Sunday, April 29, 2007

Have a Coke and a Smile!

If only . . .
Posted by: d.tkon

An "Oh My God" Moment

I had one of those moments this morning during my drive into work. I drive into the office between six and seven AM. The early hour gives me many opportunities to appreciate the morning light. Today was very special. I came to an intersection and stopped for a red light. Facing east, I noticed about five or six trees of varying heights, alone on a hilly field. Behind the trees was the remnants of a fog bank, which seemed to grow less dense, the closer it came. The trees looked ethereal, there in the fog, their branches not just growing skyward, but clearly reaching – outstretched. Baby leaves adorned each branch – the beginning of another cycle of life.

The sun was just over the horizon behind the trees, and provided the most amazing backlight for this display. It added to the dramatic effect of the fog in ways I lack the skill to describe. It was definitely an “Oh my God” moment. I sat there for the remainder of the traffic light staring at the trees, and inside I became very quiet. It was then that I realized the trees weren’t just reaching skyward adorned with life, but that they were praying. I could almost hear them, there in the fog, backlit by an amazing sunrise, beginning their day together in prayer, and not the slightest bit distracted by me in my car. I've never seen trees pray before. I will try to remember to be quiet. The rewards are indescribable.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I'm Going Public . . .

I hate those tissue seat covers. And the little message on the dispenser makes me want to scream - "Provided for your safety by the Management." God Damn it! If there's a safety issue, I want management in here with some ammonia and sandpaper. Don't leave behind a sheet of tissue .0000002 microns thick with your thoughtful message! Using them never works anyway. If they have the hole in the middle that you have to tear out, you end up destroying the whole thing anyway.

And I hate the noise they make when you touch them, dispense them or apply them. You might as well stand in your stall with a bullhorn and announce, “ATTENTION ALL PUBLIC RESTROOM USERS - LISTEN CAREFULLY! I’M ABOUT TO GO NUBMER TWO!” I prefer a little mystery. I never want it to be a sure thing for the guy in the next stall. Let him think that maybe I’m peeing and I’m just modest.

I can never manage to use those tissue covers correctly. Inevitably, there’s always a drop of stray liquid on the seat that came from god-knows-where. It might be pee. It might be back-splash from the last flush. It might be . . . (you know!)

So what happens is this. I put the near-transparent “protective” layer down on the seat and watch in horror as the incredibly absorbent sheet sucks up an immeasurably small amount of water. The moisture quickly moves throughout the entire sheet causing it to both stick to the seat and completely deteriorate. It’s like watching a toilet seat version of NASCAR – the moisture races around the seat on a miniature track, in opposite directions from its source. My choice now is this. Touch the sheet in order to remove it or leave.

My brain does this:

BRAIN: You need to get that off the seat immediately and start over.

DENNIS: I know!

BRAIN: Well do it!

DENNIS: Ewww! But I’d have to touch it!

BRAIN: Use your foot. Just put your foot on a dry part and drag it off the seat. Hurry, you have to go!

DENNIS: I know! You’re telling me?

I then put my foot on the seat cover, which is nearly invisible now since it’s bonded to the seat, and attempt to drag it off. As my foot slides off the seat it makes a heavy slapping sound as my foot unexpectedly hits the floor. I immediately begin reading the minds of everyone else occupying the bathroom, and wince.

DENNIS: SHIT! Everyone in here is wondering what the hell I’m doing in here!!! Nobody properly using a toilet EVER makes that noise! I wonder if they’re wondering what part of my body did that or what I’m doing?!?!?!

BRAIN: Hurry, there’s not much time. Did you get it off?

DENNIS: NO! The dry part ripped away from the wet part that’s still stuck on the seat!

BRAIN: QUICK! Use your foot again! Push the wet stuff into a wad and then grab some toilet paper and just sort of push it onto the floor. Maintenance will get it later!

I carefully use my foot as instructed and am further horrified to see that my sneaker has now left a large wet “tannish” colored streak everywhere my sneaker has touched.


BRAIN: It’s not shit, it’s just dirty water.

DENNIS: It’s not dirty water! I must have been standing in pee and now I’ve tracked it all over the seat! There’s no way I’ll ever get this cleaned up!

BRAIN: I’ll handle this. Wad up as much toilet paper as you can and put it on the seat. Make sure it’s a lot. Then use your foot again to push the paper all around to clean and absorb all of the water that’s both on the seat and on your foot at the same time. (Keep in mind that “clean” is a relative term).

DENNIS: (Complies) Like this?

BRAIN: Yes! It’s working! Now take some more paper and give it one more good swipe for good measure. After that you should be ready to go!

DENNIS: I’ve BEEN ready!

BRAIN: Oh yeah, sorry.

Afterwards, I notice the wadded up paper all over the floor and start to panic. Ok. I have some bathroom issues. I’m worried that the next user of this stall will be standing there waiting for me to exit and as he enters, he’ll see all the paper on the floor and think terrible things about me, particularly that I’m a pig. So I decide to use the toe of my sneaker to kick all the paper into a “neat” pile in the far rear corner of the stall. In the course of doing this, my foot accidentally crosses the imaginary “boundary” which extends from the bottom of the side-partition, the last eighteen inches to the floor, and hits the shoe of my “neighbor.”

DENNIS: OH SHIT! I just touched the guy in the next stall! He’s going to think I’m hitting on him! SHIT!

BRAIN: Damn it! Look next time. You can’t be touching other men in a rest room! People are going to start talking about you!

DENNIS: They already do!

BRAIN: Well, you have no choice. You’re just going to have to sit in here for, let’s say a half hour or so, to make sure that there’s a fresh supply of public bathroom users in here when you go to leave. You just can’t risk being seen by anyone who was in here when you came in or took care of business. And you certainly can’t risk running into the guy in the next stall. Give him time to get out of here and get into the next County. Thirty minutes should be plenty!


This is all my mother’s fault. Those of you with psychology degrees know what I’m talking about. My mother would never use a public rest room. Worse, she never let ME use a public restroom (Number one was ok, but number two you did at home). I honestly can’t remember using a public toilet prior to age eight. What I remember is being raced home by her so that I could take care of business in the sterile surgically clean environment known as our bathroom (or some other close-by non-public place like my dad’s store or a relative’s. I can’t tell you how many times we visited a relative because somebody had to go. And we’d always stay for a while afterwards so that it wouldn’t look like the only reason we stopped by was to take a shit.)

I went to summer camp for the first time when I was eight. Not only was this terribly traumatic for me (first time away from home) but there was no way I could wait a whole month to do my business. My mother and I didn’t discuss this tiny detail before she sent me. So I wasn’t clear on whether or not I had permission to go public.

I think I set the camp record for running out of underwear faster than any other camper in history. (That will be a separate blog). Three days. That’s how long I lasted before I finally broke down and used the can. And let me tell you something folks. A sleep-away camp public bathroom is the LAST PLACE ON EARTH that any child should have to use as a bathroom, the first time they go number two in public.

As a courtesy, I’ll spare you the description of the can. But I will tell you this. Besides water (or some liquid) also in the bowl was a t-shirt, several toothbrushes and all of the film from my camera (which had been missing and was now apparently found). I constantly had stomach cramps as a result of avoidance. I eventually stopped eating and after two weeks, I ran away from camp because I wanted to go home. They found me and made me stay of course. My mother suffers from Crohn’s disease to this day – why am I not surprised. Anyway, we all eventually have to go public. And now you know.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oh No! Not GAY!

My super-blog-buddy Poet With A Day Job is running a really cool contest over at her other site, Contest Central. She’s participating in National Poetry Month by posting a kick-ass poem every day. If you’re the first to comment on her poem, she sends it to you on a postcard with some cool original artwork by her. I’ve won three so far. PWADJ sends them to me at my work address. Two have arrived so far. The first one came while I was away on vacation. The second one came today. The postcards stimulated a bizarre conversation between my secretary and me. What transpired was so funny that I sent PWADJ a letter telling her all about it. She suggested I post the conversation on my blog. What follows is my email to PWADJ:

I have to share this. I received your
Gibbon poem today - thank you SOOOO Much. And I love the picture.

My secretary (she's 70 and Catholic) walked into my office waving your post card in my face and started screaming at me like a crazy woman.

Sandy: Who the hell is sending you this shit? You got another one of these when you were away and we all think you're either being harassed or threatened!

Me: Who the hell is "We" and why are you sharing my obviously personal mail with other people who work here?

Sandy: Because read this shit! It don't make no sense. Someone got your name out of a directory or something and they're sending you threatening postcards with no return address so you can't have them arrested! The
last one talked about some woman kicking someone’s ass and wearing spaghetti straps! What kind of trash are you getting here? Is it porn? Do you know who's sending you this crap?

Me: (Stunned out of my mind that I'm about to have the following conversation) (long pause) Yes. I happen to know who's sending me these poems. She's an amazing poet.

Sandy: Jesus Christ! You have a girlfriend in California too? You're the one who's amazing.

Me: She's not my girlfriend she's . . .

Sandy: Then what the hell is she to you and why is she sending you poetry about spaghetti straps!

Me: (OMG - I can't believe I have to explain this) Sandy, close my door and sit down please. She's not my girlfriend, but she is my friend and . . .

Sandy: Well where the hell did you meet her and how come I don't know about her?

Me: Sandy, I met her through a mutual interest we share. I know you don't know this about me. It's no body's business and I'd rather you not tell "We" about this, but I write poetry, I've been writing for years, it's one of my only hobbies, and I met this nice woman through my poetry writing.

Sandy: Holly shit! Your gay! I always wondered if you were gay. Oh my god! Some of the people here suspected you were, but I always said no, there's no way, he likes the ladies and . . .

Me: (OMG where's the video camera when you need one!) So is that it then? You don't like me now because it's out about me being gay?

Sandy: Oh my god! (huge gasp!) You admit that you are?! Oh my god I work for a GAY!

Me: Sandy, I can't believe how fucking prejudice you are. You know it makes me sick sometimes how harsh you are about black people and gays. You're so old school it's not even funny. And for the record, I'm not gay, but it kills me that it would even matter to you. Some of my family members are gay and I know a lot of amazing people that are gay, and who the fuck gives a shit anyway?! I can't believe you!

Sandy: Are you sure your not gay? You said it runs in your family. Maybe you just don't know it yet? I mean you write poetry and that bag you carry . . . nobody believes you when you say it's a "man-bag." It's a damn pocketbook and you know it! You carry a purse like a woman!

Me: That's not true, I carry a purse like a MAN! Now stop it. These post cards are from a friend of mine who is an amazing person and an amazing poet. And before this month is over, I'll probably get a few more of these postcards. And when I do, do me a favor, don't even read them. Just walk them in here and hand them to me.

Sandy: Wait till Joanne hears that you're gay. (Walks out of my office).


Well gang, there it is! In the course of 20 seconds, I went from being a victim of harassment, to an adulterer to a homosexual. So? What did YOU do today?


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tag - I'm it.

Sam Rasnake posted the following tag/list at his blog, Sam Of The Ten Thousand Things and invited me to post my own list. Here’s his post:

may not have but must...

Here’s the tag:

Five poetry collections you may not have read but certainly must:

Kathryn Stripling Byer / Wildwood Flower (LSU, 1992)
Tory Dent / What Silence Equals (Persea, 1993)
Brigit Pegeen Kelly / Song (BOA, 1995)
Wayne Koestenbaum / Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender (Persea, 1994)
Robert Morgan / Groundwork (Gnomon, 1979)

The collections, for whatever reason, should be a bit off the beaten path. And need not have caused the earth to open and swallow you whole.

And here’s mine:

Thomas Hardy / Winter Words in Various Moods and Meters (1928)
Kenneth Koch / The Art of Love (1975)
Wallace Stevens / Harmonium (1923)
Allen Ginsberg / Howl and Other Poems (1955)
Robert Creeley / For Love (1962)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

An unpleasant chat with Dad


While I was down in Florida on vacation, my dad asked me to go for a ride with him in his car – just the two of us. He said he wanted to talk. This can’t be good, I thought. Shit! He’s going to tell me something I don’t want to hear, and because I have no idea what he wants to talk about, I can’t very well say no. So I told him that I’d go with him, dreading the buildup that would precede whatever bad news was waiting for me. He can never get to the point of anything. With him, it’s always the scenic route.

My mind searched the universe of possibilities, but I came up empty. I guessed it had to do with one the three forbidden subjects – money, religion or my kids. Years ago I’d had a major fight with my dad over religion as it pertained to my kids, and didn’t speak to him or take his calls for about four months. During the initial confrontation, I actually grabbed him by the back of his collar and frog-marched him out of my front door and threw his suitcases onto my lawn and asked my mom to leave as well, since they were sort of a team. Four months later we worked things out, but doing so required that I draw a line in the sand, much like the thirty-eighth parallel serves as the boundary between North and South Korea. Dad was forbidden to ever bring up the forbidden subjects without first asking my permission. His failure to do so would be interpreted, at a minimum, as hostile aggression and at worst, global-thermonuclear war.

I have one brother who is three years younger than me and “allegedly” suffers terribly from bi-polar disorder. Not much baffles me. But his disorder does. I don’t dispute that the disorder exists, though I have my own theories on what underlies his diagnosis. I do question whether he truly has it. Uncle Sam believes he does. And the government sends him a disability check every month to prove it.

We got into dad’s car – some fancy BMW sporty something or other. I don’t know the first thing about cars. Loaded. Both the car and my dad that is. Everything about my dad says dollar signs. His God is green and looks like Ben Franklin. In my world, the answer to every question is love. In dad’s world, the answer to every question is money – love isn’t in his vocabulary (unless it’s immediately followed by the word, “money”) and I assume the word “love” sounds like a foreign language to him. His God rests in neat piles in several banks, and the most beautiful thing in the world to dad, is a spreadsheet with lots of black ink and zeros. Our yet-to-be-had talk was going to be about what he planned to do with about half of his estate. (Yay!)

Dad backed out of his three-car garage and shifted smoothly into gear. Our conversation however was stuck in first.

DAD: So, um, sorry about all the rain. Did you ever notice that it always seems to rain when you come down here, regardless of what time of year it is?

ME: It does? I just figured Sarasota was like Seattle or something. I didn’t realize there was a correlation. (See my post of April 14, 2007 titled “RAIN”).

DAD: Nosiree mister! It’s always beautiful down here . . . well, usually.

ME: Dad, you said you wanted to talk a little while ago. That’s why we’re taking this ride right? Ever since you said that, my stomach has been killing me. Can we get on with it please? (Given dad’s inability to stay on point, or even find one, I half expected him to start like this, “In the beginning, the dinosaurs roamed the Earth until a meteor hit it about 96 million years ago.” – But it actually went like this . . . )

DAD: Well, you know your brother’s father-in-law has a gambling problem right? And when he visits China every two weeks he plays cards, right? And did you know that he blew through his wife’s inheritance of two hundred thousand dollars in about two months? Cleaned her out. She only had it a short time before he went through it. And you know that he borrows money from people and runs up your brother’s credit cards. Did you know that? And I’ve heard rumors that his father-in-law is on the verge of bankruptcy.

ME: (Looking at the BMW’s stereo system and wondering which 24 CDs I would slip into the insatiable CD player if my car had a frivolous device like this.) Uh huh.

DAD: And bla bla bla gambling and bla bla bla money and bla bla bla not as long as I’m alive! Bla bla bla his hands on it if I can help it bla bla bla both of them might have to move in with your brother bla bla bla inheritance bla bla bla spend it like water and bla bla bla bi-polar bla bla bla makes lousy decisions bla bla bla not able to handle that kind of money bla bla bla need to make sure he’s taken care of if he gets worse bla bla bla wife will probably leave your brother . . .

ME: (Thinking to myself – That looks like a map on that giant display screen and it’s moving. OOOOH! There’s a little red arrow that’s moving on the map as well. I wonder if that’s one of those GPS things I’ve heard about? And look at all of this polished wood! I wonder if it’s Teak?) Uh huh.

DAD: So anyway . . . (silence).

ME: Dad, you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. Is there something you wanted to talk about with me? What’s all this have to do with me?

DAD: Well your mother was wondering . . . and of course I guess I was wondering too . . . whether you’d be willing to serve as the trustee for your brother’s inheritance. I’m going to put his half in trust, and the only thing I haven’t decided yet is whether to put it in trust with a bank, or put it in trust with you as the trustee.

ME: (Blink blink) Really? You’re going to put his money in trust? Dad! He’s going to hate your guts!

DAD: I know. But he already hates them anyway and I’m not doing this to piss him off, I’m doing it because it’s the only sane thing to do given his situation.

ME: Holy shit! He’s going to hate MY guts!

DAD: I know. Can you live with that?

ME: Well, he already sort of hates my guts anyway, doesn’t he? This will sure finish it off between us, huh?

Well, perhaps. You don’t have to say yes. I’m willing to put it in trust in a bank.

ME: Well what’s the difference?

DAD: Well, a bank won’t be as sensitive to his needs as you’d be, if there were a problem. Plus, I’d be willing to give you certain powers as the trustee that I wouldn’t be willing to give to the bank, that would make things easier on your brother, especially if he gets worse or has special needs in the future. I know that you’d be a lot more sensitive than a bank trustee and you’d do what’s right for him.

ME: Holy shit . . . . Um . . . alright. I’ll do it.

DAD: Really? Are you sure? Your mom and I were positive you’d want nothing to do with it and we were really just asking just in case there was a small chance you’d say yes. I was really afraid to even ask you, you know . . . since it involves money.

ME: It’s ok dad. I’ll do it. It’s what’s best for him.

Anyway, I don’t even remember the rest of the ride back to the house, because I was absolutely buzzing with excitement and joy! NO! Not because I was going to serve as the trustee over my brother’s inheritance. I was amazed and in disbelief because my dad said that he was afraid to ask me something!!! He was afraid of ME for a change! My dad was uncomfortable about having to ask ME something! YES!!!!!! (All those damn therapy sessions are clearly paying off!!!!)

The whole rest of the day, I felt giddy like a little kid. I even imagined hiding behind doorways and jumping out at my dad and screaming BOOO! Just to see him LOOK scared as well. But given dad’s heart problem I’d have probably ended up trustee of my brother’s estate before dinner, if I’d tried that.

Before we ended our chat, dad asked me an interesting question. He asked if he should tell my brother, during my dad’s lifetime, that my brother’s inheritance was going to be put in trust. My gut tells me that it’s better left unsaid at this time, given my brother’s disorder. But on the other hand, I’m just not sure if not telling him is the right thing to do.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Just a quick post to let everyone know that I’m back from Sarasota. How was it you ask? It rained – all but two days. But don’t worry, I’m used to it. (He is?) Yup. Every trip I’ve taken since 1993 has been accompanied by rain. A few examples. In 1993, I went to LA on business. It hadn’t rained in months. I got there and the skies opened up so badly that houses were undermined and slid down the hills along with the mud. News reports said the volume of rain was unprecedented.

Every year or so I go to Sarasota. It doesn’t matter what time of year I go – it rains. Anyone familiar with Florida weather patterns knows that it usually only rains for a few hours at most and then it’s done. While I was there it rained all day, most days. Oh, by the way, It hadn’t rained in Sarasota since late November 2006. I went there last week and ended the drought.

Last year I went to Phoenix. They were in the middle of a 120-day drought. The severity made the world news each night. I went there in February and brought the rain back to the plains. New Mexico trip last summer. Same thing. No rain for months. Forest fires everywhere. But this trip was weird regarding the rain. New Mexico is a big state. Obviously it can’t rain everywhere right? If I traveled north of Albuquerque it rained north of Albuquerque. If we went south of Albuquerque it rained south of Albuquerque.

By this time, I’m starting to believe that I have magical powers. So listen to this. I went several hours west of Albuquerque to an Indian reservation in the mountains. There’s this one group that lives on top of a mesa – very isolated and backward folks, but lovely people. They hadn’t seen rain in months and everyone in the tribe we met told us so. So for fun, I told every Indian on that mesa that it would rain on them before I left their pueblo that day because I had the power to make it rain. None of them believed me. Minutes later, I pointed to the south and there were dark rain clouds approaching. Honest to god, they came directly towards the mesa and passed right overhead. It was sunny to the north, east and west, but directly overhead, it poured for 20 minutes. Then it stopped, just like that. They all went into their little houses and came out with something called Fry-bread and gave it to me to eat and told me that I was a Rain-Spirit. To be honest with you, they were very scared of me after that. I’ll never forget how large their eyes were – (o)(o) It was pretty funny until my wife got annoyed at all the attention I was getting and suggested to the Indians that they ask me to do it again. We promptly left (but not without a generous supply of Fry-bread!)

Anyway, I figure that I’m cursed or something since it rains every time I leave the state of Delaware. Currently, I’m looking into whether or not I can earn some money renting out my services. In exchange for two first class airline tickets, a week in a four star or better hotel, all expenses paid and Ten-thousand dollars, I’ll go anywhere and make it rain. If it doesn’t rain (which has never happened) you get to keep your Ten-grand. What do you think? Any takers?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Guess Who's On Vacation?

Ok. It’s a big fat stinking lie, but it’s the first one I told all day. I won’t be back in five minutes. I’m leaving on vacation on Friday and I won’t be back until April 13th. Letters from Camp will definitely start when I get back. I know you all can’t wait.

I actually went down into my basement last night and brought them up and read them all – out loud – to my daughters. We all had a really good laugh. We found that most of the letters fell into two categories (1) Dad, why aren’t you sending me any letters? And (2) Mom, why aren’t you sending me any food? I was mortified by my spelling. I knew that I used to be a crappy speller, but I just had no stinking idea I was that bad. It also seemed that I had a better time than I remember. But you have to keep in mind, I suffered from terrible guilt and didn’t want my parents to know how bad it was. So I probably was lying. Reading the letters 31 years later, they seem pretty convincing. But trust me, I remember, I was there!!!!

Anyway, I’ll be in Sarasota for about a week. Brian and Rose, I’ll waive to you both when I fly over! OH! And for those of you following my drama at work and my plans for the big escape, here’s an update. I spent most of today riding around with the realtor looking at office space for our new digs. We found about 8,000 square feet of beautiful space just outside the city. It’s built out and all ready to go. Just needs some paint and wallpaper. I actually started getting really excited today for the first time. I also sent the signed contract back to my new partners so, it’s official and a done deal. No going back now! YIKES!

Wishing everyone a lovely holiday and much love, compassion and forgiveness. Take care all and I’ll talk to you soon!


Monday, April 02, 2007

Letters From Camp – The Prequel

My parents sent me to Camp Ramah in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania for five summers in a row, starting when I was nine. I’m convinced they had no idea where they were sending me. We were conservative Jews from the Atlantic City area, and my parents’ idea of being observant meant lowering the blinds so the neighbors couldn’t see that we were watching television on the high holidays. The only thing my parents were certain of was that they thought Camp was a good idea. I don’t know what they considered in reaching that conclusion, but here’s what they didn’t know, and should have known before they sent me:

1. Ramah was a theological seminary run by Orthodox Jews so extreme in their religious beliefs that they probably belonged on a “watch list.”

2. English was optional. Hebrew was the spoken language.

3. Most of the counselors, teachers, and instructors were from Israel, and when they weren’t disciplining kids in the Poconos, they were hunting and killing terrorists in the Middle East. Sometimes they forgot who was who.

4. These Jews prayed after waking, for 45 minutes. They prayed before and after every meal, and not just “God is great God is good, let us thank him for our food,” I’m talking about, passing out phone book sized prayer books and turning to the chapter on sauce. They prayed before they took a dump. They prayed after they took a dump (I soon found out why). They made us attend Hebrew school five days a week from 10:00 AM until Noon and the whole damn thing was in Hebrew (everything was in Hebrew!) Saturday was spent in prayer the entire day! They prayed if a leaf fell off a tree, if they farted, if you thised if you thated, if you almost . . . . We prayed before we went to sleep. We prayed if we did something for the first time. We prayed after we did something for the first time. We had another prayer if it wasn’t the first time. We prayed if we wanted something. We prayed if we didn’t want something. And our heads were covered at all times unless we were showering or sleeping. It’s a wonder these people are able to procreate given the number of prayers they’d have to say, before, during, after, if it’s the first time, if they’re facing east, if it’s the first time on all fours, if he finishes first, if she finishes first, if she doesn’t finish . . .

5. Being Jewish to these people wasn’t like being Catholic to Catholics or Protestant to Protestants. In America, Catholics are Americans who happen to be Catholic and remember to do Catholic things at a minimum once or twice a week (and if you’re a good Catholic, every day). These Jews were Jews, like Arabs are Arabs. They were Jews first and above all else. In fact, they were Jews stuck in this God-forsaken country, which didn’t have their foods, their music, Jerusalem or enough other Jews just like them. They didn’t want to be here. They cried all the time because they weren’t in their beloved Israel.

6. These people kept kosher as if their lives depended on it. You had as much chance of getting a little tref (non-kosher food) into that camp as you did getting a gun onto an El Al flight. Care packages from home were torn apart and inspected for contraband. If there had been such a thing as a tref-sniffing dog, they’d have used them. Every ingredient listed on the packages of food was scrutinized for any signs of non-conformity. And if the inspectors weren’t sure, it went in the trash just to be safe. Your food was safe it had a little “K” with a circle around it on the package somewhere. That meant that some serious Jew somewhere gave it the nod. An “AU” was also ok, but I don’t know what the hell that meant. My mom didn’t know from kosher food purchased in a store, and most of the stuff she sent me went right into the trash. The looks on the faces of the inspectors could kill.

(The following was screamed at me in Hebrew every time a package arrived from mom.)

Ehud: Your mother sent you THIS!? [spitting sound PTEW!] Are you crazy?! You would even think to eat this garbage? What are you nuts?! Goddamn for your mother! She should be like dead dog on side of road for sending this to you!

Me: Ok then, I’ll just take the Mad-Libs and the underwear and I’ll see you at the next prayer session. When’s that start? In about five minutes?

7. Many kids who went to Ramah had to be “deprogrammed” after they came home. That’s right. The intensity of the religious experience and strictness of the Ramah culture was transformative. Many kids had difficulty adjusting back to life at home as they knew it, upon returning. The effect was as if you had been captured by a cult for two months and brainwashed. I’m not saying this was a particularly bad thing. In a lot of ways I found my life enriched and supplemented in ways sorely lacking at home. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t difficult for these kids when they got home – especially for the ones, like me, who experienced Camp Ramah as the opposite end of the spectrum of normal.

8. Where is it written in the torah that Jews are supposed to cook with tons of butter, cream and fat? The “enriched” diet I was exposed to landed me in the infirmary for the first week after my arrival. You have to remember. I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the nervous stomach that went with it. So landing in this rich culinary environment nearly killed me. I did eventually get used to it.

So if you noticed the title to this piece, you’ll understand why I’m telling you all of this. This is the background information – the back story so to speak, that precedes the posting of my letters from camp. There’s some great stories in those old envelopes and they’re really right there at the beginning of my spiritual journey. And I think it’s time to go back and take a look at how I got to where I am.