Thursday, February 18, 2010

Leave The Gun. Take The Hamentashen.

I live in Outremont, which is a borough in Montreal with a substantial Hasidic population. Like Williamsburg, but with upper middle-class French people. The Hasidim walk around clutching I love NY shopping bags, pushing strollers, talking on cellphones and smoking, and sometimes you can even catch a really chic matron in Prada loafers (at least one thing they have in common with Pope Benedict). So, when last week I first heard melancholic brass instrument sounds emerging from the apartment below, I suspected that it was a couple of these least cosmopolitan sect of the most cosmopolitan people on earth (Jews!) that were responsible.

"Such mournful music," I thought, "such a tragic song for a tragic people, wronged by history, seeking solace and comfort in Solomon's songs!"

Being from British Columbia and attending school during a lengthy run for the NDP (social democrats) as the dominant provincial party, I was used to this sort of ethnic show-and-tell. A bunch of well-meaning pedagogues shuffle a deck, get students to pick cards, fashion a close-approximate to the national costume and everyone eats perogies, dumplings or whatever doughy treat assuages their carb-lust*. (The poor Inuit, lacking breadstuffs and grains, never made much of a showing. They were a warlike peoples who would periodically raid the tribes to the south for their bannack, I bet). My friend Ali Rahman, an ethnic type himself, abhorred the coming of multicultural days, as he was put upon to bring the samosas. In school districts not as low-rent as mine, the closest analogue was a model United Nations. All great fun until a kid brought a kirpan to school.

And so, these thoughts swirling in my head, lying on my back, I gave myself to the music, to the pathos and emotion, I thought of the Russian steppes, the shtetls of the Pale, etc. etc. etc. A feeling of familiarity washed over me: my own sympatico-ness with the Semitic peoples! Or, wait, was it? No, I wasn't empathizing with the plight of the Jews, I was actually recognizing the song as Nino Rota's Theme from the Godfather. The next morning these curious Hasidim played the theme from Love Story.

Now maybe it so happened that, preparing to play something from Exodus or Fiddler on the Roof for a Purim party, these people of the Book had to end up buying the Great Movie Themes sheet music book, but sadly, I think I just live above band geeks.

* The French, being the French, elevate doughy peasant foodstuffs to high art. The croissant is both delightful and also a typical arrogant gesture, being a crescent moon fashioned out of dough, a historical FUCK YOU to their Islamic enemies. Or so I've heard. I'm waiting for a Parisian patisserie to give the world its first pastry based on the headscarf.

No comments: