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Great Grand Canyon Rescue Episode

I’ve been kind of sick for a week or so. It hasn’t been anything too severe, but enough to keep me locked in my house and head to an extent where these parameters have eclipsed a generally weak feeling and deep, bronchial cough. The last time I was notably sick was 2008, around this same time of year. I ended up pulling an extended stint in a Borough Park hospital after returning from San Francisco and foolishly allowing a high fever to go unchecked for five days. This current affliction pales in comparison, but interestingly they both involve Hasidics .. sort of.

Borough Park is one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside of Israel, and the hospital I somewhat randomly landed in was packed with more Hasids than a Supercuts offering a special on curly sideburns. I have to be careful where I tread here, because from what I’ve read these are the last people with whom one wants to, um, mess. And, as the cliche goes, I have nothing against them; it’s actually quite reassuring having a complete stranger stop by your hospital room door and offer a pleasant “may God be with you, friend,” particularly when you’re way out of your element in some funky Brooklyn care center. On the other hand, watching them wander the halls at three a.m. in those crazy, fuzzy, Michelin Man kolpic hats while you’re hallucinating and hooked up to a saline/antibiotics IV can be quite unsettling.

Anyway, the connection this time around is less tangible – it’s just that I came down with my current cold shortly after jogging down by Brooklyn Bridge Park on some kind of post-Hasidic holy day when you literally couldn’t spit gum out of your mouth without hitting one of them in the spodik (which, for the uninitiated, can be difficult to distinguish from the kolpic.) So I’m guessing that there might be some of kind illness-trigger in my subconscious linked to seeing large numbers of people in funny hats and Amish-like outerwear. As a lad growing up in Marin County, California, I didn’t have much exposure to Hasidic culture outside of the occasional sight-gag in a Woody Allen film. But I can’t imagine that a stint at Marin General Hospital would be any more comfortable for an Hasidic, having to deal with Kent Woodlands tennis moms coming down from the high of an est seminar. Not to mention that Marin people, while often affable and generally affluent, aren’t the type to offer a “may God be with you” when they pass your hospital room door.

It’s an odd thing really, that I’d grow up in a place like Marin and end up in a place like Brooklyn, particularly in the fact than nobody here really questions where I’m “from” unless the subject comes up. I can’t say that the same would hold true for many of the folks in my current neighborhood if they moved to Marin County. Checking myself at the urge to laugh at the accents when I first arrived was a quickly-acquired survival instinct, but beyond this I’ve learned that non-empirical judgement is about as useful as an Ivy League degree at a Hee Haw reunion. And that even this is a generally useless comparison demonstrates my point. I’ve met some people who thought they knew something about me because of where I grew up or how I present “on paper,” and typically speaking that was about as far as they got to know me. A funny, fuzzy hat does not the man make. Did I mention that I’ve been trapped in my house for a while?

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