Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Road To Kayenta

Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation: With the encouragement of their way more adventurous than us daughter, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew & Alex actually went on a magnificent Road Trip last week.

Our ultimate goal was to visit Monument Valley, located in the Navajo Nation, at the border line of Arizona and Utah.

There is only one road that goes to Monument Valley - US Highway 163.
US Route 163 is a 64-mile US Highway that runs from US 160 northward to US 191 in the US states of Arizona and Utah. The southernmost 44 miles of its length is within the Navajo Nation. The highway forms part of the Trail of the Ancients, a National Scenic Byway. The highway cuts through the heart of Monument Valley and has been featured in numerous movies and commercials.

To get to US Highway 163 from Abq NW, the fastest route (says Google Maps) is via US Highways 550 to 64 to 160. Our first overnight stop, therefore, was to be at the Hampton Inn Kayenta.
Kayenta (Navajo: Tó Dínéeshzheeʼ) is a U.S. census-designated place (CDP) which is part of the Navajo Nation and is in Navajo County, Arizona. The population was 5,189 at the 2010 census. Kayenta is located 25 miles south of Monument Valley and contains a number of hotels and motels which service visitors to Monument Valley. 

Before he arrived, Abq Jew had believed that "kayenta" is a Navajo word that means "to speak like an old woman." That, it turns out, is not true.

Abq Jew apologizes for any inconvenience.

But back to US Highway 550. Upon which Abq Jew, in his almost seven years living in the Land of Enchantment, had never ventured. And around which (see photo above) is some absolutely stunningly beautiful landscape.

And whose travel lanes are separated by a skinny, paved, and (therefore) extremely dangerous median. The Santa Fe New Mexican recently reported:
2013 study offered menu of fixes to make U.S. 550 safer 
A 2013 study for the New Mexico Department of Transportation proposed putting concrete or cable barriers in the middle of U.S. 550 as one of several possible ways to reduce the number of fatal collisions from vehicles crossing the highway’s narrow median into oncoming traffic. 
Since that study, no barriers have been installed on the four-lane highway, which, The New Mexican reported June 11, has had a high number of fatal crashes in recent years caused by motorists crossing its 6-foot-wide paved median, which is five times narrower than recommended by the Federal Highway Administration. 
The study also proposed other steps to make the high-speed route across northwestern New Mexico safer, including better marking of median lines; lighting at some intersections; and signs alerting motorists to their speed, hazardous weather conditions, upcoming intersections, curves and changes in grade. 
Department spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell didn’t respond to a written request asking if any of those additional safety measures have been implemented.

There aren't many places on Highway 550 to stop and grab something to eat, but Abq Jew highly recommends aiming for Cuba (population 735) and the Cuban Cafe. A family-run establishment where everyone there treats you like family.

We love New Mexico!

Someplace north of Cuba, Highway 550 crosses the Continental Divide of the Americas.
The Continental Divide of the Americas (also known as the Great Divide, the Continental Gulf of Division, or merely the Continental Divide) is the principal, and largely mountainous, hydrological divide of the Americas.  
The Continental Divide extends from the Bering Strait to the Strait of Magellan, and separates the watersheds that drain into the Pacific Ocean from (1) those river systems that drain into the Atlantic Ocean (including those that drain into the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea), and (2) along the northernmost reaches of the Divide, those river systems that drain into the Arctic Ocean. 
Though there are many other hydrological divides in the Americas, the Great Divide is by far the most prominent of these because it tends to follow a line of high peaks along the main ranges of the Rocky Mountains and Andes, at a generally much higher elevation than the other hydrological divisions.

Then on to Bloomfield, New Mexico (population 8,112), which, Abq Jew assures you, is nothing at all like Bloomfield, New Jersey (population 47,315).

A left at the light and you're traveling west on US Highway 64, the road to Farmington (population 45,426).

Keep going west on Highway 64. As you pass Highway 491 at the town of Shiprock (population 8,156), look south (to your left).

Your view of the Shiprock rock formation will be nothing like the photo above. But that's as close as Mr & Mrs Abq Jew & Alex got on this trip.

Keep going west on Highway 64 until you get to Teec Nos Pos, Arizona (population 730), where you join up with US Highway 160, one of the major routes crossing (and, in Arizona, entirely within) the Navajo Nation.

Photo by Alex Chihak

Oy! Keep driving west on Highway 160.

And driving and driving and driving. At some point, Mr & Mrs Abq Jew & Alex came to realize that our (Enterprise rental) Chevy Traverse  was feeling sluggish because of the fierce headwind we were attempting to drive into. (No trees in sight to bend, hence no branches to observe waving.)

But we (finally) made it to Kayenta.

More Road Trip to follow! Click (when linked): 
In Kayenta and Monument Valley & The Road From Kayenta

On Monday, Jane Ellen (see Arlo and Alice Meet Jane, et al) Albuquerque's Favorite Music Teacher, presented a class for OASIS Albuquerque on The Chad Mitchell Trio (see A Song for the Right).

Wherein Abq Jew learned (how did he not know this?) that
The Chad Mitchell Trio perform[ed] what was the first commercial recording of the Bob Dylan classic other than by Dylan himself. 
The song had been brought to the CMT by their musical director and arranger, Milt Okun, and the Trio (already famous for its satirical political songs) was eager to record the number, release it as a single, and title what would be their third album after it. An old school producer at the group's Kapp Records label vetoed the ideas, however, maintaining that "no song with death in the lyrics was ever a hit," and the album was released as "The Chad Mitchell Trio In Action."
Okun, however, was also the musical director and arranger for another young and eager folk trio called Peter, Paul, and Mary, and he brought the song to them.  
And since we're talking about the wind ... and you know how what is left of Abq Jew's mind works, when it works at all ... here is The CMT at one of their PBS specials. Yes, that's Paul Prestopino on banjo.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mariachi Flor de Toloache!

All Women All Mariachi: Mariachi, unlike flamenco (see Flamenco and Emerods), does not appear to have roots in the Sephardic culture of Spain and Portugal.

Mariachi Flor de Toloache

No, mariachi did not come over with the conversos who (in part) established both Mexico and Nuevo Mexico. Instead, Abq Jew will claim, mariachi was first heard in the southwestern LA city of Inglewood, in the summer of 1970.

Anyway, that's where and when Abq Jew first heard the sound of mariachi. At the home of (see Remembrance: Morro Bay, California) our dear friends, Mike and Jean Schuster, of blessed memory, and their twin daughters Laurel and Carol - also, alas, of blessed memory.

Actually, it was next door - their neighbor was having a high school graduation party, and invited a local mariachi band to perform for us all. ¡Qué bueno!

Abq Jew - along with most of the world - eagerly paid close and happy attention to mariachi in 1987, when Linda Ronstadt released her Grammy Award-winning album Canciones de Mi Padre.

And now, Abq Jew is again paying rapt attention to

Mariachi Flor de Toloache (Flower of Toloache)
National Hispanic Cultural Center
Sunday July 2 @ 6:00 pm
Click here for tickets

As the group's website tells us -
Latin Grammy Nominees Mariachi Flor de Toloachee make New York City history as its’ First and Only All­-Women Mariachi Group. 
Founded in 2008, Mariachi Flor de Toloache is lead by singers Mireya I. Ramos (founder) & Shae Fiol (original member). Reminiscent of the early days of mariachi the group started as a trio, Harp, Violin and Vihuela. 
Today, Mariachi Flor De Toloache performs as a full Mariachi ensemble. The members hail from diverse cultural backgrounds such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Australia, Colombia, Germany, Italy and the United States. This defines their unique flavor and sound. 
The result of this cultural bouquet is an edgy, versatile and fresh take on traditional Mexican music. They coalesce as would a band of sisters, with a grace and vibrant beauty that casts a spell over their audiences not unlike the legendary Toloache flower still being used in Mexico as a love potion. 
While working to preserve centuries old traditions of Mariachi, their melange of the traditional and the modern pushes the boundaries of the genre and brings Mariachi music to new audiences.

And speaking of strong independent women ...
Here we go! One more time! 
Here's Gal Gadot, our new Wonder Woman!
And please see Wonder Woman Wonder Women!

Gal Gadot as Diana, in the new film “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins.

Want to hear Mariachi Flor de Toloache? Here's a video!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman Wonder Women

Rosh Chodesh in the 505: Rosh Chodesh (the Hebrew New Moon, as disambiguated from the Civil New Moon) has traditionally been celebrated as a Women's Holiday.

And (at least) One Big Thing is happening this year on Sunday June 25, the second day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz. And we'll talk about it. But first -

Here is Gal Gadot, our new Wonder Woman!

Gal Gadot as Diana, in the new film “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins.

This past week's release of the new Wonder Woman movie has become a Jewish event - as well as an event that simply celebrates powerful women.

Rabbi Ruth Adar (the Coffee Shop Rabbi) writes (Is Wonder Woman Jewish?)-
I’ve waited for this movie for 50 years . . . 
I was encouraged to hear that Patty Jenkins was directing; her writing and direction of Monster (2003) were miraculous. 
I was even more encouraged when I heard that Gal Gadot had been cast as the lead. She is beautiful, she is strong, she can be very funny, and I liked the idea of the world hearing an Israeli accent in that role. A Jewish woman as a super hero? Oh, yeah! 
I saw the poster and dared to hope.  
I won’t spoil the film for you. I spent quite a bit of it in tears, watching a brave woman do terrifying things in defense of innocents. Some of those tears were that I was finally seeing the movie I’d wanted to see ever since I first found a Wonder Woman comic book discarded on a sidewalk in Nashville 50 years ago and recognized her as mine. 
Some of those tears were the tears of a graying feminist who finally got to see a great movie about a wonderful woman, directed by a woman. Some of them were because the movie is genuinely moving, and occasionally pretty scary (take that PG-13 rating seriously, please.) 
Does the film have Jewish content? You bet. It stars a Israeli woman. Wonder Woman may have a Greek name but she learns a very Jewish lesson: humanity was born good, with a terrible capacity for evil. The fight is to free that which is good while curbing that which is evil. It is not a simple task.

And Jessica Bennet writes in The New York Times (If Wonder Woman Can Do It, She Can Too) -
Half an hour earlier, I’d been contemplating skipping the film. I never read the comics. I wasn’t a superfan. The last action movie I saw was “Batman,” the remake before the remake, in my parents’ living room with my younger brothers, sometime in the mid- to late 1990s. 
But 20 minutes into “Wonder Woman,” the director Patty Jenkins’s take on the iconic DC Comics story, the tears came uncontrollably — as the Amazonian women twirled and glided, fierce and muscular and graceful at once, engaged in battle moves that looked as if they were choreographed for women’s bodies (which, it turned out, they were). 
I mean, the outfits were a little absurd. Their gladiator sandals seemed to have wedges. And yet, much like Jill Lepore, the author of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman,” put it in The New Yorker: “I am not proud that I found comfort in watching a woman in a golden tiara and thigh-high boots clobber hordes of terrible men. But I did.” 
In fact, I was proud. So were legions of women I know who took daughters, nieces, nephews, mentees or simply went in droves, some of them to women-only screenings — and walked out of theaters with a strange feeling of ferociousness.

And yes, because of Gal Gadot,
Wonder Woman is banned in Lebanon!

Afraid of strong independent women? 
Let's talk about Women of The Wall.

Women of The Wall (נשות הכותל), says the group's website
is a group of Jewish women from Israel and around the world who strive to achieve the right to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem, Israel. 
The Western Wall is Judaism’s most sacred holy site and the principal symbol of Jewish peoplehood and sovereignty, and Women of the Wall works to make it a holy site where women can pray freely. 
Women of the Wall is comprised of women from all denominations of Judaism – Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Masorti, Renewal and Reconstructionist.
Since they began, Women of The Wall have been slandered, libeled, have heard words they never heard in the Bible - and worse.

Gee, but it's great to be back home!

So, back to One Big Thing:

A local 505 chapter of WoTW is being formed and will offer - for all genders, in solidarity with Women of The Wall - a first

Rosh Chodesh Service
2nd Day of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz 5777 
Congregation B’nai Israel 
Sunday, June 25, 2017 
8:30 – 9:30 am 

More information
is on the Abq Jew Calendar - and here.

Want to learn more about Women of The Wall? Here's a video!

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Wedding Plan in New Mexico!

Limited Runs in Abq & SFe: The second film from American-Israeli writer and director Rama Burshtein (Fill the Void), The Wedding Plan is a poignant and funny romantic comedy about love, marriage and faith in life’s infinite possibilities.

A nominee for Best Film at the 2016 Venice Film Festival, the film stars Noa Kooler, Amos Tamam, Oz Zehavi, Irit Sheleg, Ronny Merhavi, Dafi Alpern, Karin Serrouya, Erez Drigues, Oded Leopold, Udi Persi and Jonathan Rozen.

Here is a brief synopsis of the story -
At 32, Michal is finally looking forward to the comfort and security of marriage, when she is blindsided by her fiancé’s decision to call off the wedding with only a month’s notice. Unwilling to return to lonely single life, Michal decides to put her trust in fate and continue with her wedding plans, believing Mr. Right will appear by her chosen date. Confident she will find a match made in heaven, she books a venue, sends out invitations and buys a wedding dress, as her skeptical mother and sister look on with trepidation. 
During Michal’s month-long search for a spouse, she enlists the help of two different matchmakers, goes on a series of disastrous blind dates and finds an unexpected connection with a charming but utterly unsuitable pop star — all while dismissing pleas by concerned friends and family members that she reconsider her risky plan. As the day of the ceremony grows closer and no suitor appears, Michal puts everything on the line to find happiness. 
But Wait! There's More & Better!

Jonathan Chisdes, an independent film critic who reviews Jewish movies at ChizFilm Jewish Movies, has just reviewed The Wedding Plan!

Here is what Jonathan has to say -

The Wedding Plan
For Those Who Like Theology Thrown in with Their Rom Com

“The Wedding Plan,” American-Israeli director Rama Burshtein’s follow-up to her award-winning “Fill the Void,” has been very successful in Israel and is now the midst of its American theatrical run.

While still focusing on insular Israeli Haredi, Burshtein has gone from deep drama to romantic comedy. Serious viewers, however, should not despair. Although a brief plot description—a woman plans a wedding without a groom, hoping one will show up—sounds like it could be a zany comedy filled with ridiculously over-the-top characters and screwball situations, it is nothing of the sort. In fact, the film could actually be seen as a religious meditation on theology and the possibility of miracles.

The movie revolves around Michal (Noa Koler), a religious single woman in her 30s, who despairs of not being married. Although Michal is in many ways a strong, independent woman, she craves love, companionship, and wanting to be part of a respected couple within the community. As she puts it, “I want to invite people for Shabbat rather than always being invited somewhere else,” out of pity. She’s not some delicate, pre-feminist woman who needs a man to take care of her. She can support herself—she makes money with a mobile petting zoo she takes to children’s birthday parties—and she has no qualms about voicing her strong opinions.

Yet perhaps it is this very quality which has put off men—that is, Orthodox men—for all these years. An interesting scene early in the film shows Michal encouraging young girls at a party to show some bravery and pet her snake. One young girl is about to and then is discouraged by the mother who forbids it. Later, when the mother is paying Michal for her services, she suggests to Michal that the reason she is single is that owning a snake makes her indelicate. “Maybe there is a guy who doesn’t want a delicate woman,” Michal suggests. “Nonsense!” says the mother with a tone of absolute certainty in an indisputable fact, “All men want a delicate woman.”

Michal gets engaged, but then her fiancé breaks off their impending marriage; this is the last straw for Michal. She turns to her faith and puts her trust in God. She sets a date for her wedding—the eighth day of Hanukkah—books a hall, picks a menu, buys a dress, sends out invitations. Everything is set to fulfill her dreams of being married to her “bashert”—except for the bashert himself. She trusts that God will provide.

While her faith does her credit, Michal’s friends and family strongly object to this plan of hers. Her mother (Irit Sheleg) even goes so far as to bring in a rabbi to talk her out of it. This is perhaps the most telling scene in the whole film. The rabbi, who one would normally expect to praise extreme religious faith, instead cautions against making bargains with God and “counting on miracles.” Not even rabbis and prophets expect God to give them what they want. The rabbi goes on to express his fears that if God does not provide a groom by the wedding date, Michal’s faith will be destroyed.

But Michal counters that God is a good God and after all the effort she has put into this, it is not too much to expect from God to bring her a husband. After all, she is meeting God far more than half-way.

There is an expression, “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” Michal is not just sitting back, waiting for God to act. She is working with two matchmakers and going on lots of dates that she is being set up on. Some of the men are more promising than others; some are more taken by her than others. But as the deadline for the wedding approaches, everyone begins to question if she really will find the right groom.

One also begins to wonder why being married is so important to Michal—after all, she has no positive married role models in her life. Her sister is in a crazy marriage which is on-again-off-again-on-again, her friend fears dating a Japanese man, the man who runs the wedding hall speaks of his bad marriage, her roommate steals her ex-fiancé. As for a father, there is no reference to one. Not once does anyone declare that they are happily married. But neither does anyone claim to be happily single.

There comes a point—at least for me and, I suspect, most modern viewers—where you might want to reach into the film and give Michal a big shake. “What are you doing? Why is this so damned important to you? Why such a high-pressure time scale? Let it happen naturally. And if it doesn’t, you don’t need a husband to make your life fulfilling!” Yet I realize that this reaction misses the whole point of what Burshtein is getting at. It’s not about whether a woman needs a man to complete herself; Burshtein’s focus is on something completely different—about how to open yourself up to miracles, about what you can expect from God, and how to work with God to guide your life in the right direction.

This is Burshtein’s story and she can tell it her way. (Just as when Michal is telling a story-within-the-story to a date about being stranded on a deserted island and there is no hope of rescue. The date interrupts Michal to ask how she knows there is no hope of rescue and Michal responds, “because I’m telling the story.” She has set the limited parameters. Burshtein, too, has the right to limit her own story.) At one point, Michal declares, “Anything can happen; everything is possible.” This is not only true in the story but, really, it’s true in life too.

An interesting development happens in the middle of the film. On a brief pilgrimage to Ukraine to pray at the tomb of the famous Rabbi Nachman, Michal runs into a famous Israeli secular pop-singer named Yoss (Oz Zehavi). They only talk for about five minutes, but they both recognize the chemistry between them. Here is someone that Michal would never be set up with by a matchmaker yet amazingly they hit it off. Is it possible that Yoss, who later admits that he, too, is looking for a bashert, could be Michal’s groom? Or do their radically different lifestyles make this impossible?

If you’re looking for a typical romantic comedy, this isn’t for you. The laughs aren’t coming every minute. The romance isn’t hot and steamy. However you might feel yourself really drawn in to the story and caring for the character of Michal and whether or not God will provide her a groom. If you are wondering whether someone can have too much faith in God, than you are asking the right question.

Click here to read more of Jonathan's reviews!

So where, Abq Jew hears you ask, and when may one view this prized film? 
Current plans are for

Albuquerque: UA High Ridge 8 
Friday June 2 thru Thursday June 8

While you're waiting - here is the delightful official trailer!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Tragedy in Portland

Weeks in Hate: Abq Jew has been deeply troubled by last week's hate attack in Portland, Oregon, The City of Roses. With all of you, his loyal readers, Abq Jew prays for healing.

As Abq Jew blogged in February (see Love Trumps Hate: 24 Hours), he himself has been the target of a hate attack. But that attack, in January, was only online and electronic.

Hateful words were spewed - but that's where the attack both started and stopped. Although he was not greatly concerned at the time, Abq Jew realizes that it might have ended differently.

Since the November election, The New York Times has been publishing a series of articles called This Week in Hate. Many of these articles have been written by editor, columnist (and novelist) Anna North.

Ms North wrote about the attack on Abq Jew on February 9, in Hateful Threats Against a Jewish Blogger. Just a few weeks later, she wrote about two other hate attacks - both of which were far scarier and way more unsettling.

And both of which ended - as well as such attacks can end.

Rajpreet Heir was the subject of Anna North's March 24 article, When Your Commute Includes Hearing ‘You Don’t Belong in This Country’. Her story begins -
Rajpreet Heir was taking the L train to a friend’s birthday party in Manhattan this month when a white man began shouting at her. 
“Do you even know what a Marine looks like?” the man asked Ms. Heir, who is pictured in the video above. “Do you know what they have to see? What they do for this country? Because of people like you.” 
He told Ms. Heir, who is Sikh and was born in Indiana, that he hoped she was sent “back to Lebanon” and said, “You don’t belong in this country.”
Ms Heir made a video about her experience, and later wrote about it for Cosmopolitan. In which she concludes -

It’s tiring to confront racism since no one wants to be told they’re racist. To be successful at school, at work, in life, it’s risky to be viewed as a troublemaker — a humorless person who keeps correcting others. Yet in remaining silent, you can start to feel as if you’re decaying. 
Throughout the day at work, people stopped to talk to me about the video. Their comments were similar to the ones I’d read on the internet but hearing them in real life gave them more weight. Like many people of color, I’d been storing away racist incidents and slights, not allowing myself to realize how much they’d taken a toll on me. To have people in my office, the country, and world at large acknowledge those experiences made me feel understood, happy, lighter. 
I know not everyone is in a situation that allows them to speak out and call out racism without consequence, but I’m glad I decide to tell my story despite my hesitation. Hopefully others will see that this can be the outcome and come forward too.
Ulises Ricoy was the subject of Anna North's March 29 article, ‘I’m an American, First and Foremost’. His story begins -
For Ulises Ricoy, the dean of arts and sciences of Northern New Mexico College in Española, N.M., it happened during a run. It was the day after the election, and he was running near the college campus when a truck with a Confederate flag license plate approached him. 
Two men yelled a racial slur at him and told him to “get out of this country.” They also threw a glass bottle full of liquid, which looked like it might be urine. The bottle struck him in the chest and some of the liquid splashed on his face. 
Prof. Ricoy was born in Austin, Tex., grew up primarily in Mexico, and returned to Texas for high school. There he got used to racial slurs and insults. But in the rural, largely Latino and Native American part of New Mexico where he’s lived for seven years, he’d never experienced anything like that until the incident in November.
Prof Ricoy's story concludes -
While Prof. Ricoy was alone when he was attacked, his colleagues at the college rallied around him when they heard what had happened. The college president even made an announcement condemning the incident. 
Though not everyone talks about it openly, Prof. Ricoy sees a lot of anxiety about the Trump administration in northern New Mexico. Several students who are recent immigrants from Mexico have come to him with their concerns. At the same time, he sees a sense of hope for the future. “That’s just the spirit of migrants,” he said. 
“We know adversity,” he explained. “This is just another challenge.”

The last article* Anna North has posted for This Week in Hate - After Hate Crimes, Victims Get Stuck With the Bill - was on April 26.

Abq Jew had begun to hope that the series had gone on hiatus; that Ms North had run out of material; that the declining number of hate attacks was coming closer and closer to zero.

And then came the tragedy in Portland.

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and retired Army Sgt. Ricky Best were killed in the attack, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher is recovering from his injuries.

The New York Daily News wrote:
Portland stabbing survivor writes poem about horrific attack: 'I spat in the eye of hate and lived' 
She ran for her life and looked back to see “blood everywhere.” 
That’s what one of the teen girls at the center of the horrific Oregon train stabbing told a local television station. 
“He told us to go back to Saudi Arabia, and he told us we shouldn’t be here, to get out of his country,” Destinee Mangum, 16, told KPTV, referring to white supremacist and alleged killer Jeremy Christian [yimach sh'mo]
“He was just telling us that we basically weren’t anything and that we should kill ourselves,” she added.

The Jewish tradition does not teach that hate must be replaced by love; we are all human, and truly loving one another is just too much to ask.

But we should act as if we love one another. 
We should at least treat one another with respect.

Anna North has not run out of material. 

A makeshift memorial in Portland for the two men who were killed on a commuter train while defending two young women against anti-Muslim taunts.
Credit Terray Sylvester/Reuters
Click here for Anna North's latest article in This Week in Hate