July 31, 2006
“They claim you never know what you got ’til it’s gone, I know I got it, I don’t know what y’all on”
Hot summer night, something like 85 degrees despite the fact that the sun has gone down. I’m at a friend’s 30th birthday party, a guy named Byk who is one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met, at the fanciest Russian restaurant in Brighton Beach. There are about 70 people in attendance, three long tables full. The men are in suits, the women in a variety of pretty get-ups. There’s food and lots of drinking, bottles of Grey Goose and Petron every few inches on every table, toasting the birthday boy, laughing. One of my friends has abruptly quit smoking, and is also not drinking tonight. We all know what that means but it’s too early to say congratulations. Superstition dictates a three-month mark. She’s six weeks away, we’ll celebrate then. We take smoke breaks on the boardwalk, the men loosen their ties, the women try to avoid getting their heels stuck in the cracks.
We run into old friends. I see the mother of one of my best childhood friends. He was my first male friend, 4th grade, and set the pattern for my way of having mostly male friends even today. He’s got two kids now, lives maybe 7 blocks away from me, but we probably had an easier time of seeing each other when we were 11 and had to be driven everywhere. We’re still close, I love his wife, but life just always gets in the way. Standing on the boardwalk with his beautiful mom, I promise myself to make more of an effort. I see another friend, from my teens, that I recently discovered again through My Space. She was always the romantic dreamer girl and I’d scold her for living in “Cinderellaland”. She seems to be doing ok there, though. We declare our love for My Space, we were meant to be back in touch, I think.
Petitedov, Pretty Numbers and the Ace of Spades himself are in the area, along with another cool but blogless friend of theirs. They stop by and we sit and catch up outside. We discuss the 2008 election. Petitedov is rooting for Romney, Ace is in Giuliani lalaland. I think the ultimate GOP candidate will be someone we’re not thinking of right now. I introduce them to my best friend, my Laurie. I feel like she and PN should know each other better–they both mean a whole lot to me.
They leave and I go back inside. My boyfriend is out of town, in preparation for his cousin’s wedding that is happening the next day. I’ll be joining him deep in Long Island tomorrow. The two other men in my life with whom I spend the majority of my time, SMVP and MR, couldn’t make it tonight. SMVP is so sick that I’m actively worrying about him. MR has family obligations. I’m not a dancer at the best of times but tonight the pickings for dancing opportunities are slim. I’m sitting next to Pheeleepok, who I adore but who, when I asked him in advance if he was going to dance with me told me in no uncertain terms that he was not. His plan was to keep his head down and try to make it out of this night alive. The birthday boy is one of his best friends but Pheeleep hates Russian restaurants–the music, the food, the scene is just not his style. My friend Frank’s girlfriend, who I like very much not only because I hooked them up and not only because she reads this blog, jokingly says I’m like a guy because I’m not dancing. I don’t mind. Like a guy, especially like my guys, I do my own thing, dance when I feel like it, etc.
And then I feel like it. “Ose shalom bimromav, u berahamav yaase shalom alenu veal kol amo Yisrael, veimru. Amen….” Earlier, the guy sitting across from me, Lenny, a real current events buff, asked me what my sources were telling me about the situation in Israel–short or protracted? Um, my sources? I don’t actually have any sources, my own feeling is that this needs to happen, that Israel gets smacked around so often and the world just watches and expects it not to react. People call it Goliath but this Goliath lets David take unlimited shots before even thinking of firing back. Goliath has had enough. The band starts the Hebrew music, I look over at my friend Frank, and we head to the dance floor. The place goes wild. We form a circle, clap our hands. People get in the middle and dance like our forefathers must’ve danced, arms linked, kicking. “Hava nagila, Hava nagila, Hava nagila venis’mecha….” I think, as we’re dancing that, so far, the Jews in this room are the luckiest Jews in history. We didn’t live through Pograms, Extermination, War. We escaped the Soviet Union, a place were they made sure to note we were Jews, and therefore different and inferior, on our passports. We ended up here, in America, this amazing place, my home, my love. And we all hold Israel in our hearts, as a place we love and must defend, if not with our presence there, then with our words here. If Israel ceases to exist then as a people the Jews have failed. We have come this far, where not everybody is trying to kill us at all time. The security of Israel is just the last step. We don’t want war, we never did. The words above “Ose shalom…” mean “make peace”. We want to. But they kidnap our soldiers and kill our teenagers. They do it on purpose. We can’t survive this way. And for Jews, it’s always been about survival. If you’ve never had to think about not only your own survival but also the survival of your entire people, consider yourself lucky. If you have, remember that there are people fighting for all of us–and that they fight because there are others that want to kill all of us. Even us lucky ones dancing to Hebrew songs on a hot New York summer night.