Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Facebook

More drawings from my notebook that is so small, I can only fit the faces of people I draw. Not to be confused with the online social network Facebook.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Random Thoughts

A guy shared this memory with J and I:

“Butterbean was one of the Cabbagetown Boys who would jump you for no reason."

Man overheard teasing his girlfriend:

“Don’t be upset. Tell you what- you can have my baby.”

Overhead a man telling a woman outside a bar:

“Bitch, I wouldn’t jack off and throw it on ya.”

Headline seen online when “Dawn of the Dead” pushed “Passion of the Christ” out of first place at the box office:

“Zombies Topple Jesus From Top Of Box Office.”

Seen on a T-shirt:

“Triggers Got No Heart.”

In Paris, J and I saw a restaurant called “The Yak and the Yeti.” We decided it was sounded more like a Tibetan comedy team.

Headline on a magazine read:

“Why (insert woman’s name here) still counts.”

To which I responded- Because no matter how hard she tries, she can’t stop herself from doing it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Games A La Mode, Part Two

I was struggling to stay awake through an afternoon shift when a tall girl about my age with reddish brown hair and a sad face walked in. She looked like a lost rabbit. She stood at the counter and stared at me. I felt something take control of me. It was one of those moments in your life when you feel your head fill with light and electricity shoots through your body.

“You’re here looking for a job, aren’t you?” I asked.

She nodded her head.

“Great. We need somebody real bad. Wait here. I’ll go tell the manager to hire you.”

I went to Earl’s office, told him to hire the girl and he did. Her name was Rebecca. She lived in Ooltewah, a tiny town on the outskirts of Chattanooga. She was a real country girl. She was a hard worker, too. With her working at Games a la Mode, my schedule whittled down to something more normal.

Rebecca and I were attracted to each other, but the situation was awkward. We were both getting over someone before we met each other. We didn’t flow together. We bumped into each other and retreated and then forced ourselves back to each other. My relationship with ex-girlfriend had been so intense. I didn’t want to jump back into something heavy. I wanted something light and easy. What I wanted was a lime freeze.

Rebecca only worked at Games a la Mode for a few months before she moved on to a better job. However, we did stay involved in each other's lives for years to come, thanks to the child we had together.

Meanwhile, Bressler’s main office told Earl that Games a la Mode was such a success that they were planning on updating and expanding the store. Earl would get a promotion. Hell, even I was going to get a promotion. I was going to be assistant manager and work in the office instead of behind the counter.

The store was closed down in late November for remodeling. We were told they would reopen in December and that are jobs were secure. Just enjoy the holidays and come the new year, we’d be working in a much fancier place with brand new pinball machines.

What actually happened was that during the Christmas holidays, Bressler’s had the store gutted and broke their lease with the shopping mall. My job at Games a la Mode had melted away. Turned out that Bresler’s had no intention of reopening the store. They had had enough of the drug busts, the rednecks hanging out but not spending money, and the complaints from the other merchants at Eastgate Mall. The Games a la Mode experiment had failed to achieve the desired results. Bresler’s gutted the store and sold the space.

I didn’t get promoted to assistant manager. Earl didn’t get promoted to district manager. Instead, Earl and I got our last paychecks in the mail and that was the last we ever heard from Bresler’s Ice Cream and their 33 flavors.

I met with Earl one last time before he moved away. He told me he felt sure we’d meet again some day. I said I hoped we would.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Games A La Mode, Part One

Spring 1973. Age 16.
Background music:
“Savoy Truffle” The Beatles
“Pinball Wizard” The Who

The best way to make a Lime Freeze is to put two generous scoops of Lime Sherbet in a blender, add a teaspoon of corn syrup, and pour in a bottle of lemon lime soda (something like Sprite or Seven Up, whatever is available in your neighborhood). Blend it all together and then pour into a tall glass. Add a straw or a spoon, whichever you prefer.

The secret was the lemon-lime soda. Most places that served Lime Freezes used soda water. I knew this because I worked for a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream store. We used soda water for the customers, but when we, the Baskin-Robbins employees, made a Lime Freeze for ourselves, we used Sprite.

Our store didn’t sell soft drinks. Next door was a gas station with a soft drink machine that sold bottled sodas. The bottles were lined up vertically. Each bottle was tilted downward at a forty-five degree angle, their necks peeking out through metal collars that kept them from falling out of the machine. Putting coins in the machine triggered something in the bottle’s collar so the customer could then pull out their desired soft drink.

I worked at night when the gas station was closed. My fellow night shift Baskin-Robbins employees was a long-haired redneck named Sam. He showed me how to get a free soda from the machine. We walked over to the gas station with a bottle opener and a large paper cup. Sam popped the cap off a Sprite and the forty-five degree angle tilted the bottle enough to pour its contents into the large paper cup.

Baskin-Robbins was my first job and already I was learning petty larceny. In the beginning, I liked working for Baskin-Robbins. I could eat all the ice cream I wanted and my fellow employees were always teaching me things like how to steal from soda machines. But then, the owner started harassing me about the length of my hair. He wanted me to cut it buzz-cut short and I kept inventing excuses for why I hadn’t been to the barber. The joy of free ice cream only lasted a few weeks. Digging the scooper into hard frozen tubs and constantly washing sticky multi-colored patches off my arms made me sick of the stuff. Even the smell of ice cream made me queasy.

I went to Eastgate Mall on a Saturday with my best friend Jesse to check out a new store he’d heard about called “Games a la Mode.” In the middle of the store was an ice cream stand with a wraparound counter and swivel counter seats. Pinball machines, foosball tables, air hockey tables, and assorted arcade games like Pong, Asteroids, and Gun Fight surrounded the ice cream stand.

I was beating the snot out of Jesse at air hockey when I noticed that most of the customers were rednecks I recognized from school. It was okay to call them rednecks because they identified themselves as such. They tended to come from lower income homes. They didn’t dress or wear their hair any differently from me. They were just very vocal about their hatred of anybody who wasn’t white and Christian.

Jesse wanted ice cream, so we grabbed a couple of empty seats at the counter. The girl who waited on us was a cute blond with a vacant stare. She wore the standard soda jerk uniform; an ice cream stained apron and a paper cap. I had one just like it at home, but with a different logo.

“I want a lime freeze,” I told little Miss Soda Jerk. “But before you do, tell me how you make it.”

“Two scoops of Lime Sherbet in a blender, then add some soda water, blend it together, and pour it into a cup” she explained. “Why? Is that not the right way?”

“It is if you want a boring Lime Freeze,” I said. “Would you be willing to make it my way? I promise, it won’t cost Games a la Mode any extra.”

Little Miss Soda Jerk was intrigued. Making the lime freeze became a game. I led her step by step, adding the corn syrup to the lime sherbet and then finally, the secret ingredient; Sprite instead of soda water. When my lime freeze was ready, she asked if she could try it.

“Of course,” I said.

Little Miss Soda Jerk took a ladylike sip and said, “This is the best lime freeze I’ve ever tasted.”

I was enjoying my lime freeze when I noticed that a man sitting at the end of the counter was watching me. He had short red hair and looked to be in his early thirties. He wore a short-sleeved dress shirt, slacks and a clip-on tie. The way he was staring at me made me think maybe he wanted to taste my lime freeze too. That was too bad. He would have to get his own.

“Excuse me,” he said, “where did you learn to make a lime freeze like that?”

“It’s no big mystery,” I said, “I work at a Baskin-Robbins.”

He came over and sat down next to me.

“My name’s Earl,” he said, “I’m the manager of this store. What’s your name, son?”


“Tell me something, Mickey.
How much does Baskin-Robbins pay you an hour?”

I told him exactly how much I was making. I didn’t think to exaggerate the amount, because I didn’t realize I was negotiating for a new job.

“I’ll give you a dollar and an half more an hour to come work for me,” Earl said. Two weeks later, I was working at Games a la Mode.

As I worked there, I got to know Earl. He was a great guy. He was a devout Baptist and his kindness toward the rednecks was not part of some business plan, he really wanted to know the people who hung out in his store. Earl taught the redneck’s ringleader how to play chess. Earl organized Sunday afternoon football games for the rednecks. He invited me to join them and play. The rednecks didn’t like me being there until they found out that I was brutal on defense. When I tackled somebody, they ate dirt.

Earl’s wife, Nancy, was a sensible woman with short blonde hair and freckles. She was the classic girl-next-door. Earl had a set of business cards printed up that read: “FREE. One Pair of Space Hot Pants to the Girl with the Ass that’s Out of This World.” He gave one card to Nancy and tossed the rest into the trash.

Games a la Mode was a retail experiment. The theory was that kids love ice cream and kids love arcade games. If you put the two together, twice as many kids will show up.

Games a la Mode was the brainchild of Bresler’s 33; Baskin-Robbins’ main ice cream competitor. While Baskin-Robbins offered 31 flavors, one for every day of the month, Bresler’s had the courage to go that extra mile by adding two additional flavors.

Games a la Mode attracted plenty of kids. They just weren’t the kids Bresler’s hoped it would attract. The rednecks adopted Games a la Mode as their unofficial hangout. They ruined the place. They hung around for hours without buying anything. They came in drunk and had loud drunken arguments. They sold pot behind the pinball machines. I can remember at least two occasions when I was working a night shift and about fifteen cops rushed in, shut the place down, and busted the rednecks for drugs.

Earl dealt with the rednecks by trying to be friends with them. The rednecks, in turn, took every advantage of Earl they could. The rednecks didn’t abuse Earl deliberately; guile was just a way of life to them.

One day, a redneck guy walked in with his arm around his redneck girlfriend’s shoulder. They wore matching flannel shirts, and while her worn jeans were ripped off at the thigh to make them into shorts, his pair had holes worn out at the knees. The redneck guy led his redneck girlfriend over to where Earl was sitting by the ice cream counter.

“Hey, Earl,” said redneck guy, “Cindy here needs a job.”

Cindy couldn’t seem to get her mouth to close all the way. She stared at Earl like a frightened kitten.

“Sure,” said Earl, “when can you start, Cindy?”

“She can start today if you want her to,” said redneck guy.

“That’s all right. Monday will be fine.”

Cindy left with a new job without having to say a single word. I worked a shift with her the next week. She ignored customers and spent most of her time doing her nails. The only time she showed any signs of life was when one of the redneck guys would tell her to get them something.

“Cindy, make me an ice cream cone,” they said. Or, “Cindy, refill my soda.”

Cindy would do as they asked and never requested payment. As time went on, I discovered that, except for myself, all the employees were redneck girlfriends who did no work and gave free stuff to their redneck boyfriends.

My righteous indignation would not tolerate such bullshit. I explained to Earl what was going on behind his back and suggested he fire the redneck girlfriends and hire some real employees. Much to my surprise, Earl took my advice and the next day, he fired all the redneck girlfriends. I knew I had impressed Earl by showing him all the stuff I had learned at Baskin-Robbins, like wrapping cones during slow periods and the best way to prepare a banana split. I didn’t realize I had impressed him enough to take my advice.

Games a la Mode was left with three employees: Earl, his assistant manager, and me. Between the three of us, we had to cover every shift, seven days a week. This went on for weeks. I made a lot of money, but I never had time to count it.

To be continued.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Shiksa Paradox, Part Two

Background music:
“I’m in Love with a Girl” Big Star
“Oh, Lonesome Me” Neil Young

Only once did I make the mistake of going on a date with a Chattanooga Jewish girl. I wasn’t dating Lady Faith at the time. A Jewish friend of mine needed a guy to go with his girlfriend’s best friend on a double date. It was one of the rare times my parents saw me go out on a date, since all my dates with Lady Faith happened without my parents’ knowledge. It was so proper, four nice Jewish kids out on a Saturday night.

After dinner at Shakey’s Pizza, we drove up to Missionary Ridge to a small park that overlooked downtown. In the center of the park was a Civil War monument flanked by old cannons. You can’t swing a cat in Chattanooga without hitting a Civil War monument. My friend and his girlfriend quickly disappeared behind a tall granite column engraved with the names of Confederate battalions. My date and I were left alone, sitting on a stone bench, counting the city lights.

My date’s name was Rona. We were in the same Sunday school class. She was a slow-witted pudgy girl who used too much hairspray. She once confessed to the other girls in our Sunday school class that she shaved her pubic hair. She was curious what it would feel like, so she just did it. This was decades before shaving pubic hair became fashionable, so Rona was a true pioneer. The other girls immediately told everybody Rona’s secret and from then on she was known as “the girl with the bald pussy.”

Since Rona and I had some time to kill until the other couple was done making out, I figured we might as well make out, too. She had colossal breasts, so I tried to cop a feel, but she was wearing a really tight bra with a complicated set of hooks. It was more of a wrestling match than a make out session. After a while, we got bored with each other and went back to watching the city.

The next day, after Sunday school, my sister gave me a detailed account of my date. Rona had told all the Jewish girls about Saturday night’s activities and had spared no details of what did and did not go on between us.

“Rona told us how you tried to feel her tits,” my sister said.

Apparently, I was right about Rona’s bra being more of a barrier than most women’s undergarments, because she added that there was no way I would have been able to get past her “industrial strength bra.”

“The way Rona described the scene really cracked us up,” Freda said. “Marsha and Jill wondered if maybe you have some sort of breast obsession. Do you?”

Yes, I preferred the shiksas. They were never going to tell my sister what we had done the night before. Lady Faith was not part of the Chattanooga Jewish community. She was my secret girlfriend and I was her secret boyfriend. Lady Faith didn’t tell her parents about me because they didn’t want their Southern Baptist daughter dating a Jewish boy. We were perfect for each other.

Still, I felt cheated. I missed out on a normal dating life. I was never able to go on a real date with Lady Faith where I borrowed the car to take her to a movie and I picked her up at her house and said hello to her dad. The secrecy may have added thrills, but it also added resentment. Why did my parents have to be so rigid?

I never asked my parents why they didn’t want me to date shiksas, because I knew the answer. The Holocaust made my parents more paranoid about the survival of the Jews. They were young adults living in America during World War Two. The Holocaust happened to the German and Polish Jews during their lifetime. If the systematic murder of six million Jewish men, women and children didn’t make you want to circle the wagons, then nothing would.

At Sunday school, my classmates and I were shown Holocaust films. We bore witness to the piles of dead bodies, the emaciated prisoners, and the lamps made from human skin, all in grainy black and white that made it even more grim, like home movies from hell.

Over the years, we were shown the Holocaust films many times. There was no age limit; you didn’t have to be this tall to see the human devastation. Instead, we were required to watch the horror again and again so that we would never forget. Our elders wanted the images to be tattooed on our brains.

Instead, the repeated exposure desensitized us. Oh look, here’s the part where the bodies go down the slide and into the pit. Whoop! There’s the oven with the human residue caked on the side. Yuk!

I didn’t think about the burden the six million Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust placed on my life. No one told me that I was supposed to be living for them. I thought of the films as a warning. Don’t trust the Gentiles. At any moment, they’ll turn on you.

Intellectually, I understood that assimilation and intermarriage were real threats to Jews and Jewish culture. I understood my parents’ desire for us to live in a self-imposed American shtetl. Emotionally, I wanted a girlfriend and I didn’t see that happening with any of the Jewish girls I grew up with in Chattanooga. I wanted to escape the responsibilities of being Jewish, and still be a Jew.

Lady Faith wanted to be my girlfriend. A girl wanted me. I could think of nothing more simple and amazing. I was always going to be a Jew, but when I was with my girlfriend, I wasn’t anything more than her boyfriend.

I wished my parents could have understood that. I wished Lady Faith didn’t have to be a secret. I was proud that she was my girlfriend. I wanted to show her off to everybody, even my Sunday school class, even the Holocaust survivors.

One Saturday afternoon, Lady Faith and I were walking back from the cemetery to Eastgate Mall when we crossed a field of thistles. We had just finished making out under our favorite tree in the back corner of the cemetery, so I was feeling mighty pleased with life.

“I know these are weeds,” I said, plucking a thistle, “but they look like flowers. Here have a lovely flower weed.”

I presented Lady Faith with the thistle. She laughed as she swung the weed in her hand.

On another Saturday, Lady Faith and I were sitting on the sidewalk outside Loveman’s department store. Lady Faith was waiting for her mom to pick her up and I was keeping her company. I spotted a metal ring in the gutter. The ring was clunky and had a pretzel design. I picked the ring up and slid it onto Lady Faith’s ring finger.

“Here, this officially makes you my girlfriend,” I said.

We both knew the ring was hideously ugly, but Lady Faith smiled and thanked me with a kiss. I never saw her wear the ring and I didn’t care. Lady Faith and I were deep into our shared puppy love. We believed our feelings for each other would last forever, but a year later, our puppy love had grown into a surly dog.

“Why do you always disagree with everything I say?” I snarled at her.

“I don’t do that,” Lady Faith said. “But, I’m going to voice my opinion whether you like it or not. And you were wrong to say Leon Russell is a better keyboard player than Rick Wakeman.”

“It’s like if I said the sky was blue, you’d say it was green.”

“That is such a cliché. And besides, why would you would you be talking about the color of the sky?”

“Ed was right. I should never have gotten involved with you.”

“Are you breaking up with me? Is that what you want? To break up with me?”

“No, of course not,” I said. “So we argue once in awhile. That’s what couples do. What’s the big deal?”

For Lady Faith, our bickering was a big deal. She broke up with me at the cemetery. We sat side by side on the stone wall that surrounded the place. We both kept our heads down so we wouldn’t have to look at each other.

“We can’t be together any more,” Lady Faith said, “It hurts too much. Here. Take this.”

She handed me the ugly metal ring and an old dried stick the color of mud.

“What the hell is this?” I asked, holding up the dried stick.

“That’s the thistle you gave me.”

“That was a over a year ago,” I said, “You kept it all this time?”

She nodded, then she started to cry.

This was the first time I had my heart broken. The pain spread out all over my body, but I mostly felt it inside my chest. My heart really did hurt something terrible. I tried to take a deep breath, but I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.

I put Lady Faith’s ring in my shirt pocket. I crushed her thistle into dust. I got up and walked away.

I didn’t get over Lady Faith until months later. During my recovery, I couldn’t listen to any of my Neil Young albums, because when he sang about lost love, I imagined Lady Faith out with a new guy and what a loser I was for being alone.

I was furious with my parents. I didn’t blame them for what happened. They had nothing to do with why Lady Faith broke up with me. I reasoned that if Lady Faith was going to leave me anyway, then why couldn’t my parents have let me date her like a normal girl? Maybe because Lady Faith was forbidden fruit, I desired her more and felt more pain than most guys felt about losing a girlfriend. I was also furious at my parents because I couldn’t let them see that I was torn up inside about Lady Faith breaking up with me because she was a secret.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Shiksa Paradox, Part One

Summer 1971. Age 14.

Background music:
“Who Are Parents” The Shaggs
“Jewish” Spirit
“Teach Your Children” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Lady Faith was a secret. I couldn’t let my parents know that she was my girlfriend. I wasn’t allowed to date non-Jewish girls, a.k.a. goyim, a.k.a. shiksas.

“After what happened with David,” Dad said, “We think it’s best if you only dated Jewish girls.”

My brother David had dated a shiksa. Her name was Tina. She had long straight auburn hair, big brown eyes, a little button nose, smooth fair skin, small perky breasts, and a tight little ass. She was petite. She was delicious.

David brought her to the house and hung out with her in his bedroom in the basement, rock music blaring while the two of them did God knows what. God knew what they were doing, but my parents didn’t, and that drove them crazy.

David and Tina’s high school romance lasted about a year before Tina decided to move on. David took the break up hard. Losing her messed him up so badly, he had to go to Israel to live on a kibbutz for six months. It was an expensive lesson for my parents. Keep your nice Jewish boys away from the shiksas.

I resented being judged by my brother’s actions. I wasn’t anything like him. David was four years older than me. He was impulsive, while I was reflective. He was outgoing, while I was shy and always in my head.

I had enough trouble talking to girls to worry about dating only the Jewish ones. I was fourteen. A very horny fourteen. I was becoming more and more obsessed with the opposite sex with each passing day. I didn’t want my chances to get a girl to be further handicapped by my parents, who were trying to push me into a narrow corner defined by their expectations.

The whole date-within-your-kind thing made me feel like I was a purebred dog. Was my only purpose in life to mate with a Jewish girl so that I might sire pureblood Jewish children? Were my parents worried that if I went sniffing around any shiksas, I might end up fathering a litter of interdenominational mutt kids?

There were other complications to dating only Jewish girls. Chattanooga was a small town. It had a decent sized Jewish community, enough to support three synagogues (Orthodox, Conservative and Reform) and a Jewish Community Center. It was just big enough that we didn’t feel the need to assimilate completely, but not big enough to live in a world of our own.
I knew every Jewish girl my age. I had known them since birth. We would end up being together from nursery school until our confirmation ceremony, which was a sort of graduation from Sunday School, when we were seventeen. Dating a local Jewish girl would be like dating a first cousin. It would have been like committing incest.

Besides, none of the Jewish girls liked me. I was all wrong. All the other Jewish boys were loud and aggressive and loved watching sports. I was quiet and preferred sitting in my room drawing superheroes I created than going outside to play basketball. To the Jewish girls, I was the weird fat kid who split his pants in kindergarten. I stayed the weird fat kid until I was fourteen, when I had a sudden growth spurt, but stayed the same weight. Suddenly, I was tall and lanky and I had a Jewfro of soft brown hair that covered my head like a sombrero. My mane of curls was normal to Jewish girls, but downright exotic to shiksas.

Lady Faith ran her fingers through my Jewfro and swore I looked exactly like Bob Dylan. I didn’t look any more like Dylan than an attractive black girl looked like Diana Ross.

I met Lady Faith on a Saturday at the Eastgate Mall. Up until I had my bar mitzvah, I was required to go to synagogue every Saturday morning. I missed entire seasons of Saturday morning cartoons. After my bar mitzvah, I still had to go to Sunday School, but I didn’t have to go to synagogue if I chose not to. Of course, I was encouraged to keep going to shul, but I decided instead to spend my Saturdays sleeping late, watching cartoons, and hanging out at the mall with my friends.

The Saturday I met Lady Faith, I had just arrived at the mall with my friends Ed and Tim, when we ran into her. Lady Faith had straight auburn hair and big brown eyes that were half-opened. My first impression of her was that she looked like an Afghan hound. When she saw Ed, Tim, and me, she stopped and tilted her head, making her look like a confused Afghan hound. My first impression of her was look out, here comes big time trouble.

“Hello, hello, hello,” Lady Faith said. Then she gave us a big stoned smile.

“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye,” I said.

After we walked away from her, I turned to Ed and asked, “Who the hell was that?”

“That’s Lady Faith,” Ed said, “You don’t want anything to do with her.”

I didn’t take Ed’s advice. Lady Faith fascinated me. I knew she was trouble, but I had never been in trouble. That made her even more desirable. Besides, Lady Faith didn’t look like any of the Jewish girls. She definitely didn’t act like any of the Jewish girls.

One Saturday, she ran her finger down my arm and said, “I really like that shirt you’re wearing. Can I borrow it?”

“I like your t-shirt,” I said, “Maybe we should we switch shirts for the day.”

“Okay,” she said, “Let’s do it.”

“What? Really switch shirts?”

“Why not?”

We went out to a small cemetery next to the Eastgate parking lot. The cemetery was the final resting place for the missionaries who first came to Chattanooga to Christianize the local Native Americans. In the far corner of the cemetery was a large tree. Under that tree, kids gathered to smoke joints.

I took off my shirt first and held it out for Lady Faith. I figured she would take it and duck behind some bushes to change.
“Oh hell, I’m not modest,” she said and stripped off her t-shirt.

Lady Faith wasn’t wearing a bra. She had perfect breasts; slightly more than a handful, with dark red nipples. I was still trying to memorize every detail of her perfect breasts when she covered them with my shirt.

I couldn’t wait for the end of the day when we would switch back our shirts. I wanted another look at her perfect breasts. I was crushed when she made me wait outside the women’s dressing room at J. C. Penney’s while her best friend, Tina, carried Lady Faith’s t-shirt to her and my shirt out to me.

The following Saturday, Lady Faith asked me to go out to the cemetery again. This time, she didn’t want to exchange shirts. She wanted to kiss me. We rolled around under the large tree in the back corner of the cemetery and made out. I was able to touch her breasts and they felt as perfect as they looked.

Afterwards, we walked back to the mall. I felt high.

“Does this mean you’re my girlfriend?” I asked.

Lady Faith smiled and said, “I think so.”

For Lady Faith and me, dating meant getting together every Saturday at the mall. We never had a specific time or place to meet, we just showed up and looked for each other, then we held hands as we walked and talked and joined other friends who wandered the mall.

I spent the days between Saturdays thinking about Lady Faith. I drew pictures of her as a cosmic goddess floating through the universe. When my parents weren’t around, I called Lady Faith on the phone and we talked about nothing for hours, or until Mom or Dad came back home.

The name Lady Faith was her own invention, “Lady” because she wanted to remain a virgin until she was married, and “Faith” because she was very spiritual. Lady Faith came up with her name and her life direction after Billy, her best friend, had warned her that she was becoming too damn wild and too willing to have sex with just about any guy. Billy told Lady Faith that she should stay a virgin until she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with. When I finally got to meet Billy, I was sorely tempted to kick his meddling ass.

Lady Faith’s rules about not having sex only applied to actual intercourse. Everything else was fair game. My hands were allowed complete access to Lady Faith’s body, while my poor penis had to stay in my pants.

We never discussed religion, though she often tried to sound more knowledgeable than she actually was. One Saturday at the mall, I told everybody that I had to go to a cousin’s bris the next Saturday.

“I had a bris,” Lady Faith said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Positive,” she said. “When I was little, I had a bris.”

“Well, it must have been the worst bris any Mohel has ever performed,” I said.

My friends were rolling with laughter at this point, so I whispered in Lady Faith’s ear what a bris was. Her sleepy eyes woke up and her cheeks turned red.

I really knew I could never fit in with the other Jewish kids when a Sunday school teacher asked in class which was more important; a job you loved doing or a job that paid well? I was the only one who said it was more important that you do something you love. My fellow Sunday school students viewed my attitude as proof that I still was and would always remain the weird kid.

Despite my outsider status with the Chattanooga Jewish community, I enjoyed being a Jew and still do. Every December, in elementary school, I volunteered to do a class presentation about Hanukkah. I loved telling my Gentile classmates that Hanukkah had eight days of gift giving while their vastly inferior Christmas only had one. I didn’t mention that I only got a decent gift on the first day and on the other seven days; I got socks and math flash cards.

My Jewish beliefs were fortified by the constant challenge I received from born-again Christians. For an Evangelical Christian, converting a Jew was like whacking a piñata and having all the candy in the world come pouring out. There were a lot of Evangelical Christians in Chattanooga. The ones I knew tried very hard to prove to me that Jesus was the Messiah prophesized in the Old Testament. I hated that Christians referred to the Hebrew Bible as the “Old” Testament. It seemed like a cheap marketing ploy: how can you use that Old Testament when there is a new and improved New Testament?

These born-again Christians sounded so damn sure of themselves that they made me question Judaism. I had to stop and think about what Judaism teaches and how it compared to what Christianity taught. After much soul searching, I decided that Judaism worked for me just fine.

I decided that Evangelical Christians are religiously intolerant. Any religion that feels its God given mission is to destroy all other religions by converting everyone to their beliefs is intolerant. They were not to be trusted. But I didn’t mind dating their women.

(to be continued)