This blog focuses on my life and that of my family. Here is a little background:
- Zayde: My paternal grandfather died over a decade ago. He had a major impact on my life, largely through his absence. He was an alcoholic and manic-depressive, with bouts of psychotic episodes that occasionally became violent. He was also a Baal Teshuvah. I have been told that he was involved with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, though my grandmother remembers going to visit his rebbe somewhere in New Jersey in the mid-70s. At some point, my grandfather's mental illness coalesced with his Orthodoxy, and he developed a very real messiah complex that resulted in him divorcing my grandmother, disowning his children, making several trips to Israel, and ultimately having a psychotic break on the plane back which resulted in him being incarcerated for close to a year in the hospital wing of a federal prison. When I started learning more about Judaism, especially Orthodox Judaism, as a teenager, my main anchors were Potok's "The Chosen" and my grandfather's story. For me, it is the perennial cautionary tale, of what can happen if you are an unstable person and put faith ahead of everything else, including your loved ones.
- Abbot (Abba) Yid: Abbot Yid is a baby boomer who spent most of his career doing that most Jewish of activities, arguing, I mean, lawyer-ing. His interests include gardening, poker, and arguing with Mama Yid on whether or not living in Staten Island from his senior year of High School through college at CUNY qualifies him to identify as a New Yorker (the previous years were spent in New Jersey). He does not understand my interests in Judaism at all, and has a lot of left-over resentment regarding religion in general and Judaism in particular due to his upbringing and falling out with Zayde. Abbot once became very upset when I started wearing a yarmulke around in public because he felt this would make me a target ("and for something you don't even believe!") When my younger brother started wearing one around the house too, Abbot Yid flipped his lid and punched a wall, bellowing, "This is not a fucking shul!"
- Mother Superior (Mama) Yid: Mama Yid is a bonafide Brooklynite who came out to California with Abba Yid in the early 80s. She was a psychiatric nurse for many years. Both her parents died before I was born, her father when she was only seven and her mother about three years before I arrived. Right around my seventeenth birthday, Mama Yid discovered she had a huge brain tumor growing in her head. It was removed but later complications and years of recovery have left their mark on her capabilities and personality. Her somewhat obsessive personality and perennial stubbornness can make her difficult to deal with, especially these days as she is struggling with new medical issues that make everyday activities perpetually painful. Mama Yid is astoundingly stubborn and extremely sensitive regarding her own feelings and opinions. Unfortunately, drastically less so concerning everyone else's.
- Deacon Yid: Deacon is my younger brother. Our personalities are very different. My reaction to my parents (particularly my mother) has always been to try to negotiate and smooth things over. Deacon's has been to tell anyone he has an issue with to go fuck themselves. With a pointy stick. Deacon is very much a product of his times; he loves technology, computer and video games, and money. (He's extremely entrepreneurial; before he started his own web design company, he was snatching abandoned textbooks from his highschool hallways- and my bedroom- and selling them on eBay.) The flip-side of this is that, in my opinion, he's fairly materialistic and superficial. Deacon's other problem is that he is extremely judgmental. He forms opinions about people as soon as he meets them and almost no one ever passes his stink test. Those who do are instantly placed on pedestals with gigantic expectations which they then never fulfill, leaving him incredibly disappointed. Did I mention Deacon has clinical depression? Deacon also does not understand my Jew-fixation. He usually describes himself as a "Jewish atheist," also known as "Go Hanukkah. Can I have my money now?"
- Shiksa Girlfriend (SG): We were neighbors at a fancy-pants college in the North-West corner of the country. She thought I was cute. I liked having something to look at during my poetry classes. She was from the South and hated it. I was lactose-intolerant. It just made sense, really. Several years later, SG is my near-constant companion. She is kind, caring, and, usually, very patient with me. We helped each other graduate college and navigate the slings and arrows of finding employment and dodging bizarre cultural mishaps from each other's families. In her spare time she enjoys knitting, cooking, reading, and indulging my blogging fetish. Believe it or not, most weeks she's the one dragging me to shul.
Last, there's me, your humble host. I am in the process of becoming a full-time teacher, with an ultimate career goal of being a published author. I have about half a novel finished, along with a series of quasi-decent short stories I've been perpetually working on since high school. I also have a number of long-term projects I wouldn't mind poking when I can find the time. Predictably, or perhaps sadly, nearly all of them involve Jews.