Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jazz Hands of Atonement

The other day I got an e-mail from the cantor at my synagogue. This doesn't happen every day, so I figure I'm either being asked to do something very special, or I'm in a world of trouble.

It turns out, she had good news for me. She asked me to take part in the Yom Kippur service. This is a very big deal, and quite an honor. It was also a little bit stupefying, as I'm still pretty remedial in the liturgical department. I only just got bat mitzvahed and went to my first High Holy Days service last year, and am still getting a grasp on all the basics, so being asked to sing part of the service during the holiest day of the year was a little daunting. Especially considering that for the High Holy Days, our temple borrows the massive Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, and packs it to the gills. Still, I was flattered.

At least I thought they wanted me to sing. I dusted off my old notes on chanting, and headed to practice feeling, I thought, well-prepared. There were about a half-dozen people sitting in a circle in the sanctuary, and the cantor started laying out the plans.

I've never attended a Yom Kippur service with my temple, but apparently each year features some creative component, usually involving some kind of performance by a local dance company. So far, so good. We are, it should be noted, a liberal reform congregation, so a bit of the artistic element wouldn't be terribly out of place. The choreographer was on hand to talk about what her company would be doing, which sounded lovely, and then she went on to say how we would help lead the congregation in an interpretive dance that we would be developing that night.


I wasn't going to be singing at all. Rather, they had asked the congregation to submit thoughts on forgiveness, and we were going to select the best ones, devise motions to symbolize them, and then lead everybody while we performed them repeatedly for this portion of the service.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with this in theory. It's just that it's not necessarily the kind of thing I would have readily volunteered to do. Let me put it this way: At the tender age of six, I didn't know much about myself as a person, but I knew enough that the dance classes that all the neighborhood girls took after school just weren't for me. When it was time for the bunk talent show in summer camp, which always involved some choreographed nonsense to something like Taylor Dayne or some crap like that, I was always the kid who was asking if I could hold a sign, or be a tree, or anything that didn't involve group dancing. I'd act, sing, do your PR, anything, as long as I didn't have to dance. It's not really my thing.

But when you're surrounded by your cantor and a some very earnest members of your congregation that are genuinely excited that a youngster like yourself would (seemingly) volunteer to help out...well...strike a pose, I guess.

It's not the end of the world. I've been meaning to get more involved in the 'gogue anyway, and it's a crazy supportive environment. I'll go take one for the mishpuchah. And since videotaping services is prohibited, it's not like any of you guys will see it.

No, I will not either.

Oh, for the love...fine. I hope you particularly like the part where it looks like I'm doing the Cabbage Patch. Apologies for the skewed view. I think it adds to the artistic integrity. Plus, I really don't feel like re-shooting it.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Would Robyn Twitter? Monday Night Football Edition

Last night the cable went out halfway through the first quarter of the Eagles-Cowboys game, prompting an unexpected adventure. Alas, the bar I finally found was below street level at the Marriott, and the cell phone reception sucked. But if I could twitter, this is what it would have looked like:

All showered, chores are done, time to settle in and get ready for some football!

Wha happa to the TV? Whaddya mean cable's out for the whole building?

This is unacceptable. Somebody fetch me my pants.

Damn the makeup, screw the wet hair, time to run like the wind!

That's enough running. My knees are for crap.

Don't bother welcoming me to the effing Marriott, Skippy. Just show me the way to the bar and get me a Yuengling.

Okay, when I left the apartment 10 minutes ago the score was 7-6. Now it's 21-20. Clearly, I stepped into a wormhole somewhere around New York Avenue.

I hear that T.O. eats his own poo. And babies. Pass it on.

I love DeSean Jackson so bad!

I'm-a kick DeSean Jackson's ass so bad his granddaddy'll feel it.

Another Yuengling? I really shouldn't. Okay!

I don't feel so good.

Sometimes, a little puke goes a long way. Now I'm hungry again. Bring me your finest quesadilla!

Don't tell me there's no such thing as wormholes, because the score just went up about a zillion points while I was barfing. A zillion.

Hit me, Yuengling, one more time.

Brian Westbrook is god.

Brian Westbrook kills me. Or maybe it's Donovan. Whatever, I hate you guys.

Y'know what, Cowboys fans? You got freakin' lucky. Maybe the Eagles lost, but they fought. They fought hard. They fought like warrior poets. Dear god, I'm drunk.

What's that, strange man? You wanna pay for my Yuengling and quesadilla? Hey, I might be drunk, but I ain't stupid. Go right ahead.

Skins fans are weirdly nice to you when you're playing the Cowboys.

Dude...did I get wasted last night and send some embarrassing text messages about keeping hope alive? With really improper grammar and questionable syntax? I'm sorry...I'm not usually like that...


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I'm coming off a pretty action-packed Labor Day weekend. No lollygagging about watching Top Model marathons this year. And I even have a brand new entertaining injury to show for it. That's the true mark of a weekend well spent.

It started, as all good weekends should start, with an early departure from work on Friday and multi-colored margaritas at Austin Grill with Beth, resulting in a stumble-filled walk home at the ripe hour of 3:00 pm. Off and running. The next morning, Mark and I headed north for my first proper visit home in four months. The main attractions back in beautiful Bucks County were barbecued hot dogs at Chez Shep, followed by a trip to New Hope to see Johnny C. and Jack Firneno play with Crow vs. Lion at John n' Peter's. It had been a few years since I'd hung out in New Hope. I used to go all the time when I was in high school and college, but before I could drink. It was a nice place to go if you were underage and wanted to pretend that you were doing something worthwhile with your time other than taking up space at the food court at the mall. I really ought to make a habit of coming back around more often, as it's even more entertaining when you can actually order more than mozzarella sticks at the bars. The boys played great, but we had to call it an early night (and inadvertantly miss a Ween sighting) in order to prepare for Phase II of the operation.

Phase II involved righting a long-standing wrong. Although I lived in New York City for three years, and fancy myself something of an expert, I had never been to Coney Island. I know it's not exactly Disneyland, but when I heard that they were scheduled to tear down Astroland after the summer, I figured it was time to correct this blemish on my record. So Mark, Bob, fresh-from-the-gig John and I took the 10 am train out of Hamilton up to NYC.

It takes a good hour to get out to Coney Island from Midtown, but it was a gorgeous day for it, and I got to see a lot of Brooklyn that had been hitherto unexplored. We were met at the subway station by Brooklyn's own Koz, who was delighted to play tour guide since he lived 15 minutes away. First order of business was to procure some genuine Coney Island hot dogs from Nathan's, which taste remarkably like the hot dogs at any other Nathan's, but still must be ingested. Mark got fried clams, which we all agreed was very wrong and annoyingly contrarian, even if his line did move a hell of a lot faster and the clams were admittedly tasty.

We visited the freak show, which was hosted by a nice gentleman who called himself Donny Vomit and during which the flame-eater seemed to light her eyeball on fire, which I'm pretty sure was a mistake. We paused by the main entrance to Astroland, wondering if we should go on the smaller rides first, but I was there on a mission, and that mission had to be executed.

I'm not a fan of roller coasters. In fact, I really, really hate them. If I turn out to be a bad person and am sentenced to an eternity in Hell, I know part of the deal will entail having that weird dropping feeling in your stomach for all time. The other part of the deal would probably involve moths and blue cheese, but that's another blog. Despite my aversion to coasters, I had resolved to go on the iconic Cyclone. It's a freakin' institution. And it's a gazillion years old. How bad could it possibly be? It didn't look that scary from the subway, so Bob and I paid the separate $8 fee to ride it, while the others, howyousay?, pussed out.

And then things went horribly wrong.

It started out so promisingly. It's like a log flume, I said to myself. No big. One big drop, and that's basically it. Scream it out. It will be fine. I was cool all the way up the big hill, and when we paused at the top, I warned Bob that I'd very likely yell.

The drop hit, and my butt left the seat, and before I could process the bad tummy-feeling, I was slammed back down and then thrown about on the most godawful, rickety, unstable ride imaginable. It's not that I was afraid, or felt unsafe. It was just that the entire ride consisted of very, very painful; vertebrae-crushing; neck-snapping; leg-smashing twists, turns and drops. It was like being in a car accident over and over and over for two minutes, and it left me bruised, battered, and with a hell of a pinched nerve in my neck that left me unable to turn my head for a day and a half.

Evidently, it also caused me to involuntarily unleash with the most profane tirade of expletives ever uttered. I knew I let out the odd m-f'er, but according to Bob the f-bombs started on the first drop and just kept coming -- at enormous volume. He also agreed that when I screamed, it wasn't a girly, whee-this-is-fun scream, but an unsettlingly manly, descending-into-the-vortex-of-death, type of noise. I asked him to re-enact it for my benefit, but he said it would make him blush to do so. And we're from a Navy family. AND we're Eagles fans. If only we had it on video, it would be YouTube gold.

Alas, we did not, and we were pretty much ruined for the rest of Coney Island. Despite the pain, we pressed on with the day, because even severe neck trauma is not justification for cutting short a trip to New York. We sought solace in soup dumplings in Chinatown...and ice cream a block away...and rice pudding in Little Italy...before we ran out of ideas and time and went home at sunset.

It's been two days, and my neck is way better. I still need the odd aspirin, but at least the mobility has returned. In spite of everything, I'm glad I went on it. I would have kicked myself for not trying it, and I can be proud of the fact that I overcame my fear and seized the moment. Sure, I was rewarded for it with deep, deep hurting, but I think I'm a better person for it in the long run.

As a postscript, last night I took an Oxycodone left over from when I had kidney stones, intending to help myself drift off to sleep pain-free. I zonked out on the couch, having left the water trickling in the sink to let the cat have a drink, and awoke to a very Zen-like splashing sound as the sink had been stopped up and water rushed all over the place with kitties frolicking in the puddles. Mark returned from an outing to find his drugged-out, stiff-necked girlfriend flitting about the apartment in her skivvies brandishing a wet vac and insisting that she's "got this." The parquet floor is hella warped, but we haven't had any complaints from the unit downstairs, so I think we're good. Don't do drugs, kids. And don't ride the Cyclone.

I was too rattled after getting off the ride to purchase a picture of Bob and I hurtling downhill, but here's a little drawing, rendered under the influence of narcotics, just like the masters: