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Loser Without His Mezuzah

I’m back in Brooklyn. The drive from Boston took all day because A. My car battery died at the start of the trip. B. While waiting for AAA I fell into a corgi puppy time-space continuum.  C. Some dumb gentile caused a 3-car pile-up and 17-mile traffic jam on the Merritt Parkway because he failed to properly secure a Christmas tree on his car roof. (I swear he tied it on with a hair ribbon.) I am now swilling all the wine and Thanksgiving leftovers, and clutching a certain permakitten for dear life. Sidebar: This Yuletide season I am not feeling Jew-ish. I am feeling JewEST. Newly emboldened white supremacists will do that to a semi-Semitic girl. Let there be a mezuzah on every American door post!

Schnoz Is Beautiful: Reconsidering Modigliani

The Jewess

Even a year ago, “Modigliani: Unmasked” at New York City’s Jewish Museum would not have been as timely, though its pleasures would have been just as assured. A showcase of Italian-Sephardic Jewish Amedeo Modigliani’s work as a sculptor and a craftsman, it revels in his defiant embrace of outsider status, and reminds us that extraordinary creative work can arise despite – and to spite – repressive political climates.

In 1906, when Modigliani emigrated from his native Livorno, an Italian port town known as a safe enclave for Jews, France was beset by nationalist anti-Semitism. Because of his fluency in French and Latin good looks, he might have been able to assimilate as a Gentile. Instead, as the Museum’s curatorial notes report, he’d introduce himself by saying: “My name is Modigliani. I am Jewish.” This exhibition, amassed mostly from the collection of patron and dear friend Paul Alexandre, shows the “artist as a young outsider,” exploring non-Western art and unpacking accepted notions of beauty in rough drafts and sculpture as well as a handful of completed paintings made between 1906 and 1914. Continue Reading →

The Hardest Day to Give Thanks

I’ve never liked Thanksgiving. I’ve never liked a day of feasting to celebrate colonization and genocide. I’ve never liked all those carbs, especially since I quit sugar. I’ve never liked forced gratitude–pious and phony all at once. I’ve never liked football. Nothing underscores we’re in the last days of Rome like steroidal gladiators. And I’ve never liked a day that emphasizes family and togetherness because I’ve been a lone wolf my whole life, and whenever I’ve tried to rectify that it’s blown back in my face.

In bloodlines, you’re supposed to support people no matter what, but in my experience this means you have to put up with whatever shit is thrown your way. Whatever eviscerating thing is said, whatever basic human decency is dropped, whatever punch is thrown, “you’re family.” To me that’s not a life sentence. That’s a death sentence.

Pass. Hard pass.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have friendships–lovely, strong ones. It’s me who pulls away from time to time, usually because I like our species a lot less than I love it. I have a hard time with hypocrisy, vanity, selfishness, dissociation, and that’s the name of the game when it comes to human foibles, including my own.

But over the years I have found some people who try hard to be compassionate and kind, who self-reckon more than they self-obfuscate. People with whom I can both laugh and cry; people who cheer me on as I cheer them on. People with whom a huge gap doesn’t loom between what I am thinking and what I can say. People who don’t require me to turn off my psychic radar in order to be with them. These are the people I keep in my life, even when we disappoint each other. And believe me, sometimes we do.

I’m a big believer in giving people wide berths when necessary. I never stop loving anyone– real love is unconditional and eternal–but sometimes it’s better or simply necessary to love someone from a distance. I don’t expect my friends to be there for me no matter what, and I don’t offer such steadfastness in return. Each of us has our own challenges, weaknesses, extenuating circumstances that can render us unavailable, even to ourselves. We’re there most of the time, and that’s enough.

Which is all to say that the holidays can be rough for everyone, and this includes me. All that clannishness married with cultural malaise married with rich food married with dashed hopes and expectations–oy vey.

I’ve been impregnated on this holiday by a man with whom I could never have a baby. I’ve broken up with people on this holiday and I’ve been dumped. I’ve eaten alone at bars. I’ve wept by myself in movie theaters. I’ve been struck, hard. I’ve sat alone in the middle of my brawling and babbling family. I’ve sat alone in the middle of others’ brawling and babbling families. I’ve sat politely at orphan meals, friendsgiving meals, and rolled my eyes at all the ghosts–living and dead–looming behind each attendee. I’ve sat with the dying on this holiday and I’ve been hospitalized on this holiday. Hell, I’ve broken my neck on this holiday.

I hate this fucking holiday.

Am I a grateful person? Actually, I am. I am grateful for the opportunity to be alive and to learn all the lessons available to the living. I am grateful for the sun and the sea and the food on my plate and the shelter over my head, for my car, and of course my cat. I am grateful for my past and present and future and for the many people who have walked on this path, including you. I am grateful for the enormous generosity that has been shown me again and again, even when I have not deserved it. I am grateful for every instance when someone, human or otherwise, is their best self–for when we try, for when we love.

I am grateful for love most of all.

Don’t worry, if you’re the type to worry, and do judge if you feel the need to judge. But know I am not desperate today though I’ve been singularly unhappy since leaving the Outer Cape. In a few minutes I am leaving for Greater Boston, where I will spend the next 24 hours with one of my dearest friends and her clan. She is an excellent cook who knows where my head’s at, and seems to tolerate me anyway. She calls this a flexible day for me–just coast, she purrs–and has arranged the softest landing possible for when I arrive at her door. For this I am eminently grateful, even as I fear disappointing her.

But I believe in authenticity over niceties and that sometimes, even if you don’t have something nice to say, you still have to say it, if only because it may help someone besides yourself.

And today what I must say is this is the hardest day of my year, every year. What’s more, hating this holiday doesn’t make anyone an ungrateful wretch.

Sending love.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy