Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Love shack

Filed under : Judaism
On September 26, 2010
At 11:00 pm
Comments : 4

This post was supposed to appear before Sukkot, but like most holidays, I ran out of time. I am not known for my time management skills, but more for my ability to get distracted by pretty much anything. In case you’re not up on your tabernacle knowledge, Sukkot is the holiday where we build temporary booths and spend lots of time in them. Then we tear them down. You may remember this from your whole “Christmas tree” concept. But it is still Sukkot, which goes on for another several days, so I am free to share with you these scintillating photos of my family’s excursion to the heart of Jewey Brooklyn to buy lulavs and etrogs from the same guy from whom we have bought them since… a really long time ago.

I like this one because the etrogs look like they’re hatching and peeping out of their little etrog holes.

Here they are in their cushy etrog boxes, waiting to go.

This one was hard to get, that’s why it’s so blurry. I had to wait for the lulav inspector to step away so I could get a picture of the “Please remember to leave a tip for your lulav inspectors” sign. Then he came back before I could get a good shot. My tip would have been, “try to step away a little more often or you ruin people’s blog photos.”

This wasn’t the place where we got our lulavs and etrogs but it’s the sort of sign you see everywhere. There is a lulav and etrog or sukkah store on every block. Sometimes there are several. This just says, “Etrogs, Lulavs, and Hadasim. From Israel and checked by the _____.” I don’t know what the initials of the checker stand for, so I left that blank. Hadas (myrtle) is another branch that goes into the lulav package.

This one has nothing to do with Sukkot but can you believe the frozen gefilte fish section at the local Kosher superstore? This picture doesn’t even do it justice; it goes on both to the right and left. I just hope no mother sent their kid to the store with the instruction, “get the one in the blue bag.”

Well, that’s about it. What a sukkatastic trip! I hope you’re having a delightful Sukkot and if you’d like to learn more, please see my previous posts here:

Jew & A: Sukkot

Oh Waitress, can we have the booth?


The Story of the Chair

Filed under : Judaism,Life in general,New York City
On September 17, 2010
At 3:30 pm
Comments : 5

I didn’t have the holiest of Rosh Hashanahs but I have spent some time in this week of repentance in contemplation of myself as a person and thinking about things I could improve. I’ve made a lot of changes in my lifetime, but somehow, I think, we all encounter the same issues whenever we think about changing ourselves. It’s the same each year: I won’t be so judgey! I won’t be so irritable! I’ll be nicer to people! And then, somehow, you’re just the same. I wondered what it does take to make change in one’s life and then, strangely, I was presented with a huge example.

Last week, when my team was here, folks sat in this one chair I have, and I meant to tell them the Story of the Chair, which I always do when someone sits in it. I think I do this, even though it happened over twenty years ago, because it still baffles and amazes me that it happened at all. At my college (the original one, not my grad school), you were kicked out of university housing after your freshman year and mostly left to your own devices to secure a place to live for the next three years. My friends and I arranged to rent a rowhouse near campus, but our lease didn’t start until late summer which left the matter of where to store some of our belongings until we moved in. One of the libraries, a grand old “reading room” was being redone and they sold all their furniture to students on the cheap. It was a fun sight watching the frat guys walk away with the long tables previously used for study – presumably to a new and different future. I bought one chair, a deep dark wood with black leather padding at the back and seat, to use as my future desk chair. But I couldn’t take it home to NY for the summer and my future roommates had things of this nature as well. Another friend, I’ll call him J., was moving into his new place immediately and offered to hold all our things until then.

I should talk a minute about my connection with J. here. We were extremely close. We came from the same county and had mutual friends from high school. We lived across the hall from each other and occasionally when my roommate had a gentleman caller and his roommate was with his significant other, I’d sleep over completely platonically. We even shared the same birthday, which we celebrated together. And he was a real confidant to me. So it was completely natural for him to make this nice offer and we stuck our library purchases and a few other things in J’s new basement.

Fast forward to the day I went to pick up my stuff and I went down with J. to the basement to get my chair and the other things. Except, J. insisted that the chair was his. At first I thought he was kidding. It’s hard to remember exactly, but I think there was another slightly different chair that he claimed was mine. “Mine has scratches on the back right leg,” I remember saying and sure enough, the one I claimed was mine did have that. But he insisted I was mistaken. There was a certain point in the argument where I think he knew he had made a mistake originally but did not want to admit it so just kept going. It was surreal. Why the hell would anyone lie about a $10 chair? Especially between two good friends? Finally, he grandly said that it was his but I could have it. I didn’t bother to fight this and just took it and left. But our friendship was really over. We barely spoke for a year and it was only probably the last year of school where we had friendly, superficial conversations.

As I’ve said, I still have that chair, even though it matches nothing in my home and is, of course, ancient. I keep it both to remind me of that library where I spent so much time and because I fought so hard for it – how could I let it go? But I think it’s that I also never understood what really happened or why. Last year, I friended him on Facebook. We had so many mutual friends and I had photos of my college years that I wanted to post which included him. We exchanged a couple of polite notes about our lives and then our Facebook relationship proceeded on like many: we never communicate but stay updated.

Last weekend, I was busy with my team but afterwards, when I checked Facebook, I saw that many people had written sympathetic things on his wall on 9/11 and that he had thanked them. It also linked to a page for a foundation. When I checked that out and Googled, I found that his brother had died in the Towers. I was stunned that in nine years I had never known that, but more than that was the fact that his entire family had transformed their lives to be dedicated to their son’s memory. That they had set up a foundation which I won’t identify here but that does amazing work. His parents who would probably be retired now, spend their lives in good deeds, done in their son’s name. Their message is simple: out of great evil can come great good. The message to me was, we are not who we were twenty years ago or even last year or last month. We constantly change and learn and grow. We always have the capability of making change in ourselves and in the world.

So as I go into Yom Kippur which begins tonight at sunset, I am inspired by my friend’s family. It is time to not just let change happen but to consciously take action and make positive change. May you have a meaningful Yom Kippur and a wonderful, happy, and healthy year.


I’ve been walking in Central Park

Filed under : Life in general
On September 14, 2010
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 6

Often, I don’t post because there’s nothing compelling to say. It’s rare these days that my life is so full of exciting things that I have no time to write (unless you find setting up a colloquium or reading pdf’s scintillating). But the last few weeks have really been chock full o’action, what with the Open, the holidays, and best of all, my weekend with Team Fabulous! doing the Race For the Cure. Although I totally enjoy exploring new cities with my teammates (see Denver and Austin), there was something nifty about welcoming them to New York and being on my own turf. Not to mention, this city is bigger than I could ever know, so I got to explore places I rarely see, like the tourist zones of Rockefeller Plaza and East Midtown, as well as Chinatown, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side. Also, Laguardia Airport and the Bolt Bus lane near the Tick Tock Diner. But aside from those, nearly everything was a first time for me, including the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the NBC Studio Tour, Sylvia’s, and Dunkin Donuts of Chinatown. No wait, I may have visited there when I last had jury duty. Oh, and a clean apartment, that’s relatively new.

I have to say, I think this was my favorite of all our weekends, although they were all amazing. Maybe it’s the afterglow or maybe New York just is the greatest backdrop in the world. Really, I think I’m just so exhausted as to be delirious. I barely stopped for four days. I did miss my teammates, Teri, Tami, and Rachel, who couldn’t make it, and new teammate Mo, who had to bow out, but we had an amazing crew and a TON of fun (this is not a weight joke, although we did eat a lot). In other good news, I tested out gluten-free rugelach on actual gluten-free people and they scarfed them down, so I’m going to consider that four gluten-free thumbs up! So far, they’re still alive, too. Bonus!

And most importantly, we raised money for a great cause, one which people know is personally meaningful to me. Despite the gray day seen in this picture, you can tell there was a lot of joy involved. Of course, that all dissipated in the wake of the US Open final being rained out but no one yet knew that. I kid – it was all fabulous! Thanks so much to all who donated and made the event such a success. If you’d like to, you can still make a donation to our team through October 31st. I think at that point the witches fly the donations away on their broomsticks. It’s spooky how bad that joke was.

Thanks to all my teammates and all of our donators!

Title from:
Rolling Stones – Miss You


How soon is ahora?

Filed under : Tennis
On September 5, 2010
At 1:30 am
Comments : 2

Well, I think this speaks for itself.

No? Perhaps I should explain. This is a Tweet from Friday by Argentinean tennis player, Juan Monaco. Before I go further, allow me to free-associate for a moment. Juan Monaco was defeated in the Open this year by Peter Polansky who I then saw get beaten subsequently by James “yes, why not call it a comeback?” Blake. I was pondering this evening while watching Blake get hammered in yet the next round by Djokovic, how Ashe Stadium used to be James Blake’s house. So many times I’d leave the Open to the sight of Blake on the big screen in the evening feature. When he had his famous five-set night match against Agassi, I rooted for Agassi who didn’t really have that much time left in his own comeback. I figured Blake was young and had plenty of time. Oops. This year I saw the Blake match on Armstrong, which is where I saw him play for the first time, during the famous Lleyton Hewitt racial incident where Blake was so green, the extended length of the match caused him to throw up on court several times. Gutsy!

Anyway, enough with the memories. Juan Monaco’s Tweet says (I think!), “King David wins in three setsII! Now comes the match against Verdasco….” I’ve never heard Nalby called King David but I like it, even though the real King David was a womanizer who had Batsheva’s husband killed to hide the fact that he had knocked up another guy’s wife. On the other hand, the Psalms, which are my favorite part of the Bible, are mostly credited to him. I’m sure this was just the kind of analysis that Juan Monaco was hoping for, eh? But I was actually at the match where (the new) King David won in three, and it was delightful. I snagged a third row seat and was completely surrounded by young and fashionable Argentineans. It was just like Buenos Aires down to the fact that my money is worthless. Rimshot!

These days, I mostly tweet my photos and US Open commentary, thus saving you from endless tennis posts while simultaneously irritating my Twitter followers. It also means my pictures are taken by my BlackBerry whose zoom isn’t as good as the one on my actual camera. But then, my actual camera doesn’t have Twitter on it (if you want to see these photos, they are at and can each be enlarged upon your click). But here’s one of Nalbandian at that match. By the way, speaking of Twitter, you can sort of tell that Juan Monaco is actually tweeting whereas Nalbandian’s account is clearly run by PR people. Which is sad but better than nothing. Nalbandian, as little as I know about him (I stay with the professional and not so much the personal) doesn’t seem at all the type to want to share his everyday thoughts on a social network.

(Surreal moment: I’m still watching the Saturday night session on delay and literally as I type this during the Kuznetsova-Kirilenko match, Martina Navratilova and Tracy Austin are discussing Twitter while calling the match for The Tennis Channel. Martina: “Every once in a while I have something interesting to say but I wouldn’t want the pressure of doing it on a daily basis. [pause] Tracy, do you Twitter?” Tracy: “I don’t.” Martina: “Are you going to?” Tracy: “Uh…. not anytime soon. I don’t think so.” So there you have it).

This next photo is from my phone and it’s my favorite, even though it’s from far away. It’s how I spent the final two hours of my last real night at the Open, high in the bleachers of Court 7 watching two Spanish guys you never heard of duke it out with incredibly motivated gusto to determine who will get decimated in the next round. It was literally the last match of the day other than the one on the main court, so everyone who was like me and left over from the day session, and who just could not bear to leave until the last point available had been played, was there. The crowd cheered the guy who was losing and I knew why: we just wanted the match to go on as long as possible – fifth set, fifth set! You can see the empty courts beyond. I was way high up in the last row, which was full because of the reason I sat there, too: it has a back. And man does your back hurt by the end of the day. And your knees. And your sunburn. On the first day, sunscreen dripped into my eyes and my vision was blurred for much of the day. It was awful. I kept flushing my eyes out with water from my water bottle and yellow stuff would come oozing out the corners. The woman next to me asked me if I was OK; she thought I had been crying. I was tempted to say, “I am – I just wanted Taylor Dent to win so much!” But I appreciated it. Strangers bond all the time at the Open, it’s one of its many charms. Except the couple behind me at the Schiavone match who answered my volunteered response to an overheard question with, “I was talking to my husband.” OK, well, do that at home, please. We’re all friends here. Bitch. But it was all worth it. I think I’d like to be buried between the Grandstand and Armstrong. Or Court 11, I’m flexible. But I just can’t bear to leave that place.

Right, so about the title question. The big match is not far away and I need you once again. You see, I have a family occasion tomorrow (well, now today – Sunday) and as per the Tweet, King David is scheduled to play Goliath, er, Verdasco on the Grandstand at 11am. So I need you to help Nalby with your MINDS. This will be a tough one. He may even need the part you usually devote to sexy thoughts and donuts. I’ll be expected to have my mind on the affair at hand, but I’m going to reserve the donut part for this too. If Nalby wins, we can all celebrate with donuts. By royal decree, donuts for all!

I read an article this week about an appearance by Agassi which you could buy tickets for, where he spoke about his life and book while being interviewed by a guy from Sports Illustrated. For some reason, it was held not immediately before the Open, but during the event. Who the hell would go to that when there’s tennis on? Well, for starters, the guy who bought a ticket for the Open because he thought the Agassi thing would be there. When he found out it wasn’t, he left and drove back to the city. He explained by saying, “For me, Andre is number one. The rest of the U.S. Open is number two.” Seriously? I simply don’t get that. When Nalbandian retires, or Fish or anyone I root for, tennis goes on, that’s where the love is. Because to me memories are great but the best part is ahora.

Title comes from:
The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?


Notes from a new semester

Filed under : Student Life
On September 1, 2010
At 11:45 pm
Comments : 2

Today was my first day of classes but it doesn’t really feel like the first day of school the way last year or even Spring semester last year did. Part of that is because I handed in my last paper of the summer session about twenty days ago and the other part is that I’ve been working on campus for the last two weeks. The window of the office where I work overlooks the area where last year I tweeted pictures of Orientation. This year I watched it from above and I remembered the strangeness and the people I met and ate lunch with because I happened to be sitting next to them. I never saw any of them again.

Every time I walked from one office to another I passed lines of students waiting to be advised, or they were lost, walking three steps one way and then turning around. My school is incredibly confusing. It’s made up of six or seven buildings, all attached to each other, but seemingly unplanned and after the fact. Some paths between buildings land you between floors in other buildings. But I love all the buildings; they are old, from the nineteenth century, and look like a school of the period, with creaky wood-planked floors, vast high ceilings, and mahogany chair-rails. Today, I was in the elevator of the main building with several women who were clearly there for a workshop. They were much more nicely dressed than the students and were older. The conversation went like this:

Woman 1: But it’s so old and boring… the wood and everything…
Woman 2: What did you expect, marble?
Woman 1: [exasperated] Well, I don’t know… it’s [redacted institution]!

I redacted my school because the marketing is very good there and they search on it. I’d rather hide this blog from them, know what I mean? But it is the #1 or 2 school of its kind in the country, the gold standard. I guess we’re supposed to have marble. But of course, inside I laughed and laughed. The school is so beautiful and stately and noble. I bet that lady lives in a new-construction McMansion.

The building where I work has no elevator and I’m on the sixth floor. Soon I will have buns of steel. But I did wonder why this was. There are four secretaries in my department. Two are so unfriendly that I sometimes think my salary is being deducted from theirs. One of these seems to hate her job and the other just appears to not want to communicate with me specifically. One of the others is older and we discuss the weather. The fourth is new and hasn’t had time to realize she’s supposed to treat me like I am wallpaper. Ugly wallpaper. She has been there just a few months but she was the one who told me about the elevator.

Now, I have walked these stairs a million times in my year at my school. All around the wrought-iron hollow cage. I sometimes admire its beauty but it never, ever dawned on me that it’s exactly the right size for… an elevator. She showed me the closed up door areas and the vestigial push-buttons. I will take a picture of these for you at some point, both to reveal its mysterious coolness and to show you what a doofus I am for missing it all this time. Now I just get to wonder why they provided an elevatorectomy to the beautiful shaftway to the sky.

I never really noticed how dead it was all summer until I saw the students flooding the hallways today. I wanted to hug all of them. Until I had to wait on line behind them at the cafeteria. Stupid students. I also waited on line behind them to get my TB test, which I haven’t had since early grade school. It was a bit of an assembly line, sign form, stick out arm, etc. But you are required to do it to get cleared to student teach in a New York City public school, so as you can imagine, a lot of people in ed school need to have this done. But I was rewarded for this and the earlier fingerprinting with a letter of introduction from “It’s Redacted Institution!” to To Whom It May Concern. Here’s Becca, she won’t infect, or commit any felonious acts in, your school. Don’t mind the big bruise on her arm where an alleged “nurse” stuck her with TB syrum. But do check out those buns of steel.

Steely Dan – My Old School