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Friday, July 25, 2014

Journeys of Wandering Tribes

As is well known, the name given to a weekly Torah portion reveals its major theme and this week’s parsha, Maasey, is quite a trip. 

Maasey are journeys – and this week the Torah details the journeys of bnei yisrael during their 40  years of wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.
 
אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאותם ביד משה ואהרון

In this dvar torah, I would like to show some parallels between our own people’s journey  - a people that pursues truth and light, a marginalized people that perseveres and succeeds despite small numbers - and other journeys of modern-day wandering tribes who also seek truth and light.   

There is no research and few data to support my claims, but these tribes feature a very high ratio of Jews.  This group of people embodies an energy that should be harnessed to bring positive change to the world just as bnei yisrael has done since its inception.  These are the people who are the dedicated and devoted live-music fans of a slew of exploratory bands known as “jambands.”   Having just seen my favorite jamband play 2 nights in a row right here, live in Philadelphia, my thoughts on the convergence of Torah and jamband music are still fresh.

The beginning of the parsha lists a litany of locations – venues, as it were. These are the stops on the tour out of exile.  As the psukim say:

“vayisu……..vayachanu….. vayisu, vayachanu…….”

The parsha repeats this cadence of vayisu, they left, and vayachanu, they camped, for each of the numerous locations. Some sound familiar, some less so, places like Rimmon Peretz, Terach, Chashmonah, The Western Plains of Moav.  This is how we wandered through the desert for 40 years – from one place to another, always temporary, always seeking out the next place until we were ready to enter our promised land.

Similarly, fans of Phish and other jambands, and back in the day, the Grateful Dead, follow their favorite musicians to numerous locations.  Some sound familiar, like Madison Square Garden and The Mann Music Center,  and  some less so, like Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Deer Creek, The Mothership, The Gorge, and more.  While there are many fans, like myself, who are married with children and live relatively rooted lives, others follow their favorite bands perhaps for a week or a whole tour.  Some in the scene look like they have been wandering for even more than forty years!

The crews pick up and leave to reach the next venue, and camp out for at least a while in the parking lot and tailgate.  They are always looking for the next location, the next venue, the next show, following the good vibes. 

Before I get to my point, I acknowledge some disconnects.  These disconnects include that between Jews on tour and Jews not on tour (which I imagine is most of the Jewish community).  There is a disconnect between Jews on tour who are connected to their Yiddishkeit (which includes me, a few friends, my husband) and Jews on tour not as connected to our traditions (which includes many friends and would-be friends, wonderful people who live for the live music yet rarely if ever light Shabbat candles, prefer pagan gatherings, have xmas trees, marry non Jews, or otherwise shirk anything that seems too “Jewish”).  Of course, this simplifies things are there are many shades of gray in between.    

Shortly after the parsha details the list of locations, it takes us to a higher level

והורשתם את הארץ וישבתם בה כי לכם נתתי את הארץ לרשת אתה

Clear out the land and live in it, since it is to you that I am giving the land to occupy.
Then we learn that the land is distributed to the families by a lottery system,

והתנחלתם את הארץ בגורל

Similarly, to score the insider’s jamband tickets, one enters a lottery months before tickets are made available to the public through traditional outlets.  In this way, tickets are distributed to the various different inner networks of friends and families, often overlapping circles, that are so dedicated to their bands.

I’m not the first one to try to connect these seeming disconnects.  From 1968-1972 R’ Shlomo Carlebach ran the House of Love and Prayer in San Francisco with this in mind.  Many since and many still are on tour with their avodat hashem.  My own experiences at shows are enriched and enhanced by my traditional Jewish vantage point.  At the same time, there have been countless fellow Jews I have chatted with at shows who claim they aren’t religious and say things like, “being at a show is my church,”  and yet this is their most intensely spiritual experience.

Like myself, people go to shows to leave life behind for a while, remember what it feels like to be 17 or 21 again, and yet they are striving to see through the light.  Indeed, there is a lot of fog that surrounds.

The way I see it, light is most illuminated through Shabbat, beginning with Shabbat candles and ending with Havdallah.  Personally I can’t see how Shabbat candles can glow brightly at the stage of a live music show, but to each her own.  Lighting candles far away from a festival stage, however, in one’s tent or cabin, has its own merit.  No mention of Shabbat candles in our generation is complete without gratitude towards to work of the Lubavitcher Rebbe who initiated a widely successful campaign to encourage Jewish women and children to light shabbas candles. 

I acknowledge the challenge presented in bringing in the light from both worlds – the Jewish and jamband.  A most memorable havdallah –at a jamband festival  - - a few years ago did exactly this.  Amidst the beautiful music, a small group of us who connect to both these worlds brought down the light of Havdallah.  And yet all the while my dear friend’s crew who was elsewhere on the festival grounds was incessantly texting her to return to their them, perhaps not realizing the goodness that was happening in our family tent area.   The push and pull tensions of both worlds are real, and yet can we harness the best of each.

But where is the journey taking us?


אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאותם
לצבאותם

We left exile in organized groups, in tribes, as crews, and we need to connect the dots, bring together our collective energies and fulfill our mission, arrive at our destination.  When we do this we will all make it to the ultimate show and will merit the ultimate encore.

Then we will be picked up and leave- vayisu-

and we will be taken on the wings of eagles- v’yachanu-

and all of us wandering tribes will camp out together in our land forever. 

Theodore Herzl famously said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”  Especially in these heady times of unrest in Israel, we need to hold onto this modern-day expression of our gd-given promised land.  And of a time when all will be good.

The light will be bright.
The music will unite.
We will all be kind.
We will be redeemed.
And the jam will be epic.

GOOD SHABBES!

me at a Jones Beach Phish show , June 2009






Monday, July 14, 2014

Uh Oh

Look at me, all bragging about Title 17 and I Love Lot Shirts and I haven't watermarked a.single.photo with my name!  Ok looks like I have some work ahead of me.  As if I had nothing else to do but sip lemonade and meet up with my girlfriends.  When will those family photo albums get done, I'd like to know.

Might as well share yet another original photo while I am at it. This was seen right in my hood.  I followed the car to the supermarket so I could get a good image of it.  Yes, I waited till the driver was in the store so I wouldn't freak them out.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Keeping Things on the DL, (aka close to the vest)

You want to share your big secret but maybe you shouldn't.  Just keep it under wraps.  That's my suggestion.

As a former legal industry applications consultant for LexisNexis, I am clearly aware of Intellectual Property law.  Go ahead, ask me a question about Title 17 of the USC.  And yet I am fascinated by one part of the subculture of musical bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish who continue to innovate and find inspiration from classic American brands.

This is why I take photos of these shirts and share them in I Love Lot Shirts.  I am neither selling nor buying, just sharing in the groove.  It wouldn't be worth it to litigate against any of these people:  they're all tiny operations.  I don't even know who the people are behind them.  But I love that people create these images and they print them on shirts (and hats, capes, etc).


National Phish Association.  Trey shreds it up at half court.



It would be a good year if you jibboo-d, too!



It happens all the time




Thank you so much, Phish, for Winterqueen.  It really speaks to me.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

That Just Happened but Whatever Happened to Shake and Bake?


As is so often the case with my popular cultural prowess, I am late to the game.  Over the past few months I have noticed more frequently people using the phrase "that just happened."  I wanted to know where it comes from, so I naturally turned to Google and pulled up the reference on Urban Dictionary that it comes from the 2008 movie "Talladega Nights."  Doing the basic math, I am 6 years behind.  So sue me.




Which leads me to realize how sorely behind I am in my movie watching responsibilities.  I truly love the movies.  But these days are filled with other things and I don't even find the time to watch at home.

So, project #127 this summer is to catch up on Will Farrell movies.  He's so funny.

But event #1 as you might know is seeing Phish at The Mann.  Does anyone out there realize this my first show was at the Mann on 6/25/95 with pal o'buddy of mine Mik the Fish and they haven't returned there since that date?  That sounds a little hashkacha pratise-sque if you ask me.   But I didn't think you were asking me.

You know what else just happened?  Nistar had a gig today teaching/playing recorder and flute to the Green Bubbie's crew.   She was well-received and I heard the children all had a super duper time.  And learned a bunch too.  Nistar told me she explained her curved headjoint.  (Phish heads, don't get any ideas).  The curved headjoint is totally what enabled Nistar to play flute at the youngish age of 1st grade.


So, that just happened.

You know what else just happened?

I just realized that I am writing this on 6/25/14.  That is 19 years to the date after my first Phish show.

All in the affirmative, that's what Stango tells me with regard to my reverence for my favorite band.  All I gotta say is we must get the Steinerman Family Band show on the road.  Like the Wolfman says, we don't have a song.  Ok, mama, get on that.  Gotta pick a song.  We have Concealed Light on flute.  Wolfman on drums (which by the way, he is doing great at...you *must* hear his overplay of a Nirvana tune his music teacher played for us today).  The Wolfman's Brother on keyboard.  Tattie/Stango on sax/harmonica/guitar.  Supposedly Mama's gonna learn the uke, as we just picked one up in the ADKs.  I don't know how that will happen exactly as I still have to pack up 2 children for 3+ weeks of camp and prepare a shabbos meal for 10 and pump milk for Levi so I can get out to the shows at the Mann for a good portion of the day two days in a row and make lunches and put away the school papers and put up for sale on Craigs List the life preserver we don't need and all the baby gear we don't need and oh yeah what about Main Line Tech Coaches?

Maybe I have come down with some kind of disease when I tell myself that I keep waiting for the time when I can finally say that this has all been wonderful but now I'm on my way.  That would be a really terrible disease because I love love love my whole phamily and I don't want to be on my way but all this typing and writing and lists and stuff to do and stuff to clear out and stuff and stuff and stuff and give away bags and the weeds in the lawn that are prickly and invasive and the car that has tons of pollen on it and the numerous bottles of sunblock used halfway...well, it's all so much that I'd rather be Phishin'!

And yet, sweet baby Levi is nearly a year old!  Cutie pie he is.


Time on the clock is ticking and I gotta post this before Cinderella turns into a pumpkin and I miss out on the opportunity for this to be published on 6/25/95.  Since all of you devoted fans are keeping tabs on that.



Seriously, now, anyone wanna do the camp packing and clothing labeling for me?  And tell me what I need to go out and get last minute?

Friday, June 13, 2014

School's Out and The Wolfman Found the Mother's Day Card he Made Me

It really doesn't matter that this comes to me a month late because it is priceless.   Especially the "Red Velvet Sea."


It may not get him into college, but my 3rd grader has made my day!

Stango and I caught Marco Benevento last night here in Philly.  What a treat:  funky sounds, creative experimental skilled keyboarding, welcoming and small venue. I added lots of great photos to I Love Lot Shirts:  folks there wore some good ones, including Thelonious Monk and Eveready Batteries. 






Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BDE R' Meir Nissim (Michel) Abehsera: Pioneer of Macrobiotics and Jewish Spirituality

May his memory be a blessing - R' Meir Abehsera passed away this week at the age of 80 after an illness.  I had not until tonight heard of him but have been now reading up on him.  What a special and unique individual.  He was a descendant of a luminous Moroccan mystical family.  He taught healthy living through healthy eating.  He became close with the Lubavitcher Rebbe and followed his teachings, ultimately becoming the Rebbe's whistler.  Yes, he whistled for the rebbe, eventually getting blisters on his lips at times.

He lived in Binghamton , NY among what sounds like a communal Jewish chevre in the late 60s or early 70s.  He sounds like he was a very sweet, kind, soulful person who opened his home to all.  He passed away on Shavuot.  What a holy time to leave this world. He wrote this book on Zen Macrobiotic Cooking.




We don't hear the word macrobiotic so much these days, but eating vegan unprocessed foods and a lot of plants is still what it's about and still good for us.  Healthy living is connected to healthy feeling and sure there are naysayers who say they don't like religion but call it what you will:  connecting to place of peace, tranquility, calm and oneness is satisfying and brings meaning to life.






Friday, May 30, 2014

Fiddy Cent and Portlandia....HOLLA!

As you know I don't like to post bad language here, but today at the gym the familiar spin tune "In Da Club" by the rapper/hip hop artist 50 Cent came on, and it reminded me yet again why going to spin class keeps me checked in with current music.

How timely, since Mr. Curtis Jackson was all over my Instagram feed today.  I'm not gonna research it, but my guess is he has a new album out.  He was on Good Morning America this morning.  No, I didn't watch it.  Yes, I saw some photos on Instagram.

I really love the beat of "In Da Club" and despite the cursing, here is the video which I have no idea what it looks like.  View at your own risk.

Remember when I mentioned my friend's husband Chad, who referred to this blog as hyper liberal?  If I were uber liberal I wouldn't post the lyrics to this tune, which I'm not.  But maybe it is pretty liberal of me to post this video.

So I will state again:  View at your own risk.  Not exactly wholesome stuff.





This week I finally started catching up on this season's episodes of "Portlandia," and while it is all so ridiculous, and I mean that in the best of ways, one of the funniest sketches is when Fred talks about how he missed hip hop.  And then he gets all academic on Carrie and learns all about hip hop.  That's how I feel:  I missed hip hop, too.  All 25 years of it.  I was busy with figuring out how to transcend my Phish newbie status by studying the Helping Phriendly Book.  I think I have graduated.  More so than Fred, at least I knew that it originated in NYC.  More like da Bronx.





Seriously.  So ridiculous.  So funny I want to pish in my pants.

Which leads me to Eminem's new tune, "So Far."  Gotta love how he samples the classic Joe Walsh tune "Life's Been Good" whose riff is so familiar to me, having been reared on classic rock.

Eminem sings (?) about staying true to his roots.  He likes staying in Detroit, eating Hamburger Helper, and just wants to be a normal dude shopping in his local grocery store (Kroeger).  Gotta respect that.  Though it would be healthier for him if he ate more healthful options and shopped at an organic market.  Point being, he isn't all about the shmancy food delivered on silver platters despite his success.

Again, lots of cursing, but he has a good message:  he's got the fame but he wants to just be true to his humble roots.





Here's the original tune it samples, which is along the lines of what I listened to in high school before I got to the better stuff later in life.





Back to Portlandia, I had the good fortune because of Instagram this week to meet (online) the very lovely Kittee Bee Berns.  She is a Portland resident, blogger, vegan, cookbook author, clothing maker, and overall funky hip person.  Her design style, from what I can see of her online photos, is vintage 50s inspired.  She knits (I think?), wears cool glasses, and takes colorful gorgeous photos of her life.  She's the real deal indie-sassy-funky-DIY type (not to label or anything)  and I told her that we decided numerous years ago that a move to Portland wasn't going to happen for us.  She gave me an infusion of creative energy that I simply rarely get to see and experience while living in the suburbs where the focus is on the soccer mom life.

Just when you thought you heard it all and thought I was hyper liberal, check out this lovely LV Damier zip around wallet I found today.  And gosh darnit if I wanna still wear flowers in my hair, I will.



Good Shabbos, homies.  Time to holla about some delish home baked challah.








Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spiderman and the Mailman

Look folks, this is America.  The land of Capitalism.  This is the place where dreams are made and anything can happen in this beautiful democracy of ours.  I happen to like that.  Even if I do sometimes like to wear flowers in my hair.

So, I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised today when I saw a mail truck that looked like this:

Spiderman and the USPS co-brand, license, blah blah blah.  Everyone makes a buck. photo courtesy of the USPS

I'm all for that.

Big Bucks no whammies.

I'm just glad that my children know the original Spiderman 1960s TV show theme song.  And I have Uncle Goalie to thank for singing it over and over when I was little that it stuck in my head.




Uncle Goalie taped himself on our Panasonic tape recorders with one of our cousins.  I recall the day my dad brought home that amazing black piece of technology.

photo courtesy of Prop Hire

There was something  lasting with those tape recorders.  Oh, kids these days what with all the digital stuff.  The tape recorders had a finite supply of tapes, so inevitably you listed to the same tapes over and over again.  Or you recorded over them.   But not the good stuff.  Not the recording of you and your cousin joking around singing "Spiderman."

Over the weekend, a friend's husband who I don't think has ever viewed my blog called it "hyper liberal."  I was a bit taken aback by that.  I mean, most of you know I don't get into politics.  Sure, I have mentioned Pete Seeger, tofu, and other things someone might associate with a liberal person.   But at the beginning of this blog I'm all about Capitalism.  Aren't the pinko lefties very much *not* into The Man?  Aren't the Hippies *not* into the big bucks?  Truth be told, I'm a mixed bag, Chad (name has been changed).

I'm into the hippy chic and so is the wonderful designer Jonathan Adler






Sunday, May 25, 2014

Travelin' Prayer

Some people are travelling this holiday weekend.  How apropros, then, is this video I finally uploaded from a few years ago.  In it, you will clearly see the early childhood educator and seasoned Music Together parent in me that gives my then-3-year-old child instruments of his own to use to play along with while his father plays the tune.

Such a bummer that where I live now doesn't have a Music Together franchise that is convenient.  Now, that is a quality program.




You'd think that I would have known that tune in the 80s since I was supposedly a big Billy Joel fan.  Leave it to Stango to pick the good, lesser played, more gemstone quality tunes from the repetoire.

I didn't own the Piano Man tape where "Travelin' Prayer" was on.  In fact, I didn't have all that many tapes.  My disposable income was limited and so I only had perhaps a box of tapes.  My music education continues even in 2014.

































Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Volvo Station Wagon

My freshman year college roommate pulled up in one on the first day.  My first friend had one growing up.  My husband did, too.  Some of my earliest memories are of riding in the back of my childhood friend's rust colored Volvo station wagon with the bench seats facing each other.  It was probably a 1976 model.  Nothing replaces the unique look and feel of a vintage Volvo station wagon.  I'm not the only fan:  check out what these people had to say about it.   If you add on college decals, bumper stickers or, today's incarnation, magnets, you've got yourself one nifty vehicle.

Here's one I spotted around town recently. 

I wonder if I am supposed to blacken out the license plate.  I would but I don't know how to do that.  I don't know whose car this is; just saw it around town.

My personal preference is to see dancing bears or skeletons adorn the bumper of a vintage earlier than this example (which I am guessing is a '92 model.  Someone correct me if I am wrong), but it is still a lovely specimen.

And naturally what type of music sounds best coming out of a Volvo Station wagon?  You got it.  Some good ole Jerry.  For some reason I just don't think hip hop works.