Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

A facebook meme. I had to think about this, what constitutes a "guilty" pleasure, because on the one hand, I feel vaguely guilty a great deal of the time about most things (so Jewish). On the other hand, I'm old enough to be unashamed of my slightly shameful predilections.

1. Overpriced pedicures. At the all-pink salon, where they bring tea in rosy pink cups or, in the evenings, a pink cocktail. Having my feet dominated by Iris, whose deceptively fine hands bring on a sort of twilight sleep of deep delight.

2. Taylor Swift. But I have to listen on my headphones. Guiltily weeping.

3. Lindor truffles. Sucked not chewed.

4. Bingeing on those pithy-yet-specious list articles all over the internet: "6 surefire ways to get your man to give up his soul to you," "8 unmistakeable signs that you're a psychopath," "12 ways to get out of a speeding ticket." I like my world reduced to lists.

5. Being a pathological fantasist.

6. Lingerie catalogs

7. Memorizing complex rap lyrics and rapping along. Alone in the car. Latest "achievement": DMX's Get It on the Floor ("you motherfuckers wonder why I start shit")

8. Taking selfies. Using filters.

9. Lottery daydreams

10. Writing micro erotic
creative nonfiction.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Zionist Girl

The term Zionist Girl puts me in mind immediately of the sturdy rosy-cheeked antiHolocaust antivictim of the early Palestine Propaganda posters.

But when I got called that in a "conversation" (I use this word loosely, very) on facebook, it wasn't meant fondly, nostalgically, as a compliment, or even a matter-of-fact description; rather, it was offered as a scathing indictment, as sneering as any indictment could be.

A "friend" of mine (and again I use this word loosely, very) posted a speech of Mandela's about the wickedness of Israeli policy toward Palestinians. Said friend likes to post a great deal about Israeli Apartheid. I had held my tongue, but finally commented, one short paragraph, uttering that fateful word, the word that never fails to unleash the hellhounds of anti-Israel absolutism: "antisemitic." (let me add, I really won't weigh in on whether or not I think Mandela was antisemitic, I wouldn't have the energy; it was the repeated and pointed posting of anti-Jewish State material that seemed suspect). Anyway, there followed a virtual firestorm of anger toward me.

The immediate reply to my comment was typical: "anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic."

To which I say: anti-Zionist doesn't mean antisemitic. Except when it does.

A German chick called me "stupid," after which ad hominem attack I left the conversation. But being the compulsive person that I am, I snuck back to the scene under cover of the deepest night to see how the thread unfolded.

It was not so much an unfolding as a foaming-mouthed effigy burning. Having never before been burned in effigy (or called a Zionist Girl, or, for that matter, been called Girl much at all recently--that went out at the same time as "Miss" was replaced by "Ma'am," but that's a whole other story of heartache), my interest was greatly piqued.

The discussion can be boiled down handily: "That Zionist Girl can't handle the truth of Israeli Apartheid. She is racist. She is ignorant. And she left the conversation because she can't defend the indefensible." There were several people agreeing on these talking points. Angry people.

First let me say, this isn't exactly about specific Israeli politics, only tangentially. Or symbolically.

The problem is:

a lone Jew speaking up in a hostile crowd of people who are angry at the Jewish State and not just its policies but, I would argue, its very existence. The problem is that surge of intense disgust/ire that passes for discussion. The problem is the rapidity with which this discussion degenerates into an attack on that lone Eponymous Jew. The problem is tone and meta-message. The problem is a lack of self-awareness in the angry mob.

The thread, after I left it, was notable for one glaring characteristic: a repeated use of the words "Jew" and "Jewish," coupled with the words "racist" and "fascist" in a simmering and barely contained group rage. The term "Zionist," opaquely layered, quite obviously, with the word "Jew."

People get exercised on social media sites all the time. But this felt different, it felt more significant and far more threatening than anything I have experienced before. It left me nearly shaking, teary-eyed and scared.

There is a real darkness in that moment when you realize you are the only one of your Kind in a group, when that group calls you by the name of your Kind, and that name is spoken like a curse. That darkness presses in on you. You can feel it in your very bones. It isn't paranoia and it isn't over-sensitivity. It's a truth that can only be known in the feeling of it, a truth as old as old mass graves and charred prayerbooks. And even older still.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Merry Christmas, Ya Big Jew

It's that time of year once again. Time for the passionate arguments over denominational Solstice holiday greetings. Sympathy seems to run low when The Dreaded Other demands "special treatment."

Facebook is always a place to gauge the social temperature, and popular memes specifically are the thermometer. I am unsurprised this year to see a jokey flow chart posted and reposted all over my wall, which I will summarize: "Don't be a fucking bitch, accept whatever holiday greeting is offered, and accept it nicely."

I suppose this meme is aimed at two distinct groups: on the one hand, those hardcore Christians (a specific group of them) who balk at the idea of kowtowing to Muslims/Jews/Atheists/Pagans/assorted Freaks who don't celebrate Christmas, and offering a non-denominational holiday greeting. On the other hand, those very Outsiders who don't celebrate Christmas and want a nondenominational holiday greeting.

The problem with this frightening demand for a universal standardized Christian greeting is that now, perhaps understandably, there is a backlash against any requirement of special consideration, hence the exasperated tone of the meme.

Yet I must point out that there is a big difference between those who would insist that their Christian belief system take precedence, and those who simply want it acknowledged that we are not all practicing Christians.

In the wake of this incredibly hubristic movement to coerce obeisance (even if only tacit) to a single religion, desire for a universal nondenominational holiday greeting has become tiring to many, another demand made on them as they try to suck whatever joy they can out of the various festivals of lights.

So I'm going to come right out and say what's on my mind. Please, religious Christians, don't make me accept your Christian greeting, for I'm not Christian. And please, kind but weary friends, don't make me accept just any old holiday wish on the grounds that "come on, the offerant was well-meaning and for goodness sake, enough already."

So, no, I don't live in a country with a national religion. No, I do not celebrate Christmas. Yes, I am Other. Yes, I'm asking for special treatment and yes, I am an inconvenience.

Sometimes expression of tolerance is inconvenient: it requires thought, it requires awareness, and even vigilance.

I am a big Jew who just doesn't want to hear the words: "Merry Christmas," over and over. I don't want to be gracious. I don't want to accept the spirit or the sentiment behind it, willy-nilly.

Then again, I'm not a total bitch, and I do wish you well. May the Winter Solstice bring light and warmth and longer days to us all.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


The strangest feeling: I have no memory of this day, none whatsoever. Yet, it looks memorable. I look pleased; I look like the little girl I hope I was.

Mommy, Daddy, Liv, and Leah. A trip to the zoo, a ride on a dromedary. Sunshine. Possibly a picnic. There is even a yellow balloon.

I can only believe there must have been, there must have been, this beautiful day, because here is the proof.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


The placemats, new but old-new, thin cheap paper and washed-out palette, highly informative. If conversation flags, you can always study the drink recipes.

Forks, occasionally crusted with dried egg. Water, honest NYC kitchen tapwater in food service glasses. Bowls of pickles that taste of bandaid. The waitress who, barely glancing down, proclaims my two-year-old niece "cute" in a voice that says, "I have seen an awful lot of two-year-olds in my 25 years here. They are all the same."

Uncharming, with their strange lighting and listless food on thick chipped plates, diners are the same world without end. I have conducted my business in these places: love affairs over pancakes. Turkey club sandwiches after funerals. Gossip, crying jags, laughter that tipped me sideways out of my seat.

Long may they continue to thrive, in their vinyl-coated, Star-Trek-lighting-fixtured glory!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Is he charming? Or does he make my insides go squinky when I imagine his unblinking HumptyDumpty-ness grinning at me from the underside of the bed? It's a tough call.

My mother's adored doll, 64 years old.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Collector

That strange little house in the middle? A hoarder lives there.

Across the street is my favorite neighborhood café. The people who work there tell me that they gather at the plate glass windows every time someone sounds the alert that the Hoarder's door is opening, hoping to get a glimpse of the interior.

The other day, walking by, I finally got my own chance to see the sun-starved marvels of an unhinged mind. The door was flung wide, almost defiantly wide it seemed to me. The Hoarder was on his step, verbally abusing a young man who seemed to be an assistant of some sort.

I glanced inside, in the studiedly casual way that all NY-ers have developed; there is a lot to look at, surreptitiously, on any given day in NYC: dramatic accidents, street brawls, supermodels and superstars, robed psychotics denouncing their particular demons in high oration, men dressed as horses, fabulous homemade shoes and unlikely pets on leashes. It is well worth honing that skill, the stealth assessment, so that one need not miss a moment of the glorious horrible insanity of the city.

What a revelation was the Hoarder's Collection. Teetering ceiling-high stacks of old newspapers formed a dark mad cathedral, the path between these pillars so narrow that I have a hard time understanding how a Brooklyn rat could pass through, let alone a portly old man.

What nightmare vision created his home, what nightmare sustains it? What chases this man down, forcing him in daily retreat further and further back into this cramped stifling warren of newspaper? I can only imagine that he is shoring up his days and ways against an onrushing tide of fear, in the only way he knows how.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Bones of the Father

It turns out that when you are cremated, not all your bones are burned to ash. I discovered this when, curious, I opened the box full of dad.

For a long time after he died, I wore his bone shards in a silver locket around my neck. When I finally grew tired of being haunted, I removed the locket and tucked it away. Today, seven years later, I found it again.

That endless wild roaring sea of grief (irreducible so I once thought) become the dry rattle of fragment against silver.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

I Call Bullshit

Of all the smarmy, overwrought, misguided memes to come to light on social media over the past year or two, this one has to be the most loathesome (it's a link, in case you'd like to view it):

"abused" woman takes photos "every day for a year" to illustrate how harrowing it is when a stunning model's pristine beauty is marred by some special effects makeup

I guess the generic piano music (which, by the way, can be heard on countless heart-wrenching meme-ish vids, my God that composer is getting royalty checks as numerous as crocodile tears) makes this somehow worthwhile? or is it the lonely heartbreak of the glamorous "victim," so lovely that we either want to help her or bed her?

Domestic violence is a problem, OBVIOUSLY, but trumped-up pretty manipulation isn't going to help one damn bit.

Battered women, like rape victims, suffer from this sort of portrayal. It's the difference between watching hot chicks in knickers get slaughtered in films, and going to the scene of a real murder. One is titillating, the frisson of horror is almost fun, hell you might even get off on it, and the other one...

well, the real thing, most people probably can't handle.

Hence the popularity of these attractively manufactured gut punches. I call bullshit.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Once Upon a Time, I Was a Nursing Mother

It amazes me that, in three-and-a-half long years of nursing my daughter, there were exactly two photos taken. The first, minutes after she was born: I have the most comical pained expression, captured by my mother, as Ella latches on (powerfully, I might add) for the first of uncountable times.

The other photo is this.

She was so tiny and hungry. Sometimes she nursed all day and all night, in the early days.

I always intended to nurse past a year old, but I had no idea that I would still be nursing my baby years later, long past her babyhood, and well into the time of a walking talking school-attending little girl.

I nursed Ella day in and day out, night after night, through illness, bad days, blizzards, hot summers, in subways, on trains, in restaurants, at zoos, concerts, empty grad school classrooms. I nursed her to soothe hurts and hurt feelings, tantrums and nightmares, tummyaches and sore throats. I nursed her when I didn't feel like it, and I nursed her in the quiet early dawn when there was nothing I'd rather be doing.

I nursed her when she could only ask for the breast with little guttural whimpers and ostentatious sucking sounds, and I nursed her when she could walk right up to me in her little mary janes and say, "mama, would you mind please nursing me?"

In three and a half years, though it became less frequent, we never missed one single day of nursing.

I don't really miss it, the tight way I was bound to her. It wasn't easy. Sometimes, in my worst moments, I imagined Ella and I were like Chang and Eng, the famous conjoined twins, claustrophobic and entwined. Then sometimes I was afraid I would lose something irretrievable when I weaned her. And I thought surely I would be like a soldier with phantom limb twinges, that the ghost of my nursing baby would haunt me forever, the pull at my nipples felt at odd moments like a visceral flashback.

And yet, it was okay in the end, the weaning, that separation. I got my breasts back all to myself (with more than a sigh of relief), she learned other ways to soothe herself, and is an independent and self-confident girl.

I think it was the best and rightest thing I have done in my life.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Christ Topped from the Bottom

I'm a good Jewish woman, and, like most of my breed, have long harbored a secret crush on Christ.

He was hot, you know. If iconography through the ages is any indication. Physically hot, all that hiking around the desert: tan, lean. Spiritual yet manly. Well-spoken (though we don't really know that for sure, do we). Eternally 33 years old, like Edward Cullen but with more depth and less biting. Probably smelled of patchouli oil. Or myrrh. He was a god in the lowercase lay sense of the word.

So I finally had a chance to view Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" last night. I'd call the film a depraved perversion, but it would be like pointing out that my caramel gelato was delicious. So obvious that it should not need saying.

And yet...

So many people were thrown into a state of frenzied excitement by that movie. Which is fine, really it is, but if you were excited by it, please own up to your own base nature and recognize that the film was a piece of hardcore s/m b&d porn. Slow-motion homoerotic beatings, moans of agony/ecstasy, extremely good-looking women kneeling in pools of bodily fluid. I swear I saw Jesus giving the Marys (including his own mother) an erotic come-hither look through his mutilated eyelids.

The money shot was surely Mary, kissing Jesus' bloody feet, and coming away with smeared mouth, a weird half-smile on her face. Come ON. That obscene image alone is worth the price of admission. That is, if you are a complete Godless pervert.

So yeah. I could sit here and deconstruct all day, but in the end it boils down to this:

Gibson's Christ was a very hot sexual victim. He wore his gore well. He took it all, deep.

But in the end, he gave the smirk of the vindicated masochist and topped, in the biggest and most epic way possible, from the bottom.

p.s. I know I am YEARS late to this party, but what the hell.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Intimacy, to me, is all about discovering imperfection and loving not despite, but because of.

The flawed being is the real one. The one I want to know. Real love never comes from bland smooth fearful risk-less sameness, but from the challenge of the individual; it is built on the true revelation of "all things counter, original, spare, strange."

(photo: my pigeon-toed feet; quote: Gerard Manly Hopkins)

post 5/365

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Bachelorette

A week of alone time. I hardly know where to begin. Nap? Knit? Eat an entire container of caramel gelato? Watch terrible Lifetime movies? Slasher films? Write erotica? Read erotica? Gaze into the fire? Road trip? Write letters? Talk on the phone for hours? Sort buttons?

So far all I have really committed to is napping, and not doing the dishes.


Saturday, March 23, 2013


Facebook is stupid.

But it forces front and center the fascinating sociological phenomenon of the Profile Picture.

I look around the virtual Grand Central Station at all the little square avatars milling there, and I think about the (sometimes conscious, sometimes unconcious) questions people put to themselves as they stare into the virtual mirror every morning:

"How do I see myself today? how do I want to see myself and how do I want to be seen?

Do I want to be a minx, a mother, a grandmother, papa, party girl, dog lover, man of God, poet, cop, soldier, longshoreman?

Do I want to be what I really am now or do I want to be what I wish for or what I am missing?

Do I want to take the form of my own children? My cat? A cartoon? An ancestor?

Am I come-hither, a human invitation? Am I a little wild or am I sensible? Am I hail-fellow-well-met? Am I open? A mystery? Am I innocent, feigning worldliness? Or worldly hiding in innocence? Am I my own youth? Am I psychic pain, personified? Or am I funny and loveable? Do I wear a shroud, or do I wear a smile? And do I show my teeth, smirk, or remain enigmatic? Am I clear, blurry, windswept, in shadow or light-flooded?

Am I technicolor? Moody black & white?

I promise you this, though: I EXIST."


Thursday, March 21, 2013


My latest, arguably finest, trash score. No way to resist a book whose jacket blurb begins: "In a time when steak, vodka, and Benzedrine were the three main staples of a healthy diet..."

I think I might like to try that time on for awhile. Damn the prissy rigors of organic lowfat milk, kindly eggs, firm tofu, brussels sprouts, chickens raised so tenderly that you can almost taste their goodwill in every bite of stew.

Damn my bourgeois aspirations, the tyrannical rules of clean living and morality; a behavioral code that transforms the slightest wisp of transparent tobacco smoke, drifting on the breeze, into a twisted dark corruption.

Instead I will call people "baby" and flick my ash and eat my steak and wash down the Benzedrine with long pulls on the vodka.

(Post 2/365 for my personal bloggy challenge: a photo and a post every day for a year, following the lead, copycat that I am, of several blogger friends.)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I have been cooking a lot. Poaching and sautéeing and crushing and searing and deglazing, chopping, roasting. Microplaning garlic and lemon zest. Toasting pine nuts. Folding light batter. Shaping little savory spheres.

The dishes pile up. They are washed. Put away. The counters wiped down. I begin again.

Cooking fills me up, I want to take care of people and this is a way to do it. Dinners served, leftovers packed into lunches.

But it makes me very melancholy too, when I think of all the women taking care of their people, before me and after I'm gone.

I try to remember, when I feel this way, what Grandma Eva wrote on the back of her card for Herring Canape. A single instruction stands out, a bold command:


Stop a moment, still the thoughts, the worries, the sense of pressing time, and just take a mouthful, right in the immediacy of Now. Taste.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I had been going since always to his little store. Often on a morning we stopped in for my mother's New York Times, and a penny candy or two; we would leave hand in hand, I, chattering about something or other, never mind that my mouth was full of waxy chocolatey impossible tootsie roll, I talked on anyway and she listened as we walked the Brooklyn streets toward some other dull and comfortable errand.

That day, it was very hot. The little store, close and hot, drifting dust caught and held motionless in a broad shaft of sunlight from the open door. He leaned on the scratched glass countertop, his shirtsleeves rolled to the elbows, and as he chatted lightly to my mother, and as she answered lightly, in the way of all small talk everywhere, I caught sight of his bare wrist and I couldn't look away. I knew what it was; at that time, only one generation removed from the terrible Thing, all Jewish boys and girls knew the meaning of the mark.

Perhaps there was a glance of understanding between them, my young Jewish mother from Brooklyn and the old Jewish newspaper man who had come great distances from another place entirely. Perhaps I imagined that glance. But he let me look and he let me touch it, didn't flinch when I reached out without thinking.

And then he said the name, the name of his Camp. It sounded strange, that single word, as it fell from his mouth into the frozen moment. It was a weighted object, and I caught it in my hands before it could land, and I tucked it in my pocket, and there it remains to this very day.

"You are a good girl," he told me as we left. "A good girl for your mama."

Once more in the bright sunshine, I cried. Not the childish noisy tears of Notice Me, but a deep quiet crying that was beyond the reach of little soothing kisses and all possible succour. She took my hand, as she always did. That day, there were no other errands.

May his memory be, forever, a blessing.