Archive | September, 2014

Rosh Hashana – The Ultimate #TBT

21 Sep

Happy Arm-aversary friends and foes (I see you, Citibike riders).

Quick story: 

When I was 18 at my seminary in Bet Shemesh Israel, a lovely Canadian classmate of mine, during the first month or so of school celebrated the 5 year-“birthday” of her belly-button ring. I think she even passed a card around for people to sign it.

“What a ridiculous thing to do,” I thought. “I must be her friend.” Which I did. But still thought it was odd to have a birthday for a piercing. But why not? We commemorate a lot of weird things during our year.

It is kind of strange that humans are mildly obsessed with remembering and celebrating specific dates. We have birthdays and anniversaries, Pearl Harbor day, Independence Day, Waffle Day and our own personal celebration days (I happen to celebrate July 13th – the day I got my license and January 23rd – a special friendaversary day) We love “Throwback Thursdays,” TimeHop and that thing Facebook does every New Years where it gives you an overview on all the posts you made that got the most likes.  (Most) millennials partake in “instant nostalgia” (“Lemme see the photos from the 5k we ran 20 min ago!”)  so celebrating a whole year or more seems like forever.

And no one does long-term Throwback Thursdays like Jews. That time our temple burned down 2,100 years ago? Let’s think about that every July. That time we dropped the mic and waltzed out of Egypt 3,100 years ago? Let’s reminisce about those days for TWO consecutive seders/parties in a row.

And especially Rosh Hashana – the world’s birthday. The anniversary of Adam and Eve 5,774 years ago – the ultimate #TBT.

As Judaism’s main agenda is about fixing/reparing the world (Tikun Olam), despite all the issues it gets sidetracked on, it’s helpful to look back over your year and think “Have I done anything worthwhile with my 365 days? Am I smarter? Harder better faster stronger?  Or did I watch Netflix every night and Tweet mean things about people?” If you’re like me it’s probably a little from column A and B (although I seriously doubt I am any faster this year).

The cool thing about remembering something (and not just what you wore to brunch in those selfies from earlier this week) is comparing present You with past You. Looking at photos from middle school you can think “I was so much more comfortable in my skin back then,” or “I am much better at making friends today” or “Why did ANYONE let me out of the house with  my hair like that?!”

We are meant to look at our past and ask, did we change ourselves? Did we change others and did we change the world? Because it starts with the first question. A better world starts with us looking back to ourselves just a year ago and track our growth (or failures, because progress isn’t just moving upwards it’s also learning from our mistakes or learning to forgive ourselves for our mistakes.)

Example: Two years ago I was in a really bad accident (did I mention that?) That day I was completely stressed out because of a rough class with major deadlines and more pressure I’ve ever felt for a class. I was also in a new relationship, was having roommate issues and trying to balance school work and Jewish holidays. As I crossed the street that Friday, my last thought (before the thought, “I could cross before that bike gets here!”) was “My life cannot get any more stressful.”

Cut to three days later when I had the same stresses plus a broken arm and battered face.

From then on, whenever I think “Ahhh this is the absolute worst – nothing can be as bad as  ___enter situation here___” I remember “Oh wait, yes it can. I could be doing this *and* have a broken arm, I could be doing this *and* be attacked by raccoons, I could be doing this *and* have an unfortunate case of tick bites on my face’. Not that the main lesson here is never be stressed because hypothetical situations are always worse. Your pressures are totally valid bro I get that. The lesson here is learn from your experiences. Learn from others’ experience. Just never stop learning.

So make resolutions, break them, learn some new things, fail horribly, make friends, read books, cook new recipes, watch that documentary on Netflix, give to charity, cheer up someone’s day.

Two quotes that keep me motivated on marginal change throughout the year are:

“Someone once told me the definition of hell: The last day on Earth, the person you became meets the person you could have become” ~ Unknown

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’. – Erma Bombeck.

I hope they’re inspiring to you too.

And I pray next Rosh Hashana we can all look back and say, “Yeah, I think I repaired the world just a tiny little bit.”

Other Rosh Hashana posts: https://avivawoolf.com/2013/09/01/the-god-network-renews-you-for-another-season-a-rosh-hashanah-post/

Jobs I’ve had. Ranked from Please Never Make Me Do That Again to Eh, That Probably Wasn’t As bad As I Remember

16 Sep

Sometimes I wish I lived in the 1870’s where I would be like “What do I wanna do with my liiifffeeeeee?” and someone would be like “You’re a coal miner! Your dad and granddad were coal miners so stop complaining and start mining some coal or the Indians will get us!”

But then I would probably die of rickets or black lung at 29 without ever *really* figuring out my real potential (full disclosure, I may not know anything about diseases you get from coal mining or history in general.) But it’s not 1874, it’s 2014 and that means I can drag you guys on the journey to find out MY DESTINY.

So here’s a list I made of jobs I have done (non-writing) to see what I’ve liked and what I haven’t. What I could possibly go back to if I don’t get rich and famous from self-indulgently writing about myself on a blog.

It ranges from Oh-God-Please-Never-Make-Me-Do-That-Again to Hm-That-Probably-Wasnt-As-Bad-As-I-Remember.

6. Working With Children 

group of happy youth club or summer camp kids

I was a camp counselor for exactly 2 years – the summer after 8th grade and the summer after 12th. I was a counselor for 8 year old boys and 10 year old girls. And hated working with kids. Children don’t understand sarcasm, pretty much my only tone. They like running around instead of sitting in the shade with me eating snacks. They ask rude questions like “why don’t you have a boyfriend?” and “why are your arms so hairy?”

I wasn’t a great child-dealer-with because I never wanted 8 year old girls to act like 8 year old girls. I wanted them to *understand* that it was illogical to throw a tantrum over the fact that another girl had copied the same color-pattern that she was making for her lanyard bracelet in art. I also wanted them to not cry when I told them that was a dumb thing to get upset about.

If I had to rank myself somewhere on the kid-friendliness scale it would have to be Jack Black at the beginning of School of Rock. Recess all day and no one gets stars. So, kids are out. Also, if you were thinking about asking me to be your kid’s godmother. Don’t.

5. Events Crew at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

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A job I had in college. I signed up for it because I felt bad making my parents pay for my copious amounts of alcohol on top of tuition. The job had a bunch of different facets including: setting up for musical performance by taping up the stage, setting up the “risers” or seating which left you with pinches and scars all along your arms, opening and closing doors for artists during their concerts, mopping the black box theater floors.

I liked working in the theater because you could do your homework while you waited in the dark until you had open a door. You could watch performances for free (except I never got to see literally anything except for this awful Native American drum circles which I saw like 4 times) and the rest of the crew was pretty cool.

But it was a lot of physical labor (like moving terrifyingly expensive pianos). And also one time we were taping up the stage for a show when a GIANT metal hook fell from the catwalk where they were setting up and missed my head by about 4 inches. I looked up and the stage crew manager went “Oops!” So, I obviously stayed at this job for a year and a half.

4. Retail: Bath and Body Works / Judaica Shop

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I worked at Bath Body Works for exactly two days during their busy Christmas season in 2009. My job was to stand by bottle displays and make sure no one stole anything. I’m not sure how exactly I was supposed to react if I did see someone stealing but it never happened for the two shifts I was there so, whew.

I was also forced to watch a 3 hour video about the history and protocols of B&BW (which didn’t include what to do if someone was stealing near you), take a quiz on the information and fill out a workbook about it. It’s brutal. Also, fun fact: if you stay in Bath and Body Works for more than 30 min, you actually lose your ability to discern between scents. Which is rough when you’re supposed to be helping teenage girls and older dudes find gifts for their secretaries and housekeepers.

On the plus, you got a lot of free stuff when you start working there. And a pretty sweet discount.

I worked at Judaica shop senior year of high school. I was the only employee this rabbi/owner had hired. And he wasn’t that great at talking to me. When he felt my clothing was not acceptable for his staff he called my mom to tell her talk to me. He didn’t like, know her before or anything, he somehow found her number and decided to call her.

I spent my days peeling stickers off items he had bought from other stores and slapping on marked-up price tags.

I got no discount, but I did get paid in cash so ka-ching. This store has since closed.

3. Working in a Coffee Shop

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I worked in a coffee shop in the summer of 2012. I had zero food service experience. I was hired because it was a Kosher cafe and they needed someone Jewish to be there to make the food while also serving customers, washing dishes and cleaning bathrooms.

Basically training was “Here’s the mixer! Here’s the basement! Here’s the stepladder! Figure it out!” Did I mention that the coffee shop was at a train station? In New York City? In the boiling hot summer? People would come in and bark “My train is coming in 6 minutes! I need an iced medium caramel upside-down macchiato!” And since I wasn’t trained on the espresso machine I’d have to yell “Umm…Jenn…?!” and then inform the customer that we only had smalls and large, not mediums while they cartoonishly tapped their feet and looked at their watch.

When it was slow it was awesome, I’d say “Oh, one small iced coffee? Thank God for you sir! Coming in at 10 a.m. and in no hurry at all while you work on your novel! I love you!” But if it was busy I’d literally freeze – paralyzed in fear that I’d give a customer a sesame seed bagel in lieu of an herbal matcha tea.

Working in a coffee shop taught me that in order to survive in stressful situations you have to have just the right mixture of “I don’t give a shit attitude” and “I like people and I want to do a good job.” And less, “What did you want? A decaf latte? I CAN’T FEEL MY FEET. SOMEONE KILL ME.”

2. Secretary

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Another college job, this one was golden. Consistent shifts, OK pay and no one, absolutely no one ever came in to the Art and Learning Center at the UMD student union. No one knew what it was. It provided cheap classes like ballet and ceramics to students/community/staff.

It would have been perfect if not for the manager who hated me for no reason (if you count fucking up almost every rare task that was assigned to me – such as destroying expensive paper when I was supposed to be cutting up cheap construction paper for the spin-art. Or creating a giant calendar for her wall that was missing December.  Oops.)

It was in this office that I learned that I should probably never be any position of power, that I am really good at answering phones and I have a fondness for decorating any space I am in.

My strongest memory from the Art and Learning Center was one time the ballet teacher Nick, came in to get his boombox. I was like “Sure thing chicken wing!” and got up to reach it.

“So do you have plans for Valentine’s Day?” He asked.

I was caught off guard. “Umm…not really,” then smiling. “Why?” (Did I mention I was chronically single during college?)

He gave me a confused look and then pointed to his ear and an previously-unseen blue-tooth. “Ah…I’m on the phone…”

I did get to take free belly-dancing class there. But was sadly, fired.

1. Photographer 

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I know there’s a lot of different kinds of photography, I’ve had experience with mostly photojournalism. But this one was child photography. I know I said I was bad with children earlier (nice job paying attention!) but I really liked being a photographer for a camp that was meant for children with autism and their families. I was photographer for two years for them. I didn’t know anything about autism when I started (I was 17).

For the whole session, I was a fly on the wall. Taking pictures of children who (some) couldn’t really communicate effectively as they happily colored, swam or played a tambourine with their helpers, which really meant something to their parents. Parents who couldn’t get their kids to smile during school photos or family pictures now had great keepsakes; photos of their children smiling as they made friends or quietly watched a puppet show. I would say that that was probably the most rewarding job I ever had.

And when I did have to interact with a child they mostly wanted to just touch my camera.

   Conclusion: None of these jobs are as hard as coal mining, and they’ve all made me grow as a person blah blah blah. In conclusion, I miss my Bath and Body Works discount. What was your worst/favorite job? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS to see if mine were better.

Weekend at Bubbys

10 Sep

Okay, so it wasn’t a weekend it was Sunday – Tuesday but Weekend at Bubby’s sounds better so we’re just gonna proceed anyways.

It’s been a yearly tradition that I visit my Bubby in Florida every summer ever since I was 16. Some years it would be me and my mom, sometimes me and my sister or brother. It’s always been a good time for those who follow my Bubbyisms on Facebook.

Some past classic Bubbyisms include:

“Do you know why Hurricane Katrina happened, Aviva? Because girls like you wear short skirts!”

“Stop singing! (“Why Bubby? You don’t like my voice?”) Well, Yes and no. No you don’t have a good voice and yes I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,”

“You’re so skinny! Your fiance is lucky! (“Bubby I think he’d still love me even if I wasn’t skinny”) Stop being so conceited!”

And the all time classic, “If you can’t finish eating a banana HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO RAISE A FAMILY?!”

Always good stuff. Sometimes dark and depressing, sometimes light-hearted Holocaust diatribes, sometimes racist comments. You never know – that’s half the fun!

My siblings and I would sleep on her ancient and incredibly uncomfortable pull-out couch to be woken up by my grandmother, hand on her hips at 7:30 a.m. yelling “Are you going to sleep all day?! Why did you even come if you were going to sleep?!” And then spend the day playing hours and hours and hours of gin, going to various Kosher restaurants in Fort Lauderdale for my grandmother to complain that the food is too hot/hard/spicy. She’d fearlessly call over the cook/owner/manager to explain that she could cook better. Anyone who debated her was met with a look of utter dismissal, as in “I am an 89-year-old-Jewish-survivor-immigrant-oldpersoninFlorida-you don’t scare me sir.” And then we’d come home and do it all again the next day.

This visit however, my mom and I visited Bubby in a Boca Raton old age home. Her health and mind have slowly been deteriorating as it does when you enter your ninth decade of living. I’ve never been in an old age home. It’s terrifying. Oh, it’s clean and all. It’s just a building full of sober reminders that you too one day will be sitting in a corner, in a wheelchair chanting “Mama mama mama,” all day. It’s also kind of an ego boost, in the way that elderly people complimenting your youth while you secretly hope they don’t do any voo-doo spells to steal it, is a compliment.

My mom and I walked in to see about nine women rolling around the hallways, lost in their own special dementias. I whispered, “If I get to this stage, I swear I’m just gonna take drugs. Like, just all hallucinogenics  all day while I look out the window and have nurses spoon feed me.” It’s actually not too bad there, an ice cream parlor, beauty salon, daily bingo games, mini fridges in your room (a pleasure I’ve been horrifically denied after leaving my dorm room because according to my husband, “they use up too much energy and you don’t need a wine fridge next to your bed.” Whatever, dictator)

Bubby doesn’t remember my wedding 6 months ago or meeting my husband. She doesn’t remember that she already asked me how I got there this morning or whether or not she just ate soup. But she’s still pretty fierce, especially her nail game. As long as I’ve been alive she’s been showing off her perfectly manicured nails, loudly lamenting the fact that mine are so short. Her nails are her greatest pride and I have never seen one nail chipped on that woman. She’s also still on-point with her obsession with grooming me to be a good housewife, or telling me that my husband will always make more money than me so don’t worry with my own job.

But for every sharp and hilarious barb, she says “I love you Vivaleh!” Randomly. When there’s nothing to talk about or when she can’t hear what people are saying. She’ll grab my face and tell me how I’m her little girl. Even when I call her during the week, when she hears my voice she’ll immediately yell “Avivaleh! I love you!” instead of saving it for the end of the conversation like the rest of us.

It was hard leaving. That fleeting moment of “LIVE EVERY DAY TO THE FULLEST WHILE YOU CAN” inspiration lasted at least until the plane landed and I decided to spend the rest of the night watching American Ninja Warrior.

So yes, youth is fleeting and enjoy it while you can blah blah blah. But really, just call your grandma, guys. It means a lot to them. Call them while you can. You never know, you might get some golden nuggets of wisdom.

(Such as “Listen. When you get married, just keep your mouth shut about what your husband says. No matter what he says. What? Would you rather be married or right?!”)

First Day In Comedy School

4 Sep

For those paying attention, today was my first day of improv class at UCB (I go there now, I can shorten it) *dusts off letterman jacket.*

In true Aviva first-day fashion, I went to the wrong address first. I went to 590 8th avenue instead of 520. 590 8th avenue is a Chase Bank. For about 40 seconds I stood there and seriously considered the fact that maybe the school was IN the bank? Like, in the basement. Should I go in and ask? Maybe it’s a joke? Maybe I’m an idiot.

Maybe I should check the email again. No, it’s 520. I ran.

I don’t know what I was expecting but UCB is nice. Like a fancy dentist office/spa nice and clean. There’s big white desks and white walls along with a pretty and unfriendly receptionist. There’s a lot of bare rooms for classes. I got to 909 to see 15 people sitting quietly in two rows, checking their phones or staring off into space. Classic first day.

 Our teacher walked in a few min later, an exuberant comedian who explained the class rules to us. One of which was “don’t be a dick.” That wasn’t even his commentary. It was written on the syllabus.

  One of the requirements for the class is to see two UCB shows during our 8-week session. “I know it might be hard,” he said. “I mean you guys are here at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday so you clearly don’t have traditional 9-5 jobs. maybe you work at night or are just one of those people who don’t have to work, Swiss maybe.”

 We played some name games and some “get up and get used to being on front of people” stuff. I was a lot more nervous than I thought I’d be. Hands shaking, voice quavering nervousness, wondering if it was bad form to pass out in the middle of a made-up-on- the-spot monologue about Matt Lauer.

Luckily, it seems that the rest of the class is really encouraging and so far, nice. There’s a lot of run of the mill handsome leading role white guys with big smiles, a girl who looks like Riki Lindhome, a British dude who kept his giant headphones around his neck for most of the time and a dead-pan and stoic boy who I assume is from Japan since his name is Tokyo.

  During the break Tokyo asked if I was an actress. I laughed and shook my head. He said he was an actor. And that he was focused on serious roles…and that he didn’t like comedy.

That makes sense I thought.

“I just want people to love me…” he added almost sadly. I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or maybe his comedy was just super complex.

Or maybe he was just fucking with me.

 As the class went on we learned more basics, not just ‘yes and’. UCB teaches long form improv which means it’s not short party games like on Whose Line is it Anyways but completely made up scenes based on audience suggestions. It’s not just being creative off the tip of your head but understanding how to craft an entire character and scene out of mainly your dialogue. Slowly, I felt more comfortable. A little bit. Like, not seeing floating specks in front of your eyes anymore progress.

“Even if you don’t go into comedy,” said our instructor. “If anything, you’ll develop the skills to bullshit your way out of any situation.”

  Which is good because I am a terrible liar. I mean, I’m a great liar! i really WAS sick and couldn’t go to your birthday party in Brooklyn last week, I promise.

Back to Cool – An Aviva Update

3 Sep

  If your Facebook newsfeed is anything like mine right now, it’s aggressively political. There’s a lot of stuff to be up in arms about right now. Politics, religion, celebrity “scandals,” doom, destruction etc. Maybe it’ll help for you to see a little baby duckling right now.

 

babyduck

“Quack! We’re all in big twouble!”

 

  But in between reposting Mic and Atlantic posts, I bet you were thinking, “I wonder what Aviva is doing these days. I bet it’s something wacky.” And you’re a little right.

  You may think the life of a freelance writer is all glamour and free sunglasses but sometimes it’s just days like today where I wake up, sit on a bench at Starbucks mentally willing a nearby tied-up dog to come closer so I could pet him, go to a Farmer’s Market for some overpriced chives and revise my resume for the 8th time this week.

But tomorrow is something new. 

I signed up for improv classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Kind of impulsively I might add. My friend Aaron was telling me how he registered for sketch-writing classes and I should too. Sketch-writing was full but improv was not.  I was kind of shocked that Amy Poehler’s comedy program in NYC just lets any random shmo in.

“Well, any shmo with 400 dollars,” Aaron pointed out.  This 8 week course is not cheap.

“Eh, cheaper than grad school.” Because I had recently been looking at schools in the area and apparently NYU doesn’t let you get a PhD in James Franco. And even if they did it would be a cool 40 million dollars probably. 

 

James Franco

Franco 101: How to walk the red carpet while        technically, being asleep.

 

   The last time I had done improv was in college, when a friend of mine, Shai, called me up on a Thursday night to see if I would do improv during the Hillel BBQ they were having for Israel Independence Day. I don’t know if he knew calling me 9ish on a Thursday night would be the best time to catch me, since I’d probably be right between pre-gaming and gaming, and would agree to any outlandish proposal. 

 And it was terrible. And i knew it would be terrible because the only time I did before this one was when I took an improv class in high school and was terrible, at 17 I was more Michael Cera and less Jack Black.

   And in the glow of the campfire behind the Hillel, trying to think of topical things to make fun of in front of seven (probably lost) freshman, I painfully remembered, “Oh right. I am not good at this thing.” I think I might be good at this thing but I never really learned how to do it and until I do, people are going to keep throwing me into these situations and I will continue to look like a…a…some sort of animal but like, in the way of an oncoming car. Ah dammit! I can’t think of anything under this pressure!

  Also, I lied when I said it was just the BBQ and high school that I was forced to do improv. My freshman year of UMD, I joined a drama troupe called Kreativity. Kreativity was created in the 1970s to give black drama theater students the ability to practice their craft when other groups were dominated by white students.

  To be fair, I didn’t know this history until I was already accepted into the group. I only realized I was the only white person there when the head of the troupe yelled “You all made it in! Impromptu dance party!” and I thought “Why is everyone so much better at dancing than me…?”

 We had a semester-end show and it was going fine until Thony announced to the sizable crowd, “Okay, now we’re gonna do some improv for you all!”

“But Thony, we never practiced improv!” I whispered in a panic.

“It’s OK! Improvise!” He answered cheerfully. 

It wasn’t great. And according to the crazy-thick textbook UCB makes you buy for $25, there’s clearly more to this art than to just wing it. It’s actually the first line of the introduction chapter.

  Either way, it’s something that scares me. It’s a vulnerability that I am stupidly throwing myself into. Getting good at improv is actually on my list of scary shit I have to do before I die. It’s up there with stand-up comedy, sky-diving and telling people that their babies are boring and not that cute. And if I want to pursue at least some sort of comedy writing in my future, this is a bullet I just have to mime biting. 

And that is the skinny on me. Tune in tomorrow when I tell you how the first day goes!

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