Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Winnemucca at 3 AM

Cheyenne for Shavuos: About 50 years ago - in May 1974 - Abq Jew left his parents' home in Sunnyvale, California (see December 2021's Joseph Dreams), stepped onto a Greyhound bus in San Francisco, and headed for Reno, Nevada - the first stop on his journey eastward to his homeland - Brooklyn, New York.


You see, Abq Jew (long before he became Abq Jew) longed to complete his Jewish education. To study, to learn, to grow Jewishly - more than was possible in those days in Northern California.

Boston! Boston was the place where real, live Judaism was happening. Young Jews were forming chavurot, Jewish catalogs were being written, published, and read. Everyone said that Boston was the place to be. Nevertheless -

Abq Jew set out for ... Brooklyn.
He had mishpacha there. And so -

Fifty years au go-go. Abq Jew spent a few hours in downtown Reno, where he watched with sad chagrin as mostly working-class people fed their hard-earned money into the mouths of machines that, collectively, never give back.

Then Abq Jew was again riding the Greyhound, heading now to Salt Lake City. With a stop in the glorious (really!) Winnemucca at 3 AM.

Mormon Temple

You may be aware that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormonism) is the most popular religion in Salt Lake City (in particular) and the State of Utah (generally).

You may not be aware that (well, way back then) the second-most popular religion in said region was ... wait for it ... Judaism! Abq Jew does not know why this is/was so, except that - hey, why not? 

We Jews find Judaism - not really an organized religion - interesting. Why shouldn't everybody? And if the competition (so to speak) is the most strictly organized religion in the world ... ?

Anyway - Abq Jew got off the bus in Salt Lake City and strolled on over to the local Hillel (then, as he recalls, close to the Temple), where Abq Jew figured he'd hang out for a few days. 

Which he did. Made new friends, fit right into the community, had a wonderful time. But Denver and Brooklyn were calling.


So here's the thing about travelling from Salt Lake City to Denver. There are basically two ways to go.
  1. Just continue on good old Interstate 80, just like you have been. A slightly roundabout but nevertheless more direct route that takes you through Cheyenne, Wyoming - an added benefit.
  2. Switch to Interstate 70, upon which you ain't never travelled. Go to Denver but hardly directly, following all those squiggly mountain curves, dips, and bends.

Which is where John Denver enters the picture. His 1972 hit Rocky Mountain High captured Abq Jew's own youthful wanderlust, his eagerness to see those Rocky Mountains and, indeed, all of America. 

After all - that's why Abq Jew was on the Greyhound.

After closely (but not nearly closely enough) examining the maps, Abq Jew decided to take the northern, less squiggly, more direct route, through Wyoming. Southern Wyoming. Cheyenne.


As it turns out, Wyoming has plenty of big, tall, gorgeous mountains. But they're not John Denver's Rocky Mountains, and they're not - as Abq Jew sadly and quickly came to realize - to be found along I-80. Southern Wyoming, as it turns out, is mostly high plateau. 

Those Rocky Mountains looked highly and stunningly beautiful as Abq Jew - sitting on the right (southern) side of the Greyhound - observed them from a distance. A great distance.


And then Abq Jew was in Cheyenne.

When Abq Jew stepped off the Greyhound on Sunday, May 26, 1974, he was greeted by - as usual? no, even more so! - almost no one. That was because, among other factors, it was the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. All of Cheyenne was rodeoing out of town. There was nobody home.

Except for The Jews.

Shavuot Mountain

It was Erev Shavuos.

On Memorial Day 1974, Shavuot 5734, Abq Jew shlepped to - where else? - shul. Where else would a Jew be on Shavuos? In this case, the best (only?) synagogue in town was (fittingly named)

Mt Sinai Cheyenne

Mount Sinai of Cheyenne

Now, for those of you who have not been and who therefore may not know, Mount Sinal today says of itself (on its Membership page):

Mt. Sinai is more than a Synagogue.  It’s a family, and we want you to join us.  Welcome home!

Our members come from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles, but we all share a deep sense of friendship, community, and a love of Judaism ... Our diversity and strong community feelings are evident at every gathering and meeting, making Mt. Sinai a fun and dynamic environment.

We are both a synagogue and the Jewish community center of Cheyenne. We encourage you to participate in the life of Mt. Sinai as you consider membership. There’s always something going on at our Synagogue.

Welcoming as Mount Sinai is today - 50 years ago, in 1974, it was even more so. Abq Jew fit right in, joining the congregation for Akdamut, the Torah and Haftarah readings, and the full Shavuos prayers.

And after the service? Seeing that Abq Jew was a single guy, travelling across America, who cared enough to take the time to stop off and daven Shavuos at Mount Sinai, the Rabbi invited Abq Jew to have lunch with him and his family.

Abq Jew - like a complete ingrate idiot - begged off,
explaining to the Rabbi that Denver and Brooklyn were calling.

Tevye's Daughters

Sometime later, Abq Jew was to learn that the Rabbi, whose name Abq Jew cannot recall (and the Mount Sinai webpage doesn't go back that far) - the Rabbi had four daughters, one (or more) of whom was of marriageable age.


But Abq Jew's bashert
was waiting ... in Brooklyn.

Who knew? Not Mr & Mrs Abq Jew!

To be continued

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