Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
A few years back I got a phone call from my friend Freddy who I’ve know since we were kids growing up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood. He told me that he was going to convert to Catholicism. I wasn’t all that surprised by this announcement, as Freddy was to me anyway a practicing Catholic. Every Sunday no matter what or where he would find a church to go to. He loved the small church near the house in Queens he shared with his live in girlfriend Clara and would even sometimes go to Mass during the week. Now and then the two of us would take weekend car trips around the East Coast, Connecticut here New Hampshire there so I could go book buying. On sunny but chilly Sunday mornings in the fall I would wake up (usually on the floor as the cheap soft mattresses that the cheap soft motels used would give me terrible back aches, and the floor was my only relief) to find Freddy gone, already at some church. “Well I’m not surprised” I told Freddy but I wish that you could have found a more all embracing religion to convert to”. “Oh and what religion would that be?” he asked. How should I know, I’m the least religious or spiritual person you know, but the Quakers or shakers might have been nice.” “And tell me how is your mother taking this new bit of news? “Well you know how my mother is, she’s in total self denial.” “She told me that since I was bar mitzvah then I’m Jewish and will always be Jewish.” “Interesting” I said. “ Then by her way of thinking I’m not Jewish because I wasn’t Bar mitzvahed.” He chuckled. “And dear Clara how is she dealing with this?” “Not so good.” Freddy said. Clara was an observant Jew on the high holidays when she would go to Synagogue, sit upstairs in the balcony that separated the women from the men until she got bored then make a fast exit. She had a separate set of kosher dishes that sat unused in one of her kitchen cabinets, and pictures around the house of her son in his Bar Mitzvah suit with Clara and her ex husband on either side of him, and that was as far as I could tell the extent of her Judaism. Personally I could care less about Freddy’s conversion but I would needle him about how horrible the pope was, and how awful the Catholic Church was with regards to most of the social issues that we both cared about. “How can you support a church that hates me and your sister because we’re gay? “Well” he would reply in his sage like tone, “there are many of us in the church who are working to change things from within and you know how I feel about the pope.” That was always his pat answer, and I would not push it any further, because Freddy was the most spiritual person I knew and was sincere in his beliefs. He was once married to a Catholic and had raised his now grown son Noah as a Catholic so maybe all that stuff had rubbed off on him. Clara on the other hand was aghast. She even called me up one night when Freddy was at church taking classes in I guess how to be a good Catholic. “How could he do this to me.” She wailed. “Well he’s not really doing this to hurt you Clara; this is what he believes in.” “But he’s Jewish”. “Not for long Clara, and besides he’ll still celebrate Passover and Hanukkah with you and yours, so what’s the problem?” “The problem is that I am living with a goy, and that’s not how it started out. When he moved in with me he was Jewish and now he’s becoming a Catholic.” “Well it could be worse,” I said. “Yeah like how. Well he could have become a Muslim, or a born again Christian or a Christian Scientist now they are scary or a scientologist or.” Enough Ira Joel I get your point.” “Clara he’s still the same person, he’s still going to love you Isn’t he?” “Well yes I guess so, but how will I explain this to my mother, my friends how how how?” ”It’s none of their business Clara”. “Well I guess maybe you’re right, but I don’t know, it just seems so strange to me, one minute a Jew and then the next minute a Catholic. Where did he get this idea from?” “Listen dear, its not an idea, it’s his spiritual center, his calling, and besides I don’t even think of him as anything anyway, and maybe you should do the same don’t think of him as anything.” “What are you saying, I shouldn’t think of him as anything, what the hell does that mean?” “No I mean don’t think of him as either Jew or Catholic, he’s still just Freddy. “ “I have to go” she said, “I need to lie down or eat something, this is killing me. Good bye.” I never told Freddy about Clara’s call, and the months went by and soon Freddy was all set to turn into a Catholic. He didn’t ask me if I would come to the church for his communion or conversion or whatever it’s called, but I told him that I would love to come if he wanted me there for support. I could spend the night since Queens was so far away from Manhattan where I lived at the time. “Really you want to come?” “Sure, I’ll keep Clara company and besides it’ll be fun.” I don’t know what I was thinking or expecting a pizza party with the priest, a dance, a costume party, a rave. On the Saturday of his “thing” I took the subway out to Queens, and Clara picked me up at the station. Her eyes were all puffy and red from crying, and there were food stains all over her new dress. She was a mess. “I’m on a diet” she told me on our way to the ceremony. “Oh I could see that” I lied. She gave me a weak smile and off we went. ‘I’m a nervous wreck Ira Joel, just a wreck.” “Please watch the road Clara, before we’re both wrecks.” I had no idea what to expect, I maybe had been to a church two or three times in my life and to be honest I found it all to be pretty boring all that standing and sitting, kneeling and standing, and I hoped that tonight would be different. It wasn’t. Clara was so uncomfortable being there that you could have reached out and touched her uncomfortable ness that’s how thick and real it was. I was just bored. “What’s that horrible smell?” Clara asked. “Incense Clara.” “Well it stinks and its really bothering my sinuses, and its making my cold worse, and If they don’t hurry up already I am GOING TO SCREAM”. “Why don’t we go outside and get a breath of fresh air?” “Good idea” she said as she picked her bulk up out of the pew and made fast for the door with me right behind her. As we stood outside we heard a terrible loud crash and people yelling and screaming. “What the fuck” I said as people started to stream out of the large doors. “What’s happening?” I yelled as me and Clara tried to force our way back inside the church. “You can’t go back in, there’s been a terrible accident” a man told us. “What what” Clara screamed at him, grabbing his coat labels. “My significant other is in there, tell me please.” “No one is hurt lady, but a chunk of ceiling just came crashing down onto one of the pews, but luckily no one was sitting there.” We both looked at each other with startled looks on our faces. Finally Freddy emerged dazed, with plaster covering his hair and jacket. “Oh my God Freddy, this is a sign from above that you shouldn’t convert, don’t you see that. Me and Ira Joel could have been hurt or even killed, oh my God.” Freddy was quiet as we walked to Clara’s car, but soon started to tell us what happened. “Just as I was about to take communion, there was a horrible rumbling, and then the ceiling fell in and then all hell broke loose. I have to go through the whole thing again next week.” “Well you can just count me out Freddy, there is no way that I am going to go through all of that again, let me tell you I’ve had enough of your Catholic church.” “Listen Freddy” I said “its still early so why not drop me off at the subway I would like to go home, and sleep in my own bed tonight.” After I got out of the car at the subway, Clara was still bitching and moaning about how she almost got killed as I made my way up the stairs to catch the subway back to Manhattan.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Paintings From The Late 1980's
Yesterday I got two rejections. One from The Drawing Center and the other from The Center For Book Arts. I had applied for the Drawing Center's viewing program and a grant to do a book at the Book Center or whatever the fuck its called. Fine. My work will be remembered long after the fools that run these programs are forgotten.