THE TZADIK'S DREAM
OCTOBER 2, 2011
A screaming came across the sky. Jet airplanes scrambled from the bases to intercept some kind of deviant flight path and what turned out to be an errant hang glider from Fort Mason. Everyone was looking to find alternative borrowings to give themselves some kind of comfort, but there were few to offer in this time of Orange and Yellow alerts.
It was the time this week to celebrate the birth of the World on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. All over the place families gathered to begin observance of the time of Turning, each in his and her own way.
During the day, Marlene and Andre went out to Harbor Bay Isle with little Adam after school, pockets filled with bread crumbs. There at the breakwater they cast the contents of their pockets out onto the water where the crumbs floated briefly before sinking under a blizzard of seagulls.
"We are throwing all the bad things we do into the depths of the sea," Marlene explained to Adam.
That night, the little household of 15 people gathered make yontif seder and to light memorial candles for all those who could no longer be there. They dipped apples and day-old twistbread in honey for the first day of Autumn had come and the time of turning was at hand. The New Year had begun and from that moment forward, all things would be "firsts".
As has been reported previously, to the Editor was given a special Dream. This Dream did not belong to him, but belonged to someone else, so in this dream, the Editor entered as a sort of visitor. What was this dream and for whom was this dream intended?
Well, all right. We will tell you now.
The Editor found himself standing on what appeared to be an immense treeless and grassless plain of some oddly resilient dark soil. A diffuse light filled the place from some hidden sun, so that he could see for many miles in all directions there were no rocks nor features of any kind save what appeared to be mountains to the south and a gradual rise split by some kind of ravine to the west.
A dark figure appeared to be walking away from him to the northwest, and towards this figure he hurried, stirring up a light chaff with his feet as he moved. He wasn't sure he liked this place.
He descended into a ravine and followed its rutted curved path for a very long time. A long ways ahead he saw the small dark spot moving, but much closer. He called out, and hurried toward it. After what felt like hours or days, he found himself coming behind Rebbe Mendelnuss, the tzadik from Temple Beth Emmanuel.
When he had come very close the other seemed to hear him finally, and stopped to look at him.
"What on earth are you doing in my dreams?" said the Rabbi, who appeared to be quite astonished.
For indeed, this dream was one the Rebbe often had. The Editor had left his own dreams behind for a while to enter into that of someone else. It was all very puzzling.
"I don't know that I really want to be here," said the Editor.
The ground seemed to quake at that moment, which caused the Rabbi much concern.
"O do not say anything like that! Don't even suggest it or you may be totally lost! Say anything else!"
The Rabbi appeared to be so upset that the Editor's little fat
frame jumped up and down and his white hair went flying. "I am happy! Happy,
happy, happy to be here, O in the name of god I am happy to be here! I am overjoyed
The quaking stopped.
"Whew!" The Rabbi took off his fedora and wiped his brow with a bright red kerchief. "You goyim are really something sometimes!"
"Where the heh . . .", began the Editor.
"Ah, ah, ah! Be careful what you say!" admonished the Rabbi. "Remember you are in my dream, not yours."
"Okaaayyyyy. Where am I?"
"I will show you," answered the religious man. "But first we must find Reverend Rectumrod before its too late. Come on!"
With that the man turned with a great swirl of his long coat and took off up the ravine with the Editor puffing and huffing along behind.
"What is Rectumrod doing here?"
Mendelnusse paused, breathing heavily. "O, I have beseeched He who knows all things to tell me just why the Reverend Rectumrod exists anywhere at all and not gotten a comprehensible answer." Then he took off again.
The two of them arrived at a crest where the ravine went uphill and then fell away between two immense hills. The Rabbi dropped down at the crest ahead of the Editor and crept forward. As the older man labored up he saw the ravine fell away into an immense black emptiness, as did the hills, which rounded out and downward into a deep shadow that faded to pitch black.
There the Editor lay on his side, catching his breath.
"What's this about Reverend Rectumrod?"
"Well, my understanding of Baptists -- not being an expert you understand -- is that they consist of two sorts. There is the lovely woman who sings gospel (I think its called gospel) on the NPR radio. She gives me the impression of people who are kind and caring and, well, hopeful. The Reverend, well, he is the other sort."
Further conversation was abruptly terminated by what happened next.
A high pitch shrieking grew louder and louder, which soon developed into the sound of someone screaming full-on deep lung screams. Falling incredibly fast, a man in a business suit flew past them beyond the ravine.
His tumbling form faded into the murk below as his screaming dwindled, followed by silence. The Editor was aghast.
"What was that!"
The Rabbi shook his head. "That is what happens when you do not wish to be here. That is what happens when you do not believe."
As the Editor watched and listened, a succession of figures flew past. An accountant, two truckdrivers, a butcher, several insurance adjusters, a man wearing gilt robes carrying a crozier and wearing a miter cap but no pants, a great number of politicians, several policemen, a great many bank executives, financial analysts, flocks of stock brokers and real estate developers -- quite a few of those -- along with the occasional astonished flying nun waving a pandybat.
Something occurred to the Editor to ask the Rabbi as they stood up and marched up the lower of the two hills. "Why do you want to save Reverend Rectumrod?"
"I suppose if he wants saving he needs to save himself. Heavens if you want forgiveness or saving, don't come to ME for that! I am definitely the wrong man; go ask the Catholics. No, I am wanting to keep him from dragging anyone else down with him!"
"I would have thought he, of all people, needs no saving anyway," said the Editor.
They arrived at the broad summit of the hill.
"The problem with the Reverend, and people like him, is they have no hope and so become full of 'chayt', which leads people away."
"Did you just say what I thought you said," the Editor exclaimed.
"The man has no hope and so cannot believe," said Mendelnusse.
"No I mean the other thing being full of."
"That sentence is remarkably ungrammatical for an editor, but let me correct myself. Chayt is from archery, meaning the one has 'missed the mark'. It also is our word for sin. The word 'sin' seems to make you goyim nervous in discussion."
Another screamer fell past. FFFFFWOOOOMP!
"What's going to happen to these folks falling by?"
"Oh they'll keep falling. Forever I would guess. Go in a circle and pass the same spot or just fall. I really do not know. Look out from here." The Rabbi gestured back toward the plains, which the Editor could now see were hatched with lines, furrows, ravines, low mounded hills. Far, far, far away he could see across the immense space of a bowl an huge mountain of a hill which had some sort of isthmus that curved outward into space, beyond which a few stars twinkled. To what he considered the "north" he saw four more finger-peninsulas, each beginning with a great hill and proceeding outward into the dimness with one immense hill after another, bounded at the bases by crosshatched ravines, and each separated by a vast darkness. Each peninsula appeared to curve slightly upward.
Something made him avert his eyes from facing the "south," which seemed to drop sharply downward and away.
"Are we alone here?" asked the Editor.
"How many others?"
"All who have been born from the beginning of Time until now who wish to be here," answered the tzadik.
"And those who do not will fall forever."
"That is correct."
"So those who are damned, will damn themselves and so fall forever. And in addition, they lose all language."
"Well I had not thought about that last part. Perhaps that is why we always welcome the stranger to the table; you never know how the prophet will arrive or in what form." The tzadik grasped the Editor's hand and thanked him profusely for teaching him something important.
At that moment the Editor awoke at his desk, head on his arms, wearing his usual white shirt and trousers, pool of light from the desklamp and cup of cold coffee beside the keyboard.
Rachel walked by and dropped a sheaf of papers on his desk with her usual imperious demeanor, saying, "You look like sh-t!"
"Please do not say that!" exclaimed the Editor, remembering the Rabbi's definitions.
"But you do. That's a fact."
"I thought you ran off with a cowboy."
"I came back."
"For what on earth?" the Editor said, careful to avoid ending his sentences with a preposition.
"Somebody has to hold a job around here." And with that the woman stalked away on her high heels.
The Editor got up and went to his cabinet to put something on the stereo. He briefly hovered over some old recordings of a radio program called "Bob and Ray", perused some poetry reading stuff from Amnesty International called "Censored Readings", skipped through some instrumentals called "Night Crossings," and decided on Schubert, Opus 17, No.4.
The Schubert appealed to his quiet, reflective mood.
Wie schön bist du,
Sehet, wie die klaren Sterne wandeln
in des Himmels Auen,
und auf uns herniederschauen
aus der blauen Ferne.
Meanwhile, approaching the early hours of morning, several dramas were playing out in several households around the Island.
In the Almeida master bedroom Pedro was still lieing in bed next to his wife of many years. The cock had yet to crow and the alarm yet to go off before he went down to the docks with his trusty lab, Tugboat tailwagging along side. What Pedro would bring on the boat for lunch had become a serious issue as the time was short and the boat was to leave.
The tuna hotdish will do fine, Pedro said.
O, that is so plain, said Mrs. Almeida. I could get up right now and make some bacalhau.
Don't get up, Pedro said. Not right now. Stay here.
I have the salt cod from Norway, she said. I could whip it up in 90 minutes.
Stay here in bed with me, Pedro said. The cassarole will do fine. It's getting chill now the weather has turned.
Yes, the turning, the woman said. Now is the time.
So turn over, Pedro said. I have some intentions.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we have ten children as it is, said the woman.
Well, the Trinity and everybody else will scarcely notice one more, said Pedro. It's an hour before the boat and I and you are awake and I do not want you messing with salt cod right now. I have some intentions . . . .
Drawing a discreet curtain over that scene we arrive at the fractured household of the Espadrille family. Mr. Espadrille had departed some five weeks ago with a woman from the office some fifteen years younger, leaving the family in what may be called a "situation."
Mrs. Marie Espadrille had been looking for some weeks at a rather dismal "holiday season" this year, even more dismal than that to which many of use are not looking forward. Especially this year. Which is fairly more dismal than the last and which is likely to cause all sorts of mercantile folks to scream bloody murder and jump off of high bridges before the end of it.
She knew she could only get away with the story, "well daddy is away on a trip and, well, is not likely to be home for a while." only so long until she came up with "Daddy had an unfortunate accident and will not be home soon or, indeed, forever. And, hopefully, I will lead you all someday to his final resting place."
As for the retailers, she had only invective and bile for them who would have pasted tight-fighting shortie shorts on that tramp of a whore of a . . . . nevermind. They could all go to bloody hell right now as far as she was concerned, as she poured herself another margarita. The past couple of weeks had been hell. She felt as if she had been falling, falling, falling, and screaming the entire time without hope of anyone to catch her.
The doorbell rang and she went to answer it like a total doofus and there he stood, wearing a trenchcoat, of all things, looking bedraggled and totally like "sh-t" and lost and appropriately contrite.
"Well here you are," she said.
"Things did not work out," he said.
"Well, things did not work out for you," she said, before proceeding to lay into him with a vigor that suprised herself, for in ten, what was it? fifteen years of marriage, she had found herself subsuming beneath a sand of agreement and passiveness and now all that had been stripped away to free her to really say what was on her mind and say it she certainly did.
She laid into him, she did. She spared nothing. Not the endless laundry loads, nor the bills she had paid from coins in her pocket, not the children's care to everything else. By god she was going to let him have both barrels all saved up for fifteen years. Fifteen years! And she did not.
"How is Melinda?" he asked after the terrible storm. He still stood outside with his single, sorry-looking pathetic suitcase.
"Melinda? How dare you ask, you, you bastard!" And off she went, again on a savage attack on all he had done, and not done, and what an utter, utter failure he was and how pathetic a creature, a miserable a--hole. Pathetic. Miserable. A--hole. You!
There was quite a lot more to report in the time it took for him to move from the doorway into the livingroom, and, finally, the bedroom. It is there all great arguments are resolved in some place that is beyond words.
All across the Island, the Turning began and couples turned to one another for warmth as the summer's heat evaporated among falling leaves. The world was getting colder, that is a fact. Body heat was one good way to stay warm for a while as things decayed.
In such a time, as all things get colder, people grasp onto those familiar things that make them feel warmer. Sometimes it is a person, sometimes a thought, sometimes a familiar phrase spoken by someone about whom you care. Sometimes it is only a phrase heard in a song, or on the TV or the radio that evokes something from the past, and reminds you, well, you are not the first to get this idea. Sometimes it is a whispered voice that says, "Try harder."
Well, we have nothing else right now except that: Try harder.
In the Old Same Place Bar Denby set up his rig to play "The Water Song" after last week's problems with uptuning. After that, he played an original song he had written for Raymond Zack, who also went by water. And then, because someone requested it, that easy one by Leonard Cohen about the woman who lived beside a river.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the autumn leaves blowing among the harvest grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its age-old journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. And stay human.
Song for Raymond Zack
someone is calling, everything's falling
disappointment fills the room
you thought you might try again
maybe things will fly again
float above that knee-deep gloom
so you sail out on a little hope
like a old swing it rocked back and forth
except this time it kept on going down
rent keeps on risin, all the jobs are hidin'
its so hard to stay afloat these days
can't get no lovin, everyone's pushin' and shovin
its rising now above your waist
not much is going well, the climate's gone to hell
the wars are getting better, so they say
so you took a little walk, sick of all the talk
down to the sea like the ancient Greeks
when the field had been entirely lost
it just keeps on gettin' higher
and you keep on goin' further
you've given up thinkin about the cost
something's got to break -- we're in now up to our necks
no one can help us now: the Country is in a wreck
all decision is paralyzed, authority just stands and sighs
the clock . . . strikes . . . noon . . .
it's getting deeper it's getting colder
the end is now very soon . . .
the deep blue sea is not a place for humanity
but maybe that's what's become of you and me (It's callin' me now)
the deep blue sea is a cold cold place for humanity
but maybe that's what's become of you and me
(Segue to R.G.Davis, Death Don't Have no Mercy)
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