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.

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