VideoJew’s VideoGuide to L.A. #5–Jew vs. Wild
VideoJew Jay Firestone goes native in this episode of VideoJew’s VideoGuide to Los Angeles
VideoJew Jay Firestone goes native in this episode of VideoJew’s VideoGuide to Los Angeles
I spend an enormous amount of time hanging out with my dogs. At the moment, I only have two, but at various times in my recent history, I have had as many as six. Technically, I believe, that constitutes a herd and therefore makes me somewhat like Jane Goodall — but without all those newsletters and research.
Back in those days, my house looked less like a spread in Architectural Digest and more like the badlands of South Dakota, especially during shedding season, when giant clumps of dog hair floated freely through my living room, not unlike tumbleweeds during a dust storm.
And yet I find it all very enjoyable. For me, living with dogs is kind of like living with exchange students from Neptune. We all try to understand each other, but the bottom line is that we are simply from different planets and most things are just outside of all of our comprehension.
That said, I still find it moving the way my dogs good naturedly attempt to live inside of my rules and limitations, despite the fact that most of what is being asked of them probably seems completely counterintuitive to them.
It was thinking about this sort of thing that led me to write my third novel, “Walking in Circles Before Lying Down.” My intention was to try and consolidate my thoughts and feelings about loving and trying to understand the dogs with whom I share my life.
The book is about a woman who so loses track of the direction her life should be taking that when she finds that she can suddenly talk to dogs, she starts wondering whether they are offering advice worth taking.
Dawn Tarnauer’s life isn’t exactly a success story. Married twice before she was even out of her 20s, she now has yet another boyfriend. But at least she hasn’t married him.
She’s still not sure what she does for a living or even what she wants. But after her second marriage crumbles, she finds herself moving in with her sister, Halley, and taking over her job baby-sitting dogs at a dog day care center so Halley can use the time to launch her career as an Internet-certified life coach.
As a roommate, Halley leaves something to be desired. She not only has many platitude-filled, life-coaching affirmations and body language techniques she wishes to practice on Dawn, but a well-documented attraction to sociopaths, having once dated convicted wife- and baby-killer Scott Petersen.
Then there’s Joyce, Dawn and Halley’s narcissistic mother, who continues to pursue a grandiose identity, this time marketing something called “The Every Holiday Tree” that she has developed with her Korean boyfriend, Ng, and is hoping to sell to Wal-Mart. Rounding out Dawn’s life is her mostly absentee father, Ted, who models his life and wardrobe after his long-dead rock idol, Eddie Cochran. He is mourning the end of his brief third marriage by scheduling two dates for the same night.
The one reliable constant in Dawn’s life is her new dog, Chuck, a pit bull mix she adopted from an animal shelter. When Dawn’s boyfriend surprises her one morning with an announcement that he’s leaving her for someone else, her world begins to unravel. Never having been dumped before, she finds herself sobbing into Chuck’s fur; “Now what am I supposed to do?”
She is stunned when she thinks she hears Chuck reply, “Come on! You must have at least suspected there was someone else. Couldn’t you smell her on his pants?” He then vows to take over as the new alpha of their pack, since he feels that Dawn’s instincts have proven continuously unreliable, claiming that he will use his much more reliable centuries-in-the-making canine instincts to help Dawn find better solutions to all of her dilemmas.
From that point on, Dawn realizes that she can talk to all dogs. Either that or she is going crazy. As she debates this with herself, it soon becomes a case of be careful what you wish for, because although the dogs have much to say to Dawn, what they consider good conversational topics aren’t always the kind of thing most of us want to hear.
There is also the dilemma of what to believe. When a dog in her care reveals that it is being abused, Dawn wants to act on this. But should she? How does she know whether the conversation she is hearing is real? What if the actual problem is that Dawn is delusional?
These are questions that I deal with in my own life on occasion. My book provides the best answers I can come up with.
As the Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off on March 26, the spring weather descending on Washington, D.C., makes it great for walking among the cherry-inspired events throughout the nation’s capital. And one neighborhood ripe for a stroll during a D.C. weekend getaway is prestigious Georgetown.
Shady tree-lined streets showcase a treasure trove of historic homes that look much the same as they did when George Washington and Thomas Jefferson walked them. Georgetown is a charming, hip mix of Old South and New North. It’s the getaway of choice for savvy tourists and D.C. locals who want to do more than a visit to the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, or a walk along the National Mall to see the Washington Monument or the Capitol Building.
Established in 1751 in honor of King George II, Georgetown was once part of Maryland until it was annexed to Washington, D.C., in 1871. Dotted with Queen Anne “curb-up” row houses, elegant mansions and Federal townhouses, the neighborhood is a quiet residential community that is home to those making history today. Notables include New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (Whitehaven Street), Henry Kissinger (3026 P St.), Watergate reporter Bob Woodward (3027 Q St.) and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (3322 O St.).
Georgetown is bordered by Rock Creek Park on the east to Georgetown University on the west, and from R Street in the north to the Potomac River Edge in the south, Georgetown is a short walk from D.C.’s “other” trendy neighborhood, Dupont Circle.
Start your stroll by the waterway that defined its prosperity in the early 1800s. Barges pulled by mules floated tons of cargo through the calm and shallow Chesapeake and Ohio Canal until floods sent it into receivership in 1924. Its adjacent towpath is popular with cyclists, joggers, birdwatchers, skateboarders and anyone else who likes to wander through one of the only places you can walk without traffic. In less than 15 minutes on foot, the hustle of the city morphs into the serenity of the countryside. Once you pass under the 34th Street Bridge, vine-covered trees and wildflowers replace the flowerbeds and the bricks. If you’re lucky, you may share the path with wood ducks, beavers, foxes and turtles. It’s particularly busy when the sun sets at 5 p.m.
The oldest-standing building in Washington, D.C., is the Old Stone House (3051 M. St.) that sits incongruously in the middle of the main shopping drag. Built from locally quarried blue granite as a one-room dwelling in 1765, this pre-Revolutionary house has had a few facelifts over the years, including the addition of a second and third floor. Its handsome garden and majestic weeping willows is a patch of tranquility on an otherwise busy street, and an ideal spot to take a load off.
Further down M Street, at Wisconsin, is the gold-domed Riggs National Bank, which dates back to an era when only farmers and mechanics were allowed to use its services. North on Wisconsin to Martins Pub you’ll find the local version of the bar from “Cheers.” Every president from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush has eaten there since it opened 70 years ago. Although discreet about his famous customers, fourth-generation owner Billy Martin may dish a secret or two if you ask nicely.
The Tudor Place House at 1644 31st St. was purchased with an $8,000 legacy from President Washington, and six generations of Martha Washington’s descendants have lived in this manorial mansion since 1805. Perched on an entire city block and overlooking the former wilds of Virginia across the Potomac River, the long-fronted house with its striking white portico and four tall pillars is one of the notable survivals of Georgetown architecture. A sizeable collection of Washington relics remains and trees planted more than 100 years ago still stand on the sloping south lawn.
Also significant but less grandiose is the three-story chocolate-colored stucco house at 1527 35th St. It was home to Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and is believed to be where he contemplated the idea of the telephone. If the walls could talk at the Dumbarton House (2715 Q St.), it would be about that day in 1814 when Dolly Madison took refuge in one of its rooms as the British burned the White House. During World War II, the Red Cross moved in and today it’s a museum owned by the National Society of Colonial Dames.
The first public market in the area stands uptown at 32nd and M streets. Built for butchers, fishmongers and dairy farmers in 1795, the current tenant is quite thematically correct. The gourmet food store, Dean and Deluca, has taken over continuing Georgetown’s love affair with the freshest and the finest.
The Four Seasons Hotel at Pennsylvania and M streets is where people watching is at its finest. Kings, queens, dignitaries, politicos and movie stars pay big bucks for the hotels unrivalled discretion, but if you sit long enough in the lobby there’s a good chance you’ll see a famous face or two.
And then there are those cherry blossoms. If the weather forecasters are right, they should be in bloom by March 26, with celebrations lasting until April 10. This year marks the 93rd celebration of the original gift of the 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees from the city of Tokyo to the people of Washington, D.C.
Highlights include the Cherry Blossom Opening Ceremony (March 26 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel), Smithsonian Kite Festival (April 2, 10 a.m.-4 p.m), Lantern Lighting Festival (April 3. 2:30 p.m. at the Tidal Basin Viewing Area), Cherry Blossom Parade (April 9, 10 a.m. Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th Street), Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street Festival (April 9, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue).
There’s also plenty to do for sports enthusiasts, including Bike the Blossoms tours, Blossoms Secrets Walking Tour, Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race (April 3), Cherry Blossom Festival Rugby Tournament (April 9 -10) and the George Washington Invitational Crew Classic (April 9).
For more information, visit
Jewish D.C Kosher Restaurants \n
• Ben Yehuda Pizza.1370 B Lamberton Drive, Silver Spring, Md. (301) 681-8900. www.ben-yehuda-pizza.com. \n
• Carolyn Cafe at The Holocaust Museum, 100 Raul Wallenberg Plaza SW, Washington, D.C. (202) 488-6151. \n
• Center City Cafe. 1529 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 387-3246. \n
• Max’s Kosher Café and Market Place, 2319 University Blvd. W., Silver Spring, Md, (301) 949-6297. \n
• Nuthouse.11419 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md. (301) 942-5900 \n
• Pita Plus. 4425-4427 Lehigh Road, College Park, Md. (301) 864-5150. \n
• Red Heifer Restaurant. 4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, Md, (301) 951-5115. www.theredheifer.com. \n
• Royal Dragon Glatt Kosher Restaurant. 4840 Boiling Brook Parkway, Rockville, Md. (301) 468-1922. www.royalkosherrestaurant.com. \n
•Â Stacks Delicatessen, 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 628-9700. Hotels With Kosher Options (The following hotels offer prepared meals for guests through the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington-Vaad.) Capital Hilton Hotel 16th and K St. NW Doubletree Hotel 1750 Rockville Pike Grand Hyatt Hotel 1000 H St. NW Holiday Inn Bethesda 8120 Wisconsin Ave. Hyatt Dulles 2300 Dulles Corner Blvd. Park Hyatt Hotel 1201 24th St. NW Washington Hilton Hotel 1919 Connecticut Ave.
• Ben Yehuda Pizza.1370 B Lamberton Drive, Silver Spring, Md. (301) 681-8900. www.ben-yehuda-pizza.com.
• Carolyn Cafe at The Holocaust Museum, 100 Raul Wallenberg Plaza SW, Washington, D.C. (202) 488-6151.
• Center City Cafe. 1529 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 387-3246.
• Max’s Kosher Café and Market Place, 2319 University Blvd. W., Silver Spring, Md, (301) 949-6297.
• Nuthouse.11419 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md. (301) 942-5900
• Pita Plus. 4425-4427 Lehigh Road, College Park, Md. (301) 864-5150.
• Red Heifer Restaurant. 4844 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, Md, (301) 951-5115. www.theredheifer.com.
• Royal Dragon Glatt Kosher Restaurant. 4840 Boiling Brook Parkway, Rockville, Md. (301) 468-1922. www.royalkosherrestaurant.com.
•Â Stacks Delicatessen, 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (202) 628-9700.
Hotels With Kosher Options
(The following hotels offer prepared meals for guests through the Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington-Vaad.)
Capital Hilton Hotel
16th and K St. NW
1750 Rockville Pike
Grand Hyatt Hotel
1000 H St. NW
Holiday Inn Bethesda
8120 Wisconsin Ave.
2300 Dulles Corner Blvd.
Park Hyatt Hotel
1201 24th St. NW
Washington Hilton Hotel
1919 Connecticut Ave.
Workmen’s Circle: 2-8 p.m. Have your portrait sketched by master artist Vadim Zang. Appointments are scheduled for every half-hour. $30. 1525 Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 552-2007.
East Valley Multipurpose Senior Center: 1-2 p.m. Yiddish Club with conversation, music, storytelling and films. All levels and abilities welcome. $2 donation. 5000 Colfax Ave., North Hollywood. (818) 766-5165.
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Women’s League for Conservative Judaism: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Torah Fund Study Day on “Women and the Rabbinate.” $25 (with a $36 contribution to the Torah Fund Campaign). University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. (310) 476-5359.
Temple Adat Elohim: 6 p.m. Buffet-style Shabbat dinner followed by services at 7:30 p.m. for the deaf community. $12 (must be mailed in advance to 2420 E. Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362).
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Westwood Jewish Singles (45+):
7:30 p.m. “Emotional Differences Between Men and Women,” discussion with therapist Maxine Gellar. $10. West Los Angeles. (310) 444-8986.
Jewish Learning Exchange: 7:45 p.m. “Why Being Single Happens to Good People” with Dr. Lisa Aiken. 7223 Beverly Blvd., Suite 201, Los Angeles. (323) 857-0923.
L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: Chinese Food at Shanghai Diamond Garden. 9401 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.
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Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7:30 p.m.-midnight. David Dassa’s weekly dance lessons, beginner at 7:30 p.m., regular class at 8 p.m. and open dancing from 9:15 p.m. on. $7. 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. email@example.com.
Dinner With Friends (30-45): Gourmet cooking class at the Culinary Classroom in West Los Angeles. www.dinnerwithfriends.com.
Helkeinu (20-40): 9 p.m. Weekly lecture series on self-improvement. Free. (310) 785-0440. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Sunshine Seniors Club: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Weekly meeting. Valley Jewish Community Center, 13164 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 764-4532.
American Civil Liberties Union: 7:30 p.m. “Current Threats to the Separation of Church and State” with Harry Schwartzbart. Free. Westside Pavilion, third floor, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 392-7149.
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Adat Shalom: 7 p.m. Cafe Adat Shalom new program for young professionals, with erev Shabbat musical service, wine and cheese reception and musical accompaniment. 3030 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-4985.
Ethiopian American Culture Center: 9:30 p.m. Weekly klezmer night. $5. 5819 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 857-6661.
Chai Center (21-36): Dinner for 60 Strangers. www.chaicenter.org/ shabbat_dinner_rsvp.htm
Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s-40s): Reservation deadline for a Feb. 26 gathering at Little Rock in Tarzana. Pool, darts, drinks and live music in a casual atmosphere. No cover. (818) 750-0095.
Every week I go on two walks that I absolutely treasure. Each Sunday, my husband and I walk through a different section of Los Angeles. We have no destination, but our purpose is to exercise. We could choose other forms of exercise. We could be on a treadmill, moving in place without moving in space. Yet this is not as gratifying as walking outside. The walks along the beach or in the hills around the city create another dimension of being.
The other walk is on Shabbat as I go to synagogue, walking the same streets that I drive during the week. Walking, I am much more present in the moment, existing in the place. Weekday mornings I pull out of my driveway, listening to the news on the radio and swerve around the two potholes in front of my home. Then I turn onto Pico Boulevard, knowing exactly how the stoplights are timed as I hurry through rush-hour traffic to get to work. Yet the details fly by.
When I walk those same blocks on Shabbat I notice subtle changes. I notice the tree that overhangs the sidewalk has grown an inch since last week. The pink of the gardenias is fading slightly, the white azalea bushes that are all around our neighborhood are drooping and turning brown on the edges. As I walk I am able to see the natural evolution, not just the end result. This happens even though the purpose of this walk is to arrive at a destination.
On both walks I am aware of more than my surroundings. I am aware that my breath is quieter as we begin our downhill trek and is much more labored on the uphill trip home.
As I walk I am also aware of my thoughts. Something happens as we walk. Rebecca Solnit writes in her book "Wanderlust: A History of Walking" (Penguin USA, 2001), "Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts…. Moving on foot seems to make it easier to move in time, the mind wanders from plans to recollections to observations."
Abraham’s extensive trek from his home to the land of Canaan begins as we read this week’s Torah portion when God tells Abraham, "Lech lecha." These two Hebrew words are typically translated as "Go forth." The phrase could more loosely be read as "Walk." God commands, "Walk from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you." Why does God use the Hebrew word that means "walk"? Why not "come" to a place? Why not "go out" or "leave"?
The word "walk" invites a journey. It implies separating from and going toward. It is neither the arrival nor the exiting, but is the continuum across time and space.
God implores Abraham to be on — and in — the journey as a way of knowing reality. Two levels of knowledge can be attained by walking the land. The first is physical: one gets to know the land by walking it. The second level is spiritual: walking allows wisdom to enter our consciousness.
The physical aspect of learning occurs as we slow down. When we are walking we see things we would not otherwise experience. In his book, "Walking the Bible" (William Morrow & Co, 2001), Bruce Feiler writes about the details of the land of our ancestors. He learns in-depth about the landscape, the topography, the climate, the foliage and the history that took place on those spots. Beyond the worldly knowledge he acquires, he discovers his connectedness to his roots, his people, his traditions.
The book of Proverbs says, "Your journey should direct you," and a Chasidic master teaches that it means, "Go to yourself." So, your wanderings should lead you to your true self. How do you get there? By creating the time and milieu to foster the insights that help us recognize who we are and who we can strive to be.
As we walk through the physical, we can also find the divine. We can find God on a walk in the tranquil woods as the wind rustles the leaves and the birds call back and forth in a song of response. We become aware of God’s presence when we stroll along the pounding shore, smelling the ocean, hearing the roar of the waves and feeling the breeze caressing our skin.
Slow down to rise higher. Step by step you can come to know the world, to understand your true self, and to recognize God’s presence in your life. As God told Abraham, "Lech lecha." Go forth, walking along the way, noticing, thinking, seeking, attaining wisdom. Ultimately, you may be able to walk with God.