It’s Sundown: “Happy Hanukkah,” “Oy To The World!”

It’s 4:40pm here on the west coast, officially sundown…


Now before anyone asks (I always get several, “Oh, hey, I didn’t know you were Jewish!” responses), let’s get this out of the way … I’m not Jewish. But in addition to having been raised by the most Jewish non-Jewish mother on the face of the planet (pretty sure she invented the word “guilt,” and instead of a Jesus fish, her car proudly sported a gefilte fish), I’ve always celebrated Hanukkah in my own small way, as best I could with what knowledge I have of the traditions, because I hold the deeply passionate belief that all spiritualities are connected and inseparable. I don’t believe in boxes. I have my mom to thank for raising me to see and respect that although we may have different names for The Light and different guidelines and rituals to bring us closer to it, we’re all walking side by side on the same path, heading toward the same destination. It doesn’t matter to me by which name you call your God — that’s my God. I don’t know how long it will take, but I believe one day everyone will feel this way and will see that we’re not so different. Then maybe we’ll finally have peace.

I’m sad today, because years ago my friend, Irina, gave me a really nice menorah — a silver arch that’s so graceful and unusual in it’s simplicity, I kept it out year-round — and right now, it’s buried in a box somewhere out in the barn. Even if I could figure out which box it’s in, there’s no way I could get to it. So this is the first time in years I don’t have a menorah to light. But I’ll be lighting a candle nonetheless!

Although Kim was an atheist, he was the atheistic version of me when it came to various religions. He jumped on my Hanukkah train for the ride, getting far more excited about that than Christmas. While he was not a fan of Christmas music, he was totally on board for the Hanukkah stuff, which I would play almost exclusively for the eight nights. It became a personal challenge for me, trying to find new Hanukkah music each year. It was hard to come by (there’s more now than there used to be) and I was always so thrilled when I managed to find something new, especially if it was new and unusual. Because, y’know, it couldn’t be just anything … it had to be listenable and, even better, fun.

Kim’s equal-opportunity-religion passion grew beyond music when, one year, we happened to find a roll of Kwanzaa wrapping paper at a local store. He nearly wet himself right there in the aisle. Fortunately it was one of those insanely long rolls and that’s the paper he wrapped all of his gifts in for three or four years. (Okay, I wrapped all of his gifts in it, because Kim never wrapped his own gifts and, frankly, most of the time he didn’t even BUY his own gifts for people — I did it. Ssshhh!)

When the inevitable day came that the Kwanzaa paper was nearly out, Kim bemoaned the fact and kept saying he wished he could find Hanukkah paper. So I went on a mission and brought home four different giant rolls! He was so impressed and kept asking but how, where, what, when…??? “Magic.” When I moved, I gave those rolls away. I knew I would never be able to use them any more. They made me too sad. That was always “his special thing.” Actually, I gave all my Christmas wrapping paper away, too, about 30 rolls, a collection it had taken me years to amass. Bows, gift bags, and tags, too. No point in keeping any of it since I don’t have anyone to wrap gifts for any more. I figured if/when I do ever have a gift I need to wrap for someone, I’d just go with a gift bag.

Every December, we also always got a sheet of either Hanukkah or Kwanzaa stamps from the Post Office. (We often got and would use Eid stamps in December, too. Although that’s not a December holiday, they usually said “Greetings” and looked festive.)

One thing I’ve never been able to find is a Hanukkah holiday movie. But I do have quite a few holiday movies with the theme of a Jewish/Christian couple whose relatives come together around the holidays, cultures clash, whackiness (or drama) ensues, and in the end everyone realises hey, we’re not so very different after all and lives happily ever after. One such movie is Will You Merry Me? (click to see when it’s on next). Another is Hitched For The Holidays on Hallmark networks. I know it’s on Hallmark Channel tomorrow, Sunday, 12/9, 2012 at noon Eastern and again on Tuesday, 12/11, 2012 at 6pm Eastern). I’m sure it will air a few times more after that. Check the schedule.

So to commemorate the first night of Hanukkah, here are a couple of tracks I love. It was really hard to pick, because I love them all! That’s why there are two. I planned to only use one and it just wasn’t enough! So I’ve gone with one that’s Jewish Hanukkah and one that’s Christmas Hanukkah (because I promised Irina I’d do my best to remember to post a klezmer Christmas track tonight so she can hear yes, really, Jewish Christmas music, yay!).

The first is a new track by one of my favorite artists, Matisyahu. (He did a great performance of it on Leno a few nights ago, but I prefer the album version because it’s much more boom-y.) This song — all his songs, actually — makes me soooo happy! I wish Kim could have heard it. We’d have been doing the Dinnertime-Dancing-Around-The-Kitchen like crazy. It always gets me doing some serious head-banging and [my own personal trademarked, thankyouverymuch] chair-dancing with a big idiot grin on my face. SO HAPPY! All proceeds from the sale of this track go to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, so it you like it, please please buy it through iTunes or Amazon. You can get and give at the same time!

The second is for Irina. “Oy To The World!” by The Klezmonauts from the album of the same name. Merry Christmukkah!

And finally, here’s a pic I took of Santa at the town tree lighting festivities last night. It’s true what everyone says … celebrities really do look smaller in person!


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Farewell, Mr. Brubeck: “Silent Night”

Dave Brubeck is gone. I can’t even believe it. “Take Five” was his most famous and recognized song, but my favorite is “Blue Rondo â la Turk.” A master of the odd time signature, his body of work was so vast and made me so happy, I’ve been listening to his music and fighting back tears all day.

When I first met Kim, he had Brubeck’s Quiet As The Moon album, which had just come out. It was recorded as the soundtrack for some Charlie Brown/Peanuts project, but I don’t know if that ever actually materialized. I latched on to that album and played it every night. Kim was in his final semester at UC Berkeley and liked to have music playing while he studied, but it had to be instrumental. Music with lyrics distracted him. So I put that album on every night, and he studied while I read or drew.

The first track on that album is “Bicycle Built For Two,” which has long been one of my favorite standards. I sing it all the time. It’s one of my go-to bunny songs (along with “You Are My Sunshine”), meaning that when I’m cuddling one of the bunnies, I usually sing one of those two songs to them. For years I wanted a bunny named Daisy, but when you name a companion, you can’t just name them whatever you want — you have to let them have a say in it. So it was only last Christmas that I adopted a bunny who finally agreed to be my “Daisy.”


She’s a holy terror. Yes, I know she looks sweet and she is itty-bitty teeny-tiny. Looks lie. She will suck you in with her cuteness and, in a split second right before your very eyes, morph into a fuzzy deathball of teeth and claws. The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog is a Muppet by comparison. If you look closely at that glint in her eye, you can see the evil. But I love the little monster to bits, and so does Icky. Mostly. When she isn’t terrorizing him.

Tonight, in memory of Dave and all the beautiful music he’s left us, here’s “Silent Night.” I hope he and Kim are having a Christmas beer together somewhere right about now.

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A Christmas Music Story: “Winter Song”

I’ve been collecting Christmas music for many years. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I used to collect Christmas music….

It really kicked into high gear when I met Kim and moved to Berkeley and discovered that Amoeba Music would put out all the Christmas albums people had traded in all year — which took up about a quarter of the store — and would sell most of them for $1. So I’d go every year, root through every single bin, and head home with a huge bag of new stuff, the more unusual, the better. I have just about every genre imaginable, everything from acid house to bluegrass, Celtic, jazz, klezmer, French, reggae, classical, Christian, pagan, heavy metal, Native American, children’s, novelty … you name any genre or nationality, chances are I’ve got at least one Christmas song in it.

I bought the novelty (and heavy metal) Christmas music for Kim. He hated Christmas music because he hated Christmas. I cannot put too fine a point on that: he HATED Christmas. (I also bought him a black tabletop Christmas tree that he liked … until I decorated it with ornaments in every color of the rainbow. Then, not so much. But that’s another story.) I would always start playing Christmas music on Thanksgiving and keep going all the way through to Epiphany (January 6th).

Although Epiphany is a Christian observance, something celebrated at church, playing Christmas music up to that date at home wasn’t a religious thing for me so much as something dating back to my childhood…

In my family, we celebrated The 12 Days Of Christmas. My brother and I had the usual presents from Santa on Christmas morning, then we’d all open our gifts under the tree on Christmas afternoon, but there were 24 presents under the tree that my brother and I weren’t allowed to open. These had our names on them and were numbered 1 through 12. Those were for the 12 Days Of Christmas. Each night after Christmas, we opened one present in the order they were numbered. These were small gifts, but still something fun that we wanted (like mine were usually things like bubble bath, a cute pair of socks, lip gloss, etc.). But the one for the 12th night was always something big. Not big like “Santa brought me a new bike!” big, but useful big like, “OMG, the powder blue suede coat with the fake fur collar I wanted!”

Kim put up with my incessant Christmas music playing because he knew it made me really happy. He would put on his best Scrooge face and joke good-naturedly, “Aaaargh, not CHRISTMAS music again!,” but even though he didn’t despise it enough to tear his ears off or run from the room screaming, I knew he didn’t LOVE it and was just sucking it up for my sake and I felt bad. So one year I went bananas on iTunes and hunted down every novelty song I could find. Most novelty Christmas songs seem to fall into one of four categories: 1) crude, 2) hating Christmas, 3) the misery of family drama at Christmas, or 4) unfortunate mishaps involving small creatures at Christmas (sometimes those small creatures being children). There was a sort of rare 5th category, the proverbial Holy Grail of Christmas novelty songs: songs that fell into all four of the categories, combined.

So I went nuts and bought about 100 stupid songs. It was insane.

I didn’t tell Kim I’d done this. He thought I was going to turn on Christmas music as usual. Two or three songs in, it hit him that these were not the usual Christmas crap. No, this was special Christmas crap. He loved it. I’ve just about never seen him so happy. So with the exception of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I played those songs exclusively when he was around.

Now I’m stuck with all those goofy songs and, rather than make me smile, they mostly just remind me that he’s not here. As if EVERYTHING doesn’t already remind me of that. I haven’t bought any Christmas music since he died. I listen to the stuff I already have, but the joy went out of looking for new stuff.

Anyway, I bought all the novelty stuff in December of 2008.

The following year, 2009, Christmas would turn out to be painful in two different ways, one that I was aware of at the time, another that I wouldn’t be aware of for six more months: it was my first Christmas without my mom and my last Christmas with Kim.

I was doing my usual new holiday music buying for myself, albeit half-heartedly. I was too depressed to go to Amoeba, so I bought everything on iTunes. One of the albums I found that year was The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs with songs by a bunch of my favorite female singer/songwriter artists.

The first song on the album was “Winter Song” by two people I’d never heard of before, Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. It floored me. I played it over and over and over for hours on end, crying for my mom. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, I listen to it whenever I miss her, and whenever I hear it I instantly think of her. Now that I’ve lost Kim, too, it packs a double punch-to-the-gut. But I will always think of it first and foremost as “Mom’s song,” because every time I played it that first Christmas without her it called her to me, and without it I would have been even more of a wreck than I was.

More than anything, it asks the question I’ve been asking myself constantly since Kim died: “Is love alive in me?” I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if I ever will. But I always hope one day I’ll be able to answer yes.

[After the album version I’m also including a video of a live performance because it’s just so beautifully done.]

I miss you both more than I can ever say.

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Mom’s Birthday: Horse Dancing

Made it through Kim’s and my anniversary yesterday. Now trying to make it through Mom’s birthday. She would have been 78 today. Missing her so much.

In addition to the Cat Herding video, this was her other favorite. She watched it nearly every day. I think most of the 11,868,916 views on YouTube were her.

This is for you, Mums. I love you.

Posted in Reminiscing, State Of Being, Watch | 1 Comment

Our 21st Anniversary: “This Sad Bouquet”

Today is our 21st anniversary. Lately I’ve been telling myself Kim isn’t gone — he’s just away on a trip. I need to say today IS our anniversary rather than today WOULD HAVE BEEN our anniversary because for me, we’re still together and he hasn’t ceased to exist. We didn’t split up, he didn’t walk out, he didn’t choose to leave, we didn’t choose to end, he didn’t disappear. He’s just on a trip. He’s somewhere out there — maybe on the other side of the universe, maybe two feet away, I don’t know — and wherever he is, one day I’ll take that trip and meet him there.

But the wait is so long and hard and lonely.

I always thought this song was sad, but it never had any meaning specific to my life until I lost Kim. Now I feel it pretty much every day. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie. I love and miss you so much.

“This Sad Bouquet” — The Ark

It took time, took time to develop a concept, a new me
Based upon the traits from which I could not flee
It took time, took time to embrace the nature of my dreams
All this time just turned into a sad long wait

This sad long tale of moments passé
Must come to an end before it is too late
Wasn’t born to hate, I was made to love
But I never knew it was so hard

It took time, took time to accept the fact that one must lose
Everything except what you do not choose
It’s taken time, long time, and yet more time it will take
Before my heart is free and brave enough to break

This sad long tale of moments passé
Must come to an end before it is too late
Wasn’t born to hate, I was made to love
But I never knew it was so hard

This sad bouquet of forget-me-nots
That I threw away is growing scars and dots
In this weary heart where there’s a bird so shy
But one of these days that bird will learn to fly

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