Archive for August, 2008

When Does BT Status Start?

Posted in Me, Politics, Rants, Shidduchim on August 31, 2008 by frumpunk

A quick break from my travelogue posts. I was reading Frum Skeptic tonight about her BT friend being rejected from a shidduch. I felt sorry for her and was thinking about it when it hit me: I may be a BT officially.

My parents are BT and they became frum when I was around five or so. From preschool I was always in Jewish schools and went through a normal frum childhood, except for the fact that my parents didnt know much and all that. Typical BT stuff. But since I was technically not born frum does that relegate me to BT status?

Its also a source of annoyance with my names. My Hebrew name has no correlation to my English one, even though my English name has a common Hebrew correlation, and everyone who knows me assumes thats what it is. I always annoyed rebbeim who only knew me by my English name and when they introduced me to others (such as at a shabbos meal when I ate by them) they would say “and this is Mr *supposed Hebrew name* *last name* the way rebbeim try to be cute, I’d have to show their ignorance of me to their Shabbos guests by saying “well actually my Hebrew name is…”.

What can I say? My parents at the bris just picked a random sort of Hebrew name, not thinking it would ever be used. Actually, all my names are random. For my English name they named me after a famous actor from the 50’s. When kids play the “who were you named after?” game they all busted out gedolim and chashuve ancestors, I have to say I was named for a celeb who died in a car crash.

But back to the point; am I BT or not? I think its unfair to say that I am, as I never got to actually do anything or have any “before I was frum” stories. We were fully frum by the time I started school, once they made the commitment, they jumped into the deep end, seriously.

Day Five

Posted in Chicago, Me on August 29, 2008 by frumpunk

My flight this morning was at 7.29am sharpish. At 6.23am my friend who I was flying with wakes up and goes “ohmygoshwhattimeisit, I forgot to set the alarm!” We get dressed as fast as was ever possible and while I’m stuffing some last minute stuff into a suitcase he’s on the phone calling a car service. We get to JFK in record time, but it was 6.40 and the sign said that all luggage must be checked in 45 minutes before take-off. I might have slipped through but there was a line, by the time I got to the front of the curbside check-in it was almost 7, and they told me it was too late and I’d have to try and check-in inside the terminal. Great, so not only was I late but I’d wasted time trying to save time by checking in outside.

By the time I got to the front line at the terminal it was 7.20 and there was no chance. My friend who had no luggage to check had gone straight inside and met me holding a boarding pass. I wasn’t going to hold him back so he took the flight while I paid $50 to Delta to be placed on the next flight two hours later. I’ve never had a good flight experience with Delta, something always goes wrong, usually involving luggage.

So at the end of the day, we at least made it to Chicago. Haven’t had a chance to see anything yet as I’m getting set up for Shabbos and the wedding, but from what I saw from the airport ride it seems nice, smallish sort of feel. After spending time in Brooklyn I understand why everything else is referred to as “out-of-town”. It has such a different feel that I’ve never noticed before, but when you leave New York the difference is remarkable. Everything seems a little less hectic and calm. ‘Course, that’s what New Yorkers end up complaining about. In Miami, they would all hang around a pizza shop complaining how slow the service is. We’re just a chillaxed people, I was thrown off-kilter in Brooklyn the first time I got pizza and it was handed to me right away. That just ain’t natural, an essential part of the pizza experience is hanging around waiting for it to cook as you browse the menu and other diners to judge how they’re enjoying their food and trying to guess how good it will be. Fast food takes that thrill away.

Anyways I’ll be in Chicago until Tuesday, hope that will be enough time to take it all in. I’ll be davening at Shaarei Tzedek tonight, now that I have some different shul experience, I plan on taking note of how they all work in different places.

Days Three and Four

Posted in Me, New York on August 28, 2008 by frumpunk

I’m bitten all over. Six on the back of my neck, two on my cheek, three on my elbows, two on my hand and two on my stomach. Met up with Jacob Da Jew tuesday, met Da Wife, Da Baby and Da Shy Toddler. We had a barbecue and later on I met Lakewood Falling Down, who I’d never heard of before but have since looked over his stuff, together we also met Jacobs pet mosquitoes. Also met Moshe picking his kid up from playgroup for about two seconds. I was talking with Jacob about whether bloggers are the same in real life as they are on their blog. Child Ish was exactly as I’d expected. Other bloggers weren’t quite the picture I’d had. But the ones I haven’t met but I read often still have me wondering. Is Frum Skeptic always complaining? Is Frum Satire always hyper and looking for the funny side of things? You know what I mean.

I’m enjoying a lot of stuff about New York, the conveniences of food and the ease of getting around. I like the fact that you pay the same flat fee to take the subway no matter how far you go, it’s also very nice that you can transfer to a bus for free within the time limit. I’m pleasantly surprised by how nice people are here, my stereotypes are completely shattered. My kippa blew off in Times Square and a random stranger grabbed it for me, I was pulling a suitcase up the subway stairs and the guy behind me grabbed the bottom and helped me carry it to the top.

I was dragged to a wedding last night by my friend (he got permission from the chosson who he went to yeshiva with), I have never seen so much free food before. Everything was amazing. I was thinking of those classic Frum Satire posts where he talks about the wedding shmorgs, my biggest problem was knowing how quickly I get full, and trying to ration it out so I get a taste of it all. After a minute I gave up and simply decided to enjoy the moment. I ate until I was sick, then I ate some more. (Bulimia: twice the taste, no calories.) Well I didn’t actually throw up, but I was very cognisant of the fact that I was already full as I took some more schnitzel and pasta. The wedding was rocking as well, entertainment was provided by the Neginah Orchestra, that guitarist was awesome and the drummer was kicking. They did the usual stuff as well as some Piamenta and some stuff I wasn’t familiar with, but whatever they played was great. I was talking with someone about the fact that half the Jewish CD’s out there seem to have the music provided by Neginah. Is it always the same musicians, or is Neginah sort of a rotating musical group? Were these guys the same ones playing on Jewish albums, and if so why isn’t the music better, because these guys kicked tuchus and took names. I always feel slightly sad when I look at a Jewish wedding band, because I know the guitarist, bassist and drummer grew up with dreams of being rock stars and they ended up playing weddings for the rest of their lives. They seemed to be having a great time though.

I’m in Touro right now visiting my friend. Tomorrow we fly out to Chicago. I’ve done a lot of the stuff you guys recommended about New York, whats to do in Chicago and more importantly, wheres the best real Chicago pizza?

Edit: In Manhattan I found an actual copy of The Onion! Kickin’ Rad! as I believe the kids these days say.

Day Two

Posted in Me, New York on August 26, 2008 by frumpunk

I’m typing this one from the Brooklyn Library. They’re charging me $2 per card and each card gives you two half hour sessions. I have 8 minutes left, so I may have to cut this short to get it out there. I asked people for a internet cafe and everyone just told me to come here. I’m not going to risk Touro again, not until I’ve given him a couple days to forget me, then I’ll try and bluff my way in again. Maybe I should get a Groucho Marx disguise kit, the nose, moustache and glasses.

So what I wrote yesterday was just my impressions of a morning in Brooklyn when all I’d seen was a few blocks around Ave J. I was definitely a bit disoriented, and I think I came across as a little pessimistic about the place. Or maybe I’ve just been reading too much AA Gill. He’s a travel writer for GQ and The Sunday Times in London, and he basically goes to places and bashes them. But he’s damn entertaining about it.

So yesterday after publishing my first morning impressions I met up with Mr Child Ish Behavior. He’s pretty much given our day a good write-up, and he was excellent company to boot. We did Manhattan on foot and bikes, took the ferry there and back and I finally got to see the Statue of Liberty. Its a bit smaller in person. Ate lunch at a kosher Subway, I still haven’t managed to finish a single meal in NY. Last night for dinner I had the other half of my breakfast bagel and fries and the chicken melt I had for lunch. Today I had pizza at Pizza Time. I’ve started to be more realistic so I ordered one slice and small fries. Most of the slice and half the fries later I was full. I don’t understand how people can finish meals of large fries and two slices with a large coke. I’m not a small guy, I’m 5’9 and 175 pounds. I don’t know if its that the food here is more filling or what, I just cant eat a normal New York portion of anything. Two minutes left, this ends here. More impressions to come next time I get a computer. Maybe I’ll try sneaking into a different college.

Day One

Posted in Me, New York on August 25, 2008 by frumpunk

Everything feels so foreign. It’s surprising, because it feels more foreign than it technically should. I’ve only been out of America for two years, but Brooklyn may as well be a different planet. This place is crazy freaky-deaky town. Everyone seems to be Jewish and no one seems to know each other. Half the signs are in Hebrew. The Walgreens has signs in Hebrew. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Not just the concept, but the apparent necessity. Is it merely a show of support to the Jewish community, or is it actually a necessity in that there are people living here, in New-York-frickin-City who can’t read English? Walgreens sells Paskez candy. The 7-11 last night had a hechsher and everyone who came in was Jewish. I haven’t had a slurpee in two years so I grab my old usual, the blue cup, second to smallest. My friend asks why I don’t pay the few cents and get the bigger size. How could anyone drink that much sugared syrup? I forgot America was like this. I tell my friend the story of how when they first brought the Mini to America, they had to revise the interior right after launch. Turns out they didn’t take American size cups into account. Had to redesign the interior for a country that demands the ability to have a cup with two gallons of coke in it.

Everything seems to be kosher. With so much choice how does anyone manage to make decisions? I pass by a corner falafel shop. The sign proudly announces their selection of Israeli style food, including chicken. I look through the window and see feathers on the floor. I’m not sure whether to be surprised or not. They sell chicken, doesn’t it make sense the feathers end up somewhere? I keep moving and decide to get breakfast from a bagel shop. I stand there for a minute observing and deciding. There’s no such thing as a line or any sort of civilized order, everyone seems to come in knowing what they want, shout it behind the counter, pay and leave. It’s an inelegant system but it seems to get the job done. I order the number two, an omelet on a bagel with a side of what they call home fries and what I would call hash browns. I specify no coffee because I don’t drink coffee. Turns out I still have to pay for the coffee, because it’s all part of the special. Ten minutes later I can’t eat another bite and I’ve still got half the omelet bagel and all the fries. How do you put away that much food for breakfast? I’m starting to understand the American obesity epidemic.

I find a payphone and call my friend, who won’t be flying in until tomorrow. I ask him where I can find an internet café. He suggests a bit of espionage. “You’re right near Landers. Go in and tell the security guard you need to go to registration go up then go down to C1 and you can use the computer labs there.” Don’t I need a login? Apparently not. Touro, your security sucks. On the plus side I get to write this post while my first New York morning is still fresh.

The Dutch are efficient. I would call them the nice Germans. My flight took off exactly as scheduled and we landed at 8.20pm to the minute. ELAL could learn a thing or two. On the downside they gave my kosher meal to someone else. The stewardess was so apologetic I ended up feeling sorry for her. No worries, I always pack sandwiches just in case. Did you know Amsterdam Airport has a casino in it? I’ve had a stopover in Las Vegas, so I was expecting the slot machines they had, but Amsterdam outdoes them will a fully featured casino. I didn’t even know the Dutch like to gamble. Despite the world thinking of Amsterdam as just Europe’s weed dealer, the airport is very gentrified. With the exception of some t-shirts you can buy you wouldn’t even know where you were. It’s all clogs, tulips and Rembrandt. Also they have a model of the airport made out of Lego. I badly wanted to start playing with it, move the planes around and make airport noises. I remind myself that I’m 23 and move on. I need to get gifts for my various hosts. The Department of Homeland Security has limited the amount of alcohol you can buy at duty free to one liter per person. Nowhere sells quarter-liter bottles, so I end up buy packs of Davidoff coffee as gifts. I didn’t even know Davidoff made coffee. I give it to my friend when he picks me up. Turns out he doesn’t even drink coffee.

(This post sponsored by the good people at Landers whose computers shut off twice before I’d saved it forcing me to start again from the beginning. Twice.)

10 Hours and Counting…

Posted in Me on August 24, 2008 by frumpunk

My flights in exactly ten hours, no way I’m sleeping tonight. I can never sleep right before a big event. I’m also moving out of my apartment, when I get back I’ll officially be homeless. As a final post until I either get back in three weeks or someone lets me use their computer I give you the last two boxes that haven’t been put in storage yet. Arguably the most important. The last of my books (and there were many) and my portable Gamecube. Also my favorite socks for that weird chick who writes a new blog called (full title) “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It- Syndrome” I can only hope that dash irks you as much as it does me, but then I’m a semi-professional amateur writer. I have literary standards. Go read her blog. She would really like you to. She’s crazy enough to ask a stranger for a picture of his socks.

Also, thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions of what to do in New York and Chicago. As far as I can tell I should eat and visit museums. 🙂


Posted in Me on August 22, 2008 by frumpunk

Where’s East 18th Street, how far away is it from a Subway stop, and whats interesting around there?

Yeah, it’s my first real trip to New York.

Edit: Not there yet, I fly in on Sunday.