On Grieving

Last night, I found out that a person whom I held very dear died on Friday from complications after childbirth. I’m trying very hard to set aside the guilt about her probably not knowing enough just how dear she was to me, because, well, she’s gone, and it doesn’t matter anymore.

It’s with very mixed emotions that I must say I think that us Jews have it right when it comes to grieving. Burial occurs almost immediately. I know that this is not the case everywhere, but here in Israel, orthodox burial (which is the vast majority of cases here) is usually with the body in a shroud. No coffin to protect you from seeing that it’s a dead body. No embalming to make the body look like it might be “just resting”. You are very quickly forced to accept that this person whom you saw just a few days ago, for whose happiness you rejoiced just this week, with whom you were going to make plans in a few days, after she got settled back in at home with the baby, is dead.

I’m going to need this (the funeral is later today) because at the moment, “dead” doesn’t fit into the equation for her. She is supposed to be alive. It feels almost feasible that we should be able to turn the clock back a bit and stop the sequence of events that caused her to contract that fatal infection, and make everything right. The funeral today is going to be hard. I am going to be among many other people I know personally, all of whom loved her very much, all of whom are jolted by the horrific way this has turned out. I’m not going to be able to hide behind anonymity.

The tradition of Shiv’aa, in which the immediate family of the deceased sits down for a week of mourning, while being visited and supported by more distant family, friends, colleagues, community, etc. It gives us time to process, to start letting go.

It will give me time to knit the sweater for her baby, that out of respect for other people’s beliefs, I did not start knitting before both of them got home safe and healthy.

I had a lot to say, a lot to write, but I have to stop now. Because I can try all I want, but I’m not going to be able to make any sense of it.

 

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I take it back

It does not suck to be Reid Anderson. I’ll admit I got all fangirly today and started listening to all sorts of stuff. And yeah, as I suspected, the man is awesome. Really awesome.

I’ve been putting this song all over the internet today, but just in case, I’m putting it here, too. Because at the very moment he joins Wendy Lewis in vocal harmony, I started crying. For real.

But just a bit more into the awesomeness of the guy. I suspect I am going to be spending a lot of time digging up his recordings, and then, I’m going to be spending a lot of money until I own them all.

Touche.

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Not Really

I didn’t expect to really be able to blog about the winter jazz festival to the same extent of my blogging in the summer. I went with my kids, which meant that rather than having a lot of leisure time to kick back, relax, and sort my thought, I didn’t even really have the chance to listen to the shows as intently as I would have like.

However, the actual reason turned out to be something I didn’t really expect.

That, my friends, was not a jazz festival. Of eight shows, only two were clear-cut jazz, and at the very best maybe half were jazz. The rest was not. Might have been lovely, but was not jazz.

Frankly, we should have expected this, seeing as the director of the festival this time was Dubi Lenz, who specializes in world music, as opposed to summer’s Avishai Cohen, who is a true blue jazzist.

Had they billed the festival as a world music festival, or just a music festival, we might have come anyway. I don’t think there was any way we would have missed The Bad Plus on the first night, and both Friday and Saturday nights each had at least one show that was notable in our opinions. I find it mildly annoying that they sold this festival under the Red Sea Jazz Festival label, though this might just be me and my luddite ways.

Anyway, I promise to be back in the summer, with much more to say, for various reasons. I hope to have other things to say along the way. Just a personal note to Mr. Lenz: your condescending comments on specific genres of music you deem too common for your undoubtedly sophisticated taste may have rung true with the more refined members of the audience last night, but they sure as fuck pissed me off. I found your snooty comments alienating and insulting. If you’re directing a winter festival next year as well, we are going to have to see a lot more jazz to be willing to put up with your personality, sir.

On a completely different matter, if you’re a subscriber to this blog, and don’t follow me elsewhere, you might not know that I make music, too. Uh, sort of.

Anyway, I have another blog, dedicated strictly to my weekly gift of music to cyberspace. Take this week’s song, for example:

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Sucks to be Reid Anderson

We’re at the first ever Red Sea Jazz Winter Festival in Eilat.

With the kids.

Needless to say, it’s a different experience than the one in the summer.

Seeing as my main focus is my children, I cannot deliver the same kind of accounts of the music as I did in the summer, either. Tal and I each took charge of one child. As usual, Tal got Neta, and I got Yiftah, so the whole experience of the music was as a parent-child dyad rather than the intimate individual experience I’d probably prefer.

And yet, it seems that Yiftah takes after me in music appreciation. He had his focus on stage the whole time. Seeing as we got to see almost 4 hours of live music last night and he has a rather tiny attention span, this is quite impressive.

The winter festival takes place in a closed hangar, with only one auditorium and only one show at a time. There are no food stands, only one bar, whose coffee machine broke down at least twice last night (on both occasions when I hoped to achieve a double espresso).

Upon entering the hangar before the shows started, we got to see an octet of high school kids performing, and Yiftah was already enthralled. He was very excited to see the various instruments and he totally flipped out when the singer on stage broke into scat.

The first show was the Doron Refaeli Project. It was fantastic, but I can’t really say much more about it. I was too busy watching my son get very excited with what was going on onstage. Towards the end of the show, the keyboard player lifted one of his keyboards off the stand to reveal (as I had suspected all along) that it was, in fact, a keytar. Yiftah’s mind was blown by the concept. Good idea for a birthday present?

The second show brings me back to the title of this post. The thing that sealed the deal for us when we were considering whether or not to come to the winter festival was when they announced that The Bad Plus would be coming to perform. We saw them back in the 2004 summer festival for the first time, and Tal and I both fell desperately in love with them. When they returned the following winter, I believe in December, we went to see them perform in Tel Aviv, with a Neta (then known as “Peaches”) in the oven. I confessed just a few days ago on Facebook that their version of Aphex Twin’s “Flim” was the theme song of my pregnancy with Neta.

This show started past 22:30. The kids had been on excellent behavior all evening, but this is WAAAAAAY past their bedtimes, so it was to be expected that they would be sleepy. Neta indeed fell asleep not too long after the show started. But not Yiftah.

I’m not going to dive into The Bad Plus’s bio. But they are a very interesting trio indeed. So, why does it suck to be Reid Anderson? I think it’s all too often that the bassist gets underrated. Especially when you are onstage with the epic personalities of Ethan Iverson on piano and David King on drums.

Ethan Iverson is a classical pianist, really. He always performs in a suit, with a black tie. His relationship, his passion, and his melodic virtuosity with the piano recall many great concert pianists. On the other, he is the only concert pianist I’ve ever seen to play the piano with his elbows and his forehead. He always has this slight air of psychosis about him, like under his concert suit he might just have a Captain America uniform and under the lid of his piano, a machine gun.

David King is the first person I have every seen to actually play the drums, rather than drum them. Play them. As a melodic and harmonic instrument, not as a mere means of providing rhythm. His right forearm bears a tattoo of what appears to be Babe, Paul Bunyan’s giant blue ox. Always in plaid and boots, often with a knit toque on his head, he looks like a lumberjack (no tutu included) who just happened to be thrust behind those drums. Until he starts playing. Several minutes into the first number of the show, Yiftah points at him and asks me, “Why is he going crazy?”.

Anyway, you have these two really explosive performers onstage, and you have Anderson. He’s a good bassist. REALLY good. He does hold his ground up there, but still, bassists are never really the center of attention. And he should be, at least for a bit. While The Bad Plus might have originally risen to fame with their interesting covers of popular music (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Iron Man”, and “Velouria” (just listen to the drums on this one) to name a few), the majority of their body of work is original composition, by each one of the trio. And this is definitely a personal opinion here, but by far, Anderson’s compositions are the pieces that really grab me by the guts and drag me on the floor, in the best possible sense. I can’t ever hear an Anderson piece and let it just remain background music. They always make me stop whatever I’m doing and feel.

And seeing them live… With this 3.5 year old boy in my lap, who’s obviously going through a similarly emotional listening experience. After they finished (the above) “Giant”, he applauds, turns to me, and says “I said thank you for the music”. During another Anderson piece, “In Stitches”, he had to go to the bathroom. After we came back, we stood to the side of the bleachers, hugging each other tightly, taking in the music. It was beautiful.

Actually, if you look at their set, it seems like the majority of original pieces they performed were his. Maybe that is their way of giving him some of that well deserved spotlight. Maybe it doesn’t really suck to be Reid Anderson after all.

The last five or six pieces they performed all got standing ovations. You could tell the meaning of the term “bring the house down”. The bleachers were shaking with the applause and stamping. Neta slept through the whole thing, mind you.

On a side note, according to Do The Math, the excellent blog written by Ethan Iverson, they are going to be performing Igor Stavinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in March. First one to get me a recording of that gets a box of cookies or… whatever it takes. WANT.

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Totally Cause To Be Proud

When I was in elementary school in Los Angeles, we were given a questionnaire to fill about ourselves. One of the questions there was about role models. Something along the lines of “Who is your role model, and why?”
The girl sitting across me around the table snickered when she saw that I wrote down “my mom” as my choice. She tried to explain that role models are supposed to be famous. I told her I don’t know anybody famous who is as good a role model as my mom.
My mom is a very cool person. All her life she has dealt with not quite fitting into any mold that anybody else tried to apply to her, and very often, it’s given her a lot of trouble. But it’s also brought her very far, completely on her own merits, and it is clearly reflected in my brother, my sister, and I, however different each one of us may appear to be from her.
And now she’s going to do something very big and neat, and that she is completely the best person to be doing it. And I am so proud of her.

You will always always be my role model, even if my style of not fitting in is different from yours. I love you, Ima.

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How I Became a Runner

While I never held a press conference on the matter, it’s pretty much out by now that in early ’07, about half way through my pregnancy with Yiftah, I starting sinking into a pretty heavy depression. I remember the turning point – when it really hit. We were in Manhattan, with Neta, on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, looking out in all directions. I was clinging strongly to eighteen-month-old Neta, and thinking about the vast multitude of people spread out beneath us, and how it must have been the saddest thing I’d ever seen in my life.
It gets blurry from that point on. Being pregnant, with a toddler, and depressed was quite hellish. Neta was in day care, but the two hours a day I had to be alone with her until Tal came home from work were a living nightmare.
I’m not going to go to much into what was going on with me then, because it still triggers the fuck outta me, so let’s just fast forward a bit. After nearly a year of trying to cope, with some sessions with a state-funded therapist that didn’t really do much for me, when Yiftah was six months old, I started taking Sertraline HCl (AKA Lustral or Zoloft), the only SSRI that was considered truly safe for breastfeeding. It didn’t make life suddenly better or easier, but it lifted the veil of sadness through which I saw everything, and made it possible for me to perceive other shades of emotion once again.
Fast forward a bit more. Summer ’09. Yiftah is nearly two years old. I was starting to get back on track, and even ready to try getting off the medication. My days were pretty good, and it was becoming obvious that the main factor in my moods at the time was that Yiftah was still not sleeping at all well through the nights, and waking up very early in the mornings (read: well before dawn).
One of the caregivers at Yiftah’s daycare threw a nonchalant comment about me having gained a lot of weight. And it was true. I weighed almost as much as my peak weight during my pregnancy with Yiftah. Now, I’m not the type to fuss too much over my weight, but her comment made me realize that my promise to myself to get back into a proper exercise routine once Yiftah started sleeping through the night was not going to cut it. (Let the record state that Yiftah was not going to start sleeping well for another YEAR. Sleeping through the night has only been around for 3-4 months in this house, and it’s still rather fragile.)
So I decided I’d do a couple of things. First, I started practicing yoga, once or twice a week, after I hadn’t in several years. Second, I decided to buy a bike and start running my errands with it rather than with the car – good for the environment, good for myself (or so I thought). Third, I decided to look into the Couch-to-5k running plan, that had started popping up often on the LSG boards on Ravelry. (LSG, as always, you have made my life so much richer and for that I will always be grateful.) I figured that even if I’m a total zombie for lack of sleep, I ought to be able to give myself just half an hour, three times a week.
At first, I didn’t even tell anyone about it. I didn’t want to get all worked up about how I’d taken up running, only to have to start admitting later on that I fell off the wagon 2-3 weeks into the program. So the week of Yiftah’s second birthday, I was fully weaned off of the Sertraline, and started the program. I still remember very vividly, doing those Week 1 runs, with a stopwatch, red and heaving with effort, not believing that I’d been running for only 20 seconds. I couldn’t envision myself ever getting to the end of the program.
A week and a half into the program, I was having a really nice day. After sleeping in that morning, as I usually did to make up for the nights, I did my yoga, and even engaged in some massive organization work that needed to be done, and then took the bike out to pick up some food for lunch. On the way back home, on the downhill street right outside my house, I took a turn too fast, panicked, and jumped off the bike. It took me another 8 hours of taking care of the kids and conducting my usual chores to realize that my right wrist was not just bruised, it was broken. And another 24 hours after that to realize that my left shin was not just scraped by the asphalt, but severely infected, to the point that I was unable to walk on it for a few days.
Ugh.
After a week had passed, depression was starting to chew at me again. I had only just started to do good things with myself, and had been delivered a blow that really carried a clear message to keep my head down. I remember feeling very despaired. At this point, something snapped in me. I decided I was going to teach depression a lesson. I would go out. I would run. With my cast, and what have you. I would run long enough to start producing endorphins. I wanted to be able to say of myself, “well, I’m so crafty, I make my own antidepressants.”
So this time, I grabbed my neighbor, who had a 1-pack a day smoking habit of 20 years, thinking he and I would be pretty much on par, fitness-wise (I was so right about that, it was kind of sad and funny at the same time), and we started the program together. This was the end of July ’09. We stuck with the program, though I ended up getting thrown off track repeatedly with several very unfortunate mishaps along the way (and I’m going to keep this stuff personal – I don’t mind talking about it one on one but still feel uncomfortable having it plastered here for the world to see). Major family drama, the very sudden outbreak of chronic sinusitis and rather harsh allergies, lack of sleep, etc. But I stuck with it, and even at times that I couldn’t really run, I was out there, running what I could, walking what I couldn’t, moving. Sometimes, I was very glad not to be running alone, because it felt like if I were alone there would be nothing to stop me from running into oncoming traffic. But every time I came back from a run, even if it was really awful, my spirit would be lifted a notch. It was really working.
Running had very simply become equated with emotional health. It wasn’t about weight, it wasn’t about being able to fit into my jeans. It was about being able to reside in my own head and not want it all to end.
It took me almost 4 months rather than 2 to complete the program. And because of my physical health, for the longest time (until just a couple of weeks ago, in fact), completing the 5k/30 minutes was most certainly not a given.
In February ’10, I ran my first 5k race. I walked part of it. In April, I ran another, and walked maybe a minute in the middle. In May, I got very very sick and hit a wall with running. Couldn’t even run 15 minutes straight for a while. It’s been going up and down.
On 10.10.10, I ran my first 10k. It was the Tel Aviv Night Run. I ran with friends, and 15,000 other people. We ran slowly, my official race time was 1:18.00, and the whole way we were talking and singing and cheering and admiring the Tel Aviv night skyline and the vast sea of runners surrounding us. And I ran every single step of the way.
And I realized that I am, in fact, a runner. Not a wannabe, not in training. A person who runs. A person who could decide at this very second that I want to run now and just go out and do it.

On the emotional front, I’m not safe yet. I think that I never will be. Every time I’m sick and miss more than two runs in a row, I start plummeting pretty fast. But running really works for me. It can pick me up when I’m very down, to the extent that I can count on it, and when I’m having a particularly gloomy day, I know it will pass by the time of my next run. And maybe the knowledge that I am not safe will keep me running always.

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Call For Submissions

Remember this?

I want to do it again this year. I want it to be much bigger, to cover ALL of the sculptures on the first hit, and to have repeat waves in one or two sites that see a lot of traffic of the kind of people who might be feeling cold and are indisposed to fix that for themselves. This means I need at least 20-30 scarves. I now have 5. See the problem?

If you have any scarves, neckwarmers, shawls, or the like lying around that need a new home, I would greatly appreciate any such contribution. Also, if you have an able pair of hands and your own hooks or needles, you are most welcome to come over and join me in decompressing my massive yarn stash a bit by churning out more neckwear.

And if, assuming we have enough to really make this happen in about 2 months’ time, you want to put on some black clothes and engage in some urban guerilla tactics (to be followed by frozen yogurt and booze), let me know.

Just leave a comment (and say so if you don’t want it to show up here after moderation), and I’ll give you whatever information is necessary.

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Filed under Crafting Under Fire