Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hamas cynically sacrifices civilians to make PR gains

The Czech Republic, which takes over the European Union's presidency on January 1, defended Israel's strikes against Hamas on Tuesday. The EU has called for a cease-fire to end the violence that has killed almost 350 Palestinians. But Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said Israel had the right to defend itself. "Let us realize one thing: Hamas increased steeply the number of rockets fired at Israel since the ceasefire ended on December 19. That is not acceptable any more," Schwarzenberg told daily Mlada Fronta Dnes in an interview.

France, which will hand over the EU's rotating presidency to Prague, has condemned Israel's strikes and the rocket attacks from Hamas militants and called for both to stop immediately. Schwarzenberg, a staunch ally of Washington, said Hamas had excluded itself from serious political debate due to its rocket attacks on Israel. He also indirectly blamed the group for the growing death toll, saying it put its bases and gun warehouses in densely populated areas. "Why am I one of the few that have expressed understanding for Israel? ... I am enjoying the luxury of telling the truth," Schwarzenberg told the daily. He said under the Czech EU presidency he would try to push through a policy that would lead to peace, saying "I would be very happy if it helped the Palestinians".

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The war out there

Ultimately the only defence against what looks like vicious hatred is clarity about who (or what) I am -in other words, self realization.

Hamas and the Israeli's in Hebron are mirror images of each other - both worship the false G-d of resentment.

Index for 2008

For more translations see Natan Alterman, Yemei Tzikleg
For more poems see Shirim veTehillim, Wake Up and Smell the Garbage, The Sea and Me, Ungulate, I laf you
For short film ideas see
For ideas about Jewdayism see
For short stories see
For musings on the place I now find myself in, Australia, see
For play ideas see plays and projects
Israeli writers
Israeli cinema
Jewish writers
People - Peter Esterhuysen, Zichrono Livracha,
For conversations about the environment and sustainable living see
http://manofestoyomi.blogspot.com/2010/09/do-earthworms-get-sore-throats.html

The original intro to Manofesto (until end June 2009) was:

"I am a "hogeh deyot" - Hebrew for someone who thinks and puzzles a lot about things that are not necessarily directly related to my daily round. Here are thoughts on everything and anything from advaita (non-dualism) to Talmudic parables, short film scripts and poems, the necessary nexus between living joyful creative lives, and sustainable living, as well as humerous sketches and whatever else takes my fancy. Thanks to Zvi Jaspan of Kibbutz Tzora for providing me with the name for this blog."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

View from the (Sydney) Side

It says in the Talmud that G?d "hikdim trufa lemaka" - that G?d always creates the cure before creating the disease. So before G?d created the often pointless busy-ness of Sydney, G?dself created the sea and beach, and swimming and surfing and snorkelling amongst the rocks and fish and seaweed that G?dself also created, and the opportunity just to sit and look at the picture of the sun setting and the endless patterns of sea and people rising and falling, and feel the hot and cold and rough and smooth...

the sterile streets of Sydney
from which dogs and cats
have been vanished and banished
this is a landscape made for humans
and sometimes not even for them
its subterranean bars and casinos
with patterned carpets and dim lighting
the portals to a tattered hell

Jah is One

video

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A 1600 year old poem

ג,יט [טז] הוא היה אומר
הכול נתון בעירבון
, והמצודה פרוסה על כל החיים.
והחנות פתוחה
, והחנווני מקיף
, והפנקס פתוחה,
והיד כותבת; וכל הרוצה ללוות בא ולווה.
והגבאין מחזרין תמיד בכל יום,
ונפרעין מן האדם לדעתו ושלא לדעתו,
ויש להם על מה שיסמוכו, והדין דין אמת;
והכול מתוקן לסעודה


A free translation:

The Master Akiva says

everything is given on loan
and a net extends over all that lives
the supermarket shelves are stacked with merchandise
the credit card has no limit; but the store owner is everywhere
and every transaction is recorded;
anyone may take home what they wish
but the debt collectors visit daily
and repossess
whether humans are ready or not;
and these debt collectors can rely on their Boss
and the cosmic Law is a true one

and everything is readied for the feast

Saying 19, Chapter 3 From "Ethics of the Fathers", a section of the Talmud
For more translations see Natan Alterman

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chesed shel Emet

chesed shel emet

playing a board game
or throwing a few balls
(and then some more)
with someone else's hungry child
washing the dishes when your feet ache
because someone has to
the things that no one will see or praise you for

chesed shel emet
(kindnesses not done to earn brownie points)
playing with a child (your own or someone else's)
who has a slightly neglected air
some agonizing game
washing the dishes when you just want someone else to handle it
(just as they do)
throwing away someone else's rubbish just because
giving your attention to someone who really wants to be heard
allowing an impoverished dentist to do unnecessary procedures on your teeth just so that they can earn some money

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Using Judaism as a support for unconscious living

Don't buy Rubashkin/ Agriprocessors Kosher meat (also marketed as Aaron's Best, and Iowa's Best)

Everything can be used to awaken or to send to sleep, to numb and deaden. This includes what is termed "organised religion". It is obvious how Hinduism, Islam and Christianity may become a vehicle for adherents to cling to their various blindnesses and fears (including self avoidance, legitimising resentments). I cannot however, speak about these traditions with as much authority as I can about Judaism, (and there too I speak only with relative authority, not an absolute one), and how Judaism may incarnate in the lives of those who say they subscribe to it.

It is clear that the set of thoughts and stories that make up "Judaism" can be used also to awaken or to numb, and are. Here are some ways and contexts in which Judaism is used as a vehicle for numbing, desensitizing, closing down, shutting out: Take for example the shameful track record of the "religious" family who own the Agriprocessors losher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa —the largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse in the world— and who repeatedly violated provisions of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act while US federal inspectors looked on and did nothing.

In undercover video footage filmed by PETA, workers can be seen "shocking animals in the face with electric prods, slitting their throats open and pulling out their tracheas while they’re still conscious, dumping them—frightened (PETA's adjective not mine) and desperately (PETA's adjective not mine) struggling—onto the ground in their own blood, and then waiting for them to die. Many of the animals struggled and stood up while blood was pouring from their throats, and they took several long (PETA's adjective not mine) minutes to die."

This "kosher" meat was produced under the following circumstances:

a) exploitation of poorly paid migrant workers

b) cruelty to the animals slaughtered there by said poorly paid migrant workers, for which the owners bear part responsibility


If you want to read more about this scandal here are some links:

http://www.forward.com/articles/11650/

http://www.forward.com/articles/14169/

and the rather horrifying

http://www.goveg.com/feat/AgriProcessors/

Here is an extract from the above link:

Statement of Lester C. Friedlander, D.V.M., USDA Slaughterhouse Inspector for More Than 10 YearsProfessional Comments and Opinions after reviewing PETA's Undercover Video taken at Federal Establishment #4653, AgriProcessors, Inc., Postville, Iowa:

"My name is Lester Friedlander. I am a veterinarian and worked as a slaughter line inspector for more than 10 years for the USDA. I have received repeated certificates of merit and commendation from the USDA, and was USDA Veterinary Trainer of the Year in 1987.

I have reviewed the video that was taken at Federal Establishment # 4653, AgriProcessors, Inc. in Postsville, Iowa. The video was taken by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and I have watched this video several times. In my years with the USDA, I have seen literally millions of cattle slaughtered, including hundreds of thousands of cattle that were killed in kosher slaughterhouses. The footage captured by PETA represents the most egregious violation of the USDA Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) I have ever witnessed. I have supervised the kosher slaughter conducted by the Satmar sect and the Lubavitcher sect at my federal plants, and the procedure I saw on the PETA video bears little resemblance to the ritual slaughter that I am accustomed to.

The main problem with ritual slaughter is that there is much variation in the methods that rabbis use to conduct kosher slaughter. But, despite the lack of consensus amongst rabbis regarding proper kosher slaughter techniques, all slaughter must meet the minimum animal welfare requirements laid out in The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978. The HMS Act of 1978 states that "the slaughtering and handling of livestock are to be carried out only by humane methods" and that "the use of humane methods of handling and slaughtering livestock prevents needless suffering of animals and results in safer and better working conditions for employees in slaughter establishments." The HMSA "requires" that humane methods for handling and slaughtering be used for "all meat" inspected by the USDA and FSIS.

FSIS recommends that establishments identify where and under what circumstances livestock may experience excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury while being handled in connection with the slaughter process. After you watch the video once or twice, view it again with your eyes closed; you can hear the frantic bellowing of the cattle. Now open your eyes, you can see why they are bellowing. The fear and distress that they feel is overwhelming. The carotids are severed while the cattle are upside-down. After severing, the cattle are released onto the floor, where some get up and thrash and hit their heads against the floor. When the esophagus and trachea are torn away, you can see the cattle extending their head, trying to relieve the pain. This is unnatural for cattle to do this; they normally keep their heads low. After the proper severing of the carotids, the cattle should be held in the restraint position for 30 seconds or longer, so they can bleed out thoroughly. There is unnecessary prodding before the cattle are led into the rotating drum. This prodding excites and distresses the cattle, and they are not at their normal gait. Rabbi Kohn, of Agriprocessors, said the throat tearing was done only to speed bleeding. From my experience, this is only done to keep up with the line speed.

Kosher slaughter as compared to conventional slaughter, is supposed to be much slower due to the procedures involved. Again it is economics that dictate the procedures used. Removing the trachea and esophagus could bleed the cattle faster, but at the expense of the cattle. Rabbi Weinreb stated that he found the procedure "especially inhumane" and "generally unacceptable" but wanted to find out how regularly it happened. That has no bearing on the intentions of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Even if it is violated only once, the plant should stop processing animals until the company can implement a procedure to prevent the violation from occurring again. This is not like a baseball game—a slaughterhouse doesn't get three strikes before they're out. Only one violation is enough to stop production at a slaughterhouse under the provisions laid out in the Humane Slaughter Act. These statements are based on my professional opinion and on my own experiences working for the USDA for more than 10 years as a line inspector. "

Akk of the above is a testimony to the human capacity for unconscious and disassociated behaviour, all within the framework of "holiness".

Of course racist websites have used the whole Agriprocessors scandal as fodder for the usual dehumanizing generalisations about Jews that white supremacists have made for the last century. Expect more of this as economic conditions toughen and people start looking for someone to blame for their self-created woes.

Shirim ve Tehillim - Hebrew poems and psalms

See also bamisaadah-in-resteraunt

Hayiti melech hagevaot
veshafan haamakim
beyachad /betiyum
im peimot libi


Listening to Noah
singing "nanuah"
liquid love
smiling through tears
pure ghee rubbed
on a babies' back
feels just like that
a 1000 years
of lonely fear
hiding in fortress of the heart
dissolves just like that
im ayn haAyn Sof
az maayin noveya
hayofi hazeh
_____________

Habayit reyk
hamekarerr mefamzem lo
d'maot shel shalva
zolgot al lechyai

(The house is empty
the fridge is whirring
tears of peace
pour down my face)

_____________________

In the small silence
I glimpse the great silence
that Solomon spoke of:
ki azah kamavet haahavah
mayim rabim lo yuchlu lechabotah
uneharot lo yishtefuhah...
for love is strong
as death a flame
blazing vast floods
cannot extinguish
nor rivers down.”
I take off my body
and stay at home
_____________________

Yesh kav dak shemavdil bayn brocha vebroch
_____________________

Lechora beyni uvayn aynut mavdil kesa'ar dak bilvad
_______________

Ani kevar mitgageya ketzat le yeladim
mibeyt hasefer
shelifnei shvuayim lo ratziti lachshov aleyhem
ki im hapreydah
lo nuchal lehaamik et hadoo siach beyneynu

yesh po eyze hefsed
eyze fisfus
eyze kishalon
shelahem vesheli
aval beikar
sheli

________________
Tefila

Elohim lo sheli
tayn shelo ekach
et ishti
veet Yaldai
kamuvan mayalayhem

___________________

Ani somech al boray olam
shesriday haosher
sheani pizarti yachzeru alay
bemukdam oh meuchar



Haetgar haikari

shel hamehager
leolam hazeh
hu limtzoh nekudat achizah
oh im lo ken
lehashlim
im ha rechifa
_______________

kol hapoalim (verbs)
avru bifnei /lifnei (?) vaadat hacharigim
___________________


tamid ratziti lehiyot
eved neeman
lemakor hachayim
ze matim li
lemakor hachayim shebee
__________________

Eretz Yisraeyl nikneyt

beshiva drachim
beraglayim
uvzayin
uveaf beadama
uvakimat sefatayim
___________________

Beyisrayl afilu haparot mafginot
im shlatim vekruzim "dam haparot hefker"
ve "dam haparot eyno hefker"
aval beyn ko ve cho
adayin hofchim otam le meilay ohr
venaalayim
veketzitzot basar

___________________________



kesheyesh li machshavot kvedot
az ani keze kaved
ukeshe yesh li machshavot kalot
ani af li kemo tzipor
dror

meyeyfo baot ha machshavot hakveydot
meyeyfo baot hamachshavot hakalot?

kesheyesh li machshavot kveydot
ani tzarich ligror et gufi lechol makom (legorrer)
kebat aruva lemetziyut achzarit

____________________________

Chaf mipesha ( I have done no wrong)

ma asiti
rak noladati
ani mipesha chaf

ma asiti
rak nashamti
chaf ani mipesha

pitom matzati
et atzmi
rak mitzmatzti
eynanyim patachti
mipesha chaf ani

eyn ma laasot
ani chafshi
eyn ma laasot
ani chafshi

____________________

Meyever laMilim


keta'ay machshava
eyze guf petzatza
matzu et atzmam
baderech lesham
lelo chazara
lelo takana

shalom ani kan
telatfi oti sham
mitachat leaf
umeyever leblaf


oniya veyam
ani po, aba sham
Avinu sheba.....
veanu lemata

milim shotfot oti
tishmeii, tishmeii
hagalim melatfim
ayn lehem kevar milim

birkat hayam ubirkat hasadeh
birkat mabateych hatzanuah veyafeh

shalom ani kan
telatfi oti sham
mitachat leaf
umeyever leblaf

oniya veyam
ani po, aba sham
Avinu sheba.....
veanu lemata

milim shotfot oti
tishmeii, tishmeii
hagalim melatfim
ayn lehem kevar milim

_________________________

lerachem bechol otzmat harachamim
ulenachem bechol otzmat hanichumim
ulehanot becholl otzmat hataanugim
ulefakpek bechol otzmat hahisusim

__________________________

lifamim
she ani yoshev
im hagaavah hamutzneyt sheli
vehasheket hamitnasay sheli
vehamachshavot hamefuchadot sheli
al "pochazim vereykim"
shemedabrim unehenim
az ani meachayl leatzmi
lirot miever leshavrirut sheli
et/im hacheylek haeytan shebi

_______________________

mi shekatav
"zariti yamai lahevel" taah
ki eyleh lo yamav velo yamai
vehayamim eynam
shel af echad

_________________________

Lemitnachlim hamityavnim
beChevron uVeyt Ayl
Asher machru et nishmotayhem
letinah ulesinah
shebli oyev ayn lahem kiyum
shekofrim beachdut habriya veyotzro
shemeached otam veet shelo otam
_____________________________

Two Short Stories - Shnei Sipurim Ketzarim

Well that's a surprise - where are these stories? here at least is a title for a short story which has yet to be written, which concerns the Sydney bridge and the subtle things between him and her. Its called "Panic Attacks are a Pain in the Bum".
I'm sitting at my computer. I'm supposed to be working but instead I've given in and gone to a porn site, and am busy searching for clips with the tag “anal sex”, when my mobile rings. I quickly tun off the loudspeakers and answer.

"Greenhill Graphics", I answer in my business voice.
"I can't do this" says my wife.
"Just breathe" I say, "inhale and exhale."
Its no good, she says, I 'll have to pull over.
You were fine the other day, I say, you made it across fine.
Help she says, help me
Calm down I say, just calm down
Oh my G-d she says
Everything is fine, I tell her, its just a road like any other road, all you have to do is drive straight. I'll talk you through it the entire way. Just keep driving in the lane you're in and keep speaking to me and everything will be ok.
I have to pull over she says, help....
OK then pull over
I can't ...there's nowhere to stop.
Then keep driving...
Allright she says, I'm across now. Thanks.
She hangs up.
When did you shower last, she says, waving her hand in front of my her nose. The washing needs hanging up. And rember to get to school on time. The girls hate to be kept waiting. And take them something to drink.
When you get married you don't just marry your wife. You also marry your wife's parents. I did borrow a bit of money from them. Just so that I could finish my degree
That night I put my hand on her arm.
Not now, she says, I'm about to fall asleep.
I helped you across the bridge, I say.
Tomorrow she says, maybe tomorrow
I stroke her arm
Please, she says, I need to go to sleep.
Slowly, relunctantly, angrily, I withdraw my arm.
I curl myself up into a foetus like ball. My back turned to her, radiating hurt and anger and rejection.
She begins to snore.
Crossing bridghes is a pain in the bum.
__________________________



Here's the beginning of the second one.

Lunch
At exactly 12:40 Ruben pulled over and parked the taxi in a loading zone. Making sure no rangers were in sight, he crossed the road and went into Luigi’s.
The usual asked the blonde haired girl with the mole on her left forearm.
yes please said Ruben He
He kept an eye on the other side of the street until his sandwhich was ready. She handed it to him in a brown paper bag together with a paper serviette.
He paid and crossed back to his taxi. He drove down Riley street until he came to Commonwealth park. Today was his lucky day – a woman was just leaving a parking space! He took his keys and cellphone and smokes from the car, and strolled across to a bench in the shade of a large wild fig tree.
With a sigh he sat down and lent back into the bench. He glanced at his watch. He’d give himself 20 minutes, then get back on the road. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them he discovered a large black bird, like a crow, had hopped onto the other end of the bench, and was curiously eyeing the brown bag in his hand.
Shoo said Ruben
The bird did not move, except to cock its head to one side as if to listen to Ruben better.
Go away said Ruben. He bent to pick up a twig to throw at the bird. He threw it and the bird flapped off with an alarmed caw.
Ruben relaxed back again and slowly and methodically opened the paper bag. He withdrew the sandwich wrapped in waxed paper and, so as not to lessen the pleasure, slowly opened that as well. The sandwich lay inside, two large slices of sourdough bread with a crisp, flour dusted crust.
He raised the sandwich to take a bite. The bird flapped down and settled on the bench again, a little closer.
I’m warning you, said Ruben.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

On sacrifice - korbanot

Sometimes the best sacrifice you can make is sacrificing the desire to be rid of your boredom,or at least not acting on that desire, but rather to remain with it. Don't flip on the tv/don't go open the fridge to browse around / don't pick up that magazine or newspaper - just stay karov (near) to G?d/ Being, who now pesents Itself as boredom

דע מה למעלה ממך--עין רואה, ואוזן שומעת, וכל מעשיך בספר נכתבין
"Know what is above you, an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and all your actions are written in a book" - This is an ecological descriptor: whatever we do has impact and alters everything irreversibly.
You can't just come to shul ane expect to have a meaningful experience without doing some preparatory work - avoda shebalev. Prayer is the expression of gratitude or of your deepest wants, but to arrive at either of these some work needs to be done first.l

Parshat HaShavua - the Weekly Portion

Why Yaakov "had" to become Yisrael - Parshat Vayishlach

Yaakov's name is associated with the following words:
ikuvim - inhibitions, blockages
eykev - heel, therfore ikvot - footprints, laakov achrei - to follow someone, to track them
akuv midam?
Yaakov's strange and symbiotic relationship with Esav
(Why do I use the Hebrew names and not the English equivalents. Explain)
Did I dream it or did I read in a foreword to Freud's "Moses and Monotheism" (that have never been able to find since)
Yaakov received his birthright through deceit and trickery (no matter the nobility of the imputed intention for his actions) and ever since then the children of Esav have resented the children of Yaakov with an envy and fury they themselves cannot explain. Of course Esav was free not to sell his birthright to Yaakov - his complicity and abdication is not often highlighted enough. But nevertheless Yaakov is perhaps tainted permanently by his acts of duplicity - the end can never justify the maenas enough to dissolve the karmic burden they create ?? - to necissitate a change of name along with an accompanying change of essence...so yaakov must become Israel - the one who has wrestled with G?d and over come. Of course what it means to overcome G?d is not a stone that should be left unturned

When Isaac Babel failed his self-imposed "become a cossack" test he wrote that in the end he remained "a man with glasses on his nose and autumn in his heart." This can be sen as a rearticulation of the famous archetypal stereotype of the Jews as Jacob: "Ish Tam, yoshev beohalim..." an innocent man, a dweller of tents" as opposed to the more active and virile Eysav, "ish sadeh" - the man of the field - kind of reminds me of Yitzchak sadeh, the founder of the Palmach.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Projects and plays

Play about suburban Jewish boys who go on a camp with some of their male teachers and the kind of revelations and bondings they all have - where the sluice gates of love and support for the slightly reserved and afraid teacher is opened, where boys learn their big lesson (ask David Camp about his interaction with Yitzchak Notoledo). "Go for it sir"; "come on sir you can do it" and so on and so forth. Creating a space where we can turn and face our fears, and young boys can be initiated into their roles as men.) [ See my non-existent article: on changing the Bar Mitzvah into a meaningful - and demanding - right of passage. Also see Reviewing-age-of-bar and bat-mitzvah] About finding your authority, or your 'power animal' as Carlos Castenada called it??

There could be some nice role reversals in it, like when they're crossing a raging river and "the master" gets swept away and is rescued by some of the boys; perhaps some love or lust interest, with a female teacher there that a master (and several of the boys) have a crush on; perhaps a scene where two boys in a tent are having a midnight torchlit chat and the one boy tells his tent mate that he has a crush on his sister and peeks at her undressiing and the oyther boy says sies, that's disgusting, but once his tent mate has gone to sleep he masturabates...a sweet ultra truthful slice of life, one religious boy who is wrestling with many things, need to set up each characyter in the school environment early on, to establish what their issues and wants are, before we take them out of their environment into the wild, where stuff can get fluid and there are some breakthroughs, even if afterwards the old patterns will close in on them again, like water that's been pushed out of a place that keeps flooding, and it slowly trickles back in till the possibilities are back underwater....

Could have one teacher who has been "forced" to come on expedition and hates it, they're physically frail and naarfi, but strong in other ways, a strange combination of weakness and strength, the strong person whose afaraid of their weakness and has over compensated, the strong person who is just strong, the physically strong person who's exposed as weak - reversals and ???? ( forgetting my script writing theory)...you know who this is based on, right, the humerlous "leader" etc etc.

A meditation on the different kinds of strength there are, on Israeliness vs Diapora Jewishness for example,

See Dr Tim Hawkes article "Educating for Adulthood on p. 27 of Independence Vol 34 No 1, also appeared in SMH on 8 September 2008. See also "Growing adolescents into adults" by Andrew Lines, about his "The Rite Journey" program on pg 31 of Independence Vol 34 No 1. See www.theritejourney.com.au and Steve Biddulph Manhood, 1994. Hopefully my desire to connect and be of service will make some of this grwow and blossom.

Interesting permutations of the question "what is it to be a man" especially the Jewish baggage where so many of the experiences we have had have been emasculating. Could bring Laurence Price in on this, David Bilchitz (one of the characters could be gay), Marc Radomsky. Could have a teacher like Mr sak, brittle? militant? blind? physically incompetent? hurt? (combo of Mr Sak and Mr Mink) the boys laqugh at his incompetence, explore the peer dynamic of the boys and how it fades and alters as the masks come off and people cannot hide any more...either cos things go wrong or because it is designed to challenge them...

Young precocious boy with beret who brings teapot and Jack Kerouac books to read - on the road - also sporty boys 0f- different kinds - different abilities.

They're lying on their sleeping bags near the dying embers looking at the stars
wow....
right wow (remeber adolescents aren't great with silences)
Do you think we are inside the universe, or the universe is inside us
whadya mean
I mean, like,

They daven ??? - some of the boys come, some don't - some tension betwen the different teachers about the different offerings
_________________________________________
There used to be a fat butcher in Rocket Street Yeoville (Johannesburg, apartheid South Africa, a famous street lined with Bohemian eateries, music venues, ethnic shops) who had fat sausage fingers and a blue apron with white stripes and blood stains on it and white clothes on underneath it and probably gum boots on his feet - and he would stand behind his metal and glass display fridge with the boerewors and pork chops and T bone steaks and rump steaks, and behind him was his plump immigrant wife, probably with a hairy chin, and behind them on the old style white tiled wall were pin ups from Scope magazine - busty blondes and brunettes in stars and stripes bikinis, because in prudish South Africa you couldn't have full nudity or even toplessness, even in men's magazines - and I always wantd to get a photograph of him staring blankly into the camera - perhaps he had cold shark eyes - with the pin ups behind him an the dead muscle in front of him - and call it "meat."

__________________________________
Make a clay statue of my wife as earth godess, with me and the boys clinging to her hips and breasts and legs like the tiny pygmies we are, or become, in her presence.
______________________________________

And now for something completely different

She is so sweet
I kiss her feet
without her I am
not complete

(dans to da rythm of da beat, da beat)

the rest unfortunately, is in Hebrew...you can still get a sense of the rhythm even if you don't understand the transliterated words

keta'ay machshava
eyze guf petzatza
matzu et atzmam
baderech lesham
lelo chazara
lelo takana

shalom ani kan
telatfi oti sham
mitachat leaf
umeyever leblaf

oniya veyam
ani po, aba sham
Avinu sheba.....
veanu lemata

milim shotfot oti
tishmeii, tishmeii
hagalim melatfim
ayn lehem kevar milim

birkat hayam ubirkat hasadeh
birkat mabateych hatzanuah veyafeh

(mechabelet yafa
eyze guf petzatza...)
what a pretty terrorist
with a body like a bomb


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wake up and smell the garbage

It's never too late to imagine another life for ourselves, a life beyond Kentucky Fried Cruelty and Big Maconformism

If our children strive to lead lives that look like ours, with the same hogging and duplicating of resources within narrow family units, with the same addictive and unconscious consumption, with the model of two cars in the driveway and 40 appliances in the energy inefficient home and at the energy inefficient school and office, we can expect the ongoing collapse of biodiversity and unpredictable climate change, and we can expect the social problems that accompany a social order which does not facilitate community, ecstacy, simplicity and belonging.
__________________________________________

The house that evasion built
has marble foyers
and concierges
and rubbish out the back
___________________________

The clock ticks
"sustainable homes
sustainable communities
sustainable homes
sustainable communities"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Explanation

The triumphalist and monofocussed Israelis living in Hebron must be understood in the context of the Anti-Jew ethnic cleansing that took place there in 1929
and the Islamic terror that blows up pensioners and children on a Tel Aviv bus must be understood in the context of Palestinian disposession
and Palestinian dispossession must be understood in the context of a 3000 year old narrative that has placed Zion and Jerusalem at the centre of Jewish life, and in the context of European and Arab Jew hatred
and European and Arab Jew hatred must be understood in the context of the general human propensity to avoid and to blame and to project and to fear
and the general human propensity to avoid and blame must be understood in the context of a
G-d who is the G-d of creation
but also of destruction

Finding the right rebbe-guru

Don't worry so much if the rebbe is the right rebbe, worry more if you are the right student. There are make fake gurus out there, charlatans of the highest madreyga (caliber), but there are even more fake students out there, who pretend they are up for transformation, as long as it is transformation in their own image, according to their expectations and their dramas. For them the guru is just a bit player in their production.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jah is One

Almost everything that has been invented for human comfort has a concomitant cost in discomfort, pain and destruction for some other human, animal or environment somewhere else on the planet.

Yes to taking children on school trips to landfill sites, waste treatment facilities, factory farms, abbatoirs, cancer wards, cosmetic laboratorys etc etc so that they can see the underbelly of our so called civilization
yes to circuses that don't use animals
yes to humble ways of spending time together
yes to physical activity amongst nature's renewable resources
yes to us in competition with ourselves
yes to acknowledging and nurturing ourselves and others
yes to building community through mutual acts of help
yes to sacrificing the lesser for the greater in ever expanding circles
yes to the simple joys that dissolve addictions
yes to integration and remembering

No to cling wrap
no to food products grown in distant places
no to too much variety and choice
no to advertising in general and advertising on blogs in particular (seeing as they are one of the only uncontaminated vehicles for expression)
no to deodorant and nail polish
no to useless plastic bags
no to unnecessarily large or fast cars
no to the "sport" or hurting and killing animals that are not needed for food
no to air conditioning and fast food
no to casino's and commodified sex
no to dimly lit places where people try unsuccessfully to loose themselves
no to pretense

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Australia @ Christmas time

What a nauseating deluge of commodification
what a povery of thought and feeling
magazines and newspapers bursting with huge catalogues
of things and things and things
to ram down each others stockings like Foie Gras feed
down the throats of geese

what a meaningless orgy of evasion
as if buying what is shiny today and discarded tomorrow
could somehow substitute for husbands giving
their attention to wives
parents giving their attention to children
employees giving their attention to what they were hired to do
people giving attention to their environments

this is not giving
this is running as far from giving
as matter will allow

but at least mercy is shown
to millions of pigs and sheep
and cows
who receive their Christmas gift
as a bolt in the brain or a knife at the throat
and do not have to witness
the drunks and the glass wounds
and the emergency rooms
and the desperation induced
by the gap between
the adverts and the reality

(Of course the States is the same , or worse, check out
http://rabbirami.blogspot.com/2008/11/tis-season-to-be-brutal.html

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lost in translation

People translate themselves every day
to make themselves seem this or that way
did I translate myself well?
did it make the source seem ok?

but the original, not bound by any edition
remains unseen and richer than any translation / version (unknown)

Censorship

I censor what you see of me / I censor what I show to you
fearing parts of myself are ugly / unacceptable
lots of hiding and lots of faking (and I give you what I think is acceptable)
In the theatre of my own making

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cora's child


Boy and a puppy in a box
what looks out from between their eyes
at the dead photographer's lens?
what looks out from between my eyes
and leaps towards them
in a million unconquerable blessings?
puppy dog and puppy boy
(bewildered as I am)
your forms are just the echo
of the song that set you singing
tho you may grow bigger
and not understand why you hurt
and hurt
your suffering has an end
but not this
and when everything has gone
still it will offer
its sweet embrace


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jewusalem and Jewdaism and non Jewelism

Added some four years after original post:

Jewishness: difference for the sake of difference or difference that makes a difference?
__________________
"ממקומו הוא יפן ברחמים"
"From G-d's place G-d will turn in mercy...."(from the shabbat liturgy)

The stillness of
place
and everything in its
place
this is the SatGuru
who manifests
from the formless space
in a particular
time and place
_____________________

A sub cullture that does not define itself in opposition to the dominant culture is likely to be co-opted by it - hence the state of progressive Judaism today - in flux, uncertain, with very little to offer except gender equality and inclusivity rather than exclusivity - but no depth or intensity or "spiritual' insight or tribal solidarity

__________________________
I want to push more intensively the idea of "naaseh venishma" as a hugely profound educational principle - especially at the school that I teach at. I'm not sure that we honour that principle enough.
_________________________________
Funky frum?
__________________________
What happens when you have outgrown a set of emotional loyalties, but still understand their appeal, and their value as a bonding device? For example, the "us" and "them" encoded into many Jewish holidays - "we" the few, "they" the many, "we" the persecuted and enslaved, "they" the opressors and the wicked...I find in myself the ability to resonate as much with the Egyptians in thePesach story and the Greeks in the Hanukah story as I can with the Hebrews and Israelis....yet the sweetness of children's faces clustered around the Chanukah lights still calls in avisceral way...and to sing the words of "maoz tzur" - despite their rather vengeful lyrics.

The "Greeks" within all of us and the "Yehudi" within all of us...in this cosmology, the Greek is to value appearance over substance, to reinforce societal values where physical excellence is valued and celebrated more broadly than moral or intellectual excellence, where the body beautiful is commodified a million times a day and used to sell products we don't need, where people are urged to live beyond their means to sustain unsustainable appearances etc etc...vs the Jewish-Hebrew values of modesty, restraint, and sustainability.

How to universalise the Hanukah story? Make it a protest against commodification, against the over valuing of appearance (the tyranny of cosmetics and fashion and consumerism), and the emphasising of doing acts of altruism as the source of true beauty.
_____________________________________________________

It is often more productive to "(be)hold" Judaism as a dialogue, not a set of answers…and in the process the answers emerge for you, in your time and place and stage, they become clear.
__________________________________________________________
A polemic arguing for the establishment of a second Jewish state (in addition to Israel)
_________________________________________________________

On the need for a Jewish holiday which is offered up to the Australian public. Perhap simchat beyt hashoeyva during Sukkot because this was traditionally a time when all the nation sent offerings to Jerusalem. Simchat beyt hashoeyva involves street parades, jugglers, acrobats, wise fools, and lots and lots of devotional music.

_______________________________________________

Milchemet haotiot - all the children got dressed up as letters - aleph kicked the thin and reedy vav very hard in the shins - the children arrangd themselvs into the words zayin baayin...lech habayta mora revital...etc etc... lamed smeared their lunch all over taf's face...then Mr Porter came in, dressed as the mighty mem
_______________________________________________

Some mind talk ( see ) or self-talk on hearing of anti-Semitic behaviour/speech by some priviledged Australian kids in elite private schools. The words of Eckhart Tolle come to mind...
be at least as interested in your response as in the lifeshock ( ) stimulus that triggers the response

I must protect myself by getting clear

I coul drown in this fear and anxiety

This threatens my very survival

If I don't fight this we will not survive
The truth is I (if I is identified as the body) will not survive irrespective, whether I am eaten by a shark or die of cancer or old age or in a cr crash or killd by a criminal or die peacefully in bed. Given that I will not survive irrepective then waht is the fear that arises of? Of anhilation? Of "premature" anhilation. So is this a wake up call to jettison false senses of self?
I must equip my children to deal with this

I must repond to this in some way

Some practical responses to anti Semitism:
Ecstatic dancing and ecstatic singing of wordless nigunim
Missiles and bombs and sustained small arm fire
An equal and opposite focus and celebration of philo-Semitism
An ongoing and sustained acknowledgement of ourselves and our worth, both as human beings and as manifestations of the infinite and divine




Saturday, November 15, 2008

Zichrono Livracha: (In Memoriam) Peter Esterhuyzen


Peter Esterhuyzen was a creative and beautiful man, marked and made remarkable in that he held his own amongst the best and produced so much while fighting off- in the most heroic and uncomplaining manner - the condition that was to kill him. He wrote poetry and television drama scripts, plays and comics, was a great raconteur and touched the lives of so many disparate people, moving seemingly effortlessly between words and worlds. That's him at bottom left, with the black bear and glasses, making a cameo appearance in one of his storyteller comics.

Peter, tall, black hair , pigeon chest, glasses, rooibos tea with milk,
curious human eyes and understanding smile, embroidered stories of his child
days and wild days, cocreator of Yizo Yizo, playwrite - The Chimp Project at the Market Theatre, Peter and his latest infatuation, Peter with his philo-Semitism, Peter as contributor to
the Apartheid museum, and author of dozens of textbooks, many of which are prescribed text
books in SA, in several disciplines, from maths to history, Peter with his
wide ranging and eclectic friendships which crossed all boundaries, Peter
and Storyteller comics, Peter and his marriage in his last year of life...

The sad-glad news that Peter Esterhuysen died on
Friday April 9th 2004.

Sad because he was a quiet hero who never complained about his Cystic
Fibrosis and who put in 16 hour days creating wonderful comics, scripts and
plays...while living on a daily regime of 80 pills and having only the use
of 20% of his lungs.

Peter was one of the oldest surviving people with CF in SA, and fought a
long and ingenious war with the debilitating condition. He could have held
himself a victim, but he chose to live his life to the full, and you never
knew you were interacting with someone who was engaged in an almost daily
struggle to keep his body functioning...

He was a wonderful raconteur, a bright, alert, enthusiastic and curious
human being, a skilld write and editor, and a good friend who always
encouraged others in their
creative efforts (for example he published an anthology of new SA writing in
in the early 90's), a sweet and lovely and inspiring man whose passing
leaves a void

Glad because his last few weeks were not good and eventually he was put on a
respirator...something he'd said he did not want...



Here is a piece Peter wrote about his play "The Chimp Project" which played at Johannesburg's famous Market Theatre in 2000. The extract is lifted from the Handspring Puppet Company's website

"This play had its genesis one Saturday afternoon when my friend and collaborator Barak Morgan began entertaining me with stories about wild chimps, based on the work of Jane Goodall. He told me stories about the chimps called Goblin, Gremlin and Greybeard: stories that illustrated the complex reciprocal social relationships and power dynamics within chimp communities. He spoke about Jane's discovery that different chimp communities groups appear to have different 'culture': different ways of collecting food, fashioning primitive tools or using medicinal plants to fight disease. Finally, he related the story of the Kasakela chimp community and their four year long furtive war waged against the Kahama community which ended in the latter community being wiped out. The anecdotes, which evoked in my mind a kind of chimp Middle Earth, were startling: chimp behaviour seemed to include acts of empathy, altruism, murder and war - behaviour which I had always regarded as uniquely human.

I had long admired Handspring Puppet Company's work with William Kentridge. When I bumped into Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler at a party that same evening I mentioned the idea of using puppets to explore the world of chimps. Basil and Adrian were intrigued by the idea, and a few months later the four of us found ourselves in the forests of Gombe.

Coming face to face with wild chimps was a profoundly unsettling experience: they were quite unlike any other animal I had ever encountered. So humanlike and yet so completely other: they defied conventional categorisation as animal or human.

In the forest reserve of Gombe it seemed only natural that these unique creatures should be granted the special rights which form the basis of the Great Ape Project's world campaign. But as soon as we ventured beyond Gombe into the eroded landscape and stark poverty of the surrounding villages, the picture started to muddy again. At night, while staring out at the lights of the fishing boats on Lake Tanganyika, we had many a heated discussion about the rights of people versus the rights of chimps. Did the local people get any benefit from a reserve like Gombe? How long would the forest or the chimps last if people were allowed in? Is it blind human arrogance that makes us think that only we have rights? Yet can we talk of chimp rights at all? What would happen if chimps started claiming their rights? What if their idea of rights conflicted with our idea of the rights we wanted to confer on them. If chimps could talk...

We turned to the books we had brought on signing chimps and so began our long sojourn in the controversial, intriguing, often tragic world of cross-fostered chimps that have been raised as human children and taught to communicate using sign language. One of the most famous of the signing chimps was Lucy, who had a vocabulary of 120 words of human sign language. Lucy's life was a caricature of a 70s American teenager. She enjoyed watching soap operas, poured and mixed her own drinks, paged through magazines and became sexually aroused when she saw pictures of naked human men. Lucy thought that she was human.

From our camp outside the forest, Lucy's suburban America seemed a universe away. And yet this great divide was one that Lucy herself was forced to cross. At ten she became too big for her domestic world and was sent to a chimp rehabilitation colony in the Gambia, where she was successfully weaned off gin and tonic and magazines, and taught with other orphan chimps how to survive in the African Forest.

The real Lucy died at the hands of poachers. But the arrival in the forest of a signing chimp and her long-suffering human companion seemed a fitting place to begin a journey into the ever-shifting 'border zones' between human and animal, nature and culture."

ABOUT PETER ESTERHUYZEN (this also from the Handspring website)

"Peter Esterhuyzen is a former academic and literacy teacher turned professional writer. In 1989 he co-foundered a comic publishing company called The Storyteller Group.

Since then he has written more than forty comic books and text books, and helped create three popular comic series. He first collaborated with Handspring Puppet Company on a multimedia educational series for children called Spider's Place. After leaving the Storyteller Group, he freelanced in the television industry for three years before making his television debut as a co-creator and co-writer of the controversial series, Yizo-Yizo. He is currently working on the sequel. The Chimp Project was his second play."

Yehi zichro baruch - may his memory be a blessing, and may he rest in peace,
surrounded by the things he cherished - women, rich friendships,
beautiful words and ideas, and knowing that he was, and is, loved, admired
and appreciated.

Instructions for my funeral

I have to work in order to support my creativity habit

Inscription on my gravestone: "Now no one can bother me."
Alternative inscription: "Seeing as you still have bodies, have a hug and a bonk for me..." (Just playing - the real inscription is below, in Hebrew)

Readings for my celebratory funeral farewell:

End of "Leaves of Grass" Walt Whitman
End of Kaddish: Alan Ginsberg

Inbalim bemireh veshrikot
vezahav bisadot ad erev
dumiyat be'ehrot yerukot
merchavim sheli vaderech

haeytzim shealu min hatal
notzetzim kizchuchit umatechet
lehabit lo echdal, velinshom loechdal
veamut veamshich lalechet
Natan Alterman

Please also read a few pages from "I AmThat" - anywhere would be good, but especially the words of consolation about everyone ripens in their own time, and ultimate liberation is unavoidable.

Rabbis of any sort are welcome at my funeral, but not to officiate. I never liked the idea of clergy. My friends and family can all do little parts.

My epitah

"Po nikbar gufo shel Immanuel Richard Suttner

Ish Chaviv
ohev milim
nigun yafeh
vedadei nashim

bead medukayim,
bead eyleh bli kol
uvelev libo
baad hakol"

___________________________________________________

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hidden & Revealed

What critics have said about "Hidden & Revealed":

"These are wonderful poems, at times refreshingly cynical, always deeply gripping." Dr Ute Ben Yosef, Jacob Gitlin Library


"Immanuel Suttner's poetry is beautiful and extraordinarily and unexpectedly moving. It is also witty and what some would call 'spiritual'. But what moves me most is this: Some poetry misleads readers because it seems so simple. Readers should be cautioned. This kind of poetry is 'simple'. But it is not the simplicity of shallowness: it is the lucidity of a very deep pool. "
Jeremy Gordin, Sunday Independent


"Suttner's imagery returns repeatedly to the artefacts of faith lost - and faith found....and assumes a poignancy reminiscent of Amichai" Gwen Podbrey, Jewish Report


"In his poetry, Immanuel Suttner has a gift for communicating paradox, often through poems that are disarmingly simple, but always with a sting in the punchline. "Punchline" here is apt, for Suttner likens some of what he writes to a good joke, saying that when the poetry works, it has a climax that is fresh and surprising - but also familiar, almost intimate, able to worm its way under one's skin." (Victor Dlamini, Book SA) http://victordlamini.book.co.za/blog/2008/01/07/podcast-the-disarming-irony-of-poet-immanuel-suttner/


"Immanuel Suttner puts me in mind of Billy Collins, a poet of apparently haphazard and informal speech. Collins is perhaps one of the most enjoyable, and enjoyed, poets writing in the world today, for the reason that he is both modest and accessible. Suttner, too, is of this poetic ilk. Still, under the flippancy and lightness of tone there is something profound and dark.The strongest poems in his volume Hidden and Revealed (Snailpress/QuartzPress), such as Ma (Carpe diem, 15th September 1953) and Jerusalem, offer moments of humour and levity, but the weight of the poems rests in their crevices; the darkness spoken and the even darker unsaid. Jerusalem is one of the finest poems I've read in a long time. Suttner, a Jew, speaks to me, a Muslim, about beauty, atrocity and ambivalence in a way that bridges gaps, despite our differing political affiliations: The book is a joy to read (though Suttner's and my politics differ, an overriding sense of compassion is what I have retained from my readings of the volume) and the poems are fresh, vital, wholly without dullness and pedantry, as one can expect from books produced by publisher Gus Ferguson.Fiona Zerbst, Sunday Independent, http://www.sundayindependent.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4294356

Nonetheless, many contemporary poets, both white and black, have sought to explore new and interstitial spaces of identity, and express experiences more hybrid than has traditionally been allowed for. Goodenough Mashego, for instance, sees the challenge for South African poets as finding ways “to position themselves to a point where they cannot be black/white/coloured or Indian but poets.”[45] The result has been, at best, poetry of a rich complexity. One of the most delightful examples is Johannesburg poet Immanuel Suttner’s appropriation of rastafarian discourse to comment on his white, Jewish roots: Kelwyn Sole, Mediations http://www.mediationsjournal.org/articles/licking-the-stage-or-hauling-down-the-sky

Um yisrael wen ‘cross to babylon
started callin hisself irwin cohn
writin for de newspaper in washinton
bin nice n pleasant to everyone

or got hasidic in ol new york
bowin to de hot air in de rebbe’s talk
dancin to de beet of de fals messiah stalk
dey say he gonna come if we stay away from pork

me i say me eyes is full o sand
i gotta smash de idols bilt by de fader’s hand
like trotsky done or like avram’s stand
and bild mehself meh own promise land

(“De terach hammer”)

_______________

Hidden and Revealed was published by Quartz Press in conjunction with Snail Press. In Australia copies are available from Berkelouw Books, from Lindfield Bookshop, and from Books and Beyond (RRP $15).

Shirei Mooakah

Beyisrayl afilu haparot mafginot
im shlatim vecruzim "dam haparot hefker"
ve "dam haparot eyno hefker"
aval beyn ko ve cho
adayin hofchim otam le meilay ohr
venaalayim
veketzitzot basar

___________________________

Kol mishkal shtikat heyekum rovetz eylai

yacholti lomar harbei lu hayiti meshuchna
shehabdidut shekadma ledibur
vehabdidut shacharey
ota shtika ikeshet, lelo makshiv hee, koraytlev (ken, mila achat!)
vehapaam ulai muchan ehiyeh
shehalev achen yikarei
tachat omes ze
bli lehasiach et daati mimena
oh lidchot et ha rega
od rega

boded bayekum ani mevakesh
et habilti efshari
lechabeyk oti kemeahev veaym
ukemenachaym

(Shurot eylu nichtvu beMelbourne b'veidah lemechanchei Tziyonut)

Ayefut tehomit
ayayfut ayn chayker
ayayfut shemazminah
oti el cheyka
hashkuva, ha sha'anahnah
_______________________


Ani kevar mitgageya le yeladim
shelifnei shvuayim lo ratziti lachshov aleyhem
ki im hapreydah
lo nuchal lehaamik et hadoo siach beyneynu

yesh po eyze hefsed
eyze fisfus
eyze kishalon
shelahem vesheli
aval beikar
sheli

________________

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Meaningless and meaningmore, meaningfull and meaning empty

Yes to surfing and skateboarding
yes to organic vegetable gardens
yes to gathering in parks and informal games of cricket
yes to coming together to get high on each other's blessed being without
the need for alcohol
yes to devotional music which makes no one wrong and expresses the longing to return home
yes to walks in forests
yes to solar panels
yes to letting go of perfectionism
yes to simple food
yes to hard work
yes to no effort
yes to encouragement and affirmation
yes to bicycles
yes to stroking and hugging and recreational consensual sex
yes to clotheslines and free range eggs
yes to sharing your time and giving your attention



No to trudging off to school each day
to teach things to kids which are not my agenda
and not theirs
no to the absurdity
no to the heavyness
no to the bleak grey dullness
no to the fear that keeps it all in place
where is the light?
where is the life?
where is the joy?

If this is what responsibility brings of what use is responsibility?


I cannot agree with pubs
I cannot agree with plastic bags and riculous, unconscious, planet-malicious superfluous packaging
I cannot agree with over-indulged companion animals while millions of other animals are farmed and transported in appalling conditions
I cannot agree to our ruthless rearranging of the world to make it seems more convenient and comfortable for us
I cannot agree to toilet cleaners and household chemicals that over sterilise and create a thousand new allergies every day
I cannot agree to the lonely comforts of ipods and facebook when I and you want a hug or a bonk
I cannot agree to Sydney's sterile and animal free streets and species supremacism
I cannot agree with washing powder commercials
I will not make my peace with wrestling or reality shows or synthetic pop or commodified rebellion
I will not agree to pretend things are OK
tho I pretend so every day


min hamaamakim karati Yah.... (from the depths I called to you Jah)
ananani bemerchav Yah (you answered me with the wideness of Jah)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Slow Tram Coming

I'm twenty nine years old and living in Yeoville. Johannesburg is pretty flat but Yeoville slopes gently downward. I stay in a small bachelor flat near the water tower which crowns the suburb. My next door neighbour is a big blond haired guy with a pock marked face and bad breath called Stewart. Natal colonial gone slightly off. He's always juggling various debtors. He's three months behind on the rent. They'd throw him out but they can never find him to deliver an eviction notice. He smashes his car regularly, works night shift at a fast food place, and runs a T-shirt operation during the day. Business between he and his partner is conducted in the following manner:

"Come down Stewart or I'll fuck you up"
"I'm not coming down."
"I'm warning you china (= buddy in South African slang), I want my fridge."
"It's not your fridge."
"It's my fridge. And once you've given that back, you'll still owe me 2 000 bucks."
"I don't owe you anything."
"You fucking owe me for three hundred shirts. I'm warning you china, if I meet you in the street I'll beat the shit out of you."
"No you won't."
"Just wait and see."
"I'm waiting"

Then there is the noise of a Beetle roaring off and a window being slammed. Stewart knows a woman working in some company and he regularly pops in to her office to use her phone, fax, copier, laser printer. When she stays over at him she moans very loudly while they fuck and I get enormously turned on and stride up and down my flat. He also has a cat called Rambo, a bushy tailed creature who wakes me up every morning by meeping like an alarm clock. I open the window, Rambo comes in, and then we both go back to sleep. The neighbours feed Rambo, because Stewart never does.

On the other side of me lives an old Jewish lady who, when she was living in England, having come there as a refugee from Hitler, personally met and spent time with Jesus Christ. Since becoming a devout believer she's studied Hebrew and Aramaic through UNISA (a South African correspondence university) and has been teaching for years and years at the Baptist college next to Johannesburg General Hospital. We often meet on the stairs because she's always rushing in and out. For an old lady of seventy five she's got an enormous amount of energy. She's constantly shlepping people, or visiting the sick, or giving some Japanese student extra lessons in Corinthians II.

Sometimes when I'm walking past her door she pops out, at seventy words a minute, and hands me a lemon meringue pie she's made from tennis biscuits, condensed milk and lemons.
I go to my flat, lock the door, and immediately eat the entire pie. Afterwards my nose streams because milk kicks my mucus membranes into war time production. Occasionally I buy her some fruit or a cake in return. When I step down the corridor to deliver it, she's either not there, or in the bath.

She baths in the dark, perhaps because to look at your flesh is sinful, or perhaps because simply, at seventy five, it's sad. I wait while she stuffs her ample bean bag body into a dress and opens the door. Then we begin our little ritual.

"No, no, no you shoodn't. You spoil me."
"Please. Its nothing."
"No, really, you're very naughty. I can't accept this. You really shoodn't. I'm going to have to refuse."
"Well you're always giving me cakes."
"Only on your birthday."
"But you gave me one last week, and my birthday was six months ago..."

And so on. Eventually she takes it. She's often trying to convert me, in a gentle sort of way, but I feel fairly immune. If I think my own religion is confused, arbitrary, and blind, you can imagine my ambivalence about the blood stained pantheon of religions all pledging allegiance to a God in human form who stage managed his own death. But that's where I stay. Between a Mama Teresele and an ex Durbanite on a trajectory of big talk, unpaid bills, and nicotine-induced yellowing teeth. Between carelessness and a faith which seems harmless enough, between lovemaking which definitely does not have procreation as its goal, and cake baking which I suspect has proselytising as its chief ingredient.

Besides Rambo, I also have a lover called Merissa, who lives near by, two blocks away in fact. She took a flat there so that we could be close to each other, without actually moving in together, which we both thought would be too risky. Tonight we're going to friends for supper. At exactly seven thirty there is a soft knock on my door. Merissa's always very punctual. The moment I open the door and see her I fill with irritation. She's dressed all wrong. She's wearing bright red lipstick and I hate makeup. I peck her on the cheek and avoid eye contact. There is a silence which I refuse to break.

"How're you", she asks tentatively.

She has a Kenyan woven grass bag on her shoulder. She always has an enormous bag with her, filled with books, toiletries, an apple which never gets eaten, car keys, car immobilisers, a little troll doll with long spikey hair which can be combed, sugar free Dentyne, an umbrella, and it turns out, a bottle of shampoo not tested on animals she bought for me at a Woolies sale. She really is a good soul. I try to stuff my irritation into an inner cupboard and almost manage to shut the door on it, although bits of it, like some bulky duvet, keep on popping out.


We walk over to Vered and Ilan, who have invited us for supper. Vered and Ilan are Israelis who wish to be South Americans. Vered has an impressive flame of henna hair and does a pretty good hip swinging number which turns heads. Ilan imports bamboo steamers from Taiwan, which I sell on the weekends at Bruma flea market. So we have supper and then light a zol, except for Merissa who doesn't ever smoke. I have a few drags and nothing happens. So I have a few more. Still nothing. When the joint comes around again I have another.

We're sitting on mattresses against the wall and suddenly it hits me. Waves of stonedness climb up me, over me, into me. The dagga is trying to unzip me, and I am suddenly full of the most enormous terror. I will loose control. I will whimper like a baby and beg for help. I will call Ilan and Vered mommy and daddy. The strain of keeping my panic hidden is enormous. I grow very cold. Vered brings me a poncho, and I sit huddled in it, shivering and trying to make small talk. I take Merissa's hand for reassurance. She squeezes mine comfortingly. She's always there when I need her. I'm safe with her. Which is why I don't value her.

Several times during the evening I have substituted Vered's name for Merissa's, who doesn't seem to be hurt by my Freudian slips, but it adds to my worries. Now everyone knows I am secretly infatuated with Vered, and being stoned, I will probably make some worse gaffe. I'll never be able to come here again. They'll think I'm a weakling, afraid of my own shadow. Which right now I am.

I can't stand anymore of this holding my terror back. I must pace up and down, mumble, moan, express whatever is in me. The normal restraining mechanisms have been blown away by the weed. All I can do is to make rapid excuses and get away before I ruin the initially positive impression I imagine I made on Vered and Ilan. We leave. I'm always leaving. Maybe it's a Jewish thing. But then, Vered and Ilan are Jewish, and they're always arriving. Maybe it's the fact they're more Israeli than Jewish. Or maybe its just that I'm me.

Either way, in a long coat, holding Merissa's arm, we cross still streets. I am jabbering away. Is she OK ? She mustn't be frightened, this is what happens when people get stoned, its fine, everything's under control, did I say something stupid, am I making sense ?
"Yes", she says, but she's never seen me like this before.
We're now at my building, and I fumble for the keys for the downstairs gate. I'm desperate to be able to ride this out in the privacy of my own flat.
"It'll soon pass soon" I tell Merissa. "soon choon. Foon."
I feel I must allay any fears she has because I don't want her to freak out at my freaking out because then, boy, I'll really freak. We go upstairs, to my flat, and I shut the door behind us. Then I've taken off my coat and am lying on the mattress. It doesn't feel good. I'm dizzy. The room is spinning around me, and if I stay lying down I will slip off somewhere into space and not touch earth again. In addition I want to vomit up my supper. I must get up and pace.
I walk backwards and forwards, in the process tripping over the phone cord and pulling it out of the socket. All the while I am mumbling words in mantric-like fashion, little assurances to myself that its OK, that this panic is merely a small neurochemical sandstorm in my head, and that my body will continue to do the things it normally does - like breathe - even if the control centre is temporally out of whack.

While I am pacing, muttering snatches of the psalms and pop psychology self esteem slogans ("I am enough", "create in me a pure heart", "from a narrow space I called to you", "it's OK to be human") my nausea subsides, and in its place rises both the desire to eat and an enormous need for sex. Our months together have established that Merissa is pliant. She wants to be loved and needed - by whom or why seems to be of secondary importance. She finds it easier to give than to receive, both in and out of bed, which in my state of almost permanent hunger suits me fine. I feel relief and anticipation. How perfect the universe seems when a craving and the opportunity to satisfy it arrive on your doorstep at the same time ...which is why I find myself in the kitchen munching something, and then back on the bed, legs splayed, my head resting comfortably on a pillow.

I look at Merissa, who is sitting on the mattress near me. Then groaning a little, as if I am in pain, I ease my pants off. I let go of the pretence of being concerned about anything other than my own sweet pleasure. Here there is no hiding. I have been stripped - literally and metaphorically - down to one immense demand for gratification. Encased in a friendly mist which guarantees that this time there will be no boulders, no overhanging branches to get snagged on, I float downstream on a river of sensations towards some great and pounding waterfall. For this I was created, to lie at the centre of the universe and feel.

And feel I do. Not just the concentrated feelings of sex, which gather in the stomach and groin, and which in their specificity have a certain exclusiveness which leaves the rest of the body out in the cold. No, this is a warm blanket of feeling, the feelings you have when being massaged or stroked.

From all over the extension of my mind which is my body little pin pricks of heat, or current, or something touching and not touching are expanding and contracting, ebbing and rising, flowing in and back out. My scalp tingles as if I'd just eaten spoonfuls of mayonnaise or pure monosodium glutamate. My feet are buzzing. And I lie there, listening with my body to this gentle polyphony of sensations, curious about what will come next and finding it coming to me, independent of my will, unsolicited, freely, effortlessly.So this - as I knew all along - is what is meant by the hymn of the flesh.

Merissa's mouth feels soft and warm and persistent as it moves up and down and the fact that this all happens in slow motion while floating in a neural cloud means that it has been a slow tram coming, yes, but now I hear its horn, blasting warning, trumpeting, "Get out of my way, I'm a coming, I'm a coming."

Oh my God.I'm coming.

Afterwards I feel enormously grateful and thank Merissa and tell her that that was the most amazing blow job I have ever had. Just as I am lying there in a stoned post orgasmic stupor there is a knock on the door. It's Gavin:

"I tried to phone but it's so late so I thought I'd come and pick you up because I need your help urgently, you know my Gran's got very mild Alzheimer’s and she's vanished so I'm organising a search party to find her without involving my parents or the police. I'm sorry, I know its late but this is a real emergency. I tried to phone. You know what my gran's like. Oh, is Merissa here.If my folks find out they'll put her in the old aged home tomorrow, and then she's got maximum two weeks to live. I want to just find her and not say a word about this. She's so cute my Gran, a real sweety. You know what she's like. I must find her. Come with me now, both of you, we'll have some hot chocolate and then look for her. I've got Sam and Larry and Doris all looking for her. You know Sam, the gardener. And Doris the woman who takes care of my Gran. She's amazing. What's wrong with your phone ?"

Gavin's granny. About four foot two. Her back's so bent her head seems to emerge from her chest. A mouthful of rotting teeth. Deliciously senile, or aiverbottel, as they say in Yiddish. She has to manoeuvre, like a small tugboat, in order to see you, because of the angle of her head. First backs away, then swivels, till her reamy blue eyes find you.

Are old people still in there ? Hello, anyone at home ? Sometimes it's as if their soul's already jumped ship and only a skeleton crew remains behind to guide the faltering body until it reaches the last port of call.She is dressed each morning in a blue skirt, a girl's white blouse and a pink cardigan, with a tissue or two in the sleeve for safety. Most of her day is spent dozing or waiting or dozing again, in the sunroom of her decaying Houghton manor. In the 1940s it was a mansion. Now its a cross between a museum, a mausoleum, and a moulderheap. Old books. Old saggy massive furniture. Old bric a brac. Old photographs. An old radio which doesn't work when you plug it in and play around with the bakelite nobs. Old records: Richard Tucker, Great Tenor Arias. Freddy Martin and his Orchestra, Rythms from Latin America.

Sam the gardener runs a shebeen (unlicensed drinking establishment) from his back room and there's often riotous laughter coming from there. The property has only a low fence, which you can hop over with ease. People stroll across the lawn and no one knows who they are. Shebeen customers ? Passers by who've come to filch something ? Gavin’s parents don't want the cost of building a high wall. They installed a rapid response alarm but it doesn't make Doris, the black woman who looks after Gavin’s Granny, or Gavin, feel much more secure. The only one who feels secure in that house is Gavin's granny.

I often have quaint conversations with her where I get a chance to improvise, indulge my sense of the ridiculous, and in general explore the delights of non linear repartee.
"Please eat" she tells me.
"Thank you I will."
"How are the children ?"
"Fine, the little one's doing matric (Year 12) now."
"You must be very hungry. Have you eaten."
"More than enough."
"It's no trouble. Doris will get you something. Yoohoo, Doris."
"Yes kuku", says Doris, who is as patient and egoless as an ant colony.
"O kae ntate" Doris asks me. (Sesotho. How are you ?)
"Ke teng Rakgadi, wena o kae ?" (Ok Aunty. And you ?)
"She speaks a good Yiddish, don't you kuku", says granny.
"A bissele, ich red a bissel kuku" says Doris. (I speak a bit)
"Are you both kuku ?" I ask.
"Yes, both of us", explains Doris.
She's such a sweety, says Gavin's granny...how're the children ?"
"Getting bigger all the time. The eldest starts nursery school next year."
"I'm glad to hear it. Was she ill ?"
"Not too much."
"You mustn't go home hungry. I've so enjoyed talking to you. How's the family ?"

We follow Gavin back to Houghton. He is driving a big puce Datsun Laurel he inherited from an uncle who - like many other Jewish South Africans - now lives in Perth. We are in Melissa’s vintage 83 Golf. When we get to the house we reorganise - after much misunderstanding, especially on the part of Sam, the granny search party. Which is how I find myself at four o clock in the morning walking down a leafy Houghton avenue on a night where the half moon has almost vanished, the temperature is pleasantly warm, and I am starting to feel the sluggishness of thought produced by tiredness and the aftermath of dagga.

The stars are tiny overhead, and seem more numerous tonight because the street lamps aren't working. The big houses sit behind their walls. The pavements here are bigger than some people's garden's. I sit on the moist grass and lay my head, for a moment, upon it. I am about to doze off so I get up and continue walking. I take a left into 11th street. A dog barks somewhere, otherwise I'm alone in the world.

Big oak leaves crackle underfoot. Tennis courts peep out over high fences topped with metal spikes. Through wrought iron gates I catch a glimpse of panelled front doors or long driveways or several cars parked for the night. I go past a little electrical substation, down a dip in the road, over a bridge which crosses a water culvert, fenced with razor wire on which several plastic shopping bags have been festooned. There is a bus stop near the end of the next block. I will walk to the end of that block - the blocks are big here in Houghton - and then turn back. Unusual, actually to see a bus stop here. They're few and far between in this suburb. Maybe the residents didn't want their pavements disfigured with the ugly structures, or perhaps some municipal planner mused 'Houghton ? - let them use cars.'

I reach the bus stop. Someone has scrawled on the side, in thick purple marking pen "I am a round peg in a square hole." Under this is the addendum of another graffiti artist: "At least you found a hole." There is only one potential passenger sitting there. It is Gavin's granny, perhaps waiting for the celestial omnibus. She is awake.

"Hello, she says, "are you also waiting for the tram ?""Yes", I say, humbled by the stillness and the sadness of a bus stop at four o clock in the morning with two people in it waiting for a tram both have missed by thirty years."I'm very grateful you came to visit", she says, "Will the tram come ?"
"It will"
"Are you sure ?"
"It always has until now. Aren't you cold ?"
"Very well, thank you."
"Bist du kalt ?" (Are you cold ?)
"Oh, you speak Yiddish, that's very clever of you. Thank you for coming."
She's perched on the end of the bench and her feet just touch the ground. Both of her hands are on top of her stick, and her chin rests on top of her hands. I am curious to know what she sees.
"Where are you" I ask.
The head on a stick doesn’t answer.
"What year is it", I try again.
"The war’s over" she says.
"Yes."
"Hitler's dead " she says.
"I hope so." Silence. Then I see the head on the stick swivel and the blue reamy eyes bore into mine.
"Where are you ?" she says.
What ? For some reason my heart is pounding. Is this a message ? Is God trying to tell me something ? Using Gavin's granny to teach me a thing or two about staying calm even when you come face to face with the familiar estate of self being sold off and broken up ?
"I'm here with you kuku" I tell her, although that tells neither of us where here really is. But I'm back in virtuous mode, cos' maybe the universe doesn't like my scientific exploration of the contents of old ladies' heads.
"Have you had breakfast", she says, "kuku can make you an egg. I don’t think we have any sausage."
"I'll have some later. Let's walk to the next stop. We'll catch the tram there."
Unprotesting she takes my arm and I help her up. We walk down the lonely street. Into the sunrise. Fade. Cut. Young drugged nobleman rescues altzheimer granny. Grateful children shower him with gilt edged stocks. At press interview afterwards Granny admits: "I've been stoned since I was seventy eight. This Alzheimer’s is the worst trip ever. Shoin."

It is still dark and we are walking about an inch a minute. At this rate we'll be back in the sunroom in a fortnight. I yawn. I hear a car coming down the road, and then the street in front of us is lit up by it's headlamps. It slows behind us. Trouble. Drunkards ? Louts looking to beat someone up ? Muggers ? Granny jackers ?

It's Merissa in her beat up old Golf. Again she has rescued me. How terrible to be indebted to one you feel uncertain about. But how wonderful to see her.
"Are you the conductor", Gavin's granny asks me.
"Yes madam, and this tram will take you straight to Goch street."
The explanation seems to satisfy her. After much manoeuvring, we manage to get her in the car. Then we go back to the house, to general rejoicing and cups of hot chocolate or coffee, drunk in the subterranean kitchen with the linoleum floor, cracked tiles and the Fuchsware electric stove from 1938.
"I've had a wonderful time", says Gavin's granny.
Merissa, who is a nurse, goes off to work. I am tired. It is 6:00 and a grey light has dawned on all of us who are alive to see it. We drink more coffee. I get into my car and drive home. On the way I pass a newspaper vendor and an early jogger. I unlock my flat, pull off my shoes, let Rambo in, and climb into bed fully clothed. Rambo is purring, but neither he or I can get comfortable on the same bed. So I kick him off. After a while he settles on my one and only chair.
Then we both go to sleep.


(This story emerged in 1992 0r 1993. It was published in the UK magazine The Jewish Quarterly)