The Islamic Center, You and Me

Muslims pray here

 

I’ve been reading a lot of the Huffington Post lately, as it is my new-found obsession. I have been commenting obsessively about this crazy “Ground Zero Mosque” charade that’s going on in NYC and across the nation and I’m truly at a loss for words.  

Buddhists Pray Here

What is Mosque any way?  What’s a shul, or synagogue?  What’s a church?  What’s a temple?  Do they make bombs in mosques?  Do they burn babies in synagogues?  Do they worship idols in churches/temples??  Nope.  We pray in them.  They’re houses of prayer.  A place for community, to eat, sing, dance, pray, meditate, enjoy the company of others.  They hold sacred texts, the architecture is often awe-inspiring, They are often beautifully decorated with stained glass, beautiful mosaics, paintings, gilded in gold.   Homes of languages, English, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Sanskrit.  I digress… 

Jews Pray Here

Being a writer, I’m never at a loss of words but the words that I keep coming up with our those of a toddler.  Why?  Any parent of a 2-year-old will tell you that “Why” is one of those words that you try not to teach your child and some how it happens that they learn the singular question and the Pandora’s Box of Why is opened and you never, ever have an answer no matter how hard you try. 

I was a Why Child, my mother tells me.  Everything she said was questioned and the answers she gave were questioned until impatient and exhausted she would retort, “Because, that’s why!”  Jullian, my beautiful 4-year-old nephew, is a Why Child and as events continue to unfold before my eyes and ears I’m remembering that I am, in fact, a Why Child. 

The first I heard of the “Ground Zero Mosque” was at work at 4AM by employees who were giving me a very loose, very ignorant interpretation of what was going on.  Because they were talking in ear shot and they were being bigoted and you know, discrimination in the work place is a no-no I asked them to change their topic of conversation from racist ones to something more appropriate. 

As the weeks go on I can’t help but wonder Why American’s cannot see what they’re doing?  Let’s take a look at History, keeping in mind that I am not a history scholar, nor do I pretend to be. 

We “discover” America.  Never mind the people who’ve lived on the continent for centuries.  We come in, we over power them, we make them into savages, beasts, less-than humans.  We use our fire power to over power them and drive them off the land and now these people live in fractions of land without basic human, American privileges like education, health care, and a sense of belonging.  The entire span of the continent that is North America shrunk into spaces – Reservations we call them.  What are we reserving?  We’ve taken away a way of life, and more than that we’ve taken away a people. 

 

Next we board ships and cross the Atlantic and rip a people, my people, from their own country.  We strip them of their humanity, their dignity, their identity and shackle them in bowels of ships like cattle.  The unfortunate ones who survive the journey back across the Atlantic are then treated worse than cattle, worse than live stock.  They aren’t given rights because they are property and are treated as such.  Human beings striped of anything human in a society where a family can be broken up and sold, women can be raped, and men can be tortured. 

  

When my people are given emancipation we’re still second class citizens without the right to own property or vote and to this day a black person walking down the wrong street on the wrong night is not safe. 

 

 The Next second class citizens, women, are never stripped of rights because we never had them at all.  

 

 The thing that “marriage supporters” always forget that the purpose of marriage, originally, had nothing to do with religion at all.  It was an exchange of property and goods and ownership, the woman, from one man to another.  The Hebrew Bible is riddled with women being treated no better than slaves.  Lot offers his virgin daughters to the savages of Sodom for goodness sake!    

 

Women fought for what we believed in and still we make less money, we cannot be ordained as holy people in many faiths, we’re still seen as second class citizens and some men feel that it’s their right or privilege to call out in the streets, grab in the bars… 

 

Japanese people after the World War, Jews at any time in history.  We’re making it impossible for Mexicans to seek solice in our country when the purpose of our country was to give solice to those who came looking,   “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

 

When the twin towers fell I sat watching at home with my family like everyone else.  I remember listening to the broadcasters and thinking to myself when they said “Muslim terrorists” G-d help us.  Some blacks scoffed it off, “now someone else knows what it feels like.”  People spit bigotry and racism freely and very few opposed it.  

When the twin towers fell 16 radical “Islamic” men took the lives of thousands of men, women, children.  Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, etc., etc.  Gays, straights, lesbians, queers…Blacks, Whites, Asians, Latinos… 

It was a loss for all Americans including Americans who are Muslims.  The world watched in horror remembering D-Day, The Shoah, A divided Ireland, an oppressed Germany.  Why? 

Why can’t people remember those things?  Why can’t people remember their humanity, their compassion, their love, the fact that at one time we all were “Muslim”, the “other” person, people, sex, gender, race… 

Reading history books in school, whether it be grade school, high school, or college, I remember shaking my head in dismay at the horrors that we humans have wrought upon other humans.  Rereading the Torah I shake my head still.  As a civilization we continue to do this and Why don’t we learn? 

As a Jew, we believe that Moshiach will come when the world is free of all sin, and I’m paraphrasing clearly.  It’s written far more eloquently else where.  Christians also belive that the world will be redeemed when it’s pure and guess what?  Muslims think that, too!!  

How will Moshiach come if we’re acting like savage beasts!?  Why would s/he?  I sure as hell wouldn’t.  G-d promised Noah that he’d never destroy the earth again after the great flood.  Let’s remember that Erika does NOT take the Bible for face value.  One of the reasons I’m embracing Judaism is because it’s encouraged for me to “wrestle” with the Torah.  I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again.  I bet G-d is regretting that promise right about now. 

   

   

 

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spring cleaning

The weather today in New York was finally what you could call warm.  Or some version of the word.  I still wore a wool top coat but I kept it unbuttoned as I walked down Carroll Street in Brooklyn after work.  I wore tights and boots with my dress but I noticed people with sneakers and no socks.  I wore sunglasses (as I usually do) but because the sun was shining more brightly than it’s been shining for the past few months.  The clincher came, though, at home when I stood on my dresser and my stove to get the large duffel bags of warm-weather clothes down from the only storage I have in my apartment in the space above my hall way.

I’m packing for Costa Rica, mostly, and trading my wool scarves for linen, cotton, and silk ones.  I’ve been getting a lot of advice lately.   Advice is always hard to take-even when it is solicited.  I thank my friends for their advice-especially those who are reading this now because it’s always great to bounce ideas off of people.  The thing about advice; whether you’re paying a shrink for it or getting it from good friends over beers is what you do with it.  I have never been a believe in just doing what somebody tells you to do no matter who they are.  I can’t even begin to remember how many times I was told to go right and instead I went left.  I wander around most of the time defiant of the “right” way because I don’t want go the right way-I want to go my way.

I can relate anything that happens in my life to a Dave Matthews Band song.  Have I said that here before, admitted my unfaltering and undying love for Dave Matthews Band?  It’s a pretty crazy love.  It started in the back seat of Lisa Ferguson’s Tahoe my junior year of high school which would’ve been about 1996-1997.  We were listening to “Satellite” over and over again on her monster sound system.  Ever since that night, the first few cords of the guitar, I was hooked.  I’ve been a fan ever since but not in a crazy follow them around the world kind of way.  I’ve actually only seen two shows and it’s not for a lack of trying, I just forget.  But when I remember I try my best to get tickets and they’re always sold out.  C’est la vie.

The song lyrics that are swirling around in my head lately are the following, “I will go in this way, and find my own way out” from “#41”.  I’m sort of stuck.  In so many ways I find myself wading in knee-deep mud with no direction or no hope of getting out.  On one hand I have the advice of my family, my friends and on the other I have my own thoughts, my own ideas of what the right answer is.  I’m not sure who is right or who is wrong but the thing about making a decision.  To go right rather than left, to go up rather than down is that in chosing one you are neglecting the other.  Some decisions aren’t that black and white, I realize, but inevitably when you are chosing one thing you aren’t chosing another. 

So what to do, I’m not quite sure.  Hence the song lyrics and my eyes on the prize mentality that is going to “Costa Rica and figure my shit out.”  It’s my mantra.  Costa. Rica.  Where some people “OM” I Costa. Rica.  Costa. Rica. Costa. Rica. Costa. Rica.  Inhale (Costa) Exhale (Rica)  It’s my thing.  My jam, if you will.

weekend in review, too

Bowling.  Something I did quite frequently back in Ohio.  In Ohio bowling pretty much goes like this.  Incredibly divey alley with bad lighting and rented bowling shoes your very scared to put your feet in.  There’s usually a sports game on TV and a woman with badly dyed hair womaning the bar.  The beers on tap are all varieties of Budweiser and Miller.  Maybe, if you’re lucky, there will be Heineken-maybe.  The game is about 10 bucks and the shoe rental another dollar or two.  You drink the cheap beer out of plastic cups from a plastic pitcher and after the third, if you’re with a group of friends, things get rowdy, competitive and more likely than not you find yourself smoking with the bartender with the bad dye job at the bar while waiting for your fourth pitcher of Bud Light.

Bowling in Brooklyn at a place called Brooklyn Bowl was nothing like any bowling experience I’ve had before.  The bowling alley is huge-with a separate restaurant and waitress service for your bowling lane.  Instead of hard plastic public transportation-like chairs to sit in we lounged in leather couches that looked as though they were purchased from Restoration Hardware.  The beers on tap were cheap-$5 a pint (is that cheap or have I been in New York for too long) but they were all local beers (go local!)  From the Brooklyn Brewery just ’round the corner.  The food was average pub fair-but with a gourmet touch.  I’m not certain but I wouldn’t be surprised if the kitchen’s chef was on a show like Top Chef or some Food Network show at one time or another.  The two games on two lanes for two hours that we played cost about $200 dollars-split between 16 people it wasn’t that awful but bowling has definitely come along way.  And what an ingenious idea.  The idea of fancy bowling was made better because we were celebrating the birthday of an old friend of mine.  Her wife and best friend organized the event.  Another friend, a sweet young man of 23, was also celebrating his birthday and all-in-all we had a large group of gay girls, straight boys and their girlfriends and their parents taking over the not-too-hipster part of Williamsburg.  The night ended with my third Hip Hop show-Talib Kweli and Friends-including my growing favorite, Jean Grae. 

Mirs didn’t join me for the festivities.  She was especially disappointed when it was announced that Jean Grae would be performing.  Mirs has a mad-crazy crush on Jean Grae.  I believe she’s actually called her the hottest black woman alive.  Admittedly, I was a little insulted by that statement-I mean, I’m her girlfriend I should clearly be the hottest black woman aside.  I’m not really worried about Jean running off with my girl, though.  Last I checked she was pretty straight.

It was good hanging out with the girls, though.  It grew harder as they paired off every once in a while-since everyone we were with were coupled up.  My Friend Crush was pleasantly without her other half for the majority of the day and it gave us the chance to catch up.   She’s in a brand new relationship and very much in that can’t-keep-my-hands-off-of-you-must -have-you-now-sex phase.  Flirting with her is like a get out of jail free card.  It’s harmless because we’re both in relationships; mine is committed, her’s hasn’t been quite defined yet.  Still, flirtation with friends-both gay and straight-is perfectly acceptable, in my opinion.  It allows you to flirt, and Libras are notorious flirters, but without any of the awkward-is she into me? Self-questioning that real flirting brings. 

The main difference from this group of lesbian friends and the group of lesbian friends we’re doing Thanksgayving with is this friend-flirting.  Both groups of girls are close-knit, both are in their late early 30’s (some late 20’s), both groups are, for the most part, coupled up.  In the group I spent time with last night-the flirting among friends is more common place.  It may have something to do with the fact that half of them have slept with each other in their college days.  Flirting, though, is so much fun.  I love to flirt, and it’s even more fun when someone flirts with you back and you both know that nothing is, or will ever, come from it.  It’s innocent, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and it helps you remember that you still have “it”  That “it” that helped you get your partner and the “it” that keeps them wanting more.

death and dying II

One of my favorite and most heart breaking SATC episodes to watch and re watch is My Motherboard Myself.  I’m not sure which season it is but it’s the episode in which Carrie’s computer crashes and Miranda’s mother passes away.  It’s such a painful and moving moment at the end of the episode when Miranda is walking down the church aisle alone and starts to break down crying.  She’s looking frantic, sad, and in need of support.  Carrie, from a pew, comes to her side and the two of them walk to the end of the church together hand-in-hand.

My freshman year of high school, my then best friend called me on spring day to inform me that her father passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack.  I remember listening to her tell me the news in shock.  I listened and said the things that you say to a friend so far away in a time of crisis and pain.  When I hung up the phone I ran down the stairs to the floor below to let the other girls who’d attended our high school of the news.  We all cried and when we’d finished I returned to my dorm room and called my father to let him know how much I loved and cared for him.

My mother lost her mom when she was only 25 and I consider myself lucky to be at age 30 and to not only have my mother but to call her my best friend.  On Friday one of my best friends in New York rushed to the bedside of her ailing Father.  Today we talked briefly and my heart absolutely broke into pieces listening to her agonizing pain.  I felt helpless here in New York while she’s so far away.  Her father’s not doing well-the family is praying for a miracle and the possibility is there.

It occurred to me a few months ago, when another high school friend lost her infant child, and then again last week when another friend miscarried, that we’re at the time in our lives when mortality is a very real thing.  It’s become something that happens to you and not just to other people.  The reality of the situation his that as we get older and become the adults that we may or may not be ready to embrace death is a very real fact.  It sounds silly-everyone knows that eventually we all will die.  It just seems, though, that it is becoming more evident-mortality is more evident as we age.  It’s not just that person who we knew back when but my friend’s child died, my friend’s mother died.

It’s always been quite obvious to me that one day my parents will die.  When I think about this time, though, it’s still far off in the distance.  It’s after my wedding, after my first child, after my second child, when they’ve retired and moved to Florida to live out their golden years.  In my mind, they die peacefully in their sleep on the very same night holding one another.  How easy it is to imagine a death like that-in bed with your spouse.  I’m comfortable believing this illusion of death rather than face the fact that one day, any day, they may die and what would I do then?  Death is far from convenient, it doesn’t take into consideration your plans or its timing-it just is.

At 18 I couldn’t imagine losing a parent and now, twelve years later it’s safe to say that I still cannot.  My heart goes out to my friends and their family and my prayers that I find myself subconsciously whispering to the unknown go out to them.

To be Young Again

Last Saturday Mirs and I met several of our friends for First Saturday at Brooklyn Museum.  There was free admission, cheap beer, wine, and food and lesbians and queer girls, boys, and bois alike for as far as the eye could see.  I feel that there are several events and locations that you can find the girls and the First Saturday at Brooklyn Museum was one of them.  Besides the Margret Mead festival at the Museum of Natural History (which opens this week) I’ve never seen so much fascinating art mixed with queers in a long while.  If you’re a single queer girl reading my blog-Attend Margaret Mead this week and next first Saturday in December get your cute queer ass to the Brooklyn Museum, you’re sure to find a special girl there to snuggle up with under the mistletoe.  Promise.

Mirs and I met two groups of gay girls and the two groups did not meet.  It wasn’t that we thought they shouldn’t-it just didn’t work out quite like that.  It’s hard enough keeping a group of 6 or more together but add another six or more girls and you’ve got chaos.   We didn’t end up staying for very long, we’d just visited the Brooklyn Museum the week before and seen the Rock Photos on display on the top floor in the blissful solidarity that is visiting a New York museum mid-week.

My favorite part of the night was right before we left when we visited the 3rd floor and stumbled upon the beginnings of the “dance party.”  When we got there there were children partaking in the vacant space with the DJ spinning.  Children of various races and ages were running to and fro in great happiness.  It was so adorable it made my ovaries hurt-an apparent pain of being 30.  I wanted nothing more than to scoop up one of  those little kids in my arms and kiss and squeeze them. 

There were three girls, in particular, that got me thinking.  One girl was a blondish little thing about 4 years old.  Her parent’s cut her hair into a short bob that fell just below her chin.  She was wearing a corduroy skirt and a long -sleeved shirt, t-strapped shoes and tights.  She walked right up to two other girls, both black with their hair done in braids; one wearing a skirt and the other in a dress, reached out and took a hand in her own and the three of them walked off-new friends.  It’s so easy for children to make friends, isn’t it?  It’s not the only time I’ve witnessed a child approach a stranger child and declare him or her their new best friend.  I was at the playground over the summer and a little girl walked hand-in-hand towards her mother and said to her mother, “This is my new best friend-what’s your name, again?” 

Mirs and I watched the children playing for about a half hour before the dusk turned into night and the lights in the museum went down slightly and the DJ started playing music from the early 80’s.  Little by little the adults started to the dance floor to dance to Prince, Madonna, and Rick James.  Mirs and I danced for a bit and as I looked around I wished that I was like a child.  There were so many interesting-looking gay girls dancing with their partners and what a great opportunity to walk over, say hello and see if I could make a new friend.  We don’t do that, though.  Adults don’t just walk up to one another and spark a conversation in hopes that a life long friendship will be forged.  I’ll be the first to admit that if a random person walked up to me on the street and started chatting me up my hands would immediately go to my purse and I’d step back looking baffled by their conversation. 

Still, in that situation, on that night I wished I had the innocence and precociousness of a child and walked up to a girl with my girl holding my hand and declare them my new friends.

Lesbe Friends?

WANTED: A group of like-minded lesbians or gays to spend some time.

Is that so hard to do? I mean, I suppose it makes sense to keep in mind that being a lesbian doesn’t necessarily equal friendship. There are definitely a few lesbos out there that I avoid at all costs and wouldn’t even consider to put in the friendship tank. On the other hand, hanging out with other lesbians is way more fun than hanging out with a bunch of straight folks all of the time-no offense straight friends and readers.

I know I’ve gripped about this before, here’s the new reason. On a recent Facebook stalk I discovered that our group of friends had a party that Mirs and I weren’t invited to. Details of said party are definitely fuzzy. I’m not entirely sure who hosted this party or the location. It very well could have been hosted by someone who’s not directly our friends and it just happened that our friends (all of them) were there by coincidence. I mean, that is entirely possible-it’ still a little irksome.

I made this discovery last night when I got home around midnight, Mirs was already sleeping so I couldn’t ask her thoughts. When we woke up this morning I asked her if our friends still loved us. She said she noticed the same pictures posted online and that she was wondering the same thing-then she said she felt like it happened a lot.

Really? This sort of shit still happens as you approach your thirties? I mean, this is the sort of stuff that happened in grade school, right? What does it mean that I’m just as annoyed and slightly hurt now at 29 as I was at 11 not getting invited to a birthday party everyone else is talking about at lunch the Monday after.

So maybe about two months ago I posted a blog with a similar title/question; Where do you find platonic lesbian friends? It is my mission for Spring and Summer to not only seek out like-minded lesbians to make friends but to be a good friend to them.

I’ve started this search for new friends by Facebook Stalking friends of friends and the last time Mirs and I went out to brunch with a new group of lesbian girls I made a point to getting all of their phone numbers and sent them text messages in the following week suggesting that we hang out soon. Also, I’m joining Front Runners, the LGBT running group in NYC, for real-this week, infact.

I’m almost 30 and I can count the number of lesbians I know on my fingers and toes! I think that it’s an okay thing, I don’t need dozens of acquaintances, I just want a handful of close, reliable, honest, funny, athletic, smart, interesting, attractive, well-read, travel-loving, food-loving, wine and beer loving, writer, runner, gardening, animal loving, activist, friendly friends to spend a Sunday morning brunch or afterwork drink, jog in the park, yoga class, to have over for dinner, book club, coffee drinking travel buddy. I mean, that’s not too much to ask for is it?

I blame mainstream television. I hate to admit it but it’s definitely true. If you spend your life watching shows like Friends, The L Word, Sex in the City, or Will and Grace and then you find yourself living in a big city like New York, the scene of so many of these types of shows you start thinking that your life is like the fictional lives of the characters on those shows. Moreover, you start to pretend that the characters on those shows are your actual friends. Whether you admit it or not you start thinking, I’ll go out with Samantha tonight or I wonder what Tasha is up to this afternoon. You imagine that these characters, these woman are people in your actual life, your friends. Slowly, surely, your “friends” disappear, as the shows go off the air and you’re then forced to take a step back to take a look at your real life, your real friends, and you realize that your actual friends aren’t as wonderful or glamorous as your imaginary friends on TV. Your real friends aren’t as reliable, they’re not always there with the flip of a switch or by pressing PLAY on your DVD player. Your real friends require work and effort, it’s just a question of whether or not they’re worth that effort.

She Popped the Question!

No, not that question-we’ve asked that one hundreds of times. Mirs asked me to move in with her! We’ve been living together in her teeny tiny apartment quite comfortably for the past 2 months. I’ve counted and in total have only spent 4 nights in my own bed in Harlem. The other 56 days have been in Brooklyn in her bed with her cat, Leroy.

When ever we talk throughout the day we’ll say things like, “See you at home later!” or “Need me to bring anything home?” and that “home” we talk of is her home, well soon our home. It makes sense, nearly all of my stuff is here and when I grocery shop I consider what’s in the cupboards here rather than there. Still, telling my roommates will be tough. I was talking about it with one of my friends this morning,a mutual friend who commented that they should see it coming. Still, I feel badly about it. I’m not sure, really, how to tell them either.

It should be like taking off a band aid, right? No long drawn out affair-just straight and too the point. I’ve never been good at confrontations, not that this is a confrontation. It’s hard, though, to have tough talks with people face to face. Face to face is how these conversations have to go, they can’t be done via e-mail or on the telephone.

On the other hand, I’m so excited and can’t believe that it’s happening! We were just sitting at Heartland Brewery in Union Square after finding out disappointing news about Stevie Nicks over their beer flight. Out of the blue Mirs asked, “What do you think about putting your stuff in storage and permanently moving in?” I was shocked. I wasn’t expecting it-really. We never talked about it, ever. It was always a discussion of moving in together when her lease expires at the end of summer. Never, had we had a real and honest talk about doing it sooner.

Of course, I smiled like a fool and clapped my hands like a 5 year old and squealed yes. This morning, when we woke up she said she was excited for us to live together, for real. I agreed, until I looked around us. There is stuff EVERYWHERE. Let’s be honest, my stuff is EVERYWHERE. Her place is teeny teeny-200 square feet if that. It’ll be a tight squeeze, and thank god for storage units. Mostly, it will be fun-an adventure and the next chapter in our life together. We’ve been planning a garden in her back yard for months now, this makes it easier. I’ll never have to frantically search the apartment for a belt or pair of shoes just to realize they’re in Manhattan. I’m happy, no ecstatic. Still, a little sad.

I think it will be a great way for me to work on my friendship with the girls. We’ll get to appreciate one another as just friend over the complications and stresses that sometimes occur when friends become roommates. It also opens a whole new stage in my relationship with Mirs. Nothing can hide now-nothing. All of our flaws; my tendency to be messy her anal retentive tendency to be tidy-EVERYTHING will be revealed.

Bring on Chapter 2!