Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What do PDAs, Little Red Bugs, and R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Have In Common?

They can all be found in Central Park at the same time.

This afternoon, I fled the madness of Stern in finals season (see below, if you haven’t yet) to my favorite NY haven…Central Park. I love Central Park. I could write hundreds of posts about Central Park. There will probably be future posts about Central Park. But tonight I have a hard final that I haven’t studied for yet (again, see below) and therefore I will limit my words.

I went there today with three of my close friends, ostensibly to study in the park, though of course I knew better. We plunked ourselves down on the sun-dappled grass under the shade of a large tree and took out our notebooks. The grass was patchy, and we hadn’t brought a sheet, and thus I was shortly covered in dirt, weird plant thingies, and teeny tiny little bright red bugs that crawled across my notes uninvited. I tried not to think about where else they might be crawling.

After finding an attempt to read my notes unsuccessful (surprise!), I couldn’t resist lying down on my back and staring up at the sunlight streaming through the spring green leaves and branches of the tree high above me. The beauty of that spectacle was literally breathtaking. I gazed into the vast canopy above me, and felt the hard earth under my head. Now let me tell you, I am certainly no hippie-nature-girl, but at that moment, I communed with nature. It was actually stunning. I could have stayed like that for hours.

But I didn’t, because I felt that I should try to study again. So I did. And naturally, several minutes later, I found myself asleep. Not a deep sleep, but a lovely, breezy, summery doze. Asleep enough to be comfortable, but not too asleep not to notice and awaken with a start when I overheard my friends mention food. The food concerned turned out not to be of interest to me, so instead I took out the gummy worms I happened to be conveniently carrying in my bag and distributed them among the masses (a.k.a. my homies). I try not to go anywhere without sugar. Best to be prepared.

Then I tried to study again. My friends and I, however, were shortly distracted once more by a couple a few yards down the slope on which we camped. This couple was horizontal, and they were engaged in, well, let’s just say…they weren’t quite shomer negiah. My friends and I did our best to ignore them, but 10, 15, 30 minutes later, when they were still similarly employed, it started to grate on our sensitivities, and we couldn’t help but brainstorm imaginative ways to remedy the situation. We could walk up to them and say, “Hope we’re not interrupting anything…but would you mind taking a picture for us?” Or walk by and discreetly cough, “Get a room! Ahem! Get a room!” Or surround them in a ring and sing the shomer negiah song. This last option was shortly ruled out, however, because of kol isha issues.

Eventually, we realized that it was getting late, and if we didn’t leave soon we’d miss the mad rush to dinner at the caf and be left utterly foodless, as we were two nights ago. Stern really needs to learn how to order food during finals. Having hundreds of burned-out-from-studying-Jewish-girls, who stagger into the caf hoping for sustenance to get them through another loooong night of memorizing obscure information, to find that the only remaining food is a few semi-stale bagels and low-fat kugels…well, let’s just say, I feared for my life. I’ve never seen so many people in such a collective bad mood. But I digress…

We picked up camp and walked through the park in the direction of the subway station. Those who have been to Central Park will know that lining the main walkway of the park lurk myriad caricature and portrait artists seeking customers. As testaments to their skills, they display samples of their work, depictions of celebrities of all sorts. (Never mind that they probably spent hours doing those, while the one they will draw of you will take 15 minutes, and therefore will not look remotely like the samples, nor in all likelihood, remotely like you. Trust me, I know from experience.)
As we walked, I was expressing, for the thousand and seventh time my desire to purchase ice cream from the ice cream trucks (I’m a sucker for ice cream, especially the chocolate kind, and especially from trucks), when an unexpected sight caught our collective eyes. There, staring back at us from an easel, was the face of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, in color! A middle aged Asian man sat, intently using pastels to copy a picture of R’ Auerbach clipped to the easel. There was no way we were going to just walk on by, so we stopped to chat. We told him we that we really liked his picture. The man’s English was less than perfect, so we didn’t understand everything he said in response, but we think he told us that he’d been commissioned to do the portrait by someone. Then he asked us if we were from Brooklyn. That was funny. We said no. We asked if he knew the Rabbi’s name, and he said no, and offered us the picture to caption. My friend wrote “Rabbi Auerbach” beneath it. We snapped the artist’s picture, and went on our merry way, marveling at the things one finds in good old NYC.

We had a jolly walk back to the subway station, and I played my favorite game: the Notice Everything Game. As a writer, and a lover of life, this game is important to my very existence. Noticing the funny, touching, quirky, and beautiful things that I pass enhances my appreciation of life, and my ability to describe. One thing we noticed was an “interesting” window display, pictured below.

We sardined ourselves onto the packed subway and finally arrived at our destination—in time, you will be glad to hear, for me to procure a piece of slimy chicken, some mediocre french fries, and a cup of utterly flat cherry coke. Gotta love caf food. Anyway, that was my afternoon.

Wow, I can’t help but a feel a little bit like friend and fellow blogger, Chana, who can’t seem to restrain herself from writing incredibly lengthy posts, and who happened to record a slightly similar park experience just a few weeks ago. Hmm.

Other notes on life…

On the subway earlier this morning, a family (mom, dad, pre-pubescent son) sat down near me. The father was clad in a peach polo shirt and khaki shorts displaying hairy legs, and also sported a large gray mustache. These people were tourists. How do I know? When someone all the way across the subway car sneezed, I was abruptly awakened from my half-doze when the father said loudly, “Bless you!” My first thought was, “What? You just don’t do that. Who does that?” I mean, it was a little weird. The sneezer wasn’t even in our line of vision! But after that immediate reaction, I smiled to myself. Ah, how I love out-of-towners. And from now on, I resolve to bless subway sneezers!

And…graduations make me tear up—even if I’m not graduating, and even if I don’t know the people graduating. Something about seeing all the relatives there, beaming with pride, cameras in hand, makes me emotional. It’s nice, in a funny way. Though transitions from one stage to another are always interesting, achieving a goal is something to be proud of. It’s good to take some time simply to be glad before having to move on to whatever challenges lie ahead. So hooray for my grads, and mazal tov!

Now I should probably start studying for my final…

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Poetry and Procrastination

My inclination for procrastination has been mentioned in this forum numerous times before. Tonight, in the midst of finals, in manifests itself in the urge to post on my semi-neglected blog. The problem, however, is that I haven’t decided on a topic about which to post. Hmm. I think I shall write a poem…

Finals time comes twice each year
And suddenly Stern girls appear
Laden with notebooks and textbooks and more
Dressed in sweatshirts and skirts to the floor
To sit in the library, the hallway, their rooms
And take a break from seeking out grooms
To read over notes and pore over tomes
With occasional shrieks, exclamations, and groans
But I find my strategy far more compelling
Even though my mind on tests should be dwelling
I instead surf the web, make lists of things to do
Feed cravings with sugar, and observe what ensues
Distract my roommates with accents and antics
Sing random songs till I’ve turned my friends frantic
When they get fed up, I make use of my phone
And good ol’ google chat means I’m never alone
But when I start to think about cleaning my room
I know that I’m desperate, so I put down the broom
I can put off no longer, the time is now here
The time that I’ve so long awaited with fear
With head hanging low I realize with sorrow
It’s two am, and my final is tomorrow
I sit myself down, prop eyes open with hooks
And finally think about hitting the books
But it never lasts long, cuz my head soon starts falling
I know that sound well: it’s my warm, soft bed calling
And when morning arrives I jolt out of sleep
To find I hit snooze seven times and heard nary a beep!
So now I’ve awoken an hour later than planned
I dress, daven, and dash, notes in my hand
I arrive out of breath, and plop down in my chair
Take out my pencil, pull back my hair
But before I begin, in my customary way,
I talk to myself, and this is what I say:
You shall now take this test, and though it shall be graded
Worry not, cuz you know A’s are way overrated!