Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and meaningful Shabbat.
When visiting a Jewish grave, it is our custom, not to leave flowers—a sign of life—but to place stones or pebbles on the headstone. The rocks suggest the power of memory, as solid as stone. Further, one of G-d’s names is, “The Rock of Israel.” Thus the rock is a reminder of His presence, whose love is stronger than death.
Karen and I always take smooth, black, river-stones to our son Ariel’s grave. The stones are readily available, they sit decoratively in the courtyard fountain and as pavers in the driveway.
They are, for stones, lovely.
The other day, I took five stones and placed them on the floor of my office. I stared at the stones for a while. Then I took a stick of blue pastel and inscribed a line down each stone.
I put the stones back on the floor and just left them there.
Karen stepped into the office for a short visit:
“What are those?”
“The blue line, you did that right?”
I shrugged. “Dunno. I was bored.”
But a few minutes later I understood the stones, understood the blue line.
Karen and I could not attend the funeral of those Jews massacred by Palestinian terrorists. We cannot leave a stone at their graves.
These five stones are the best we can do for Yitzchak & Talia Imas and their unborn child, Avishai Shindler, and Kokhava Even-Chaim.
The blue line references the Israeli flag.
May God comfort you [the families] among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and peaceful Shabbat.
Ma’ayan Ariel, happy, two-years old, has been with us in Los Angeles for just a few days but she’s already made herself at home. She bops around from activity to activity and keeps up a steady stream of bright chatter.
Meanwhile, there is but one victim of human rights violations in Gaza. Michael Oren details the horror.
Karen and I and Ma’ayan Ariel wish all our friends and relatives a meaningful and joyous Shabbat.
So, for the first time in I don’t know how long—trust me, it’s a lot of years—Karen and I are not paying tuition to a yeshiva grade school, high school, Israeli seminary, or college. Sigh of relief? Sure. But you know what, if you value Judaism and Torah you cannot afford not to send your children to yeshiva. Without Torah Judaism, there are just a bunch of Jews-in-name-only who are cah-lueless, Tinok shenishba. Thus, Offspring #3’s graduation from Yeshiva University Stern College for Women was a joyous occasion, the culmination of a superior Orthodox Jewish education.
Delivering the commencement address at the graduation was Israel’s Ambassador to America, soldier scholar Michael Oren. He received a standing ovation. Yeshiva University is the antidote to Brandeis, home to oberkapos-in-training. After the ceremonies, we headed uptown to a fine kosher Italian restaurant, Noidue. Scores of families from the graduation had the exact same idea so there was quite a wait for a table. Ma’ayan amused herself by climbing up and down the restaurant steps.
The wait for a table was worth it. The service was prompt and courteous, the food delicious, and the presentation was just like you see on the Food Network. The coffee was as good as it looks. There is a picture of Ma’ayan with pesto sauce painting her face like a Jackson Pollock. But if I publish it she will, in a few years, be pretty annoyed with me for violating her dignity. It’s really soooo cute, but, well, you know…
The obligatory footwear shot. Karen recently bought these adorable faux blue leopard print flats. They’re kicky and fun, yet work nicely as casual dress-up. She paired them with a black Zac Posen pencil skirt constructed from waves of soft, wedding cake ruching. Oh man, New York women are so fashionable. I noticed handbags galore, the accessory of the moment. Look, pay what you want for your bag, but be aware, the designer handbag that cost you the earth was made on an assembly line in China. As far as I know, only Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton have their own workshops employing skilled craftsmen.
After lunch, we strolled along Broadway. Karen sighed, recalling that we reconnected on the Upper West Side.
“This is where Daddy courted me,” she told Offspring #2.
Offspring #2 giggled: “Courted?”
Karen and Ma’ayan stopped at a newsstand. Karen bought The New York Post. Feh to the New York Times, Pravda on the Hudson. Ma’ayan eyed some colorful candies. Was it my imagination, or did everyone in the street smile at Ma’ayan Ariel?
Once again, mazal tov to Offspring #3, who graduated with Honors. We are proud of you and we love you.
Karen and I wish all or friends and relatives a lovely and meaningful Shabbat.
If you own a home you know that life revolves around maintenance.
Every single month something goes blooey, something that needs immediate attention or life will devolve to prehistoric conditions.
Casa Avrech was built in 1929, just when Hollywood was making the transition from silent to sound movies and the year the American economy crashed. The architectural style is Spanish Mediterranean. Over the years, the various owners—including yours truly—have built additions, hacked away at walls, remodeled the kitchen, and installed new heating and AC.
Several years ago we hired a landscape architect to beautify the courtyard, a concrete horror. Along with saltillo tile and various plants, our hugely gifted architect, Derrik Eichelberger, designed a beautiful trellis. Unfortunately, the original contractor used inferior wood. After a few years the wood started to rot. Recently, we tore it down and rebuilt the trellis from the original plans. But this time we used high quality redwood.
Our talented carpenters, Saul and his crew, strung guide strings from wall to wall, in order to make sure that they were correctly following the drawings. After I okay’d the layout, the guys constructed the framework. I loved watching them work, loved the precision of the whirring wood saw and the non-stop banter, in Spanish, of which I understood not a word.
After building the basic frame, the carpenters cut and installed dozens of thinner slats which occupy four triangles that radiate from the central square. It’s an elegant, modern design that harmonizes effortlessly with the original Spanish style.
Saul and his crew plugged in a totally retro radio and BUH-LASTED non-stop Mexican music. I have to admit, every song sounded exactly the same, discordant guitar jangles mixed with horns and vocals that were, as Randy on American Idol says: “Really pitchy, dawg.”
Ibuprofen was my friend during the two days of construction.
Finally, I got curious and asked one of the guys what the songs were about.
“They sing about bad women, good tequila, and our Lord Jesus Christos.”
I was like: “All in the same song?”
I wish I was one of those men who owns lots of power tools. I’d love to wear a tool belt. Alas, I just construct stories. But I really admire people who build actual stuff. Hey, did you know that hammers are so yesterday? The guys had this huge nail gun that went WHAP! They wore it on their belts like swaggering gunslingers.
A view of the completed trellis. Saul and his crew took such pride in the job that they asked me to send pictures so they could show it to their wives.
Now, I take frequent breaks—anything not to write—sit in the courtyard and think about what next has to be done around the house.
At the end of the job, the ground was littered with wood remnants, all cut on an angle. I stared at a heap of pieces for a few minutes and whoosh, they sort of assembled themselves in my head. I laid them out on the ground and asked one of the carpenters if he could put them together for me.
He was like: “What for, amigo?”
I told him it was art.
“Art, you know, like… art.”
He said something in Spanish to the other guys. They all broke into hysterical laughter. But after the laughter faded, they obliged me. The nail gun went Whap! Whap! Whap! like a Browning automatic.
Later, I proudly showed my creation to Karen .
Said Karen: “Oh, how nice. We can make it into a tray.”
I was like: “Are you kidding, this is a work of art, a sculpture.”
Graciously, my wise wife decided to humor me.
Karen and I wish all our friends and relatives a lovely and peaceful Shabbat.