Friday, March 21, 2014

the further adventures of penny lane skolnik

When we lived on 90th St, Penny, Yoni and I were very close with a family who lived one floor down from us. Eventually they got a puppy who became one of Penny’s best friends, and the magnetic pull that their apartment had on Penny only grew. If we were walking down the stairs, she would try to go to their apartment instead of going outside; if we went to the second floor, she went immediately to their door and either scratched at it or sat down in front of it, waiting to be allowed entrance.

One day, Penny escaped from our apartment while Yoni was coming home. Our building was made up of 3 renovated brownstones that had been connected on the inside, and while the middle staircase had been turned into an elevator, there was still a staircase on each end. You can imagine the chase that ensued – Penny running down one staircase and up the other one, sneaky enough to outsmart us for a minute. But she didn’t return to our apartment. Instead, she ran to Kate and Christine’s and scratched at the door. Their door didn’t latch very well, and – much to everyone’s surprise – she let herself in! Let’s just say that was not the last time that happened.

That was a long time ago now, and I would have assumed that Penny had forgotten about her cat-burglar ways, but I learned this week that, no, she has not. Over the past few weeks, Penny and I have been spending time with our neighbor Jenny, her 4-month-old son Jeremiah, and her dog Rufio. It’s kind of win-win-win; Jenny’s husband is also away, so she and I get some human interaction. Plus Penny and Rufio get to work out some energy with one another. And, of course, there’s the attraction of Jeremiah. Penny doesn’t have a lot of time around small babies, so Jenny has been lovely about letting me train her a bit with Jeremiah. (She’s not doing so well. I mean, she doesn’t spend every second licking him like she did in the beginning, but I think it’s still sometimes overwhelming for Baby J. Oh well. It’s progressive.) Whether or not she’s well behaved around him, Penny does love Jeremiah – I mean, he smells and tastes delicious, after all.

Penny has always loved Rufio, but since we’ve been hanging out at their apartment more, she also feels at home over there. And then the other day, she (we) made the critical discovery that, just like Kate and Christine’s door, Jenny’s door doesn’t always latch fully if it’s not locked. Penny got out of the apartment (I forget exactly what happened) and ran to Rufio’s door. She jumped and scratched at it, I assume to get his attention, and, well, she got more than she bargained for! The door opened right up and she just ran in. Luckily, Jenny was holding Jeremiah.

It happened again today. We were coming in from a walk, and she heard Rufio bark. She immediately dragged me to their door and scratched until Jenny came to let her in. (Slightly more polite than just barging in, I guess.) It’s a good thing Jenny is really lovely and is always happy for Rufio to get some exercise! Lesson learned: Penny does not forget her sneaky skills. She will always know how to break into other peoples’ apartments. Let’s hope she continues to only use her powers for good. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Day at Sea with LT Yonatan M. Warren, US Navy

It begins with that God awful whistle. 

I don’t know who thought that giving a boatswain a whistle to blast into a microphone (sorry aboard ship it’s called the 1MC) was a good idea, but I would like to have words with that individual.

"Reveille! Reveille! Reveille! All hands heave out. Reveille!”

Fair boatswain, you thought you got me at that whistle.  But you are sorely mistaken.  I relish sleep, eat in the wardroom and don’t have to stand on line for breakfast.  I shall return to sleep!

And then.  The wake up song.

“Good morning.  This is your wake up song”

It doesn’t take more than two chords to recognize it.  It’s going to be either ZZ Top or…

“Let’s go girls.”

Oh no.

“Come on.”

Really?  Isn’t this a warship?

“I'm going out tonight, I'm feelin' alright, gonna let it all hang out…”

Its Women’s History Month aboard the USS Ashland and thanks to the Boatswains Mate working the 0200-0800 watch, I will have Shania Twain’s “Man! I feel like a woman!” in my head for the next day. next three days. 

Making matters worse, pulling from imagery lodged deep in my memory the song goes hand-in-hand with disturbing images of my holy friend, Rabbi Joshua Scott Rabin.  In drag. Making a run as top contestant in the 2000 Ms. Seaboard USY Pageant.  Nothing will ever purge that image.

Now, I’m awake.

I get dressed in the same pajamas that I wear every day: Woodland Marine Corps Cammies.  They might not be designed for sleeping, but they are super comfortable.  I head down to the wardroom for breakfast and a primer of coffee.  The first of what will inevitably be many cups.  0830: the first meeting.  Another day has officially begun for me and the Marines embarked out here.

I’m well into the third week of being at sea.  At this point, I only hit my head on something on average of twice per day.  I’m really getting good at that.  Though I will be walking with a severe hunch for several months following this little trip.

Days aboard the USS Ashland (LSD-42) flow into one another seamlessly.  The gentle rocking of the ship makes me sleepy at all times.  That is unless the ship is in extremely rough waters, when the crazy rocking makes me simultaneously sleepy and nauseous.

Speaking of rocking:  a physical training regimen is highly encouraged on ships like this (although there is very limited space in the gyms).  Things people don’t think about: when you run on a treadmill on a ship, sometimes you run downhill and sometimes you run very steeply uphill.

My schedule changes based on counseling needs and classes that I might be teaching.  Two days a week, I run a Bible Study.  We’re deep into the Book of Judges, and I have to tell you.  It’s pretty darn good.  I recommend reading it again, if it has been some time for you.  The whole thing is under 21 chapters (which I know for a fact is fewer than the first Hunger Games book).

Three times a week, I go up to the bridge at night.  With the helmsmen keeping the ship on course, quartermasters hovering over their charts (not maps, maps are of land; charts are for water), and boatswains doing whatever it is that boatswains do. 

At exactly 2155, a boatswain steps up to the 1MC.

“Tattoo.  Tattoo. Stand by for evening prayer.”

I get on the 1MC, do my thing.  Being liturgical I don’t mind repeating myself.  I pray about a trend of the day, muse about morale, or speak to fears.  The prayer is to put people’s minds at ease before shuffling into bed.  Like a big bedtime Sh’ma for 700 people.

“Help me, O God, to lie down in peace. Let me not be troubled by bad dreams. Grant that I may awaken, to a renewed life, again tomorrow. For you are our Eternal guardian, Source of comfort and peace.  And Let us say, Amen.
Good night, USS Ashland. Semper Fidelis, 31st MEU.   Rabs Out.”

Time to go to bed.

"Taps! Taps! Out all white lights. All hands turn in to their racks and maintain silence about the decks. Taps."

Friday, March 7, 2014

flying high

Normally it would be Yoni's turn to write today. However, due to the fact that he is currently deployed, you're stuck with me again. I'm going to cheat a little, though, by sharing some photos that I know Yoni meant to share before he left but never did. 

Yoni celebrated his 31st birthday in the weeks before he left, and as a birthday gift, our friend Josh, who moonlights as a flight instructor, took Yoni flying. We both assumed that they'd go on a scenic tour of Okinawa, see the sights from above, take in the ocean and the mountains. But Josh had something else in mind. When he said he wanted to take Yoni flying, he actually meant that he would let Yoni fly the plane. I know, it's a terrifying thought. Luckily, though, the plane was what I like to think of as a driver's ed style plane, meaning there were dual controls. But Yoni insists he took off and landed twice, practiced turning and steering, and was generally trusted with the operation of the (very small) plane.

At any rate, assuming he was going on a sightseeing tour, I sent Yoni with the camera. He didn't get too many pictures (he was pretty busy concentrating on the flying part), but he did - with Josh's help - get a few shots of himself in action. Hope you enjoy!