I spent last week traveling through Colorado, running Faces of Israel programs but also taking in the scenery. The mountains were absolutely beautiful and I was able to sneak away for a few hours for the authentic Boulder experience: hiking the trails at the Chautauqua Park. The hike was a welcome challenge at the higher-than-usual altitude and I enjoyed the strong sense of hiker community that seemed to break through New York’s stranger walls. (One jovial guy – a Boulder transplant from DC – was skipping down the mountain giving everyone high fives, psyched that he had conquered the Royal Arch trail and excited to share his victory with fellow hikers.)
Continuing with the idea of the friendliness of seeming strangers, I discovered a few days prior to the trip that I had cousins living just outside of Denver: Bob and Barb. First cousins once removed, to be exact. Though we had never met before, they greeted me with such warmth and treated me as though I was a long-standing part of their family. It was wonderful hearing stories about my grandparents, but was very odd to hear my own Papa being referred to as “Uncle Norm”. (He was always “Papa” to me!) It was strange but exciting to realize that he had been so many things to so many people. Bob, Barb and I went out to dinner, topped it off with icecream and stayed up for a couple more hours chatting and passing the night away. The next morning, Bob surprised me with photos of my mother at just eight years old. Imagine one week not knowing that you have family in Colorado and the next week staying in their home, hearing stories about your family that you never knew and finding pictures of your mother there. It was fantastic. The visit also made me internalize the personal importance of Jewish education and heritage in the home. Barb is an incredible woman, but I was taken aback when I saw a crucified Jesus on the wall of such close family members. (Barb’s maiden name sounded Jewish, and Bob actually thought that she was Jewish when he picked her up at a bar!) All in all, it was delightful to learn that my teeny tiny family is not quite so small as I thought!
Finally, I met a new hero! I had a happy reunion with Wolfie – a friend from the Dominican Republic – in Washington Square Park today. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to the Park from Riverdale, but is totally worth the trip. After we took in the scenery, observed a local artist offering free caricatures and jammed to an oldies band (all in the square!), we met Scott. Scott is a musician who likes to make friends the old-fashioned way: with cookies. Not just any cookies, but soft homemade vegan chocolate chip cookies. Scott gives out cookies every day to passersby as he reclines on his inflatable sofa, set up in public places throughout various cities in the States. What a fun way to make new friends! Wolfie keeps encouraging me to find my passion and decide what art I am going to share with others at ‘The Burn’. I’m still working on it, but Scott’s chocolate chip cookies are certainly an inspiration!
posted by amybetho