Yom Kippur was last week, and so, in observance of this most sacred holiday I’m recycling a dumb post about how I used to get stoned on it. Sigh. Good times.
Post is pretty much the same as it was in 2011 (5772) with a bunch of random updates. Enjoy!
The Ancient Greeks didn’t worry about whether God loved them. They didn’t wring their hands over the fact that God allowed evil to thrive in the world and didn’t struggle with the way that God permitted the righteous to suffer while the wicked prospered. That’s because, in Ancient Greece, the Gods were dicks. It’s like someone based an entire religion on the New England Patriots. Speaking of which- you’ve really got to admire the Patriots commitment to being loathsome these days- first the cheating, then the Trump loving- and this past week, pointlessly running up the score against Jacksonville Next week, I hear, Tom Brady buys an AIDS drug and jacks the price up.
Anyhow, Zeus was particularly nasty. He was far less concerned with the meek inheriting the earth than he was in changing into a swan and boning the meek’s wife (they had a pretty loose understanding of zoology as well.) The rest of the gods were no better- just a bunch of mean spirited, petty, vindictive, narcissistic, spiteful bastards who absolutely didn’t give a shit about humanity. It must have been wonderfully liberating in a way- like having a Republican president. After all, when Bush and co. were in power, we didn’t wring our hands and wonder WHY they were leading us into one pointless war after another for the sole benefit of their rich cronies or WHY they were making disastrously short-sighted fiscal policy decisions. We knew perfectly well why- they were dicks. They did irresponsible, self-centered, evil, destructive, selfish things because they were irresponsible, self-centered, evil, destructive selfish cocksuckers- plain and simple. All we had to do was fear them, loathe them and mock them. Good times.
With the advent of Judaism, though and the election of Obama, things became more complicated. Now we have to wrestle with thorny and difficult philosophical questions like WHY does God allow bad things to happen to good people, WHY does God turn his back on his supposedly chosen people as they are persecuted and killed, WHY did Obama extend the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy or WHY does Obama continue to order drone attacks on civilians around the wold. It’s a far more complicated world to live in as these questions fuel our doubts and erode our ability to believe.
But then, much like a new Presidential Election restores my faith in the Democrats by showing me just how terrifying the alternative might be, the Jewish New Year draws me back to synagogue by threatening me with DEATH if I don’t show up and repent my sins. Yup, that’s right DEEEEAAAAAAATTTTTTTHHHHHHH. We Jews don’t fuck around. We observe our New Year with a prolonged period of repentance, contemplation and prayer- exactly the way that Christians don’t. Scholars agree that this is the single most boring and painful way to celebrate a new year with the possible exception of watching Ryan Seacrest host the Countdown (Dick Clark’s face moves more than Seacrest’s and he’s been dead for four years). It wasn’t always this way, though. Back in the days of the Ancient Temple of Jerusalem- you know, the good old days Before the Crappy era (or B.C. as it’s typically known) majestically robed priests would ritually slaughter thousands of animals as burnt offerings to God while throngs of ancient Israelites stood silent in the Temple trembling with awe and wonder and the tangible presence of the Divine deep inside the Holy of Holies. Plus- tickets were free! Beat that Congregation Beth Bite Me!
Nowadays, synagogues charge $300 a head and open up the partition wall that separates the Holy of Holies from the Synagogue Multi-Purpose Room (hail to thee o Accordion Wall- for Modern Judaism would be lost without you) so that they can pack in Israelites on colossally uncomfortable metal folding chairs (the Seats of Repentance) all the way to the rear of the Multi-Purpose Room stage and pray at them mercilessly for hours on end as if to punish them for buying tickets in the first place (like LA Opera did with the Einstein on the Beach.) The Israelites, meanwhile, gaze with awe at how fucking slowly the Cantor is singing and the sheer number of pages remaining before the end of services and wonder just how long the Synagogue President can tell corny jokes and babble on about Judaism and his iPad until he just gets it over with and asks for the goddamn money for the pledge drive so we can sing Adon Olam and go the fuck home already. And then, for an encore, we fast from sundown to sundown on Yom Kippur while we grovel before God for our very lives. Happy fuckin’ New Year!
The ritual slaughter of thousands of animals still plays a role in our worship, BTW, they are just converted into brisket and wrapped in plastic far from our sight. Not as entertaining as the old days, but significantly more delicious.
Clearly, then, holidays surrounding the Jewish New Year, typically called the High Holidays or Repent-apalooza (2015- Celebrating 24 years of hokey Lollapalooza puns- Happy Hack-apaolooza!) are not what you would call “fun” unless you are what I would call “crazy”- but, hey, I figure I’m stuck with them, so I might as well try and get something out of them. Here are some of the strategies I’ve tried over the years in order to get the most out of the High Holidays:
1. Better Fasting Through Chemistry
Look, I didn’t intend to come home stoned for Yom Kippur the first time I did it. It’s just that I was in college and it was a Tuesday so naturally I was smoking up with my best friend and that guy Ed with long hair and a tan who was either Native American or Chinese or possibly Italian and sold high quality weed to only the best potheads on the downtown quad first semester sophomore year. You knew he was cool because he cut out the part of the cracker box that said “Baked not Fried” and Scotch taped it to the outside of his dorm room door, much to the tittering delight of us all. Stick it to The Man, Ed! (“The Man” being the R.A., Stacey). Anyhow, by the time it came to head over to my parents’ house for dinner and the evening Kol Nidre service my friend and I were quite impressively stoned. On the one hand, this was good, because it meant that we had a significant appetite and ate heartily of my mother’s World Famous Unbelievably Dry Chicken and Twice Microwaved Potatoes (shit. I’m going to have to atone for that joke next year. Sorry, mom.) On the other hand, less than an hour into our fast we were starving again and giggling more than is, perhaps, considered acceptable in Temple on the most serious night of the year, much to the consternation of my very unstoned and very jealous sister.
With the sun down and a long day of fasting and prayer ahead of us, we realized that we had no other option but to man up, buckle down and smoke our way through it, just like Playwriting class (the play I came up with was called Dude and it was about a couple of stoned guys who are basically stuck in a really bad play and trying to come up with shit to say to each other. Then, a bunch of people get shot and the whole thing turns out to be a super-violent Scooby-Doo joke with Nazis. God I miss the 90’s. Just me?)
It may seem like a bad idea to use a drug that causes dry mouth and increased appetite on a day when you can’t eat or drink anything- like treating impulse control with Jager bombs but it turns out that weed and fasting go together like hamburgers and fries, peanut butter and jelly, bagels and lox and a whole bunch of other food combinations that sound really fucking good to me right now because I’m fasting as I write this and hungry as hell. For one thing, being high makes playing everybody’s favorite game, “Man, I could really go for a ___________ right now,” a lot more fun- case in point:
Man, I could really go for a burger right now.
Yeah, I could really go for a sandwich right now.
Totally. I could seriously go for like, a HUGE bag of Combos.
Yeah, and a Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia milkshake
Stoned person #1:
Fed to me by a crazy-hot Viking chick
With a huge metal bra
Stoned person #1:
Riding a lion
Stoned person #1 & #2:
A Flying lion! (break out in hysterical giggles)
Stoned person #1’s Sister:
(seethe) (rage) (gurgle)
Perhaps it was all this fantasizing over food that allowed us to resist the temptation of eating actual food- because we ended up resisting some serious temptation. Halfway through the day, someone had the insanely masochistic idea to go apple picking. There we were- surrounded by ripe, juicy fruit, ice cold cider and the sweet hot fat smell of fresh cider doughnuts . As the non-stoned among us broke one by one and gave into temptation, only the stoned stood strong and ate nothing (my sister didn’t come.) Is it any wonder this became an annual tradition?
2. Take your fast to go
Sooner or later, weed will always betray you. Sooner or later, instead of coming up with goofy jokes and imagining cool things to eat fed to you by Valkyries, weed just makes you think about how everyone hates you and your boss wants to fire you and your landlord wants to evict you and the cops are outside ready to burst through the door because you could have sworn that you saw a red and blue light flickering through the apartment window for a second and that suspicious black sedan parked across the street hasn’t moved in a couple of days so clearly the FBI is on your ass for telling the doctor that you have a back injury so he’d give you a Medical Marijuana card when your back is actually totally fine and you’re just a filthy, stinking, worthless liar who’s letting everybody down. At this point, it’s best not to smoke anymore and to find other mechanisms for coping with Yom Kippur and life in general. Travel is a great one. Not only is it mind expanding, but if you start feeling paranoid it’s probably because the gypsies are really trying to rob you. Stupid gypsies.
When I lived in New York, I worked at a non-profit Jewish organization (NOTE FOR ANTI-SEMITIC JOKERS: “Non-profit Jewish” is not, in fact an oxymoron- and, yes, I’ve fucking heard that one before) with my non-Jewish soon-to-be wife. Naturally, we got the High Holidays off- a gesture which my wife and I interpreted differently:
Me: I’m glad that this organization gives me the time off required to properly observe these very important occasions.
My Wife: WOO-HOO! Four day weekend! ROAD TRIP!!!!
So, there I was, fasting in a rented Ford Aspire (it aspires to be a car!) which we picked up at Newark Airport, heading to Philadelphia. Of course, we couldn’t possibly waste a perfectly good trip through New Jersey in a rental car without hitting Ikea. Now, you may think that you have fasted before in your life or that you know what it is to repent for your sins- but let me tell you, my friend, you don’t know shit until you observed Yom Kippur in the cinnamon-bun scented Swedish amusement park of particle board and pain that is Ikea. After all, Ikea is an incredibly annoying place to shop for incredibly annoying things- like a torture chamber where you have to buy your own Iron Maiden and put it together before your tormentors shove you inside and slam the spikes in your face- which is totally fine by you as long as you never, ever have to use an allen wrench again. Anyone who can maintain their fast in the face of such colossal unpleasantness- and the omnipresent temptation of meatballs and the gooey goodness of cinnamon buns should be forgiven for pretty much anything.
Ultimately, we reached Philadelphia, known as “The City of Brotherly Love” or “The City With the Really Ironic Nickname.” As we drove around looking for the restaurant I had pre-selected to break my fast, we found ourselves caught in an endless loop by the art museum. Now, I love the “look kids, Big Ben…Parliament” gag from European Vacation as much as the next guy, but if I’m fucking starving and the stars are starting to come out it gets unfunny very, very quickly. Finally we exited our vortex of irritation, found a random charming restaurant in a random charming neighborhood and had a fantastic meal.
So- do I recommend travel for Yom Kippur? Hell, yeah! It was an adventure- and adventure beats sitting in Temple like steak beats hamburger; bratwursts beat hot-dogs; rich, thick slaps of strawberry covered delicious cheese-cake beats Jello cheesecake pudding (did I mention how fucking hungry I was?). In fact, a couple of years ago, I drove home from San Francisco on Yom Kippur after I hit morning services in the Mission at the Temple Beth’s A Lesbian. Good times. I sent my sister a postcard (OK, that’s a lie.)
3. Score Free Tickets
Look, I get free tickets to stuff all the time- and not just to artsy crap like plays and operas. I’ve gotten Dodger tickets, Kings tickets, Clipper tickets- hell, I’ve even gotten tickets to see teams that DON’T suck, like the Lakers (oh, wait, that was supposed to be an example of “teams that don’t suck” -HA! . But, until this year, I have never received the Ultimate Comp- free High Holiday Tickets. Normally, these are about as obtainable as tickets to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (sweet, delicious river of chocolate…drool…..) so I have to resort to hitting the Chabad House if I want free services and getting my Jew on with the Ultra-Mega-Super-Duper-Right-Wing-Black-Hat-Crazy-Pants-Orthodox in an overstuffed little sweatbox of a room. It’s a little weird and slightly uncomfortable — a bit like getting free vegetarian food from the Hare Krishnas — nourishing, warm and generous on one hand, but it doesn’t really taste like anything you’re used to. Everyone there is chanting and mumbling and wearing the same outfits and you can’t help feeling a little squirmy about the fact that you might be hanging out with a cult just to get a bargain — like joining the Moonies to save on your wedding, though fortunately, they can’t serve Kool-Aid on Yom Kippur (Went there!).
The past few years, though, thanks to my fancy-schmanzy, high-level, showbiz connections (I know a guy)- I was able to score some comps to a swanky Temple where I could repent in style and comfort. Hell, they even had a jumbotron in the back of the Multipurpose room, so you could see the Rabbi up close. I have to admit, I thought the Kiss-Cam thing may have been taking it a little too far but, you know, they’re Reform, so I guess it’s all good. And, the best part is, since they are Reform, there was no screwing around with the Service. It was like the NFL RedZone channel of prayer — just all the big highlights and none of that messing around and mumbling shit in the middle. In and out in under 3 hours!
Okay, so maybe it was a little too fast and efficient for me. I like a little ground and pound in my services, but it certainly beats hanging out with a bunch of aspiring West Bank settlers. It may even be better than watching my wife eat meatballs at a furniture store while I fast (OK, so she didn’t actually eat them in front of me. Call it “poetic license”- the only license I can get!)
4. Try taking it seriously for 5 lousy minutes
You’ve been an asshole this year. It’s okay. I’ve been an asshole, too. Probably a bigger one than you. Not as bad as Donald Trump or Tom Brady or Zeus, but definitely somewhere on the asshole spectrum. So, why not take a day and deal with it? Say I’m sorry. Forgive the people I wanted to stab in the face with a handful of sharpened golf-pencils. Think about being a better person- maybe not yelling at people so much on the phone when they turn out to be worthless morons who can’t actually help me- but, you know, they’re probably doing their best and not deliberately trying to give you an anger fueled stroke. Or maybe start actually giving a shit about Darfur or at least figuring out where it is on a map. Or…you know…something something Syrian refugees. I don’t know … anything to show that I’ve been thinking about repentance and I’m going to give it a little bit of a shot. Not so much because God cares or notices or even exists but because there’s a slim chance that not being so much of an asshole might in some infinitesimal way make the world a very slightly better place, so it may be worth trying.
I continue to find new ways of experiencing the High Holidays. In fact, the year I first wrote this, I observed Yom Kippur by fasting as I opened a heavy-metal, country and western, multimedia operetta with a huge cowboy shindig at intermission and an after party featuring chili shooters and Mountain Lion Margaritas — or as normal people would put it “going into the office on the holiday.” (aaah, I’ve Never Been So Happy- good times. And to think that back in 2011, I thought that was as wacky as things could possibly get! I guess I was about 3,000 boxes off on that one.) I guess our boring old religion still has some life in it, even if we don’t have animal sacrifices (sweet, delicious animal sacrifices. Goddamn it, I’m hungry) or a wicked cabal of evil a-holes controlling our fate (that’s Republicans are for.)
So…right, the whole atoning thing. Uhm…I guess I’m sorry to everybody who I might have accidentally offended last year. Except for Republicans….and Patriots fans….and Ryan Seacrest cause y’all can go fuck yourselves. (aaaah, the first appearance of the “I’m sorry…except” joke- since posted annually on Facebook. And to think I used it up this year on the morons who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood without even knowing that two days later there would be some colossal hedge-fund douche-bro who would jack up the price of AIDS medication. So many assholes, so few punchlines) . Oh, and Kobe Bryant really is a homophobic racist who should choke on a Cub-Scout’s dick (ahhh, memories. I’d almost forgotten how much I hated Kobe. It’s hard to stay so mad at him now that he’s old and useless- sort of like Ronald Reagan after he got Alzheimer’s). But, you know, I’m sorry to anybody who maybe didn’t deserve to be offended, like the makers of Lucky Charms. I’m sorry, I just don’t think it’s very good. I mean- hard marshmallows??? What the fuck??? (honestly, I’m not even sure what the hell I was referring to here. Seriously-does anyone remember?? Did I write something hateful about Lucky Charms four years ago? I have absolutely no recollection. Oh no- is this how dementia starts? Is this Karmic revenge for making an Alzheimer’s joke?? SHIT!!! Sorry, sorry, sorry- I’m barely even done with the fucking holidays and I’ve already got stuff to atone for next year. Plus it’s probably just all that weed – the Ghosts of Yom Kippur Past catching up with me.) Crap, I’m screwing this up already. Damn it. Maybe I’ll do better at atoning next year. I can at least aim for that. And, hey, I probably should apologize to my sister. We should have let her smoke with us.
So there you have it- Happy New Year- 5776! (That’s right- you read that correctly- Five-Thousand-Seven-Hundred-and-Seventy-Six. Our calendar could kick your calendar’s ASS.)
Originally published on October 10, 2011 on Fierce and Nerdy. Sort of.