Wednesday, April 20, 2005

memorial for hrhg

last night was the memorial service for my father at the synagogue. about 275 people managed to join us. noam, my mother, edward, philip and the bishop of oxford spoke. here is what i said ... started off with the beginning of my lev post from last month and added a few notes.

"i had a dream. it may not, however, have been a dream. i don't know, and it doesn't really matter. i thought it was real at the time, because i was sitting on the sofa in my office listening to my mobile. i heard a voice on the other end, and i knew it was him. "daddy!" i said. "no," he replied. i know his voice, i've heard it all my life. "albert?" "i am not albert," he said, "my name is lev." there was interference on the line, and he began to fade out. i tried to get his number, but wasn't quick enough. "we'll talk again," i heard him say. and then the book-keeper woke me up - i was sitting on the sofa in my office.

the thing is - i don't dream like that. i'm a bit of a smartarse, and am pretty sure that if this experience came from my subconscious, it would've been much more ... smart. "i am martin buber!" the voice would've said, and sent me to the bookshelves in search of 'i-thou'. i would then figure out the subtle meaning, ponder upon the concept of connection, and be pleased about how smart i am. but things are different now. albert is dead. and he said his name is lev. he named it all with that one word: heart. not my style at all. it was, however, a message for me.

heart. that says it all, which is good, because i haven't the faintest idea what to say to you. i keep thinking that maybe, if somehow i can channel him ... here's rabbi f. in the pulpit again ... softly spoken ... wise, funny ... similar expressions and gestures ... if i could channel him then i could console you. somehow, though, i don't think i should.

my colleague rabbi s. was talking with me the other day about losing a famous father and how at some point one has to stop trying to console his public and say 'hey, i lost my daddy'. i thought - what a kick albert would get hearing himself compared to isaac stern! she has a point, though.

so - forgive me if i am neither articulate, nor funny, nor wise tonight. i'm sad. i am also blessed. when my father died, we had nothing left unsaid nor undone. he had e-mailed me every day telling me how much he loved me and how proud of me he was and what a great rabbi i am and will be. i, too, rarely missed an opportunity to say the same to him.

what i miss is being able to talk about kevin gallen's goal on saturday, and if only the goalie hadn't tipped that shot onto the post in the last minute. i miss the little twitch in the corner of his mouth just before he says something he thinks is extremely funny. i miss his eyes shining with tears as gunga din falls at last. i miss his mischievous mind, and his joyful heart. most of all ... his hands ... just being able to hold hands ... walking along the street, sitting in front of the television ... not saying anything, just holding hands.

when it became my responsibility to deliver sermons on the high holydays, i would spend hours on the phone with my father across the atlantic. i did not want him to help me write them, but i did want to make sure that i wouldn't embarrass myself with flawed reasoning or mawkish sentimentality. he'd make suggestions, and i'd argue with them all. one day he suddenly said, "i have to go now." "but i'm not done yet!" i said, anxiously. "you don't need me anymore," he said, "you'll be fine." and off he went.

i so didn't want him to go, but he was right, i did just fine. and that's how it is for us tonight. and that's how it's going to be.

lev - heart

as long as i remember that while excellent sermons are extremely important, the key is b'chol l'vav'cha, u-v'chol nafsh'cha, u-v'chol me-odecha ... with all your heart and all your soul and all your might. like r. akiva, daddy used up every last bit of his heart, and if we will try to do the same with our own, then his memory will surely be for a blessing.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

japan 1 - 0 canada

as the population of the world gets older and lonelier, japanese scientists have invented a cuddly seal companion to banish boredom and the blues. in canada, the hunting season has just begun, targeting the same baby harp seals upon which the japanese invention is modelled.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

pumpkin piglet


pumpkin piglet
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
the first daffodil lifted up its head in my front yard today. after months of dirty white and grey and brown skies and ground, it is briefly uplifting to see the colours. i am enjoying the flowers, and new grass growing, and a red mist covering the trees on the horizon as the leaves begin to bud.

this is an autumn picture of piglet, a week before hallowe'en in seattle. i hope you enjoy this colour!

the world is quiet here

... i wish. i am thinking about the difference between an oasis of peace, within which one may rest, relax and renew oneself; and the muffled, gritty silence one may find by burying one's head in the sand. shabbat, of course, is an ideal that could be the oasis. i worry, though, that i am burying my head in it, just to block out the anxiety that fills me just by looking at the outside world. in my wanderings today i came across a recent piece by william safire in the ny times about privacy. i began to read it, followed some links, realised once again that george orwell was a prophet, and rued turning down the job in bangor since i would've been a reasonable fleeing distance from the haven of eastern canada.

it's not that the profile of the_ravaj existing is so threatening. i imagine that reading it would be much like looking in a mirror - is that really what i look like? no way! the fuzzy edges disappear when one views the hard copy. the problem begins with the fuzzy ethical perspectives of commercial marketers and skis downhill at olympic pace to the dizzy depths of government snooping, manipulation,and interference. to read now that they appear to have joined forces is severely interfering with my digestion.

andrea dworkin z"l

just read the news that andrea dworkin has died. radical frizzy zaftig jewish feminist in overalls that she was, my mother was a bit worried that i would emulate her. by the time i was thirteen i'd already achieved all but the politics. my mother posted a photograph of her on the refrigerator door, stridently stout, as a diet aid. i think it made me wary of fervour for activism rather than for cranberry cheesecake.

many years later, walking along seventh avenue in park slope, i saw andrea dworkin sitting outside a cafe on the other side of the road. she didn't look like she was in a very good mood, so i only stared long enough to make sure it was really her so i could honestly say that i had seen her sitting outside a cafe in the slope. may she rest in peace.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

tomb of the unknown pig


tomb of the unknown pig
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
one of the earliest shots, from the late 1980's, taken in east berlin a couple of years before the wall came down. the chocolate tasted like sawdust, and people wanted to buy my u.s. army issue rucksack from my back. it was forbidden to photograph soldiers, but we managed to sneak this one.

o dear delphine

just cannot quite let go of this one. the pledge drive ends in a few hours and i called in again. apparently delphine is not just off sick, she has cancer. i had a lovely chat with the lady on the line, and made the pledge anyway with the wish for a full recovery ('thirty six dollars' say i, 'aha - double chai! says the pledge-taker), and she will let me know what's going on. meanwhile, i got my name read out on the radio, along with good wishes for my heroine!

o, and with regard to delphine's origins: she was born in devonshire, and grew up in a place in london called knightsbridge :-)

mashed potato piglet


mashed potato piglet
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
my grandmother's grandmother came from minsk, known as the potato capital of all the russias. i like to explain that this is whence i inherited my wide hips and low centre of gravity, the figure of a potato harvester. here, piglet views the devil's tower, made internationally famous by steven spielberg in a scene from 'close encounters of the third kind'.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

alas, poor delphine

the wmrn pledge weekend continues. i wasn't going to, but decided to call in and see if that woman ever passed on my request for delphine's autograph. the gentleman answering the telephone appeared rather perplexed, but when i mentioned the magic words "she said she'd leave a message for kurt", i was put through to kurt himself. apparently delphine has been off sick this week, but he said he would call her at home and ask if she would be prepared to give me her autograph. he took my cellphone number and said he'd call back within the hour. i am still waiting by my phone :-( wishing delphine a refua sheleima.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Thursday, April 07, 2005

darn it, delphine!

the connecticut public radio station is doing its spring fundraising, and asking for pledges. i have never called in a pledge, but this evening i dialled the number and offered them money if i could have a signed photograph of delphine marcus. the lady on the other end said probably not but she would leave a note for the station manager and i should call back tomorrow to see, although, she said again, she thought it quite unlikely.

emulating wolferl (tmi warning)

do i win a prize for pretentious post-title, or what?!

have you ever accidentally clogged up someone else's loo by depositing in it something utterly natural but utterly too dense or large or stubborn to make it round the s-bend and out towards the haven of the sewers? i discussed this issue recently with a (close) friend, and we decided that if the host had any hostly feeling s/he would have an industrial-strength plunger somewhere in the bathroom; and if there was no such implement to be found then one might leave with a smidgeon less guilt.

luckily it was my own loo. luckily i had the plunger. i bought it at the katonah fair, striding jauntily down main street with it mounted on my shoulder like a ww1 rifle, waving gaily at congregants wandering through the paintings and pleas for supporting the library. unfortunately it did not work. i returned to the friendly gentlemen at the hardware store in katonah, hoping to be handed a magic potion i could pour into the bowl and liquidate the misguided blob. the young man gave me a bottle, and i was delighted. then his boss took it away. apparently it would have caused a chemical reaction that would have blown up the blob and the bowl and the bathroom. instead, i walked to my car with a long dangly pipe and spring contraption called a toilet auger. i was not, however, able to forsee how completely unable to use it i would be.

we skip over the next bit. suffice it to say that
a. the auger, wrapped in a full-length garbage bag, is now out on the kerb
b. i had a novel experience in the dark in the woods at the edge of the property
c. the next day i called the landlady to get the plumber round

the plumber just left. it took him 2 minutes to fix the problem, and cost $132 and change. as i watched him flushing a few times to make sure all was clear, i told him how when i went to sydney, australia a few years ago, the first thing i wanted to do when i got off the plane was to find a toilet to flush. i didn't need to explain. "i'd've done the same," he said, "how was it?" i told him i'd been terribly disappointed because my first toilet there was designed to have no swirl at all (the water came down from all around the bowl at the same time). o well. he is gone. and i, i am relieved!