) I’ve been able to hook up here and there with some younger folks, people in their 20s, who are a lot more “hip.”

But I don’t want to come across as a complete East Coast elitist. In the end, what it’s all about down here is helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And at the end of the day, the Christians are the ones walking the walk. I have to ask: where are my fellow descendants of Abraham? Last week, the bulletin board did list Yom Kippur services, so there must be a couple of us…

Something to ponder on my day off. Which is today.

Which I’ll be spending in New Orleans.

anecdote

this is the last time i’ll write about my finger or physical therapy:

the other day, while Mayte was working on my finger, she passed on some important knowledge. Tapping the outside of my hand, between my wrist and my pinkie, she said, “This is what boxers break.” Indicating the other side of my hand/wrist, she explained, “This is what skaters break.” Pointing to my middle finger, she told me, “This is what basketball players break.” And then, pointing to my broken finger she said, “This is what little Jewish boys break.”

OUCH!!!