The Thought Trains Go in All Directions

Random Weird Stuff… and a Post Script

Where’s My Anonymous?

There are lots of forms of addiction. And lots of organizations to deal with them.

Too fond of alcohol – Alcoholics Anonymous. Drugs – Narcotics Anonymous. Food – Over Eaters Anonymous. I’m not at all sure why they all have to be anonymous, not that it matters.

The thing is I’ve recently noticed that I have an addiction: I’m way too fond of buying… books. Is there a Book Buyers Anonymous for that?

I have a wall full of bookshelves, naturally crammed full of… you probably guessed it… books. I also have hundreds of books in the Kindle app on my phone. And no, I haven’t read them all… yet.

But I do read – a lot. It’s my favorite way to spend time. No offense to any of my friends who I do truly love, but I’m happiest curled up somewhere, alone, with a book.

And I even have my own “pusher man” – a very nice guy who sells used books, in like new condition, for super cheap prices. I get excited just thinking about it. I almost, but not quite, feel bad about buying them. The “not quite” is that they are used Jewish books, and I always feel as if I am showing them the respect they deserve by providing them a good home where they will be both cherished and read.

Plus, he sets the prices. I just say “yes” all too often. Last time I picked up a batch he told me I was a “repeat buyer”.  I know he meant it as a compliment but that isn’t really what you want to hear when you know you’re stretching your budget to buy more books. Even if you are doing it happily.

And oh my goodness, the ones I just bought were so very beautiful! They truly do deserve a good home, and they’ve found it: more than just reading, I will use them in my learning.

I am looking forward to the next email I get, with a new listing of books for sale.

I am torn between feeling so happy and so doomed.

The old Steppenwolf song said: G-d damn the pusher man! I say: G-d bless him!

Sushi for Breakfast

Yes I did have sushi for breakfast the other day. Why? Because it was there. In my frig I mean.

People think I can’t cook. I can. I just don’t.

For one thing it takes time away from reading, which I find as aggravating as you might imagine a book addict would.

Also to be completely honest, even after seventeen years, I still haven’t completely figured out kosher. Every time I think I’m close, I find out something else that hadn’t even occurred to me.

I do try.

I shop at our local kosher market. We don’t have a kosher liquor store (Is there such a thing somewhere? If there is, someone please let me know where it is.). But I check the list in my kosher liquor app to make sure the liquor I purchase is kosher.

I even know that some liquor isn’t kosher because the owners of the company that make it are Jews who don’t sell their chametz (yeast) over Passover.

Come to think of it, I may know more about kosher liquor than I do about kosher food. Geez, I probably shouldn’t have admitted that, but too late now I guess.

Anyway…

It turns out the easiest way for me to keep kosher, when none of my kosher-keeping friends have invited me over, is either eat out at kosher restaurants, or buy kosher take-out and use paper plates, and plastic utensils and cups at home.

What can I say? Everyone has to figure out what works for them. And this is what works for me right now.

One of the Many and There’ve Been Plenty:  
Another Thing, Besides Kosher, That I Don’t Understand

I started thinking about being Jewish 17 years ago. I went to the mikvah 12 years ago. And one of the first things I learned soon thereafter was that there is a difference between Judaism and Jews.

There are so many things I don’t understand about Judaism (and happily I never will since that means I will always have something new to learn, which for me is the most fun ever!) However, not quite so happily, there are just as many things that I don’t understand about Jews.

MaNishtana, in his book Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi, said something like “Don’t let Jews spoil Judaism for you.”

I have to say, sometimes that’s kind of a challenge.

There are so many “flavors”, as I tend to think of them, of Judaism: Multiple kinds of Orthodox, including Chassidum of which (I think) Chabad is a subset (I’m still trying to figure out exactly how that all works), and Sefardi who also seem to be mostly Orthodox; Conservative; Reform; Reconstructionist; and many kinds of independent minyans and farbengens. I’m sure I’ve left some groups out.

A Rabbi I know said every single synagogue has its own minhag (custom). I upped that with “Every single Jew has their own.” He agreed.

But what I’ve never understood is why the Jews in these different flavors seem so hostile to each other. Pretty much any of them, when speaking of another flavor, will say something like: “Those people down the street do it this way” with a hint of hostility, a smirk, and usually an eye roll to make certain you understand that “those people” are going it wrong. Whatever “it” they are speaking of at that moment.

What?

I mean, I’m willing to accept that G-d spoke to the prophets, and the sages, and the Rabbis of old, but I’m pretty sure He hasn’t spoken to me, or to anyone else I know personally, lately. (Although I know there are folks who would disagree with that statement. But that’s a different article.)

Anyway, and no disrespect to any flavor, absent G-d speaking to us today, I don’t understand why folks are so sure that the way they do Judaism is the one true way.

And no, that wasn’t a request for someone to tell me the reasons why their way is correct. I’ve read or heard a lot of them. And I can follow the explanations in my head just fine. (Whether I agree with them or not is also another article.)

I even accept and live by the rules of Orthodoxy, as explained in my shul, insofar as I understand them. (I always have to put that last qualifier in. I am very aware of how much I don’t know.)

For all that, what I can’t seem to do is follow these explanations in my heart. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been doing things the same way all my life. Maybe it’s because I only have my own custom, not the custom of my family and my ancestors to follow. Truthfully, I have no idea why it is that this doesn’t make sense to me.

It just seems to me that we are all Jews together. And if what you follow isn’t exactly what I follow… well okay,  G-d bless you. And (Star Wars reference) Let’s all just move along and mind our own (Jewish) business. There’s nothing to see here.

It says in Torah that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred between Jews.

It says in Torah that all Jews are supposed to love one another.

It says in Torah that we are not supposed to judge others. G-d alone is the true judge.

So what is this with the chocolate flavor Jews hating the vanilla flavor Jews and they both hate the strawberry flavor Jews? And the orange sherbet flavor Jews?  Shhhh! We don’t talk about them, or to them, at all!

No, I really don’t understand it. I’m not even sure I want to.

The only thing I’m pretty sure about is that when the Inquisition comes the next time, (or for that matter when the current crop of anti-semites show up to visit) none of them are going to be concerned about which flavor we are. Strangely enough they all think somewhat like I do, although for very different reasons, obviously: We are all Jews together.

I truly wish we could act like it.

Post Script for Merri: I Don’t Write Right

And fair warning: if you’re not Merri, this may bore you. Actually even if you are Merri, it may. Apologies in advance.

I realize that unless you’re J.K. Rowling or someone like her, almost nobody cares about your writing process. But the hevria writer mentioned above expressed a vague interest, so here’s a vague few paragraphs about mine.

Being a writer, naturally I read about writing – about how you’re supposed to go about it. And what I’ve found out is that I don’t do it the way you’re supposed to. Is anyone who knows me surprised?

Apparently, what you’re supposed to do is think of an idea, write an outline, and then write your story or whatever using that outline. I tried that and it just flat doesn’t work for me. I find outlines difficult to write and kind of pointless. They may well work fine for other people. I don’t have an opinion on that (Yeah, I know: shocker. Something I don’t have an opinion on.)

It’s also possible that if I ever write one of the books I keep saying I’m going to write, I may find out I need to use one. But right now, they just slow me down and don’t add anything.

Here’s the way it works for me:

I have lots of ideas banging around in my head all the time. Things just pop in, and to be honest, they pop out again just as often. Sometimes I’ll think of something that I’m sure would be a cool thing to write about; then I’ll get busy with something else (you know like earning a living, sleeping, eating… learning), and when I get back into my head to look for it, the idea has taken itself off… who knows where.

Usually they come back, but sometimes they don’t. I remember reading somewhere that ideas are little entities, “muses” I think the author called them.  And she said that if you ignore them, they get annoyed and leave and go live in someone else’s, more hospitable, brain. Didn’t seem reasonable to me when I was originally reading it, but hey… given how my mind works, maybe she was right.

When an idea does hang around, I do what I call “worrying at it” for awhile (sometimes a few hours, sometimes months, usually a week-ish) until I sort of have a “feeling” about what the beginning is, and what the end of it is. I’m generally a little fuzzy about the middle.

Then I just start at the beginning and write until I get to the end. With me I’d say it’s more a road, then an outline. I just write on it wherever it leads.

I do “feel” words in my fingers, which I realize won’t makes any sense to anyone else. For that matter, it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not a physical feeling exactly. I just know that they’re in there. And they come out into the keyboard and from there, onto the screen. I don’t do well attempting to handwrite my first drafts. It’s just not how the words want to come out.

And why argue? You work with what you’ve been given.

After the first draft, which I print out, I do handwritten edits. Then it’s back to the screen, where adding the handwritten edits shows me any spots where there are detours or, worse yet, gaps in the road between the beginning and end. Writing for hevria, I usually use my final on website check to find any grammar errors that got away from me. I’m so focused on just keeping my brain on the road that sometimes the spelling and the grammar escape the “vehicle”.

Besides… I know what I mean, so why isn’t it just auto-magically clear to everyone else? It’s amazing how poorly that theory works.

I moved a couple of months ago, and I haven’t written anything since, until this.

The first few weeks I couldn’t even find my computer. It was all over the new apartment, buried under boxes, and clothes, and fabric, and yarn. Well, you get the idea… under stuff.

I did finally find all the pieces. And… then the printer demanded new cartridges. First trip to the office supply store.

Problem solved. Except then I couldn’t find the printer paper. (Actually, I still haven’t found it. I gave up. It’ll turn up someday and I’ll still need it.) Another trip to the office supply store. 

Finally I found (or purchased) all the pieces and got everything set up, only to discover there didn’t seem to be anything much in my hands. Or my mind.

It was so weird. I tried a technique a writing coach said always worked for her: write just 10 minutes a day. Guess what? It didn’t work for me.

The reason I ended up writing this strange little PS is that I mentioned that I was beginning to feel that I’d left all the words in my hands in my old place. And Merri said she found the idea of that kind of interesting.

It really isn’t, Merri. Sorry.

This week, the words just showed up again. Maybe they didn’t make it into the moving truck, and the walk over took awhile. After all, they’re small.

Good grief, Charlie Brown! I’m babbling. I’m stopping now. Because really that’s it. What passes for my writing process.

Merri, you must be so very sorry you made that comment!


Photo by Brian Jones on Unsplash