Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It's Just a Tree


By Fred Owens
You don't need to know about old neighborhoods in the Bronx, and you are unlikely to ever go there. Why would anyone go the the Bronx, when they could fly to Hawaii or Morocco? Even people who are from there don't go there.

The Bronx. The first European settler was a Swedish man named Bronck. He built a cabin and had a family. If you went to see them, you said you were going to the Broncks, or now the Bronx.......I always wondered about that, but I only found out today.
People from the Bronx. Why do I know a half dozen people from the Bronx and they are all Jews? They live in Los Angeles. I see them at the coffee shop in Venice. I sit and talk with them. One time they got tribal on me talking about where to get a good Reuben, otherwise it's give and take. They call me Farmer Fred because of my horticultural habits. Eric is one of the Bronx Jews at the coffee shop. He goes there every day. Big Mike also lives in Venice and he is also an old Jew from the Bronx. Big Mike doesn't go to Eric's coffee shop, or if he does go he won't visit or talk with Eric, for reasons which neither man will share with me. Basically one is not encouraged to bear tells from Eric to Big Mike, or from Big Mike to Eric.

I once tried to settle differences like this, but now I accept it. They are too stubborn.

I could tell you a lot about Eric -- what he looks like, how he dresses, what he likes to eat, his love life, his business, his family, but he would not like that. I know his health and his medical problems. I know his politics and which sports he follows. I know who his friends are. I know a lot about Eric, but he's a private man. I will not write about him because he would not like that. No, not so private, but determined to control his own message. Eric says what he wants to say to people he wants to talk to.

I can only say that Eric is in real estate, he is allergic to eggs, and he is my very good and worthy friend.
The story of Big Mike is shorter. He has fruit trees. He lives on the other side of Lincoln Blvd. where the streets are wider and the back yards are bigger. Big Mike has peach trees and plum trees. He has bragging rights to his orchard and garden. He will tell you all about it and with pleasure.
Jews and Christmas
Jews fall into three groups at Christmas. The smallest group enjoys it. They love the music, the decorations and the spirit of it. It's not complicated to them. Bobby V. always came to my house on Christmas Eve to enjoy egg nog with rum. Irving Berlin loved the holidays. He wrote White Christmas and made a fortune. What good cheer!
The second group, larger, experiences anguish at Christmas. They wince at the first sound of carols at the mall. They avoid certain places and times. And there's nothing you can do about it. It won't kill them and it ends after a few weeks. I forget his first name, but Gewertz was unwittingly roped into playing one of the Three Kings at his grade school Christmas  pageant -- and marked for life because of that embarrassment. What can you do?

The majority of Jews are indifferent to the holidays. They are aware of it but they tune it out. Not their party.
Some Jews make a big deal of Hannukah. Why? It's a small feast, and may it remain so. Jews have it all over Christians when it comes to Pesach. It's a better feast than Easter, in my opinion. All you get at Easter is chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. No comparison.
And the High Holidays can be truly awesome.
Light a Candle

May every one have their holiday.
May we all enjoy peace and prosperity.
May the light cause our understanding to grow.
And what we don't understand, can we let it go?
More On Gewertz.  What I wrote about the Bronx is all true except the part about Gewertz. Here's is what really happened. This was twenty years ago in Boston when I knew him and we had coffee at Harvard Square. Gewertz was a handsome man of 30, tall, lean, with black curly hair and clear black eyes under thick glasses. He dressed well and he smelled like winter smells in Boston, when winter smells good, which happens in December when the first snow falls. Picture him in early December coming in from the cold to the Au Bon Pain for coffee and Danish, to sit at one of those rickety small tables with the Boston Globe tucked under his arm, which he wrote for, but on a freelance basis.
Gewertz was a film critic. He was the Number Two film critic in Boston and Boston can only support one film critic, so his position was precarious despite his abundant talent, his deep knowledge and his solid work ethic.
Gewertz was a little anxious, about what? Just anxious. With his good looks he should have gotten laid like a banjo, but he just seemed to have trouble with women who came into his life briefly and left a long, cold trail. He spent more time talking with me about these women than he actually spent dating them. Why was it so complicated? But I enjoyed listening because it helped him. Everyone wanted to help Gewertz.
In early December he had anxiety about Christmas. It bothered me, because it made me feel like a bruising Catholic oaf, representing a billion people who were all intent on making him suffer.. I felt guilty. Later I turned the table on him, although not in so many words. I wanted to say, Your people invented guilt and now I feel bad because you feel bad when it's Christmas? No way. Feel as bad as you want. And blame me. I don't care.
Only I never said that because I'm a sweet guy, and Gewertz was never imposing. It was me who sought out his company, who called him and said Hey....
What happened was that his parents were Jewish  but did not go to temple or do anything Jewish and at Christmas they bought a tree and put up decorations and had presents. Gewertz, little anxious Gewertz, got all the toys he wished for.
"But it was confusing," he said. "Dad, we're Jewish, aren't we? That's what I told him. Why did they do that to me? I loved the toys and I loved Santa Claus to sit on his knee, but I was seven years old and I knew it wasn't right. It wasn't wrong either. That's what my Dad said. Don't worry about it, he said. We're just having fun. It's just a tree........ I grew up, I didn't even know I was a Jew. I mean, I knew I was a Jew, but weren't we supposed to do something about it?"
To my credit, I offered no advice and made no comment. There was a pause, a rustling of cups and spoons, looking around the cafe. I ventured -- this was the Au Bon Pain Cafe in Harvard Square in 1994 -- a change of topic. "Have you noticed that all the counter help are African immigrants?"
Gewertzian Solutions
I began to think about Gewertz's identity dilemma.I came up with several solutions and I made a list.
1. He could become a Unitarian.
2. He could become a Buddhist.
3. He could become devoutly secular and dedicate his life to a cause such as climate change or the preservation of wolves.
These options were plausible.
4. He could migrate to Israel.
5. He could become Hasidic.
These choices were not remotely possible, but still, when you make a list, you need something to cross off.

6. He might -- this is intriguing -- borrow money from his parents in New Jersey and make a long overdue trip home for that purpose. This would make them very happy. "He's going to start making a living after all," they said to each other, and to him said, "We knew you had it in you, and look, don't even think of paying us back.....it's a gift."
Gewertz would use the money to go to graduate school and get his MBA and work at an investment bank or management consulting firm. He could make himself do that and forsake his creative duty as a film critic.
At age 30 the path was clear for him. With the MBA he makes a bundle, he buys a good car and a black leather jacket --- remember that Gewertz is tall and good-looking in an athletic way and with a snazzy car and a leather jacket he would simply be looking the part and not be posing, not at all.
Thus attired, he would get the girl. She would ignore his anxiety, which never went away, and smother him with kisses. With his substantial income, and hers, they could buy a house on Monument Street in Concord, with leafy lawns, stone walls and horse-riding neighbors reeking of old money.
The Gewerztes would endow the Reform temple in Concord with a six-figure gift. They would have two children and stage magnificent bar mitzvahs.
Gewertz would no longer doubt, except privately. "I get along with the old money in Concord because I know they will never accept me. So once a year Tom and Charity have us over for drinks. We go, we talk, we laugh, but we don't invite them to our house -- it's better to leave it that way."
Would Gewertz Really Move to the Suburbs ?
The last choice is my favorite.

7. Boston's Number One film critic dies or moves on. Gewertz rises to the top of his profession. He wields power judiciously. He is vindicated.

I never showed him this list. I mean, what do you think I am? I don't meddle. Gewertz likely made is own list anyway. It's his life, and it's just a tree.
Thank you, have a good holiday,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

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