I Was a PhD Reject: Part 2

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Cue The Music: No Music, just the deathly silence emanating from the DC courtroom

In my wildest dreams I never thought that this would end in a drab, cold, and sanitary smelling courtroom in the depths of a building in Washington DC. The courtroom is located in the lowest floor reaching the depths of legal hell, spewing the coldest air you ever felt. The air conditioner is set to ultra high for the entire cycle of the year. No matter the day or time you will inevitably find yourself sitting down in the small rows of stadium seats freezing to your inner core. It’s probably a ploy to freak out both parties with sudden jolts of chills going up and down the body. As I sit on the right side I’m waiting patiently to be called up for the last status hearing of my separation to her. The room is set in a fashion where the judge and clerks look down on you and wait for the inevitable slip up in order to be able to slap you something to their liking, sadists I tell you. I sit, shifting every few seconds due to the cold, but remain fidgety because God only knows how the day, and the case, will end. Like a whirlwind through a city, my heart nearly leaps when she makes her appearance in the courtroom, oh Diana. I still can’t believe that I’m witnessing the complete breakdown of our marriage, the downfall to despair on my part, and sanity on her part.

Diana Castro came into my life at a precarious time, but I remember the first time I laid eyes on her I knew I wanted her. Years ago I worked for the Jewish Agency, as well as the Zionist foundation where the prime donors are decrepit old New Yorkers who still believe in the campaigns to plant trees all over the deserts of Israel. All I knew is I needed work after I got my Master’s degree from Brooklyn College so I got the job to fight for my country in a clerical sense. Then one day as I turned a corner I spotted her in her immense gorgeousness. I over shot the office she was working in immediately stopping dead in my tracks and reversing my feet to the door. There she was amidst a stack of large manila folders and books. Diana is from below the American border so she has this amazingly luring accent, which drives sailors wild all across the oceans. She is petit with beautifully soft light brown skin, very deep brown eyes, which could peer into a man’s soul, amazingly luscious jet-black hair that would make a crow jealous, and so much more. She has this smile that lights up your heart with such excitement, and she oozes sexuality that would make any man clinically insane. I gaze for what seemed a century of history, and then she says hello. The topic of conversation is not important, but what is more amazing is that later in the month I asked her out and she agreed. For the rest of the workday I was torn between taking victory laps all over the office, and sheer dread at the task of entertaining such a vivacious woman. From work we descended into the lower world of the subways in New York City, heading to the southern rim of Manhattan. South Street Seaport was the destination and the day was foggy covered with a mist, but humid. We walked and chatted it up until we climbed up the stairs looking over the river into the heart of Brooklyn. The moment reeked of magic when a small wave of mist covered our clothing due to a small drizzle. I couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful mist mixing with her falling on her beautiful legs, which were very accentuated due to her short black skirt. The mountain of mist electrified that very moment with such strong emotions that I still tear up every time I think of the excursion. Unfortunately we only went out on one more date and then as if destiny hit we went our separate ways in life. I decided to apply for a PhD program in Washington DC, while also taking a year to dig into the minds of many Jews in a Yeshiva in Jerusalem. She returned to her country for a short period of time only to return to New York City so that she could work on a Mater’s degree. From the point I was in Israel and she returned to the States we emailed each other using playful language to liven up the mood. Although never awkward I still held a strong desire for her, which had only intensified over the years. We communicated and spoke, but I deeply wanted to admit that I always had a high school crush on her. Of course in life’s comedic turns she said the exact same, but the moment was killed with the silent pause. This inevitable silent pause, which is a leading cause of conversational death and other unknown maladies, went on for centuries. We then decided to go our own ways, but the bizarre desire still loomed very large in my brain. Like a ghost haunting me nightly, the specter of Diana couldn’t have been shaken.

Months passed as the summer heat descended onto the western world. We speak, but I pay no mind because I feel like she’s playing me like a slot machine. The few times we meet up it seems forced and I don’t feel completely comfortable because I just can’t stop thinking about my love/lust for her. One day she wanted me to give her a tour of Brooklyn, in the Jewish/Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst where my father’s family lived. After walking around we end up back at my father’s place, where I used to live. This is a home with a nice Jewish Synagogue on the bottom, with a congregation reaching the age of one hundred including some of the congregants themselves. My father leaves for his late shift at the census office, and we stay talking to each other. We then seriously start speaking of the possibility to authentically start a tangible relationship. I’m talking over and over and over while trying to rationalize the differences by brushing them under the rug. By the way I’m an observant Jew and she isn’t. The entire time I was rationalizing she was looking at me with those deep eyes mesmerizing my thoughts. I started sounding like a salesman trying to sell Korans to a bunch of Orthodox Jews. She was so beautiful brushing her hair to the side with her gorgeous lips, and she was wearing this short light blue dress that drove my sanity out to the far corner of my mind. She broke the tension by slowly leaning over and planting a sweet kiss on my lips following her soft tongue. My heart was skipping at the usual techno beat pace as I was trying to figure out the reality of the situation. There was a lot of kissing and rubbing involved especially on her part because I was still in a state of shock, awe, and ecstasy all at the same moment. The embraces and kisses gave way to realization that she had to leave my hold and head to the drab subway half a block away. As we walked to the open gates of heavenly bliss my head was in the whitest of clouds while my heart was hovering towards the outer reaches of space. We kissed as she slid past the turnstile and out of my arms into the open stench of rats, ammonia and Brooklyn. I marched back in triumph, raising my chin like the New England snob I always hated. My march was that of victory, Julius Caesar would have been proud, pride ran through my body cavity. Finally, I uttered while screaming softly to the GOD above, I got the hot woman no questions and no reservations.

A day went by and she was plaguing my mind, running in concentric circles. Diana and her beautiful smile, luscious lips, tasty skin haunting my brain like the ghost of Christmas I never celebrated. Another day went by and I wanted to give her some space, but I knew something was somewhat awry. By day three I received her response as to why she hadn’t responded to my smoke signals. The email read that she didn’t want to be with me, don’t attempt to use any modern methods of communication to get in touch, all phones disconnected. Signed, good luck, good riddance, and nothing else good. I caught the whirlwind in my face, and I still couldn’t understand how this happened? My insides began to hurt like I just swallowed an entire vat of broken glass. The glass was churning, crunching, and breaking all inside while tearing me to bloody pieces. The glass scraped and spread throughout my entire body leaving blood all over, which would make Iggy Pop or Sid Vicious hungry for more. After my initial reaction of shock and awe, I decided to say “whatever” and dive into a bottle of bourbon. The hunt for a woman continued, dating sedate, fake plastic orthodox broads. Then, one day in late August I received a letter that would change the course of my universe, and yours.

The letter was from Diana and it simply read that she was sorry for the abrupt shut out and a big what if. Initially I wasn’t impressed thinking she would screw with my body, and then brain. I didn’t need this aggravation so I threw the letter away, deep in the garbage of thoughts, and refuse. However, I had a weak spot for her, tugging at my insides. This reflex spread like cancer to the brain, telling me to forget about all the differences between us, and just go for it! As if poking or prodding her without a full reach out I emailed her that I got her card, which opened a new set of cans full of dead worms. It got to the point where we both decided to take the abysmal leap of relationship faith and become exclusive. It was tough to process being a long distance relationship me being stuck in the waste land that is Washington DC and her in the cultural Mecca of the universe, New York City. I also hesitated because she wasn’t an observant Jew, and I was, and I didn’t want her to have any resentment towards myself, or Judaism. Still, we took the leap and became the item we wanted to be, and the following months were magical. From September to December we spoke every night for an hour or more. We would talk about our pasts, presents, and hopeful futures. The immigration issue always lingered because she was in the US on a student visa set to expire in the middle of January. Regardless, it was wonderful, and I remember the first time I showed up at her place for a short vacation in the middle of October. I showed up and she was prepared for me with a lavish meal in her cozy Wall Street apartment in the sky. She looked so beautiful in her short oriental silk robe, covering a white, and happily for me, transparent nightgown. All I could do was stared at her majesty while trying to eat with my mouth closed. After that I couldn’t keep my hands or lips off of her. The night was sheer ecstasy, which would only be possible in the dream world. My heart beat with passion as we embraced, and I couldn’t stop thinking of how fortunate I was to be in this situation. Life is fucking great, or so I thought.

The next few months were wonderful and full of fun with my Diana. There was a small stumbling block thrown when I was informed at a burlesque show that she wasn’t Jewish. Actually, she had some Jewish in her, but as far as Jewish Law she wasn’t one hundred percent kosher. It took me a while to grapple with that fact, but that night also pushed me into a new level or threshold with her. That was the first night we had sex, unprotected at that, and I couldn’t break it off the next day. I was a man caught between his Jewish principle and the girl he was growing so fond of. Not only that, she was the anti-Jewish chick. She was vivacious, passionate, fully aware of my needs, and so physical that she was the antithesis of the typical observant Jewish woman. In the back of the cobwebs of my mind I knew I should have thought it through a bit further, but why? I was looking into the eyes of a woman I knew was only once in my lifetime and I didn’t want to mess it up, or cause any waves in our sea. Still, all was well and quiet on the western front and each time we spoke she was interested in my schoolwork, as I was in hers. She was also very interested in the Bible portions of the week as we discussed them in-depth, as well as other theological topics. We were expanding each other’s minds, and I developed very strong feelings for her as I figured she was as well. At times it seemed like she had some emotional baggage from her past, but I didn’t want to pry. Besides that it seemed like nature was taking its course and I thought I was happy.

Then came the month of December where the insanity of finals for the fall semester began. Finals and papers galore spread through the mind so I think of Presidents, race theory, and the fate of Hip-Hop music as I toil in the stacks of the library. Shelves reaching the ceilings, so much reading and writing that after the hours your eyes look like spinning plates. To top it all off Chanukkah came early so I had to remain behind while the rest of the family, and Diana, celebrated in New York. Still, Diana was always there with me every night to light the candles together. It was such a beautiful sight to hear through the circuits of our cell phones. Each night I would call her as the sun was slowly setting and she’d have her menorah all set with the candles and ready to go. Then we would do the blessing together, she lit the candles on her end, and then we would speak briefly until I had to go to class. As my imagination would project her lighting the flickering lights over the horizon of the lowest office buildings in Manhattan’s belly of the beast I felt it. My heart would melt every night like the candle wax dripping down and slowly melting into the base of the Menorah. The sensation made me happy only thinking how we would be doing this every year for some time. Once I finished my work I ran up post-haste to New York City to meet her mother who came to see her daughter graduate. Her mother came from the old country, and barely spoke English. I tried my best to make her feel comfortable around me. It was a little frustrating having to share my love with her family, but she was presenting in her school, and she did marvelous.

After her mother left we cuddled and embraced for days until December 25th when the first signs of bizarreness peered through. That Friday night I prepared a dinner for us both at my father’s house. After the dinner we were joking with each other as she shot a joke at me that I presently forget. However, when I hurled the same back at her she froze dead in her tracks. As if on some robotic mode she coolly rose from her seat, put on her coat, and ran right out the door. I was standing on top of the stairs in shock. After a few minutes she returned stating that I could pick up my stuff from her place the next day. I ran down pleading with her explaining that she took the joke out of context. She eventually came back and relaxed, but that was an odd moment of unsettled ambiguity. Later that night we realized that we hit an impasse and we had very few options to keep the relationship going. Guess what we chose? I asked her to marry me, and she said sure. My family was very supportive although I knew that some thought it to be a little crazy and rash. Her family at first was fine with it, but as we shall see they began to resent me early on. So, in a matter of a week culminating in a city hall wedding on December 30th we were officially hitched and on our way. We decided that she would live with me in Washington DC and once I finished my course work we would return to New York City for a proper fun life. I had to leave earlier because of school and we agreed that she would follow me down a few days later. A few days later she called me in a panic, sobbing and unsure of the situation. Apparently her father told her that she should annul the marriage and return home to her parents and normal life south of the border. She was at a loss, but I was resolved to keep on by refusing to annul the marriage. She was alone and the voices of the demons were all around her, feeding her head with ridiculous thoughts of hypothetical consequences. She feared being disowned by her family, who are wealthy oil merchants full of money that makes my family look like ghetto dwellers. I kept pleading with her to come down and we will work it out together and she eventually agreed. That was early in the morning, so I left for classes and I figured I would call her after class to see how she was doing. Nothing. No answer. I called again later that evening, and still nothing. Later that night I got home and was on edge, shaking, and freaking out. Where is she? What happened to her? As I tried to settle my nerves over a few glasses of whiskey I had no idea what she was doing or if she was Ok or alive for that matter. After a few drinks I called my father literally crying over the phone feeling both confused and rejected. In the back of my mind, helped with the fuel of alcohol, I thought she got up and left the country. I couldn’t bear to think it sobbing over the phone while my father told me to just go to bed and sleep it off. The following day I was still at a loss with no success through contact of any kind. I asked all my family in New York to call her and even my mother to check on her, and still nothing. My younger brother, who lives in the DC area, came over by late afternoon and proposed to call the police. That’s when it dawned on me that maybe something did happen to her. After I called the police I needed to settle so I left with him to his place. As we leave I receive a text message from her asking for some alone time. Mind you this is after more than 24 hours of no communication, and I lost my shit. I got so angry, waiting to spew all the vitriol and ask her why she put me through this. We spoke later and the entire time she couldn’t understand how worried and hurt I was. After the police showed up she was angry with me for calling them, but this is where the psychological imbalance comes into play. To this very day she can’t understand how much I felt, and still do in some sense, for her. I worried, but she kept calling me insensitive and she was incensed because she spoke with my mother before me, and my mother unleashed the maternal screed. Never screw with a freethinking Zionist Jewish mother, born in the city and lived in Israel, unless you want to lose some limbs in the process. Their conversation was cordial until Diana kept criticizing me, and then my mother let her have it. She called her a rich brat who is more worried about retaining her financial connections than experiencing the consequences of true unbridled love. In the end we settled and I really wanted to make it work so I played the peacemaker and pushed aside that bizarre aura of emotional uncertainty. She came down a few days later, but she still had no idea how I really felt.

The following few months were fine, but one of the initial skirmishes with the Jewish community put her on the defensive and me in a rather precarious position. At first when she came to services on Friday nights and to meals with the local Jews all was nice and polite. However, one night after services the local head Rabbi came up to me carrying a very somber tone. He asked if I could speak with him the following week during his morning sessions. That morning I was nervous as I sat down and exchanged some pleasantries until he came right to the point. He said that some of the white village elders were questioning her. Now, my initial response was “mind your fucking business.” Apparently, a woman of color who veers off the elder white Jewish men’s radars causes concerns and alarm. Their used to the white disciplined Jewish female and Diana was the antithesis of that. I then explained to the Rabbi that I’m not the one to question her Judaism or Jewishness, but he persisted in wanting to question her. When I first told her this she broke down crying asking what she did wrong. I felt so bad because I understood the line of questioning, but no one fucks with my Diana making her feel inadequate. In the end she spoke to the Rabbi and told him of her status and that she wasn’t at all interested in conversion. Because of that my role was diminished so I had lost my “honors” and I couldn’t be within a few feet of the Torah without supervision, etc. Some cryptic old school shtetl thinking, which tore me inside.

Still, we were partners in crime doing many things together, travelling, hanging, talking, loving, and expanding, or so I thought. The oddest thing about the relationship was the feeling that she never believed me, especially when I uttered these three words, “I love you.” She would almost always counter that with a smile and say “bullshit.” Time and time again I would shrug it off, but at certain points I would grow weary and upset questioning her motives. She explained that due to an early childhood trauma she couldn’t experience that. Throughout her dating life she never was in love. Once I tried to dig and ask her why, and after dropping many subtle hints and dropping a few tears on her part I think I could connect the dots. I’m almost one hundred percent sure that either a relative or a friend of the family sexually abused her when she was a child. It also seems that her parents took the quiet road keeping all of it a secret and continuing their pathetic lives as if it never happened. This is why she had these issues, why she could be emotional one minute and the next cool, calm and collected at her detachment. She was also very wild in bed, changing roles and at times was borderline violent, saying things that would make me feel awkward and uncomfortable. She would tell me that she had many issues with her parents, especially her father who was a strict disciplinarian, and would beat her many times for no reason. During this time her relationship with her parents deteriorated and most told her that they were disappointed in her, while constantly downgrading me as a person. She would leave to see her family in New Jersey many times basically being a way a third of time we lived in Washington DC. This all came to a head during the holiday of Passover. We celebrated in New York City, and oddly enough she didn’t want to participate in the second Seder making me feel weird in front of my family.

We returned to DC and got into a huge fight, as she was planning to return to her family the next day up in Jersey. I think we both concluded that we should divorce because it would be for the best. Still, as I was going to leave and stay with my brother as she kept crying and pleading with me to stay. I stayed and she kept talking about saving the marriage and how this was a chance for the both of us to reexamine our commitment and the relationship while trying to grow from these experiences. The tears kept streaming from her face as she gently extended her soft hand grabbing mine so softly. She then brought me closer to our futon made bed and she slowly lay down and brought me down with her. She kept asking me to hold her closer as my mind just became more and more vacant with thought and emotion. I had no idea what was going on and my heart was breaking and collapsing under the pressure of love lost and torn from the root of my abdomen. As we held each other she wanted to make love, but I couldn’t get close to her, feeling a deep chasm between us the size of the black lakes known in the stories of HBO lore. I couldn’t give her an outpouring of emotions because I had no idea how to feel, and I was in complete misery as well as deeply lost in the jungle of my delusions of grandeur. The rest of the night I felt so uncomfortable around her in my own apartment, she became the gorilla and the egg shells were already spread all over the room floors, walls, and ceilings. She left the next day and would not return in almost a month. We didn’t have conversations over the phone because she would either not pick up or would become emotionally freaked. She began to experience these waves of intense panic attacks anytime anything sensitive came up. I had no idea how to handle the situation because she would either ignore me or fly into a frenzy or panic. Due to this I just kept it simple, but even after two weeks she didn’t understand that I missed her. Also, every time I asked about our marriage she kept saying that she needed to work on herself first and foremost before she returned.

What frightened me the most is that I became both her love and her worst enemy, both embracing and cringing me, my mind was slowly taking a leave of absence from the reality at hand. Before she left she had a hint where she would close down and ball for her own protection. She had some abuse trickling down from her past infecting her rational path of thought. When she was a young girl, little innocent Diana lived in her little jungle of beauty and ease. Her mother loved her while her father loomed over her sometimes for good, but at times for bad. She could have been fussy and out of line but no matter king dad always brought her into line because one day the black gold will be all hers. The trade of black gold was the king’s trade, uprooting the local who dared to live in the past and brought them kicking and screaming into the future. Little Diana lived happily ever after in her gardens of blue, beaches of green, and shades or purple swirling and swooping down for her control. Darkness in the soul came down in the form of Bob, black gold friend of the king. Diana was so happy to share the beauty with a new friend, showing him the mountains of glory and hills of uplifting vanity. But Bob was from the white/black room(s) and he was not interested in innocence of gardens. He came in for the kill racing little Diana to the point of exhaustion in the realm of nothingness. The path was set and he like an oily snake skin salesman extended his hand out, and the dark side grabbed her hand close. Ever since this event, years, days, ages, ago today she lost what she deserves, and what aches me to give her. Control.

Minutes, hours, days rolled as I incessantly stared at my cell phone for any missed calls, messages, hypothetically missed calls I thought I heard, I think. The time ticked slowly as every day I kept thinking to myself that this was amiss, what did I do? I kept asking that as I was pouring my brains and guts out, hitting the books and studying for my exams. After the first week passed I thought to myself that she was getting better and readying herself for our reunion. By the end of the second week I wasn’t sure if she felt safe or secure around me, so it was going to be a coin toss flicking the quarter into space and undoubtedly hitting the odds against me. Day after day dragged through the murkiness of my mind, and then before you know it we reached week number three. I was at a loss of words, and thoughts of what to do. We barely spoke, at least the way we used to before the dark day of marriage, no long conversations and time flying, no no. This time around it was forced where I would plead with her that I wanted to work things out. She agreed, but would then act very guarded about her own emotions, and any hint of the conversation getting a bit heated would send her into a frenzy of panic and anxiety ridden shocks all through her body. I yearned to make her feel better, but she made it impossible to reconcile with the meaning of this all. By the end of the third week I called telling her that if she didn’t return then just don’t come back at all. I refused to live in this miserable limbo. She caught the bus on a Sunday, which would trigger the beginning of the end, as well as the start of a bizarre week with my soon to be ex-wife/mutilation professional of my mind and soul.

Next Post is a return to madness, as well as more adventures from the bullshit world of American University.

Peace

#AmericanUniversity #DanielBCipriani1 #DianaKills

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I Was a PhD Reject; Part 1

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I’m currently sitting in a white room sitting with my arms spread across the squared table. Facing me was my dissertation committee, flanking me with these grins and self-assured smiles of prepared destruction. All these years of hard work, mind numbing exams full of tedious details, research, and field work have all led me to this table. Not only that, but it was also a long two years where I re-wrote my proposal at least six to seven times, thanks to my confusing pain of an ass, and so-called, advisor. It all comes to this defense of my work, my soul, and my life. Sitting here amidst the words of devastation being hurled at me my mind constantly retreats to the Woody Allen film Stardust Memories. The scene that keeps reverberating through my mind is when he is being asked questions about his work. He then utters a great joke saying, “Intellectuals are like the Mafia, we only kill our own kind.” Every time I’d see the scene I would laugh hysterically. However, now it’s becoming apparently crystal clear that I was the next one in their sights. But why? Why was I being torn down constantly? Why was I left in the wind many times, not only by them but by scholars in my so-called field? And why was this meeting, which at first seemed like a constructive conversation, the site of my execution? In order to answer these questions your narrator has to divulge some information on his process before we get to the grand inquisition.

Cue the music, “Paid in Full (7 Minutes of Funk Coldcut remix)” by Eric B. & Rakim.

I was born to some far our parents in a far out land. My parents were the unconventional thinkers and doers of their generation. My mother protested the Vietnam War before it became a fad, and my father is an Italian stallion of a drummer. They eventually moved to Israel, or made Aliyah as they say in Hebrew ascending to the land, in the late 1970’s. Being born in Israel to New York City, or Brooklyn bred, parents was quite an experience. However, one thing that remained constant was the music. My love for music started at an early age as my father would play classical and world music, while my mother played nothing but black music. The only white band, besides the old school masters, we heard was the Beatles. They were also very liberal when it came to our explorations into music. That’s why when my older brother started listening to Rap music they encouraged it. This encouragement from my parents has remained to this very day. Growing up in Israel was also very different from the US because the notion of being a hard Jew was more in style. Once my brother’s and I moved to the US we could not connect with most of the American Jews because they were timid pussies. Because of that we tended to gravitate towards the non-white crowds, as well as their  music and culture. This is where Hip-Hop comes into the picture. Although I listened to rap music in Israel, I didn’t immerse myself in the culture until I moved to the US, and after my grunge and classic Rock phase. This is why to this very day I don’t understand the American Jewish ethos, and I cringe at the timidity and waspish tendencies. Hip-Hop was the guiding force in my High School years, even after my mother re-married and we moved to the suburbs of Connecticut. In the town of Guilford, where I learned how to drink cans of Bud and shots of Jack Daniels while bumping Yes, Blue Oyster Cult, Steely Dan, the Allman Brothers or the town favorites Lynyrd Skynyrd, I still bumped all the classic Hip-Hop joints.

Cue the music, “Doper Skiller” by Viktor Vaughn (AKA Doom) featuring Kool Keith.

This would continue into college and even more so when I relocated to Brooklyn for school in the fall of 2002. This is when I fully immersed myself into the culture. I did all that shit that we see in the nostalgia shows and the bullshit PSA’a from the “ambassadors” of New York who come from the corn fields of the Mid-West, fuck that. I DJ’d at Brooklyn College, and other hole in the wall dives. I went to shows constantly throughout the city, hitting up all the independent and underground rap groups. Me and my boys lived that life, smoking blunts, drinking beers, and causing much damage while enjoying ourselves. However, by the time I hit 25 years of age I started asking, “is this it?” What the fuck am I going to do with my life? I earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s from Brooklyn College, pseudo-respectively. I was working a shitty job at a Jewish non-profit in Manhattan. No direction. But I started getting more into my Jewish faith, and this is where I began to find my own spiritual depth. Still, I needed a turning point in my life in order to push me in that direction. Unfortunately, the event was the death of my beloved Aunt Lenore, who was a huge force in our family. Her loss pushed each one of us to discover, meaning me and the entire family, ourselves and the true essence of our lives. I did two things; first I applied to PhD programs, and second I decided to go sturdy at a Yeshiva, Jewish school, in Jerusalem for the remainder of the time before I go back to school.

Before applying I decided to look outside of New York for other viable options for graduate school. This is when I visited Washington, DC. My younger brother attended George Mason University, so I decided to explore the schools and their history programs. Mason was nice, but too far from civilization. George Washington University was too big, and it seemed as if you could get lost in the shuffle rather quickly. I then visited American University, where I was warmly received and got plenty of face time with the chair of the department. I was also introduced to faculty, and one of them took an interest in my story and my field of research, which I chose to be Hip-Hop. This faculty member, let’s call him Mr. K, told me that if and once I get accepted to the program that I would work under him. I was both delighted and excited to begin this chapter in my life. However, after my acceptance, I traveled to the Holy Land, Israel and lived in the Old City of Jerusalem while attending the Aish HaTorah Yeshiva.

Cue the Music, “PUNKLEZMERAP” by Eprhyme.

Those months in Jerusalem were amazing, as I learned day in and day out various text and scripture while breathing in the spiritual aroma all around me. Being an Israeli I also visited plenty of old friends, and my youngest brother who was living there with his mother at the time. Emotionally, spiritually, and in other ways these months changed my life, as I became more religious and started wearing the uniform. Although I was still the rebel sporting torn jeans, T-shirts, and long hair, I still wore a Kippah and Tzizit, which I still wear to this very day. The crazy thing is that after living there for that period of time I become more sensitized to the mundane cultural bullshit. I had a great time with all the guys there, but there were times where I felt that the brain washing was in full display, and how some of these Rabbis had such a patriarchal stranglehold over the young guys. Most of these guys were lost with no direction home, so these Rabbis created new directions, and at times new ideological outlooks which were the antithesis of the true core of these guys. I distinctly remember that before I left one of the biggest donors to Aish showed up in Jerusalem. He wanted to speak with me the week before I left. When we spoke he seemed kind and nice, but also a bit pushy with his assurance that I should remain in Jerusalem. I said “thanks, but no thanks.” My resolve was strong, but I knew that I did not want to become one of the black hatters who all dress the same.

Cue the music, “NY State of Mind” by Nas.

I landed in New York City in the summer of 2009, and within a two-week period I slowly moved myself down to the land of political slime, Washington, DC. The break-neck speed of change didn’t register until my first day on campus. That is when the bizarre ride of my body and soul began to swirl in many directions. While I was in Israel us Yeshiva boys were encouraged to visit other Jews around the city and literally invite ourselves over for a Shabbat/Sabbath meal. For many of my colleagues this posed quite a challenge. Why? Because most of these guys were your standard out-of-the-box American Jews, who were mostly timid when it came to these types of social interactions. However, for the loud mouth pains-in-the-ass, like myself, it was no challenge at all, but rather a welcome rotation of interesting meals and conversation. Another big part of the Yeshiva, as well as the greater Ba’al Tshuva movement, Jews who were born secular or unaffiliated and later became religious, is that we were conditioned with eternal optimism when it came to the Jewish people. We had bright smiles and optimistic views on the religion and the many swaths of Orthodox communities. However, these Orthodox communities were not always that hot for people like myself. Especially this guy who sported loose-fitting cloths, and very long hair. Walking through the uber religious neighborhoods like Meah Shearim or Bnei Brak was always a trip. All the eyes of the boys, girls, men and women were beaming run on me as if to dig a hole into my very soul. Still, in Israel the communities were far more friendly and open to us, as opposed to the wonderful Jews of the United States. Regardless of all the bad press and sensationalism, Israel is one of the friendliest places I have ever been to. Neighbors care for neighbors in such a way that the fear of private space is non-existent. This is such an American thing where it’s not about community, but more about this is my spot, and if you don;t like it, get the fuck out. In Israel I always felt as if it was an open land where I can rest in any spot without someone pushing me off their property, or “land.” Dominicans are just like this as I experienced from my in-laws and soon-to-be wife. But I digress…….So here I am back in the land of the US of A after being brainwashed, or just a little laundering, and trying to get my bearings. Before I left for Washington, DC I hung around the city mostly in Brooklyn and Manhattan. That’s when I got the harsh truth of how self-segregated Orthodox Jews are, and how pathetically clannish the rest of the observant Jews are in this country. It’s not only the segregation that’s upsetting, but my family and I are very aware of certain Orthodox Jews superiority complex. They are the so-called keepers of the Jewish gates, and they are the ones who say who is Jewish and who’s not. We usually tend to stir clear of them. However, what hurt me the most in the beginning is the simple greetings that these Jews refuse to return. In Israel if you greet someone on the Sabbath you say “Shabbat Shalom” or the more yiddish friendly “Shabbis.” Usually it would be returned by the person you are saying it to. In the US it’s exactly the opposite in these Orthodox communities. These people not only refuse to respond, quite the keepers, but ignore in such disgust like you just ran over their father, while your buddies rape his mother and pour sugar in his gas tank. Fucking crazy! And crazier by the fact that if they were true to Jewish law they would be far less apprehensive. However, years of repression, incest, and other old world issues has stunted those people.

I’m now standing in front of my school’s spiritual center in the fall of 2009, and what a feel as well as look. Those first few days on campus were quite a shock to the system. For the past year I’ve been cloistered in this spiritual center taking in all this knowledge, but at the same time I also eschewed most forms of entertainment and popular culture. It’s amazing how that time period dramatically raised my sensitivities to the western ways, as well as sex and the sexualization of popular culture. Don;t get me wrong I ain’t no prude. After living in Brooklyn for years, and even before, I always enjoyed some nice drugs and a good piece of ass, preferably the non-white bread kind! But coming back screwed up some of my perceptions, as well as reminded me that the Yeshiva stint was my maturation period. So, here I am standing and read to learn. The first year was a tough adjustment period for many reasons, such as the change of style and content of my education. I was also looking for a place to live so for the first month and a half I had an hour and a half commute from the plush campus of American University to my brother’s apartment in Arlington, VA. However, by mid-October I was settled and slowly getting a grip on my academic performance. My advisor, as us PhD’s have, worked well with me and he helped me get through the adjustment period.

Cue the music: “Banned in DC” by the Bad Brains.

Washington, DC is nice, clean, full of politics and bullshit, and it’s such a bizarre existence living in the capital of the world. DC is also interesting as it’s the breeding ground for festering politicians and political movements. That’s why it can be a headache when your hanging with people whose political views don’t align with your own. Dc is also bizarre because it has certain northeast tendencies, yet it’s the opening slit of the south. You feel the progressive politics while traipsing over old plantations, which can be a real mind fuck. I showed up, literally two weeks off the plane into the land of DC, as a wide-eyed optimist with regards to my future in academia as well as integrating into the Modern Orthodox Jewish community. Lo and behold, within a few years my hopes and optimistic feelings took a nose dive with regards to both. After starting school at American University I also began to look for an apartment around the area in both DC and Maryland that were close to Orthodox synagogues. Maryland had nice communities, such as Kemp Mill, White Oak and others, but I couldn’t live in the wilderness devoid of city life. I also couldn’t live in these cloistered Jewish neighborhoods, that reminded me of the same segregated Jewish ghettos of Brooklyn. I ended up settling in Foggy Bottom, close to the modern synagogue Kesher Israel. Yes, this is the same place that sent its disgraced Rabbi to the clink not that long ago. Funny story, first time I was invited over to his house, with his family, for Shabbat dinner he did a round of introductions. He said that we should say our names, place of birth, and famous claim to fame. He then followed that by saying that “no one can beat me because I was on the Ali G Show.” Ironically this would not be his only claim to fame. G-d works in mysterious ways, but he’s got quite a sense of humor.

I joined the congregation in the fall of 2009 and began to integrate into the Jewish community. Now, I was not at all your typical Orthodox Jew boy. At that point I had very long hair, around 15 inches or so in length, baggy Hip-Hop and grunge era cloths, while wearing a big crochet kippah, and with flowing Tzizit, the strings that certain Jewish men wear outside of their belt line. I was a walking contradiction, thank you Green Day!, and the first time I walked into services the eyes were pinned to my back, and searing through my soul. The young men and women, the elders and the rest reacted with mixed caution. Some members of the community were beautiful souls who didn’t care. Unfortunately most of the men and women my age were basically WASP Jews who were so hardcore conservative and rigid in their beliefs. Once I walked in, I blew them out, which is why it was very hard for a single guy like myself to find a lady, let alone a date. For the first year I was content, and enjoying the Shul and the academic process. However, with academia it was a struggle at first re-adjusting back to the life, and my advisor did help me acclimate by the end of the year. By my second year I was getting far deeper into the PhD process. Unfortunately, my social life wasn’t the same as I kept going on pointless dates with either bizarre hippy Jew chicks, or certain women from the DC community who are were so repressed it was just sad. You’d think that these women, who mostly became more religious, would embrace the passion of faith instead of the repressive parts adapted by the Ultra Orthodox Jews. Also, almost all of these Jews came from very different socio-economic backgrounds than I. They all came from the lily white suburbs, and attended all white schools and were probably bullied, but now with their new-found spark of faith have a new method of control. It’s so sad to go to a thirty-something year old’s place for a Shabbat meal, as you’re surrounded by childish hobbies and meticulous bachelor pad. Once I was at one of these meals along with other guests including the parents of one of the guests. As the father extended his hand to reach for the wine, the host put his hand on the wine and said, “No, I do that.” This guy was bullied so much that now he’s become the asshole who pine for nothing but control. It’s sad how some of these men and women need to get laid.

Cue the music, “What’s Next” by Leaders of the New School.

Two years later my school work is going good as I began to wrap up all my required courses, and began to study for the oncoming torture of exams we call comprehensive exams. At the same time the dating scene was getting nowhere as I came to the realization that a modern Orthodox Jewish woman was not for me. This was tough coming from a person who wanted to stick to the more observant way of living. However, I began to delve into the world of secular and even non-Jewish women. That’s when I made the terrible mistake of reconnecting with a woman I’d worked with in the past. After living with my younger brother and his girlfriend and seeing the track record at the synagogue of either couples on their way to marriage or the aging spinsters (both men ad women) hanging from the galleries. That shit became old and depressing very fast.what was even more depressing was the local Lubavitch Chabad in DC. I’m a big fan of the Chabad movement, which was centered in my neck of the woods, Brooklyn. The Chabadniks in Brooklyn were, and remain, amazingly wonderful in their inclusiveness and unbiased look at who you are, regardless of your background. The Chabad of DC was the antithesis of all this and what Chabad stands for. When I first attended services Shem Tov, the Rabbi, came up to me and asked what brought me to DC. I said school. He then turned around and ignored me ever since. To call him a political opportunist is just the tip of the ice burg. That’s what happens when you mix spirituality with politics. You get dicks like that. Anyway, Diana was her name and she’s another load of words that I’ve written about in the past, which I’ll add next time around.

Peace, for now……