Friday, December 26, 2014

Maria the phlebotomist proceeded to take my blood pressure, check my hemoglobin, and temperature, all the routin-ities of donating blood. Following the congenial code of conversation for this time of winter, I wished Maria happy holidays and asked her how her Christmas was. She was overjoyed about getting to sleep in late and about her special non alcoholic eggnog which swapped rum for pineapple juice. She hosted her husband's side of the family and spent the day cooking for 10 guests. Sighing the memory away she continued the complimentary reciprocation and asked about my St. Nick's Day, to which I responded that I don't celebrate Christmas. She didn't seem surprised at all. 

"My daughter's boyfriend is Jewish, he actually spent Christmas with us. He also has never tried eggnog." (I told her I had never tried eggnog since the idea of yolk and rum was less yum and more rolk to me.) 

She went on to tell me how her daughter and the boy, Coby,  met in debate team. She told me about how smart he is, how he is placed in accelerated math. She told me how he asked to eat around the Christmas tree, how he had never seen a pine so decoratively bedecked. She said it smelled lovely. I mustered a faint smile and watched the needle of the pressure gauge on the ballooned gadget fall. 

I am not so naive as to think that interfaith couples don't occur, because they do, but for some reason, this one highschooler "Coby," struck a cord with me. I looked at Maria as she prepared the bags and tubes that would soon be drawing blood from me and assessed that she was a very pretty woman. Her hazel skin held green eyes with long lashes peeking out just below straight blonde bangs. She seemed to be one of those natural beauties who stopped aging and baffled cosmetologists. If her daughter took after her mother, its no wonder why Coby was slurping eggnog to the tunes of Jingle Bells. 

This phenomena is not gender contingent: I've seen just as many Jewish boys "out-sourcing" as Jewish girls. Throughout college I've met a number of interfaith couples. One girl I met has been dating a non-Jewish guy for about 2 years, they plan to get married after he converts. In one of my Journalism classes I befriended a guy whose father's side were European Jews during WW2 and whose mother's side were German and part of the National Socialist Party! 

With the United Synagogue Youth (USY) dropping the ban against their national board members interdating, the organization went on to say that observance of Shabbat and holidays are not required either. USY recognizes the "importance of dating within the Jewish community and treating each person with the recognition that they were created Betzelem Elohim (in the image of God)," as reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I am an advocate of equality and put my trust into all humankind being created in G-d's image, yet as I watched Maria clamp down on the looping blood tubes indicating that the bag was full, I couldn't help but muse over the contents of that blood. 

 In that pint of blood swirled yiddush seforim and Russian honey balls, misnagdim, chasidut, and flairs of Zionism. It was infused with long noses, blue eyes, and recessive tall genes. It wasn't just blood but Dam (Hebrew word for blood) and not just Dam but all 10 of the biblical plagues. It's a a sack of collective memory, a bloodline if you will. It's that link, that bloodline that Orthodox Jews are so afraid of losing in this transitioning world. 

So as I held my warm liquid sack of  A negative cells, and smiled for a Facebook photo. I couldn't help but feel distress over the "Cobys" of the world who preferred the taste of pineapple eggnog and the "lovely" smell of pine. 

A wounded idealist

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recently, I've been shopping by a code of  mental layaway: buy now because there will be Chanukah gelt waiting when you get home. Sure enough- after a 1.5 hr Supershuttle ride, 1 peppermint mocha at Starbucks, 2 more hrs gazing at a 60 year old cross-dresser in leather (.5 hrs conversing and asking where said leather was purchased), and 1 United plane ride that most definitely required a theme-park waiver of some sort- the gelt was waiting.

But as I stared out the bay windows, I couldn't help but ponder how twisted the Chanukah message of purity and re-dedication had become. How children yell for their Dad to stop singing so they can open the presents already. And I couldn't help but notice how my neighbor's Christmas tree lights looked fake and dull against the glow of my Chanukiah's nine burning candles. After a belabored travel, with late night dinner resting in my lap, basking in the incandescent hug, I thought how materialistic Chanukah has become. 

And so, I'm reflected on some fun, free things I did in the past 72 hours to "spark" some gratitude:

1. Walked the NYC's Highline overlooking the Hudson River 
2. Became the guinea pig of a free soap scrub massage during a holiday-market demonstration
3. Explored Little Italy and China Town's butcher shops(one sold pig faces), fish market (squid?!), and back alleyways (where one will find 3 hair salons, 1 trinket shop, and a "Chemist" shop) 
4. Managed to get a month's free membership at the local gym
5. Rented "The Fault in Our Stars" and sniffled seven glorious times
6. Successfully removed security tag off of purchased leggings with a flame and 10 inch butcher knife. NOTE: invest in Airwick.
7. Learned new holiday tunes: shamelessly rocking out to Six13's Chanuka version of "Shake it Off"
8. Googled cross-dressers favorite leather shop

In sum, it's not about the money-money-money, it's about the memories. Why twist our holiday into being a Christian knockoff. Honestly, you couldn't pay me to stare at red filament light bulbs all night, but while traveling, I literally paid friends to have me in mind during their lighting. I literally paid someone to stare at their Chanukah candles. To be true, through the money I gave, not got, I felt the heat of a small dormant spark rekindle. 

Layaway to Lay-a-while

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Prompt:

First paragraph:  What have you been learning about yourself as a writer this semester? (Has your writing changed? This paragraph can go in many different directions).

Second paragraph:  What were the most significant revisions to your work, and how did they relate to the workshop process?

Third paragraph:  What are the aesthetic values that you hold most dear in fiction writing?  What do you like?  Where would you like to see your work go in the future?

The Product:

Eliana Block
10 December 2014

Disclaimer: This is a metaphor, DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.

I’m climbing this broad, meaty tree and the bark is stroking my ankles with the tickle of a father’s overgrown beard on the cap of his baby’s forehead. Every day I climb a little further up and I watch as a crowd assembles below. Familiar faces emerge among the mass: I see Bubbie Sandy, my grandmother, standing round, firmly; I see Mommy encouraging me not to piss off the animals above (or get pissed on by them); and then there’s my educators, my blog community, my peers, hurrahing me to climb further. Every gap I close, rising limb to limb, squatting hard and lunging low, their compliments double, rising higher. So I look down and wonder why they cheer so much. They do not know that I am afraid of heights, because what can I climb that no one has already climbed? What knobby nook or secret nut crevice can I discover that a squirrel has not already homed or ransacked? If I go higher I risk failure, or at best, mediocrity. If I descend stealthy back towards ground, my crowd will dissipate; Bubbie and Mommy will say, “just get in the car,” and I will be resistant but not knowing why, and confused where to go. But at least I will do it on my own terms. I look inward at the core, pressing my face against the birch, inhaling pencil. My eyes whip open, with a birdesque curiosity, turn around resolute, and take off running, off the edge of the limb.

In free fall words arrange, link and make love, forming glorious lines, filling beautiful pages with communicative fetus networks, a jaded daughter with her vegetable-mother. The free-fall is exhilarating. It is beautiful.

I open my eyes and somehow I am back on the tree. The crowd bellows even louder below, and I realize, somehow my free-fall brought me higher up the rungs.

Hello Tree, you are paper, you are pencil. Hello Climbing, you are expectations. Hello Crowd, you are encouraging, sometimes annoying. Hello Free-fall, you are risks, and I love you.
It was difficult re-coupling with my work after workshop: fellow writers weren't very helpful in their critiques, looking for morals and whatnot. What I tried to alleviate were those burning questions, spoken and unspoken: are they in a single womb, or multiple? Who is Odella? Is it important to know who is speaking, or is the not knowing critical to understanding the unity of the Chord?

The most hot-potato, witch scolding, tongue burning question: Is the ending my own personal views on life after death?
But it’s not meant to be answered because this question is not personal to me, its personal to whoever’s reading it. So, is my ending in any way definitive? Well, butter burner, coal scorcher, you should probably suck a popsicle. What does the ending mean to you?

I am a sucker for empathy through imagery. I don’t care if you’re trying to get me to fall in love with a one-eyed goat, or an iphone5 case, you better give me something rich to read. I love first person narratives: I crave literary panoramas and profusely tender dialogue. In the future, I see myself climbing or falling, or both—into your lap, with my name on the cover, under a title I thought way too long on, taking myself all too seriously, wondering whether I should have capitalized the word “The.”

what prompt?