Sunday, October 31, 2010

Contemplating the Meaning of Funk

I'm in a funk today. I woke up that way and it's been gathering steam. Maybe it started before I woke up. I think it began last night when I checked my mail and found out that a Facebook comment I made on Friday had offended someone. There was nothing I could do about it in any active sense, since I don't post to Facebook on Saturday nights for religious reasons (it's Shabbos somewhere in the world--don't want anyone to err on my account). But I could think about it, worry over it, and obsess.

It was about my friend Michael's hamster. Michael's beloved dog Phoebe passed away earlier this year, and now his hamster Diego had gone to that hamster heaven in the sky. I thought about what I wanted to say to him, something that showed I care yet put this sad event into perspective. I said the wrong thing--I guess. In retrospect--that is.

I wrote: "Maybe you should check the mezuzahs. First your dog, now your hamster..."

Concerned that this maybe sounded a bit cavalier, I added, "Sorry for your loss."

Well, someone didn't take kindly to my comments and said so: "
i dont appreciate that mezuza comment.."

"Oh no," I thought. "I did it again. Stuck that darned foot in my mouth again."

"Ouch!" I wailed internally. Yeah. I do stupid things and then I hurt. It's probable I hurt more than the people I hurt with my dumb words if that makes any sense.

So, I went into a funk.

Funk. It's an interesting word. It means a bad smell, a kind of cool music with a beat, and a state of depression. It also means to shrink back from something. Except for the bad smell part, it probably fits me to a T right about now. At least I haven't noticed anyone actively backing away from me today. At least. Thank God for soap and water. Still does the trick, far as I can tell.

Here is why I'm a writer: I take chances and say exactly what I feel, even if it means I go too far and end up regretting my words and wishing I could take them back so fast I'd choke on them, shrivel up, and croak, God Forbid. It means I'm too damned honest and will say what I think when I should shut the hell up. And it means I'm emotional and get embroiled in my own emotions. It's an innate kind of manic-depression that no drug can assist.

Some days I should probably just hide under a rock.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

JUDGE--The Song of Devora

Opening night of JUDGE--The Song of Devora is a week from Sunday. My nervous system is starting to take in the nearness of the event, just kind of humming in the background as I go about the daily acts of work, housework, parenting, and being myself.

I still feel a bit of a tingle when I remember the last time I was on a stage. I think it was three years ago. This was during the time I was singing bass in an a cappella choir called Shir A Cappella. The moment that stands out for me at that last performance was the way one woman made her way to me, singling me out of a choir consisting of 13 women to ask, "You're a tenor, right?"

I just looked at her. I was in a kind of stupor, and I couldn't grasp her meaning at the time. Yudit, who sang bass with me, realized I was tongue-tied, so she threw her arm around my shoulder and said, "We're the bass. We BE the bass."

Bass is the lowest of the five voices comprising an a cappella group.

Only later did I manage to process the meaning of what that woman had asked. She was commenting on the fact that my voice is so low that it is even lower than the lowest woman's vocal range, the alto. My voice falls into the male tenor range. This woman noticed the rarity of my range and had sought me out to compliment me.

Wow. I had a groupie!

The thought of that woman sometimes pops into my head at odd moments. It's a nourishing image for me. When I feel filled with self-doubt and insecurity, I rerun that event to give myself a boost. That's not so terrible, is it? I hope I'm not a total narcissist for liking that image of the woman and remembering what she said to me.

I confess that I am in love with performance. I adore getting up on a stage. It feeds my soul in a way that nothing else quite matches.

The day before a performance I'm a wreck and cannot eat. If I try to eat something light, it turns out to be a mistake. It won't stay down. I feel like a zombie or an emptied-out shell, and it's hard to believe that I will be able to do anything on stage except to stand, vacant-eyed and silent, shivering under the lights.

But the moment I am onstage, there is a transformation. I feel filled with electricity and power. There is this superhighway of information flowing between me and the audience. Synchronization is complete. They are mine and I am theirs and nothing else exists. I am flying high, way above the world and my everyday life.

Even later, when the show is over, the makeup is removed and the costume hung with loving hands, I am still feeling the thrill, still feeling high and somehow more alive.

The high lasts for about three days.

As I feel the adrenaline ebb away, something else creeps in and I feel sad and wistful. Almost empty. It's over.

What's great about JUDGE is that it's not a one-time thing. There will be at least nine performances. Maybe more if they like us. We'll see.

I'm ridiculous to think of it, but I can't help but feel sad thinking about the end of this wonderful experience. I don't know why I have to think about that now. I try not to think about it and just enjoy the moments as they arrive--but can you tell--I'm a bit of a junkie when it comes to performance and that includes performance of any kind. Doesn't matter what it is. I like the camaraderie between the performers, stage makeup, the lights, the applause--the whole shebang. It will be so hard to say goodbye.

Photo credits: Sharon Katz.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chicken Fat and Other Delights

I just did a favorite kitchen task and defatted my chicken soup. I use a lot of bones in my soup and then let it chill overnight so that it gels from all the natural gelatin in the bones. The next morning, I place the pot of soup on the counter, grab a paper towel, press it over the surface of the gelled soup in my stock pot, making sure the towel hugs the very edges where soup meets stainless steel. Then Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzht! I lift the paper towel. Et Voila! The top of the soup is now clear jelly and all the fat is trapped in my trusty paper towel.

Kewl. It's the small things that give me those godlike feelings. I like feeling competent and knowledgeable. It's a hell of a lot better than feeling frightened and insecure, right?

Speaking of which--my job. Yeah. My new job. I'm still feeling my way around the immensity of the task before me. I'm still in the phase of, "EEK. What have I done??? I'm not capable of doing all THAT."

But with time, the brush will be cleared away and I will see the path. I always do. I just have to keep reminding myself of this fact. Of course I feel confident in the kitchen. I've been doing that for 30 years. But this job is something never before experienced. I do think I have all the skills needed to acquit myself well enough. But as the Good Book says, "All beginnings are hard."

Meantime, on other scores, the Raise Your Spirits troupe is getting closer to the opening night of JUDGE, in which I play Hever the Kenite. I have been foresworn from sharing in public what goes on in rehearsals, but there's nothing to stop me from describing some of the funnier interactions I have with my friend Tsipora on the way home from a LONG evening of rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing until you just about DROP from fatigue.

A bunch of us piled into Tsipora's car for the ride home. The rear window of the car was all fogged up. But we were all loaded down with bags of costumes and props and couldn't find the squeegee thing in all the morass of general stuff lining the floor of the car. It was determined that the only one of us who could get out of the car was Avital, sitting in the backseat and that she must wipe the window before we could proceed. But with what would she wipe the window??

I managed to grab hold of Tsipora's handbag which was buried under an avalanche of bags sitting on my left foot (I was in the front seat on the passenger side). Tsipora dug around and pulled out a crumpled ball of tissue which she offered to Avital. Avital took the tissue with understandable reluctance, and just as she was out of reach of hearing, Tsipora proclaimed at large, "Last Use!"


Monday, October 4, 2010

Passing Thought

It used to be I didn't blog unless I had something momentous to say and knew a really cool way to say that momentous something. But I've been trying to write more often here, by hook or by crook, come Hell or high water, no matter what.

I often think up great material for my blog and then realize that--NO--I can't possibly write that for public consumption. It's a terrible drag.

The best writing is intimate and honest. But that kind of material tends to be stuff you just don't air in public.

Meantime, if I'm to write everyday, I'm going to be boring a great deal of the time.

The nature of the beast: Blogs are oh-so-public and you just don't dare write your BEST material.



Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming

Today turned out to be so wonderful. I went into the office today to hear a presentation by the brains of the new reading remediation system I'll be writing about. I was enthralled, just transfixed by Yossi as he explained all the science behind the process of reading. It just blows me away to think of the coincidences that led me to this great job.

Dov was doing odd jobs for Yossi, who was moving to a different neighborhood in my town. Dov just happened to ask Yossi what he did for a living, and when he discovered that Yossi was a scientist who had developed a remediation program for reading difficulties, Dov thought to ask if Yossi had a website and did he, by any chance need a content writer?

Yossi had just begun the process of building the company and was about to start developing a website. He did indeed, need a content writer; one like me who had experience in dumbing down for the layman, difficult technical concepts. All of us, Yossi, Dov, and I thought this was a clear-cut case of divine intervention (hashgacha pratis) bringing us together.

There were other factors that made this a good match. For instance, I had served as a reading teacher for eight years to 3-6 year-old boys on my former settlement. In certain Jewish communities, boys are expected to be reading by the time they enter first grade. This is fine in theory, but in practice, the boys aren't always quite at the stage of reading readiness at age 3 or even at age 6.

As a result, I had done a great deal of reading during the time I served as a teacher on the subject of reading: what are the processes involved in the act of reading and so forth. I needed to figure out how to get the kids who had difficulties, reading in time for first grade. So I had done some research on the topic.

All this means that I had more than just a fleeting intimacy with the subject of reading difficulties when this job landed in my lap, seeming, as it did, to arrive from the heavens.

But today was the first time I got a taste of what it is that Yossi has achieved with his work in the field. And I was impressed that it's not just some fraudulent trickery set up to dupe some poor unsuspecting, desperate parents out of their money. Gosh, I was impressed!

I didn't want to voice this earlier, but I'd been so afraid I would be forced to work for a bunch of charlatans and trust me, there are a lot of them in this (unregulated) field. But this is the furthest thing from the facts of this situation. This is science, not some gimmick pretending to be a miracle worker nor is it a silly gadget with unfounded claims .

I can't spill the beans here—I have to save this for my job. I'll share the website address once we get everything launched. But this is such KEWL science. It made me get goose-flesh. I listened to Yossi hold forth for almost three hours and never once felt the least bit of boredom. That never--well, almost never--happens to me.

I have always tuned out lectures, long classes, cassette tapes of classes, and teachers of almost any stripe. There have been rare instances in which I felt engaged for lengthy periods of time in a classroom situation. In my former neighborhood, there was a woman named Chaya Horowitz who held classes in Navi (Prophets) every Shabbos afternoon for the neighborhood women. Chaya was one of the very few teachers who have ever been able to hold my attention.

Yossi is another one.

I am so excited to be working with this company and so grateful for the chance to do some really good work in something that I believe in—something that fascinates me and can help people, too. Wow. Pinch me. I'm dreaming.

Wednesday, I go in to the office again for another presentation, and today I came home with a stack of reading material to go through. I also took voluminous notes during Yossi's presentation and asked numerous questions. I am totally sucked into the charm and energy of this company. I love the office space, too. It's almost a shame I said I'd work mostly from home.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My First Day at Wo--Oh, Look! A Squirrel!

The holidays have come and gone and Sunday was here. *gulp* Today was my first day on the job. Part of me was eager to get started, and the other part was just a wee bit nervous. I bit the bullet and sent an email off to my boss Larry, asking him what I could do today.

Larry is still working out the best way to send me massive quantities of material to my home office and as we discussed at my interview, I really do need to come into the office again, to get the full presentation on the system from the research guy, Yossi (we set up a meeting for tomorrow). My job will be to generate content about this innovative system which is said to be life-changing for people with learning disabilities like ADD and dyslexia.

In the meantime, Larry asked me to surf the 'net and find the creme de la creme of blogs and websites on the subject of learning disabilities. I also got a real live business address. WooHOO! I am a grownup.

So, I spent a very pleasurable several hours today surfing the net. I thought I'd share some of the funniest blogs and the more interesting websites with my vast *Nyuk* audience, here on Judeanrose.

Let's start with cool science for laymen with pretensions to geekiness. That would be: where you find neat things like this clip on the evolution of the cube:
There are some nice articles here relating to what some people term "the gift of dyslexia" for instance this piece about a Nobel Prize Winner who said, "My parents were scientists. But I wasn’t the sort of child who did science fairs. One of the things I was thinking about today is that as a kid I had dyslexia. I had a lot of trouble in school and was put into remedial classes. I thought that I was stupid." - Dr. Carol Greider

Then there's Ryan, whose blog personifies ADD: Ryan's ADD. I love this guy. LOL. I love the Jurassic Park photo entitled Fractal Geometry at its Best. I mean geometry, Hell. That's my worst nightmare. I failed geometry three times. Did you guess? I have discalculia. ARGH. I relate, Ryan. I relate.

Last but not least, for comic relief, hie yourself over to: So I married an ADDer My favorite entry was this one: For Partners of People with AD/HD: WTF Are You Talking About?