Monday, May 30, 2005

And They Say New Yorkers Aren't Nice

On Friday I left THE city (well, really I left suburbia where I live, but...) for the summer ... with, well, with enough shoes and clothing to last me the entire summer. And if you know me, you know that that's a lot of stuff. Let's just say packing was not pretty.

So, I left my house lugging a huge duffel and a couple assorted smaller - but by no means small - bags. My father, after laughing at the sight of all the stuff I was going to have to get to Washington, put me on the subway, but then I was on my own.

When I needed to get off the subway, a woman who wasn't even getting off helped me get the duffel off. I lugged the bags up a ramp and while just standing there wondering how I was going to get any further, a woman and her son came by and asked if I needed help. (To which I replied emphatically in the postive.) I then lugged my bags a bit further by myself, amid other offers of assistance, and finally reached my friends who travelled with me and helped me.

But the point is that New Yorkers are a helpful breed, and I could not have gotten where I needed to go without the help of many, many strangers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Married Look

I walk downstairs donning a bandana over my straight hair to protect it from the rain.

My mother: You know, that's how all the young married girls wear their "hair" now.
Me: Thanks, that's exactly the look I was going for.

Where's Global Warming when You Need It?

"Oh, Mr. sun, sun, Mr. golden sun, please shine down on me."

It is cold outside! I am on summer vacation. It is the end of May. I should not have to dig out my winter stuff before I leave the house in the morning.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How Dedicated Are YOU?

If you were told right now from a plausible and reliable source that Hashem is giving you the option of giving up all the mitzvot and it'll be totally fine, you don't have to be Jewish anymore, what would you choose?

This came up in a conversation with a friend of mine, and I'm curious what people think because I'm not so sure that Jewish day schools (at least the Modern Orthodox ones) are very good at teaching their students to love Judaism. My passion for Judaism was imbued not in my 13 years in a Modern Orthodox yeshiva, but in Michlala, and I certainly don't know how I would have answered the above question beforehand. It's a scary thought, but how dedicated to Judaism are most of us? How dedicated to Judaism are all the kids in all the frum high schools?

But then again, how do you make your kids love Judaism? How do you teach them the beauty of Judaism? And whose responsibility is it anyway?

[Dedicated to a certain someone who knows who she is.]

I'm Going Topless

(Ahh, let's see how many hits this post gets.) And no, I am not going anywhere topless - I am a firm believer in the value of clothing (though I think tznius is taught dreadfully in Jewish day schools today, but that's another issue altogether...). However, I have a wedding to go to in July - a very, very important wedding of a very, very close friend - and I therefore need a very, very special outfit to wear. I have a skirt and cannot for the life of me find an appropriate top anywhere. Now, I'm sure that there are very few people out there that want to read a tale of my shopping travails, but I'm very frustrated, and am convinced that at the moment my best option is in fact going topless. Argh.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Money Talks: Class Does Matter

" When student and faculty activists struggle for cultural diversity, they are in large part battling over what skin color the rich kids should have."

The Times (that would be the NY Times for anyone who isn't a NY snob like myself) has a really interesting special section that started this week called Class Matters. I haven't read that much of it yet, but I find it a really intriguing topic and something we ignore far too often in society as a whole.

This may be my liberal bias showing its face, but I do think that we don't do enough in this land of the free to enable everyone to have the oppurtunity to attain the American Dream. I don't go so far as to say we should globally redistribute wealth a la Peter Singer, and I don't think everyone should be economically equal. But at the same time, I don't think we pay enough attention to how class affects our society and to how people without money really don't have the same oppurtunities to achieve success.

I will now step down from my soapbox, though I always do enjoy gaining those extra inches of height...

My Name Is Eli7 and I am Addicted... coffee, e-mail, blogging, and blowdrying (and pretty shoes, maybe)

I have been coffee-free for one whole week. (Though I did cheat and have some soda yesterday, so I have not been completely caffeine free, but shhh don't tell.) Who is proud of me? Detox is not so fun and my pounding headaches have not subsided. Somebody might want to remind me of this next semester when I move into my dorm and plug in my coffee-maker before unpacking my bedding. (Though the real question is, which comes first, coffee-maker or computer? I'm not exactly sure which addiction is stronger.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

True Friendship Is Just Being There

I'll be there for you ... when the rain starts to fall.
I'll be there for you ... like I've been there before.
I'll be there for you ... cause you're there for me, too.

I visited a friend today and we didn't actually do much together. We hung out, went to a museum, had lunch, caught up a little, but didn't have any major intellectual discussions or anything like that. At the end of our visit, she said to me, " I'm sorry we didn't you know have any deep conversations, but it was nice to actually turn around and see you by my side. It was nice just to be with you." That's what true friendship is all about, isn't it?

Beware of Teenage Boys

Last night, the phone rang and my brother picked it up. It was a telemarketer. Here's his end of the conversation:

"Umm, no, we actually don't have any phones."
"Well, how am I talking to you? Umm, I'm telepathic, you see."
"Have a nice day."

Aren't teenage boys fun?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Deep Driving Thought of the Day

I'm a fairly new driver and because I'm in the city most of the time anyway, I rarely drive. As a result, I'm not exactly the best driver in the world. So, unlike some of my friends who can practically drive in their sleep, it's something I don't really take for granted. And I'm always awestruck by how easy it is to get into a car accident, how many times in a trip you come so close to getting into an accident, how a tiny jerk of your arm or foot could lead to calamity when you're driving. I always feel like I have to thank God as soon as I get anywhere by car that I got there in one piece. Maybe lots of things in life are like that and we just don't stop and think how lucky we are that we've gotten where we are, how close we came to losing it all, how much we have to thank Hashem for everything we have.

Take Responsibility!

In the aftermath of a slightly traumatic semester, as I slowly get back my grades and am none too pleased with all of them, I've realized that I never think a "bad" (interpret as you wish) grade is my fault. It's always the teacher's fault or the TA's fault or an assignment that wasn't fair or my study partner's fault or my group member's fault. And while I'm not saying that is never the case, I don't think that everyone out there deserves a 4.o GPA (myself included). Sometimes it's just my own fault: I'm not smart enough or I just didn't figure it out or I didn't study enough or do enough of the reading. And it's just not healthy to blame all my "failures" (and no, there were no actual failures) on others. Sometimes you've just gotta take responsibility for whatever occured.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Reminder: You Can't Take It With You

It's funny how attached I am to my stuff.

Moving out fo my dorm was a slightly traumatic experience for me. As I watched my father and brother help lug my multitudes of stuff out of my dorm and into the van, I had a really hard time. I was really protective of my stuff. My posters and pictures and clothing and shoes and computer and books and all the other random stuff I'd collected over the course of a year at school.

Partially, I was just awestruck by all the stuff I had accumulated, but I also was neurotic about how it was handled and packed and stored. And I'm not saying I was being completely irrational; of course, this is stuff that I care about, stuff that I don't want ruined. But it bothered me that I was so obsessed with things. So obsessed withhow my stuff was treated to the extent that I did not end the night very happily.

I mean, after all, it was all only stuff. Shouldn't I care more about people? Shouldn't I put my energy into things that are vastly more important than my eight pairs of flip flops and 75 books that I brought home from my dorm? Well, shouldn't I?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

On Jet Planes and Closet Space

"I'm Leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again..."

...But I will be back. I am on my way out of my dorm - out of my own room with my own computer and my own free hi-speed Internet connection. So being that I won't have any of those things (not to mention my own closet space) at home, my blogging for the next while will be slightly less regular and slightly more sporadic. But I'm still here. Really.

In Remembrance and in Thanks

I spent a year in Israel and cannot begin to sing the praises of the country I made my home for that year. I know, unfortunately, of too many people who have lost their lives in Israel - in the army and in terrorist attacks. When I was in Israel, for Yom Ha'Zikaron a group of us went to the kever of our teacher who was killed in the Sbarro's terrorist attack. I stood silently for the siren. We watched a movie and then walked to Har Herzl - to the military cemetery to commemorate all those that lost their lives so that I had the ability to pray at the Kotel, to spend a year in Yerushalayim, to take tiyulim all over the beautiful country. Two years later and so far away from Israel (literally and figuratively), I can only post a paltry poem on my blog to express my gratitude. But at least I can do that.

lives lost
in fighting
for God's land
in living
in God's country
thank and praise
the nameless, faceless
hordes of sacrifices
who gave you
your land
with their
outstretched, bloody hands

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Accessorize What You've Got

"I admit it's tempting to wish for the perfect boss - the perfect parent - or the perfect outfit. But maybe the best any of us can do is not quit, play the hand we've been dealt, and accessorize what we've got."

I'm just saying... Life doesn't always turn out the way we would like it to. I guess that's just the way it is, and all you can do is make the best of what you've got. In other words, when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. (Sorry for the lack of originality, but finals have muddled my brain and this is how I'm feeling right about now, and I'm a sucker for clothing metaphors ;)

Saturday, May 07, 2005

On Mothers and Lanyard and My Lack of Originality

"I believe your parents did the best job they knew how to do."

A poem in honor of Mother's Day since I couldn't actually think of anything original to say on the subject (before I sink back into the oblivion that is studying):

The Lanyard
By Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift-not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

My Primal Scream


Finals are cruel and unusual punishment. They should not be allowed. They are mean and nasty and making life miserable. You can now all return to your happy, healthy lives while I return to whatever it is I do here as I watch my life fall apart bit by teeny bit and lose all hope of getting into law school and attaining my dreams.

Have a nice day.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, ROTC Protesters Must Go!

No, this is not a comment on my political views in any way manner or form, this is the current shallow thought of the day from my addled brain and final-wracked self:

I like protest. I am no fan of the ROTC. But can you not protest against the ROTC right outside the building where there are very many stressed-out college students who are way beyond civil disobedinece taking a final? Because it is not easy to write essays on Nietzsche and Foucault to the cheers of "Hi ho, hi ho. ROTC has to go." And it is also not easy to sound coherent afterwards.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Solitary Candle in the Tracks

I went to Poland and the Ukraine during my year in Israel. It was a harrowing but worthwhile experience. On Yom HaShoah, I thought it appropriate to share a brief excerpt of my thoughts from the trip and a poem I wrote while on the trip. I hope you find them meaningful.

Candle in the Tracks
train tracks
to cold, black death
train tracks
to suffering and torture
and cruelty and loss
in Auschwitz,
they are train tracks
of the dead
they were here
now they are gone
and all that is left
of them,
for them
is one, solitary candle
in the tracks

"In the actual ovens where the Nazis so brutally burned the bodies of their victims, we lit yharzeit candles in honor of the victims and in their memory. We lit candles to say we have not forgotten and we never will forget. We lit candles to say 'never again.' And as we stood in the crematoria of the death camp Majdanek, we sang and we cried ... So, my yahrzeit candle burns defiantly in the Nazi ovens to say 'I am here' and our singing declared that we will stay."

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mommy, Is My Nose Too Big for You to Love Me?

"If you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much."

Tell that to parents, who according to some new research treat their more attractive children better than they treat their less attractive childlren. Now, in all honesty, the data seems hardly scientific to my untrained eye, but it's still a pretty sad hypothesis. As if people weren't self-conscious enough about the way they look already, let's just add another log to the fire and tell people that if they're not pretty their parents didn't love them as much.

Call me an optimist (and I'm not generally one), but I tend to think this research must be flawed. I do not think that all the talk about love being blind is false. I think love forces you to appreciate someone so much that you don't see them for their physical characteristics. My friends kvetch to me about being fat or whatnot all the time, and I always think it's silly because I just don't think of them that way, I don't see them in that light (and they are NOT fat or whatnot anyway). And maybe I'm being naive again, but I do also believe that parents love their children, love them enough to see past their physical defects.

Basically, I am just not mekabel this article. I refuse to believe that parents take better care of their prettier children. And if for some reason I'm wrong (not that that ever happens, but if it did ;), I think it's a super-sad commentary on our society. I mean, how much more steeped in physicality can we get?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Go On, Make a Mistake

Quote of the day dedicated to the ones that are always in my heart (who are thankfully closer than a plane ride away):

"Maybe mistakes are what make our fate... without them what would shape our lives? Maybe if we had never veered off course we wouldn't fall in love, have babies, or be who we are. After all things change, so do cities, people come into your life and they go. But it's comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart... and if you're very lucky, a plane ride away."

Physicality, Finals, and Freedom (It's Alliteration!)

As we all recover from ingesting pounds and pounds of matzah and macaroons and enter that oh-so-fun time of year that is finals (or not, depending on where you are in your life), before you get caught up in, oh say, John Rawls and nationalized healthcare and Freud and Dubois and just warfare and stuff, for your reading pleasure I offer a word of Torah to keep it all in perspective, hopefully. Good luck my fellow suffering college compatriots.

B'nei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael right around Pesach time, right around sefirat ha'omer. Why?

The point of sefira is to show that Pesach is connected to Shavuot; the physical freedom from slavery is only important because it led to Matan Torah. The exodous of the Jewish people from Egypt was not an end, it was only the begining and it was not worth anything without the spiritual context of Har Sinai and of the Torah. Sure, the physical redemption was nice but it was the spiritual Torah that gave the freedom meaning. We are not free from Egypt, we are free to serve Hashem (Mill's negative liberty vs. positive liberty, if you will). So, we count from Pesach to Shavuot to show that connection - the connection between the physical and the spiritual.

When the Jews entered Israel, they were entering a gashmiut existence, a physical existence. In the desert they lived a spiritual existence where everything was provided for them. In Israel they would be forced to fend for themselves, to work for their food. But the point of that physical existence was the very same as the purpose of being freed from Egypt; the purpose was not to just be free, whatever that means. The purpose was to raise that existence to spirituality through the Torah that the Jews were given 49 days later. The purpose of entering Eretz Yisrael was also to live spiritually through the physical.

May we all be able to raise the freedom we've attained over Pesach to the spirituality of Matan Torah throughout the omer, and despite finals.