This Is the Teaching of the Metzora

This shall be the teaching of the Metzora, zot tih’ye torat ha-metzora — Vayikra 14:1

He was accustomed to the close reading of texts, but on that day he sat with eyes that had never seen before and watched words on the page before him grow legs and dance, legs became wings, and words flew off the page like pigeons off of cobblestones. Words so free and high flying that from that day on he fell under their spell and became a pursuer of words. Words so elusive and spellbinding that he became a detective; words were his clues.

On that day, he sat in his fifth floor walk-up where he lived and worked and read from the book of Leviticus. He read the clue words: zot tih’ye torat ha-metzora, and he stopped. The words began to change for him. They grew legs and scampered over one another like mice. Then the words separated like mitosis and he read: ha-motzei ra instead of ha-metzora, he read “revealer of evil” instead of “the metzora” and he got no further that day than this one singularly devastating clue: the one word that had become two.

The clue was a summons but it had yet to be disclosed to him what it meant. He knew he was being sent, but did not know where. In his hand he fingered an unlit, wilted Lucky; he was determined not to smoke that day. The Lucky wagged in his hand like a sixth finger. He sat with his feet up on his desk, searching his experience for the dark irreducibility of his summons: the revealer of evil. He saw some wickedness, he saw great imperfection, he saw the best of dreams smashed to smithereens, but not evil.

He searched his experience of the world but found nothing that resonated like the evil for which he felt he had been called to reveal. It was at times like these that he demonstrated the powers of detection that set him apart from the guild detectives, who did not recognize the holiness of the task for which they had been called. It was also at times like these that he was tempted to light that Lucky.

He saw not only the grandeur of his job, but the folly of it, the folly of his lone attempt to penetrate a reality beyond his ken and control. Partially because he had trained himself for nothing else, partially out of the presentiment of a life of an exceedingly noble variety, partially because he liked to live dangerously, he was willing to devote himself to the task nonetheless.

He was good at it. Like every good detective, when the clues were especially impenetrable, he demonstrated the qualities of investigation with which he had been blessed. “God may have given us the nuts,” he would say, “but God didn’t crack them.” He had trained himself to turn the world upside down by standing on his head. It was his business.

Because he was willing to turn himself inside out or stand on his head if he had to, God’s own detective often cracked clues which left the guild detectives bewildered. There were no simple answers; the answer can’t be right if it’s simple, he used to say.

In the great tradition of kabbalists and jazzmen who play the saxophone, the detective was attentive to the bustling textural and tonal variety beneath surfaces. It was the rhythms and tones lurking beneath the obvious he heard, “and once you hear that,” he would say, “you never hear the obvious again.”

It was because of these highly developed methods of detection that God’s own detective went searching for the evil he had been called to reveal within, in the dark shadows lurking in his own self. There he descended.

In the darkest and most silent moment of his descent, God’s own detective came to the blood-dark waters, from which arose the slow-moving but methodical angels of destruction, creaking at the joints, large mounds of wrestlers. To a faintly beating drum in the distance, God’s own detective locked himself in a death-wrestle with them. Just as they had almost wrestled him into the waters from which they had arisen like night, he spoke the clue-words of the Psalmist: Save me, O God, for the waters are come into my soul (Psalm 69:2). At that moment, the right arm of God was extended, and God’s own detective found the courage to take hold of it.

He was pulled out as if from a well, from his death-wrestle with all that is fragmented, disintegrating, chaotic, death-dealing, but still, not evil. He felt closer to his summons but still not the revealer of evil for which he had been called. He understood the clue-words of R. Yossi (Hag. 12b): Alas for people that see, but know not what they see, they stand, but know not on what they stand. The earth rests on pillars, pillars on waters, waters on mountains, mountains on wind, wind on the storm. The storm, the vertiginous and terminal, the blood-dark waters of dissolution; the storm is suspended on the arms of the Holy One, as it is said,” And underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27).

He had descended into the storm of the dissolution of his own self, and lifted up by the everlasting arms, came back to tell the tale. For that he felt a gratitude without measure, and whenever God’s own detective felt that way, he prayed.

He often prayed alone in his office. The old logo of a former tenant on the door, East Asia Trading Company, guarded him from interruption and mistaken callers. He began to recite the prayers. He felt the terrible weight of his summons being released, and by the time he reached the Kedushah, he was filled with an overwhelming sense of awe and well being.

He ascended to the top of the Throne of Glory. He saw the perspiration on the faces of the angels who were laboring before the Holy One. The angels spread their wings and under their sheltering protection he ducked the river of fire that emerged from God’s Holy Throne.

He spread his own arms like wings, and in the language of the angels he whispered, kadosh kadosh kadosh.

He spoke the words over and over – holy holy holy. He gobbled them up like a handful of raisins and he felt himself being released from the now oppressive summons to which he had been called.

Like all creations in Nature whose purposes are certain, like leaves pushing through leaves to sunlight, God’s own detective surrendered, released himself from his unholy responsibility, ha-motzei ra, the revealer of evil, and turned it over. He continued praying in an ecstasy unmatched in his prayer existence. He was off the case.

But like all good detectives, he couldn’t quite give it up. Even when he wanted to, he couldn’t drop the case. In a posture of obvious eligibility, God’s own detective sat in his office, waiting for the phone to ring and watching the sign flash on and off outside his window.

He saw her profile through the smoky glass door of his office, outside of which she paused to collect herself. She didn’t bother knocking.

She came in like fresh air. She asked for his help. She told him a story of such wickedness, deceit, and corruption that it made his ears tingle to listen to it.

“Maybe this is the case I’ve been waiting for,” he said, and he told her the story of the clue of the one word that had become two.

Her story was raw, empty of mystery, only the brute facticity of evil acts of evil people. He saw in her story the irreducibility of evil that he could not find in his own experience.

These were words that had ceased to be clues. Her story pointed to nothing beyond itself. It was the evil acts of evil people. No excuses, no motivation, evil not done out of ignorance or out of lack of self consciousness, it was not evil done in the name of God, or in the service of a greater goal. This was evil for which there were no excuses left. He knew then that he was not free to relinquish the task.

“I’ll take the case,” he said, getting up and gathering his trench coat from the sofa on which he slept. “I know a nice little diner where I take my messages and business meetings. We can talk there.”

He closed the door of the office behind them, threw away the frayed Lucky, and headed for the stairs. Now part of a holy opposition of two, not yet in love (that would come later), but reaffirming his original summons, ha-motzei ra, the revealer of evil, was on the case.

A broken radiator was hissing steam in great billowing clouds into the hallway. The detective slung his trench coat over his shoulder, put his arm around her, and said out of the corner of his mouth, “You know kid. . .this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

jsg, usa

Raise Up Your

Raise Up Your Eyes

Raise up your eyes
north south east west
look down
can you count the dust of the earth?
So will be your seed.

The future –
more than we imagine
the present
a dark mirror,

Look up
look down —

Look forwards
backwards too, you sentimentalists,

you are
tahor – purified,

You are safe —
somewhere.

Small alef; poetry Tazria
Maqam* Bayat
D [3/4] E half-flat [3/4] F [1] G

Each Shabbat is associated with a musical figure
A maqam*
Cognate of maqom
Signifying Place

Full of Light

Full of Light

Lashon sagi nahor
Language full of light

We call Metzora*
Tahor

pure

though a Metzora itself
requires purification.

We call this language
lashon sagi nahor [Aramaic]
language that is full of light —

sagi nahor/full of light
we use for blindness,
full of light we are
when we realize
the road we thought was straight

is round.
What we thought was corrupted
Pure —

The blemish
Beautiful;

The imperfect
Perfect.

The wounded
Whole.

Who is whole –
The person with a broken heart.

Small alef; poetry Metzora
Metzora* some sort of physical manifestation of inner state
Maqam Sigah

E half-flat F G

jsg, usa

Small alef poetry; Shemini

Small alef; poetry
Shemini
Maqam Hoseini

D E-flat F G

Brother lighting the candles
Daily daily
take hold the flame
upward the fire flying.

See him standing on the limestone steps
raise high the flame
of guardianship
upward.

See the blue around the flame
the space that may
may not be physically present,
that blue: the Shekhinah –

sky blue
lapis
the color of the sea
which is like the sky

the Throne of Glory
like a vision —

Brother tender of the flame
which is like the soul
the lamp of God the soul
of a human being —

Aaron the tender of souls on fire
he loved all creatures
and drew them near
so it was –

Our teacher knew it would be through
Brother
the Shekhinah would come to rest in our Sanctuary,
saying

My brother — is more excellent than I
through his sacrifices
and his service
the Shekhinah will rest among you.

jsg, usa

One Foot In One Foot Out

One Foot In One Foot Out

The Gracie stories part 15

I thought I would write the stories until the end; wondering what sort of drama or consciousness might rise with the inevitable denouement then; the end. But maybe not. Why wait for the utterable loss that will come in its own time, having squeezed the experience for what its worth, to have talked by type through this period of separation.

Also there was the conflation of care; for my daughters when they showed up, for my sacred partner who was laid up completely, my daughters went back to their homes in exile and my sacred partner starting to resolve and the injuries receding into storyville while Gracie continues to decline; the record of compassionating for compassion-a-tors. Caring for sentient beings.

If I thought anyone was reading these stories, I might have stopped posting but I wouldn’t have stopped writing. Another value inherent in writing; it’s an act with a commit. It has to be done. It’s not a share. It’s a need. Writing has always felt that way to me.

And a Witness to the removal of all that is dependable, not so much for me, but for this beast canine who pushes through with whatever she has left. I’ve recognized what I’ve seen many times in the men and women, the human beings I have accompanied up to and through their deaths.

Not everyone, but many. There is a nobility and steeliness – an occupation of spirit into body-less-ness — as the body releases one function after another when a person moves toward death if death comes at the end of life and knowingly; this I have seen more than not when accompanying people through that passage. The highest yoga. I always felt privileged to accompany people that way, every time, and long ago it has lost its fear for me though as a young man it was a difficult meeting with my own natural death-less-ness.

I mentioned earlier that I have earned whatever I can give by having experienced most everything that comes my way; not death. Death is the one experience that those of us who work around it haven’t experienced to its fullness. We may have stood at the edge, but the edge has held.

Still we have all experienced life in its many deaths in order to birth something new. Some of us more dramatically than others, but all of us are familiar with what it means to lose something to gain something else, to die to life, to let loose of something for something else to rise, etc. We know the algebra of life and death, but it’s not the finality of death as Death.

I can imagine how conscious the deaths I have witnessed have been or not been; there seems to be a consciousness to a point and a semi-consciousness after that and always I take the talmudic dictum seriously, a person dying is due everything the living is due. I take that not in a technical sense but in a consciousness sense: read to him, talk to her, tell her what you haven’t told her before, if there’s anything left to say, say it now, sing to him, read poetry, read your letters, assume he hears every thing, every single thing you are saying washes up on the shore on consciousness or preconsciousness in some way.

Once I was called to the bedside in an emergency of a Russian matriarch. She was in her death bed with her people gathered around her, all of them dressed in their finery, all of them whispering quietly among themselves as she drew her last breaths; so they assumed.

She was in a hospital bed in her apartment. She was propped up and her head on the pillow with her mane of white hair, her drawn face, she looked enchanting. Eyes closed. She was certainly near.

I said the holy prayers then I turned to the group sitting quietly around the room: talk to her, tell her you love her, remind her of your memories, sing to her, speak poetry.

One after another marched to the foot of her bed and in Russian gave a soliloquy, each one lengthy, emotional, and I assume poetic about – my Russian isn’t that good — but every body and soul communication came through clearly.

She lived another two weeks and everyone thought it was a miracle. It was no miracle, it was the softness of the human soul expanding into the places where the body had receded; the soul rising toward its home, in G*dliness, from where it came.

I think about death that way after having experienced it for others so many times. Every now and then there is a restlessness into death, generally from individuals for whom there was a restlessness in life, but mostly something more gentle into that good night, when there is time and inevitability.

So I’m going to end these stories before the seam of Gracie’s death. I will see her through it now that I am released somewhat by these stories, having found a way to sleep a little better, adjusting to this, to that, working through the pull on my heart that her decline means for me, instructed by her animal walk through life, one foot in her water bowl gobbling up the kibble I leave for her in her feed bowl, recognizing in her story many stories, living my own story in my Italianate home in a Milanese suit, a panama hat from Ecuador [Ft. Wayne, Indiana], in front of the screen as I tap tap away when there is nothing – else – for me – to do.

Amen.

jsg, usa

Science Meta-Science

The Science of Caring for Older Sentient Beings
Or: Addiction and the Need for Sleep

The Gracie Stories, part 14

I am watching carefully through these weeks and these stories the adaptations I have to make to care for Gracie the noble beast as she is going through her transitions to the end of the arc of this life; a kind of scientific journal marking my discoveries. I have the greatest respect for pediatricians, patricians [typing error too delicious to delete] neo-natal medicos and veterinarians who do not get verbal responses from their cared-for.

A lot of what I know about my children when they were little or my animals — nobody knows better than me. This I am sure of.

Yesterday morning Gracie got stuck in her palace, couldn’t quite get herself up on her legs. I popped my head in, willing to help her, she looked at me for a moment and in her eyes I read this: give me a moment. So I did and she got up and out and made a nice poo poo right in the middle of the steps down to the grass. She made it outside what the heck.

Gracie is still eating well but she is weakening. She doesn’t even attempt the stairs ascending and needs help on the stairs descending. It takes a moment after she awakes to get her bearings, I think both physically and cognitively, though I may be extrapolating here.

Still, my science is sound I think, as well as my meta-science. This morning I am fixing for her another palace downstairs to hang out in so she doesn’t have to make the stairs up to the second floor where we sleep, it will be better for me too as I don’t sleep when she doesn’t sleep. Gracie, you’re keeping me up all night long.

Every time she re-negotiates her Turkish cell I wake up. She makes a circle in her cell goes back to sleep and I’m up another two hours. And it’s hard, hard for me to go back to sleep. It’s like being in the sleep clinic every night.

I notice also that she doesn’t hold her doodi [Fr.] so well anymore. I have studied that as well, so I guide Gracie out the house right away and this morning I heard myself say: come on girl, don’t let any sh** fall out your ass. This the technical language I have adapted for my home purposes.

The interruption in sleep also stokes my addictions. I disguise the problem by referring to it like sleep-walking, but it’s not like sleep-walking it’s like addiction. I buy stuff on Ebay.

When my daughters cleaned out my shoe shelves they saw I have six pairs of the same black shoe. Why Daddy? I like them. For a long time it was shoes, then pens. Now it’s hats. Bought two last night. Panamas, I’m supposed to be fooled that they were made in Ecuador but I don’t care. That’s exactly the nature of addiction: you want it, you want it now, you don’t care, you lose your restraint.

The hats will arrive, I’ll wear them and swear off Ebay. I need to sleep.

jsg

Small alef; poetry Shemini

Maqam Hoseini

D E-flat F G

Every Shabbat has a musical firgure associated with it
A maqam
Hebrew cognate maqom
Signifying place.

Building of the Mishkan complete
seven days of installation done —
our teacher presiding,

The Shekhinah had not yet appeared
until Aaron put on
robes.

We waited.
The Shekhinah –
a sign we would be forgiven the slip with the golden calf.

Our teacher said,
my brother is more worthy and excellent than I am.
Through his sacrifices and his service
the Shekhinah will rest among you.

God the King
Our teacher the King’s attendant
the people the Queen
the brother the Queen’s attendant —

working from the lower world
up,
so to speak.

Holy brother –
Nice suit.

jsg

Poo Poo On My Shoes

Poo Poo On My Shoes

The Gracie Stories, part 13

At the funeral I did several weeks ago I had poo poo on my shoes, several entries back, the cousin and caretaker of the man I buried mentioned that the deceased had one good friend who he hoped would come to the funeral. It seemed important to the cousin that the man might show up. The deceased it seemed lived a sad, desolate life and it felt significant that this one guy, his friend, would show up for the funeral. I asked before we started the service: is his friend here?

No, said the cousin, I was thinking he might come.

I started the prayers and made the holy chants and about ten minutes into it, I saw someone hurrying toward us through the cemetery. He was walking/running like a tattered coat; there was a flailing of arms and legs and an eagerness in his approach. This must be the friend, I thought.

After the holy prayers were said and the casket settled into the grave, we began to shovel the dirt as is the Jewish custom. The friend was eagerly supervising; though no one had designated him to do that, it was sweet.

He whispered to me as he passed me by the grave: he was a great person, he had his problems but he was a great friend. I will miss him. Extremely loyal. A loyal friend, all my life.

He left as abruptly as he arrived. It touched me; the white fire of it, not written whatever this relationship was it was not disclosed to me, but his eagerness in his arrival, his style of entry, his assumption of responsibilities, his departure as abrupt as his arrival – all of it opened to me on a secret of human relations that was not articulate but present in this life that had been described to me in mostly sad and frustrating episodes. Here: a friend.

A few weeks later, I ran into that friend. I noticed him in a place I would have never placed him — I needn’t mention the place as that would needlessly complicate the story – but this was clearly one of his places and he was comfortable and planted there. He didn’t recognize me.

Another chapter of the deceased story cracked open to me, but I didn’t ask, didn’t push the door open on it, just that he had been connected to someone maybe a whole group of people that might not have been known to his family was heartening to me.

It was also the unlikely conflation of worlds; I would have never placed the deceased, from what I had been told of him, and therefore his friend, in this place. It was another unlikely conflation of stories to me that happen and in some ways I am tracking them through these stories and all stories; the arc of stories that intersect and conflate, merge and separate, with delight and surprise I am living in my head or watching from one of my Italianate porches.

Today Mugsie walked by with Lucy. Mugsie lives down the block and Lucy is I guess Mugsie’s new sister, they are both canines, and Gracie left the porch where we are sitting and meeting students and went down and sniffed around them a little. Good for you Gracie, some return to normal; this grand up and down, jumping in jumping out, running and returning (see Ezekiel 1:14) quality of existence. Another good description of writing: to track the ascents and descents.

Passover is over. This is the secret that was whispered to us by our teacher while we were still not-free: the in the out the running the returning the up the down the ascents the descents the near the far: it’s the same. You’re close, you’ll be far. You’re far, you’ll be close. Don’t take it so seriously. You’re in for the ride of your life.

Just fed Gracie on the porch. She ate out of her food bowl with one leg in her water bowl. What the heck. The peace of the near and the far, the in the out.

jsg, usa

Gracie Stories part 12, Ray Charles is Brave

Ray Charles is Brave

I finally slept. A whole night so to speak.

I have never slept. Even as a kid, I had trouble sleeping. I always figured I was just one of those people who didn’t sleep much and I didn’t seem to need much. I did fine for many years on a few hours of sleep and I didn’t think much about it. I acquired a load of degrees, was very diligent in my work and studies, never fell asleep sitting up or driving, etc.

I was also of the school that wherever I stopped I dropped and went to sleep. I used to delight in sleeping in my boots.

I was living on one of the more charming deserts of my beloved country, as far away in geography and ethos as possible from my homeland. I was alone there for a long while and I acquired the habit of curling up under my precious sleeping bag with all my clothes on, even my boots. I never slept as well in my what I call my memory as I slept under that soft old-school sleeping bag with my clothes and boots on. I don’t believe that sleeping bag has ever slept outside not once.

There was something machismo about it for sure and also something, well, dissolute. But not entirely dissolute; I also preferred it. I got up, brushed my teeth, splashed some water on my face and I was out the door. I wasn’t dressing in Milanese suits at the time but I wasn’t a slob either. I thought it was great. I lived like this for what seemed like a long time.

Nowadays when I am serious about sleep or when my sacred partner is out of town I fish out that same sleeping bag and I crawl under it with all the finery intact underneath, boots included.

I feel now the absence of sleep. I went to one of the clinics where they hooked me up — what?! I have a problem sleeping you expect me to sleep with probes on my head — in your bed? It was an absurd exercise for someone who can’t sleep; so they watched me not sleep. The sleep test had an inherent flaw: it was based on observing me sleeping under torture. I snuck some heroin so I could at least catch a few hours [note: I call all sleep aids heroin].

I did get something out of the sleep studies and I am sleeping better than I have probably ever slept in my life. Except these days. I am back to sleeping in my boots wherever I light.

I am listening for Gracie the dog in her cage and my sacred partner on her throne/bed [she has an egg crate foam platform on her side of the bed that lifts her up like a ridge over myself in the valley below] and everyone is sleeping tenderly. I’m plugged in.

Gracie often needs to go out, etc. and when she does she circles her cage like she’s in prison in Turkey and I take her out.

Taking her out has developed into a new routine. She can’t quite negotiate steps; she is overcome by the gravity of descent and she has lost confidence in ascent. So she waits for me at the top of the stairs. I take a slight hold of her collar and guide her down. This works surprisingly well and she submits to it; you can teach an old dog new tricks. It feels like I am helping Ray Charles off the bandstand.

I feed her on the front Italianate porch, covered, and she makes the more gently sloped stairs down to the front forty with relative ease. She stays out there on her own, pretty much pacing the porch and looking out at the world though I know she doesn’t see. She doesn’t hear either. She has never gone anywhere but the front yard though there is no invisible Forbidden Planet business there.

When I bring her in I have to now carry her up the second floor stairs. She just won’t try the stairs anymore by herself. That’s the phase we are in, and as long as I am home we have it worked out.

I am home most of the time.

She used to love to sit on the front porch and watch the world. She never went anywhere but the vicinity but now that she doesn’t see nor does she hear I suppose it’s easy to get disoriented.

The other night late someone showed up at the door with her; he found her wandering around in the middle of the big busy street that is a long block down from my house. He looked familiar to me but I can’t identify him. Is this your dog? He asked. Yes. What’s her name? Ray Charles. Ray Charles was wandering around Hanley Avenue [her name and address is on a collar coin but she is also sporting a nice bandana there these days]. She must have gotten confused and followed someone else down the street.

Still I let her out on the porch and she hasn’t repeated her mistake, though I do check on her more often and always she is pacing the porch stopping to gaze out as she once did though I imagine she doesn’t see much.

Poor Ray Charles, I think. Then there’s the nobility of pushing through when one after another of what is known is taken away. Ray Charles continues on. She eats well, my fingers and hands are recovering, she paces and flops in her palace when she is tired, much like myself, when the day is done with me, with my boots on.

I Become Food

I Become Food

Grace stories part 11

Yesterday was my Dad’s yahrzeit and my beloved brother and I met at the shul and said the holy kaddish for Harry. We didn’t talk much, we sat together and prayed. We’re brothers; what’s to say.

He was closer to Harry in some ways than I was. Harry always said he wasn’t going to make the same mistakes with my [little] brother that he made with me, and to his credit, he was much more involved with my brother than he was with me in our growing up. Harry often apologized to me on Father’s Day, in a rather formal way, something he felt he had to say but it hurt me that he felt that way. I couldn’t have loved him more in my mind and whatever mistakes he made passed me by. G*d knows I made a load of them in my little life.

Earlier in the day while taking Gracie into the pen I had a dog cookie in my hand and she mistook my hand for the cookie and clamped her canine jaw down on it and it hurt like hell and I couldn’t extract it for a long moment. I put her in the pen and began to bleed like crazy; she had the vice grips on my hand. Her jaw is strong; doggies are built to tear apart non-kosher flesh and she returned to praeternatural food gathering for a moment.

I bound up my middle finger on my right hand, the one that expresses my take on existence if left to my own unsocialized self, and went on with the day. I’ve had only interrupted sleep these last days and I was grumpy the entire day. Both my daughters and my sacred partner required or at least asked me to serve them, I did, but by the time of the evening prayers for Harry, my finger was throbbing and swelled and everyone I encountered got the authentic finger f**k you. I meant it.

My beloved brother saw my finger and when I told him the story he wrote me a script for antibiotic and told me what can happen when a canine bites that deeply into something like a finger. He explained what he learned dissecting a hand in medical school and how quickly an infection can spread up the tendons, etc., and then I would have a serious problem. I already knew as I had imagined it driving down Delmar the other day, wondering what sort of guitar for the left hand I could play, remembering Ravel who was commissioned by Wittgenstein’s older brother to write him a concerto after he lost his right arm in World War I – this in what I call my mind.

My brother is smart, an excellent scientist as well as a true person of compassion, he is in my mind the doctor equivalent of Atticus the lawyer. I listen to him. I went and filled the script and started the antibiotic right away. He generally doesn’t treat me but I could tell he thought this was serious enough to get on it right away. Man it hurt too.

I met everyone I knew waiting at the pharmacy, to all f**k you and I didn’t explain.

The compassion flagon was hard hard to refill; I was tapped. Gracie ate my hand, everybody wanted a different food, it was Passover, etc., though I made one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever eaten that my son and his girl dug into when they returned from the movies. Nice baked potato – simple, good fare. Salad.

I am preparing to go to the prison house this week. I generally bring a seder in a box with me during Passover; it’s peak experience. The offenders speak eloquently on all the implications of freedom, inner and outer. I wrote an Haggadah that treats the Passover experience as a ritual of inner liberation: on Purim we become one with each other, on Passover we become one with ourselves. This year I am taking a journalist with me and don’t know how to explain stopping to visit the camel.

How fragile the compassionate response is – so easy to dissipate. I thought I was immune. Even sleep can deplete the compassion reserves. I used to sleep in my boots wherever I lit; I’ve returned to those days and it’s not so terrible. At least I’m not sleeping in my car.

I put on a nice Hickey Freeman suit, established 1899, in order to get a tetanus shot. Jacob Freeman and Jeremiah Hickey, Rochester New York, they called their building The Temple. I bought the suit in Detroit, nicely tailored by Abraham the Lebanese artiste, etc., midnight blue worsted wool, gold pocket fold from Italy. Vintage.

giacomo buonomo