Getting High for the High Holidays and Other Helpful Hints [California Seething]
The Ancient Greeks didn’t worry about whether God loved them. They didn’t wring their hands over the fact that God allowed evil to thrive in the world and didn’t struggle with the way that God permitted the righteous to suffer while the wicked prospered. That’s because, in Ancient Greece, the Gods were a bunch of dicks. Zeus was particularly nasty- he lorded over the universe like an omnipotent frat boy with lightning bolts. He was far less concerned with the meek inheriting the earth than he was in changing into a swan and fucking the meek’s wife (they had a pretty loose grip of zoology, as well.) The rest of the gods were no better- just a bunch of mean spirited, petty, vindictive, narcissistic, spiteful bastards who absolutely didn’t give a shit about humanity. It must have been wonderfully liberating in a way- like having a Republican president. After all, when Bush and co. were in power, we didn’t wring our hands and wonder WHY they were leading us into one pointless war after another for the sole benefit of their rich cronies or WHY they were making disastrously short-sighted fiscal policy decisions. We knew perfectly well why- they were dicks. They did irresponsible, self-centered, evil, destructive, selfish things because they were irresponsible, self-centered, evil, destructive selfish cocksuckers- plain and simple. All we had to do was fear them, loathe them and mock them. With the advent of Judaism, though and the election of Obama, things became more complicated. Now we have to wrestle with thorny and difficult philosophical questions like WHY does God allow bad things to happen to good people, WHY does God turn his back on his supposedly chosen people as they are persecuted and killed, WHY did Obama extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy or WHY does Obama persist in bankrupting the nation by fighting Bush’s unwinnable war in Afghanistan. It’s a far more complicated world to live in and, for those of us that have a very difficult time accepting the existence of God or the value of Bi-Partisan compromise – these questions fuel our doubts and erode our ability to believe.
Still, a few times a year, I put my doubts aside no matter how agnostic I’m feeling towards God or the Donkey and go through the motions of belief. Election Day and the Jewish New Year are two of those times. The Jews observe their new year with a prolonged period of repentance, contemplation and prayer- much in the way the Christians don’t. Scholars agree that this is the single most boring and painful way to celebrate a new year with the possible exception of watching Ryan Seacrest host the Countdown (what’s up with that guy? Hasn’t anyone noticed he has no fucking talent? Dick Clark’s had a stroke and his face still moves more.) It wasn’t always this way, though. Back in the days of the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem, or the Awesome Era as it is commonly known (A.E or, let’s be honest here, B.C) majestically robed priests would ritually slaughter thousands of animals as burnt offerings to God while throngs of ancient Israelites stood silent in the Temple trembling with awe and wonder and the tangible presence of the Divine deep inside the Holy of Holies. Plus- tickets were free! Beat that Congregation Beth Whatever. Nowadays, synagogues charge $300 a head and open up the partition wall that separates the Holy of Holies from the Synagogue Multi-Purpose Room (hail to thee o Accordion Wall- for Modern Judaism would be lost without you) so that they can pack in Israelites on colossally uncomfortable metal folding chairs (the Seats of Repentance) all the way to the rear of the Multi-Purpose Room stage and pray at them mercilessly for hours on end as if to punish them for buying tickets in the first place (like LA Opera did with the Ring Cycle.) The Israelites, meanwhile, gaze with awe at how fucking slowly the Cantor is singing and the sheer number of pages remaining before the end of services and wonder just how long the Synagogue President can tell corny jokes and babble on about Judaism and his iPad until he just gets it over with and asks for the goddamn money for the pledge drive so we can sing Adon Olam and go the fuck home already. And then, for an encore, we fast from sundown to sundown on Yom Kippur while we grovel before God for our very lives. Happy fuckin’ New Year!
The ritual slaughter of thousands of animals still plays a role in our worship, BTW, they are just converted into brisket and wrapped in plastic far from our sight. Not as entertaining as the old days, but significantly more delicious.
Clearly, then, holidays surrounding the Jewish New Year, typically called the High Holidays or Repent-apalooza (2011- Celebrating 20 years of hokey Lollapalooza puns- Happy Hack-apaolooza!) are not what you would call “fun” unless you are what I would call “crazy”- but, hey, I figure I’m stuck with them, so I might as well try and get something out of them. Here are some of the strategies I’ve tried over the years in order to get the most out of the High Holidays:
1. Better Fasting Through Chemistry
Look, I didn’t intend to come home stoned for Yom Kippur the first time I did it. It’s just that I was in college and it was a Tuesday so natually I was smoking up with my best friend and that guy who might have been Native American or Chinese with long hair and a tan or some fucked up looking Italian hybrid who called himself Ed and sold high quality weed to only the best potheads on the downtown quad first semester sophomore year. You knew he was cool because he cut out the part of the cracker box that said “Baked not Fried” and Scotch taped it to the outside of his dorm room door, much to the tittering delight of us all. Stick it to The Man, Ed! (The Man being the R.A., Stacey). Anyhow, by the time it came to head over to my parents’ house for dinner and the evening Kol Nidre service my friend and I were quite impressively stoned. On the one hand, this was good, because it meant that we had a significant appetite and ate heartily of my mother’s World Famous Unbelievably Dry Chicken and Twice Microwaved Potatoes (shit. I’m going to have to atone for that joke next year. Sorry, mom.) On the other hand, less than an hour into our fast we were starving again and giggling more than is, perhaps, considered acceptable in Temple on the most serious night of the year, much to the consternation of my very unstoned and very jealous sister.
With the sun down and a long day of fasting and prayer ahead of us, we realized that we had no other option but to man up, buckle down and smoke our way through it, just like Playwriting class (the play I came up with was called Dude and it was about a couple of stoned guys who are basically stuck in a really bad play and trying to come up with shit to say to each other. Then, a bunch of people get shot and the whole thing turns out to be a super-violent Scooby-Doo joke with Nazis. Did I mention it was the 90’s?).
It may seem like a bad idea to use a drug that causes dry mouth and increased appetite on a day when you can’t eat or drink anything- like treating impulse control with Jager bombs but it turns out that weed and fasting go together like hamburgers and fries, peanut butter and jelly, bagels and lox and a whole bunch of other food combinations that sound really fucking good to me right now because I’m fasting as I write this and hungry as hell. For one thing, being high makes playing everybody’s favorite game, “Man, I could really go for a ___________ right now,” a lot more fun- case in point:
Man, I could really go for a burger right now.
Yeah, I could really go for a sandwich right now.
Totally. I could seriously go for like, a HUGE bag of Combos.
Yeah, and a Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia milkshake
Stoned person #1:
Fed to me by a crazy-hot Viking chick
With a huge metal bra
Stoned person #1:
Riding a lion
Stoned person #1 & #2:
A Flying lion! (break out in hysterical giggles)
Stoned person #1’s Sister:
(seethe) (rage) (gurgle)
Perhaps it was all this fantasizing over food that allowed us to resist the temptation of eating actual food- because we ended up resisting some serious temptation. Halfway through the day, someone had the insanely masochistic idea to go apple picking. There we were- surrounded by ripe, juicy fruit, ice cold cider and the sweet hot fat smell of fresh cider doughnuts . As the non-stoned among us broke one by one and gave into temptation, only the stoned stood strong and ate nothing (my sister didn’t come.) Is it any wonder this became an annual tradition?
2. Take your fast to go
Sooner or later, weed will always betray you. Sooner or later, instead of coming up with goofy jokes and imagining cool things to eat fed to you by Valkyries, weed just makes you think about how everyone hates you and your boss wants to fire you and your landlord wants to evict you and the cops are outside ready to burst through the door because you could have sworn that you saw a red and blue light flickering through the apartment window for a second and that suspicious black sedan parked across the street hasn’t moved in a couple of days so clearly the FBI is on your ass for telling the doctor that you have a back injury so he’d give you a Medical Marijuana card when your back is actually totally fine and you’re just a filthy, stinking, worthless liar who’s letting everybody down. At this point, it’s best not to smoke anymore and to find other mechanisms for coping with Yom Kippur and life in general. Travel is a great one. Not only is it mind expanding, but if you start feeling paranoid it’s probably because the gypsies are really trying to rob you. Stupid gypsies.
When I lived in New York, I worked at a non-profit Jewish organization (NOTE FOR ANTI-SEMITIC JOKERS: “Non-profit Jewish” is not, in fact an oxymoron- and, yes, I’ve fucking heard that one before) with my non-Jewish soon-to-be wife. Naturally, we got the High Holidays off- a gesture which my wife and I interpreted differently:
Me: I’m glad that this organization gives me the time off required to properly observe these very important occasions.
My Wife: WOO-HOO! Four day weekend! ROAD TRIP!!!!
So, there I was, fasting in a rented Ford Aspire which we picked up at Newark Airport, heading to Philadelphia. Of course, we couldn’t possibly waste a perfectly good trip through New Jersey in a rental car without hitting Ikea. Now, you may think that you have fasted before in your life or that you know what it is to repent for your sins- but let me tell you, my friend, you don’t know shit until you observed Yom Kippur in the cinnamon-bun scented Swedish amusement park of particle board and pain that is Ikea. After all, Ikea is an incredibly annoying place to shop for incredibly annoying things- like a torture chamber where you have to buy your own Iron Maiden and put it together before your tormentors shove you inside and slam the spikes in your face. Anyone who can maintain their fast in the face of such colossal unpleasantness- and the omnipresent temptation of meatballs and the gooey goodness of cinnamon buns should be forgiven for pretty much anything.
Ultimately, we reached Philadelphia, known as “The City of Brotherly Love” or “The City With the Really Ironic Nickname.” As we drove around looking for the restaurant I had pre-selected to break my fast, we found ourselves caught in an endless loop by the art museum. Now, I love the “look kids, Big Ben…Parliament” gag from European Vacation as much as the next guy, but if I’m fucking starving and the stars are starting to come out it gets unfunny very, very quickly. Finally we exited our vortex of irritation, found a random charming restaurant in a random charming neighborhood and had a fantastic meal.
So- do I recommend travel for Yom Kippur? Hell, yeah! It was an adventure- and adventure beats sitting in Temple like steak beats hamburger; bratwursts beat hot-dogs; rich, thick slaps of strawberry covered delicious cheese-cake beats Jello cheesecake pudding (did I mention how fucking hungry I was?). In fact, last year, we drove home from San Francisco on Yom Kippur after I hit morning services in the Mission at the World’s Most Lesbian Temple. Good times. I sent my sister a postcard (OK, that’s a lie.)
3. Score Free Tickets
Look, I get free tickets to stuff all the time- and not just to artsy crap like plays and operas. I’ve gotten Dodger tickets, Kings tickets, Clipper tickets- hell, I’ve even gotten tickets to see teams that DON’T suck, like the Lakers. But, until this year, I have never received the Ultimate Comp- free High Holiday Tickets. Normally, these are about as obtainable as tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (sweet, delicious river of chocolate…drool…..) so I have to resort to hitting the Chabad House if I want free services and getting my Jew on with the Ultra-Mega-Super-Duper-Right-Wing-Black-Hat-Crazy-Pants-Orthodox in an overstuffed little sweatbox of a room. It’s a little weird and slightly uncomfortable — a bit like getting free vegetarian food from the Hare Krishnas — nourishing, warm and generous on one hand, but it doesn’t really taste like anything you’re used to. Everyone there is chanting and mumbling and wearing the same outfits and you can’t help feeling a little squirmy about the fact that you might be hanging out with a cult just to get a bargain — like joining the Moonies to save on your wedding. Fortunately, they can’t serve Kool-Aid on Yom Kippur (Went there!). This year, though, thanks to my fancy-schmanzy, high-level, showbiz connections (I know a guy)- I was able to score some comps to a swanky Temple where I could repent in style and comfort. Hell, they even had a jumbotron in the back of the Multipurpose room, so you could see the Rabbi up close. I have to admit, I thought the Kiss-Cam thing may have been taking it a little too far but, you know, they’re Reform, so I guess it’s all good. And, the best part is, since they are Reform, there was no screwing around with the Service. It was like the NFL RedZone channel of prayer — just all the big highlights and none of that messing around and mumbling shit in the middle. In and out in under 3 hours!
Okay, so maybe it was a little too fast and efficient for me. I like a little ground and pound in my services, but it certainly beats hanging out with a bunch of aspiring West Bank settlers. It may even be better than watching my wife eat meatballs at a furniture store while I fast.
4. Try taking it seriously for 5 lousy minutes
You’ve been an asshole this year. It’s okay. I’ve been an asshole, too. Probably a bigger one than you. Not as bad as Rick Perry or Zeus, but definately somewhere on the asshole spectrum. So, why not take a day and deal with it? Say I’m sorry. Forgive the people I wanted to stab in the face with a handful of sharpened golf-pencils. Think about being a better person- maybe not yelling at people so much on the phone when they turn out to be worthless morons who can’t actually help me- but, you know, they’re probably doing their best and not deliberately trying to give you an anger fueled stroke. Or maybe start actually giving a shit about Darfur or at least figuring out where it is on a map. I don’t know … something, anything to show that I’ve been thinking about repentance and I’m going to give it a little bit of a shot. Not so much because God cares or notices or even exists but because there’s a slim chance that not being so much of an asshole might in some infinitesimal way make the world a very slightly better place, so it may be worth trying.
I continue to find new ways of experiencing the High Holidays. This year, I’m observing Yom Kippur by fasting as I open a heavy-metal, country and western, multimedia operetta with a huge cowboy shindig at intermission and an after party featuring chili shooters and Mountain Lion Margaritas — or as normal people would put it “going into the office on the holiday.” (I love my freaky job.) I guess our boring old religion still has some life in it, even if we don’t have animal sacrifices (sweet, delicious animal sacrifices. Goddamn it, I’m hungry) or a wicked cabal of selfish frat-boy Gods controlling our fate (that’s what bankers are for.)
So…right, the whole atoning thing. Uhm…I guess I’m sorry to everybody who I might have accidentally offended last year. Except for Republicans, cause y’all love evil — and Patriots fans, cause y’all can go fuck yourselves. Oh, and Kobe Bryant really is a homophobic racist who should choke on a Cub-Scout’s dick. But, you know, I’m sorry to anybody who maybe didn’t deserve to be offended, like the makers of Lucky Charms. I’m sorry, I just don’t think it’s very good. I mean- hard marshmallows??? What the fuck??? Crap, I’m screwing this up already. Damn it. Maybe I’ll do better at atoning next year. I can at least aim for that. And, hey, I probably should apologize to my sister. We should have let her smoke with us.
So there you have it- Happy New Year- 5772! (That’s right- you read that correctly- Five-Thousand-Seven-Hundred-and-Seventy-Two. Our calendar could kick your calendar’s ASS.)
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