I’ve got my first music writing gig in a while, reviewing the new Shondes album for the Forward. And while it’s weird to be listening to music in the middle of Sefirat HaOmer, it’s also kind of cool. The other day, right before my gig, I got a song stuck in my head (“Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, if you were wondering). I was fasting from music, but I could still taste it, so to speak — much like Roger Ebert, who can no longer eat food due to cancer, writes about still getting ghost tastes in his mouth.
And then yesterday was Lag BaOmer, the joyful day that ends it all.
No matter where in the world you are for Lag BaOmer, either Meron or not in Meron, there are crazy celebrations. In Crown Heights yesterday, we stumbled upon a huge parade, a parade that was more like a March on Washington — literally thousands of little Hasid-lets in bright orange T-shirts worn above white long-sleeve shirts. In the grand tradition of Hasidic events with superlative non-descriptive titles like The Big Event, yesterday’s festivities were known as The Great Parade.
And I know this won’t mean anything to 99% of you, but it was sort of the Hasidic equivalent of a Beatles reunion show, if the Beatles had never played on stage together before. The (Great!) Parade’s three headliners were all one-namers, like Madonna or Prince: Lipa! MBD! Avrohom Fried (who, okay, isn’t a one-namer, but has that star appeal nonetheless). And — and, okay, this was a big one, especially for those of us who are under two years old — Uncle Moishy!
The biggest show going on wasn’t even on the stage. It was in the streets. Intent on making my family happy, I trudged to the end of the line that snaked outside the barbershop, where dozens of men waited for their first haircut in 33 days. Ahead of me, a bunch of people were recounting the age-old debate about whether the Lubavitcher Rebbe is really the Messiah — since the star-studded event brought in thousands of newcomers to Crown Heights, and there’s really only one thing that newcomers to Crown Heights talk about. Behind me, people were discussing the merits of Uncle Moishy’s music. As you can imagine, I have some pretty strong opinions — I’m a huge fan, and I think that Uncle Moishy honestly gets what kids want to hear. My only serious gripe is that, since my Hebrew name is Moishy, there’s really no way my daughter can have an Uncle Moishy. Unless he’s an uncle-in-law. But, uh…no.
The day went on. Highlight: the What Will Happen When the Messiah Shows Up float, which had a bunch of plastic action figures rising from elaborately-done Styrofoam graves, and a conveyor-belt of babies with impromptu pasted-on cotton-ball beards going around and around in a circle of resurrection. Words can’t begin to express how cool it was, and I honestly pray that the real thing, when it happens, will look as cool. Low point: The petting zoo. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen more depressed animals. I think the kids were picking up on it, too — kids were prodding the giant turtle to come out of its shell, which, if you were that turtle, was no incentive to; and there was a monkey inside a cage that was alternately brooding in a corner and having a psychotic meltdown. I’m pretty sure it was mostly the fault of the booking company, and not the parade managers, but still: not cool, folks. And I highly doubt that Shimon bar Yohai‘s followers had giant turtles or monkeys or ibexes around when they went into the forest for their Lag BaOmer celebrations.
Oh, other high point: Bumping into the awesome singer Dov Rosenblatt (and my brother-in-law Boz, who teaches awesome classes) at a booth for Jnet. In his post-Blue Fringe life, he’s moved to Los Angeles and started making musical iPod programs. I was hoping he was performing, but he was just there to have a good time. As is, on Lag BaOmer of all days, totally acceptable.
And now that I can listen to music, it feels like I should binge. My biggest urge so far has been to hear the They Might Be Giants song “Subliminal,” which isn’t even one of my favorite songs of theirs. But who am I to judge? Like Roger Ebert and his food memories, I don’t have control over what my ears want.
Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.