Saturday, November 24, 2012

Connecting the Dots: from the Gym to Shul to Lincoln to The Moody Blues. Bungalow Babe Gets Dressed. Episode 8.

Because it is anyone's guess how long these awesome polka dot tights will last, I asked HOBB to photograph me in my shul outfit just after Shabbat.

About the outfit:
  • Tights from Hue
  • The Dr. Martens ankle boots I have worn in virtually every photo.
  • Ann Taylor Loft black dress with cap sleeves and silver buttons down my back, (like Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack.) bought about four years ago.
  • H&M boiled wool black jacket with military styling and bold buttons, bought also around four years ago.
  • Chanel costume pearl necklace with pendant from my late mother-in-law Judy.
I wore this outfit to Congregation Ramath Orah, arriving in time for the kiddush, having spent most of my morning at the gym at the JCC in Manhattan. (This was actually my plan as I prefer davening in an egalitarian shul. In this behavior, I know I am hardly alone; indeed, when it comes to Orthodox synagogues, I proudly own the mantle of being a JFK Jew: Just for Kiddush. About the gym on Shabbat morning... Yeah. Well, every now and then I take a break from formalized prayer services. And I was still feeling buoyed by the Friday night service at Romemu.)

As I write, I am plotting what to wear for my evening plans, which include the 7:20 p.m. showing of Lincoln with HOBB and friends, followed by who-knows-what.

Shavua Tov. May it be a good week.


Though I got the sense that everyone in the theater LOVED Lincoln, I was bored silly. It was too epic, too important, too serious. Never for a moment did I believe that Daniel Day Lewis was Abraham Lincoln, nor Sally Field Mary Todd Lincoln. It felt to me like a school assignment. I became the teenager whose parents forced her to watch the long historical movie on Channel 13 while she wanted to watch the Rolling Stones perform live on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. 

Mine was a minority opinion in my group, though I was pretty sure that no one actually loved the movie, with the exception of possibly HOBB, who has been listening to Team of Rivals on audiobooks.

After the movie, we went to Bella Luna on Columbus Avenue. Two glasses of Shiraz -- and a lovely Sicilian salad and tilapia entree -- later, I forgot about the movie.

Besides, tomorrow night I get to do better than watch a rock band perform on TV.

I'm going to the Moody Blues concert at the NYCB arena in Westbury, LI with bungaleer buddies.

It feels like my reward for sitting through a long and boring history lesson.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Subway Stations and Bomb Shelters. Bungalow Babe Gets Dressed, #7

A mere two and a half weeks after Hurricane Sandy brought the mighty MTA subway system to a standstill, the trains in New York City are (mostly) up and running.

So reliably are they operating now that I actually forgot that there had ever been a transit shutdown.

So, on Thursday night, returning from a performance of the marvelous off-Broadway show -- The Lobby Hero -- which stars the gifted Noam Harary (the son of my friends Miriam and Ralph Harary and childhood friend of Big Babe's from Rosmarin's Bungalow Colony) I had to pause and capture the moment at the 116th Street Columbia University station.

In this picture, I am wearing houndstooth patterned tights from Hue; a black cocktail dress from Second Time Around (purchased for $25. A metziah!); an ancient Old Navy peacoat acquired about 15 years ago; and my Dr. Martens Darcie ankle boots. I also have a Kenneth Cole handbag in faux gold distressed leather, that I bought this summer at Woodbury Commons for a pittance.

This picture was taken Thursday night, as the situation in Israel and Gaza was beginning to escalate, the result of Israel's assassination of a Hamas leader weeks after the country had been under prolonged rocket attack from Gaza. On my way to the theater, I passed by a pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel rally in front of the Israeli Consulate. Tucked into the crowd were the usual anti-Zionistic Hasidic men, a sight that typically makes me want to scream and laugh all at once. This time, I also saw a breed of protestor I had never noted before: young Jews bearing signs announcing that they were Jewish and against Israel.

Holding their signs aloft, they lustily joined the chorus of voices denouncing the Jewish State.

Noam Harary's mother, Miriam, is Israeli. As I walked towards the theater district with HOBB, we spoke about the situation, trading news of what we had heard and whom we had spoken to. We talked about Miriam and her family, my sister, her husband, his extended family and their three boys -- one in the IDF, the other, a reservist -- and my brother and sister-in-law and their two tiny boys and the innumerable friends we have in Israel. We knew that they would be spending many hours in bomb shelters; some had already spent a portion of the previous night there.

Just as the Upper West Side was spared entirely from Hurricane Sandy's wrath, in New York City, we are are entirely protected from the terrifying assault of rockets or the knowledge of an enemy who dreams of our demise. At moments like this, the magnificence and strangeness of being a 21st Century American Jew overtakes me. As a result, riding the recently-hobbled subway, thoughts of our local hurricane accommodate another awareness: of missiles whizzing overhead, of sirens blaring, of people huddling for shelter, of injuries and trauma, interrupted lives, inevitable death.

This awareness is the occupational hazard of being a New York Jew who loves Israel.

As war simmers on the horizon of a nation half the world away, I attend an off-Broadway show. The drama absorbs me and I applaud the son of my Israeli friend for his stellar performance. And then I leave the cocoon of the theater and my prior consciousness returns.

At the 116th Street Columbia University subway station, no one watching me pose for my husband would have guessed that my carefree pose was an utter lie.

If you look closely, you will see that I am grimacing.

Leaning into the steel beam, my mind was far away, my heart heavy, fear running like lead through my veins.


Thinking about this post all day, I was troubled by the seemingly frivolous fashion digression in the midst of a serious meditation on being an Israel-focused Jew in post-Sandy NYC.

At first I wondered whether I ought to remove the mention of my outfit, but then, visiting Facebook, I saw several posts by people in Israel pondering what is appropriate or not appropriate to wear into a bomb shelter.

After running into her building's bomb shelter wearing a Victoria's Secret nightie, one woman wrote that she resolved to sleep in sweatpants and baggy shirts during this crisis. Girls on the Tel Aviv beach discussed the politics of wearing their bathing suits into the miklat. Other people made note of their lack of appropriate foot gear as they scrambled downstairs during the night.

What to wear into a bomb shelter is not a screaming magazine headline but a pragmatic consideration during a moment of life and death.

As for me, the impetus is much more simple.

Remembering what I wore helps me remember where I was during pivotal moments in the history of the world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After A Late Quartet. Bungalow Babe Gets Dressed. Episode 6.

Yesterday afternoon, HOBB and I joined half of the retirees of the Upper West Side at the 5:30 showing of A Late Quartet at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. Having just submitted the manuscript for his forthcoming book on the quest to master the cello in middle age, HOBB had high hopes for the film, anticipating that he would be able to relate to its characters -- aging musicians in a Manhattan string quartet.

When he fell asleep a mere ten minutes into the film, I should have realized how severely his expectations had been dashed. Having jostled his arm to wake him up, I later regretted my decision for he proceeded to spend the duration of the film vacillating between deep boredom and disgust for the characters' immorality and self-absorption.

As for me, I was simply astonished at the film's lack of authenticity, its wooden dialogue and the predictability of the plot. I also found A Late Quartet shockingly shallow, with pretensions of high culture. It was frankly depressing to watch such fine actors inhabit roles that were two-dimensional, at best.

My favorite movie moment came early on, when a bag of Zabar's coffee is visible on the counter of Philip Seymour Hoffman's character's kitchen. My least favorite moment was when the twenty-something daughter of Hoffman and Catherine Keener -- who is having sex with her mother's former lover -- breaks into gales of giggles when her mother shows up at her place.

In what realm is the prospect of your mother finding you in bed with a guy she also screwed an occasion for hilarity? Also, in what realm would you actually be interested in having sex with your mother's ex, who, incidentally, had watched you grow up?

Still, it was fun to grab a movie with the early bird special crew. And it is always fun to find fellowship with your spouse over a film that you mutually hate.

Notes on my outfit: In this picture, I am sitting on our dining room table, wearing a pair of tasseled black knee socks from H&M that I bought five years ago, a Vivienne Tam black dress with a swingy skirt, bought at Loehmann's, a burgundy scarf from Zara's in Venice, given to me by Big Babe, a black, faux leather motorcycle jacket from Bagatelle, also purchased at Loehmann's, and black Aletta ankle boots from Dr. Marten.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Trip to Goshen

Little Babe, my seventeen-year-old son, is a natural born driver.

The first (and only) of my three children with this proclivity, he received his learner's permit last summer, two months after his sixteenth birthday. Living in Europe for the past six years, 28-year-old Big Babe has no use for driving; planes, the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and Eurail take him where he needs to go. Similarly, 24-year-old Middle Babe, living in our Manhattan apartment, has not been particularly motivated to acquire her license, satisfied as she is with subways, taxis and car rides with her Gentleman Caller.

It's not that he fantasizes about getting his own wheels. Little Babe is captivated by the prospect of the open road and the promise of cross-country trips with friends.  Like me, he equates driving with freedom. Getting behind the wheel, he attaches the radio's auxiliary cable to his iPod and a curated musical journey commences.

"Cake has the best driving music!" he proclaimed this past Friday as their wry and mournful song, "Wheels" filled our vehicle while we drove over the Tappan Zee bridge on our way upstate, wailing the song's final lament in unison: "Why you say you/Are not in love with me?" Minutes later, he switched tracks and we were rocking out to David Bowie's buoyant "Modern Love," taking turns with the call-and-response chorus: "Never gonna fall for Modern Love (walks beside me)/ Modern Love (walks on by)/ Modern Love (gets me to the church on time)/ Modern Love (terrifies me)/Modern Love (makes me party)/Modern Love (puts my trust in God and man)."

So exuberant are our music-drenched journeys that I sometimes feel as if our destinations are incidental; the spatial equivalents of Hitchcock's MacGuffins.

Yet some destinations are essential, for instance, Goshen, NY -- the setting for Little Babe's pending road test.

A bit of background: after racking up more than 80 hours on the road (30 more than the required 50) and having completed the mandatory five-hour pre-licensing course (twice), Little Babe was crushed when his appointment in Goshen had to be cancelled two weeks ago because our Honda had no gas... and neither did any of the nearby gas stations in post-Sandy New York City.

In the context of Hurricane trauma, Little Babe's cancelled road test was a minor inconvenience, still, it was disappointing. The cancellation also rendered our loopy adventure the previous night -- when we journeyed to a driving school in a terrifying and remote Bronx neighborhood that administered the mandatory pre-licensing test after discovering that Little Babe's safety certificate from the previous summer had expired two months earlier -- idiotic, dangerous and unnecessary.

The cancellation of Little Babe's road test further meant a six-week wait time for a new appointment, which stood to delay Little Babe's dream of driving to his high school by more than a month.

In the manner of mothers everywhere, I was certain that through sheer ingenuity and tenacity, I could bypass the system that stood to make my kid miserable.