|My first real encounter with Judaism, was when I moved to the big city to follow my aspirations in music. I rented a basement apartment from a couple, Simon and Susie Sidlebaulmn. It was a modest one bedroom basement apartment, with a small living room, kitchen and bathroom.|
I was on the road with my band Bitter Romance much of the time and not privy to the daily workings of the religion. I would only get scraps of horror stories over the phone from my then live-in girlfriend Lorraine.
"Oh my God. They are chanting in the family room and they have these little black boxes on their arms, and foreheads."
"Like an airplane black box?" I inquired.
"I don’t know," she said. Her voice was shaking, "It’s scaring me."
"No shit," I’d reply just as confounded, and wondering what she wanted me to do when I was a thousand miles from home. "Maybe they’re part of some demonic cult looking for a human sacrifice," I offered, making Lorraine burst into tears.
Of course, the boxes she spoke of are tefillin a leather pouch, which contain the scrolls of Torah passages and is bound to the hands and between the eyes for prayer.
A week later during my call home Lorraine was at it again. "She brought some sort of liquid down for me to eat. I think she’s trying to poison me?" Her terrified voice cracking over the phone.
Rather interested in this new development, I said, "What does it look like?"
"It has big blobs of some-sort-of dough . . . I think?" I could almost see her poking it with a stick from a distance.
"Is it ticking?"
"I don’t think so."
"Eat it, or call in the bomb squad," I said, becoming a little annoyed at these
constant intrusions. After all I had problems of my own. Like starving while our drummer embezzled money and ate in the finest restaurants and I shared peanut butter and mustard macaroni soup with two other band members.
Of course, what she was looking at, was matzah ball soup, although I didn’t know if she had, floaters and sinkers.
On our next conversation. "Oh my God. They’re building a large wooden structure out back. What should I do?"
Many thoughts went through my head. Was it an extension to the house? Was it a shed of some kind, to keep and butcher small animals? Eventually mind boggled, I said, "Does it look like it can float?"
She hesitated, obviously lifting the corner of a curtain to give it a further inspection. "I...I...I’m not sure."
"If they start collecting two of every animal, get the hell out of the basement!"
This of course was a Sukkah, built annually during the Holiday of Sukkot, a festive, Thanksgiving, Christmasy holiday. In later years, I would see these structures everywhere as summer gave way to the onslaught of Fall.
"Johnny this is the worst yet," an upset Lorraine whimpered over the phone.
I sighed, "What’s wrong now?"
"They’re doing something . . . something big."
"What, what!" Was it some sort of assassination attempt? Were they printing counterfeit $100's? My mind raced.
"I don’t know," she sobbed.
"Tell me what you see Lorraine."
"They are scrubbing and cleaning and wrapping everything in tinfoil. Is that normal?" She related this to me in hushed tones, as if she were in danger of being discovered that she knew too much. Lorraine was the epitome of the nosy neighbor. "They’re also burning things in the back yard like they’re getting rid of evidence. They’re cooking something too----I haven’t seen the mailman for a while---you don’t suppose---I’m scarred John."
After a long pause, I said, "I think, this has something to do with Passover if I’m not mistaken."
"It’s a dinner to commemorate the ahhh----Angel of Death or something."
"The Angel of Death is coming---here---to the house," Lorraine began to cry
(Did I mention Lorraine wasn’t very bright?)
"Do you know Charlton Heston?"
"Charlton Heston’s coming to dinner," she sobbed harder.
"The Ten Commandments! The Ten Commandments! Just watch the damn movie! It’s all in there! Mosses, locusts, death, Passover, GOODBYE!" I yelled and slammed the phone down.
Tomorrow excerpt from: The events of last night