In case you hadn't noticed, I've restored the ability to attach comments to these diary entries. Enjoy.
This section contains the following posts:
I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to disable the feature that allows you to attach comments to these diary entries for a little while. This ability is being badly abused by horrible nasty people to insert an endless stream of advertisements for their trashy products and services. Since they've suddenly started coming in faster than I can delete them by hand, I'm going to have to modify the program responsible for accepting comments so that it filters out most of the bad stuff with spamassassin. This won't be a difficult change for me to make, but I don't have time to do it before Shabbos, and maybe not even till Monday. So no comments until then.
I started this week with a road trip to Bet Shemesh for the bris of the firstborn son of one of the guys who was learning in yeshiva with me this past summer. Rabbi Rothenburg and his family and a couple other people who learn at Tiferet Moshe piled into a borrowed van very early in the morning and we tried our best to make it to Bet Shemesh in time. Of course, we didn't. The kids got carsick and threw up and we got a little lost once in Bet Shemesh. But we did manage to catch the last half the speechifying, and there were enough bagels left at the buffet to keep me happy.
After talking it over a lot with family and friends over the course of last week, I decided against hanging a replacement rainbow flag in my window. One of the main reasons for hanging the first one was to test the neighborhood in which I live, and the results of that experiment are definitely in. So one of my main reasons for hanging a new one would be as an act of defiance, a pacifistic sort of revenge. And I don't really believe in the nobility of that sort of sentiment after I've calmed down sufficiently.
Well, Thanksgiving dinner turned out as grandly as anyone could have hoped. The apartment was filled with all the Pearsons and Siegels lucky enough to be in Israel at the moment, not to mention a dozen or two of Seth and Rachel's closest friends. The food was an excellent array of all the Thanksgiving essentials, and we all got appropriately stuffed.
For the second year running, the Israeli contingent of the Pearson clan is converging upon Jerusalem to celebrate Seth's birthday and all the other things for which we are thankful. Not the least reason to give thanks is for the way our ranks have swelled with Jonathan and plenty of Siegels. I'm done with work and the turkey's in the oven, so I've got some time to write now.
This week I performed an experiment, and tonight I got my first observable results. Early this week, I hung the rainbow flag that I had bought at the pride rally in one of my windows. I thought half-jokingly to myself, "OK, now let's see how long it takes before the mob with torches and pitchforks descends upon the scene." And this evening, just as I was setting up to make havdalah after Shabbos, I heard a snapping sound from the window. As I opened up the window and poked my head outside, I saw a man aged somewhere between very late teens to late twenties scampering along the very narrow ledge that runs along the outer walls of my second-story apartment. I screamed at him in Hebrew, "What are you doing!?" Then I dashed to my front door to chase after him. Having to unlock the door slowed me down enough that he had a big headstart. I yelled, "Thief! Thief!" in Hebrew as he got away. I'm certain that I could have given much more effort into pursuit, but I think my gut held me back to avoid the violence that would have been almost inevitable had I actually caught up to him.
So at the last minute, the parade was changed into a rally, due to a compromise made between the organizers of the event and the parties who opposed it in the name of religion. I'm a little ambivalent about this change of format. On the one hand, I can understand the disappointment of those who felt that the event lost some of its significance by being confined to the Givat Ram campus stadium instead of proclaiming a message of tolerance in the public spaces. But on the other hand, I understand how pride parades have a solid history of expressing a carnival atmosphere beyond the bounds of propriety and at the expense of any valid social message. In any case, I'm happy with how the rally actually turned out.
This Friday, the Jerusalem Pride and Tolerance Parade will finally take place, after much unfortunate delay. I'm heading up to Jerusalem tomorrow to participate and see for myself what the whole tremendous fuss is all about. I have a couple friends who won't be marching because they don't believe it will send the right message nor advance the gay political platform, I have a friend who's not marching because he's a bit apathetic and figures he's seen it all before, and I've got a couple friends who actively discouraged me from going on the grounds of immodesty. I strongly doubt that the predictions that the parade will be nothing but a wild spectacle of gratuitous lewdness are anything more than the incitant exaggerations of hate-mongers. After all, the weather in Jerusalem these days isn't exactly conducive to dressing in thong bikinis and loose-mesh tank tops.
This past Saturday night, lots of local Tzfatim came to warm the home of Elana Schachter, one of our newest residents in the Artists' Colony neighborhood. I know Elana back from when I was living in Nachlaot in Jerusalem. I lent her one of my favorite sci-fi anthologies as a housewarming gift, and she returned the favor by lending me a collection of Jewish fantasy and occult stories. Rebecca and Avraham brought along Ashira, who derived great glee from feeding crackers to Elana's smooth-haired collie, Bright. Ashira thought it especially funny whenever Bright would lick my nose. Lots of familiar faces were around, as well as a few new characters to meet. The climax of the party was when Moshe Tov, Eliyahu, and Dovid sung a rousing (if slightly off-key) round of "Elana, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Kabbalists", sung to the tune of Willie Nelson's "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys", to which Elana could only reply, "Too late. Way too late." The evening wound down with the remaining attendees flipping through photographs of various quilts that Elana has made.
Last night I had an interesting dream. I dreamt that I was visiting Rebecca's house to play with Ashira, but Becca had another younger baby there for me play with. He had jet black hair and eyes and faintly olive skin and gorgeous expressive lips. There was a healthy glow about him, despite the fact that his small body gave the impression of fragility. I swung him around in my arms and tossed his head back as he squealed with delight. But then I noticed that his heartbeat felt unnaturally fast, so I switched to less energetic kinds of play for fear of the poor boy's health. Soon after, I was talking to Rebecca again, who explained to me that the baby is an orphan, and his unusually fast heartbeat is actually normal for him due to a congenital anomaly which caused him to be born with two hearts. Since each heart beats independently, it seems like he has twice as many heartbeats as you'd expect. Becca then revealed to me that he could be weaned very soon and that he would be eligible for me to adopt. My heart melted right there on the spot. I had fallen in love with him in the short time I'd spent with him, and couldn't resist the thought of taking him home and giving him all he needed. But I then said to Rebecca that I had serious reservations about the tremendous practical difficulties involved with raising a child before I'd found a partner. I wasn't sure that I was up to the tremendous task of single parenthood. The last moment of the dream was me thinking to myself that despite the difficulty, I couldn't pass up an opportunity like this for my sake or for the boy's sake.
I know it's been a long time since I've written anything, but instead of dwelling too much on that mistake, I'll just tell about the excellent fellow I met this past Monday night. I was out on the street near my house, about to run an errand, when I made eye contact with a tourist who was passing by. He stopped to ask me if I had any suggestions for something interesting to do. I never came up with anything good to do that evening (now that tourist season is over, most things close even earlier than usual), but then we got to talking.
So, as I expected, as soon as my parents had arrived at the beginning of the month, I got too caught up in the torrent of family events to do any writing. The days leading up to Seth and Rachel's wedding were filled with preparations and lots of family together-time. We held a kiddush at the Kol Rina synagogue in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Nachlaot on the Shabbos before the wedding. The next Sunday I spent shopping for a suit at the mall with Avishai happily helping me out with an extra queer eye to find just the right style. He also loaned me a beautiful black woven kippah trimmed with blue to wear with my new threads at the wedding, and I thought it really made the ensemble.
It's very relieving to come home to find that the worst damage to my apartment was a month's worth of dust. No broken walls, no shattered windows, no holes in the roof, no looting. The physical damage all around town seems very minor: some broken glass, a foot-wide pothole in one of the roads, a dinged up building here or there. It's hardly noticeable compared to the road construction and crumbling ruins that are par for the course around here. People are wandering around the streets, hunting for spots where ketushas hit. I got home on Sunday night, and I've been staying inside mostly for the past couple days, delving into hermit mode in order to decompress from all the excitement of the past month.
The whirlwind is starting. My parents and Jonathan arrived in Israel yesterday, so most of the day was spent settling them down in their apartment and carousing about in the town's lovely restaurants with the collected Pearson and Siegel families. There's nothing like having the whole family together. Ashira provides us with endless amusement with her boundless energy. Jon and Rachel's brother Dan seem to be taking to each other instantly. Seth and Rachel only become more darling together as the awaited day approaches.
I'm not a boy to kiss and tell, so you only get the following synopsis: Indian food, very long walk in the park, introducing Avishai to parts of the city he never knew about, olive trees, holding hands, hedgehogs, sitting on a park bench with arms around shoulders to ward off the cold, lots and lots of talking about religion, music, relationships, and a really very long good-bye.
So I really have to thank Avishai for introducing me Elroy, my most gracious host for this past Friday night Shabbos feast. I had a great time and made some nice new friends. It was the first time I had the fortune to spend a Shabbos meal at a table surrounded entirely by gay men, and I must say I like the feeling of fitting in. The five of us spanned a religious spectrum from strongly Orthodox-identified to non-Jewish, and the languages spoken around the table included Hebrew, English, and Dutch. So we formed a nice little rainbow. Elroy's cooking was amazing; elegant, rich, and delicious. One of us facetiously asked why he wasn't married already.
Tonight, I went to the Jerusalem Open House to catch their monthly meeting for English-speakers. I met a lot of warm and friendly people there, and found the staff there to be very nice. The topic of the meeting was the upcoming World Pride week here in Jerusalem. I got a lot of really useful information out of the meeting, and I succumbed a bit to their appeal for volunteers. (I should be able to help guide people around at the Multifaith Conference on Wednesday, the day after Seth and Rachel's wedding.) The event seems to be shaping up to something really exciting, something with a lot of substance. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of the war on the northern border is that the Jerusalem police force won't have enough humanpower to provide adequate security, so the parade part of the week is being postponed. But we are determined that the march will go ahead as planned as soon as the crisis is quelled.
The week's winding to another end. I'm spending Shabbos in Maale Adumim at Jacob Laderman's house, Seth and Rachel are in Efrat, and I presume Rebecca and Avraham and Ashira are spending Shabbos in the apartment they're renting in the Old City of Jerusalem. I saw Steve off this morning at the bus station on his way to the airport. We celebrated his last night here with a pint of Haagen Dazs, followed by a stroll around town to work off the resulting sugar buzz. It's too bad that the sudden war kept me from showing him a better time here, but I think he still got his money's worth. :)
Sunday's headache had the good grace to stay away. Didn't do much yesterday besides go to yeshiva and work and nap away the hottest part of the day. Very fortunately, the yeshiva managed to get the dorm boys settled in a decent place in Jerusalem that will be able to take them in for as long as the fighting lasts up north, so today's classes actually took on some semblance of normalcy.
Here's the daily update. I took the bus with Steve last night from Lisa and Moshe's house in Tel Mond to Seth's apartment in Jerusalem and we spent the night there. I expect we'll stay here for the foreseeable future. My yeshiva has all fled Tzfat and we're meeting now in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem as long as we remain refugees. I got an awful headache in the middle of the morning, though, had to take an expensive cab ride home, and spent a pretty miserable afternoon in bed. The heat today was awful, and your typical analgesics don't seem to work so well for me. What seemed most effective against the headache was a wet towel applied to my head and body. I'm mostly better now, except when I tilt my head too far away from the vertical, and I was able to catch up on some work in the late afternoon. I plan to take it easy this evening, hopefully catch dinner with Seth and/or one or more of the Seigel family members.
So, I haven't been keeping up with writing about the events of the week, and there's nice things to report, but first I have to update you about the sudden military crisis, so this will seem a bit backwards.
So, I had a lovely set of shabbos meals with Dionne and Chaim and their little toddler Itamar. And after Shabbos, I told Chaim that I'm gay when he called me on the phone: I finally had enough of him trying to set me up with girls. Which brings me to the topic of this rant: reactions to coming out of the closet. Or, rather, apparent lack thereof. I know, everyone wants to be the good supportive friend and no one wants to come off as a bigot, but really, I don't mind if you are at least a teensy bit flustered or something. Just take a second to say, "oh." Acknowledge the fact that I just said something kinda significant. Don't pretend that you're totally unsurprised when you were quite obviously working under the assumption that I was straight. It really is nicer for me that way.
The Klezmer Festival is starting this Sunday, and you can see the signs sprouting up around the city. The visitors are starting to trickle in, and, in fact, I'm spending my Shabbos meals with a couple I'm friends with from Jerusalem, Chaim and Dionne Hayman, who are in town for the first two days of the festival.
Oooh! I have a giant spider living in my house. A couple weeks ago, I thought I saw something largish creep under the fridge in the middle of the night, but I wasn't sure that my eyes weren't playing tricks in the dark. Until a few minutes ago when I went to roll up the curtain of my bedroom window and saw the little critter hunched motionless right below the window where the floor meets the wall. It's very dark brown with a light fuzz of short hair all over. The body alone looks well over three centimeters, making it the largest live spider I've ever seen that wasn't under glass.
Woo hoo! Steve has arrived in Israel! I picked him up from the airport this morning, and we spent most of the day in Seth's apartment with me working and him catching up on his sleep. Now I'm gonna take him out for the full Jerusalem Shabbat experience. I don't think he knows what he's getting into.
Today in Gemara shiur, the text touched tangentially on the phenomenon of the ilonit, a woman whose congenital biology prevents her from ever experiencing puberty. Occurrences of this apparently had been observed a sufficient number of times for the Talmudic sages to have developed a method for definitively establishing whether or not a person was affected by this syndrome, in addition to deducing the legal implications of such a condition. Since I'd recently read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (excellent book, by the way), I suspected that this class of woman might share the same intersex condition as the protagonist of the novel, namely 5-alpha-reductase deficiency. I thought of this because the Tosafot commentary on the passage mentioned that this condition could be diagnosed with certainty at 20 years of age and that the presence certain masculine characteristics might hint at the condition even in childhood. Since I don't know the full details of how this determination is made, I couldn't make a truly educated guess about whether an ilonit is the same as a person with an 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, but I was curious anyway.
I spent a good part of this week taking apart my entire bedroom and putting it back together again, much more organized this time. It's like I have space for my stuff again, and it's all accessible. Things were reassembled just in time, too, because Seth came up to Tzfat for Shabbos with Rachel and Jackie, and he's sleeping at my place. We're gonna have ourselves a time at Rebecca and Avraham's for the meals.
To celebrate Lag Ba'Omer this year, I decided to go camping near the town of Meron. Meron is just across the valley west of Tzfat, and every Lag Ba'Omer there's a tremendous pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, author of the Zohar, the book most central to the study of Kabbalah. The festival itself is too noisy, crowded, and chaotic for my tastes, but I'd never hiked all the way to Meron before, and I didn't want to pass up the excuse to do so. I left well after dark, and even though the moon hadn't risen yet, the starlight was quite sufficient for the walk down to the creek at the bottom of the valley. After that point, the tree canopy was thick enough to block out the stars and I had to use my flashlight for most of the rest of the trail.
Mad props to my homies back in Baltimore, Steve and Rebecca, for the great success of their production of Aristophanes' Frogs. I remember the fun of sitting in on one of the meetings of the translation team when I was visiting last January. It brings a smile to my face to see them get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work. Now I just can't wait for Steve to arrive in Israel for his archaeological dig.
I just stumbled on this really great article. Relevant excerpt:
This past holiday week has been long and full. I drove with Becca and Avraham and Ashira to Avraham's parents' house in Raanana the night before the seder. We arrived several hours after Chaim and Bara got off the plane from Denver with their children. Since Matanya and Dana were still in a different time zone, we all took a midnight dip in the pool before bed. Ashira was thrilled to be in the water, but couldn't stay in long because the night air made her shiver.
Well, the most interesting thing that happened last week was a visit from Noam, a friend whom I've had the pleasure of hosting several times in the past. He works as a madrich (guide/counselor) at a yeshiva around the Jerusalem area, and he called me up on Tuesday saying that he wanted to visit Tzfat for a little spiritual retreat.
This past week marked the first anniversary of my coming out as gay (by the reckoning of the Hebrew calendar, that is). I celebrated on Tuesday by taking a really long, enjoyable hike, and maybe I'll write about it a bit later. I'd just like to take the opportunity to look back and take stock of how good this past year has been for me. It's felt like the process of recovering from a long bitter illness. After the fever finally breaks, it takes a little while before you're strong enough to get up out of bed and roaming around, and there's still a period after that in which you're still gaining back your original strength. And after that, you can even learn how to live more healthfully than ever before.
So I'm sitting around in the downtown Tel Aviv apartment of the guy I'm dating, hacking on the computer while he's away at work, when suddenly amid the traffic noises outside the window I hear the sound of high-pitched male voices melodically chanting "Na Nach Nachma Nachman Me'uman" to the accompaniment of electronic, heavy-beat, dance club music. Blasted out of automobile speakers. At top volume. I laughed not because this could be considered a strange occurrence in my life, but because I realized that events such as this have become part of my version of normalcy. Baruch habah la'aretz.
I've been quite negligent in my writing duties lately, gentle reader. So let me quickly scribe for you the latest news in my life. First of all, my brother Seth proposed to his girlfriend, Rachel Siegel, on the night of Valentine's day, and she accepted. Requisite link to OnlySimchas. Huge mazal tov! My own love life has been creeping forward lately too. Through JDate.com, I met a nice guy named Moshe who's living in Tel Aviv. Due to recent end-of-winter illnesses and general busyness, we've only seen each other a few times in the past month, but we've been phoning and emailing frequently. I hope to see more of Moshe in the near future. And that's about all that's newsworthy lately.
Most of this past Sunday was spent finishing up a first workable stab at solving a small problem in Web development that I'd been thinking about for a long time. I don't ask for much: just a simple little template system that works well for a set of HTML documents which are mostly static, as opposed to a template system that's only really appropriate for writing highly dynamic Web applications. You know, just a little something that makes it easy to factor out the common bits of information that should be the same for all pages in a Web site so you can edit the common stuff in just one place and have the change propogate to all pages on the site.
My brother Seth and his girlfriend Rachel took today off to come north to visit Tzfat. They arrived this evening between 6 and 7. Becca made us yummy dinner of pasta with fish sauce, and we had dessert on cake and on some luscious Godiva white chocolate liqueur that Rebecca had picked in the duty-free in Paris on our way home to Israel. Ashira entertained us endlessly, of course, and only continues to grow more assertive and expressive. Her newest trick is saying "uh-oh!" at events that usually involve her launching an object into space, and I must attest that it is the cutest thing in the world. Rachel had a grand little adventure getting thoroughly lost in the labyrinth that is the Tzfat roadway system while driving back to Becca and Avraham's house after going out to visit a family she knows in town, but she found her way in the end with much telephone guidance from Rebecca. It was generally an evening well filled with quality hanging out time with most of my siblings. Although I missed the last couple hours of the evening: the liquor made me so sleepy that I conked out right on the hard stone floor. It was amazingly uncomfortable when I got up, but it seems these bones are still young enough to spring back from such abuse in practically no time. Thank G-d for small favors.
I just got home from the grand three-week American tour, and my next-door neighbor greeted me with cookies and milk. I'm gonna try to go straight to sleep after nibbling these treats.
Sorry to jerk you guys around, but recently revealed scheduling conflict means that we're throwing the party on the night of the 21st and morning of the 22nd, not the 14th and 15th. Hope y'all can still make it.
I'm leaving for the USA tomorrow. If you are reading this and you will be somewhere in the Baltimore area on the night of Saturday, 14th 21st of January, 2006, then you are hereby invited to the official reunion party of the American Society of Daniel's Friends (ASDF '06). The site of the festivities will be just off Nunnery Lane in Catonsville at the home of Steve Killen, Rebecca Stephen, and Libby Norris. Email me if you need a more precise address or directions. You can start showing up after about 7pm. Please send RSVP to The Steve so that he can get a feel for how many people to expect.
This past weekend revealed irreconcilable differences between me and Itai. We both enjoyed and appreciate the time we spent together, but it is not to be.