Friday, July 20, 2012

N My Name is Nigel and More on Nine Days of Av

People have been asking me to explain more about my reference to the 9 days of mourning that began today.  It is a rainy day here in Philadelphia so it is sort of setting the tone for somberness.  Instead of my own drivel which, as you know is verbose and long-winded, I am going to share with you a recent letter I received from the found of Hazon, Nigel Savage.  Earlier this year, I sang on and on  about this wonderful Jewish environmental organization, so it comes as no surprise to me that Nigel offers a well-balanced, palatable, Torah-based look into and explanation of this auspicious time in on the calendar. I have referenced recently two other Nigels who I feel have made excellent contributions to society.  One is a Nigel of fiction, the other is a Nigel of soul.

Without further delay, I introduce to you Mr. Nigel Savage:

July 19, 2012 / 29 Tamuz 5772
Hazon’s theme quote, from the late Reb Shlomo Carlebach z”l,  is “The Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah.” It’s a quote that means, essentially, if Jewish tradition matters at all, it has to be in a relationship with the world in which we live.  We see this easily in relationship to Passover – themes of slavery and freedom are on the one hand traditional ideas in Jewish liturgy, and also animate contemporary discussions about food justice or Darfur or women’s rights.  But it’s more of a challenge to see this play out 365 days a year.  In what ways is the Torah a commentary on our daily lives, and how does the world we live in shift our understanding of Jewish teachings and Jewish ideas?
Western Wall Plaza from above.
Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and other tragedies in Jewish tradition (photo via Wikimedia Commons)
We’re now in the period of the Three Weeks, a period of mourning between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av.  It’s a part of the Jewish calendar that is only minimally observed in the non-Orthodox Jewish community today.  At a basic and traditional level, the period is marked by restrictions on eating meat and drinking wine.  Most Jews haven’t heard of it, and for those who have it is often not a deeply meaningful part of the tradition.  How could or should we make sense of it?
On one level, it prompts me to think that we have something to learn about mourning, and the rhythm from mourning to joy – played out in Jewish tradition in the move from the fast of Esther to the joyousness of Purim; the fast of the first born, and then the great celebration of Pesach. I am always struck when I am in Israel over Yom Ha Shoah  how completely the country comes to standstill.  The restaurants close, the cars stop, people stop, the siren wails.  There is literally a nationwide moment of mourning.  The same on Yom Hazikaron – memorial day  – and then the transition into deep joy with the celebrations  of Yom Ha’Atzmaut.  The ancient move from commemoration to celebration informs those two new days.
I’m struck that contemporary western society on a whole does mourning and commemoration quite badly, and perhaps that also makes it hard for us truly to celebrate.
9/11 in New York somehow doesn’t feel quite right to me. Already the commemoration seems formulaic, the day for most New Yorkers passes as normal. If it were up to me, feeling the rhythms and wisdom of Jewish tradition, and wishing to apply them more widely in our world, I’d do it differently. In the morning, when the towers were struck, we’d sound a siren, and the city would stop, twice, each time for 2 minutes – a powerful moment of memory and commemoration. In the morning the ceremonies at the site, reading the names. And then from noon, the biggest streetfair in the world in Manhattan – a great celebration of life and light and creativity and energy and people and traditions and pluralism, the celebration of the antithesis of what those people came to do. A positive affirmation of New York City and being alive and all that we enjoy as free people in this country.
This is some of what I think of as I think about Tisha b’Av, the 9 days, Shabbat Hazon – in 8 days time, this year actually the day of the 9th of Av, but the fast being commemorated the next day. I learned from Dr. Michael Kagan the way in which the internal architecture of Tisha b’Av mimics our mortality, prompts us to think about that. And then in the afternoon of tisha b’av we start to come to life; we great friends, we resume normal ritual. Our tradition teaches that mashiach – the messiah – will be born on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av. And then 6 days later, at the full moon, we have Tu B’Av, the celebration of love and physicality.
Tisha B’Av has this rhythm as well – 6 days after the day we mourn the destruction of the Temple and a whole host of other calamities throughout Jewish history, is the holiday of Tu B’Av, a lovers holiday where young people would go out into the fields in borrowed clothes (so no one would know who is rich or poor) and essentially have a, literal, romp in the hay.
We’ve lost touch with the mourning of Tisha B’Av, and the celebration of Tu B’Av.  Some people argue that we live in a time of relative peace – and indeed, the State of Israel exists as a soverign nation – so do we in fact need Tisha B’Av any more?  What does a period of commemoration and mourning look like in a time of relative peace? But I write this the day after a group of Israeli tourists were murdered in Bulgaria for the crime of being citizens of the state of Israel. We do live in relative peace and freedom,  but the commemorations are still needed, until the world truly is at peace.
So I leave you with questions and thoughts and invitations.  What do we mourn, what have we lost, what causes us pain, what are our destructions? As individuals, families, as the Jewish people, as citizens of the world? What and how do we remember those losses? And what, arising from the ashes, do we choose to celebrate? Where lies our hope and our belief, and how do we reflect that also?
I write this as I head out to Madison to rejoin our Cross-USA riders – cycling hard in 100 degree weather, because they choose to push themselves, because they choose to be in community, and because they seek not only to have the experience of a lifetime but also to do good – to learn and to teach – as they do so.
Follow this link to see a 2-minute clip of some of our riders on NBC last week. And this link to join us this week in Madison, Oconomowo, River Hills, Glencoe, Geneva, and Chicago.
Shabbat Shalom,
Nigel Savage
Executive Director, Hazon

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Musical Royal Ball this Thursday Night, The New Moon

Tonight my glass slippers will be stowed away at home, as I do not attend live musical performances during the first Nine Days of Av, a historically sad time - - a mourning period - -  for the Jewish people.  But for those of you who do partake on this auspicious night of Rosh Chodesh Av, I can not suggest higher to attend the Royal Family Ball featuring Soulive and Lettuce at this year's Gathering of the Vibes festival in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Granted, this show is happening in just 1 hour or so, but if you are able to somehow get yourself there, you will receive the musical royal treatment from numerous prince charmings.

I recently had the distinct privilege of seeing Adam Smirnoff, "Shmeeans," of Lettuce perform at Mountain Jam, and what can I say other than he was super fantastic.  And a nice guy, too.  I would love to see Adam Deitch and Eric Krasno.  They are also supposed to be great.  Talk about funk!  What a groove party they throw (see below for a look at their recent album, Fly, release party at the Brooklyn Bowl).  At least there's always the Pandora channel.  I say that because I don't think I have stated it here officially but I do not own an iPod nor do I have the time to maintain an iTunes account.  I know that sounds pretty lame, but that is my reality.  My car, where I would listen to much of my music, doesn't even have an MP3 player.  I know, how crazy is that, I have an  '07 Odyssey with no MP3 but Stango has an '05 car and it does have such a plug-in.

This crew puts out terrific music:  would you think anything less of a bunch of Berklee College of Music graduates?  They don't just know how to jam, they know how to rage.  And I didn't just see them perform, I joined with friends who know him well.  That made it all the more fun.   I simply love to rage from backstage!  Not sure if Mr. Nigel Hall is joining in with Soulive and/or Lettuce, but if so, the soul sounds that emit from his lips are sweet words that stick with you for a long time.  Mr. Hall clearly, as my friend the Coach has suggested, is the best soul singer out there today.  That's no joke.  Perhaps I am just naive, just a mama, but I beg to differ.  I know good stuff when I hear it.

There is the slightest chance I will make it up to GOTV this Sunday, but for work purposes only.  I would love to further my very fun Facebook group  "I Love Lot Shirts," and take a bunch more photos.

Here is one wook who definitely won't be up in Bridgeport this weekend but is my very own 7 year old Prince Charming, and his name is the Wolfman.

Gotta love the Star Wars shirt

"Mama, why are you so into clothes?"  As if this good stuff could be found in a store!

People Still Idle in their Cars?

Even though New York City has had a hard time enforcing its no-idling law passed in 2009, a number of years ago I took on a personal initiative to limit idling in my car to a maximum of one or two minutes.  It is simply bad for the environment and bad for our health.  I am the first to admit that I can not do without air-conditioning in the summer - -  but I also don't like the idea of all the toxicity leaking out into the air in a concentrated area while I am not driving.

Mike Bloomberg recently got a lot of press when he debuted his modified home air conditioner installed in his SUV.  If I were his driver just waiting around all day for Mike to show up, I'd be pretty happy, too.

Living here in the suburbs I am reminded that I pretty much live in a bubble.  If I were living in an environmentally and health-conscious place like Portland, Austin or Boulder, surely I wouldn't be inspired to write this blog entry.  But in the suburbs, people idle.  People idle for 1 minute, for 5 minutes, for 20 minutes.  I am astounded.  Maybe people think that since there is plenty of space out of the city they can idle.  In New York City everyone is packed in like sardines so it makes sense to have a no idling law.  More likely they simply don't think at all.

So, parents waiting for your kids who are 30 minutes late from a camp trip pick up:  

Get out of your car and enjoy the outdoors!

Yesterday, even the old school classy grandpa, dressed in his golf whites, checking in with his wife via cell phone in his seasoned Philadelphia accent, managed to turn off his engine and hang out near Cricket Field for 30 minutes until the yellow school buses rolled in.

Cricket Field

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My LL Bean Boat & Tote

Grew up with these excellent bags - they were our "swim club" bag.  LL Bean has improved the bag tremendously over the years with various sizes, a zipper top option, and different colors.

I have no clue if other people have done this, but here is how we personalized it.  We brought the patches to a shoe maker.  Unless you have a heavy duty sewing machine, don't kid yourself that you can take this on by yourself.  The canvas is thick and if you want a good, solid job done, pay the approximate $5 per patch to have it sewn on and do it right.  No, you can not rely on the iron-on stickiness on the back of the patches.  Don't be cheap.  Bring it to your shoemaker.  And if you bring more patches, maybe you can strike a bulk deal.

It is still a work in progress, there may be more patches to come, but this is it for 2012...

Our patched up LL Bean Boat & Tote Bag.  It has an outdoorsy, New York State, Canadian, heady feel.  We so LOVE our bag!

From top left, clockwise:  Lake Placid, NY, Appalacian Trail (The "AT"), Canadian maple leaf (with deep Canadian roots, I can legitamately state "Oh Canada, my home and native land"...BTW do yo know how long this patch has been sitting around?  Likely since 2000!  Time to use up the stuff lying around!), and 2012 Phamily (purchased at the recent Atlantic City  Phish show, from Phanbadge...btw how thrilled was I to find this?  I suggested to Brian, the purveyor of Phanbadge, that he check out this blog, since I surmised he was a family guy however just like most folks, this stuff is still quite verbose so little expectation there).

Long Lake, just one of the many stops we have made in the Adirondacks over the years, Stealie - Grateful Dead 

From top left, clockwise:  Bronx Zoo, our backyard playground for 5 years when we resided in the Bronx, NYS Environmental Conservation Junior Naturalist acquired when we car camped when Concealed Light was 3 and the Wolfman was 1, Swimmer vintage circa late 70s/early 80s this person definitely was a star swimmer! (I personally never got to swimmer level, only to Intermediate, don't think American Red Cross uses these designations anymore, but do you remember Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Intermediate, Swimmer, and what was next?)

other side of the bag

From ADK Outlet in Lake Placid; I waxed poetic about them in another post

Here is what LL Bean wrote to me:

Dear Ms. Loonin,

Thank you for contacting L.L.Bean with the great story of your Boat and Tote bag. It brought smiles to me and my peers faces.  I have forwarded you email to our Corporate Office to let them see your Boat and Tote bag.

Thank you again for contacting L.L.Bean Ms. Loonin. I am hoping someday to see an update with more patches.

Heather B.
L.L.Bean Customer Service

100 Years of Satisfied Customers
Shipped for Free | Guaranteed to Last

Reason #613 Why I Love Listening to NPR

But this would be a local reason*, not a national reason, as referenced in my prior post.

Because when talking about potentially having to share bike helmets in NYC's imminent bike-share program this morning, Brian Lehrer, on his morning show on WNYC, used the word yucky.

And pronounced it properly.

*obviously his other guest, Pete Seeger, is also a huge huge huge draw to today's show.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reason #127 Why I Love Listening to NPR

Because Terry Gross, on her show Fresh Air, just found the opportunity to use the word doctrinal.
And pronounced it properly.