We All Shine ON...
Who Has Seen the Wind?
BY CHRISTINA ROSSETTI 1830-1894
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Before goblin girl, Gretty Gredible ever learned to read, her relentless Fat Dad FORCED her to love music.
For him, this meant patience, anguish, and ingenuity. (The spirited child rather liked biting down on the sound bar of a concert piano, but fat Abe’s keyboard repertoire was sorely limited).
For Gretty, music appreciation began with fiendish repetition and robotic memorization of lyrics. She’d been born profoundly deaf, and the priciest cochlear implants still fail to convey a wide enough range of pitch to her desperately waiting brain. Gretty's Dad loved Beethoven, Coltrane, and most of all, The Beatles. She loved him to hold and sing to her. He loved how quickly she could parrot lyrics and "sing" along.
To clear up ALL your Beatles Midrash problems.
Their favorite 45 was a scratchy old copy of Instant Karma. Dad’s side was John's. Gretty’s was Yoko's "Who Has Seen The Wind" with Rossetti's lyrics sung simply against a spare sonic background. It was Gretty's lullaby and refuge from the tension and chaos of their home.
Fat Dad, Abe Ider didn't believe in God. His own father had quietly renounced such notions after losing his family to the ruthless Nazi murder machine. But Abe's father did keep faith with the new family he made in America – and also with certain sacred notions of human value. Abe struggled always to keep that kind of faith, and these struggles took on new meaning when he, against his better judgment, became a father.
Abe first knew of the woman who would become Gretty's mom in a graduate-level class. But there was no true meeting until December 9, 1980, in the darkness outside The Dakota near Central Park. Two silly young people bonded that night, sharing a tragic grief over the inexpressible: a crazed assassination, but also a common experience as the offspring of Auschwitz survivors. In the shadow of such insanities, they also forged a shared commitment to never bring new human life into this treacherous press of time and space. Years later, it would be Gretty who broke that commitment.
Beatle fanatic Avram Ider didn't believe in God, but one of Gretty's caretakers knew the Rosetti poem as an intimation of God's existence - or at least of the reality of the unseen. This same caretaker shared with Gretty a copy of her Illustrated Children's Bible and, later, stories of Simone Weil, a Jewish seeker who became fascinated with the plight of the poor and also the mysteries of the Roman Catholic Church. C.Moon Vile became just another way for father and daughter to delight, distract, and deliver each other from insufferable tensions and forebodings that at times seemed inescapable. It was just one of their blessings.
Aside from inventing his own religion, glum old Abe Ider, for as long as he lived, was always loath to speak about "spirituality" or the "sublime." Loath to speak of it, but loathing himself for what he could not vouchsafe for his daughter so fierce and so delicate. Loath to speak or guarantee it, but relentless to convey it in the only way he knew: Beethoven, Coltrane, and The Beatles. But his daughter was born deaf. And cochlear implants rely on only dozens of electrodes to transmit what millions of neural connections convey for most of us.
Glum old Fat Abe was ever loath to speak of spirituality, never mind the sublime, but he and his daughter could revel and dance to certain forms of divine silliness.
"The wonder of it all, Baby.”
And after that, just what more is there to say?
Plenty, if we turn again to Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad as they would be just a few years after the events covered in this book we’re trying to sell here. Let’s picture Saint Greddy as she was lying alone in the suite that served as her refugee dorm room. Fitfully trying in her mind to solve for Q by reconciling the Boltzman and Shannon equations for entropy with the Black-Scholes that governed her trust fund, she was rudely disturbed by the bulbous sprite of her dead dad who never knocked. With those knotty calculations splattered far and wide through the foggy ether of her brain, she was naturally annoyed and glared at him with snaky eyes. But her fat dad was unperturbed.
“You're not doing no thing right now! Jest thought we’d catch a flick together,” he rasped, presenting the Magical Mystery Globe and giving it a pretty good shake. Greddy perched up in bed while he slouched alongside on a sturdy hotel chair. Together they peered into the snowy globe, watching it darken.
In the gloom of the globe, they made out a solitary figure trudging through a winding night...
He, for that was his gender, was tall and lean. Head bent forward; his figure might have suggested a question mark except his mind harbored no doubts. Jay, for this was one of his names, came to a heavy oaken door which he unlocked with a great iron key and flung wide open.
Entering to possess the Magnificent Hall, J flipped a switch and bright lights flashed down. His hand caressed the tooth-marked Steinway before he self-righteously emptied the ashtrays left overfilled from the Sodality of the previous evening.
Hip to hip, Elle and Priestly soon strolled in to lounge and canoodle on a coffee-stained divan. P made E snicker as he lit two ciggies between thin lips before flicking a smoldering one over to hers whose were lush and swollen and hot. Then burst in Duderonomy, wearing only a tattered bathrobe, fur-lined boots, and a beaver-tailed cap. It was embarrassing how he straddled his plastic chair, but mercifully he sat upon it backward.
“What’s on the agender today,” drawled the Dude, trying to make bedroom eyes at Elle who was too busy swabbing Priestly’s greasy left ear with her milkshake-coated tongue. I think we should watch The Rolling Thunder Review Tour again cuz I wants y’all to really perceive the Zimmy masks that sometimes glimmer through when the Dylan personas nearly slip.”
“No.” JJ was firm (and so was PP thanks to Elle). “The Bob is fine if all you care about is high level word references and mythological intellectualisms. But tonight, we go deeper and broader.”
“Fine,” pouted D as he fished a cheese Danish from his satchel and chomped into it. “But everyone knows how this turns out. We have poor Johnny’s own words after all. And what about funny? Huh? You gonna say somebody fab's funnier than the Bob? Are ya? Are ya? Are ya?”
Against this provocation, JJ grimly bit his tongue as he primly proceeded to initiate the proceedings by chucking three dark knots of wood into the smoldering Ashkenazi Oven. Smoke thickened even as the fuel blazed bright. Green and yellow fumes rose to the ceiling where they twisted and hovered before raining down a fine grey ash which slowly coalesced into the forms of an ancient rabbinic Sanhedrin set somewhere between ancient Babylon, Iraq and interwar Passaic New Jersey.
Transfixed, J, E, P, and the Dude watched as these figurines vaguely solidified. In the center of the space was a facsimile of the notable Rabbi Glumenial Schmuckstein surrounded by his coterie of derivative scholars. All were clad in soot black, coated with a fine dusting of dancing grey ash.
This particular version of Reb Schmuckstein was dickishly portrayed by Fink Langellamenim while a frenetic Dusty Hofferman incarnated the hapless Reb Schmielson. Off to the far side of the concert space, played by a toothsome Winona Rideme Horowitz, was Schlmielson's wife and Schmuckstein’s sister, the dutiful Rivka Gelekshenka who was busily bending to do the laundry, knead the dumpling dough, feed the chickens, milk the cow, fleece the sheep, scrub the floors, spank the children, and crease her husband’s manuscripts while all the while praising the Lord of Hosts who might someday deliver the righteous from evil and reruns.
Schmuckstein turned menacingly against his stammering brother-in-law. “This matter should have been settled aeons ago. Do we not have John’s own words which cannot be refuted? Did he not say in plain Aramaic that it’s only a “Beatles tune” when all four of the Blessed Fabs conjointly agree to release it under that moniker? Truly, dear Schlmeilson, this obstinance has become tiresome and does not become you.”
But the generally timorous Schlmeilson was bodily vibrating with the voice of the Nameless One. The divine was as clear to him as if he were biting down on the soundboard of a pianoforte while someone thundered the organ chords of a Bach sonata on the ebonies and ivories. “But, he protested energetically “we cannot ignore the spirit of the thing!”.
“Spirit. Schmeerit!” was Reb Schmucktein’s dismissive riposte. “If we include the solos, how can we then exclude the Willburies – and Michael Jackson fur Crissakes? And then where will be? I’ll tell you where! We’ll be manning the barricades against Yoko, not to mention Badfinger, your cousin Harry, the Monkees, the Cowsills, and god forbid it to scheol, freak’n Wings!”
“C.Moon!” shouted Shlmeilson as if that would settle the matter in his favor. “C.Moon!” he implored. He calmed himself down and, with all the dignity he could muster, wiped the spittle from his chin. “I am not saying I, by myself, know where to draw the line, and I respect your concern for purity. I only say that the SPIRIT must be taken into account,” he entreated, raising his voice into a Pacino-like thunder. Then seeing that the eyes and hearts of all the others were turned firmly against him, he was again rattled by the spirit of the Lord. “I beseech you,” he beseeched. “And if I cannot beseech you, I will beseech this potted carob tree here! Hear me, Oh Carob tree, and if my plea has any merit, I pray you to give this company a sign.”
Upon this, the plucky Carob, who was also coated with grey powdery ash, perked up and shook himself nearly clear. He began by making like Fred Astaire with some gliding soft-shoe up one wall, across the ceiling, and down another wall before merging into a credible Tza’ad Tamani. Then after some minstrelsy Jig-and-Jezreel twerking, he slid, half backwards moon-walking, across the floor before hurling himself into a solo version of a circling Hora that had the entire company singing Hava Nagila “Let us rejoice!” before all were stifled by the basilisk glare of the stern Rabbi Schmuckstein.
“Nacht Nacht Nach!” screeched the horrified Shmuckstein, “Now you are saying that scholars must consult with ficus trees and shrubbery in their deliberations regarding the sublime? Plant testimony, rhizomic or deciduous, is inadmissible, I say. Inadmissible!”
Crestfallen, the venerable Reb Schlemielson retreated into himself, but being one perpetually undismayed by the prospect of inevitable defeat, he sallied forth again. “Then,” he said, drawing himself up to his full diminutive height, “I hear and respect you Brother Schmuck, but the spurt moves me to appeal to the RIVER!”
The assorted company strained to discern whether the great waterway was the Tigris, The Euphrates, The Nile, The Mississippi, The Dnipro, or merely the Passaic, but in any event, all were astounded at the streaming response. The flow reversed itself before rising in single and double helices above the clouds. It spirited and blossomed into a fireworks-like display with colored lights such as the Niagara Falls could only dream of on some great Fascist Fourth of July far in the future. It continued such watery pyrotechnics until the outraged protests of Reb Schmuckstein forced it to retreat sheepishly to its accustomed banks.
“You are really and truly trying our patience now, my dear, DEAR Schlemiel,” lectured Schmuckstein in an ominous and haughty tone. “Appealing to the elements is even LESS kosher than entreating any living creature, leafy green or notz. And you, learned as you are, well know that! Did not Our Lord, praise be his name, separate the primordial waters with the earth below and the firmament above so that the righteous might enjoy our earthly Paradise and Monday Night Football? Would you return us all to the elemental chaos? Fie upon you. And shame as swell! I turn my back upon you while I rend the hem of my topcoat! It is up to US to determine where boundaries lie, and you have nearly forfeited your right to participate in our deliberations.”
Stunned and bewildered, poor Reb Schlemielson still could not relent. “Yes, my Brother," he wheedled. "It is up to US to set limits. But we must take great care to account for the spirit. Why are thine hearts so hard? I now appeal to these WALLS here which have witnessed generation upon generation of learned discourse of Torah scholarship and Talmudic wisdom! Walls! Walls!, Walls!" he exclaimed. “Do not my words move you at all?”
And before Reb Schlemeilson could breathe back his most recent breath, the walls responded. All four slowly leaned in as if to overarch the proceedings so that the ceiling was pinched upward like a spire or minaret, and the company was near overawed. But this was soon halted by the scorn of Reb Schmuckstein who sharply admonished, “Are scholars to give credence to the sentiments of masonry now? What other artifacts would you have us consult? How about shiny little boxes that squawk and make pictures? Stop! I command you.” And out of respect for Reb Schmuckstein, the walls ceased with their leaning. But out of respect for Rabbi Schlemielson, neither did they straighten up and fly right.
Reb Schlemeilson, ever emboldened by rejection, scorn, defeat, and despair, hung his head. But cunningly he raised his eyes and said, “Brother Schmuckstein, you leave me no choice. I cry out now to HASHEM, Himself!”
“Oh not again, already,” scoffed the disciples of Reb Schmuckstein. “This was all settled in the days of Ezra and Enoch Powell.” But the cry had gone forth. And in a slip of a trice, upon a chariot of clouds and fire, zoomed in The Lord (played cannily by Mel Brookslyner who, teeth clenching a cigar, leaped into the fray to high-five the company one by one and two by two).
“Listen fellas,” saideth the Lord. “I ain’t got much time here, ya know. But I jest gotta say I don’t know why y’alls don’t pay more respect to my wittle Schlemeilson here. Jest look at him. He’s sooo CUTE!” El Shaddai crooned as He ruffled Reb Schlemielson’s hair and pinched his cheek. “You know, I was just the utter day jiving with John Lennon himself, and he told me what we all know. You jest can’t take every snide comment he ever made as Gospel, for crying outloud! We have it settled that youse cats get to draw the lines down here, but Bros! Bros, youse really do gotta take into account the spirit of things! And don’t think I’m not warning y’all’s. EYE AM, ya know!”
Reb Schmuckstein braced himself to once again protest, but the Lord haughtily cut him off. “Nacht. Nacht. Nacht! When I say I AM, I don’t mean that I’m a yam, ya nudnik youse. So go ahead and do what you want Reb! BUT the next time you see me comin’….!?!” The Lord paused a pregnant and pointed pause. “Huh? Huh? Huh!”
Since nobody knows how to browbeat like Hashem, the assembly was frozen into considered silence as the Lord leaped back into his chariot. “See yas soon, Cats. I gotta go lay another plague on the Franks. But you’ve been warned. Consider the message etched into these leaning walls over here. Don’t exclude the spirit!” And he disappeared in a Wagnerian blast of blazing glory.
Momentarily chastened by the wisdom, the glory, and the veritable terror of the naked but divine anathema, the astonished Rabbis eyed each other as solemnly as they did shrewdly. But slowly, like sheepish Republican lawmakers, they huddled into one another like a cluster of clucking peahens. For as it is written, "A stiff wind will never bow to the thickest neck." And thus, this rabble of Rabbis surrounded their speechless fellow, Schlemeilson, who now faced them grinning horribly with his Bette Davis cow eyes pleading for understanding. And the black-clad clique sang out to him in unison, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For we know now what we must do!”
And they pelted the poor Schlemeilson with offal and moldy matzoh brie, with fine Italian shoes, with sandals made of leather and rope, and with clumps of ash moistened and firmed by their spiteful spittle. And they rejected Reb Schlemielson, refusing from then on to let him play any of their Rabbi games. They abused him with words and with cuffs. Then with solemn glee and malice, they shredded all of his writings they could find and cast them into the Ashkanazi Oven.
The abject Reb Schlemielson returned weeping to the angel of his home: his loving wife, the never lovelier Rivka Gollem. And much alarmed was she by what these circumstances foreboded. So she thereupon resolved to continually comfort and occupy her husband lest he transcend his incessant low moans and piteous groanings by righteously crying out to the Lord in Heaven for righteous justice. For if that should happen to come to pass, she well knew what would then be the result. And she dreaded it in her heart, for the Lord would surely redress this great injustice against her husband by smiting her younger brother, the apple of her dead parents’ eyes. So in the midst of all the milking the laundry, doing the dumpling dough, spanking the chickens, scrubbing the cow, fleecing the children, creasing the floors, and feeding those manuscripts which the Rabbis did not burn, she kept up a steady patter of songs, stories, jokes, and endearments to keep her husband distracted least he cry out to heaven for due justice.
For two long weeks she so multi-tasked in her herculean attempt to stave off the inevitable, until late one afternoon there was a knock at the door where a beggar stood with imploring and hungry eyes. And somewhere between mixing some milk and crusts in a bowl and handing mush over to the worthy beggar, she ceased to maintain her consoling rap with her husband who thereupon did cry out to the heavens above so that The Lord in his furious righteousness STRUCK DOWN the Rabbi Schmuckstein with hemorrhoids, gingivitis, palsy, pants rash, fire, brimstone, cardiac arrest, and cerebral hemorrhage. And the Schmuck died with blood coming out of his eyes which were fixed high on the promise of a great judgment streaming down from far above and far beyond.
And the Karmalizing Ashkanazi Oven, glowed and smoked, smoked and glowed. Green and yellow vapors rose again to the ceiling as a grey powdery ash rained down upon Jay and Priestly, Elle and Deuteronomy. It insinuated into their hair, their eyes, and all the creases in their skins, but more disconcertingly it filtered into the popcorn the Dude had provided the company from his bulging satchel.
“Well, that’s certainly something to think about,” drawled D as E wiggled her long and naked toes in a way she knew would hot and bother him.
“That is something to marvel about!” marveled Fat Dad Abe Ider as he pried the Magical Mystery Globe from his daughter’s young clenches. “It’s just what I always been saying. We’re way too close to them now in timewise proximity, but centuries from now, all those creations from the sixties and (Turtles willing) into the near fulshiten future will be regarded by discerning scholars as one single great OOOOVRA!”
Greddy, who had been poised to verbally abuse the sad shade of her Blubbery Dad for emanating in again without knocking, could only roundly smack the side of his fat head because she was too choked by emotion to think of something snide to say. Then again after managing to master herself, she teased, “But whaddabout those Willburies, Daddoo? And Julian and Sean? Huh? And Zak and the all them All Stars. Huh? And James? What about him? Whaddabout them? Huh? Huh? Huh!”
And Fat Old Abe, who ever since he down and died, was never again confused about whether his baby girl was serious or joking, just nodded his head sagely. “Well, well, well, love of my life, my little chickenshit,” he paternally propounded. “You know we should all listen to what the man said, ‘Open the door, and let’em in!’”
And little college girl Greddy slept well that night with all her tribbles and trilobites sent scurrying to the far shadows of probability. And in her dreams, everything was soft for once – including her dread Mudder who entered one of them gently without intruding and looked, for once, so young and so fearless and so almost happy.