A big, 'L'Shanah Tovah' to all my Heebros out there. I didn't meet many Jewish folk growing up on US Army posts so my first Rosh HaShanah in NYC was something of a surprise. I walked outta my apartment on West 18th Street -- pushed my way past some high school kids on my stoop smoking pot and drinking Heineken at 7AM -- and headed toward the IRT with a big resentment already bubbling. 'How can a fucking high school kid afford Heineken and I can barely pay for a quart of Blatz on a park ranger's salary?'
I get to the subway platform and see three other people. I wonder. It's a weekday. It's rush hour. Where is everybody? I'd get that same feeling driving the desolate stretch from Palatka to St Augustine at 3:00 AM listening to Fleetwood Mac's, Rumors over and over and suddenly wondering, after seeing no cars, if there had been a nuclear exchange and I was the sole survivor left in St Johns County.
I get to the Ranger Boat and see a bunch of people. Relieved, I walk up to an Irish Catholic ranger eating a potato knish with mustard and ask him what's going on and, "where is everyone?" He laughs, a mouth full of white potato with French's yellow streaked across his lips and tells me it's Rosh HaShanah or, what I later learn in Chicago is, "Rush Ah Home Ha."
I was 19 and a paratrooper at Ft Bragg when I bought a Star of David necklace and told anyone who would listen I was Jewish. I did this for two reasons. One, Ft Bragg was overflowing with bible thumping NCOs who found the Lord after all the killing in Vietnam and wanted to take you to church. Two, the Entebbe Raid that Summer had turned all of us at Bragg into huge fans of the Israeli Army. A ballsy operation whose only fatality was the officer in charge, Lt. Col. Yoni Netanyahu. A hero of mine to this day.
A young woman struck up a conversation at a party. She noticed my Star of David and asked if I was Jewish. I told her I was and she asked what I thought about the Torah. "What's that?" I asked. It took years for me to regret that one. Happy 5772.