Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


How about them apples?

Filed under : Judaism
On September 29, 2008
At 1:00 pm
Comments : 6

Happy new year, everyone! This evening begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year and beginning of the ten days of repentance. I’ll be off sweetening my apples for a couple of days and then it’s off to Denver for the Race For the Cure with the finest teammates anyone could hope for. Thanks to all who donated and/or sent good vibes and support. You’re the honey on my apple!

Hopefully, I’ll get to blog from Denver and if not, I’ll get to blog after Denver. Monday’s my birthday and the day my kitchen will be torn to bits, so as you can see, there’s never a dull moment around here.

To all my Jewish readers, shana tova, u’metukah! And to all my non-Jewish readers, happy October! My favorite month.

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)


Exit light

Filed under : Baseball
On September 28, 2008
At 10:46 pm
Comments :Comments Off on Exit light

Here’s the truth. I don’t really care about winning, I just like to listen to baseball while I cook. Thank goodness they’re ripping out my kitchen in a few days.

(If you’re reading this via feed, you’re missing the dandy baseball video… sorry, it’s self-hosted)


I tried to hang on to the past but I couldn’t keep my grasp

Filed under : Life in general
On September 23, 2008
At 10:15 pm
Comments : 16

Subtitled: how to articulate a lump in the throat.

What is home? Is home the place you live or the place you’re from? Maybe it’s wherever you lay your hat, that was a swell song. I’m a New Yorker but I’m not from New York. I’m from the New York area, that’s true. And I grew up coming to New York. I saw shows at Madison Square Garden and clubs that no longer exist like Limelight and the Ritz. I saw baseball games at Yankee Stadium. I hung out, shopped, and got my hair cut in the Village. But I was a bridge and tunnel person, no question. Mostly bridge. A Facebook friend of mine sometimes asks, “will you be home for blah blah holiday?” And I always feel resentful. I live here. This is my home.


My new kitchen is mostly from Brooklyn. Entirely, really. The contractor, the cabinets, the tiles, the floor, the granite… all from Brooklyn (the granite started in Spain, but that’s a technicality). So I’ve been going there a lot. My father is from Brooklyn and if I say something like, “I went to Utica & Kings Highway,” he’ll tell me what subway line I took. And he’ll call the lines things like, the “Brighton Beach line” instead of the letter. I can’t really pull that off; this isn’t my hometown.

The problem is, when the place you live changes, it changes incrementally so that it doesn’t seem different unless you really think about it. You know the neighborhood has changed but it doesn’t look strange because it happened so gradually. Sometimes you forget what store was there before the Commerce Bank. With your hometown, though, you go back and it’s all different. And worse, the people there treat it all as normal. They even get excited. Look! The Sears is a Super Wal-Mart! They’ve moved on while you’ve just moved away. It’s not really your town anymore, is it? You’ve conceded it to those who live there now. If you’re not from the kind of place that people are longing to get out of as soon as they can, this can be difficult. Especially if you go back now and then and see glimpses of what it used to be. Or if you find yourself knowing that the law office used to be the pharmacy. Or peering into the library and knowing exactly what section of books it is. Sometimes, as you walk through the mall built in the time of legwarmers before it officially opens, you can press your nose against the glass of the Men’s Store and in the dim light see the glow of the Exit sign above the door to the back room, and it’s the same back room of what was once the record store where you wiled away customer-free afternoons arguing whether Depeche Mode’s Music For the Masses or Metallica’s Black Album would be next on the sound system (guess which side I took).

And if there comes a moment when there is no longer any home there, then you begin to wonder, can the phrase hometown exist without the home part? If the whole thing has changed and you’ve spent the greater part of your life living elsewhere, and there is no home… is it home? And if you can’t feel that way about your current town because as much as you love it and want to hug it every day, it stills feels like you are a newcomer, then where is home?

Perhaps if you grew up in a house and then spent many years moving from apartment to apartment, it is tough to convince your psyche even six years after you bought a bit of New York, that the place you plunked down all that money for, though it is the same sort of apartment as all the transient places, is home. Maybe a new kitchen will do it. Maybe having no home in your hometown will do it. Maybe the boxes of your childhood bedroom now in your storage space will do it.

Yesterday, the day I lost my home, the house in which I was born, physically and spiritually, I nearly removed the entry in the “Hometown” slot of my Facebook page. But I decided not to. I just have to realize that hometown is a state of mind. You know, like Yogi Berra said on one of those tearjerker ESPN commercials about Yankee Stadium: “I won’t miss this place…. because it’s inside me.”

Of course, in our cathedral of baseball, we only used wiffle balls. But you get me.

Photo of the house in which I was born and raised via Google maps

Title from
Matthew Sweet – Nothing Lasts


London Daily Telegraph: publishing from the future

Filed under : International,News,Sports
On September 21, 2008
At 6:00 pm
Comments : 4

Start spreading the news, indeed; it’s more awesome journalism from the Telegraph. Imagine my surprise, taking a break from rugelach baking to watch the farewell-palooza to Yankee Stadium on ESPN and check my feeds, to come across the news that the game had already happened. Yes, the final game at Yankee Stadium has already been played, dontcha know. Would the Telegraph lie?

Yankee stadium sees its last game
An illustrious chapter in American sporting history came to an end last night as the Yankee Stadium in New York hosted its last baseball game.

By Tom Leonard in New York
Last Updated: 10:27PM BST 21 Sep 2008

The 57,545-seat stadium, America’s most famous sporting venue and the home for the past 85 years of the New York Yankees, is to be demolished and replaced with a $1.6 billion (£870 million) new ballpark close to its location in the Bronx.

An extra 2,000 security staff were drafted in for the final game to prevent chaos as fans were expected to attempt to rip up the stadium and make off with souvenirs. Fans had previously been found trying to bring spanners into the ground.

The enthusiasm of souvenir hunters is understandable given the unique place the stadium holds in American sports history, not to mention the fact that Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and three popes have spoken there.

The stadium was nicknamed “The House That Ruth Built” in homage to Babe Ruth, the baseball superstar who inaugurated the stadium in 1923.

The so-called “cathedral of baseball”, with its famous 12ft high letters spelling out its name, went on to become home to 26 World Series-winning teams.

However, there was no spectacular finale yesterday as the Yankees, currently languishing in the baseball league, played the even less successful Baltimore Orioles.

I wonder if I should watch now. I mean, they say right there that it wasn’t spectacular. What to do, what to do.

By the way, I wonder where “Tom Leonard in New York” really is. Maybe he’s in a bar, picking up a chick right now. Perhaps he’s on the beach in Spain. Perhaps there really is no Tom Leonard. Whichever it is, I’m sad to see that baseball fans in the UK are being swindled in this fashion. Both of them.

Yankee stadium sees its last game

Thompson Twins – Lies


Jew & A: Hell

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On September 19, 2008
At 2:50 am
Comments : 7

This question is so appropriate! Because lately, my life has been a little hellish. That is to say, sorry it took so long to get to this question. And there’s another one yet in the queue, we’ll get to that soon.

Dawne writes:

My beautiful friend Maureen referred me to your blog the very second she learned of my love for all things Jewish. My question is: do Jews believe in Hell? I once read a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer in which one child cautioned another against doing something naughty by saying “you’ll burn in the fires of Gehenna.” I have a very basic understanding of Gehenna as the area of Jerusalem where refuse was burned and what would be worse than being burned up with the garbage? Anyway, the comment in the story seemed to suggest belief in a punitive afterlife. And if there is no belief in punishment after death, what happens when a bad Jew dies? If this question has been answered before, I apologize for being too impatient to read everything in the archives. Just send an email with “Lazy Damn Gentile” in the subject line and refer me to the location of an appropriate answer…

First off, the part that wasn’t a question: yes, Maureen IS beautiful. Her picture has even appeared on this blog. It was the one with the folder on her head, and lemme tell you, that was a beautiful thing in itself. And I’m glad you enjoy all things Jewish – don’t worry, no one has ever read the archives and lived to tell about it. I believe that’s what I define as “Hell.”

The answer is: maybe. Kind of. Sometimes. Thanks for writing!

OK, so to get into a little more detail. There isn’t much about the afterlife in Judaism because there isn’t much in the Torah about it. Since everything comes back to the Torah, you can learn quite a bit by this, namely, that it’s life here on earth that’s important, and not the next one. I once got a fortune cookie that said, “Live in THIS moment” and that’s kind of how Judaism is set up too… only without the cookie.

Gehinom (Gehenna in Yiddish), is mentioned but it can’t really be in Jerusalem, as Jerusalem didn’t exist until much later (I believe David set it up as his capitol, but maybe I pulled that out of my ass, or yeshiva circa 1986). Instead, it’s kind of imagined as a place of temporary punishment. I have mentioned before when discussing the Kaddish prayer that the maximum one could be punished there is twelve months, which is why we say the Kaddish for the dead for eleven months: you don’t want to imply that your loved one merited that fate.

The interesting thing is, there really isn’t a Heaven, either. At least not the way we think of it as Elysian fields with pearly gates. I think that’s a Christian thing, but I don’t know Christianity really well, so someone can school me on that. Instead, there is simply “olam ha’ba” or “the world to come.” You get a share of this based on how good a person you were in life.

But again, none of this is really explicit, so it’s given Jews a lot of room to ponder and imagine for themselves. Some believe in a more Christian style Heaven and Hell. Others believe in resurrection (many Jewish prayers refer to the dead coming back to life when the Messiah comes). Some believe in nothing.

So what does happen when a bad Jew dies? To come to the question from the other side, I suppose one should really ask, would thinking he would be punished in some unknown but terrible way for twelve months deter anyone from living a life of evil? And should, say, eating Twizzlers on Yom Kippur be the same in this valuation as shooting up a mall? But Judaism doesn’t really think like that. It’s more a carrot than a stick way of living.

My guiding principle in life was learned at the age of twelve. I know this because it was the topic of my Bat Mitzvah speech and still think it’s pretty much the greatest verse in the Torah.

“I call heaven and earth to witness today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: so choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Let’s parse that. Basically, God is saying, “I give you free will! Choose whichever you want… good, evil, they’re both available! But, y’know, life’s the one I’d choose. I’m not telling you what to (good) do, you can (good) pick either (good) one, it’s all in (good) your (good) hands. And there’s a fantastic reward if you pick good! Not that I’m choosing for you.”

So rather than saying, “do good or you’ll go to Hell,” Judaism says, “do good and you’ll be rewarded.” This verse and the ones after it imply that it’s here on earth but there are other places that imply different things. Either way, the thing to know is, it’s great to be good, we’ll let God worry about the details, you just keep on keeping on. Because after a certain age, aren’t we mature enough to know that good is its own reward? And if it’s simply the thought of burning for eternity that keeps you from dumping the Starbucks tip jar in your purse when the barista’s back is turned, you may need to rethink the whole religion thing.

Thanks for the question!

Could this be the greatest song about Hell? I think so!
Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hell