Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tuesday Aug 5

When I'm alone I'm in
spirit with my father (olam habah)
who shall always stand
as an example of everything
that is good and pure
honest and sincere (shalom l'efro)

This was some hot day
I wish I'd get rid of the
machine work and start
successfully a business of my
own, May that day be near
at hand.


The phrase "this was some hot day" stands out a little to me because I'm so uncaccustomed to seeing Papa use any kind of casual vernacular in his diary. It also strikes me as a distinctly New York Jewish kind of phrase, to be read as "Oy, this was some hot day." (In this case, Papa used the oft-employed silent "oy.")

A while back I cited an article about the way native Yiddish speakers write English, how they seem to "shrug" between words and create an "enforced intimacy" with the reader. I think something like that is going on here, too. The word "some" stands in for every superlative adjective about a hot day imaginable, takes an implied inventory of why the heat was so difficult, inconvenient, remarkable, disorienting, baffling or otherwise emblematic of God's mysterious priorities. Papa has made eye contact with us and shared a collaborative head shake. (Note that the word "such" can also be used for the same sort of purpose; back when Lundy's, the venerable Brooklyn over-eatery, was in its near-death throes a few years back, my grandmother looked at it as we drove by and sighed, "Such a restaurant." Need more be said?)

It was, in fact, very hot that day, with temperatures topping off at 91 degrees (it would climb to 99 two days later). How did Papa stay cool? Did he strip to his underwear and sit in front of his electric fan, frozen by the heat, and meditate over his father's memory? Was it enough to purge from his mind thoughts of his sewing machine, the broiling, clattering factory, the monotony of his work? Did he imagine, in his stillness, that he would never have his own business but would, one day, have someone like me remember him "as an example of everything that is good and pure honest and sincere?"

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