Over the challenges of the last few years I’ve conquered the fear of death, I even challenge it. Each time I feel faint in public I’m prepared to pass out and crack my head open. I don’t give a shit. I’ve even thought about killing myself rather than deal with this pain on repeat. But it’s a cheat. It’s an ending. So in a sense what I’m actually terrified of is waiting. Waiting for the ideal job, better health, a man. I’m impatient to a fault. Insomnia is just impatience to get to sleep.
Fuck now what?
Meditation is equivalent to counting sheep. If I could just get my lungs to breathe maybe my mind would shut up and just be.
Last night I went to see Rain Pryor’s one-woman production: Fried Chicken and Latkes. It sounds delicious, and it was. Fried chicken and Latkes tells the story of little Rain Flower growing up in Beverly Hills to a white Jewish mother and a Black famous father (Richard Pryor). We see the points of view of a mixed race child in the family from both sides, from Bubby “we were happy to see your mother marry your father, we had no problem with it but did the nieghbours have to know?” and from her great grandmother on her father’s side “we liked your mother but didn’t understand why she refused to admit she was black” *these are loose quotes from what I remember. Half way through, we meet Juanit” Rain’s first friend, who helps her rediscover her “blackness.” But enough about Rain Pryor. Why am I writing about this in my expat blog that sometimes veers into weird happenstance explorations of my Jewish identity?
After the show I met Grace. Grace is 74, from Harlem, born to a Polish immigrant mother, Jewish and a Black father. Grace’s mother was disowned by her family and not welcomed at their Lower East Side synagogue. So her mother sent Grace and her brothers to learn Hebrew at a small synagogue in Harlem, one block from the theatre across from Mt Morris Park. It has since closed it’s doors and the congregation has moved “to the Bronx and some maybe to Brooklyn” but it was right there, down the street -a black-Jewish synagogue. As Grace puts it “You know Rain’s story is growing up in Beverly Hills, rich because of who her father was but we, we were just regular people.”
Personally I really love Harlem, I find myself strangely at home here (why do I find myself needing to defend that??) Anyway a few weeks later, I was catching up with Marc at Flame Keepers Hat Club when this man walks in. First I notice his tzit tzit, loosely hanging out from under his white t-shirt, “strange” I think. Then I notice his Kipa (that can’t be a coincidence) as I go up to talk to him I see his tee is carefully embroidered with images of the ten sphirot. He’s checkin’ out the hats just like me. His name is Rabbi Adams and he runs a small unlocalized congregation of black jews in Harlem. Although they don’t have a definitive space, he teaches Torah with some Jazz thrown in for good measure to a group of kids on Wednesdays, he performs the weddings and burials, and he counsels those “who the other Rabbis won’t touch”- the gangsters, criminals, people on life’s edge. He reaches out to them and offers spiritually guided support. He wouldn’t take a picture with me because he says it’s still important to stay under the radar but he gave me his card and I promised to be in contact. The next week I went on holiday and forgot (don’t procrastinate people). Anyway it was a lovely interaction and really let me know that I wasn’t, am not, alone in this feeling of black-jewish kinship. 🙂
Grace and her mother, down the street from the National Black theatre in Harlem, NYC.
Grace’s family at Mt Morris Park
Me and Grace outside the National Black Theatre after Rain Pryor’s performance of Fried chicken and latkes
Okay, so maybe the wart was from the manicurist (damn gel nails) and the flu was from one of the judgy eyes staring at the vagabond but either way, it’s been a week of intensity.
Missed school, missed interning, missed life -or did I? The thing about the migraine that comes with a candida-compounded-stomach-flu is you get angry (or at least I did) and man did I work out some anger issues. Mostly toward my step-sister (who knew those were there?). I mean that sh#$^ ran deep. So ya, now i don’t know what to conclude, was it all worth it? Or am I just being crazy -who wants migraines and oh, diarrhea? I do? Do I? Wait… Okay I’ll keep pondering this and get back to you later…oxx
So recently I discovered Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a new show by the amazing Tina Fey Et al. on Netflix. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much but this show changed my life. I’m not even joking. It’s full of poignant wisdom but you have to be on the ball or you’ll miss it. Last night, after watching Titus question the mole girls about what it was like in the bunker, with something like did you ever question whether it was just a prison of the mind? I burst into tears, like spontaneously. It’s been happening a lot lately. Usually at home but sometimes in other places, like waiting for the subway. Luckily I’m in New York and no one pays any mind. I think it’s like when on the show Kimmy talks to herself, I sometimes cry on my own shoulder. Only for a few seconds, then I’m back. Sometimes I’m even laughing when I do it. It’s weird. So anyway Kimmy Schmidt is more than just a show, it’s an anthem. “Females are strong as hell,” unbreakable.
That. That was the day. My whole world was contained inside that beer cup. I took pictures of it. Three. Trying to get it “just right” but failing of course because nothing was right. Or was about not to be. But that was denial. I already knew it was wrong. Wrong that my feet somehow weren’t planted, though they had been firmly the day before, I’d taken special notice of how planted they’d been carrying groceries up four floors. Wrong that I couldn’t face the music. That I was finally inside festival grounds but sequestered as far from the stage as I could get. Ear plugs in, beer in hand. I just stared at it. Wondering why its taste wasn’t sweet. Remarking that everything I supposedly liked, I didn’t. Remarking how I felt or didn’t feel. Acknowledging my lack of power. Noticing that I’d once been here before.
Ignoring it. Bracing the stage. Finishing the glass. Riding the train. Falling asleep at last. 3am, up like a rocket. Eyes squinching not shut, palms on ears, sweat on neck. Pain so serious I cried in my head. Or maybe I didn’t, I don’t remember it.
Somehow happy. Given hope by the climax. This time it had gone farther. This time it wasn’t the end. Something had to be wrong here. Something medical. Or I would just die. And that would be it.
So I waited and wept while others went ahead. Our plans mourned and dead. New ones were met. Unforeseen but not mean. Mostly the park on my trotinette.
Looking back six months later. At the pills on my desk. Standing upright and able to type I take a deep breath. I acknowledge this. This year was a mess. This year was distress, hyperventilation and rest. Lest we forget, regurgitation is how we digest.
So one of the biggest challenges of moving around so much is, well moving around so much. “Do you ever get tired of it” I am often asked. In the past the answer would be “yes,” at which point I would go back to Vancouver for a few moths and contemplate living there only to depart once more. Lately I’ve reached an unexpected turning point. It started when I moved to Paris and caught up with Nadege, I hadn’t seen her in 5 years, since we were both living in Sydney, Australia but we picked up right where we left off, as great fiends! Then I reached out to my friend Raf, who I had shared a hostel with when first moving to Istanbul, low and behold he was also in Paris! We immediately went for coffee. This was an amazing feeling; reconnecting with old friends in a new location. I began to see the fruits of my expat living. Now I’ve just relocated to New York, and my new roommate has the same garbage can I had in Montreal and the same kettle I had in Hamburg (no neither of these are Ikea although it is a bit concerning for globalization) I immediately felt familiar in this unfamiliar place. Finally the lost or homesick feeling that sometimes comes up has been replaced. It has been replaced with the knowing that I am part of a community, a community that relocates. We get each other, we get this lifestyle. The solution was never to “go home” because despite all the moving I finally got there 🙂