I grew up in Marblehead, Massachusetts. It’s about 40 minutes outside of Boston, on the ocean, and there are a lot of Jewish people doing all kinds of Jewish things all over the place. I’m Catholic, but I went to the Jewish community center for nursery school, so I witnessed much Jewish activity from an early age. I blew the shofar, ate challah regularly, spun dreidels, and even had my penis customized in keeping with Abraham’s covenant with G-d. (I omitted the “o” in that last word out of respect for my Jewish readers, even though, as a Catholic, I can write that word all day long if I want. But I don’t, because I’m not a serial killer. Plus I have a family and a job.)
On my first day of nursery school at the JCC, my dad (who grew up in Catholic orphanages and foster homes in Boston (i.e. not a Jew)) accompanied me for the first hour or so. Other parents were with their kids too, to ease the transition from hiding behind mommy’s skirt to socializing with other dirty human children. The first activity our teacher, Ms. Shelly, led us in was a song to learn each other’s names.
The class would sing (to the tune of “Frere Jacques”),“Where is Robby? Where is Robby?” It was then my duty to stand and sing, “Here I am! Here I am!” Which I did, beautifully I’m sure.
The class then replied with, “Very nice to meet you. Very nice to meet you. Please sit down.”
After my angelic solo, they moved to a boy named Andrew.
“Where is Andrew? Where is Andrew?”
I stood up and announced to the class, “ANDREW’S DEAD.” A not-dead little boy named Andrew immediately began crying and his father ran and scooped him up to protect him from any further terrifying bombshells the scary gentile interloper might decide to drop.
The reason I announced Andrew’s passing was because my grandparents’ dog had moved on to that big kennel in the sky a few days prior. His name was Andrew. I’d assumed Ms. Shelly was singing about him.
Today I live in Los Angeles, California, which has even more Jewish people than Marblehead. In fact, I wouldn’t even think of living somewhere that wasn’t swarming with Jews.
Not long ago I leapt out of bed at about 6:30 AM and went for a run in a residential part of Hollywood. Around this time I was in the habit of running regularly to get ready for a half-marathon. When I was a few miles from my home my bowels sent an urgent cable to my brain, apologizing for the short notice and saying that they’d be emptying themselves in one minute or less; the location was up to me. I frantically searched for an alley or a dumpster I could hide behind. Nothing. Two parked cars I could crouch between? No. It would be a terrible neighborhood to play hide and seek or smoke pot surreptitiously in as a teenager—no little nooks for sneaky behavior anywhere. It was particularly ill-suited for public adult shitting. The one plus—and it was a big one—was that it was so early in the morning. No one was around, in any direction. I knew that whatever horror was about to ensue, it would be over quickly. I crouched in the gutter at the end of a driveway, which led to the garage of a home that human people lived in, and shit furiously and hatefully into the street. I began to know relief.
My relief was short lived, however, because when I looked up from my pathetic al fresco bio-vandal squat I locked eyes with a Hasidic woman who had materialized across the street. She was paralyzed by what she saw. We gazed into each other’s souls and silently agreed that I was the worst person in the history of humanity and that my name belonged nowhere near the Book of Life.
Happy Rosh Hashana.
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