Sunday, February 26, 2012

The road, and the day I started singing (2)

I finally arrived at a campsite, small fire, warmth. I was so so cold, and tired, all I wanted was to put my body down and go to sleep. I didn't know these people but they allowed me to go to sleep near their fire. I was so cold that it took a very long time to fall asleep. When I awoke, the magic of gods light shot across the sky as I saw so much sunshine and brightness that I could barely contain myself at it's beauty. i was in the middle of eden. birds chirping, the air was crisp, the field and valleys spread out long and wide as far as my eye could see. Fresh trees, barely touched by human hands and new shrubs and grasses that I had never seen. Different smells, and people that loved the land. I was home. I had never seen this before, but my mind did not stop wondering, rejoicing at this new found gift.

Something in me changed. I started singing,just like that as if my heart had been waiting for this moment all along. For most of my youth, English had been a language of communication, but now it became one of feeling. I was shocked at how my mouth found words to express depth and emotion. I had known myself to be mind, to be analytical separate from the hearts real wanting and wordings. Now my heart started speaking. It was singing. I was composing melodies. I did not know where they came from but I did not want it to stop. Something told me that I was now getting in touch with something deep, something that had belonged to me all along.

How could this be me? I wondered. How could there be a part of me that is in me, that has always been there, that I never knew about?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Needing the open road

So I had heard that there were a bunch of Jews and hippies that gathered togethere in national Forests. I heard there were girls and for me that was a major attraction. I figured, If I was going to find a girl that I would like, whe would be stoned and lost walking barefoot through a national forest, with no intention in mind other than to know the color of the wind. I had move to LA a couple years before. the dream of the clear blue ocean and sun tan locion on hot spicey bodies had lured me but now I had grown weary and tired of the planes flying over head and the congestion of cars running to the beach down Lincoln Ave. I needed some quiet. I didn't realized that the beauty of the water was not filling my need for quite while so many people (including me) strove for vanity and to escape the thoughts of the present moment by meandering towards the promises of the next.

It was wednesday afternoon. I had to decide fast. I heard that the most important part of the gathering was on shabbos. I had 36 hours to make it into North Eastern UTAH. I had a great desire to be with people of my kind, blind to the fact that they may be next door. I had to head the forest. I was lost in the imagination of the beauty that will be.

I made a fast and good decision to dump my guitar in a shul I knew so I wouldn't have to haul it with me.I got on a couple of buses, all of which were complicated and eventually dumped me late at night in a nasty, drug ridden, prostitute infested, neigboorhood in down town LA near the Gray Hound bus station. Knowing that I had a decent amount of cash on me, I made my usual nasty neigborhood sounds, houls and roars, to warn the druggies and would be muggers that I was weird enough that it may not be worth their while to interact with me. If I had seen my antics, in the mirror, I too would have looked for someone to talk to. I had to do this for at least a 15 minutes until I could ask someone safe, and figure out, where I was and which but to take to get me the rest of the way to the station.

I only had a limited amount of money that would perfectly purchase a month on the road, a month away from humanity and all the faces and ideas that I had come to loath, the competition to be that perfect and successful man. I needed to see some trees. The cashier at Grayhound swiped my ATM card for the fifth time. she put tape on it. It wasn't working. I was so angry "stupid fuckers, do they realize how badly I need to leave this town?". I knew that, no matter what, I would be out of LA tonight. The ATM machine only allowed for 200 dollars to be withdrawn at a time which mean that I'd have enough money to get me to Utah, but no more money to buy my free month. That was terrible. I needed to see this damn country every mountain and valley, the cows and the villages, the fields of corn. I yearned for freedom and new smells and for people for whom clothing and their image was not as important to them as the water that enlivens the dying man.

When I got to Utah, they understood my story and used the 200 dolars I spent in LA towards my 30 day pass. I wandered around Utah, I found a thrift shop and bought the most perfect dainty, red orange guitar for 30 dollar. I needed a friend, and the guitar had become my best friend. No argument, it let my fingures find the perfect sounds that would sooth or inspire that moment. Fast friends,well until the strings began to break, but then again, if you play guitar you know, that, in an emergency situation, that one last e string can do much to entertain.

The bus dropped me of on the side of the highway. A couple minutes before I saw two faces that looked familiar only because they were Jewish, the close to frum kind. The kind from NY. I hadn't seen that kind in a while and it was only now that I realize what a distinct look it was, and that Jews have. They actually had a look. I just hadn't given it much though. Yes, I wanted space from Jews, but this moment of familiarity was refreshing in a way.

We all decided to hitch together. At 2:00 AM we were finally walking up a rocky dirt trail towards camp. The cold was biting at my arms. I had never been camping. I loved nature, but i was tired and cold now. I had made the unwise decision to bring an airport luggage with wheels to carry my clothing. I brought no tent. I had no camping gear. I had a sleeping bag, and I still had miles of walking to go in the pitch black forest without any flash light, before I would reach the camp. Miles. Yes, at that moment I thought of the new name I had been looking for. "Miles" I liked that name. It had the M sound. It meant miles. I thought about the many miles that took me from the land and thoughts of my birth, far away to the strange land that I had been shown. I though about all the new experiences and fresh thoughts and new teachers that had arrived. I thought about the adopted uncles and the passing lovers who taught me all of what my heart has been so yearning to know, and now to be blind, and lost, free and happy in the middle of a dark sea of trees. Here I am. I had come so many miles. Miles meant distance and accomplishment and freedom. Yes, "Miles" will be my new name. For now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nazis and Jews

I never hated Nazis but I surely feared them. The problem was I didn't know it. I grew up in a place where my mind was allowed to hate, and love anyone without it having any real implications. I hat the luxury of being able to hate non Jews and consider them different because I never met any so my sureness of how different we were was able to blossom nicely without interference. The consequence of that could be an insensitivity to cultural differences and the things that should or should not be said at any given time.

During my third year in LA, I moved into my first non Jewish immersion experience. I lived in a house with 25 non Jews. Michael slept on the floor, six inches away from me. Ishmael was an actor. Steve was an ex Navy Seal who conned a lot of money out of Fernando who never forgave me for capturing the love of Sulina, one of my first lovers from England and Indian heritage. Chan was from Taiwan, and he was the wise old sage of the house, always trying to keep the peace. Paul was living with his girl friend Patty in the attic but humping the older Jewish woman that he worked for in Hollywood. Scott played a wicked guitar and used to be friends with the members of the Lincoln Park band. Bob was also pretty old, and eventually found his way back to prison. After I left the house, I heard that Patty had OD'd on heroine. Of course there was Bill who had only two teeth in the front, nice flowing blond hair despite his being close to sixty. He still had visits with his childrens mother, but otherwise he was a pretty free spirit, and just went around town helping people fix things. Then there was Frank. He was a hardened dude, always polishing his black Mercedes. He hates his father who's a professor and did his stint in the army. He has plenty of tatoos and is constantly talking about his girl friend who he still sees on and off. He slept in my room in castle made out of sheets that he built for himself. During those weeks when he was not seeing his girl friend, he would stay in there for endless hours watching TV and playing computer games.

I had come to the house, and to California with the general attitude that I would meet anyone and everyone that that if I was kind and pleasant and if I would give people a chance, they would reciprocate my gestures and love me as well. For the most part I was right, but I must say that there have been some experiences that have made me believe that there is still some hard core hate of Jews in the world and no matter how nice, pleasant, understanding or accepting I am, I cannot expect that to be reciprocated. I am hated, disliked simply because I am a Jew.

As some of you know, my head used to spend most of its time in the clouds. Still now, but especially the, it would take difficult and extreme circumstances to call an issue to my attention. Only after totaling two cars and one accident did I start thinking about being more careful, or better yet, attentive when driving. Otherwise my mind was on another planet.

One day, I came home from work at 8:00 PM and Frank was standing near the door. I have no idea if he was waiting for me or what, but something looked different about his face. I said hello, but immediately sensed that something was wrong. He just didn't look the way he usually did. "So you think you Jews are better than us?" he yelled "You wanna fight?". I didn't even have to think. There was no fight or flight debate. I ran straight out the door as fast as I could. He had been working out every day as far as I could remember and I didn't want to find out what that kind of strength can do. Of course, I regret not being better suited to feed him a handsome portion Jewish fist and send him to a nice Jewish dentist, but at that moment, it was the wisest thing to do. I did feel bad that I didn't stay only because it was my home. I heard the screen door slam behind me and ran until I could see the great distance between myself and the place I had come to call home.

It was October and the Santa Anna winds were blowing their calming, warm soothing air down from the North and across Lost Angeles. I sat outside wondering what I would do. Should I go back? Even if he calms down, how can I sleep in the same room with him. What if he got another attack in the middle of the night. He had been in AA for a while, and he just got drunk. He said that he heard me say that I thought Jews were better than Non Jews. I don't think I would have ever said that , but looking back at my naivety, and lack of cultural sensitivity, it was not beyond me to say something insensitive and stupid.

As I walked back into the house, Frank was still drunk as a ravaging elephant on speed. Two or three of my fellow house mates had him in their grip so that he wouldn't beat me up. They forced him to sleep somewhere else that night. He and I didn't talk much after that. I had tried to be nice, but sometimes the nicest thing is to keep to oneself. soon after, I moved out. I had that feeling that I need to be back around Jews. I appreciated the brotherhood and community that we give each other and I hated the fact that, at least for now, I needed my brothers. I needed support.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The loss of love.

I don't know if I will ever achieve total peace about this one decision that I once made although I know now, and knew then that there was no other way to do it. When I moved to California, I was lost and confused and in need of so much help, and so many answers. Most of all was the great desire to succeed, to understand what had happened and to turn my life around. I was yearning and I was starving and I was motivated.

One day I met Manny. He was, one of the most refined and peaceful people, I had ever met. He was a published writer, and a lawyer and he was successful in my eyes. He was also a recovering alcoholic, so he knew about the steps and about healing. He was one of the most charming and successful people I had ever met personally.I knew that one of the keys to success is to get around successful people.He was definitely someone I wanted to be like and so I did all that I could to get to know him

He eventually married a Chines woman and started a little family. I would go to him for shabbos, and remember, at that time, I knew no one who had my back ground. I was alone. I had never really heard of the phenomenon of someone having been frum and then going off. Even if I did know of it, I was still to unsure about what had happened to me to know if this was a short (7 year) vacation, or if I was heading back when the symptoms would go down. I still didn't know what I truly believed and still hadn't pondered what a new future would look like.

Michael was everything. He was my family, my mentor, my uncle, my older brother, my role model, my guide. Most of all, he was the one that was helping me understand some things about Judaism that I had never known, some new ways of looking at Judaism. He had been a baal teshuva for a while and was well versed enough for me to listen to what he had to say as far has new ways to understand Judaism. These new ways were informing my decision of rethinking Judaism and what it could mean to me. He was actually the only one whom, I could speak to openly about my doubts and questions.

Then something happened that brought all that to a sudden end. I had had these feelings all along, but I thought, hoped that they would go away. I hated how they stayed and would not let me be. You see, part of my being around Michael, was about seeing what it's like to be a Jew, who knew Judaism, knew the Torah, and still chose not to practice it. I needed to know how that worked. As far as I was concerned at that point, although I didn't practice, I still thought i was wrong and that i would be punished. I had no experience knowing someone who celebrated jewish holidays but didn't care about turning lights on and off. I needed to understand the intricacies of how that worked. My mind would not accept these new behaviors as valid, safe ways to express Judism unless it understood the mental processes that went into making that decision. I needed to understand everything because so long as I didn't, I could not be sure about what path to take.

So, as with any Jewish related topic, i was curious to understand the details of Manny's decision to marry Anna Lee. What was he thinking? Did she convert properly Did he care? Most of all, I wanted to understand how did he resolve the fact that he himself was not a believer in the Torah from Sinai, but his wife was? How did that work? I knew for sure that his wife had converted for him. there was no doubt in my mind that she had zero interest in Judaism before she met him, and now, because of his wanting to have a "Jewish family" he had her go through Reform, Conservative, and then an Orthodox conversion. I wondered about that. Is that authentic? Is that the right thing to do?

Of course, the real reason why I was curious, was because if this path was for me, then I may as well, be faced with the opportunity to marry a non Jewish woman. I knew in my heart that, it would be a very difficult decision to make were the time to ever come and the only way I could get more comfortable with the idea and the possibility was by understanding what went into Manny's thought process when he made that decision to marry Suzanne.

Another thing I must add which added to the difficulty of the situation was the fact that, all my life we were taught (through silence) to keep silent. These attitudes had caused me much mental pain emotional suffering, because as I began the journey through the teen age years, the questions and the doubts and the fears had gotten to be too much to bear. When I had gotten to be twenty two years old, I went to a seminar which taught about being honest and straight forward. These teachers gave me the strength to begin sharing the piles, year, and multiple strata of lies, and hurts and pains that had been hidden deep down inside for so many years. I was deeply relieved when I realized that the sharing of these lies, and beliefs had brought great relief and it was that joy that made me resolve to do the best I could to share any hurt, fear or anger, immediately before it got to great to handle.

Meanwhile, this one question about Manny and his marriage, simmered inside like a boiling volcano. I felt like it was threatening to devour our whole friendship. On the one hand, I felt like being his friend, and his mentee, and part of his family was a great step toward success, and i felt myself wanting to hold on to that for dear life, and on the other hand, I felt that I could not respect him as a mentor for my purposes unless he was comfortable speaking about his decision to marry a non Jewish woman. First of all, that was the reason I was spending time with him, to understand the way he made peace with the Judaism of his past and the practice of his present, and Secondly, I needed a mentor who was comfortable speaking about every emotion, decision and experience, and if there was something that was too hurtful to speak of, how could he be my mentor?

I must be honest at this point and say, that, at that time, although I wasn't religious, I still felt, like a righteous prophet who stood for ultimate truth. I didn't care who a person was. If there was something they were doing, something about the way they were living that, I felt wasn't truthful or authentic, I felt like it was my mitzva to tell them. I hated lies or hypocrisy.

Finally there came a point one shabbos afternoon when the inner pressure got too great. I felt like I was hiding myself from him. I felt like I was hiding an important issue for the sake of his friendship. This feeling was sickening to me because that was precisely the way I had grown up. I had a feeling that the issue was a sensitive one for Manny but I knew there was no way around it at this point. I either had to bring it up, or leave. I couldn't stand the inner lie. I couldn't understand how a woman brought into Judaism by him, could be more committed to it than he was. I has also heard her make some comments that indicated that it really didn't mean much to her. He seemed to be living this life, where he could do, believe and think whatever he wanted, but at the same time, he needed to know that his family was Jewish, a regular traditional Jewish family.

To me this was hypocrisy. If you don't care about Judaism, and it means nothing to you, then who cares if you children are identified by the frum as Jewish?

I did bring my issue up to him. He was sad angry and hurt. "How do you eat her food?" he told me, as he escorted me out of his house. He didn't want me back there until this issue was resolved in me. I wrote him a long letter. He seemed to understand my point, but I have never had it in me to get to know him again. I felt like he was not being fair by expecting me to understand how he made peace with these issues. I still feel strongly that, although, he is an amazing person, he would need to be more honest with me about how he felt whole and peaceful with these contradictions in order for me to respect him as a role model for honesty.

I still regret deeply that my convictions have put me in a position to cause pain to such a dear man, and dear friend, but I could not and cannot see any other way.

That night, I had a deeply satisfying feeling that I had rarely felt before. I felt like I had done the right thing. I had lost my favorite friend and mentor but I had gain a renewed conviction inside, that being honest was possible, that it works and that all will be OK, if I continue sharing my truth.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The gift you gave

When I moved out to California, I was a broken man, a very sad boy who's only asset was confusion and lack of direction. I hadn't been taught anything that was necessary to be a man, and I had no idea what a man looked like. All I had were questions and fear.

The lucky thing was that I started meeting many people who were eager to help in all ways. They started filling in the missing pieces that had been shattered eighteen years prior. They didn't need to know what was needed because it said it all over my face. I needed everything. I needed to learn Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, History, Linguistics. I needed to know what happened to me, how did it happen, and whether it would happen again. I needed to know what religion I belonged to, and will I ever be able to make a decision about what is right and what is wrong. I needed to know how to make a decision. I needed to know how I could know if a girl liked me, and if she did, what would I do next. I had always wanted to learn how to play basket ball, and about how to make money and balance a check book. I wanted to learn about investing. How does one know what path to follow if one has never heard of the path, or if one is allowed to follow one. I needed to learn how to listen to what was going on inside me and that it was OK. That there actually was a voice inside, that, were I to let it talk again, were I to tell it that I would listen, it would begin telling me, in earnest, what it wanted. I needed to know how to dress and which colors went with which. I needed to know that my thoughts were OK, and that I could think. I had been so distant from my mind, that I didn't know anymore which thoughts were real, part of me and which thoughts were just wandering through really fast, because they all seemed that way.

One day, after I had begun performing for little kids, I decided that I wanted to get really good, so I decided to start speaking to people who were really good to see how I could get more popular and polish up my act. I met a woman named Rachel. She had been teaching and singing for about 40 years, and she was overflowing with love and laughter. I performed for her class one day, and since that time, I had begun to get to know her more and more. I had also been working in the restaurant at that time, and one day, after I hadn't seen her for a while she came in, and from that point and on, we started getting to know each other on a closer level. I felt like she was my mother. She was nice, healthy, talented, proud of her self and not nosy. She was just a healthy and mature adult and I really gained so much from knowing her. It filled some of that void, that yearning to have one good, healthy woman in my life.

One day, when she came into the restaurant, it was a little slow so I was able to sit down with her and chat. We started talking about her life, and she said, "Meir, I get a mazal Tov" I said why? She said "because I just got remarried" I said, what do you mean? I never knew that you weren't married, but I'm happy that you are married. She says "No, I just remarried my husband". "You see, six months ago, I divorced him, and now I just remarried him". Now to tell the truth, I was shocked out of my mind because, I read people pretty well. Many times,or most of the time,I can tell if they are having, or have had some kind of issue, especially something as life consuming as a marital issue, and her saying this caught me totally off guard, because I had known her for a while now, I and I didn't have any idea that anything was wrong.

I was curious to understand this, and she explained to me what had happened. Her husband came from a very orthodox (chassidishe) background, and simply never rebuilt his life. He never got a chance to actually learn a skill and make a living. He had tried several businesses and they all barely or never succeeded. After 40 years of being married, he was so ashamed of himself that he just walked out, and they got divorced, but she did love him dearly, but it was more his shame that made it impossible to be around his wife. He simply didn't accept himself and couldn't feel accepted by her. During this time, they went to therapy and he was able to come to a greater and deeper understanding, that his wife, Rachel really did love him for who he was although he hadn't been successful in becoming the bread winner of the family. He had been a good father and a kind and helpful husband and that was enough to keep her love.

I was so moved by the story. It taught me so much. Until that time, I had had the impression that once a person reached middle age, they had no problems. I was embarrassed to let my inside story be known to people of the mother, father uncle category.Now, I realized that nowhere in life, no age, is too late or early to have a crisis, a life changing moment, or a time to learn some very significant lessons.

I assumed that a man with this kind of shame and guilt inside couldn't have been a good father, so I inquired a little into what kind of father he was and she told me a little anecdote which I found very poignant, surprising and very inspiring. She said, that when they were in the hospital, after she had just given birth to their first child, the doctor noticed that her husband was not holding the baby. He was letting her do all the holding. The father grabbed the baby out of her hands and handed the baby to her husband Abe, saying loudly and commandingly "HOLD YOUR BABY". The doctor knew that a baby must be touched and held by its father in order to be a healthy adult. She explained that he husband came from a family where touch was not something comfortable, and so he stayed away from it, but after the Doctor gave his such a strong reprimanding, he held and touched all of his children, thereby facilitating them having a great father, even though that was not the kind of fathering that he had.

I was really touched by this story. It helped me understand that even the perfect adults around me, had struggled. We are all moving at our own speed towards the place that we imagine will be perfect.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The story of me and my guitar

Ever since i was a kid the guitar looked magical. My uncle plays the guitar, that memory may have stuck in my mind. Then came the yeshiva, and a lot of sadness, and new ideas that drowned out childhood wishes, new worries that destroyed innosense and introduced me to an adulthood that demolished all that was once part of the true me. There was once a child in there, who loved to wonder and think and question, and then came a moment when that couldn't be.

My mother played the guitar too once in a while. When all my moments of sadness became too much to bear, and the mask that I had glued to my face was torn off with part of my skin and soul that bound it so tight, my new, old feelings of who I truly am began to surface, one at a time and then in a flurry, a drizzle, a torrential wave that swept through me demanding, all at the same time that every old dream bear fruit, and that I carry out with my hands what my heart was born to do. The same old voices, would try again, to suffocate the child, just out of habit, not so much out of need, but he had learned a painful lesson and had promised the dreams, that he would now listen, and that there would never be a dream left unfulfilled, that now the heart would be allowed to rule and that the mind would be laid to rest, if that is ever possible.

When I arrived at the beach, I found an urgent calling to play the guitar. something in me told me that it would sooth my confused spirit. That was not entirely correct for it would take many years, of crying, and forgiving and reconfiguring my mind and purpose to finally find some semblance of peace, but never the less, the heart was correct that I needed to play the guitar and that there were certain sounds and expressions, a form of aliveness and fullness that could only be expressed, experienced once I lifted up the guitar and made it my own.

I hated the thought, firstly because I hated touching things. All touch would give me such tortured sensation, such intense sensation that I refrained from anything that had to do with touch. I barely ever played ball, I didn't shower well. I had spent so long in the world of the mind for that reason. Little did I know that my body yearned for touch, for a tactile connection to matter of this world. My relentless demand of the spirit and mind to give me all answers was the key to my torture, and what I needed most was to touch and to hold, to twist, to break, to bend, and form the things of this world.

That first day when I arrived at the beach, I met a man,a hippy man, with a long straggly beard, making the most beautiful sound coming out of his guitar. I knew that if I could make those sounds, I'd be happy. I told him that I'll pay him 20.00 dollars for his guitar. He said sure. Turns out that the guitar was not worth anything to me, because I couldn't make any nice sounds come out of it. It was a sad, and cheap guitar that could only be tickled by a professional that knew it's funny points.

I must admit that those early days of practicing were quite sorrowful and joyful all at the same time. I hated, the time, that I knew it would take for me to make any decent sound out of the guitar. I was a slow learner. My hands were really lazy. They had no idea, or didn't want to know that I was having a relationship with a guitar. It took them a long time to know that I was actually, holding, fingering, the hairs of a beautiful guitar. It took even longer for theme to actually know where and when to put my fingers at the right place. Am Dm, over and over again, sometimes a thousand or two thousand chord switches in one sitting, until, slowly, very slowly, my hands got into the rhythm of what was happening.

One day, while at the local college, I heard that there was a shabbaton, being held at University of Santa Barbara. Girls were going,so I was excited and I went. It was really great. I must admit, that those were quite painful days because I was still so uncomfortable with my peers, both guys and girls that I really didn't feel like their friend. I still had so much to learn about my skills, my wants, my body, and how to learn what I don't know. I remember the car ride there. I remember many moments of feeling not part of anything, but there was one moment that shines out as a turning point in my feelings towards my Judaism.

I hated everything about Judaism and cursed my confusion about it, which made me not fit into anything Jewish and non Jewish because i was so full of hate for what I was that there was no energy left for who I would like to be. Still, everyone was going to shul. there was Orthodox, Reform and conservative. I took a great leap of faith. I went to the conservative kabbalat shabbat. I had a moment there that changed many feelings I had about Judaism, supplied more questions than answered but also instilled in my heart a love for Jewish music.

Until that point, I was so full of hate and disgust and confusion that there was no way in hell that my mind could even conceive having any relationship with Judaism. All it was, for me was a pile of laws that I had to do, that there was no way to get away from, and that were impossible to keep. All it was was a pile of expectations which assure the doom, of any form of, joy originality, creativity or individualism. I surely didn't see my place in it, and frankly, I really thought that I would die, a hateful person, who never resolved these issue, and I would go to my death hating, having not fulfilled my true purpose which was the constant study of Torah. I knew there was no redemption for me, and there was no chance that I would ever have any kind of relationship with Judaism since I hated it so much.

Looking back, it wasn't Judaism I hated, it was me, the part of me that had chosen not to sing, not to express, touch reach out, and shout all the song and dream and want that I had in me. As Josh got up and played his niggun for Lcha Dodi, something changed. Of course, I had never seen lcha dodi played with a guitar, and the niggun was so beautiful and refreshing. It was different. It danced, it rang. It didn't sound like one of those niggunim that you would sing when you were watched your grandfather being dragged by his beard through the shtetle square. It had a whole new bounce to it. I was touched and told myself that, that was my new mission. I wanted to be a prayer leader. I wanted to sing Jewish songs in synagogues.

This vision, filled my heart with Joy. It was the beginning of molding a new relationship with Judaism. I had a new channel for all those ideas and identities that I had been taught. I had always seen myself as a teacher, and I had always been one, and ever since, I fell out of the sky , I had zero relationship with all those years of study, and no way to understand their purpose, and if they had any. Now, I would begin to see my Judaism as an opportunity to teach the spirit of my past through the music of my present.

I must admit that there were some very painful times with regard to my music. I had tens of niggunim that poured through my mind, that I loved because they were me but I hated because they came to words that I no longer felt close to and despised. I didn't know what to make of it. At times, I hated playing my own niggunim, and at times, i would try to compose a niggun that was more in line with the more modern tunes that I was now listening to. That never worked. A niggun seemed to have a mind of it's own and came, on it's schedule and how it wanted to come. Often, it was a loved and hated niggun, until one day in about seven years ago. A Thursday morning when I thought of a niggun to pitchu li, and I really have the most awesome wholesome feeling about it. Then, that shabbos morning, I thought of a niggun to mizmor lidavid. I must say, that niggun was a changing moment. It was a pure niggun, similar to the kinds I grew up with, yes, a little mournful, but I didn't hate it. I felt united with it. I felt like it was part of me and I was part of it. It was my niggun. I knew with that niggun that I had reached a new and fresh level of forgiveness of my past. I didn't need to hate it as much as I usually did. Somehow despite my lack of practice, I still felt Jewish enough, and happy enough, to compose this niggun and make it my own. I was delighted. I must admit this was one of the best moments of my life, because it connected me with a very dear and rich past that I loved so much. I never wanted to be free of Judaism. i wanted to be free of the constant hate, and fear, and guilt. Home. For this moment, i was home. A little taste of what was with a truck load of who I really was and the me that I was coming to love more and more each day.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My first sexual experience (27 years old)

I had been at the house for a while now. I had my little life. It was the first time that I was truly on my own. I was exhausted and tired and confused. I had come to LA for companionship. I had come because I wanted sex, and now I was really angry. Where was my sex? Why hadn't I had sex yet? There were all these woman running around but I didn't seem to know how to get any. Was I awkward? Was there something wrong with me? I felt that there was. For some reason, I simply didn't see myself having sex. I wanted it, but there was something missing in the human connection department. I wanted pleasure, but I don't think that my mind saw it as a means to connect with other people. I was scared, and tired, and hiding deep inside, and I yearned most to know me. That was my true desire. I couldn't honestly say that I wanted to get to know another person.

There came this one Saturday night, and I had had it. I just needed to get out of my mind, and out of my house. I thought about the whole city and thought to myself, "there has got to be someone in this city that I could hang out with". In my mind, I was thinking sex.I decided to park my car, and head to Ocean Avenue. There were some bars, and people walking around, I figured, if anything was going to happen, that would be a good place to start.

I walked into a drum shop. I had never done this before. It must have been about 8:00 at night and I started drumming on one of the drums. I was semi enjoying myself but looking back, I can tell that, inside, I was dying to have sex, or some kind of close connection with another person. I wanted to know that I was human. I needed to know that I was whole, that I was human , that I could get close to another person. I was aching to know that my body could be touched by another and have another touch it.

As my luck would have it. In came JC. he was a man I had met a couple years earlier. H was good looking and in the gym, he had once given me a very warm hug. I did not know it at the time, of the hug, but looking back, it was probably the kind of hug a gay man gives to another person he is interested in. I knew nothing of hugs, and gayness. I just knew that I really appreciated that hug. I remember it felt so good to be held that close. I needed it and I remembered it, but at the time, I knew nothing of what a person might do with a hug or where it could lead. I just knew that it felt good.

He and his definitely gay friend Patrick, had come into the store together. Somehow we all got to talking. I was excited by the conversation and had no idea where it may lead. I just knew that I had been distant from any kind of friendship that felt close and warm. I simply never had it and so I had no idea what I was missing. I had come to LA, and looking back, I had spent most of my energy just trying to survive, and make sense of the disaster that I had just been through. I knew that I was living in a beautiful place with all kinds of strange weird and different people. I knew that somehow, I fit in because I felt more relaxed being myself, but I surely did not know enough about myself to venture out and have a friend. Now, I was chatting with these two fellows and they invited me back to their home. That was exciting since, I don't think I had ever been invited anywhere (except for a shabbos meal or something.............or a bris, but then again, you're not supposed to be invited so does it count?)

As soon as I walked into their house, I had a really good feeling about being there. There where delicious tantalizing smells of oils and incense. The living room was a spacious and cozy area where people just did whatever, no furniture just lying down and relaxing kinds of spaces. Patrick was a masseuse. I didn't even know what that was at that time. I didn't even know that people were paid to massage other people's bodies. I surely didn't know that they were paid to do his kind of massage, which included a very unique event.

My head had been, was (and still is sometimes) in the clouds and then, it would take ropes of iron to bring it down to this planet and teach it some things about the way this world worked and didn't. I noticed that there was a lot of touch going on. As people just sat chatting and watching TV, they would touch each other, just gentle petting and soothing. I was amazed that this was considered normal. It seemed so natural to them. I felt so awkward and yet, I yearned for what they had. Why couldn't I do this too? I yearned to feel that comfortable with my body. It seemed like such a natural and real experience and right to be able and feel comfortable touching another's body. After all, I had hands and legs and I wanted to use them. Somehow, I knew intuitively that there was so much that could be told and shared through simple touch. I wanted to have that too, but somehow I knew that that destiny was not mine. I didn't know why and I wondered how it could be this way, but I knew that my body was not meant to touch and be touched. I had never had that experience and the distance made the possibility and impossibility. I had been so far from the world of touch that my mind, body, did not really know that it existed, but yearned for it with every fiber, somehow knowing that it was lacking something so raw and essential to being human.

The night was winding down, and everyone seemed to gravitate towards their cuddle positions, or buddied, but I surely did not feel confident enough in my body to do that. I so much wanted to be one of those people who could relate, connect to another human being on that level. My soul was crying inside, because I knew that it had promised a long time ago that it would never want touch or yearn for it. I knew that somehow, that world did not belong to me. My hands were tied and my heart was crying.

Turns out JC decided to stay and sleep down stairs and he invited me to cuddle with him. His personality was such that I felt comfortable being near him. He had so much peace and acceptance of his body that even I was able to feel slightly more at ease near him. It felt so good to be near him. I had never been next to another person before. He was also strong and good looking and it felt nice to be that close to anyone. In my inclination, I had always thought about women, but when it came down to the moment, of possibility of being touched, nothing of that sort and inclination meant anything to me. I was happy with what I was having.

He and I began touching each other. He began touching my body, my chest, my arms and eventually my genitals. i was getting so excited. I had never had this in my whole life. I was 27 I had never masturbated. I didn't know it was possible. I had only thoughts, about women, and about being touched and touching in return. I touched his chest. I touched his face, but I must be honest I felt really weird about this. At the same time, it felt great because I was touching skin, and the skin responded accordingly. I was learning about my arms, and my chest and legs and penis in ways that I had never known. I had been so much in my brain, my mind, the debate and challenge, that I had forgotten that there were far more essential ways to interact with life, with others, with bodies, with minds and hearts. Like a man who had had his limbs cut off, I had had my heart removed so long ago that it had forgotten how to behold another. I was now remembering some very vital parts of myself and it hurt and it sang because there was a longing that had known in the deepest ways what it had wanted and a memory that always knew what should be but so many mind barriers that refused to let the natural take place.

Now, as we touched my body began getting heated up. I felt my penis become hard and I had never felt that happen in this way. In the past, in gemara days, it was hard in a tangential way, an accidental, unwanted way, where I needed to try to hope and pretend that my body was not trying to drag me out of the sacred walls of the yeshiva. Now, at this very different moment with JC, I was still aware of my disposition towards my body, viewing it as an evil distraction from all that is important, but now I was more aware than ever of how much pleasure there was to be had. I was actually getting happy and excited. I felt blood rushing through my veins, and my arms moved with increasing wildness, aiming for something that I did not know. They seemed to want something and that itself was precious because I didn't remember ever wanting something so badly. Wanting meant that I was alive and I hadn't felt that alive ever since I could remember (except for that one time when I couldn't find the answer to R Akiva Eigers kasha).

Finally there came that crucial moment. I felt like I was going to cum. I had no idea what that meant, I just knew that I felt like I was about to explode and that I had no choice about it. I hated and loved the feeling of having absolutely no choice, it was as if for the first time in my life, another power was guiding me instead of my erratic brain. I always hated being out of control, but for this moment, I seemed to relish the distraction from the constant debate of right and wrong and how to make everything perfect.

I had to think fast. what am I supposed to do . My body told me that I am now supposed to put my penis into his butt, but I wasn't sure that I wanted to do that. The artist in me said, "why not?" but, then again, I had always known myself as having an inclination towards women. I had never in my life imagined or wanted or thought about touching a man. I also had no protection and got really nervous about catching something. I was smart enough to know that if he was doing this with me, he was doing this with anyone. Wouldn't it be a shame if I caught something on my first time around. How do I trust him? I was also nervous about his expectations. I knew so little about the world of sex that I had no idea, why he was doing this with me. what was he getting out of it? was how it went good for him. The truth is, I hate to admit this, I really didn't care. I was so distant from what it was like to have meaningful sex, and to care about another person as an equal that I simply didn't think about his being satisfied. I simply wanted to have my childhood wished met. Looking back, at that young and emotionally immature age of 28, I still had no idea what mean to think about another. All I thought about was me. The child, the young boy in me wanted to be comforted and held, and in reality, my interaction with JC had very little to do with sex, and much more to do with a small, young child who still wanted to be held. I can't imagine, and don't want to imagine his experience of the interaction because I had no intention or desire here to give him any pleasure. It was all about me, with not one neuron devoted to anyone else.

Finally, my body made up my mind for me. It was just way too hard, and way too excited. I just came all over him. All the excitement vanished in just one second. I had never experienced that, one moment the most powerful force coursing through me and the next moment, it was gone. How did that happen? Two diametrically opposed experiences coming together as one, and how did that happen. I had never masturbated before and I had not known anything about how the penis responds when it was touched but now I knew that I had a lot to learn and that it could give me a whole lot of pleasure.

He and I went to sleep near each other. I woke up in the morning. I had this notion that I will never forget " I believe in God" I was shocked at that notion since I knew that I was sinning by letting my body spit out its semen. That couldn't have been good I knew. I had just indulged in the pleasure of the flesh. I still had this immense feeling of joy. I had recalled, my body, mind seemed to remember all the fear and anger that I had over not being able to have sex. somehow, in yeshiva, and in the process of getting to know myself, I realized that I wouldn't be having sex any time soon. I knew that marriage was the only way and somehow, I knew that I would not be getting married any time soon. this got me so angry. I was furious at God, for putting me in this predicament where my body begged for sex, thought about sex, yearned for sex, but couldn't have it. How could you do this to me? How can these two realities exist, the electric attack going on in my body and the divine truth of the Torah. These two forces had pulled at my conscience for so long, making any kind of allegiance irritable, and insecure.

Now, for the first time, I felt unity. My body had been fed. It had received some of what it had always yearned for, to know what it's like to touch and be touched, to heat its kettle and let the steam fly where it will land. something human and real about that moment.

I had heard that the world is very interested in sex, and in yeshiva, I wasn't why, but now I was hooked. I knew that it was really important to get some. Now, I wanted it with a woman. JC and I spent one more evening together at a later point. He gestured, pushing my head towards his penis. I had never heard of anyone do that to another human being. It seemed disgusting to me. I surely didn't want to do that to a man. I realized at that moment that that is what would give him pleasure and I simply could not to that for him. I felt bad, since he had given me so much pleasure. At that moment I learned that sex was not just about me and that If I wanted to participate in these kinds of recreations, I'd need to know how to give pleasure as well. I didn't realize, that at least for me, since I had no male attraction, it would be useless attempting to get myself to give him pleasure.

Now I needed to find a woman, who would be willing to do the same thing with me. It was a nice safe start but that would not to it in the long run.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homeless in LA

I can't say that I had given much thought to life. It only got my attention when things got real bad. They had been wanting to knock down our building for a while now. I had been living with Gavi for two years. He had been my guide through some very rough times and although, I had been paying him rent, it had been my assumption that he would make sure I had a place to live if push came to shove. Well, now things had been pushing us out the door. The landlord was serious. Gavi, decided to move out. His new place had no room for me. I was devastated. I didn't have the kind of money to rent my own place. I just didn't care about anything anymore. I didn't have the job as the Rebbe. I was working at a restaurant. So many things had fallen apart so fast, that I didn't have the time, to think about who I was and what i was going to do now, so I just let things be. For a while, as they took our building apart, I still went back at night to sleep there. The shower was still working, and my phone was still connected. (I had no cell) sometimes other (homeless) people would share the space with me. I'd come back at night and see that someone else was there. Once I came to the bathroom and saw that someone had taken a huge dump in the toilet. Yes, a little weird, but such was life. Then the walls of the building came down. Only the wooden frame remained. I still slept there. Where else would I go. I took my sleeping bag, and a piece of metal, to keep next to my bed, just in case I'd get an unwelcomed visitor. I didn't know it back then, but looking back, there was something about me that actually liked the wandering life. Freedom and subjection to the natural course, rhythm of every day, not knowing what the next day would bring.

Then the building was gone,great big open field, into my Acura I went. that was my new home. Was far less comfortable than when I slept in my toyota. Acuras were not meant to sleep in. MY Toyota back seat went back to form a comfortable expansive bed, as it joined with the large open trunk area. The accura had nothing. The front seat barely went back. I had to sleep in it, in a contorted position, dumping part of my body into the backseat area, buffering the lacking spaces with pillows and other mechanisms. It was really uncomfortable.Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was an adventure as you can imagine, and taking cold showers at the beach at night kept me clean.

When I'd go somewhere for shabbos, that was the moment when I had some peace, that feeling of belonging. Inside I wished to be my own person,have my own place, be my own person. I simply didn't know how. I was working and going to school and I simply didn't know how to get the house thing together, and didn't have the motivation. It was all backwards. One day, i went to this place where they were giving out food, and this dude, who's girlfriend had just ran away with his car and walet (you can imagine how sober he was) told me that there was someone on the beach who was renting out spots in a house for cheap. Sounded affordable. I heard there were women. I was in.

Perfect timing. The rains had been coming and it was getting cold. I had been yearing for some warmth. I walked into the house and it was quite an experience. Honesty I had never lived, and been in such close quarters with so many non Jews and such a diverse crowd. Some came from England, Taiwan, Mexico, on drugs, off drugs (even thought at the time I didn't quit know about drugs) long hair, mustaches, stupid people, smart people. The weirdest people, not to exclude myself from the colorful. I can't say that I felt at home, but at least it was warm, and for now this would be home.

I will never forget that first night. I waited on line for the bathroom (so that I could take a shower) It had been so long since i was in a normal bathroom. I was so excited. The floors of the hall had nice thick carpeting. The house had about 20 to 25 people. Even my house when I was young didn't have such thick carpeting. This was a real house, and had a really good feeling about it. I hadn't had this in quite a while. The bathroom, when I finally got in, was also quite impressionable, surrounded by gorgeous white tiling and mirrors. It was exquisite. Then came the best part. The shower. I reveled in the glorious feeling of the hot water pouring all over my body. I was so alive at that moment. I hadn't had a hot shower in a long time. I had been taking showers in the dark, at night, on the beach, with sand under my feet. Now, i was in a bright, clean bathroom, and had an infinite amount of hot water pouring down on me. could life get any better?