Friday, April 27, 2007

INCIDENT IN MARSEILLE


From today’s on-line edition of the Jerusalem Post:

A 22-year-old Jewish woman suffered a vicious anti-Semitic attack by two men of Middle Eastern appearance in a train station in Marseille, France on Thursday night.

The attackers tore the Star of David chain from around the young woman's neck, lifted up her shirt, painted a swastika on her stomach and then fled the scene.
Local police opened an investigation into the attack but had not yet found the assailants.
Head of the Jewish Agency delegation in France, David Roche, said the incident was the most severe anti-Semitic attack in France since the murder of the young Jewish male
Ilan Halimi by a gang of Muslim youths in February 2006.
In response to the attack, Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski released a statement saying that specifically during the course of the largest display of democracy France has known in many years "this barbaric act" is carried out.

"We are doing our utmost so that the issue of the fight against anti-Semitism will top the agenda of the candidates for the presidency and of the candidate who is elected," continued the statement.

That is where the dispatch ends and yet this is where the story only begins. To understand what is so horrific about this news story -- which is shocking but certainly not the most egregious anti-Semitic attack in Europe as of late -- read the comments of Jew-haters which appear interspersed in the comments section below the story. (visit www.jpost.com)

From my point of view, it is the ordinary, passive anti-Semitism of the international public that poses as big a threat to us as the vicious acts of Jew-hating hoodlums the world over.
Evil does not have a supernatural component. It happens because of mankind's sins of omission.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SMASH MY FAT!!!!


I walked into Barnes and Noble yesterday to pick up a book for Little Babe and walked out with Dr. Ian Smith's Extreme Fat Smash Diet, tucked inside my handbag so no one could see my purchase.

With red print across the top screaming, When You Need to Lose it Fast, and the endorsement on the bottom: As Seen on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, this book was simply irresistible.

Especially as I put on a few pounds this winter and want to Lose it Fast.

Especially as the non-stop pace of my workdays (which typically begin at 6 am and conclude past midnight with brief breaks to awaken and prepare Little Babe for school, speak to Middle and Big Babe by phone, attend meetings, prepare and have dinner with HOBB and Little Babe and then put Little Babe to sleep) result in NEVER leaving my computer for more than quick sprints to the bathroom...often undertaken with cellphone and office phone in hand...which obviously means that it is a rare thing for me to get to the gym these days.

This work-without-end routine is nuts, I know, and not at all healthy. You would not believe the amount of conference calls I've conducted while in the bathroom.

Yesterday, I interrupted a shower to answer my Crackberry and stood shivering, with conditioner in my wet hair, peppermint body wash drying to a frosting-like veneer on my naked skin, while I talked about an inane project for 10 minutes, trying to control the chattering of my teeth.

And speaking of teeth... I've even talked on the phone while brushing my teeth, making the other person wonder if I am on drugs, no doubt.
Things are utterly out of balance for all of us, I know, but for some, worse than others. During the past three days of abundant sunshine, I never made it outdoors for even a brief recess on the steps of Low Library, on the Columbia campus or anything more than a dash across campus towards the subway. Looking through my 4th floor windows, which overlook the university, I saw throngs of happy college students and families with young children cavorting happily in the sun. Alas, not I.

Regarding the winter weight...I haven't put it on from scarfing down vast quantities of food. That's not my style. I'm a grazer, not a vacuum cleaner.

The additional poundage comes from a sudden and new desire to eat only foods in the Chocolate food group (cookies, cake, ice cream, scones, and dark with salted almonds) or the Salty Snack group (cheddar cheese and beer potato chips, Roberts Pirate Booty or anything crunchy with a cheddar cheese flavor). It comes from stress and being sedentary and maybe not even eating enough (with such busy days, who can find the time to eat??), which lowers metabolism, leading to weight gain.

If you saw me holding this book you might think that something is cuckoo in my head because I hardly look like smashing fat should be my number one concern. If you saw me at the gym when I do manage to escape my work, you'd think I was trying to conquer the treadmill with my determined stride and penchant for working out until my shirt is soaked and my hair is wet. If you saw me walking across 59th Street yesterday, reading and answering e-mails on my Crackberry for the entire 20-minutes it took me to get from Park Avenue to Broadway, barely glancing at cars as I crossed streets, barely managing to avoid bumping into people with my heavy backpack which included my laptop, papers and workout clothes (not that I even put them on yesterday), you might think I was involved in work that involved state secrets.
This new diet book...well on its way to mega-bestsellerdom...and its henchbooks are not really being purchased by people who want to lose weight. They are being purchased by those who are desperate to change their lives.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

AM YISRAEL CHAI


In the waning moments of Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, I wanted to pause from the relentless pace of being Bungalow Babe and send out a CHAG SAMEACH -- Happy Holiday -- to my peeps around the world.

And to Israel, that marvelous and messy miracle in the Middle East:

Happy 59th Birthday!

Though my feet are in the West...specifically, the Upper West (Side)...my heart and soul are rooted firmly in the East.

Forever one with you,

Bungalow Babe

Photo taken on April 23, 2007 at the Dor Chadash Kick-Ass Yom Ha'atzmaut Party at Capitale, NYC. Credit: Jason Gardner

Thursday, April 19, 2007

AL QAEDA COMES TO VIRGINIA


Make no mistake about it.

With the emergence of the sickening video that Cho Seung-Hui sent to NBC in an unbelievably calculated move, mailing it between his first murder and the second rampage, it is clear that he deserves to be remembers not as a pathetic loner but as a terrorist, driven by ideology to inflict maximum suffering upon the "guilty."

And the guilty in Cho's world were kids he perceived as rich or spoiled. Kids he saw as filled with debauchery.

His hatred is breathtaking, almost as breathtaking as his actions.

For those who have seen the snippets of Cho's videotaped manifesto, now filling the airwaves, there is a striking similarity to so-called "martyr" tapes made by Palestinian murderers or members of Al Qaeda. There is the same warped sense of religious purpose, the serving of a deity who desires the murder of innocents.

There is the aggrieved sense of some sin committed by the victims, the delusion that the impending act of suicide/murder will have a cleansing effect, restore some cosmic balance.

Was Cho victimized? Picked on as a kid? Subjected to racist comments? Abused even by the stepfather he eludes to?

The answer is who the hell cares.

With information slowly emerging about the victims of his hatred, one thing we know is that his own suffering or hardship as a young boy could not compare with that one of his victims: Professor Liviu Librescu, the Romanian Holocaust survivor.

Professor Librescu's suffering did not turn him into a suicide killer, even against the Nazis who imprisoned his family. His suffering inspired him to rise above adversity. His final act was a heroic act, sacrificing himself to allow his beloved students to escape.

He stands now, I am convinced, in the center of the great quadrangle of heaven, comforting the spirits of the students who were not so fortunate to have him as their protector.

As Cho's video makes its way through the internet and airwaves, let us not fall into the trap of viewing him as a victim driven to a desperate act. When all else is taken from us, we still have free will.

Cho freely chose the path of death and destruction, plotting his spectacular act of terrorism in a manner that has earned him a permanent place in Hell.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

EL MALEH RACHAMIM


We know this truth to be self-evident: life is not fair.

Some of us waltz through, relatively or exceedingly blessed.

Others get zapped by illness, by violence, by misfortune. Sometimes once, sometimes repeatedly.

Moreover, we know that lightening does strike twice.

The Holocaust survivor who gets murdered in a bloodbath in Virginia several decades later...on Yom Hashoah.

The college dean who loses her son and husband to unrelated causes within a six-month period.

The couple who endure the ordeal of a severely premature birth only to have a second child die in infancy.
The events of the past week have left me saddened, perched on my observation post, watching a maelstrom of misfortune rage past me.

The nightmares are local, national, international and personal.

A student at the school where HOBB teaches is raped, brutalized and left to die in a fire, tied to her bed. The attacker then goes on to use her bank card to empty her account at a nearby bodega.

A disturbed loner with animosity towards his peers goes on a massacre at Virginia Tech, scaring and scarring the nation, leaving hundreds grieving, striking fear in the heart of every parent in America.

A courageous 21-year-old in our community, born with a multitude of disabilities, succumbs to his illness, leaving behind a shattered family.
Innocents in Iraq are murdered every day by suicide bombers, going to the market, to school, to vote, to work.

I don't know which nightmares are easier to bear: the ones caused by mankind or the ones brought about by "acts of God," -- illness, natural disaster, freak accidents.
Not that I believe that God has anything to do with orchestrating human suffering.

Yet I have caught myself wondering about relative suffering, asking myself if it is "better" or "worse" to be the parents of the young woman attacked in her Hamilton Heights apartment or the parents of the sickly young man, whether it is "better" for the friends and relatives of those who died at Virginia Tech because of the magnitude of the tragedy, the possibility of drawing comfort from others who are enduring the same nightmare.

Of course these are ridiculous wonderings.

Suffering is suffering is suffering.

Pain is pain is pain.

Hearts have been shattered and some may never heal.

Leaving the rest of us to look on with compassion, as God does on high, God full of mercy, el maleh rachamim.

Friday, April 13, 2007

"HORSE-FACED" JEWISH WOMEN ARE THE NEW "NAPPY-HEADED HO'S"


Okay, I know I should stop forsaking sleep for the pleasure of visiting strange blogs in the middle of the night, but a couple of nights ago I was truly surprised/horrified to discover a chat on the physical appearance of Jews that was kinda....well, anti-Semitic.

It is posted on a sleazoid blog called Drunken Stepfather, began with pics of Natalie Portman cavorting in a bikini and then devolved into a weird-ass posting on how cute she was despite being Jewish.


Anyhoo, the comments range from readers who are grossed out by the generalizing slur to further discussion of the general unattractiveness of Jews. The term "horse-faced" was used to describe Jewish women by a covert Jew-hater named "barry." My guess is that he resembles the Cryptkeeper or an uglier version of Imus.

After watching the unfolding of Imus's comeuppance, his public disgrace and teshuva (repentance), I thought that I should take a proactive stand against cybercreeps who are suffering from the belief that:

All Jews look alike; and

All Jews are "physically unattractive specimens"

And because there is no better educational method than one that involves fun and games, I devised a little game called Name the Jew. This game is geared for those who harbor anti-Semitic stereotypes in their soul and whose lifespans will likely be cut short by blackening of the heart.

In the interest of getting my butt to Fairway before Shabbat, I am saving time by pasting the public challenge I posted on Drunken Stepfather.

Read on:

It is time to take arms against a sea of morons.

In an effort to demonstrate the inherent retardation of claiming that “most Jews are unattractive physical specimens” — or even that Jews are physically distinguishable from, say, Italian Catholics — Bungalow Babe is challenging Frothy Afterbirth and Bored with Life and "horse-faced" Barry to a Sunday stroll through various neighborhoods in Manhattan in an effort to see if they can tell who is Jewish or not based on appearance.

This is a legit offer and it should commence ASAP, perhaps this Sunday, which is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. I KNOW that I don’t have to say the painfully obvious about why this is an appropriate day to engage in such an exercise.

But seriously, this is a real offer. First of all, it would allow these uber-creeps to unmask themselves and second of all, it would be incredibly entertaining. Jews come from EVERYWHERE and are light-skinned and dark-skinned, tall and short, slender and portly, dark haired, light haired and bald, large of schnoz and small of schnoz alike.

You guys are in for a surprise.

Here is how Name the Jew would be played:


We meet at, say, 3 pm on Sunday, at Lincoln Center, at the fountain. Then, we spend one hour strolling up Broadway, take a cab to the East Side and spend one hour strolling down Madison Avenue, hop a cab or train down to the East Village and meander about, and then end up in SoHo.

I will be accosting people at random on the street and asking them to stand still for a moment while my contestants guess: Jewish or Not Jewish?

We will accost about 50 people total.


If the contestants get more than half right, I treat to dinner at a kosher restaurant. If the contestants get less than half, they take me to dinner at Carmine’s.

Please respond to this challenge/offer publicly — here.

I invite the general public to come along.

As for me, yeah, I look Jewish.

Really Jewish.

Readers, stay tuned. Check in after Shabbat to see if Bungalow Babe has any takers.

Shabbat Shalom!!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Daughter, My Self

My beautiful daughter, Middle Babe, leaves for Israel this evening, returning for the final two-month stretch of her academic year program in the Holy Land.

Thinking of her imminent departure, I am sad, even though I know that she is nearing the end of her adventure and we will have her in our midst for the entire summer before she goes off to her college in Baltimore.

And I know that she, too, is sad to be leaving us again, but not sad to be returning to Israel.

When you are a child, the most unbearable separation is from your parents.

When you have a child, their departures are the most searing episodes in your life, the leave-taking, the saying good-bye, the adjustment to the sound and sight of your home without them.

In those first moments that you note their absence, a feeling akin to tragedy descends. I have talked myself out of panic, at times, making the transition from child-here to child-not here, whether for a month or a summer or, this time, a year-long course of study in Israel.

It is something you never get used to.

And it puts me in mind of parents faced, God Forbid, with actual tragedy. I am still haunted by the testimony of the mother of an only child whose daughter was killed in the crash of Pan Am Flight 103...or perhaps it was TWA Flight 800. Her future was taken from her, said the grieving mother, in the course of hearings held after the tragedy. Without her child, she had no horizons.

But banishing all morose thoughts...Middle Babe (who returned from the movies while I wrote these lines) is now tearing apart her room searching for her wallet. She emerged only to note, rightly, that it would be easier to move through her room without Little Babe's clothes and a treadmill in the midst of her floor.

True, I agreed, promising to move these offending items out to prepare her room for her arrival this summer, squelching a smile for losing objects is a habit that Middle Babe has had since, well, forever.

There is so much to say about the deliciousness of having a daughter. A daughter is nature's improvement upon your own design. A daughter is a hint of yourself, sometimes magnified flatteringly...or to frightening effect.

There is so much to say about the deliciousness of my particular daughter. She is so fully herself, so free, so relaxed in her personality and quirks. I marvel at her great insight and wit and delight in her friendships, especially her friendship with Reeb, who is Middle Babe's virtual twin, my other daughter, and BOMB, her boyfriend of over a year.

As she sprawled on my bed this morning, inches away from that slapdash space I call my office, I asked her if she felt nineteen...her impending age.

"Are you kidding?" she asked, ruefully. "I still feel like I'm twelve."

"Good," I replied. "Because I still think of you as twelve."

And I do. Not in a bad way, at all. Just in a "my little girl" way. Forever.

This subject is a bittersweet one for me because of my struggles with my own mother and the often-alienated existence I had as a teen, living at home. One of the quests of my adult life is to try to figure out to what extent my own adoption played in these feelings or whether such dissonance also occurs often in homes of biological mothers and daughters.

And there is still a sadness I have at the not-really-myself role I occupy in relationship with my mother. I have longed, my entire life, to be utterly myself, without apology, without preamble, without preconditions.

It is only with my children that I am utterly at home with myself.

Middle Babe has just gone into her room, stopping by my computer (perched atop a stool in the dining room) to kiss me goodnight and tell me to go to sleep. It is insanely late. I am insanely tired. But I am also kept awake, motivated by sadness and a myriad of other thoughts arising from this moment of transition in my life.

There is music drifting out of her room, reminding me that she is still a teen. I'm fairly certain that she still hasn't found that missing wallet.

My daughter, despite feeling twelve, is about to turn nineteen in the next few months. Despite being in my middle forties, I still feel nineteen, waiting for my adult life to begin.

So, we're a good match, my daughter and I, forever young, sisters of a kind.

Friday, April 06, 2007

WORST NIGHT OUT...EVER

Tonight, in an honest attempt to tap into the rich cultural smorgasbord Manhattan has to offer, HOBB treated the family -- okay, Little Babe and me -- to tix to the Dance Theatre Workshop's program by John Jasperse Company entitled Becky, Jodi and John (Check it out at http://www.dtw.org/dy_eventDetails.cfm?ID=174.) dedicated to a long-standing friendship between the three dancers.

Having read an intriguing write-up in the New Yorker, the performance seemed like a reasonable choice for a New York family seeking cult-cha off the beaten track. Why go to a Broadway show (so obvious) or Lincoln Center (so elderly) or even Carnegie Hall (so five minutes ago) when the mysteries of Modern Dance beckoned...and only a subway ride down 7th Avenue?

Leaving aside the fact that we arrived 15 minutes late (by cab and not by train) and the usher-Nazi made us stand in the back the entire performace so we would not disturb the patrons seated in the "intimate" space....leaving aside the fact that the set was a naked stage with the cleverest device being a little remote-control toy truck that delivered a laptop to the dancers, which they would then read some inane passage from....leaving aside the fact that we had to endure the sight of John's uncut shlong and Becky's droopy boobs as she traipsed around in green tights....this boring-ass performance sucked so bad that I never want to leave the Urban Bungalow again, except to go to the gym and Fairway and the new Loehmann's which opened on Broadway and 74th. (It rocks!!! I had my maiden trip with Middle Babe yesterday.)

Yet if Carnegie Hall is five minutes ago, Dance Theatre Workshop is thirty years ago. I swear I was having a flashback to the flashdance era when Modern Dance consisted of people wearing monochromatic loose attire, refusing make-up, letting their invariably unlovely bodies take on spastic and jerky movements on stage to atonal music with no narrative, no scenery and no technical skill or even talent.

The difference is that thirty years ago the tickets cost $5 and I didn't have kids, hence, no free time to spend on stupid culture. And besides, all this nonsense actually looked cool back then.

Even Little Babe thought the performance sucked. He was so bored that the potentially shocking nudity didn't catch his attention. He was so disgusted that the only part that held his interest was when smoke began mysteriously appearing out of John's body. Leaning next to me in the back of the theatre, he looked like an 11-year-old on Death Row. Right after the show, Little Babe's review could be summed up as follows: "My favorite part was when it ended."

Out of the mouth of babes.

We have all experienced the perverse joy of laughing one's head off at a totally unfunny performance bec it is simply so bad. I have disgraced myself at concerts in Budapest, Hungary and Greenwich, CT alike, laughing inappropriately during serious yet bad programs.
Tonight, however, I could not laugh, mostly because I was so dismayed. Alarmingly, many of the audience members seemed to find the show enchanting and gave that throaty New York laugh of wry recognition at especially unfunny lines spoken by the cast. I hate that laugh. It means "I'm-in-the-know;" it is validation that the person making this annoying chortle is the exact audience member that this elevated art has been created for.

I did bond, however, with a cranky 70-something lady who irritably told her 50-something pedantic daughter (who was hilariously attempting to deconstruct the bulls&^t as we were walking out of the "intimate" theatre) that the performance was just not her cup of tea.

Amen to that, sistah!!!! It was more like a cup of arsenic tea. I was positive that had I stayed one more minute I would have keeled over dead from an overdose of pointlessness masquerading as profundity...or art.

Sitting on the uptown #1 train across from two beefy German guys who looked like they had questionable pasts if not futures, I sank into an evil mood. It pissed me off that we had:
  • Hauled our collective Bungalow Butt down to Chelsea in an (expensive) cab
  • Screwed ourselves out of the opportunity for real culture
  • Spent money on tickets for this retarded performance
  • And had to stand like rejects in the back of the "intimate" theatre for such a piece of doo-doo dance performance

And so, when the train reached 72nd Street, I did the only logical thing. I jumped off and ran into Fairway to erase the memories of bad New York culture and touch honest produce, sincere dry goods and real meat from (formerly) living creatures who did not imagine that their aimless amblings made them members of an elite known as Artists.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Isaac Babel in SoHo, Passover 2007


I lost my new copy of the Collected Works of Isaac Babel on Erev Pesach, this past Monday, the eve of Passover…one of the most ludicrous days I have had in recent memory.

At an hour when every sane Jew is grating horseradish for their first seder, I was rushing through the streets of SoHo, from the subway station at Houston Street down Spring Street to Broadway for my months-overdue annual gynecological appointment.

And now, I was officially four months and 15 minutes late for this important medical visit.

Basically, I had forgotten to change trains at Times Square because I was chattering incessantly about the evils of consumerist culture with someone I knew only nominally and who was nodding at everything I said either because they wanted to validate my brilliant observations or pacify my lunatic tendencies.

And I was chattering incessantly to burn off the nervous energy that came from the aggravating and utterly ridiculous stress I had been sustaining for several hours – a level of stress familiar to every professional woman who is also an observant Jew and who therefore spends the eves of every Jewish holiday (and Shabbat) in a state of multitasking madness – which was augmented by stresses unique to my own work and personal life.

For instance, rushing out of the Urban Bungalow en route to my appointment, I realized I had likely rendered the ratatouille I had cooked while on a conference call totally treif by inadvertently adding an ingredient that only Sephardic Jews would consume on Passover.

When I discovered the offending item in the ratatouille -- contained in a curry sauce from France -- I almost died. This dish and homemade brownies, which I just baked, were part of our contribution to the seder, scheduled to take place within a few hours at our friends’ house.

Passover observance is a serious matter. How could I bring a dish that had a questionable ingredient, yet how was I to make my gynecological appointment if I had to create another ratatouille from scratch…and with no eggplant, to boot???

Locking the apartment door, I placed a frantic call to my husband imploring him to fess up to our host, a rabbi, and ask if the dish – suitable for Sephardic Jews -- could be served at his Ashkenazic seder.

With the ratatouille fiasco being merely the latest in a series of logistical potholes wrecking my day, I lost my legendary sense of direction in the joy of ranting to a virtual stranger on the #1 train. When I realized my mistake at 28th Street, my heart sank and I assumed I had blown the appointment. Then, as the train passed 18th Street, I realized I could alight at Houston Street and grab a cab and just make it in time.

I bolted out of the train on Houston Street, fled up the steps and optimistically scanned the horizon for available cabs. Weirdly, there were no cabs to be had. Or, to be accurate…there were cabs, but I seemed to have morphed into the Invisible Woman and no fewer than three available yellow cabs totally passed me by, picking up passengers standing mere feet beyond me.

I am not kidding. This really did happen. And at that point, I knew that I was under some weird spell or something.

So I had to hoof it over several avenue blocks to the east. By my estimation, the shlep was nearly three-quarters of a mile. Midway along my frantic journey, I stopped to retrieve my Crackberry from my monstrously oversized Target designer mock-croc bag in order to call Downtown Women Ob-Gyn and make sure that my exertions would not be in vain and I would, indeed, be able to keep my appointment with Nancy the Midwife, my trusted well-woman health care provider for more than ten years.

I felt my day utterly change when the honeyed voice of the receptionist assured me that Nancy would be able to see me if I arrived within the next ten minutes or so. Yes! I agreed with renewed vigor. Yes! I will be there within ten minutes, I said, tucking my Crackberry into my coat pocket before sprinting down Spring Street.

The problem was, in order to retrieve my phone device from my bag, I had placed my (not slender) volume of Isaac Babel (of which about five sentences were read on the subway between Penn Station and Houston Street) on the edge of one of those fancy-shmancy trash can containers.

At least that is what I think I did, because when I arrived at the gyno’s office ten minutes later, the book was missing and I had not stopped anywhere else en route from the subway to the office.

And after I had checked every inch of the gyno’s office suite and even ran down the three flights of stairs to make sure I hadn’t left the book at the hostile security guard’s desk in the lobby (okay, isn’t it time to question the efficacy of having people sign in and out of buildings under no terrorist threat whatsoever??) I had to burst out laughing at the somehow fitting coda to this day of mishaps and bureaucratic nightmares.

The friendly receptionist at Downtown Women offered me a piece of peppermint gum. Shortly, I was given a cup to pee into and a gown to change into and I sat on the examination table happily, waiting for Nancy, reading Us Weekly.

The actual physical exam took less than 10 minutes. But the torrent of words that rushed out of me -- a rant about my day, my life, my stress, my angst – dominated my visit.

Nancy suggested many things. One of them was changing my life. Dramatically. Immediately. I had to agree that she was onto something.

When I sashayed out of Downtown Women Ob-Gyn, I was a changed woman. The spell I was under seemed to have lifted. I ran through the turnstiles at the Prince Street station and directly onto a waiting uptown R train. At Times Square, an uptown #2 train was lingering on the platform when I ran down the stairs. And when I dashed up the stairs at 96th Street, a cab had not only magically materialized before my eyes, but the cabbie gave me a friendly smile when I plopped down in the backseat.

Oh, snap! The spell had broken.

And in case you’re wondering, I made it home in time to change for the seder at my friend’s house, and our host had called to say that I hadn’t rendered the ratatouille unkosher after all, and to please bring it along.

So, HOBB packed up the ratatouille and took it to go…together with my walnut-rich brownies, which turned out pretty damn good despite having been invented out of thin air... and the hostess gift I had selected at the JCC giftshop earlier in the day -- a hand-painted Miriam’s tambourine and gummy frogs that lit up when clunked on the head.

HOBB was less psychotic than I thought he would be in the face of my gynecologist’s appointment on the eve of Passover and my culinary near-disaster. We arrived at our host’s home nearly on time – certainly not egregiously late – and were met by Big Babe who had cut out of one of his Columbia classes early in order to make the seder.

The seder was fabulous, filled with great people and delicious food and exotic wine and traditional and wacky elements alike. As we moved to take our places around the beautifully adorned seder table, I felt a gulf open as wide as the Red Sea between me and my insane day.

It was magical to sit around the seder table and feel myself a descendent of those Hebrew slaves who had the audacity to envision an alternative to Egypt. And though I always find great meaning in the interactive theatre of the Passover seder, this particular night was truly different from all other nights.

And somewhere in SoHo, perched on the top of that fancy-shmancy garbage can, Isaac Babel is busily taking notes, composing a tale about a Jewish woman far from his native Odessa, enslaved by invisible forces, in search of her own liberation.