11:42 p.m. Here's a bit more numerological symmetry: today is 9.11.99, with 111 days to go until the end of -- '99. So my calendar square has all one's in it: 11 111. My son tells me he always happens to look at the digital clock when it says 11:11, and you know what? Every time I look at the clock and it says 11:11, I think of him. So, that works.
Plus, it' also Rosh Hashanah. Happy New Year, 5760 to all my little Jewish friends.
Last night I went to services that are conducted each year, for free, by a Rabbi you just have to love, Rabbi Schlomo Schwartz of the Chai Center. He was at Woodstock, up on the big stage right after Ritchie Havens, celebrating the New Year 5730 with 14,000 apples and the sounding of the shofar over a major PA system. Last night he again used technology to help spread the word. He presided over a huge crowd who were nonetheless able to sing along courtesy of Kinko's and their all-night copy machines. And once again, there were sweet apples and free-flowing honey and hope for a sweet year.
After the services we squeezed into an Italian restaurant in the hills overlooking the sea, just before the kitchen shut down so I could have some nice tortolini in brodo, just like my Momma used to make. Italians splash a little bit of vinegar into the chicken stock because it's supposed to release calcium or some such nutrient from the bones. Have you ever marveled at the various ethnic chicken stocks? Thai and Vietnamese, with lemon grass? Jewish, with extra schmaltz? Chinese, with big fat won-tons?
I still have such a hard time saying no to people. Because the restaurant was good enough to make room for us at the end of the evening, I sort of felt obligated to have one of their specialties to show my gratitude. Unfortunately, I cannot mix wine and crème de anything, no matter how proud the chef is of his creation. There's not an after-dinner drink I've ever kept down until breakfast. Not a one.
I have great stories about some of them, however. One involves grappa, many circle around various years of port, and a particularly hilarious one involves ouzo, Detroit, flaming cheese, the last leg of my cross-country book tour, and a bus full of gospel singers.
So last night, now that I am older and wiser, I merely pretended to sip a scalding throatful of the chef's cappochino surprise while the waiters hovered and brushed off crumbs. Then, I put it in front of Igor, who has no trouble saying no. I had maybe one more sip when it was time to pay the bill, just for appearances.
And I was fine until about 5 a.m., when I woke up with a terrible nightmare and a fragment of a song I've never really liked and haven't thought about in all these years, but which I couldn't get out of my mind until sunrise and which I can't remember now for the life of me. If I do remember it, I'll come back and insert it down below, so you'll know. You'll remember it when I quote it properly. You probably didn't like it that much either.
It's amazing how much stuff is in our heads, don't you think? One of the great things about getting older is that your dream palette has so many more layers and hues to choose from. Your instrument has so many more keys and strings to play with. Your wetware finally has enough RAM.
Sometimes, it's very random. Last night I couldn't get that horrible episode of X-files out of my mind. If you've seen it, you know the one I'm talking about -- the one they only showed once because it was so bad, so horribly bad that even the red warning at the beginning didn't prepare you for the uckiness of it. It was maybe called "Home" -- I don't remember the name exactly, but boy oh boy. Put it out of you mind right now if you're thinking about it again. The worst.
I could see the big dipper, or at least a careful grouping of stars out my window at the predawn hour when my eyes popped open. My heart was beating as though I'd been running from something truly horrible. Some random act of memory. There's always going to be evil in the world, down here where we lie in the dark. Try to focus on the glow from the stars and when they begin to dim, try to remember the candle's steady, eternal flame as the wine turns to vinegar and pulses through the red-eyed night.
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