This post is a continuation of “An Ode to May (Part 1 of 4)“.
Back in Austin, I sang at the Texas Capitol for the National Day of Prayer, jumped into volunteer work with the local Boys and Girls Club, auditioned for a professional cabaret troupe in town and brushed up on my front and back tucks on the trampoline. A brief note on each:
First, calling the event at which my choir sang the “National Day of Prayer” is as funny as calling Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld’s congregation the “National Synagogue”. Rabbi Herzfeld’s congregation is a small to medium-sized Orthodox outpost on the outskirts of Washington D.C., but by rebranding the place as the ‘national synagogue’, the rabbi – a friend and audacious community leader – was able to cleverly up the clout, glamour and pull of the institution.
Similarly, though the Day of Prayer featured public ceremonies across the country and an address by President Barak Obama, the scope of speakers, performers and participants was limited to Christianity and the liturgy was very Jesus-heavy. So, the Day of Prayer was a quaint event and a fascinating cultural experience, but not a large-scale interfaith venture representative enough to live up to its “National Day of Prayer” namesake claim.
Second, I do not want my children to grow up in housing projects… or have much interaction with those who do. I know that that may not be a politically correct statement, but the kids at the Boys and Girls Club where I volunteer are rough.
I believe that I will be a positive influence there and I would not be averse to my future children volunteering at such a center when they are older, but the language gets foul, fights break out and kids run around the apartment complexes unsupervised as single moms are still at work – not to mention smaller items like the lack of grammatically correct speech and etiquette. These children are not to be blamed as they are products of their environment, but my time spent at the center over the past few weeks has made me further appreciate my upbringing and has also underscored the type of environment in which I hope to (and not to) raise my family.
Third, the cabaret audition was a combination of fun, challenging and unnerving. It had been a while since I had needed to learn a slew of choreography quickly and I liked that absorbing the smokin’ “American Woman” choreography at the audition made my brain hurt a little. I never would have previously had the comfort to pull off the sexually charged, almost burlesque choreography (no nudity), but that’s no longer the case. The troupe founder lauded my performance with comments of “I love your attack! I wish I could bottle it and give it to the other girls” and I was invited to join the troupe for future practices and performances… which are paid gigs. There’s definitely an extra fun factor about being part of a classy yet in-demand professional troupe.
This item is is blog-worthy not by virtue of my merely joining a troupe, but rather because of the powerful epiphany that accompanied the audition. We all tell ourselves stories. All this time, the story that I had been feeding myself was that of a journey from my community toward the outside world and mainstream.
When I showed up to the audition and was surrounded by truly mainstream television-watching, cosmo-reading, makeup-wearing twenty-somethings, I experienced major culture shock and realized that my journey has more accurately been from Orthodox Jewish bubble to hippie / yoga / cooperative / countercultural bubble. And I’m fine with that, but I have so surrounded myself with a world of circus / crunchy / compost type people that I forgot that I am still the minority and that most people even in Austin are this other sort of bar-going, fashion-fitting type. A definite “wow” moment.
Fourth, I attended a friend’s fundraiser for his non-profit after-school mentoring program. You see, the types of fundraisers that I get behind are not the ones with stuffy suits. But, if your fundraiser has a trampoline, then count me in! I hadn’t busted out trampoline tricks in over two years since this musing on minimum wage jobs and these attempts at a front and back flip, but – with a little encouragement from friends followed by a little goading – I began jumping and was thrilled to land flip after flip. YEAH for being more physically able at 27 than any previous year of my life. If that could only be my physical trajectory indefinitely…
On a related note, though my Trapeze and Silks classes at Sky Candy have formally come to an end, I have been finding creative uses for my monkey warrior skills, including at the Jewish community’s all night Shavuot program where I taught an acrobatics class earlier this month. I also led a more traditional “Faces of Israel“-inspired session on religious pluralism and an impromptu song session where the teens started dancing in the courtyard to ‘Torah Torah’, but the acrobatics were a human pyramid-filled flying success… even if we were scheduled for 1-2 am.
One last thought before bringing this post to a close: I had the good fortune of attending the preview of an inspiring film called Helping Hands prior to Shavuot. The film documented the cooperative movement and its origins in Austin. Austin is actually a leader in the U.S. cooperative movement with decades-old housing, grocery and business cooperatives. Watching the film and learning about the history made me proud to be part of this movement. I have been taking a much more active role in the Rosewood Co-Op, signing up to cook house dinners, developing friendships in the house and generally being more of a contributing presence. It feels good.
Continued in “An Ode to May (Part 3 of 4)“…
posted by ayo