Friday, January 30, 2004

i made my way through thick and warm blankets of 6am sleep
carrying some with me to pick up the phone
a tiny emissary of Morgan's voice told me good morning
then then my cordless phone started to sputter and crackle and blink
signalling imminent death
i convinced the emissary of Morgan's voice to wait
while i lunged into Ben's room,
grabbed his phone off the wall
and pulled the cord just outside the door
the emissary told me she was in a great valley in front of a fjord
surrounded by the mountains of the towers of pain
(which remain harmlessly beautiful when held at bay by the valley)
the voice spoke with quick excited power
Vonnegut's dancer freed froms the weights on her hands and legs and the mask on her face
and experiencing suddenly the feeling of lightness again
through the blankets, i searched for an ambassador of the dull ache and general disorientation that has recently taken up residence in my daily routines,
arriving unannounced at odd hours
"i miss you a lot"

"but i'm also still having a good time"

in a few days Morgan will set off on her kayak and take even the tiniest emissaries and ministers of her voice in tow

Monday, January 26, 2004

morgan is airborne by now
flying toward the world's southern tip
we played for a day and a night and ignored the saying goodbye business
celebrated each other's company until she was driving down G eorge street and I was standing on the sidewalk
walking back toward
quickly I threw myself into little tasks to give myself a little space and time and distraction
for the enormous absence of 80some days
without morgan by sight by sound by touch by smell by anything but one letter back and forth
from wilderness

this will, no doubt, be three months like no other.
one for the books

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

I heard some things about King's speech this year, but they are hearsay so I can't vouch for their truth. I heard that this speech was practiced and refined over a long period, delivered in similar forms throughout the country before it came out at the Lincoln Memorial. I also heard that King was planning to share a Passover seder (with Abraham Joshua Heschel? is that right?) for the first time the year he was shot. This is an important year for civil rights--if Bush gets reelected, we could witness initiatives far more disturbing than his current billionsome dollar initiative to teach people about marriage. he may get to name supreme court justices. he might propose constitutional amendements. this is a big year for civil rights in america. i hope we rise to it.

Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY 1968

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Sunday, January 18, 2004

nick offers the source for last night's quote:
ari, i'm about to head to sleep, but i wanted to tell you what that quote was... there is a swedish electronic jazz band called 'Koop' who released and album called 'Waltz for Koop' and that quote is basically this old jazz guy talking over this one track called 'soul for sahib' and i felt it applied aptly to my life right now.

when nicholas freilich speaks to the world,
he speaks to me.
even from japan.
his away message is an (unattributed) quote:
"the reason i play so many... so many sounds, maybe it sounds angry, is because i'm trying so many things at one time... i haven't sorted them out. i have a whole bag of things that i'm trying to work through, trying to get to one extension... there are some set things that i know, some devices that i know, harmonic devices that i know that will take me out of the ordinary path, you see, if i use it... but i haven't played them enough, i'm not familiar with them enough yet to take the one thing, the line through them, so i play all of them, you know, trying to acclimate my ears, so i can hear."

Monday, January 12, 2004

serendipitynow: do you ever consider the kind of promiscuity with which we engage in art?
serendipitynow: works of art i mean
serendipitynow: of all sorts
desperado1926: why discriminate?
serendipitynow: we will be with a film one night, love it, and never consider it again
serendipitynow: toss it aside
serendipitynow: if it's really good, we might perhaps take a second viewing
serendipitynow: college curriculums have us gang-banging a book a week
serendipitynow: it's disgusting

i have embarked on yet another fellowship application question that I have been marinating on for a while is,
describe an encounter wiht a creative work (film, play, book, music, etc) that had an impact on you....
i amazed at how much trouble this question has been given me...
of all the countless movies books and plays, have any of them actually changed me in a lasting way? if so, how?
i am really not sure i've read any work of fiction, seen any film or play, or heard any music that has had that kind of lasting impact on me in since i've been in college. i've been in lit courses, but the book-a-week pace precludes the faintest possibility of developing meaningful relationships with a work. the only books i could read slowly in college were my science text books--they may not have all been works of art, but at least i could develop a relationship with them.
maybe i'll talk about The Colossus, that Sylvia Plath (dammit, i still can't remember whether it's PLatt or PLath) poem I read and read and read for three months in eleventh grade, or that Checkov short story (I want to say the Darling, but that doesn't sound quite right) that I hated the first time, but was amazing by on the 15th or 20th reading....
maybe i'll write about the niggun that elizabeth brought with her all the way from South Africa, which is now spreading wildly up and down the east coast...

i meditated in adam's morgan at the house of steve, who i met this shabbat at the zoo minyan. there were a few people there, and there wasn't a ton of jewish content, or any content for that matter...he took us into it, and took us out, but most of it was sitting silently on some cushions in a house i had not seen except in candellight, surrounded by other silent people i did not know, keeping as still as i could, and breathing....stillness for that long shakes lose the tracks of time, so i am not sure how long it was, but i'll bet it was at least a half hour. then we blessed and ate grapes, and i could really feel the effects of my meditation. it sounds hokey perhaps, but it was very intense. i sat there with the grapes in my hands for a while, just enjoying how cool they felt in my palm. then i blessed them, and put them in my mouth, and held them there, and bit down very, very slowly, so that it took me some 15 minutes maybe to eat three grapes.
i want to be able to live like that. taking fifteen minutes to eat a grape. taking three months, as we did in 11th grade rabbinics, to read a single sentence.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

we are going, heaven knows where we are going....

never understimate the power of reaching out to total strangers for no particular reason. today on the metro, i struck up with a man sitting with his guitar case and smiling. if anyone was at kramer books tonight, then you probably saw him play, because he was on his way there. he ended up giving me copies of most of his albums, and soliciting me to go on tour with him. his website is, if you want to check it out. just hearing him talk about music was enough to lift me off my seat. I haven't checked out the CD's or the site yet, but heaven, what amazing gifts must lie in people we allow to sit silently next to us.

this shabbat is still radiating out of me, and i am still basking in the billowy feeling of floating back and forth, down toward the earth. elizabeth came up from charlottesville VA, and we explored new jewish fronteirs in DC. friday night we prayed at the DC minyan, which met at the RAC (Religion and Activism Center? Religious Action Center? It's on mass ave). Some pretty good energy, creative conservadox egal compromises, but otherwise a very traditional and straightforward service. Lifted up immeasurably by the discovery of Joe Gindi praying next to me, who I had not experienced since Jews In the Woods Spring.
This morning, we prayed at the Zoo Minyan, which happens in someone's apartment living room across from the national zoo. Radical feminist revisions of the liturgy, including the original text of Psalms--would I want to do it every week? Not sure. But I'm glad I got to experience it happening, and pray to a female-gendered conjugation of God at least once. Most importantly, the people were all welcoming and passionate and filled with the joy of shabbat. i don't think i will have ever have trouble praying with people like that, no matter how they conjugate God.
Elizabeth and I wandered around the Zoo for a while after, enjoying the company of ambassadors of other great nations of the earth (monkeys, elephants, octopus...), and we met a man at the camel exhibit, who was awestruck by what were probably the mellowest animals in the whole park: "Isn't it amazing that God created camels! They have those humps, so that Egyptians can ride them, and they don't have to eat for days! God is so amazing!"
as the sunset, we set off for a new shabbat frontier, havdalah at Abby Bellows house in Vienna. what a holy day. it would have been wonderful to do it all without getting into a car, but i'm glad i didn't let that stop me this time.
afterward, i took the metro back to maryland, and Ester picked me up and we went to Nomi's birthday party. She was so happy--happy like I had never seen her before, happy like it overcame her and became her.
mmm.....floating back down....slowly

Thursday, January 08, 2004

tonight i watched the first half of Angels in America. I have spend the past several hours looking at the walls and marvelling that they don't begin dancing of their own accord and the ceiling does not begin melting in upon itself. To be able to see the walls dancing, is that creation or insantiy or both? A number of night ago, in the late morning dreaming hours, I found myself half roused out of a dream, conscious and aware, and yet with some sort of access to a different kind of state, in which, eyes closed, I could see certain things and scenes appear before me, not through hazy fog of memory, but with a certain lucidity. i do not think i have ever experienced that dreams are always quite foggy, as are my memories. perhaps one day i will be able to see the world with a more creative eye, perhaps one day i will see mountains dance like young rams. In the meantime, I will focus my awe on the feel of keys under my fingertips and the shadow my head casts upon the table in front of me. The ones who cannot tame their shadows to their own movements, know that these are miracles of the highest order.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

back in the digital playground, hurrah! the break was much needed and well worth it. i feel very proud of myself for stopping everything for a little more than a week. i do way too attempting (however feebly) to fix the situation, reprioritize, and lay sovereign claim to my life once more. do some serious bushwacking, and clear some unscheduled space to relax and enjoy the people i love.
loon lake was pretty good for that. no phone/internet access+no other people + banishment of work materials= lots of time with family.
we walked around, snowshoed, skiied at whiteface, watched movies. I played around on my bass, read spanish poetry and don quixote(i am almost to the end of the first book, but will hold off writing about it until I finish)
last night was about as sweet and mellow as new years gets. max, andrew, johnny, and ari, roaming about suburban maryland. drinking juice. playing nintendo and ping-pong. watching who framed roger rabbit. no deep dark conversations or serious expeditions, just good company and simple's good to be home