Thursday, October 25, 2018

On Unbending Knee

For a day that began with injuries, it worked out splendidly.

The day got off to a rocky start when my right shoe got caught in my left shoelace as I was walking down the sidewalk to my basement to do laundry before my walk. In trying to drop my keys and hold on to the laundry basket, I hit the pavement, with my right hand and right knee taking the brunt of it.

Ouch and blood, lots of it.

Being the practical sort, I decided to carry on, using the hot water in the washer to rinse my hand and Kleenexes in my hoodie pocket to wrap around it to catch the blood as I set out for the river. The good news was that at least the laundry got started and walking ensured that my knee didn't stiffen up because of the workout it got on the hills, even if the blood-soaked improvised bandage was a bit unsightly.

But, man, I have to say, climbing the ladder at the end of the pipeline was a whole new challenge with damaged parts. At an interview at an art gallery after walking, I was pleased to find that my hand could still write without oozing too much blood on the pad.

My wounds were cleaned and dressed properly when Mr. Wright showed up for dinner and a movie, only to learn what a klutz he's thrown his lot in with, although part of the blame surely rests with the overly long shoelaces that require triple knotting to stay out of the way.

At Branch and Vine, we found the owner stocking wine on the shelves and a friendly face behind the counter. My first question was about what soups were available, and after she told us we had a choice of squash bisque and Mom's kale stew with sausage, she suggested we take a table and she'd come to us to take our order.

At what is purportedly a fast casual place, you don't have to tell me twice to let a pro wait on me.

The squash bisque, essentially a bowl of Fall, was thick and deeply flavorful and by the time the owner came over to ask how we'd liked it, it was pretty clear from the scraped clean bowl what the answer was.

I am a woman of appetite(s).

Sitting at a front window table, we had a fine view of the mural on the side of Bacchus, as well as a front row seat for the street theater of Meadow and Main, which involved an assortment of cyclists, pedestrians, and a woman walking by at least four times. Not to be left out were the many motorists who seemed to take the traffic light as more of a suggestion than a directive.

All I'm saying is, a cop could make his monthly quota on ticket-writing just sitting at that one intersection for the length of a meal, or at least the time it might take to polish off a Greek salad (accompanied by commentary about the contrast to our recent Greek salads in Athens) and a turkey and tomato jam sandwich with Gruyere and apple slices on a crusty baguette, like we did.

From there, we made our way to the Virginia Museum of History and Culture to see "G.I. Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II" along with what turned out to be a large contingent of JCC members and the usual Greatest Generation history crowd.

I happen to know from past events I've attended at the JCC that they're a welcoming bunch, even if I have been called out - "You're not Jewish, are you?" the gentleman sitting next to me at the brisket dinner and lecture had politely inquired - for not being one of the Chosen People.

I would think, however, that my good standing in the documentary dork department more than qualified me for tonight's film which told the story of the half million American Jews who served. And not always because their parents approved, either, as evidenced by one female veteran who observed that she didn't tell her parents before enlisting because they believed that the military "was no life for a nice Jewish girl."

Maybe not, but I'll bet her dating options increased a hundredfold.

One of those nice Jewish girls told the story of the romance she'd had with a soldier named Mike, who'd then been shipped back home. She assumed he wasn't interested, but in fact, unbeknownst to her, once back in the U.S., he'd sought out her family to ask for permission to marry her. After discovering that her family was Jewish, he'd written her a letter explaining that he had no desire to marry a Jew.

Because in 1943, apparently religion still trumped love. Sadly.

The documentary used plenty of interesting vets to share their memories (and old black and white snapshots) and that would have been enough, but director Lisa Ades also had Mel Brooks, Henry Kissenger and Carl Reiner sharing their stories of life as a Jew in the military.

Mel Brooks spoke about not being able to stay kosher in the military, rapturously describing his first melding of dairy and meat: a cheeseburger. In his typical humorous way, he immediately blamed the Jews for denying him such a pleasure up until that point.

Many told anecdotes about the prejudice they faced from fellow soldiers, but also there were stories of acceptance. The film made the point that for many soldiers, unless they'd been raised in a major city, basic training and deployment was their first time seeing, much less meeting, a Jewish person.

One guy said his bunk mate heard a rumor and asked him if he was Jewish. After he answered in the affirmative, his bunk mate never spoke to him again for the rest of their tour. Another recalled that he'd grown up thinking that everyone was Jewish and only learned differently once he'd enlisted.

All in all, it was a fascinating documentary and with images of concentration camps and liberating prisoners (Jewish soldiers helped by speaking Yiddish to the prisoners to tell them they were finally free), profoundly sad at times, too. I know if Mac had been with me instead of Mr. Wright, there'd have been some tears.

And if anything makes a person put her own life in perspective, it's hearing about the sacrifices of people willing to fight for their adopted country even as they were being called racial slurs and ostracized.

So I have a torn up hand, bloody knee and bruised arm and hip. I'll live.

Just don't deny me an occasional cheeseburger. I'm with Mel.

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