Movable Snipe: Backgammon, “Anna” Coulter, Terabitha, Earth, and Yeats

Dear Amanda, At Jewlicious, there was a lot about a big party, something called the Jewlicious Festival, which happened recently in Long Beach, CA. From what I can gather it was hosted by a Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife … Read More

By / March 14, 2007

Dear Amanda,

At Jewlicious, there was a lot about a big party, something called the Jewlicious Festival, which happened recently in Long Beach, CA. From what I can gather it was hosted by a Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife Rachel. I like the name Bookstein. Jews have the most absurd names. Bookstein has the word ‘book’ in it and I love books. Sometimes Jewish names seem unattractive to me, but that’s probably my Jewish self-loathing asserting itself. On some level part of me feels intrinsically unattractive because I’m Jewish.

Anyway, at this Jewlicious party, I think some people were playing backgammon; I deduced this from this photo.

Like a CIA expert, I tried to analyze the photo to see who was winning, but it was hard to tell.

I play a lot of internet backgammon. Most of the people you play are from Turkey or other Middle-Eastern countries, though Turkey isn’t quite in the Middle East. There are also Germans, and when I play a German, I’m like, “Okay, you German, let’s see what you’ve got.” I feel friendlier when I play Canadians. Though just yesterday I was challenged to a boxing match by a Canadian writer named Craig Davidson. Well, actually his American publishing house challenged me. I guess he had a book come out in Canada called The Fighter and to promote it he had a fight against a poet and lost.

I once had a boxing match against a performance artist named the “Impact Addict” and lost. The “Impact Addict” jumped off of buildings as his performance art and once shot himself out of a rocket. I fought as “The Herring Wonder,” a reincarnated, Lower East Side, Jazz-era, immigrant Jewish boxer, who trained by eating Herring. My fight was in 1999. I’m not sure I want to come out of retirement to fight this Canadian. He’s twelve years younger than me and outweighs me by 12 pounds as well. A pound for every year of youth. Here’s a picture of me from my boxing days. And here’s another one.

The problem is that my nose breaks very easily. I broke it training for my fight and then re-broke it during the fight. I’m not sure I want to go through that again, but it’s awfully tempting. I still have my “Herring Wonder” robe and silk shorts.

Anyway, there are also a lot of Israelis on my backgammon site, which is called Gammon Empire and I’m not even sure how it got onto my computer. I wonder if the Turks play the Israelis. I also wonder, since you can send messages to each other, if the CIA is monitoring Gammon Empire, since maybe people could secretly send messages about plots to one another. I don’t want to say what kind of plots, but you know plots, the kind of plots that make you plotz. That was bad humor.

Amanda – are you Jewish? Do you have to be Jewish to write for this site? Marcotte doesn’t sound like a Jewish name.

How many words have I written? 527. That’s all I have to write, according to the Jewcy editor, 500 to 600 words, and I’ve only gotten through one blog. I’m going to try to speed things up.

On The News Blog, someone named Queequeg wrote about Ann Coulter. Now I don’t have a television and I’m not a blog person, but I’ve picked up from the zeitgeist that this Ann Coulter is a conservative person. Also, I did see her once on TV when I was in a hotel and it was quick thing about some rude speech she gave somewhere.

So this Queequeg was in a green room with her at some Fox news outlet in Miami and held his tongue and didn’t say anything rude to her, which he sort of regrets, but not entirely since he seems like a gentleman. He was also a bit intimidated by this Coulter.

I take it she has called John Edwards a fag, which is her latest offense.

I imagine she says things like this to make money. I wonder if she really believes anything she says. From my glimpse of her on TV, she doesn’t dress like a religious-right kind of woman. She dresses sort of sexy, which implies a different kind of mindset than a Laura Bush sort of Republican woman. So she’s kind of like the female equivalent of Gay Black Republicans – a seeming paradox. I imagine that she had a very stern father and that she’s exotically submissive in bed. Who knows? We’re all so flawed and confused. Nobody knows what the hell is going on. The Buddhists come close, I think.

Would I be wrong in making the statement that Arianna Huffington is the liberal parallel universe equivalent of Ann Coulter? I feel like a blindfolded kid playing pin the tail on the donkey as I try to keep pace with the culture. I’ve heard of Arianna Huffington and Ann Coulter mostly from my perusal of the NY Post, which is the newspaper I read since it only costs a quarter here in NYC.

I’m not very political, I’m afraid. I’m broken-hearted and passive. I feel bad for the state of the world and do nothing about it. I did go to Ohio in 2004 to try to get college kids to vote. I did this because this writer, who’s wonderfully politically active, Stephen Elliott, invited me. He organizes readings to raise money for progressive candidates. I’m sort of a one-issue human being – the environment.

When I was in rehab in 1987, my mother gave me a Sports Illustrated to read and on the cover was a picture of the planet Earth and a detailed article about the destruction of everything, and leading up to my hospitalization I had been going crazy, thinking of every car as a small fire destroying the world and I was a vegan because we were plowing the Amazon to make McDonald’s burgers and I was losing my mind . . . and then I had to be hospitalized because I had polluted myself and been abused by substances (I was a small planet wrecking itself) and then my mother gives me that Sports Illustrated, she was trying to be nice, and it was an issue about the environment and I went even more nuts.

Anyway . . . I eventually became less hysterical and just more passive and brokenhearted, while holding out some small hope for humanity, because when I was a kid I was reading some Encyclopedia and Richard Leakey had some quote about how man is the only self-destructive creature on Earth and that he was wrecking the planet, but that also man was the only creature who might figure out a way to change . . . so I hold on to that.

On Gothamist, there was mostly postings about what’s going on in New York. Nothing really caught my eye. Murders, Alex Rodriguez, new restaurants.

There was something about Bernie Kerik and I thought of him sleeping with Judith Regan, and I imagine that Ann Coulter would like somebody like Bernie Kerik, too.

Not much in The Revealer caught my eye. I did glance at this because it mentioned Bridge to Terabitha which I saw the other night. A friend of mine told me they wept during Terabitha and so I went to it by myself. I love going to movies by myself and I love to cry during movies. So I may have been set up to cry by my friend and started crying before things got sad, and then when they got sad, I really did weep like crazy. I wish I could cry right now in fact.

I’m having euphoric recall about crying the other night. I just felt inside myself to see if I could conjure up some tears but none came. My stomach is full of coffee so that I could write this letter to you and I think the coffee is cutting me off from my soul or wherever it is that crying comes from.

After Terabitha, with my face all swollen and my nose stuffed, I sneaked into 300, but by then my eyes were really blurry because I need glasses and I was sort of emotionally drained, so I couldn’t fully give myself over to 300. Also, the couple behind me kept laughing at and calling the Persian king a “fag” and this affected my suspension of disbelief and my ability to fully lose myself in the film. I don’t think it was Ann Coulter sitting behind me, though. When I go to a movie, I like to guffaw and shout and cry and emote and squirm and writhe. I’m sort of like Ignatius J. Reilly from the Confederacy of Dunces in this way.

Maud Newton – who like Rabbi Bookstein, has a great name – Maud Newton – it’s just a good name; it has feng shui or something; maybe it’s the combination of Maud, which makes you think of Yeats and Maud Gonne, and Newton, which makes you think of the scientist and Fig Newtons . . . Anyway, she writes about this writer James Hynes, who, because I’m an idiot, I have never heard of but she inspires me to check him out.

At first, I thought she was talking about Samuel Hynes who was a teacher of mine at Princeton. He taught a course on the British novel and I recall reading Ford Maddox Ford, Joseph Conrad, Joyce, and a bunch of others, and I was introduced to the word “muddled” as a wonderful adjective to use as a blanket description for the human condition and further along those lines every lecture was on how man was doomed and flawed and a terrible mess, and I was still young then, only 20, and wasn’t yet a vegan and hysterical and I didn’t know that the world and man were this bad, and so I went up to him, half-way through the semester, all worried and frightened, and said, “Every lecture you give paints such a dark picture for the world. What are we going to do? Aren’t you scared?” And he said, “No, I believe in God.”

And that really shocked me. I went running out of the lecture hall. He should have mentioned that in his lectures. Every week he was freaking me out but holding back his own personal antidote to it all . . . and I was only twenty and an agnostic and confused and didn’t know what to do, so I kind of stopped going to the class . . . I was actually quite a mess back then. I had joined ROTC to pay for college, not knowing anything about the military and I couldn’t march and didn’t know how to read a map. So I ended up taking a year off from college and later became a conscientious objector when I realized that I didn’t want to have kill anyone as a means to end conflict and in the long run I avoided going to the first Gulf War as did a number of my ROTC classmates.

Anyway, that’s my ramble. A friend just called. I said I was writing a blog for something called Jewcy and she said, with disgust, “Oooh, is that a porn site?” And I said, “No, it’s a Jewish site, spelled J-E-W-C-Y, not J-U-I-C-Y.” She still thought it might be a porn site and I refuted this and then I said, “I’m writing a blog about blogs about blogs about blogs,” which is like that old Gertrude Stein poem . . .

All the best,

Jonathan Ames

P.S. I’m not going to proofread this. I wrote it an hour and it’s 1 p.m. and I think Jewcy needs this, so if there are weird typos, I apologize. I just did a word-count – nearly 2,000 words. I’m a typing fool. Two thousand words in an hour. It’s like what Capote said about Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

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