Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wheeling and Dealings, part 7 of 7

Wheeling and Dealings

But what struck me most on this trip, beyond the details of personal travel narrative, and the philosophic excursions and spiritual geography, are the personal changes I felt, strange, unexpected, outside the frames of development and psychology I have read, and specifically this: I sat next to my son, not as a father, but as a partner, brother, friend, even a son at times, casting me into a new I, and thrusting him into a new he, and us in a new relationship, distinctly and exotically outside of time and history, I in a sixty year old body that had no sense of the passage of time and its progressively insistent fragility, I with my twenty-five year old son, who for all my love and all our experiences together, was totally new and liberated from any constraints of relative age, from his past, and from our past, as I entered a mystical, 5-geared rolling palace, a time-warp inside a dream world, stripped of its awesome and disorienting otherworldliness, and instead a natural, new reality, appropriate and familiar in all its discontinuity.

And it was evening and it was morning, and I picked up my scriber and took a shabbatlik breath, and I began to serve, to write.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A poem interlude

An interlude here, before the 7th and last part of Wheeling and Dealings.
This poem is part of Gottesverdammerung, Bouk 6 of The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming. It came to me as a dream, and I have thus made it a dream-poem of the main character of the story, Rivka, a Jewish woman trying to escape the nazi death net. The poem is, as it were, a communique from an inmate of a concentration camp.

                         A dream-poem dictated to Rivka
                         by Yitzkhak, her murdered husband.

     Sum string here, a butten thare,
     A shu lase, a skrap ov kloth.
     For a seel starving, a kup ov koffee,
     Just a littel sip will be enuf.

Ower lievz wer hanging on a fals ballans,
Delereyus kreecherz dansing on a galloez.
Sum wer unlukkee and got the noos;
The unlukkeyer wunz the mob set loos.

     Sum string here, a butten thare,
     A shu lase, a skrap ov kloth.
     For a werthless life hanging in the ballans
     A littel sip mite be enuf.

Seelz dying for a taest ov redempshen.
We toild, owwer feengerz sluggish and numm.
Ower feet freezing; owwer eyz blurrd;
We obsesst on a kup, steeming blak koffee.

     Sum string here, a butten thare,
     A shu lase, a skrap ov kloth.
     Peeking owt ov owwer shrunken boddeez,
     Theze skraps koud save, or a kup ov broth.

Louking down on owwer shrunken boddeez
Frum a hiyer plase – no feer, no lakk,
We prepaerd garments for the nu arrivelz,
Thaer lievz exchaenjd for a gram ov ragz.

     Sum string here, a butten thare,
     A shu lase, a skrap ov kloth.
     A seekret trezher karreed on the wind;
     Like a wiff ov koffee, then gon aggen.

Tu restraen the helldogz, a seekret kode.
Tu tok abowt praer wuz streng ferbode.
So we kawld it 'kessim', koffee, just a sip.
The wormth, the arroma, just the thot ov it.

Wheeling and Dealings, part 6 of 7

Wheeling and Dealings

Josh and I roll into Bloomington a few minutes after 5pm, unload the truck, sweating and grunting and stumbling our way with my parents’ things into his house, which, piece by piece grows odder, more dissonant, more gratifying, as their things reshape his house, so that his living room for me becomes a museum of living memories; a glass taken from a kitchen cabinet; silverware from a drawer – it was ugly in Monroeville, it's beautiful here; paintings on the wall – two pages from an illuminated Persian manuscript, the girl with her back to us, sitting on a bed playing guitar (my sister's first art purchase), the photo of my father as a little boy, riding a horse-drawn grocery wagon with his father; the skinny, taciturn secretary overseeing the room with her wrinkled glass panes; the massive couch (that was a bitch to carry); the samovar in the corner and its Magyar tea-drinking spirits; all allow me to once again sit with my parents, as I sit with my child who I admire and love with virtually no limits.

Now I take a slow, deep sixth breath.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wheeling and Dealings, part 5 of 7

Wheeling and Dealings

But, in truth, it's not that one

because, how can I make a contract with myself?, how can I, or anyone be so divided?, and yet this is a common psychological representation, for me an example of inaccurate analysis, of sloppy use of language and an artificial architecture of introspection, long time shaping our psychology, at least back to Laing and others who explore in depth a “divided self,” creating false images, as if there is more than one mind, rather than a mind confronted with multiple options, uncertain, conflicted, confused by its choices, its decisions, its risks, of who to be and what to do, but like a sack full of all that we travel with, treasures, necessities, leaky containers, things we should have long ago discarded, trash and broken objects, a rumpled sack, a torn sack from which things are lost, but all that is in the sack, pressed together, perhaps grinding, perhaps breaking, all of this is what our self is made of, and this is its wholeness, however empty or overstuffed or jumbled the sack may be; and thus my contention: I cannot make a contract with myself! since such an idea is built on the illusion that I am also not-I; and yet, and yet... one identity can dominate another, can gobble up possibilities and prey on the needs of conflicting identities, as if, or until I am not-I, or I am hurting I...

But in this case, at least, no, Josh, I am not breaking a contract with myself, but with the One that sent me here, that lifted me from inconscience, however minute that lifting may have been, that inspired me and told me, “go forth and study this world and report back to Me; go forth and explore this world and reflect and evaluate all you see and offer it up to those who would listen, because what you see well, I will have shown you, and what you say well, I will have dictated, but what you mis-see and what you mis-tell will fall away, like chaff blown away by the wind, but after all, if the harvest is good, then grain will be gathered and Souls will be fed and strengthened; this I believe as a caster of seeds and a gleaner of sheaves, even tho I have planted and wandered on, and, having wandered, cannot perceive the harvest, altho in my rounds it appears that few have gathered what has grown behind me, and fewer, surely, perhaps none at all, are sustained by the produce; yes, I realize this, and worse, I realize that of the many wonders I have seen, perhaps all are but illusions, and all I have told is but chaff, yet this I believe: where I have shirked my contract, there will I be held accountable, but where I have served, God will know, and where I have served well, God will use it and increase it.

And I take a fifth breath.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wheeling and Dealings, part 4 of 7

Wheeling and Dealings

Once we broke out of the Pittsburgh traffic, our ramblings really ramped up. “Ninety miles an hour, girl, is the speed I drive...”

Josh, he's mapping out South Central Asia by language, politics, history, and culture, Caucasus overlapped in Aryan migration and Tartar conflicts, inexplicable compatibilities, mixed into Josh's own inexplicable incompatibilities, and his compulsion to see and record the grammars and grammothers of the region.

Now that he's warmed up, Josh powers on in high gear,

you see, there's personal folklore in every moment, but especially life cycle events, and the recording of people’s narratives, as strangely coincident, Rach falls out of her dream of photo journalism as a career in empathy and relationship, realizing it's a life of move-in – shoot – forget 'em – blow your horn, as she wakes up disillusioned, and takes a game-changing move towards recording personal stories for the sake of healing; not quite folklore, but close – examples: a journey thru addiction; the death of a sibling; surviving cancer; recording the last days and weeks of a patient in hospice – and from there to the virtue, the value, the need for families and individuals to record their histories in regular intervals, and construct extended genealogies built from images and recorded statements, talking not just about favorite foods and favorite colors, but rather, moments of change, success and failures, where we are going, where we have been, what we want and what we avoid, and in other words the perception of forces that have shaped both our interior and exterior lives, and what kinds of tools and software and professional guidance is necessary and possible to produce this (now that's folklore, by the way),

and from there after a long moment’s silence considering wide fields of bright flowering yellow clover and the verdant rolling landscapes of scrub-lined fields and second growth woodlands, such a contrast to the parched straw and washed-out olive shades of SoCal and Yemen, I hesitate and dive into my recurrent discontents and thoughts to drop out of my safe and affluent life, to live in an Airstream (I found a nice one online for 5000 bucks) as an old bohemian/hippy recluse, with limited need of money, it's so easy to take that mental step, but the next step is all bramble: wanting to be local to a vibrant culture, especially Jewish, searching the country and the world to find such a place and realizing that if it exists I don't know where, even or especially in Israel; which led to Josh asking, 'why my discontent?,' and without much delay – should I talk about it?, how should I tell it?, is this the truth or just a layer on something deeper and truer? – my answer that I am not fulfilling my contract, and he, 'the contract with yourself?,' and me, 'yes, that one.'

And a fourth breath.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Wheeling and Dealings, part 3 of 7

Wheeling and Dealings

The next morning we set off on foot, slip-sliding away with suitcase and backpack down a muddy embankment between the hotel parking lot and the truck rental office, affirming my status as a trucker, not a CEO, and where, appropriately, the rental agent discovered that my driver’s license had expired. Shite! I had imagined I’d do all the driving, but, flip-flop, splish-splash, and I was a co-pilot, with nothing more to do than give directions, help with lane-changes, do food prep (primarily, unwrapping the remaining sandwich). East, down Rt. 22 past the Miracle Mile and up Mosside a half mile to the storage locker, a stone’s throw from my father’s office (may his memory be a blessing) where we loaded the truck, which turned out to be vastly larger than we needed, and we were on the road by 9:30am.

Over a curb or two, onto the Parkway West, past the slag heap by the Squirrel Hill Tunnel that is now a vast condo patch, down along the river thru downtown, over the Fort Pitt Bridge and thru the tunnel, whining the transmission into full scream up the Duquesne Heights, swerving onto 79 South (almost missed that one), detoured east thru downtown Wheeling, whoa! that ole girl never seems to throw off her lingering air of depression,

and on autopilot out 70 East, where I would take a third breath.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wheeling and Dealings, part 2 of 7

Wheeling and Dealings

Josh and I took a shuttle van to Monroeville, the last stop. Our conversation was a pastiche of little revelations about our dealings and seeings, ranging from the far-flung to the near-crazy: South Central Asia, to Israel, to our schools, to inner compulsions, swirled into bad music on the radio, and fellow passengers’ blurtings and bleatings, tho it's fair to reflect that, most likely to them, we were the bleaters and blurters.

Our hotel was next to Pirmanti’s (as it’s pronounced, tho not spelled). It was 11:30pm, and concerned for road food, we went over to see if they were open. Inside, we downed a couple of vodkas and ordered three monster fish sandwiches to go (you know, the ones with double cheese, don't spare the tartar, and an order of fries and coleslaw dumped right into the sandwich), of which we immediately gobbled two, while we continued our bleatings and blurtings, in more detailed forms of revelation and magical realism: courses in dominant and endangered central Asian languages; exotic places we have explored, especially Yemen, Hevron, hell, the Grand Canyon; bizarre examples of student behavior that can be observed on any given day in any given classroom; lesson plans that included Bedouin mosques and non-violent resistance; Potok and The Chosen and Hebrew and Modernity; brothers, sisters, mothers, and lovers, but not D.H. Lawrence; moves to Bloomington and DC and the narrow and empty spaces in both of those places.

We were asleep within minutes of returning to the hotel, allowing for the time to take a second breath.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wheeling and Dealings, part 1

In mid-May my son and I each flew from our various places to Pittsburgh, where we rented a truck and moved the remaining portion of my parents' estate to his house in Bloomington. Here's how I recorded the trip, its multiple breaths...

Wheeling and Dealings

Bloomington, in an empty bedroom, and an airport

After flying across country on Saturday, Shabbat Bemidbar, to look at a dozen or more houses in DC and decide we didn’t like any of them and then flying back on Sunday, a long gulp of Israeli coffee and facing Monday at school, I then returned to the snaking security lines, the undressing – shoes, belts, phones, keys, coins, watch, kippa – and the public display of all I was carrying, so I might be packed into a plane, I among so many other misfits – we humans being very poorly designed to fit into the narrow and mishapen spaces airlines allocate to us -- to find myself (as if I had lost myself) in Pittsburgh, where I waited four hours at the airport to meet Josh, my son.

And that was one breath, although at the time I imagined myself gasping and panting like some hapless greyhound 2 minutes past the boom when the gates swing open.