Sunday, March 16, 2008

Reflections, on a Sunny Day

Today is a bright sunny day and the crisp light is reflecting off the mountains and the plains of white bright snow. Everything looks like a digital photograph with the contrast enhancement set too high. The snow is beginning to melt and spring is in the air. I decided to go for a walk.

As I walked down my street I noticed some people walking with palm leaves. “Odd”, I thought in passing. When I turned the corner onto the main street, I saw dozens of people, mostly Filipino or South American, standing in front of the Catholic Church with lulavim.

“Oh, they’re are celebrating Sukkoth”, I said to myself. I smiled at the thought. At that moment I felt a sense of commonality with those Catholics.

“Happy Holiday” I said to some as I passed by (resisting the urge to say “Chag Sameach”).

“Yes, Happy Holiday” they said back to me – deliberately and slowly and looking me in the eyes. They where sure that I was a kindred soul.

Later, in front of the bank, a pan-handler (still young, tall, skinny as a rail, stubbly beard, blond hair, and very bad teeth.) asked me for some change. I gave him a dollar.

“Mind if I ask you something,” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“Are you Jewish?”.

“Yes,” I said: “Why do you ask?”

He explained that all Jews are successful. Many are great doctors and lawyers and he loved the Jews in show business. Rob Reiner is Jewish! His mother’s cancer doctor was Jewish, and he was been really good for her. That doctor had a number tattooed on his arm, and once he asked his mother about it, and she told him that it meant he had escaped from a concentration camp, but his mother said never to stare at the number, or mention it to the doctor, because Jews don’t like talking about that. I nodded my head indicating that that was probably good advice.

He continued, telling me that many Jews are great lawyers too. He had been in jail, and his lawyer was Jewish. But he had done a good job for him. Could have been in jail longer. Could have been worse. And Harry Rosen (local men’s clothing chain), he is Jewish too. And so is Ben Stiller, and Seinfeld, and lots of great actors. All Jews are successful you know.

I assured him that was not true: some Jews where not successful. He looked sceptical.

“Why did you ask if I was Jewish?” I said. “Do I look successful?”

“No,” he said. “But you have the same eyes as Dr Sugarman, at ‘The Clark’ [the major local mental health and addiction institute]”

I said goodbye, and as I walked away he continued: “Thanks for talking. Hope your not offended about talking about Jews. My mother said Jews are sensitive about that. Sure is a nice sunny spring day.”

As I passed the church, most of the crowd was gone. There was a lulav discarded on a snow bank by the sidewalk.

I have no idea what all this meant. But it seemed important, and I thought about all the rest of the way home.

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