Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Epilogue: Adulting


EPILOGUE 


Three months later............


Adulting.



It's packing your lunch the night before so you can enjoy your morning coffee. It's also exploding a deftly wedged yogurt in your gym bag because you sacrificed secure Chobani packaging to save forty cents. It's adult to have to a make a paycheck last. 

It's lugging what feels like every item in your home on every limb that can hold a box, strap or handle and boarding two busses, each way, every day. It's keeping your head down when a man in acid wash jeans and unwashed dreads unleashes laughter and expletives from the back of the bus, to no one in particular: "She so ugly--it's like her mom wanted a girl and her dad wanted a boy, so G-d made them both happy." It's adult to keep quiet yet vigilant.

It's feeling a vein in your forehead twitch at the hint of another hidden fee from Pepco, from FIOS, from your building, from that leprechaun that informs you you're in a hallucinogenic rage. It's knowing "the customer is always right" is a vestige of the past. That no one rewards civility. Adulting is knowing you catch more bees with honey but you catch the most bees by lighting a honey cake on fire. 

It's figuring out how to tell your bosses about the Jewish Holidays coming up. How you won't be checking emails for up to 49 hours. Adulting is negotiating which holidays to spend with your family and which to spend with your boyfriend's--most important, how to break the news.

It's loving your job and thanking God with every inch of your skin that still needs to be pinched to make sure you aren't dreaming. It's also not being able to turn off the TV, to drown out the violence and racism when you feel like chasing out the evil and curling into a fortress. It's being paid to pay attention. Adulting is towing research home at night with stories knitted in your chest. 

It's being far despite Facetimes and disobeying that desire to scorn your siblings and parents who haven't visited. It's getting used to feeling the loneliness of not living in a dorm and always being the variable in transit, never the destination. Adulting is trying to be "good at staying in touch" but feeling tired that you have to be.

In the simplest terms: no one prepares you on being an adult. At least the adults in my life didn't. There's no bedside bible titled "How to read an autopsy from a child homicide" or "How not to cry after watching the VICE Charlottesville video three times" or "Keep Calm and Hurricane Harvey on when your brother's been homebound in Houston for five days." No. 

No one prepares you for how gratifying it is to submit the first payment on your student loan. Or open a 401k. Or tell your friends, "tabs on me," I work now after all. And while adult life has brought me much to lug through so far. I'm not trudging. I'm not sinking. I'm not staggering. I'm not face-planting.
My back is straight, my arms are full, and my heart has soul. 

Just like college was new when I began Collegadox, the professional environment is full of even more surprises. On January 5, 2014, three and half years ago I made you a promise: "whether you read or not, I will keep writing, because I sure have a story to tell."

I can only hope I haven't disappointed.

Sincerely,
Adulting 


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to stand tall after 70 rejection letters

I can't tell you how long I debated whether or not to post this.

Facebook is the red carpet of social media. But instead of boasting five-figure clutches and oh-so-dreamy backless LBDs, we boast engagement rings and triathlon medals, Happy Hour beers and Utah ski trips. We paint ourselves as carefree beneficiaries, whom life has chosen to make everything work out. We place our successes before a jury of our social followers, and fight to suppress our stories of depression, or addiction, loneliness and disappointment.  Because we don't want others to know we're wearing knockoffs.

So I debated sharing how after graduation I will be working as a researcher in the investigative unit of Washington, D.C. 's local CBS-affiliate station.  

But here's the catch. Here's the pimple, here's the nip slip, the awkward beauty mark, the lowdown. I worked the hardest I've ever had to work. I was rejected 70 times to get to this point.

I'd like to share with you the arduous application journey of landing your first job.


TOTAL= 72
**names of corporations redacted


October 2016
Summer Internship- will be notified on or before Dec. 2 Washington Responded: Rejected
Summer Internship Washington/New York

November 2016

Editorial Fellowship Washington/New York
Newsroom Internship-SPRING Washington Responded: Accepted!!
Online Internship- SPRING Washington  Responded: Rejected
Newsroom Summer Internship London  Responded: Rejected
Summer Journalism Internship New York
TV Editor Atlanta, Georgia
News Intern Summer  Arlington, Virginia
Breaking News Fellowship (International Business Times) New york
Magazine Reporter Manhattan, New York
Editorial Operations Intern New York
Copy Editor (x3 brands) New York/Washington
Editor Washington

December 2016

News Lab Fellowship- 10-wks SUMMER (California), (New York), (Missouri), (Washington), (New York)
News Assistant (salary requested $34,000) New York Responded: Rejected
Summer 2017 Editorial Intern - CNET New York
Editorial Opportunities Baltimore, Maryland
Summer 2017 Internship 1choice- Washington, 2choice-New York, 3choice-Chicago Responded: Rejected
News Desk Assistant Washington
Part Time News Reporter  New York
Digital Reporter/Producer  New York
News Editor Washington or New York
Freelance News Assistant- Washington Responded: requested interview,  immediate need, touch-base in May , circled back with email 3/24
Digital News Reporter New York
Editorial Fellowship (Summer) Washington (send January 1st again)
Newsroom Internship (Summer) Virginia
Internship (1 year) Washington, D.C.
TV Writer New York Responded: Rejected
Breaking News Reporter- New York
Newspaper Reporter - Frederick, Maryland
Foreign Affairs Reporter Washington


January 2017

Staff Editor- NewYork
Associate Content Editor- Washington
Digital News Reporter- New York City
Summer 2017 Internship Program- New York
Assistant/Associate Production Editor- New York Responded: Rejected
Junior Assistant Editor SENT EMAIL- Chicago/ Washington
Junior Reporter- Arlington, virginia
News Group Associate- New York
PM Breaking News Editor- Washington Responded: Rejected
Local Reporter- SENT EMAIL- Chicago
News Fellow (Sep 2017-Dec 2017) SENT EMAIL- New York
Editorial Assistant- New York Responded: Rejected
Newsgathering Intern- SUMMER 2017-Washington
Newssource Intern-SUMMER 2017- Washington

February 2017

Summer internship- Washington Responded: Because I am not going to be a Grad student Im disqualified Responded: Rejected
Investigative Journalism Summer Internship- Yonkers, New York Responded: requested I apply for their Health Editorial internship, however the description requires you be attending Graduate school while interning
Summer 2017 Intern - Documentary Unit- New York
Summer Intern 2017- Special Events- Washington, DC
Editorial Fellowship (6-12 months)- Washington, DC Responded: Rejected
Investigative Internship- Yonkers, New York Responded: Rejected
Health Editorial Internship- Yonkers, New York Responded: She’s going to pass my name and resume onto her supervisor HAD INTERVIEW 3/16/2017 SUBMITTED PITCHES 3/20/2017 Rejected

March 2017

General Assignment Health Reporter- Washington, DC
Editor/Reporter- Falls Church, Virginia
Production Assistant- Washington, DC
National Investigative Associate Producer- Washington, DC Responded: Rejected
Correspondent- Arlington, Virginia
Junior Copy Writer- New York
Writer, Staff- Baltimore, Maryland
Staff Writer/ Religion and Faith-  Washington, DC
Content Creator/Researcher- Washington, DC Asked to apply by General Manager and Senior Producer. Interview  : OFFER!! OFFER!!! DING DING DING DING!!! 4/13/2017
Desk Assistant- Washington DC
Content Producer- Washington DC
Investigative Reporter- Washington, DC
Assistant Editor- Washington DC

April 2017

Newspaper Reporter- Baltimore, Maryland

As you can see, I've broken the Facebook code. I'm telling you everything Facebook users try to hide. Because after every rejection letter, or worse, no response, something died in me. 

Landing your first job is no small feat, it takes an encouraging support system, a tireless spirit, firm self conviction, and a seven month supply of  mint ice cream.

To my friends, you kept me sane.
To my sister, you kept me crazy.
To my Bubbie, you kept me sharp.
To my mentors, you kept me hungry.
To my boyfriend, you kept me happy.
To my parents, you kept me in line.
To God, you kept me hopeful.
To myself, you kept me going. 




Sincerely, 
Grateful

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Taking a (Spring) Break



On Friday, while students confirmed their Spring Break cruise tickets, filled their mothers' minivans with Bugles, beer and  20 gallons of gasoline, I picked up four books from the library with a Target bag in each elbow pit. You see, I intern in a newsroom two days a week and seeing as I was too embarrassed to ask my supervisor for days off over Spring Break, I'm sticking around a deserted campus. But I'd be lying to say I don't love my internship and even asked to work more days than usual.

So while Matt from Fiction Writing class is checking out girls on the beach, I'm checking out two books on cadavers, a John F. Kennedy biography and Stephen King's sequel to The Shining. Yes, I too was wondering what the girl scanning my books  was wondering as she bid farewell and silently pushed the red emergency button below her desk.

All jokes aside I knew going into Shabbos that it was going to be wonderful. When you are alone for the weekend, except for the warm company of your roommate, there's a restorativeness about the 25 hours, resembling a retreat from reality, that makes Shabbos a very personal experience.

------

It's Saturday, March 18th and my room is remarkably clean, noted because until yesterday the floor resembled a ransacked Old Navy on Black Friday. But now the room is spotless and sunless. I hoist the blinds open like one heaving a mast and the sun spills into the room, catching light onto the crystal collection I've started. I tear myself away only to fill a cup with coffee and pull JFK into bed with me. Just his biography, not him, though I'm sure he liked that joke in heaven where he's seducing some poor man's 72 virgins.

Eight o'clock ages to ten in two hazelnut cups and 30 pages about JFK's adolescent ailments and spoon-fed life of luxury. Around this time I take my siddur and sit beside our bay window. I watch as the leftover lumps of snow melt below me. My roommate decides to go to Chabad to attend services, but I look down at my pajamas and can't imagine separating them from my body. So I continue praying in slippers.



I make my own kiddush in a shot glass and throw together a salad. I wash for Ha'motzei ( a custom of washing the hands and remaining silent until a prayer on the bread) and when I finally bite into the Thomas English Muffin, I realize nothing has changed. There's noone to talk to talk to to break my moment of silence. I am alone.


But not lonely. From my room I retrieve the envelopes of photos I have stashed in my dresser. Pictures Bubbie sends me two days after taking them. Photos of my new baby nephew, looking like a pink blob with a teeny mop. Photos at the beach with my best friend building ridiculous statues out of sand, making a mess. Photos of my boyfriend and I before we started dating, all dressed up, looking young. I am struck by a sense that he is so out of my league.

Checking in with these memories fills me with a flush of gratitude, my hectic schedule demands I overlook. And I make a mental note to secure this uplifting height throughout the week.

And when the photos are finished and I see the day hasn't even hit noon, I bundle into sunglasses and an outfit even my mother wouldn't recognize me in, and go for a walk without a destination, without a time-limit. The only thing I do have is pepper spray and a personal alarm, because hey, it's an empty campus and my parents injected me with a shot of paranoia from the day I was born. I clip the two around my lanyard soas if I step outside the eruv, at least it counts as jewelry (?)

I walk along the perimeter of the entire campus. I walk to Ludwig Field, and watch men in shorts that I would never feel comfortable wearing, leap over hurdles on the track. The stands erupt in cheer and I move on. At The Clarice Smith Preforming Arts Center, I think about the silent disco I sweat through earlier that year and I hunt for the beautiful spot my boyfriend promised was there but never found.


I pass Oakland hall and admire the bikes lined up like colorful cakes at the bakery. Mischievously, I inspect how haphazardly they're secured and imagine cutting this slender cord with cheap garden clippers. I pull myself away from reckless thoughts to the community garden wedged between Eppley and the School of Public Health. I put my nose into the garlic bed to see if it smells like garlic and I stiffen in embarrassment to find that no one is watching me. I see the stevia, dill, rosemary and lime thyme growing. I read the sign that says the garden is watered from runoff from the parking lot. I take note of the hours of operation and leave.

Behind the Xfinity Center I hear throngs of people hollering. I am met at the gate of a sports field by the "Terp Host" and am told Maryland is on the left side, Binghamton on the right. I smirk thinking how different my life would have been if I followed my high school guidance counselor's advice and gone to Binghamton. I watch the families here. The fathers with tucked shirts and guts, the mothers wearing team colors in sensible shoes and sensible haircuts,  younger siblings holding pompoms and uploading videos to their youtube channels. This 'team family' life is something I had only scene on screens, and I feel like a voyeur in this marvelous Saturday tradition of hotdogs and fastballs, coolers and team huddles.



I pass the soccer field I played on with my team the Red Heffers, where we were beaten brutally by a team of grad students and a teacher. I rounded the corner by to the Manfacturing Building where the decrepit yellow helicopter hides in a small lot. I remember my boyfriend showing it to me the night we started going out. How we were four friends and the cops came and asked for our IDs, how they thought we had been drinking when they saw us crawling around. I looked at it now, in the daylight, painted yellow, black and red: our school colors. The inside looks like an atomic bomb has exploded. Nothing but gray mechanisms with DANGER PULL on the door and a shattered windshield. There's  a small chain fence surrounding it now with a sign that reads, "Under Video Surveillance." I don't remember it.

Every fence is a gate if you want it to be. The gate near the horse stables happened to be open so I walk inside. An attendant opens one of the stables and lets me pet Diva, the smallest horse, who is an ashy tan and has white bangs spilling into her eyes. I pet her soft nose, like a touch-and-feel pad in a children's book. Her snout is so close to my mouth, if she sneezes this dream will be all over. I pray that the personal alarm around my neck won't choose to spontaneously detonate and I'll be pinned to the side of the barn by a raging horse.



I walk along Frat Row, through the Mall around the Chapel, onto The Quad taking it all in, feeling as though I was saying goodbye. One Shabbos on Frat Row my friends had the brilliant idea to compete by seeing who could throw their keys further across the lawn. Of course someones keys got lost and we spent thirty minutes like grazing sheep with our faces to the dirt, trying to locate the missing keys. The Mall captures soccer practices and a subsequent soccer jump into the fountain. It was snow days on a toboggan and First Look Fairs when I signed up for the kickball club from whom I still get emails. It was roller blading down the ramps of doom and watching seniors take graduation photos. Something I'll be doing in just a few weeks.

Yes, my walk literally takes me full circle.

I am in my apartment now, waking up from a three-hour nap and scarfing down deserved spoonfuls of peanut butter. I'm also reading about cadavers, more precisely, severed heads. Mary Roach, the author, is a science journalist icon. Curiosity guides her fascination to far-flung stories. She's been to Antartica three times. Now she is inside a school of medicine lab where she watches medical students give face lifts to severed heads. Earlier that day the heads got nose jobs.

Roach is just remarkable: "I walk up and down the rows. The heads look like rubber Halloween masks. They also look like human heads, but my brain has no precedent for human heads on tables or in roasting pans or anywhere other than on the top of human bodies, and so I think it has chosen to interpret the sight in a more comforting manner. Here we are at the rubber mask factory. Look at the nice men and women working on the masks."  -Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003)

I marvel at Roach and become buoyant when she quotes a physician I interviewed last Spring when I wrote a story on how Maryland's unclaimed dead become donated to medical science. That story is now a finalist in a small regional competition. Maybe one day Block will be a name someone will marvel at too.


And it's Eight o'clock again. And it's time to sing Shabbos away with cinnamon and two Hannukah candles Smashed together with aluminum foil and another shot glass of grape juice. And it's time to come full circle again.

I may not be sunbathing on a beach or trekking across the open road this Spring Break, but at least I recharged my batteries and remembered how much I like spending time with myself. And JFK. Obvs.


Sincerely,
That personal alarm, though.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Why I'm afraid to report in a Trump divided populace


Photo of Womens' March on Washington on 1/21/17 by ResistFromDay1

I'm so scared. Of the people holding "Love Trumps Hate" signs and the people holding "We Voted to Make America Pro Life Again." Of concealed weapons behind posters and smart phones already set to record, ready to politically shame and squash sensible discourse.

I got into journalism so I could talk to complete strangers as if I had known them for years. To ask the state mortician how many times a body can be used for medical science, a senator if he really thinks his bill will be passed or if he's just doing this for reelection, a Supreme Court attorney why he wont retire and to ask a state prison psychiatrist what fear looks like on heroin.

Like a broach on my lapel, I fasten this phrase near my heart: "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."-Dorothy Parker (20th century essayist and poet)

As much as I love interviewing and writing, the thought of graduating in May fills my stomach with swamp water and makes me want to blindfold myself with bed sheets until noon. The culmination of eight semesters working towards that shpanky new degree and I feel dreadful. How can I be a proper journalist when so much of the mainstream media is biased? Biased to the point where no one seems to hide it anymore. I'm not naming names. I still want to get a job. Some day. Hopefully soon...¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Last summer former Facebook Trending Team employees were sacked after they admitted to routinely suppressing conservative news. What's worse, the New York twenty-somethings were replaced by algorithms and machines that mistakenly leaked fake news on its site. We reached an era when millions of people were reading fake news daily!! And what did that cause?

I mean a man from North Carolina crossed state lines with an assault rifle in his trunk to blow a human trafficking business he believed Hillary Clinton was conducting out of a pizzeria in D.C. to smithereens, because of fake news. That's about as bad as it can get.

But let's forget the fake stuff, however confusing and unsettling that is. I'm more scared of the real news. I'm scared for my friends going out to protest, but also what would happen if they don't protest. So proud that they exercise their right to defend what they care about, but angry and confused with the county in disarray. Mostly scared to reach the boiling point, the climax of this chapter. I fear the murmuring of secession, the Union and Confederacy's rebirth. I don't fear a Trump presidency, as much as I do a Trump populace.

Anarchy.

Practicing to become the kind of reporter I'm proud to be, means listening to a lot of opinions and reading a lot. It means playing devils advocate as the "liberal one" when I'm in Chicago and the "conservative cuckoo" when I'm in college. But playing devils advocate all the time makes forming my own opinion a living hell. By inviting so many ideas, giving each the same potential, I've only clogged my compassion and can no longer create an organic position.

Mom and I speak often. Each time I play a personal game to see how long it take her to say,
"I feel so sad that you're going into this liberal industry."

One day I'll show her I'm Noah's dove and I'll bring her back something beautiful from the abyss.

I've recently found myself returning to the prayer we recite every Shabbat for the welfare of the american government.  It talks about peace and justice, and keeping the country's leaders, government and people strong.

From now until graduation I guess I should keep praying.

Sincerely,
I promise I'm not shivering in some corner wiping my nose on my sleeve




Monday, January 2, 2017

The Grinch that stole Hanukkah, then gave it back

I'm sure you've heard of Hatchimals. Thumb-suckers asked Mall Santas around the country to pretty please place the $200 mechanical egg-cracking dragon below their tinseled trees. For that amount of money kids could buy four ostrich eggs and have money left over to go out to the movies.
But kids don't think like that. My six-year-old nephew picked a $10 Norstrom giftcard from a Hannukah game and insisted my dad trade with him for three Pokemon cards.

Caley, my perceptive niece, was lured in by the Hatchimal gimmick and begged my sister for one this Hanukkah. Despite that maternal pang to provide, my sister and I have this competing complex of being both incredibly charitable and you'd-have-to-rip-this-dollar-from-my-stone-cold-corpse personalities. Caley did not get a Hatchimal. She got a miniature sewing machine, a dainty replica of her mother's clunky model.

Wondering whether she liked it? I'll let you be the judge.

~ ~ ~ ~ 

I pull up in front of my sister's house thinking this, this right here, is the best part of coming home. For some people, offering to babysit is a compulsory gesture, a gesture they hope their siblings will acknowledge then forget like a skirt in the back of a closet. 

I love babysitting. The chance to be silly in freeze dance, the baby with clothes abandoned, romping in nothing but a diaper.  The chance to be creative, frying something in a skillet or in the kitchen sculpting with shaving cream.  The chance for storytelling and quiet contemplation before lights-out. It's a time you reference later over Facetime states away. 

I knock once and the door opens immediately. My sister and brother-in-law are waiting to go out to dinner with friends. Caley doesn't notice I've entered until I hover over her shoulder, watching the sewing needle pierce a thread through a red felt shirt she's making for her doll. She stops to give me a hug and jumps off her chair. She runs out of the office and returns with a plump misshapen  pillow. I stare at its lines and then up at Caley. 

"I made it for you," she says. "Do you like it?" 

I do, but I get the feeling she wants to keep it. Like when you walk up to a child while she's drawing and she triumphantly holds up the picture and says, "it's for you," even though she had no way of guessing you would walk through the door and happen upon her coloring. I want her to keep it.

"It's great," I say, "but this would be a great pillow for one of your dolls, right?"

She shrugs, looks sideways. I say "come." We freeze dance, she does the splits. We skillet fry, she adds the spices. We read Curious George, she lets her brothers into her bed even though her door say "no boys allowed." She dreams.

About an hour later, my sister returns.

"So, what'd you think of Caley's gift?"

I don't understand.

"It's the very first thing she's every sewn and she said she was making it for you," my sister says. "She's been walking around the house all day asking if I think Eliana's going to like it."

 My ribcage sinks, I can hear branches knocking against each other. I am disbelief. 

I leave the pillow, hoping she can give it to me again and somehow that new memory can cloak the old one like a coat of paint. I call her in the morning, and tell her how much I love the pillow. Kids are benevolent forgivers.

Caley's pillow with an 80s Barbie.


Caley's present got me thinking of the story behind Hanukkah, how the comically puny Macabees clashed armor with the formidable Greek militia. I thought about how the Jews could only find a mini jug of oil, which should have lasted 24 hours, but miraculously sustained the menorah for seven more days.

A friend recently told me that every time I blog from home my posts sound angry. To be honest most of them are anger-filled, because it's contentious transitioning from a space of freedom to a place of rules and expectations. Especially this break, when I've sent out 34 job applications to companies that don't necessarily even afford you a rejection letter and you find yourself under-skilled and overwhelmed. It gets moody. 

But Caley's Hanukkah pillow helped fend off bad feelings that day and every day that I've used it. It makes me, the small puny army of one-entry-level-reporter feel like I can conquer the slump.  It sustains me to keep going when I'm applying to jobs or moping around the house feeling bored and uninteresting. Makes me feel like I'm not common and dispensable.

Simply, her small gift lit up the holiday. 

Sincerely, 
That girl deserves a Hatchimal  



Monday, November 14, 2016

Living with the Rebbe for a weekend




Everyone's got a story of the Rebbe.

My mom met the Lubavicher Rebbe, Menchem Mendel Schneerson, four years before he died. It wasn't a vacation, celebrity tour or religious pilgrimage. It was a trip of critical necessity. At four-years-old, my sister was dying of Leukemia.

Together with my uncle, she stood  in a winding line leading down from 770 Eastern Parkway, in Crown Heights, the residence of the Rebbe. They were among the hundreds of faces the Rebbe would greet that day with a blessing and a crisp dollar bill. It was encouraged that the recipient could use the bill for charity.

"When two people meet, something good should result for a third," the Rebbe would explain.

Mom remembers being very overwhelmed for her turn; she didn't hear what the Rebbe told her and my uncle. But my uncle did, and like a precious heirloom, she shared it with me.

"He told me not to cry in front of her, in front of Shana," Mom said.

She recalled that instead of one dollar, the normal amount, the Rebbe handed her three bills.

"Shana lived three more years."

Call it what you want, Divine Providence or hokus pokus, but Mom was telling me that she believed in miracles. She believed in doctors, yes, but she also believed in the inexplicable. And it was exactly the frame of mind I needed an hour before Chabad's 2016 Shabbaton.

Let me tell you about the Shabbaton's vibe. The climate can only be described as a honeycomb. A large conglomerate of orchestrated chaos. 1,000 students, Chabad shluchim and speakers buzzing and migrating. A hive of Jews choosing to sing and dance together for, in some cases, their first Shabbat ever.

And the people. I meet Bella, a girl from University of Florida who explains the scarcity of Jewish campus infrastructure, the lack of Kosher food, the struggle to find a "nice Jewish boy."

I barley breathe during a Rabbi's story going from a devout Catholic altar boy to a drug-addicted homeless man sleeping in Starbucks and then to a Chabad Rabbi.

I swap business cards with Rosh Lowe, a Miami news anchor who explained how at 19 years old he eloped at Las Vegas's The Little White Chapel and just celebrated his eldest son's Bar Mitzvah. How he made the TV network recognize that unplugging for Shabbat wasn't a compromise.

I listen to a boy I'd called my friend for the past three months... but this time I really listen. Listen with swampy eyes, and red raw lips and a shrug thats shrugs to the pit of your stomach. A shrug that says I'm bowing to you inside, but that would be weird to say out loud.

And all these feelings, this entire Shabbaton, was fulfilled by a following of devout people whose sole mission is to love their fellow Jew. A lesson they learned well from their leader.

----

Yellow flags cut the night sky in twirling spirals held in a sea of black and white. Men are holding other men by the shoulders, marching in a circle as if cranking a wheel at the center. The air smells of fall leaves and faint sweat. They're calling out in Hebrew, beckoning for the Rebbi they lost 12 years ago to join in. There's a Farbrengen outside 770.

The Rebbi's home and synagogue makes me believe that for a moment I am back in Poland. The iron grated windows, dark wood, bare benches and tattered book covers. I feel like I can peel back the velvet windows shades and find myself buried under a mountain of snow, or beneath the ocean or anywhere else but New York City in 2016.

It feels nice, it feels nostalgic.

And I want to say thank you. Thank you for my mom, whom you gave hope, and the following you endowed with love and kindness that is felt by every college student who has ever stumbled into Chabad on a Friday night, and gives nothing in return. We drive to the cemetery, to the Rebbe's "Ohel."



Many people  discouraged me from writing a prayer to the Rebbe, calling it Christianity, idolatry, even heresy. But they forget I am a writer. So I do:


"I am not praying to you. I am visiting you, and after this shabbaton I realize that you get many visitors, including G-d. Thank you for making the introduction. He'll take it from here. Dear G-d...."

I fold my letter and throw it into the white embers that layer the Rebbi's grave like a white chocolate torte. I send my prayer along with the prayers of a million minyans, and hope it will be heard.  For that too, I owe the Rebbi.

So as I leave the place, I put a nice crisp bill in the charity box. A good result for a third. He'll get it into the right hands.

Sincerely,
Farbrengen it on





Thursday, October 27, 2016

Innocuos Nonsense

The moon in visible after a 12 hour work day; suffice to say I'm eager to free fall onto notebooks and sweatshirts not yet been cleared from the couch. But I can't. I'm not home yet. Still walking and focused on my heel-ditched feet.

On the concrete I spot a three inch piece of circular black cloth. I want to move on, get home, get comf. But the opportunity of doing Hashavat A'veida (returning lost objects), in this case a lost black kippah, is knocking. So I pivot, crouch to the concrete and finger the kippah between by thumb and pointer looking for identifying features.

Inspecting it, my eyebrows turn from quizzical minus signs to threatening backslashes as my face registers disgust a second too slow. I'm holding black padding from someone's bra, coned into a perky half-moon in a way that tells me it's freshly minted. Instinctually, I frisbee the boob fossil away and chastise myself for trying to a mitzvah.

--End Scene--

Here's a list of other innocuous discoveries:

I used to think that people dyed their hair fluorescent shades of the rainbow because they were insecure about being invisible. Just the opposite: I've found that it's the green-haired boy in class answering the most questions and the girl with cyan strands who's walking taller than everyone else. Thinking now, maybe confidence only works when you dye your hair a shade of aqua.

I thought I was over whole, "the most attractive thing is a good singing voice," but I'm not. It's shallow, noted, thanks! But I recently discovered Spanish singers and...uno momento for me to catch my breath...are surreal. Hebrew music you feel in your soul, Spanish music you feel in your hips.

About three weeks ago I was at an organic health foods store and decided to buy raw, unsalted nuts and raw, unoiled dry fruit. The first time you bite into anything without a Kashrut symbol you think a black hole is going to suck you under. But really, it wasn't a big deal. And I'm not about to walk around wearing entirely black outfits in case there really is a black hole lurking and it will think it's already got me, since I'm wearing all black, because that would be crazy. Right??

Almost every professional journalist I speak to, is pretty depressed about being a journalist. One photojournalist is considering retiring to pioneer a charity that donates fishing poles to Belize children. Others in the media complain that they wake up at 3 a.m. and all so that people can rag on them to lose ten pounds or call them Hillary Clinton puppets.  Super motivating.

The more time you're away from your significant other, the more you think about him or her. I blame Snapchat. Snapchat filters also make you look better than you actually do, making you feel less confident. Make's you consider changing your style. There's always blue hair dye to consider.

Sincerely,

Mindful banter