Nov 06 2014

A Helluva Town

by at 6:17 am

New York, New York, a helluva town. The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down. The people ride in a hole in the groun’.

I have been involved with various Leonard Bernstein musical activities in New York in celebration of the publication of Carol Oja’s book on Bernstein’s work during WWII. And so, I have had the above lyrics from On the Town (excellent revival now on Broadway!) circling through my head. They seem very relevant to life, especially since I actually live in the Bronx, and I spent a lot of time riding in a hole in the ground, approximately 2 hours per day. A helluva town.

Yiddish Hoyz has indeed been an interesting experience so far. After fighting an almost-winning battle against fleas, we have lost all energy to do anything else, for example, trimming the crazily overgrown weeds in the front yard. Argh. Hopefully it will be winter soon and the weeds will disappear under snow?! It is extremely nice to be in a place where I can speak Yiddish regularly and do Jewish things that I like without having to organize a single thing. All I gotta do is show up, and sometimes it even happens in my house. It’s great. Yesterday we went to a Yiddish dance workshop/party, to live klezmer music with a room full of people who actually knew the basics of Yiddish dance, and all I had to do was GO.

I joined a choir, Essential Voices USA, which is great. Same deal…I am not paid for it, but on the other hand, all I have to do is learn music and show up! I get to sing with amazing musicians, and it is awesome. No choosing repertoire, making cue sheets, etc. We did said Bernstein things and we are singing with the NY Pops during their holiday concerts in Carnegie Hall! Come if you’d like and if you can find tickets! Oh, and consider listening to the beautiful, totally absorbing, magical combination of contemporary choral and Jewish music on the choir’s new CD.

Once the High Holidays ended, I breathed a huge sigh of relief (although also instantly I began to miss my role as a cantorial soloist) and got back to the work of being a PhD student and a CJH Fellow. For those of you who would like to hear the fruits of a small part of that labor or learn about Jews during World War I, I have just the conference for you coming up this Sunday. =) I am writing, writing, writing. My dissertation defense has been schedule for 10am on June 30 at the Maison de la Paix in Geneva–it is public, so, mark your calendars! With a real deadline ahead of me I feel more or less like I have a major paper deadline about two days away, and this is a constant feeling. It is not great, but, so far, I am still able to write. I am also looking for an academic employment for next year, an experience I do not recommend.

What else? My sister got married, mazl tov, which means I now know the sheva brachot and am available for hire (anyone?). I no longer have to drive anywhere and can instead return to my old routines of shleping heavy bags everywhere. My dog has decided our armchair will have to do as a couch and he has been experimenting with the best positions for armchair snoozing utilizing different combinations of sweaters and blankets for support. Seth has busily been providing said sweaters to said dog, and also working on his PhD and hanging out at Columbia. It takes the same amount of time to drive to New Haven as to subway to Brooklyn, where everyone we know practically lives. I bought fresh ginger at the Union Square greenmarket. Yesterday I ate lunch outside on a bench in the unseasonably warm sun, and a passing shih-tzu pooped right in front of me on the park path…and even closer to my open mug of tea standing by my feet. Did I drink my tea? Yes, i did. New York, ladies and gentlemen, a helluva town!!!! Catch me if you can, during the rare moments when I am not dissertating up in the Bronx, in the hole in the ground. Or, you know, at Carnegie Hall, the CJH, Geneva, or Yiddish dance parties.

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