05 November 2009

Cary Grant Was Handsome

In an effort to put the next several months into the proper perspective, I went to see the Boss today. Not the singer from New Jersey but my Boss, the woman who hired me more than ten years ago for a job I no longer have but upon whom I continually rely for wisdom, friendship and a clear-eyed and honest assessment of where things are.

The examination began immediately upon my entering her home. Within moments of crossing the threshold, I was questioned about my beard, my wife's change of career, my children's plans for summer camp and college, my board, my congregants, the Jewish people, Israel, and the abysmal state of politics in our nation today. No sooner was lunch served than I was listening to a monologue about the National Recovery Act, its use of marketing to win support, and the serious consideration I should be undertaking for a fundraising campaign to repair and renew our synagogue.

I kid you not: I was present no more than fifteen minutes and we had moved rapidly and thoroughly from one topic to the next and as I was making mental notes, the Boss said, "Why aren't you writing any of this down? Do you have it stored in that clever head of yours? Why don't you shave that ridiculous beard?"

The Boss is just a couple years older than my father would be and I have to admit to a special kinship I feel being both loved and amusingly abused by a member of the Generation of all Generations in 20th century America. My own opinions matter in relevance only in so far as they are truly persuasive (based on solid evidence.) Numbers matter and about the only thing that I was able to impress the Boss with was that our synagogue has grown by 230 families in the last 4 years and that a local philanthropist gave us $100,000 when he heard about our roof. "That's the most serious thing you've said all afternoon," the Boss said, winking. I had been there twenty minutes.

Some of the Boss's lectures I've heard many times. And I never tire of them, truly. There's the lecture on the importance of camping. There's the lesson about how crushed she was when Roosevelt died only to discover that Truman was an equally strong leader. There's the continued insistence that since 1948, Israel has continued to struggle for existential legitimacy. A vase of flowers stood behind me, a gift to the Boss from a young Palestinian professional who had visited and debated the finer points of the creation of the Palestinian refugees crisis and the ongoing challenge of the settlements. Well into her eighties, the Boss's suitors pursue her, for that brain, that stubbornness, and that brutally honest sense of humor.

Woven into the rational and the intellectual and the political were a few asides here and there, reflections of battles lost and won but reflections that never lasted long enough to cast a shadow on the next great project, just around the corner. We hatched a few ourselves.

Getting up to go--she noticed I was ready to leave before I announced my goodbye--she said, "I'm sure you have some bar mitzvah kid to tutor. I hope you write down everything I told you." And then she reviewed the plan for the next few months. I smiled, not taking notes, and she said, "I really don't see why you grew that beard."

"My wife thinks it's handsome," I said.

"Cary Grant was handsome," said the Boss. And with a smile she showed me the door.

As the 1 train pulled into the station, to take me to Chambers and then on to the 3 train to Brooklyn, I made a list of the Boss's agenda. My marching orders for the weeks ahead.

I considered listing "shaving" among the items but decided not to. The other items I'll follow through on--or there will be hell to pay.


DPG said...

No, Cary Grant was Jewish, but see Philip Roth on the subject:

I heard myself next praising the greatest Diasporist of all, the father of the new Diasporist movement, Irving Berlin. "People ask where I got the idea. Well, I got it listening to the radio. The radio was playing 'Easter Parade' and I thought, But this is Jewish genius on a par with the Ten Commandments. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and then He gave to Irving Berlin 'Easter Parade' and 'White Christmas.' The two holidays that celebrate the divinity of Christ -- the divinity that's the very heart of the Jewish rejection of Christianity -- and what does Irving Berlin brilliantly do? He de-Christs them both! Easter he turns into a fashion show and Christmas into a holiday about snow. Gone is the gore and the murder of Christ -- down with the crucifix and up with the bonnet! He turns their religion into schlock. But nicely! Nicely! So nicely the goyim don't even know what hit 'em. They love it. Everybody loves it. The Jews especially. Jews loathe Jesus. People always tell me Jesus is Jewish. I never believe them. It's like when people used to tell me Cary Grant was Jewish [I think they cut out the work “bullshit” here] Jews don't want to hear about Jesus. And can you blame them? So -- Bing Crosby replaces Jesus as the beloved Son of God, and the Jews, the Jews, go around whistling about Easter! And is that so disgraceful a means of defusing the enmity of centuries? Is anyone really dishonored by this? If schlockified Christianity is Christianity cleansed of Jew hatred, then three cheers for schlock. If supplanting Jesus Christ with snow can enable my people to cozy up to Christmas, then let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Do you see my point?" I took more pride, I told them, in "Easter Parade" than in the victory of the Six Day War. --

From "Operation Shylock."

Amanda said...

Thanks David, love that.

Andy, love the beard also.

Anonymous said...

So Irving turns Easter into a fashion show and the meaning of Christmas becomes the colour white. Ha, Ha!
You are right, of course. It's schlock, but NICE schlock!
If you want religious holiday music with deep religious meaning, there are the carols. But, come on, Irving sure could write a sweet melody and melt his audience. A genius, like Einstein, only more approachable.