Al Watt runs the LA Writers Lab and he's also asked for 90-ish-word stories to post on a daily basis. Mine went up earlier this week, and it's not totally accurate from wanting to stick as close to the word limit as possible. In truth, my second regret is that I did not jot down what I remembered of Dennis the nurse's long, rhyming poem about child birth that he recited that night, so I could convey its horror here. Then recited in full again, with first person changed to third person, explaining that this version was his "gift" to his friend (namedropping KIIS-FM's Ellen K. next to my dad's deathbed) upon the occasion of her new baby. Usually I have a decent memory for these things, but Brent's fist was jammed so hard in my back to keep me from laughing that there's sensory confusion interfering with flashes of something along the lines of "open your eyes/ the world's a surprise..."
Also, in other birth-related news, the baby goats are here! Two girls and a boy. They were born on Thursday, Brent's birthday, and they're so adorable that I started to feel like I wanted to throw up after playing with them yesterday morning. I had to come back in and sit on the couch until it passed. Pictures of the mom goat's vagina post-delivery worked effectively as a visual palate cleanser. I won't put them up here for the sake of her Internet privacy.
Living in a town with a stated 5.93% Jewish population, just imagine my surprise when I walked into our local Ralph's last night to find the rack that's usually stuffed with apartment guides overflowing with fresh copies of Celebrate with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Guide magazine. I rubbed my eyes, but there indeed was a sparkling young Jewess on the cover, hair fighting valiantly against her blow-out. Braces providing perhaps an even more brilliant fire than the diamond solitaire her dad gave her on the occasion of becoming a woman.
I'm less won over by this Bat Mitzvah candidate on the inside, who looks suspiciously button-nosed, if you get what I'm saying. Jew-check on bimah four, please. But maybe I'm just being a cynic and her dad gifted her a rhinoplasty instead of fine jewelry-- shame on me, certainly, if that's the case.
CwtBBMG has some fantastic photojournalism, but if pressed, I'd have to say that this is my favorite of all the images: The DJ wearing the traditional Bar Mitzvah skull n' bones tunic, imploring the kids to, "Get yo'selves ready for da'LIMBO!" All have eagerly gathered round to watch Miriam Greenstein see how low she can go, now that she's finally corrected her scoliosis.
To the untrained eye the little fellow at the bottom might look as if he's doing modified devil horns, but Jews don't believe in the devil. That's an obscure Israeli gang sign, "the Shin," and this is actually a threat he's directing at Miriam, letting her know there will be consequences if she continues to do too well. It's time for a stumble. The kid in the green and white striped rugby shirt: he's a Gentile and this is his first Bar Mitzvah. And he is ready to tear some shit up because his birthday parties have always consisted of a Betty Crocker microwave cake and and thirteen punches in the arm from each of his three older brothers. He can't believe how easy the access is to alcohol at this party-- the adults just leave the bottles on the table when they get up to do that circle dance with the chairs. He can't believe the sheer volume of glow-in-the-dark paraphernalia he's taking home tonight. And he really can't believe they get to keep the customized hats. Thus, his head is two songs away from popping off. The dirty blonde standing beneath the left armpit of the DJ, staring with existential malaise into the camera? She is on her way to becoming agnostic.
This is my second favorite picture.
Inside CwtBBMG there is an article entitled "Essential Bar Mitzvah Q & A," and since I've been through the process myself, I thought I might be able to add some useful insight to the editorial staff's perfunctory answers. Oddly enough, none of these kids writing in know how to use commas, despite the likelihood that at least half are enrolled in private academies.
Q: What advice would you give to a girl about to become a Bat Mitzvah?
Cute dress, cute shoes. Don't go overboard with the hair. You'll regret it.
Q: Next year I'm having my Bat Mitzvah and even though I do go to a Jewish school and learn Hebrew everyday, Hebrew is still not my language and so even when I start practicing I'm still scared about messing up.
Yeah, the thing is, no one cares if you mess up. People just care that you finish quickly because these things are super fucking boring.
Q: I became a Bar Mitzvah last year. Does that mean I stop going to services?
Pretty much, except for the High Holy Days, when you continue to pretend that you're religious. Unless your parents are threatening to withhold your license, use of a family car, or dating privileges if you do. Then you might be stuck for awhile.
Q: I am 10 and I don't want a Bat Mitzvah. I really, really don't want one. I know I should have one but I hate to stand in front of people and sing Hebrew. What should I do?
Just have one of your dad's doctor friends get you on a regimen of Xanax. Or very possibly, your dad is a doctor himself.
Q: My Bat Mitzvah is coming up soon and I am excited but I am way more nervous then [sic] excited. I know I will do fine but the closer the time gets to that day I get more and more nervous. I am afraid I will mess up and everyone will be disappointed in me.
Look, everybody is going to be disappointed in you over the course of your life many, many times. There are going to be so many moments when you are going to prove yourself to be dumber or weaker or sadder than you or your close friends and family ever imagined possible, back when everyone stood at the bassinet and first naively gathered hopes and dreams about the kind of person you would turn out to be. So what's this one disappointment in the vast collection of others that already live inside the very fiber of your being? Relax! This is just another entry in your personal destiny.