Sometimes I feel like I'm not smart enough for books. And music- really good music.
Music and books have a deep voice and I try to treat them with the same respect I give to snakes and the ocean and my Grandma's homemade chicken noodle soup:
Not always. Not nearly as often as we'd all like. Or maybe we don't (I don't) notice often enough. But music and books.
When I want to write, when I want to feel, when I want to lose myself and find myself and pretend to understand the world and yell and meditate, I put on Kendrick and The Who and Lorde and Chance the Rapper and Odesza and LCD Soundsystem and Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Beyonce.
My Uncle Louis lived with us while I was growing up and we'd watch Blues Brothers together and sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T (Aretha Franklin) and dance around to Jailhouse Rock (John Belushi covering Elvis Presley). He bought me voice lessons. He's my Dad's twin. They both cried at my first recital when I sang some ridiculous show tune. My Uncle Marc came to visit and I sang Slow Boat to China in the style of Ella Fitzgerald and all three glowed and listened and teared up and when we got ice cream afterwards, I don't think I've ever felt more loved.
My Uncle Louis showed me musicals and Barbra Streisand. He let me sing with his band in bars and let me sing at his wedding and taught me the depth of music and how music really sounds if you listen closely, taught me that the Bass Player gets no credit, taught me that long days at the record shop beat pretty much anything else.
When I was growing up, my Dad would quiz me on music in the car. We'd be driving around, maybe going to the bank, getting donuts from Albertsons, and a song by The Clash would come on and he'd say:
"Yetta, who is this? You know this. Crucial band of the 70's. This is important!"
"No not the Sex Pistols, totally different sound. We listened to them the other day. From the UK. Very unique sound. Come on Yetta."
My Dad, when he visits me in Portland, will pick up the local paper and say:
"OMG (paraphrase), I didn't know _________ (please fill in cool, random band here) was coming! Are you going to get tickets?! I'll pay for your ticket. You should really go."
"Dad I don't even know who that is"
"WHAT?! And you call yourself a hipster, you say you have good taste in music."
Just to clarify, I've never called myself a hipster.
And my Father does love me
despite my less than acceptable knowledge of new bands on the horizon.
My Father is the original hipster.
When he met my mom and they started hanging out and falling in love, he silently went through her record collection- a right of passage to his heart.
My Dad taught me music. The importance of it. To sing when I'm lost and scared. To turn on Billy Bragg when I want to start a revolution and Billie Holiday when I want to fall in love.
He didn't teach me how to dance- that was my mom
and she didn't teach me how to dance well (that was college).
But he taught me to feel music and good dancing comes from feeling.
My Dad taught me music as an escape and as a statement. He taught me jazz and made me think about where it came from. He'd play the guitar during sleepy Saturdays and my Mom would garden and I'd play music out of my boom box from my window and sing along with Avril Lavigne and day dream about a famous record label owner hearing my 10 year old voice and telling me I was the next big thing.
I'm sitting on a train and watching Andria drink an Americano.
It's Passover and I'm on a train and I'm going to Auschwitz. I'm sitting on a train and Andria is drinking an Americano and I'm drinking a Cappucino. I'm simultaneously watching Andria struggle with Monday's NYT crossword puzzle:
"What starts with a B and end with an N and in another word for schedule?"
and looking out the window into Beautiful, Fairytale-Land Poland.
Yesterday, I took a bus from Berlin to Krakow. My mind spiraled, as my mind always does.
As most minds always do.
I thought about how 75 years ago, no young (half) Jewish girl would've flown from Israel to Germany and hopped on a bus from Germany to Poland.
I looked into the forest with tall pines that only have green near the top, touching the light blue sky littered with clouds and I thought about how many people ran away into those forests.
I thought about how many people died in those forests and how many people slept in those forests and decided to return back to Hell On Earth
because those forests didn't equate to survival or freedom.
I thought about Israel and how angry that little country makes me. I also thought about how, 75 years ago, it was built on many justifications- one of which was said Hell On Earth.
I thought about how I'm choosing to go back to that Hell-
to walk through it, smell it, to feel the dense air of death.
To try and understand this notion of pure inhuman cruelty that didn't manifest in one human but within many humans collectively?
To try and understand this tiny country I call me
"home in limbo" and
"my homeland" and
"my promised land" and
"a nation occupying too much space" and
"a country existing within another country"?
I'm sitting in a train car on my way to Auschwitz.
A train car.
By my choice, a train car.
The symbolism and metaphoric possibility and deep meaning of life does not escape me.
I just don't know what it means.
I've gotten used to not knowing.
The feeling of uncertainty feels like home.
It's safe and comfortable.
The finding of answers is the scary part.
Uncertainty, indecision, it's all a justification for the perpetual misunderstanding, the perpetual violence, the struggle for power.
The "I Don't Know" breads the "I'll do what my Torah, my Bible, my Quran, my Communist Manifesto, Beyonce, tells me to do".
Facing the "I Don't Know" alone feels impossible.
Maybe it is.
I don't know.
Maybe Auschwitz gives me hope. 75 years ago,
this journey from Israel to Germany to Poland didn't exist.
And a wall in the middle of a city, did.
A city that, now, does not sleep and is covered in art and beer and young, radical people.
The symbolism and metaphoric possibility and deep meaning of life does not escape me!
I just don't know what it means.
I'm sitting across from Andria in a train car on my way to Auschwitz
looking into Beautiful Green Poland
drinking a cappucino.
I know this will hurt but I know it's important.
I am not a martyr. I am not stoic or any stronger than the next person.
I'm just trying to piece this story together because (big shocker) I DON'T KNOW who is right.
If anyone even is 'right'.
I thrive in the 'I don't know'.
But I will not sit here forever.
There are answers.
And I think we have to keep telling stories to start figuring out some of those answers.
Old stories, like the story of Auschwitz.
And New stories, like the story of Israeli settlements.
They don't coexist. They are not separate but equal.
They directly effect one another- we use these stories to justify action; to justify violence.
These stories create interpretations, wrong or right.
Understood or completely mistaken.
I will not face these heavy, dark, terrifyingly real answers alone.
I can sit forever in confusion.
But I won't.
I will surround myself with book and stories.
I will surround myself with Hella Music like Mac Dre and The Black Keys and Elliot Smith and Alt J and Sylvan Esso and The Head & the Heart.
I will sing when I'm lost and scared. I will dance when I need to celebrate and
I won't always understand these answers but I will try.
I will surround myself with people, who like the answers I like and like the music I like and
with people who challenge what I believe in and who challenge my "right way"
and who challenge my love for Beyonce
and who show me new music and new answers and
teach me new songs and ask me more questions.
I am not alone.
I am here.
With Andria. Drinking a cappucino. On my way to Auschwitz.
It's Passover and tonight, I'm going to an Orthodox Seder,
to celebrate in an old synagogue a group of people that almost went extinct.
I am writing and I have my headphones in with the volume up to a level that would disappoint
I am alive.
I am not 10 years old playing music on Saturdays. I'm not getting donuts today.
I'm sitting in a train car.
And I miss my Dad and I wish he was here to introduce to a band I didn't know about or a band I do know but don't understand because sometimes the wittiness of music and books and people escape me. I miss my Dad and I wish he was here to tell me about humans and why they are so cruel and so kind, and give me a history lesson that would explain everything I'm trying to understand and give me a few answers and a few more questions.
And I don't miss home because traveling is the best. Because if I listen to Elvis Costello or Los Lobos or Pearl Jam or Warren Zevon or Bootsy Collins or Earth, Wind & Fire, I can feel my Dad sitting next to me. I can feel answers bubbling beneath an old, bendable, breakable, surface. I can feel answers waiting to be found, like it's their purpose in life- like it's my purpose in life.
I can feel.
This was written on multiple days, coming directly from my journal writings in Poland while listening to Pure Heroine by Lorde and directly from my bed in Israel while listening to Untitled Unmastered by Kendrick Lamar.