Wednesday, September 30, 2009

His "windmills" are still better than mine

The second indignity I've suffered at the hands of old people. First, over Labor Day Weekend, nearly ever person eligible for Medicare passed me on the hills and flats of the Hazon Environmental Ride. And now this- Fred Bowers, a 73 year old b-boy from England demonstrates his breaking chops on Britain's Got Talent. And yes, his windmillish moves are better than mine (but just barely).

My only consolation is knowing that he lives in a country with rationed health care, and will die perhaps 20 years hence because Great Britain euthanizes the elderly. At least I live in America, where health care gets rationed the old fashioned way- according to wealth.

To the land of the free,
And the home of the brave (in the face of rising health care costs)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Na Nach Swipe

When I first started breaking, I often betrayed my white girl curly haired Jewiness when I went in for the farewell handshake at the end of a practice. I would grasp the b-boys' hands as though we had just finished a job interview. If they thought I was "wack," they mercifully kept it off their face. After a couple of months, I finally learned a basic, non-embarrassing handshake, which I use at the beginning and end of breaking practices.

But after almost three years of breaking, perhaps I'm ready for something a bit more advanced- the Na Nach Swipe. Invented by the followers of the long dead Reb Nachman of Breslov, it's involves signing the Hebrew letters "Nun" and "Chet," the key components of the Breslovers chant- "Na Nach Nachman..."

Here's the YouTube tutorial.

How do you guys think this will go over with the Brooklyn b-boys? Do you think they'd find it fresh? Or wack? And should I include the chant and wear a large white yarmulke? Would that make me doper?

(Thanks to Shani R. for passing this link along to me.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Let the bidding war begin

As a recently born again Brooklynite (though I lived on the Upper West Side until a month ago, I was born and raised in Canarsie- farther down the L line than any hipster is willing to go), I go to the Altshul minyan on Saturday mornings, which is kindly given prayer space by Temple Beth Elohim in Park Slope.

Well on this morn, the folks from the Westboro Baptist Church stood on outside the synagogue to remind us that God does not love us Jews, but especially hates the homosexuals among us. Or is that we're all gay? I don't think that's it- if it was true, we'd be better dancers. Sigh.

I didn't catch any of the protest (which you can read about here in greater depth) since I arrived late, um, just a little after Torah reading- right around Anim Z'mirot. Don't the Westboro protesters know that real Jews show up late for services? If you're going to hate us, at least take the time to learn our customs. Is that too much to ask?

The hateration was a brief topic of conversation at our Shabbat picnic lunch, which is when I resolved to do my part to combat their hatred. I would keep an important domain out of their gay bashing hands. Dear readers, is now safe, owned by yours truly.

A lot of Orthodox Jews refer to the ineffable Diety as "Hashem," which literally translates to "the Name." so saying that Hashem hates us is yet another way of stating that Gdashd ain't a fan. Wait, the Westboro people didn't know about the lateness rule. Mabye they don't know about Hashem either. Have I just let Hashem fall into their grasp? Oh no, what have I done?!

Deep breaths- even if I did just give them a new way to hate us, I have deprived them of a useful domain name unless they decide to go with .net, .org, .info, etc. Or unless they make an eligible bid for my domain name because as the anti-Semitic rhetoric goes, Jews do love money.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Facebook Faux Pas?

Today I was hanging out with a friend who was doing construction work on my new apartment (yay for shelves and hooks!) when Dejalo, a Rilo Kiley song, started playing from my Itunes. This particular artist reminded of the features of my new Ipod Nano, Grendel (so called at the suggestion of a Facebook "friend"- or should I say "fiend"?), which in addition to taking incriminating video, also announces the name and artist of songs when a button is accidentally pressed. It's really annoying and I'm trying to figure out how to undo it but I'm all thumbs, technologically speaking.

"I'm endlessly amused by my Ipod's attempt to pronounce Idan Raichel and Rilo Key," I said. True, the former is an Israeli artist with the "ch" sound in his name that Anglos find so difficult, but the latter is a Souther California group. Their name should pose no great challenge to the same people who managed to put the aformentioned video camera into my Nano.

Anyway, this comment of mine was a slight paraphrase of a status I put up on Facebook a day or two prior. It had read- Endlessly amused by new Ipod's disembodied voice at it attempts to pronounce "Idan Raichel" and "Rilo Kiley."

The friend began laughing. "I had a four hour layover in Seoul. I read all of your status updates. I know this already."

I blushed, worried I had done something that I always tried so hard not to do- unintentionally tell the same person the same story more than once . But then I realized that I hadn't told him, at least not directly, and I had nothing to be ashamed of.

Or do I? Is repeating something you posted on Facebook in "live" conversation a faux pas, or at the very least, as grating as listening to your great aunt Rachel tell you a childhood story for the umpteenth time? Should I assume that everyone has already read it? Or can I simply preface my statements by saying, "I posted this on Facebook..." so no one thinks I've gone senile?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Parkour, Office Style

A few months ago, International Gymnast, in an attempt to hip up their content, wrote about Parkour, but I think the folks at the Office do a better job of explaining and demonstrating it. (Thanks to Chris at BreakerNYC for bringing this clip to my attention.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mikvah Addendum

Regarding my humiliating mikvah immersion last Friday, I was asked an interesting halachic question by- Since I began bleeding from my nose in the mikvah (i.e. lake), was I rendered ritually impure by the blood gushing from the bridge? Had the injury not only added to my public nudity mortification, but had it also nullified the whole experience? Was it all for naught?

I pose this question to you, my deeply knowledgeable and occasionally funny readers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's easy to impress the Jews

(photo taken from

Now for those of you who read the preceding post about my shameful dip into mikvahville, here is the antidote- an example of me rocking it at the New Israel Fund Benefit this past Wednesday night. In a nearly backless top. My talent knows no bounds. (Also, it's really easy to impress the Jews in dance related situations.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My First Bikini, My First Mikvah

Those are the bottoms from the first bikini I ever purchased four years ago after I started to veer from my strictly frum upbringing. The top is now gone. This is the story of what Gdashd supposedly don’t alloweth, (S)he taketh away.

I arrived at Camp Kinder Ring early Friday afternoon for the Shabbat preceding the Hazon New York Environmental Ride. After a lunch of organic, locally grown vegetables and other wholesome fare (this is Hazon after all), my friend suggested a dip in the lake. When we arrived to the lakefront in skimpy bikinis, we discovered that the women’s mikvah was about to begin. This friend, a recent convert, having just dunked, was excited to do it again. I had been present at her conversion and submersion but had never taken the plunge myself. I was born a Jewess and am not yet married, which were the two reasons I was taught in my all-girls’ high school that a woman should immerse herself. As seniors we even had a class called “Family Living,” which went over the laws of niddah (ritual impurity) since we were expected to be married soon after graduation. As it was the first class of the day on Friday mornings, I usually skipped it to get breakfast at the kosher Dunkin’ Donuts on Avenue M where I instead immersed myself in a steaming cup of French Vanilla coffee. I also skipped the field trip to the local mikvah. My religious trajectory should not have been a surprise to anyone.

But nearly nine years after high school, I was persuaded to join. On the shore I stood in a circle with about seven other women as a Hazon volunteer, Leah explained the process and then the floor, well sand, was open to comments. One older woman discussed the women’s group at her local synagogue. There, she said, women immersed themselves for crossing all kinds of thresholds- marriage, a new job or even a divorce. I couldn’t pinpoint my own reasons for participating in the mikvah so I stayed uncharacteristically silent. Perhaps it was as Leah said- it was Elul, a month of introspection and purification, and the mikvah dovetailed nicely with these themes.

With the men barred from the water, we swam to the deep end of the lake, disrobed and handed our suits to Leah, who would be supervising our efforts to become pure in the murky waters. She put our water clothing on the feather and pigeon shit covered metal dock. For a few moments we treaded around each other, completely starkers. It felt like the most natural thing in the world, to be in a lake with other similarly unclad and likeminded women, ranging in age from teen to middle-aged. I’m not the kind of person who usually enjoys public nudity. I typically cower in the corner of Loehmann’s communal dressing room.

We simultaneously dunked and upon rising, we chanted the Hebrew blessing in unison. I treaded the water and looked up at the clear blue sky and felt a rush of positivity, which was unusual for this New Yorker whose soul is as black as her clothing and dominatrix inspired footwear.

We each submerged two more times (three for me since one of my attempts was deemed unkosher because my head bobbed up too soon) and swam over to the dock to slip back into our swim gear. I found my bottoms with ease, and with a little less ease managed to slip them back one while I treaded in ten feet of water. But my top was missing. I cupped my hands self-consciously over my breasts. The nakedness, which had felt completely natural just a few minutes earlier now felt embarrassing. Unfortunately, I had to relinquish my grip on my breasts because without my arms to tread, I began to sink like my bikini top.

One of the women ran to get a shirt for me. My friend, clad and on the dock, offered repeated reassurances that my top would be found. Leah borrowed a pair of goggles from an older woman who was swimming nearby and began diving to the bottom. She kept coming up empty handed because, as you can see from the photo, my bikini perfectly matched the lake water’s greenish hue. I explained to Leah that this was the first bikini I ever bought, and it was more than averagely important that we recover it. I thought of the first time I tried it on. I had just moved to Los Angeles after college at Penn. I had no idea how a bikini was supposed to look on my body and had to ask the salesgirl at Pacific Coast Sunwear for help with the fit. A few months later, I actually wore it out of doors to the beach. At first, I wore a tank top on my upper body but after much needling from a friend, I finally removed the shirt. “Oh, you’ve got a navel ring.” I told him I had it pierced when I was eighteen, back when I was frum, when I thought that only my husband would have the privilege of admiring it. “Well I gotta tell you, it’s sexy.” This man never became my husband. We never even dated. I gave away the piercing goods for free.

It was the bikini’s history, its significance in my religious unraveling that made me even more frantic to retrieve it. (Also, it looked really good on me.) I asked for the goggles and began diving dangerously close to the dock where the top was assumed to have drowned, and the third time I came up for air, I banged my nose into the dock. It started to bleed. I began to cry, not due to the pain (I used to do gymnastics. This little knock hardly compared to falling headfirst into the balance beam). I cried out of mortification. I had been swimming around the lake half naked for at least ten minutes topless while the other women shooed the men away from the scene. The mikvah experience, which should have felt spiritual and uplifting, had become thoroughly humiliating.

A shirt was brought and I returned to the bunk with a towel on my nose. The medic was called to look at my cut. To add even further embarrassment to humiliation, I knew him. He is married to a college friend. He said I didn’t need any stitches but we weren’t talking about sewing up the tatters of my dignity, so what did he know? I requested cartoon band-aids to wear across the bridge of my nose and under my sunglasses for the bike ride but he said he had none. Things just kept getting worse.

After an hour or so spent icing and doing Stuart Smalley-like affirmations in the bathroom mirror, I dressed for services. I had my choice of three different kinds- Orthodox, egalitarian and Jewish Renewal. None interested me. I had no desire to pray to a God who would steal my top and bludgeon me while I tried to perform a ritual. But the schedule listed a fourth option- cocktails. Like Goldilocks stumbling onto the perfect bowl of porridge, this one felt just right. After my failed mikvah, I needed spirits, not spirituality.

(If you would like to do something to ameliorate my shame, you can still donate to Hazon on my page: . Hazon is a wonderful environmental nonprofit with a Jewish emphasis. You can learn more about it here: )