Saturday, September 16, 2006

B.S.-ing at B.S.

People see what they want to see; they see what they expect to see. I played music tonight before a Selichot service at a local temple. As mentioned previously, I got the kippah sorted out. Today I was able to secure it to my head using a hair clip. I'm not sure why I had one; I don't usually use them. Even more strange, I knew I had one and knew where to look for it. It must have been an unintentional acquisition from a woman at some point in time.

Because I wasn't any good at trying to clip it on without looking in the mirror (stupid reversed directions), I put it on before I left home. As I was driving to the temple, it occured to me that my neighbors who saw me would conclude I was Jewish. I know I would make the same conclusion. If I saw someone wearing a yarmulke, I wouldn't say, "I bet that person is a non-Jewish musician, headed to play at a service." In medicine, a strange diagnosis based on typical symptoms is called a "zebra," because if you hear hoofbeats, you should probably think "horse," not zebra.

Anyway, as I contemplated my temporary status as a self-identified Jew, I became slightly self-conscious. What happens if I go to K.C. Masterpiece and order ham? Will the restaurant gasp in shock and horror? What if people are judging my driving? I don't know how Jewish people make left turns! They'll know I'm a phony.

Once I'm actually at the temple, I start to mingle. Shaking hands. Introductions. "Andrew Schwartz," I say. "Schwarz?" they say, with a question mark in their voice. I confirm it. Then they smile, for whatever reason. One fellow said, "What's with all the Gentiles?" pointing to the other musicians. I respond, "we heard there was food."

If I want to push it, I shake hands while saying "Shalom aleicham." Nobody bats an eye. It's like me ordering McDonald's with a British accent; if anyone thinks it is weird, they don't bother to comment on it. In some ways, it's a reaction to feeling like I stick out like a sore thumb. Aren't too many tall blond guys here. But you know what? I'm probably not noticible. The people who think they stand out the most are the people who don't think they belong. In reality, everyone's probably thinking, "Why does his trombone have all those extra pipes?" It's a question I get asked a lot.

In the personal opinion column, I have to note that (to my preference) the "attractive woman about my age" demographic was sorely under-represented. It makes it difficult to pass the time when I'm not playing on some movements. Perhaps that proportion was filled by the "what are they thinking" group. A man and his wife, both leathery from too much sun. The man's hair is dyed blond; I know because his eyebrows aren't. His wife is plastic. When they speak to me, I notice they seem to have big teeth, but then I realize that it's because the gums are small. Dental work. The woman has Chicklet-teeth, where her teeth are so white and smooth they resemble a candy shell. It is eerily unnatural, and also greatly distracting.

I scold myself for thinking about the recent shootings at a Jewish community center in Seattle. "How morbid am I? And how did it even come to mind?" It came to mind when the gathered people sang along with a guitar. Raised in the Presbyterian church, I'm familiar with group music. The more adventurous singers bring counterpoint, harmony, and descant. I close my eyes and let it swim around me. Then it struck me that this is what people are always doing before some lunatic comes in and starts shooting up the place.

It may be a morbid thought, but I'm not the only one thinking it: as I leave, I notice that there is an armed policeman outside the front door, standing off to the side. That is extremely sobering.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a memorable learning experience at B.S. Gald to see you've joined the tribe.