Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Raise me up

Time for a semi-serious post. One of the reasons why I started this here blog-thingy was to work on putting down my thoughts, working out scenarios, and moving toward progressing with my life as a whole. If others are entertained, moved, or offer good advice, so much the better.

Regular readers (both of you) might not have noticed a slight change in the links menu on the right, where I now have a section of aliyah links. No, I don't mean the late R&B star, I'm referring to the notion of the land Israel being the place for a Jew to live. Those who've known me for a while know that moving to Israel is something that I very much want to do, and yet it's something that I've made zero mention of on this site. While I don't think I need to expose every facet of my personality to the world at large (hence the relative anonymity of this blog), I do think that writing more about this interest will be useful in motivating me to get off my you-know-what and get active, as well as perhaps providing more fodder for reader feedback than the "guess what show/ performer I just caught" posts which have been dominating this site, and probably only have minimal interest. So, without further ado, here goes:

I'm a native New Yorker. I love this city, its sights and sounds, the insane pace, riding the subway, going to shows, walking through the parks, and seeing people of every conceivable income level, ethnicity, and religion on a single block. I laugh at the thought of driving to work or school, and consider anything north of the Bronx to be "upstate." In this city, I acquired years of entertainment, a superb education, and dozens of dear friends. To this city, I owe my personality, my interests, and many of my successes.

I love this city, but it will never be home.
To me, Israel is home.

Israel is where my yarkmulke is never a cue for a street musician to strike up "Hava Nagila" or a medly from "Fiddler" (note to any street musicians reading this: ten bucks goes right into your case if you play "Schmuel's Song" from The Last Five Years instead of "Tradition."). It's where I never have to admit just how many Christmas carols I know all the words to (including all the Rocky-Horror-style callback lines to "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer") thanks to standing in a checkout line at any supermarket between November 15th and December 31st. It's where I see street signs in the same letters as my prayer book, and where everyday expressions come straight out of scripture. It's where religious and irreligious Jews argue over everything, because it's where Jews want to live as Jews, and don't ever want anyone else defining what that means.

It's also a country torn by politics, war, and an economy that looks like it's held together by chewing gum. It's where my grandparents and parents tried to find work, and couldn't. It's where a childhood friend and his pregnant wife were shot and wounded while leaving a wedding. It's where drivers are maniacs, jobs are scarce, people are rude, and life is hard.

To me, Israel is home. Just saying that, however, isn't going to get me there. Nor, for that matter, is writing out all the pros and cons. I know that I want to go, and I've been blessed with a life partner who agrees with me (The Lovely Wife(tm) has spent far more time in the country than I have, and she's liable to be ten times as verbose in her explanation for why she wants to go). So, what's stopping me?

Well, as I said two paragraphs ago, life in Israel is hard. I've got the wisdom of two generations before me (and several friends as well) who couldn't make ends meet. To that end, we've been saving cash for the inevitably interminable job hunt, padding up the resumes for same, and, in my case, finishing off a second degree so that maybe we can afford to live on chumus and luf. There's also the language to learn (my Hebrew may be serviceable, but it's way too rusty), and, oh heck, let's cut the long paragraphs and get to the checklist, shall we?

  • Financials - moving costs, living expenses while jobless. Maintaining our meager U.S. investments while abroad
  • education - get the @$!#@!! degree already
  • Language - gotta get us to an ulpan, or something similar
  • Mental preparedness - prepare for the stress and strain of making the move
  • physical preparedness - See previous
  • spiritual preparedness - sheesh, I hate sounding New Age-y, but I don't have a better word for it

The plan: to address one or more of each of these issues on a regular basis, and get ourselves closer to the goal of going home.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Turn the Beat Around

A very annoying mixup led to younger brother and myself not seeing Neil Peart & Co. Wednesday night; instead, we wound up catching the antics of Toxic Audio, who provide brilliant percussion, but of a slightly different bent. Followed that up with a trip with The Lovely Wife(tm) to Marie's and the Duplex. At the former, TLW met up with an old colleague (for those who don't know TLW, meeting up with old friends in random places is a completely mundane event for her. I keep expecting her to someday mention out of the blue: "Oh, I was supposed to meet the Pope for lunch yesterday. We worked together on the Polish version of Godspell"), and I killed my voice trying to match Jim Allen's volume (I finally learned the words to most of the Avenue Q songs, and "It Sucks to be Me" is turning into quite the singalong number).

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Rush (For a Change of Atmosphere)

So, 'twas with bleary eyes, damp skin and a faint but persistent ringing in my ears that I got on a LIRR train late last night/early this morning to head back home, thanks to the Canadian power trio known as Rush, who had the temerity to schedule a Jones Beach concert ('bout two hours from chez Efrex, not including waiting for the @#!@ train) without announcing that they were going to be adding a couple of dates right in the city the next week (don't worry, I've got tickets for that show too). Concert was much fun, although there's no way you can make a setlist that would make me completely happy without making the show go for about four hours (I'd want the full 2112 and Hemispheres albums, just for a start, and throw in some of the stuff they'll never do live, like "Entre Nous" and "Anagram"). Seeing Neil Peart hitting the skins live is something else, even though his solo was the same one he did on the Rio DVD ("O Baterista"). Not sure why the stage set includes a couple of drying machines with t-shirts spinning around in 'em the whole time, but it was pretty funny seeing techs walking up to a machine and grabbing a shirt in the middle of a song for no apparent reason.

The one good thing about shlepping out to Lawn Giland for the show was catching up with an old friend at Penn Station. For a decade or more now, Wendy Sayvetz has been performing in Penn Station and Grand Central Station, singing a mix of folk songs, show tunes, and original material in a gloriously angelic soprano. I hadn't seen her in years and years, but there she was, hawking two new CDs and plugging an upcoming show at Danny's. From a quick listen to the CDs, I can hear some tenderness in her notes (the result of some vocal injuries), but it's still wonderful to hear her again (hers were the first renditions of "By My Side" and "All Good Gifts" from Godspell that I ever heard, and still the best).

Finally, I can't believe that I didn't yet post about Natalie Douglas's gig at the Birdland. As predicted, she blew the doors, ceiling, and walls off the place. I might be the only person who noticed that she switched two verses in "Forbidden Fruit," but other than that (and a bit of a rough spot going low in her openning number), she simply rocked. Please tell me that this show's gonna be recorded. It's easily one of the best solo performances I have ever seen (actually, it's hardly fair to call it a solo perf. Mark Hartman was a demon at the keys, and the rest of the backing quartet [bass, drums, and sax] was superb as well).

By the way, do all religions have counting songs? One of the numbers Natalie did, "Children, Go Where I Send You" bears an awfully strong resemblance to "Echad Mi Yodea," no?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Bobby Baby

Sad news: Bob Murphy, the long-time Mets radio announcer, died of lung cancer yesterday... a voice which I remember for some twenty-odd of my twenty-nine years (often listening to the radio under the covers while I should've been sleeping) is now silenced, and a link to the game the way it used to be has now been severed.

So many classic "Murphisms" to remember:
  • "a HIGH fly ball, DEEEP, to left field, WAAY back, it may go... GONE! A home run!"
  • "We'll be back with the happy recap in just a moment"
  • "Heee struck him out! Struck him out! The Mets have won the world series! And oh my goodness, the fans are storming the field" (Yes, I've been a Mets fan for quite some time, ok?)

    I suspect that Michael will be toasting Murph at a piano bar someplace (His tribute to Murphy, from when he retired last year, is a gem, and yes, I remember the "The Mets finally win the d*mn thing" quote too).

    In happier news, made an all-too brief return to Marie's on Monday for an hour or so with Jim Allen, singing Allen Sherman and Tom Lehrer songs (Jim had a voice student there, and I think our rendition of "Harvey and Sheila" will leave the poor girl emotionally scarred for life. Won't be spending too much time there next week, though: I've been switched to midnights to sub for a vacationing colleague... hey, I was just thinking how much I missed being able to shop on a weekday morning without having to deal with lines; now, I get to do it for five straight days! I'll take "circadian rhythms shot to hell" for two hundred, Alex...

    Speaking of hell: Finished off Garth Ennis's Preacher series yesterday; not the greatest graphic novel series of all time, but certainly entertaining as all get out. Probably could've been trimmed to about five or six books, instead of the nine that it took, though. Ennis is a bit too fond of meandering backstory, and the series worked best when he was just ripping through the main storyline at warp ten, with his cracked sense of humor (I shudder to think of what his childhood must've been like) leading the way. Oh, well, on to Books of Magic now, I guess...