The Messiah Dancers

I went to Hotham Street today to look for donkey droppings. There were none. Would the dancer/s be sad or discouraged?

There were two dancers this morning – Springheel Jack, closely shaven, waving his smiley face flag; and a shorter man, bearded, rounded, waving a Messiah flag. This man was aged perhaps fifty. I stopped and talked with them.

Blogberg: Good morning, gentlemen. Would you mind telling me about the older dancer who used to dance every day – the one with a white beard? I haven’t seen him for a while. Is he well?

Springheel – in ocker accents: Thank God, he’s very well. He’s staying home to look after his mother.

Blogberg: Golly, she must be old.

Springer: She’s older than he is.

Your blogger – Berg: Please excuse my curiosity – do you mind if I ask – why do you dance?

Springman: The Rebbe – you’ve heard of the Rebbe?

Berg: Certainly.

Dancer Jack: The Rebbe says it’s time to dance. The time of dancing is here. It’s time to be happy.

Berg: That’s why you have the smiley flag?

Jack, nodding: That’s why.

Berg: You do this for an hour a day, six days a week, you must be the fittest Lubavitcher in Melbourne.

Jack: Some days it’s only half an hour…

Berg, addressing the shorter, rounder, older man: Your flag reads ‘Moshiach.’ So you’re dancing to bring the Messiah?

Shortman, smiling benignly, speaking with a light Russian accent: Oh no, Moshiach arrived. We dance because of happiness.

Berg, diffidently, to Jack: You dance here in the mornings. How do you spend the rest of your time?

Jack: I care for my friend. Full time. Also my grandmother.

Berg, not short of chutzpah: What is your job? I mean does someone pay you? Do you eat?

Jack, unruffled: Thank God, I eat. No-one pays me. I dance and I care because it’s good.

Berg: You do it all, ‘lishma’ – for its own sake.

Jacko: Yes.

Berg, to Shortman: What about you? When you aren’t dancing?

Shortman: I am a dental prosthetist. I make dental appliances.

Berg: Well it’s been a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for talking to me. G’mar Tov (a seasonal benediction).

Both, cheerily: G’mar Tov.

Jogging home, chewing on food for thought, the image returned of the Messiah Man of Juneau, Alaska. A lean and straitened man, he stood in the grey of an autumn day in Alaska, unprotected from the thin rain, speaking aloud of Redemption. At his foot a placard advised: Jesus is Lord. Choose life eternal.

The man addressed the public at large bearing Good News in his thin voice. Actually it was a public at small: Your blogger was the entire public.

Blogger, Berg: Do you mind if I speak with you?

Messiah Man: Why?

Berg: I am interested. It looks like a hard thing, to stand in the rain and bring your message.

Silence from M Man.

Berg: I don’t want to disturb you. I mean no disrespect.

M Man: I am called.

Berg: How do you live? I mean, you aren’t soliciting funds…

Messiah Man: A few good people make contributions. And they don’t bother me as I do my work.

Berg: Please excuse me. I won’t trouble you further.

As the Rebbe of Bratislav said: Mitzvah ge’dolla li’h’yot be

simcha tamid. (It is a great and holy thing to be in joy perpetually.)

My impressions: it’s an easier gig working for the Messiah in a warm temperate clime than in Alaska: it’s easier to be happy in Melbourne.

A Trip to Cuba – Part 1

Early in 1999 I ask Annette whether she might take a couple of weeks off at the end of the year for a trip to mark our thirtieth wedding anniversary which falls on December 3. I propose to take her somewhere she has never previously visited, a place which she has always wanted to see. She will need her passport and her sunglasses, and she will discover the name of her destination as she boards the plane on December 1.

Surprises have littered the twisting path of our three decades of marriage, and frequently enough they have caused one or other of us to stumble. Generally I have created the surprises and as time has passed Annette has become nervous of them.So it is with our surprise anniversary destination: Annette becomes nervous, then edgy then agitated. Soon the surprise raises serious doubt whether we will reach that milestone as man and wife. So I tell Annette it is to be Cuba.

Annette is immediately enthused and sets about refreshing her Spanish and buying and playing every Cuban CD available in Australia. At the Melbourne Writers’ Festival she bails up the great Oscar Hijuelos and asks him for a reading list so she can prepare for our visit his homeland. As Annette is the only gringa in Australia who can pronounce Hijuelos, Oscar does her will.

On December 1, 1999, Annette sets out with her passport, her sunglasses and an English-Spanish dictionary. I accompany her and keep the journal that follows.  Continue reading