Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Of Kings and Banjos and Hounds

Forgiveness in the Age of 45: Does this hound look guilty? As Abq Jew first declared on Facebook, our Ziggy stole and quickly devoured an entire chicken breast, nicely cooked, right off the counter. Love him anyway, forever.

Yes, Abq Jew could have attempted an intervention. This, however, did not seem the wisest course of action. Especially since Abq Jew ...

... requires all of his fingers to play his guitar. Even as [un]well as he does.

The current issue of Moment Magazine (Ask The Rabbis | High Holidays) asks ... um, the rabbis ... an important question for this time of year:

Are There Things That Can't Be Forgiven?

Here are two responses that resonated with Abq Jew.

1. INDEPENDENT - Rabbi Gershon Winkler

The most unforgivable king in Jewish history was Menashe, son of Hezekiah, who led his kingdom into idolatry.

As they carried him off to Babylon in chains, he desperately turned to God for forgiveness. But the angels blocked the heavens with heavy furniture [see image above] and nailed in extra boards to prevent that mamzer's plea from being heard.

What did God do? While the angels were engaged in choir practice, He bored a tiny hole in the boarded-up heavenly floor so that He could hear Menashe's plea (Midrash Devarirn Rabbah 2:20).

But that's God's thing. For us mere mortals, it depends. If someone accidentally bumps a cart into you in the supermarket, you can forgive instantaneously.

On the other hand, if someone bumps you with an SUV, you may not be so quick to forgive as they fit your legs, hip and nose with prosthetics -because you're human, and you hope he loses all of his teeth except one, and that one has a toothache!

However, if we do transcend our mortality and forgive the sins committed against us by others, "God in turn will dismiss our sins" (Talmud. Bavli, Rosh Hashanah 17a).

2. CHABAD - Rabbi Simcha Backman

"What is crooked will not be able to be straightened, and what is missing will not be able to be counted" (Ecclesiastes l:15).

Some misdeeds have severe, irreversible effects and are seemingly beyond forgiveness. At the same time, at the core of Judaism is forgiveness. We are taught to emulate G-d and forgive, just as G-d is all-forgiving.

How do we reconcile these apparently contradictory ideas?  We sometimes find ourselves in situations where the betrayal and pain are so great that we are justified in not forgiving. At those times, we need to remember the saying that

"Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison
and expecting the other person to die." 

Forgiveness does more for the provider than the recipient. It does not magically make the pain go away, but it allows one to move past the hurt and begin healing. Not forgiving amplifies the consequences of a misdeed and perpetuates its negative effects.

Better to forgive and move on to a brighter future than hold on to an unforgivable offense and be stuck in a dark past.

And Then There's This

The Washington Post | True Crime last week reported:
Wall Street’s ‘Charging Bull’ has been defaced again, this time by a metal banjo 
It has been splashed with paint — twice — stared down by the much-beloved “Fearless Girl” and repeatedly reviled as the symbol of corporate greed. 
On Saturday afternoon, Wall Street’s long-suffering “Charging Bull” endured yet another attack that left it with a six-inch-long gash above its brow, along with a dozen deep scratches. 
The alleged culprit? A Texas man wielding a fortified metal banjo
Tevon Varlack, 42, of Dallas was charged with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct on Saturday in connection with the vandalism. 
A witness told the New York Times that Varlack was cursing President Trump as he swung the banjo against the bronze sculpture, sending loud clanging through the Bowling Green park in Manhattan’s financial district and startling tourists hoping for a photo with the bull’s famous gonads. 
Police declined to confirm this, writing only that the man responsible for the attack was “ranting incoherently.”

Aiden Pink of the Forward, however, reported the same incident somewhat differently.
Tallit-Wearing Man Smashes Wall Street Bull Statue With Banjo 
A man who appeared to be wearing a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl, was arrested Saturday after allegedly smashing the iconic Charging Bull statue in New York’s financial district. 
Tevon Varlack of Dallas was arrested after allegedly damaging the bronze statue by repeatedly thwacking it with a banjo, ArtNet reported
Varlack was reportedly wearing a t-shirt with the words “Let Us Not Forget The Ten Commandments,” leading some to wonder whether the action had anything to do with Moses’s destruction of the Golden Calf statue in the Bible. 
Varlack was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and criminal possession of a weapon (apparently a reference to the banjo), and was released on bail but told to stay away from city landmarks, according to ArtNet. 
Varlack also repeatedly yelled “F—- Donald Trump” during his alleged attack on the bronze beast, the New York Daily News reported. The bull was left with a hole in its right horn and several scratches.
The Charging Bull statue has been a symbol of New York’s financial sector since its installation in 1989, and drew new attention after another sculptor placed her own “Fearless Girl” statue in front of it.
And Then There's Valerie Plame

Aiden Pink of the Forward (yes, him again) reported this story.
Candidate Accused Of Anti-Semitism Unveils Ad Highlighting Jewish Heritage
A former CIA operative who faced criticism for sharing anti-Semitic articles on social media and is now running for Congress in New Mexico unveiled her first campaign ad on Monday, which included a reference to her Jewish heritage
Valerie Plame, a former spy whose identity was leaked in one of the George W. Bush administration’s most notable scandals, released a video on Monday promoting her candidacy for the Democratic nomination in the Land of Enchantment’s third congressional district, which includes Santa Fe and the rest of the state’s north. 
Her campaign video plays up her national security bona fides, even showing her performing a high-speed U-turn in a sports car while her voiceover states, “Yes, the CIA really does teach us how to drive like this.”
Plame attracted controversy in 2017 after tweeting links to anti-Semitic articles from a Holocaust-denying website, including one headlined “American Jews Are Driving America’s Wars” and another that claimed that Israel was behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Plame at first defended her comments before apologizing and deleting her Twitter account. It has not be revived since. 
Plame again apologized in May 2019 in interviews on CNN and MSNBC after she announced her candidacy, claiming that she had only “skimmed” the articles she shared. “I’m human and we all make mistakes,” she said. “It was just a doozy, and it was very public.” 
Plame’s campaign ad notes that she is descended from Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. Plame’s paternal grandfather was Jewish, a fact that she did not know until she was an adult, she admitted in her memoir. Plame was raised Protestant.
And Then There's Sallie Mae

Illustration by Luci Gutiérrez

When we Jews gather on Yom Kippur, we will all hope and pray and plead that the New Year will see us being forgiven ... for the student loan burden we all (well, almost all) carry.

Colin Nissan of The New Yorker | Shouts & Murmurs assures us, however, that if (G-d forbid!) forgiveness doesn't come - there is a way to pay off those student loans. He begins ...
Pay Off Your Student Debt in Three Easy Lifetimes 
At Extended-Student-Loan Solutions, we believe that the problem of student-loan debt is larger than life. This life, that is. That’s why we’re giving you two more lifetimes to pay it off. 
Q: Just so I’m completely clear on this, what the f**k are you talking about?
A: We hear all the time from anxious students who think they’ll probably grow old and die before they pay off their loans. We’re proud to be able to look them in the eye and say, “Go ahead and die. We’ve got you covered.” 
Q: How can I continue my payments if I’m dead?
A: Our patented reincarnation software tracks you as you move into your next life, seamlessly transferring your loan to the new you so that you don’t miss a single payment. 
Q: How exactly does this benefit me?
A: By extending your loan’s “life,” so to speak, we’re able to decrease your monthly payments while increasing our chances of getting repaid. Imagine reducing the stress that comes with paying off an unreasonably large sum of money in one lifetime. Then imagine us reducing the stress of loaning those sums of money to people who majored in philosophy. 
Q: So, are you saying I can stop making payments now and just let my future selves cover the rest?
A: Unfortunately, no. It’s going to take all three of you to close this thing out.

And Then There's Ziggy

Illustration by Luci Gutiérrez

As all of you avid The New Yorker readers (you are, aren't you) will surely recall, it was indeed Colin Nissan who, back in May, advised us

O.K., You Can Get a Dog

So Abq Jew is pretty sure that Colin's plan for paying off student loans will, as they say, pan out.

Q: What if I actually pay off my loan
before I die, in this life?
A: Oh, my God, that’s adorable.

Love him anyway, forever.
Belle & May-May, too.

Monday, September 2, 2019

The Night the Well Ran Dry

Discovering the Berkshires: Well, last week Mr & Mrs Abq Jew did discover the Albany International Airport (ALB). Which, it turns out, makes our beloved Albuquerque International Sunport seem ... well, gigantic. Who'da thunk?

Except for waiting for our homeward-bound flight to depart, we spent almost no time at all discovering Albany (see Discovering Albany). But it was enough. Instead -

We discovered the Berkshires.

Our Base of Operations - for the whole family, in one glorious house, all seven of us together! - was

Coco's Airbnb Berkshires Getaway

Located on 19 acres, this large unique chalet style A-frame mountain home sleeps 8 and is great for Autumn leaf peeping & apple picking. In Winter, it becomes a cozy winter wonderland and is less than 20 minutes from top ski resorts! Situated on its own small mountain, with total privacy, the sweeping views of Lebanon Valley make this an ideal getaway for any season.

Sure, you can hang around the house (pool, TV, ping-pong, knock-hockey, and a fully-equipped kitchen) - or you can take the 20-minute drive across the state line to beautiful

Downtown Pittsfield, MA

where you can visit the family-friendly

Berkshire Museum

and then relax - with the kids! at

Patrick's Pub

And then - and then! - on another day, you can take the 20-minute drive across the state line to beautiful

Downtown Stockbridge, MA

where you can visit the family-friendly

Berkshire Botanical Garden

and then relax - with the kids! at

Michael's Restaurant

Yes! It's all a lot of fun! And then ...

The well runs dry.

You, Abq Jew's loyal readers, will surely recall the really, really funny story (see Two More Nights) that was finally a competitor to James Thurber's 1933 humor classic The Night The Bed Fell. As a reminder - 

It started with Abq Jew Googling "roomba dog poop".

I suppose that the high-water mark (pun fully intended) of our vacation in the Berkshires was the night the well ran dry. It makes a better recitation (unless, as some friends of mine have said, one has heard it five or six times) than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to throw water buckets around, shake doors, and bark like a dog, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat incredible tale. Still, it did take place.

First, you have to understand that it wasn't Coco's fault. Coco owns two Berkshire properties - our delightful Airbnb Getaway, and a habitable, tenant-occupied barn just down the hill. The two properties share a well.

Of the sharing, Coco assured us - and we believe her! - that, in the many years she has managed these properties, only twice has the waterflow temporarily ceased. One time, the pump died. And one time, everybody in both houses decided to take a shower at the same time and at the same time that they were doing the wash. Both times, the waterflow was quickly restored.

But the third time was the charm.

Shown above is a 2-inch Universal Longest Lasting Toilet Flapper with Microban, which you can purchase at Home Depot for $3.63. Don't know how to replace a toilet flapper? There are about a zillion YouTube videos (with literally hundreds of thousands and millions of views!) that show you how.

However. Coco's down-the-hill barn tenants (remember them?) failed, for days, to realize and/or report that - because the toilet-flapper in their one and only toilet was broken - said toilet was constantly running.

How far could it get? Abq Jew hears you ask.

You guessed it. Just a bit after 5:00 pm - COB (Close of Business, as we who worked used to say) - the water in our kitchen faucet, which had been flowing so beautifully, suddenly gurgled, splat, and harrumphed.

And that was it. We contacted Coco, who recommended a few things for us to try - things that had worked before. Nothing worked this time.

It was by then much later, and the only remedies available to us were (for cooking and washing) a couple of bottles of seltzer we had in the fridge; and (for other purposes) buckets of water hauled in from the pool.

It was not a fun evening.

So about those other purposes. In the bathroom on the lower level of Coco's Berkshire Getaway was installed a conventional American Standard toilet that was (sans a fresh supply of water) capable of but a single flush.

But that was OK; all you had to do was shlep a bucket of water from the pool to refill the tank. And voilà - another flush! Then repeat as needed.

In the bathrooms on the main and upper floors, however, were installed super-modern jet-powered toilets. Which could not accept a fresh supply of water, and were therefore unflushable. But still, in a sense, usable. Just remember to close the lid afterward.

What Abq Jew is trying to convey here, without coming right out and grossly stating what may in fact be obvious, is that

The faucet was only a small part of the problem.

But then morning came.

And with the new day came every plumber, electrician, handyman, technician, and pool guy in our small patch of Berskshire heaven. Coco had been up late the night before (or early on this new day) and had made the phone calls that placed everyone in town with even a peripheral knowledge of water resource management at our doorstep at 8:00 am to save us.

Now, it took everyone (they were all professionals) only about an hour to figure out what the problem was. And it took one of them (we're still not sure exactly who) only about 15 minutes to fix the problem. At the tenants' place.

But then - we had to wait for the well to refill.

So we went to the store and stocked up on water. Water in bottles, water in cans, water in multi-gallon containers. Lots and lots of water. And Imodium. Just in case.

We had been warned not to turn on the pump until (perhaps) late afternoon or (better) early evening, lest we cause further damage (?) that would only further delay (?) the restoration of our waterflow.

So we waited.

Until 7:00 pm. When, we figured, come heck or low water, we would bravely flip the pump switch and see what, if anything, happened.

The well had refilled.
The well pump worked.
We were saved.

Rarely had a gush of water from a faucet sounded so good to Abq Jew. Even better was the sound of a super-modern jet-powered toilet.

We had been without flowing water for about 27 hours. To commemorate our Excellent Adventure -

Coco reimbursed us for two (2) nights.
Without even being asked. She just did it.
Yes, we're thinking about rebooking next year.

Downtown Fall River, MA

If you, Abq Jew's loyal readers, have come to the conclusion that Abq Jew is, to some degree, obsessed with bathrooms - you would not be far from correct.

Do you remember Abq Jew talking about the Chad Mitchell Trio and Michael Brown (see A Song For The Right and Fall River Now And Then)?

Well, before Michael Brown hit fame with the Trio, he made a very nice living, thank you (his and his wife's generosity gave Harper Lee the time to write To Kill A Mockingbird), by writing industrial musicals.

There is now a documentary film about such writers of industrial musicals.

Bathtubs Over Broadway premiered on April 21, 2018 at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center as part of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. The film's director, Dava Whisenant, won Tribeca's Albert Maysles Award for Best New Documentary Director. 
Comedy writer Steve Young’s assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a Late Night segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange and hilarious world of industrial musicals. 
Tribeca Jury: “The winner of the Best New Documentary Director goes to a film that we chose for many reasons. The story, the specific subject, the journey into a world we never knew existed. This film also has an element every great film, doc, and story needs...heart.” 
Described as "the most feel-good film event of the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival," the premiere featured post-screening live performances, including a duet about motion-activated faucets that reunited the stars of American Standard's cult favorite industrial show The Bathrooms Are Coming!

You can watch the Bathtubs Over Broadway trailer here; or visit the film's website here. You can now stream Bathrooms Over Broadway on Netflix, too - which is how Abq Jew discovered it.

Yes, Abq Jew does indeed love bathrooms. Always has. And because he suspects that - secretly or openly, covertly or overtly - you, his loyal readers, may love bathrooms too, Abq Jew proudly presents -

My Bathroom

Created for New Year's Eve 1958.
Recording of My Bathroom is from an industrial musical called 
The Bathrooms are Coming, produced by the American Standard Company
in 1969 and included in the book and accompanying CD,