Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


As I’m listening to the bells of the cathedral, I am thinking of your voice

Filed under : Etc.
On July 31, 2011
At 7:00 am
Comments : 9

Written on July 1st, 2011 to be posted on July 31st, 2011, 29 Tammuz 5771, my mother’s yahrzeit.

It’s been a bittersweet week for me. I finished the job that I hated at TC which, for obvious reasons, was great, but it’s also the end of my nearly two year stint at the school, and just like two years ago, I say goodbye to a routine and a neighborhood and a subway stop and so much more. I think, more than my actual graduation, I felt like I had finished what I never did when I went to grad school the first time, accumulated a bunch of credits, and wandered around dazedly for a year. I don’t remember how I felt when I left the school for the “last” time but it wasn’t anything like this time, I’m sure. I kept seeing echos of that experience as well as the last two years as I walked around the buildings for the last time this week. The classroom where my psych professor in the 90′s told us how she had been childhood friends with Perry Farrell and they had made a pact that they would marry each other if no one else would (eighteen years later, I had my financial aid exit seminar in that room so I could find out how my loans will follow me around forever, yay). The office where I had my interview for last year’s job – I was still at The Record Label and had bought a suit the day before (my office this year was just a few doors down – I passed the other one almost every day). The lounge where I hung out the first time around because I was commuting and needed to be there early to grab a parking space and the second time the scene of ice cream socials and collaborative groups. The classroom where the first time around, one day, I suddenly realized I had left my keys in the car, couldn’t concentrate, left in the middle, and called a locksmith to break into my parents’ car. I didn’t have a class there the second time, but again, I passed it it almost every day.

I received the seventh degree in my immediate family from Columbia. My dad has two graduate degrees from there, my mom had a BA and an MA, and my brother has two graduate degrees as well. Next year my niece starts college and will hopefully get the eighth. The university is also two blocks from the seminary to which my family is closely connected. In sum, the neighborhood always felt like home and I’m sure I’ll be back, but not on a daily basis. Every year on my mom’s yahrzeit we go to the cemetery but I don’t feel her there, probably because I rarely went there with her when she was alive (it’s a family plot, but decently far away). Where I have always felt her most was at Barnard, which I walked past every day. My mother loved her time at Barnard. She wasn’t from New York but she loved it and made the most of her time and education. She kept scrapbooks through her years there, which I found after her death and took home with me. In them she kept programs from ballets and Broadway shows, handouts from committees and activities she took part in, notes from friends and boyfriends, letters from my grandparents, and many other things. She kept up with her group of friends all throughout her life (without Facebook!) and wore only one ring besides her wedding rings: her Barnard class ring. She felt there was a certain type of “Barnard woman:” a woman who accomplished important things, and she tried to be this woman in her life. She succeeded.

I almost went to Barnard. It was my first choice until I visited Hopkins. My mother never showed any disappointment that I didn’t go there and I’ll never know if she felt any. But we did the tour together and I’m glad I had that experience with her, even though I barely remember it. I recall one thing supremely well, though, and it was when I was away from her, having my interview. The interviewer was trying to give me a sense of the sort of network that alumnae enjoyed. She described how Suzanne Vega, a graduate, had called the school recently looking for a student to assist her. You see, the woman told me, Barnard women want to work with other Barnard women. I don’t know why this stayed with me through my life but when I first heard the song Tom’s Diner, I knew which diner it was, because I knew Suzanne Vega had gone to Barnard.

Every day when I went to school these last two years, every day, I paused as I walked by Barnard and made “eye contact” with the gate and the main building, which is called Barnard and says Barnard in great carved letters. I wanted to tell my mother I would finish and I would become an educator, as she had been. I was on the Barnard campus three or four times in the last two years and I always, always thought about how my mother had walked down the exact pathways and maybe sat on the step on which I was sitting. It wasn’t until this week, when I was totally finished that I realized that going into education wasn’t the thing that would have made the greatest impression on my mother, it’s that I finally obtained the love of learning. And I have. I love to learn and would go back to class in a heartbeat. I think this thirst for knowledge was my mother’s hallmark and legacy and I’m glad I finally inherited it. Now I too will spend my days trying to inspire it in others.

בזכות מרים נחמה בת הרב יצחק
זכרונה לברכה

Title is from Tom’s Diner, a song by a true Barnard woman, and the cathedral referenced is the one in which I finally graduated.
Suzanne Vega – Tom’s Diner (the version most people know)


And now for the pictures

Filed under : Travel
On July 29, 2011
At 8:30 am
Comments : 3

You will not be surprised to learn, I’m sure, that I’m the kind of person who takes two weeks to download and sort through my vacation photos. I like to think of it as pining for the good old days of getting rolls of film developed. Of course, if you also knew that I hadn’t fully unpacked my suitcase, you’d more accurately call it “procrastination” or even “laziness.” In any event, due to post size restrictions, I’ll be doing this in three posts. This one’s the overview of the time I spent away from my delightful hosts. It comes last so you’ll see it first.

This is Olympic Park in Calgary, the first of two Olympic parks I’d visit on the journey. It’s mostly here because none of the photos I took of preparations for Stampede came out well. Oops. Just imagine some hay on the ground and people in cowboy hats. But while I was here, I tried to remember watching Katarina Witt on TV while I was babysitting at my weekly gig. I wonder what happened to her. The kid I used to babysit for, that is.

That’s the Calgary Tower in the background.

And this is downtown Regina, specifically, “the Twin Towers.” I know, because they were on the sign as we entered the city on the bus. I also visited a sweet museum there and chatted with a Jewish docent about the Jewish community of Regina. You can’t see the museum or her, but they’re down the street. So is the mall where they sold poutine from a place called “New York Fries.” Indeed.

(I’m skipping the whole train trip and saving it for another post. Too many good photos! But this is where it would be sequentially.)

Hey, it’s Olympic Park #2! remember when they were lighting this in Vancouver and one person’s section wouldn’t light? I loved those Olympics. The little Roots caps and whatnot…. by the way, Roots is an overpriced store and I couldn’t afford even their sale-priced items. Boo!

It was grey almost every day I was in Vancouver. But it’s OK, I hear that happens in the Northwest from time to time.

This was where I hung a left and went to Portland, or as I like to call it, Hippietown, USA. They had fabulous public transportation and no sales tax. Other than that, it wasn’t really my kind of place. Here are a gaggle of representative youth of Portland. Yes, that’s a cat sitting on that guy’s head (click to enlarge). He was more a hipster than a hippie; you can tell because even with the cat, he had the neatest hair of the bunch.

And there you have it! It was really an awesome trip and this was just 3% of it. Please check out Post #2 and Post #3 for more vacation scenery. I, of course, will be heading out to Canadian Fries for a bagel and lox.

Filter – Take A Picture


Misty mountain hop

Filed under : Travel
At 8:15 am
Comments : 8

Continuing on, this was the segment on the train from Saskatoon to Vancouver, which went through the Canadian Rockies. If you recall, I didn’t have the connection to upload any pictures from the train, but this should make up for it. I whittled these down from about a brazillion gorgeous shots. All of them enlarge, because, well, we’re talking mountains here.




This is our train when we stopped in a town called Blue River. The main store was the size of my living room but still had a surprisingly large assortment of Ziploc containers. Good to know that I’d still be able to store my leftovers if I lived up there.

I never did get a picture of my adorable compartment but this was the view from my own little window on the last evening just before the light was all gone and I reluctantly pulled the bed out of the wall and went to sleep.


Led Zeppelin – Misty Mountain Hop


Where the birds always sing

Filed under : Travel
At 8:00 am
Comments : 2

Last up, there are a lot of birds in Canada. Or maybe they just always got in front of my camera. Either way, I noticed a trend when I was picture-sorting….

These are Canada Geese in Saskatchewan. I think they were the ones who brought down that plane into the Hudson. I gave them a stern warning, but let them go.

This bird wanted the remainder of my lunch on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery. A few seconds later he gave it a try and found it lacking. I cleaned up the trash and moved on.

These geese (ducks?) were in Stanley Park in Vancouver. There was a lyric in a song I was listening to about things being lined up, so this cracked me up. Sadly, that song is long gone from my memory, so you may find it less hilarious. Still delightful, though.

Well, that’s the end of our ornithological journey. Join me next week when I show you the pigeons I spray water at on my fire escape.

The Cure – Where The Birds Always Sing


Girl of fifteen, whole life ahead of her

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Travel
On July 20, 2011
At 3:30 am
Comments : 2

Did I ever tell you about the time I went to Wales? Wow, are you in for some boredom. It mostly involves me sitting on a clifftop and staring at sheep ambling by. That was in 1999 so those sheep are probably long eaten by now. In conclusion, sheep are dull. I’m glad we had this little chat.

Oh right, also, I took that vacation to stare vacantly at sheep because I was at a crossroads in my life and I needed a few moments to sort it all out. The sheep and the sea beyond them were just a pleasant target for my eyeballs. My company had just been purchased, all my friends had been laid off, but somehow I had survived to get promoted to the next phase of my career. As Kylie Minogue would say, I was so lucky… lucky, lucky, lucky. But also, as Led Zeppelin, or rather Jake Holmes, would say, dazed and confused. Was I supposed to be happy or sad? Was I ready for a job where I’d have to make decisions rather than carry out other people’s decisions? Just why did they paint those sheep with streaks of fluorescent color? I never came to any conclusions, but just taking a couple of days to stare at sheep was really helpful. I came back feeling somewhat more ready and moved from the cubicle at Gutted Records to the office at Up & Coming Records a few days later.

Here is a helpful illustration to tell you what I was looking at. The sheep were afraid of the camera.

I did not take this picture, thanks for your understanding.

I never really thought of this vacation that way, more as a reward for hard work and a chance to relax and, frankly, the normal thing one does when one hasn’t had a vacation in three years and now finally have a job and the means to pay for one. It was somewhere around the seawall in Stanley Park, Vancouver that it all came to me. I should explain that Stanley Park is like Central Park in that it’s the place in the city for urbanites to experience nature and jog without worrying about cars. But bigger and wilder and with better views of mountains and sea. You have probably ascertained that I like mountains and sea.

I turned on my iPod and I don’t know what possessed me, but I had this urge to listen to Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts,” maybe because it was stuck in my head or something. A few songs later on my “every DM song in order” playlist came the start of Some Great Reward with its sample of Blasphemous Rumours (I think.. I’ve always suspected) breaking into “Something To Do.” And then suddenly I was me in a summer 25 years before, sitting on the bus at camp, waiting to head out to some activity. I actually remember hitting the tactile play button and starting the tape as we pulled away. That was me, you see, always preferring to stare out the window with a walkman rather than talk to anyone. And in some ways, exactly 25 years after that summer where I first acquired Some Great Reward (my dubbing it from a friend then has probably been made up for by the 3 or 4 copies I’ve purchased since), I am still that person. But in lots of other ways, I could never have imagined the me I am now stopped at the station between one career and another. 1986 was such a big year in my life, it’s hard to believe it was a quarter century ago. I’m not sure I could have predicted that 2011 would be just as pivotal (the magic fortune ball is just for show, it has to be admitted). As the sheep would say, life is odd.

Then I proceeded to mis-read the map and be forced to walk eight miles all the way around the park and then some. Oops.

Here’s what I was looking at around the time of my revelation. You can see the seawall on the bottom left. Not pictured: my panic when I realized the seawall diverged from the inner pathway with a large cliff between them.

Spoiler: I made it out alive but have rarely been that tired in all my life.

Coming soon, some more pictures and then I guess we’ll return to posts about videos I came across on the Internet or what have you. This year also marks twenty years since my favorite album of all time was released. More on that some other day, too. Maybe in October closer to its anniversary.

The girl in the song is actually sixteen, but I wasn’t. Also, she commits suicide. But anyway, from the classic album, Some Great Reward, title comes from:
Depeche Mode – Blasphemous Rumours