3

So Close, Yet So Far…

Interrupting the woefully delayed recounting of Summer Odyssey 2015 to announce a delay of another kind: after spending a lovely week in Boston, I was supposed to make it home tonight but thanks to weather delays in Chicago, my connecting city, I…did not.

My flight from Boston to Chicago was delayed by 3 hours, as was my flight to Madison. We got to Chicago after what seemed like hours on the plane, and then I rushed over to find out that my plane had left and there was only one more flight to Madison for the day. I was given a ticket at Gate C5, and then walked over to Gate C3 – literally, feet away – and was told that I couldn’t get on the flight even though I had a ticket because it was packed full, and since I was “late” they gave my “seat” away. What the gate agent should have done was direct me to a bus, but instead she told me to go to Customer Service, for which the line was already miles long. Upset and panicked, I took a short break to breathe and wait, and then wandered over to the B terminal, which had a) an open Starbucks, where I got a venti green tea lemonade (worth it), and b) a much shorter line at Customer Service. By the time it was my turn, the last Madison bus was gone (just my luck!) but I got a seat on tomorrow’s 9:16 AM flight, and the option to either sleep on a cot in the airport, or pay a discounted rate at a local hotel via Airport Accommodations. The lady at the counter said that there were very few rooms left within a reasonable distance, but I took my chances and called, and now, for just $89 and a $62 cab ride, I’m spending the night in Room 421 at the Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca, Illinois.

Knowing how crowded O’Hare will be, I’ll probably need to get there 3 hours early instead of just 2, so I’m setting all my alarms for 6 AM, which is 4 hours from now (2 AM Central).

I’m sad that my trip had to end this way, but at least I’m going to take a hot bath now and then try to get some sleep in a real bed (rather than a mattress/couch) for the first time since Charlottetown.

…But before I left the airport, as I was sitting near the customer service desk waiting on the phone with the hotel, I noticed a passport and some travel documents lying on a table nearby, with no one around to claim them. After I got off the phone, I went over and picked it up, it was some woman from Utah’s forgotten passport along with her plane ticket to Vienna on Austrian Airlines. Rather than risk it being stolen or thrown out, I turned it in at Customer Service, who told me with a smile that I should stick around and look for more lost passports and tickets. I hope that my act of kindness brought me some good karma, and that the woman and her passport are reunited and off to Austria soon.

Anyway, good night. Wish me luck for tomorrow!

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4

Paging American Mayors

Today, the news story that broke my Facebook news feed and the Internet worldwide (my apologies to Kim Kardashian) was what happened in Israel. When Israel hits the headlines, there’s a 75% chance that it’s bad news, and the newest incident/terrorist attack/”terrorist attack”/whatever CNN wants to call it felt particularly close to home.

Among the four dead, three were American citizens.

Here’s the rundown: Two Israeli Palestinian brothers storm into a synagogue in Har Nof, a very religious neighborhood in Jerusalem which has not been the scene of many acts of violence, armed with a gun, an axe, and a meat cleaver. Shouting “Allah’u akbar,” they attacked the men who were praying there. Nine were wounded, and four died: Moshe Twersky, a prominent rabbi from Boston; Rabbi Arieh Kupinsky, a Detroit native;  Cary William “Kalman” Levine, from Kansas City; and Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, originally from London and holding dual Israeli/UK citizenship. All were married and in their 50s/60s. Between them, they were fathers to 17 children and even more grandchildren. In addition, a Druze policeman who came to the rescue was shot in the crossfire, and died a short while after.

Boston.

Detroit.

Kansas City.

My first instinct was to go to the websites of each city’s largest newspaper and see what they had to say about their lost denizens. I found the Boston Globe, the Detroit Free Press, and the Kansas City Star. Surely they had family, friends, and community leaders who were devastated.

In these articles, however, I noticed a trend.

Here is a list of everyone who was quoted in the articles:

President Barack Obama. Richard M. Joel (Yeshiva University). Eric Nelson (Maimonides School). Yehuda Yaakov (Israeli Consul, Boston). Michael Zwick (friend of Kupinsky). Jordana Wolfson (Akiba Hebrew Day School). Beverly Phillips (Jewish Community Relations Council of Metro Detroit). Rabbi Michael Cohen (Young Israel of Oak Park). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Secretary of State John Kerry. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Yosef Posternak (Witness). Yohanan Danino (Israeli Chief of Police). Alan Edelman (Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City). Jonathan Bein (Brother-in-law of Kalman Levine). Shimon Kraft (Childhood friend of Kalman Levine).

Who is missing?

Let’s see…the mayors of the cities of Boston, Detroit, and KCMO. State governors. Representatives. Congressman. Senators. Anyone from the United States of America who is not either in the federal government or a representative from the Jewish community. Where are they, and why haven’t they said anything? After all, these were their constituents, their taxpayers, and first and foremost, residents and natives of their hometowns. And they were brutally murdered in a terrorist attack, while praying in a house of worship in a foreign country. Remember Natalee Holloway, the Alabama girl who never returned from her trip to the Caribbean? Her state governor Bob Riley wagged his finger at the entire island of Aruba and issued a travel boycott. What about you, Governor of Michigan?

I considered the chance that maybe the reporters and news wires had missed the cities’ mayors in their rush to get the word out, so I decided to go to each mayor’s personal website and see if he put up something, a statement or a picture or anything, about what happened to a resident from his city. In the Press Room section of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s website, an article about the arts in Boston from a few days ago. Sly James, from Kansas City? Wrote about Summer Youth Employment yesterday. And today’s news from Mark Duggan in Detroit? Auto insurance.

Now, I’m not implying that employing our youth and insuring our automobiles is unimportant, but people in these cities may not be aware of the fact that someone who once lived in their ZIP code was murdered today. And those who do get word of it could wonder: what does this mean if I go to Israel, or anywhere abroad; would I be safe, and if not, would any public official who I might have campaigned for or voted for or shaken hands with give a darn? And would they make it public? How public? Would there be a memorial day for me in my hometown? Would my parents, siblings, children receive any sort of encouraging message from those who claim to have their jobs at the hands of “the people,” act for “the people,” and represent “the people” of their city to the United States and to the world?

It’s only been two days, but even in just two days all of the people listed above came out of the woodwork and said something. Elected officials, where have you been? If something like this happened in your city, by now you would have addressed the public, called an investigation, and offered public/private sympathies to the family. And one of the victims was the son of an actual person, with a Wikipedia entry, and everyone knows that if it’s on Wikipedia, that shit’s legit, # sarcasmbutyeahitskindatrue.

Most likely, no mayors, governors, senators or city councilmen will happen to bounce on over here and read this, and because I have a paper to finish, a suitcase to pack and some pizza that’s calling my name, I can’t contact every single one of them. But if I could page these three mayors, I’d tell them the truth and if they didn’t believe me, I’d give them the names of the families.

And if they happen to be reading this, then, welcome, and please don’t sue me 🙂 I am nicer than this normally, I promise.

***

Works Cited

Adler, Eric. “Two rabbis killed in Jerusalem attack have Kansas City ties.” Local. Kansas City Star. 18 November 2014.

Rosen, Andy, John R. Ellement and Peter Schworm. “One of four men murdered in Israel has ties to Boston area.” Metro. The Boston Globe. 18 November 2014.

Warikoo, Niraj, Zlati Meyer and Tia Goldenberg. “Rabbi killed in Jerusalem attack grew up in Oak Park.”

2

Three Times I Have Fallen Asleep in Public

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been eating well, or I’m behind on work, or I’m just…I don’t know, overwhelmed, maybe…but I haven’t been inspired by anything lately. I always say one of two things about blogging: a) I’ll edit this entry later, and b) That’s a story for another entry.

So I looked back at some previous posts, and since I could use a good story anyway, here are…

Three Times I Have Fallen Asleep in Public

It should be noted that, as a child, I had a horrible time trying to sleep anywhere but in my own bed, so none of these events occurred until I was at least in high school.

SeaTac Slumber Party

In between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I went on a cruise to Alaska with my dad, aunt, and sister. As it is, Alaska fucks up your sleeping schedule, especially if you are only there for a few days, like we were. So with an already destroyed body clock, we disembarked the ship in Seattle with a whole day before we had to fly home, so we went to explore the city. It started off all right, but after the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, something within me began to unravel. I don’t even quite know why or how it happened, but I just started crying. Nobody did anything to upset me, and I was not hurt, but there I was, sitting in the rental car somewhere in downtown Seattle, bawling for no reason. Unusually, my dad was being very supportive and comforting, telling me, “it’s okay, you’re just overtired, you miss home, you’ve had enough vacation for now, we’ll be home soon.” I can’t remember where my aunt and sister were at the time, but I do remember that I wished that they were around to see my dad being so nice.

After I had cleaned myself up, pulled it together (as much as I could), we returned the rental car and went to the airport. I was still a little shaken up from sobbing my eyes out so hard that I couldn’t breathe, so my dad bought me a book or something in the terminal. Next thing I knew, I was on the plane. Apparently, I had fallen asleep so deeply that I didn’t even remember where I was or why I was sad. And to make it even funnier, I was sprawled out on the floor on my stomach and people were walking over me. I only found that out after I got home; on the ship I had made some friends and exchanged email addresses with them, and two of those friends, a mother and daughter from Tennessee who had arrived at the airport after we did. On their way to their gate, they walked past the gate where we were and they recognized my dad. According to their email, they walked over to say hello/goodbye and asked my dad where I was, at which point he directed them to look towards the floor.

Sleeping Beauty in Boston

In 2008, I attended my fraternity’s national convention, held that year at a Hilton in Boston. I helped out on the workshops committee, participated in events all day, and also had a lot of late nights hanging out with brothers; basically, very little sleep for me for a few days. It was the final day of the convention, and my roommates and I had just checked out of the hotel, and along with some other brothers, were storing our luggage in a small conference room while waiting for the closing event of the convention, the final banquet. Someone started talking about how tired they were, and how they were going to skip out on the final banquet and take a nap instead. In response, someone else crawled under the large conference table in the center of the room, and thinking it was funny, a few others (including myself) joined them and continued the conversation while sitting under the table. I guess I became bored or something, because I crawled over to my bag, got the book I was reading, and crawled back beneath the table.

The next thing I know, I open my eyes to a darkened and empty room. Putting on my glasses, I get up and turn on the lights. Then, I remember about the banquet, and was horrified to think that I had possibly already slept through it. I look around the room for a cell phone or anything, and of course there’s a huge wall clock which lets me know that two hours have gone by. Two hours. Which means that the banquet…is in about fifteen minutes. And I still need to get dressed. Needless to say, I threw on my outfit and booked it to the banquet hall, managing to make it just in time to get a seat.

The convention ended, and I spent the next few days hanging out with Dan, ringing in the new year at his place, hanging out with them, and flying home in January, when plane tickets are cheaper. A few days later, my Facebook becomes clogging with tagged pictures of me from convention. Most of them are fun and happy, but then I get to a picture and see myself passed out on the floor of the conference room, lying on my stomach with my book and glasses lying next to me in a neat little pile.

Whoops.

I was kind of hoping that kind of picture wouldn’t have existed, but at least I was fully clothed and nobody decided to write on me.

One Long Clinic Wait

This happened sometime during the brief period between Israel and Houston where I lived at home. One day, I went with my mom to visit my sister in her classroom in Rockville. She happened to be terribly sick that day, so after following her home, she got into the car with us and we went to a 24-hour urgent care clinic somewhere in the DC/Rockville area. I did not expect this activity, so I didn’t bring any books or my laptop. As my mom and sister are seeing the doctor, I sit in the waiting room…waiting…waiting…waiting…

…And then I’m awake, still sitting in the clinic, but about an hour has passed, it’s gotten a bit darker outside, there are different people sitting around me, and my mom and sister are nowhere to be seen. At first, I think that they’re probably still with the doctor, but then realizing that I had already been waiting a long time before I fell asleep, other thoughts enter my mind. I’m already picturing the headlines: “Have You Seen This 22-Year-Old?” or “Mother Enters Clinic With Two Children; Leaves With Just One.” So my curiosity gets the better of me, and I head outside. At first I had trouble finding where I was because I was in a strange city and disoriented, but after a few minutes of walking around, I found my mother’s car, still in the spot where we parked it. Okay, I thought, so they’re around here, somewhere…but where? There are a few stores nearby and a Dunkin’ Donuts, so I spend a little time poking around there, and then head back to the clinic to wait some more.

Of course, the expected story would end with them being finished with the doctor just as I left, and then leaving to look for me as I came back, but really, it was just a long appointment and they didn’t even know I had fallen asleep or had left the clinic for a good ten-fifteen minutes.

So, yeah.

Not much of a point here, but hey, more stories, and even though I shouldn’t, I actually feel like I’ve been productive for the last hour.

Wow, I have issues.

Here’s a fuzzy bunny.

2

That’s So Random: Myths, Misconceptions, and Mind-Numbing Cold

Quote of the Day:

“So, how about this cold weather?” – Every single newscaster in America.

Seriously. It’s cold. Really cold. Almost every state had record lows today. It was way below zero in Madison, so I’m glad I was in Baltimore, which was…15 degrees, the coldest January 7 since 1994. That’s more than the number of miles I traveled today (about 1, if that) and hot beverages I consumed today (2; 1 coffee at home and a caramel macchiato from Starbucks). I went to the gym yesterday, but the thought of returning just chilled me even more, and not for any sort of dislike of exercise. It’s mind-numbingly cold. It’s just about too cold to think, so I came up with this idea based on a book I found at The Book Thing the other day.

But first, my post about Africa yesterday attracted more hits than ever, and brought readers from two African countries that were new on my blog counter, so welkom to South Africa, and karibu to Kenya. In addition, I also received a visitor from Denmark, so valkommen to you.

Back to the topic of the day. I picked up this book entitled The Book of Myths & Misconceptions. So I’m going to pick a random page, learn something new, write a hundred words or so on the topic, and top it off with a funny animated gif.

So…here we go.

Page 325: “It’s Over There: The Real Battle of Bunker Hill.”

The story: June 1775 – a violent battle occurred in Charlestown, Massachusetts, just across the “dirty water” of the Charles River from Boston.

The misconception: The battle occurred on Bunker Hill, hence the name.

The real facts: The battle did not occur on Bunker Hill. (Go figure.) American soldiers under the direction of Col. William Prescott started out on Bunker Hill, digging into the side of the hill, when Prescott discovered a hill that was easier to defend, so he moved the whole shebang to Breed’s Hill, a slightly lower hill about a half mile away. The next morning, Col. William Howe and his redcoats attacked, and won – but due to bad maps and the tide, lost a thousand British soldiers in the process, more than double the number of American casualties.

My thoughts (pretty much unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness, first-thing-that-comes-to-mind:)

The Revolutionary War. Something I haven’t thought about since probably high school. Seriously. I don’t think I ever took an American history course in college, at any level, and haven’t studied American theatre in that era. There wasn’t that much to speak of, except Aphra Behn’s The Widdow Ranter, the first play written with an American setting. But Aphra Behn was British. I used to live in Massachusetts. I spent a few years going to college there, at UMass Amherst. I love Amherst. I miss Amherst. Our mascot was Sam the Minute Man. Probably no other school is known as the “Minuteman,” which is why UMass is the awesome school that it is. The only thing that annoyed me was when I came home and everyone, my family included, asked me how Boston was. I was like “I don’t know, how is it?” because I did not live there, or anywhere near there. In fact, I’ve been to Boston a grand total of four times in my life: once on my first road trip with Dad, once to visit Boston University, once to catch a plane after my dreadful Brandeis University visit, and finally, for the 2008 APO National Convention. In June, LMDA will be in Boston, so that might warrant my fifth-ever visit. It still makes me cringe when people asked me what going to college in Boston was like, because I actually didn’t do that, unless you count going to the boy scout reservation in Sudbury twice for camping trips, including the first one when my big, Yukie, took us on an “alternative” route through tiny, winding roads that I later learned were along the New Hampshire border. Oh, Massachusetts, you with your deceptively long roads through nowhere. And your boring license plates. Because the spirit of Massachusetts is…

Oh, and here’s a picture:

There you go. Not much fun to be had at such a bloody battle.

This was also where Col. William Howe coined the famous phrase “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” 

Oh, that image search at least yielded a comic strip, so enjoy:

0

Road Trip 1: New England, 1999

Our first official road trip started on June 13, 1999. With a tank full of gas and hearts full of hope, we headed to nab our first stamps of the day, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After driving through Maryland and Delaware, we arrived in Philly just in time for lunch.

Our first stop was the Gloria Dei Church. It wasn’t too interesting – just an old church with a graveyard. We didn’t see a visitor’s center, so we asked around inside, and the church workers had no clue what we were talking about. It was listed online, but not in the book, so I thought we had a chance of scoring one, but alas, we failed. (A few years later, they did indeed get an official visitor’s center with a stamp. I need to go back.)

The rest of the day went very smoothly. We picked up the first stamp of the trip at Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, home of a supporter of George Washington, then another at the Liberty Bell (Independence National Historical Park) and at the home of Edgar Allan Poe. There, one of the rooms had a rubber “telltale heart” hidden under a plank, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. Later that day we hit Valley Forge before stopping for the night in Fort Washington, PA.

Day 2: More of the same. We hit three: Morristown NHP, Morristown, New Jersey; and my first brown stamps (as opposed to Mid-Atlantic light blue) were Ellis Island (new to my dad but old hat to me, having visited it with my 4th grade class), and the Statue of Liberty (which we climbed up to the base). But that didn’t matter because we got to spend the night in a state I’d never been to before: Bridgeport, Connecticut. I had finally visited a state that my sister hadn’t. Moving on to:

Day 3: Bright and early to capture Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Our first stop was the historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI, where we got to see the secret passageway beneath the bimah (another historical thing that BLEW MY MIND) and say hello to the oldest still-standing synagogue in the USA. It’s also the only Jewish-themed national park, so, bonus. Once we hit Massachusetts, we made an unplanned stop in New Bedford and got the stamp for the New Bedford Whaling NHP, which remains one of my favorite national parks to this day – the town was so cute and little and New England, and the huge whale skeleton suspended on the ceiling didn’t hurt either. We spent the night at the Suisse Chalet Inn in Cambridge – I didn’t mind it so much (probably too high on having fun) but my dad remembers it as being a roach motel.

Day 4: Boston Day. This was also no-car day, which was less expensive and easier on my dad. We walked the entire length of the Freedom Trail to get the Boston NHP stamp, as well as the Black History Trail to get the Boston African-American stamp. I wasn’t interested in anything other than the parks and the stamps, but upon my dad’s insisting, we strolled around Boston Common and made a stop in Harvard Yard. We took the T to Brookline to see John F. Kennedy’s home, and then headed to Dad’s favorite part of the trip, a Red Sox game at old Fenway Park. They played the Twins but I can’t remember who won.

Day 5: Boston Suburbs. We hit up the Salem (Salem Maritime NHS), Saugus (Saugus Iron Works NHS) and Lowell (Lowell NHP) AKA home of the cotton mills. This is the only time on any of the trips I remember having a serious breakdown (I was totally a crier as a kid) – I think it was because of traffic. I was surprised at how little we fought throughout the entire eight-day trip. We also veered up to New Hampshire, just so I could say I’d been there, even though the only stamp was much further up.

Day 6: Goodbye Roach Motel, hello central and western Mass. We excitedly hit up Minute Man NHP in Concord/Lexington and the Springfield Armory in Springfield, ending the day with Weir Farm in Wilton, CT, before stopping at my cousins’ place in the Bronx for Shabbat.

Day 7: Shabbat. No parks.

Day 8: Last day. We bid the cousins goodbye, visited old Great-Aunt Yetta (think Yetta from The Nanny, only in real life), who lived in Washington Heights squalor complete with faded photos on the walls, furniture held together by duct tape, and a funny old-lady smell in the whole apartment, and got two stamps (Grant’s Tomb and Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace) before heading home. Where I proceeded to tell the whole story to my mom and sister, and anyone else who would listen, numerous times.

Overall, we had a great time. My dad is very much into history, and learning about American history with me was as much fun for him as it was for me. He viewed it as an “educational experience” for me, but I had my stamps and some other souvenirs so I was happy enough. He had been to NYC and Boston before, but hadn’t gone to any of the battlefields, presidents’ homes, or even Fenway Park before. He and I quarreled very little, and with my old-style, Pre-GPS maps from AAA, I managed to navigate us the whole way, even leading my dad on a shortcut once and redirecting him after he almost missed the exit off the New Jersey Turnpike going towards NYC. Even though I had such fun as the navigator, the driving did take its toll on my dad, who spent the next day or so sleeping it off.

We took a break in the summer of 2000, while I prepared for my Bar Mitzvah, but resumed our road trip with a Part II for four days in June 2001, heading toward the Midwest – the second of 5 official road trips we took together.