Me and Etta James and Yom Kippur

Français : La chanteuse américaine de blues Et...

Twenty years or so ago, I phoned R & B legend, Johnny Otis, to ask if it was okay for a Jewish kid to drop in at the Sunday church service he conducted inside his West Adams district mansion.  He said, “Sure!  After all, we got the same hero.”  I’m sure he meant Jesus.  I was thinking Ray Charles.

The actual draw for me was Etta James appearance in Johnny’s choir.  Ketty Lester and Shuggie Otis, Johnny’s guitar-prodigy son performed too, but I was there to watch and feel Etta.  And when she stepped out of the choir and stood five feet from me, she transformed Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” into an acappella “God Is So Beautiful” that rocked every soul in the room.

Johnny Otis

I still nourish my spiritual connection, perhaps imperfectly, by presenting the Almighty with a daily list of wishes and grievances.  On occasion, I’ll even drop into Sabbath services at my local temple.  But Judaism 2.0 has made worship a whole new deal.  Now, during the High Holidays, I can save the trip and tune into that temple’s video webcast or as it’s known on the website, the Sanctuary Cam.

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was about to arrive.  Elevating the importance of this holiest day would be the performance of my friend, Julie, in the role of guitar-strumming itinerant Cantor.   I rushed to beat the sunset deadline for the start of the ritual fast by shoveling a fistful of wavy potato chips into my gullet.   My sofa became hideous, one more sacrilege from which I’d have to avert my eyes, one more thing for which I’d have to atone.  On the plus side, I didn’t have to wear pants.

I conjured up the Sanctuary Cam on my laptop.  The voice that rose from Julie’s image was lush and lovely, but what moved me most was the effortlessness of her moonwalk. Why don’t cantors do that anymore? I have no doubt that Jews would return to the flock by the thousands if visual signs of devotion like James Brown-style knee drops were restored to the cantor’s repertoire.

When the service ended, I decompressed by working my way through my Netflix queue, this time watching a movie called “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.”  It was thoroughly mind-blowing, the rare Holocaust themed movie that understates it all and maybe because of that, hits with more emotional power.

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a...

That night, I dreamt feverishly.  Vivid images of the temple’s website flashed against the inside of my skull.  Rather than a view of the chapel, the sanctuary cam showed a promotional video for the temple.  A dozen Nazi soldiers from “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” did a skillfully choreographed motorcycle dance to the music of Regina Spector.    I swear.

Your demagoguery is more demagogic than my demagoguery

“The first man who hurled an insult instead of a rock founded civilization.”                                                                                                                                                                               –Sigmund Freud

 “Say that one more time and I’ll bury my foot up your ass.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                      –You

Last Thanksgiving, during one of those philosophical chats for which you never give thanks, I kidded my mother about her absolute devotion to the pro-choice cause.  Within seconds, she phoned her gynecologist and had me removed from her condo with a forceps.

On the other side of the political divide, folks are just as humorless.  When I suggested that God, like any good creator, agonizes over his handiwork and thinks the theory of intelligent design is a load of crap, some Christians prayed for my demise.

What’s my point? We’re becoming a bunch of extremists.  By “we,” I mean you.  And by “you,” I mean your political selves–a unique form of frenzied personality disorder–and not necessarily your actual selves.

So, dear extremist, I couldn’t help but notice that your guiding philosophy, whether left or right, is Resentment.

Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Obs...

The great fear growing in the conservative breast, is the coming day when the government makes you share a bedroom with an LGBT caucus member.  And watch out for a world where you liberals need Rush Limbaugh’s permission to untangle the ultrasound from your thongs.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t disagree with your political opponents.  Have at it.  Change the channel when you see Bill Maher or Aaron Sorkin or Patricia Heaton or Sean Hannity.    Jesus, if I made my viewing choices based on who I agreed with philosophically, I’d be reduced to watching the steam-driven colonics channel.

Have fun with all the pre-election hyperbole but–whether you’re a Wall Street apologist or an Entitlement pimp–just restrain your impulse to silence the other guy.  Remember, it was only a few months ago when liberals with digital pitchforks tried to have Rush Limbaugh thrown off the air.  Conservatives play the game just as shamelessly by creating Kafka-esque bureaucracies to exclude minority voters.

Maybe this is the time to remind you that we’re having an election, not a bar fight.  Let’s not turn into Rwanda or Pakistan–though I’m sure both places are  chock full of wonderfulness.

So when the returns come in and your bet pays off, will you meet your opponent in the parking lot, shake hands and collect your winnings with grace?  Or  force him into the trunk of his car and make him disappear?