By Luke Ford Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 1994-1997 1997 1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009
Friends Comment On Luke Ford
"A little boy who wants sex." (Shari Brodsky)
"Passionately religious, yet so secular and sexual." (K.)
"Crazy not to devote himself to writing" (Vicki Leetun)
"The reason for antisemitism" (friends)
"His beautiful green eyes mesmerize," (Sharon)
Sunday, 11/1/93. I broke up with my girlfriend Debbie (not her real name) on Friday and the next day we sat separately in synagogue for the first time. Education Director Rabbi Moshe Elbaz said to Deb while pointing at me, "Your husband's sitting over there." Many people at Ohev Shalom assume that Deb and I are married.
I cried through much of the service and afterwards demanded hugs from Rabbi Aaron Rubinger and my friend Francisco Vargas.*
* "You cried for yourself," said my new girlfriend Paula Lemire, 36, in late December '93. We walked through the cool evening hand-in-hand.
"You cried that you lost. You didn't cry over Debbie. You cried over your ego. You cried that you couldn't have what you couldn't have.
"You stuck me under her nose at synagogue. You put your arm around me to get back at Deb for leaving you."
I smiled into the darkness.
Paula laughed at me.
Two Jews with Christian backgrounds invited me to stay with them. I first met 52-year old Ginger Sawyer and her platonic 32-year old roommate Ian Kravitz during my first visit to Ohev Shalom. I spent that afternoon at their apartment across the street from the shul (synagogue).
I moved all my stuff into my new home early Sunday morning before meeting with Deb and Rabbi Rubinger at ten AM. Deb and I told the rabbi that our relationship was over. He, like other people we knew, felt sad because Deb and I seemed like we'd make a good couple.
Rabbi Rubinger said that we each appeared lost and we needed for our own sakes to attach ourselves tighter to the shul.
In the afternoon I talked on the phone to 41-year old 5' 6 170 pound black woman K.. Our first conversation was that previous Thursday night when Deb was away.
K. picked me up at five PM Sunday and drove me back to her apartment where we talked for hours and ate my bean stew.
I spent the night with K. and it helped me regain my self-confidence. I swaggered into minyan (prayer quorom) Monday morning.
During the beginning of November, I received letters from my best friend Jules Zentner at UCLA.
Quite apart from how you and Deb go together and from the way you both try to work things out, my impression is that even were you both perfectly healthy and that even were each of you a completely different person, your situation would not be unlike that which you now face. Luke, it seems to be a tremendous strain on both of you to have to get to know one another without any buffering experiences that could regularly separate you....
Right now it seems [Luke, that] day and night all of your hours and emotional and mental energies are focused on Deb. With the exception of your study of Judaism which does not nearly occupy that much of either time or energy, you have nothing else that significantly occupies you. Even Judaism and your study of ethics and personal development involves Deb (to some extent, to her discomfort). You are forced into a closeness to her in thought, feelings, and action which grants good moments but, by and large, stifles you both. If you had to go to work every day and contend with other social and intellectual problems, you would be compelled into some respite from constant concern with yourself as measured by the state of your relationship with Deb. Being in another place, dealing with other people, not occasionally, as now happens, but as routine, would give you... necessary distance.
You, Luke, are not suited to have as your overwhelming preoccupation, a relationship with Deb or any other woman. Your health and past life may impel you into that situation but...you have to somehow find a devotion (to writing, reading, volunteer activity...) that distances you in concern and, if possible, physically each day from Deb, from concentration on Deb, and from her house. Doing so will give her respite from you, time for herself, and privacy. She appears to need and desire independence and privacy. Whereas it is not easy for you to separate yourself from her and her house, I believe that it will be easier for you to feel a sense of accomplishment and of manliness if you either can demonstrate your accomplishment before others or, if your effort is solitary, to have time to see your own progress, using your own measure of how much more insight you have gained (into Judaism or whatever) or how well you've been able to express your thinking in your articles or books. Even given present physical and emotional fragility, you still need to depend primarily on yourself and less on the esteem of others - especially on that of a woman (Deb or other) who is also fragile - precisely because she feels vulnerable as she tries to open herself up to you. I think that besides having space between you, your best long range chance with Deb (or other woman) is to take at least a year with less urgency to get to know her before living in a pressure cooker. You need space to regain your balance.
Jules, you give good advice. But I have objections: (1) Though generally it may be a good idea to get to know someone for a year before moving in together, I don't believe in hard and fast rules in this area. (2) What got me through my first few years of illness were my close relationships with Tien (not her real name) at UCLA and then my Adventist girlfriend in Australia. I lacked the strength during most of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to do anything beside lie in bed.
Jules writes to me November 10:
Question: What is the current meaning of Judaism in your life? Why are you studying it - is it primarily intellectual and/or theoretical stimulation; does it give you a plan for your future career direction; has it a present daily meaning in your behavior toward others, especially toward those who are, in one way or another, closest to you, or has it other significance(s)?
Although I have known you for some time, I don't know what part(s) Judaism plays in your life. Not knowing makes responding to your questions difficult. (Most of what I know about Jewish law and custom has come from you.) As I understand it, Jewish laws are intended to indicate ethical ways of interacting with others or to acknowledge God. I was struck by the idea that it is unfair to arouse expectations in shopkeepers by asking them prices of wares that one has no intention of purchasing from them. Until hearing this, I was guilty of it. It is still tempting to ask a quick question of sales clerks but, accepting the rightness of this Jewish ethic, I fight not to do it - tough at first!!
What struck me when you told me about this was how delicate the sensitivity of Judaism is on matters of seeming lesser moment and how you were guided by this. It appeared that one principal attraction Judaism had for you was that it showed you an ethical system that, through writing, speaking, whatever, you could devote your life to helping others. It also, as noted above, had immediate personal meaning to you. Now, judging from the imperfect and incomplete knowledge I have of you, I am not so sure.
Although touched by your candid accounts of the difficulties you have been experiencing and both sorrowed for and sympathized with you, I've had reservations. Leaving home, embarking in a new relationship in a strange place, and changing medications are all transitions that are hard for everyone and, given your health and early family experience, eespecially hard for you. But you have unique assets which could affect your ability to cope with major obstacles: a keen mind, an upbringing that has encouraged you to expand and use that mind, and an ethical awareness of the worth of others and an acknowledgement of a deity. My reservations about some of your reactions to emtional and sexual pressures is that they seem to have come about without reference to these assets. Whereas you made clear your strong feelings for Deb and your view of her as a good person, I think you lost sight of your ethics and of her worth. While allowing yourself to pursue (not solely platonically) other women, you wished to deny Deb's contact with other men. You wanted "commitment" from her while demonstrating your own lack of commitment. (What I missed in your tapes was any ethical consciousness of Deb's or others' worth, any struggle over this, or any resulting guilt over defeats or satisfaction over victories. You may have had this consciousness but your tapes/diary indicate none of this - and tend to indicate the oppose - self-righteousness about your behavior.)
You speak lightly in your recent tape of "experimenting with feelings" and with "sexuality" without seeming to be aware that that process, as narrated in your tapes, has entailed experimenting with people. (How does that square with your Judaism?) Noting that your experimentation has involved "letting them (your feelings) rip," you allow later that "perhaps" you have "acted unethically and "perhaps" you have "used people," and refer to T. & L., acknowledging that you knowingly told T., at UCLA, something you knew to be untrue. Regardless of where you were then in your ethics, what do "perhapses" signify now about your sense of ethics? Are you truly unsure of whether or not you acted unethically?
Yes, Jules, I'm truly unsure whether I acted unethically at UCLA when I frequently talked to my girlfriend about marriage. I don't know how serious I was.
My experimenting with feelings simply means greater openness and freer expression up to the point where I may unnecessarily hurt someone. Experimenting with sexuality means that after three years of chastity, I've slept with several willing women in the last six months.
"Have you ever raped anyone?" Rabbi Rubinger asked me over breakfast (Nov. 2, Monday). I had brought up the topic of the male proclivity to rape as just one example of humanity's moral failure which reflects badly on God, since we're made in His image.
"No, I've never raped," I replied. "But it's a great fantasy turn-on to me. And I've been pushy to women to get in them."
"But they consented, right?" said Rabbi Ruginger.
"Yes," I answered. "After much physical and emotional persuasion, they allowed me inside them."
The men around my table looked shocked. They had all said that humanity is basically good and that only 'sickos' force women into sex.
Jules Zentner, these guys aren't being real. If a man sees a woman and wants that woman (and knows that he can get away with it) it is natural though immoral for him to take that woman.
I get heaps of criticism because I frequently have the courage to say what many people only think.
What role does Judaism play in my life? Although it is not the only component, it has been the most important component of my life for the past four years. And I do more Judaism today than ever (thanks to my improving health on the Nardil medication).
I daven (pray) every minyan at shul. I attend all services. I attend Hebrew School with the children for four hours a week, plus three hours of adult Hebrew. I take a Talmud class and a Basic Judaism class. I spend six-to-twelve hours a week in the synagogue library. At home I study Judaism 12-24 hours a week.
In his next letter, Dr Zentner thanked me for my "good humored reception" of his criticisms and questions.
I continue now quoting from Dr Zentner's critical letter of two weeks previous:
I was heartened to hear that you were taken aback at your partner's unprotected intercourse and endeavored to do something about it afterwards! But I wasn't as glad to listen to you as you humorously, rather than seriously, asknowledged that you were a silly boy" in not having brought condoms, despite anticipation of sex and thoughts of buying rubbers earlier in the tape.
You sound uncertain as to how to handle unpleasant experiences and possible errors. "Think positively" and "move on" doesn't seem like a formula for personal or moral growth. How well does thinking positively function as a guide to treating others? I don't know about Judaism but traditional Christianity maintains that the individual takes responsibility for his/her actions and, when erring, acknowledges the error, shows remorse, does penance if necessary, and resolves not to repeat the sin...The process is generally one of learning from mistakes and ensuring they won't occur again. Thinking positively and moving on implies a different act intended to comfort oneself with "positive thought" that distances or masks the mistake - without internal or external action that does something about it...
Finally, while your desire to find "the right one" is understandable, I think that you are going about it unrealistically. To find a woman who is sexually exciting - even satisfying, is easy and it is only somewhat more difficult locating a woman who has a good and active intellect. Far less easy is determining if her interests and attitudes are compatible with yours - or if you can happily modify yours - or she, hers. You've experienced how tough that is. What you may not have noticed is that determining compatability and the desire or ability to change (on either part) takes time - probably a year or so.... Accounts of your relationships with women suggest that having sex becomes central, reducing your energy to deal with all else. That is even more reason to stretch out the living together "engagement" and not to use quick marriage as a method to achieve commitment.
Well, you asked for it!! While concerned about you for the above reasons, I have faith (not certainty!) that you will come through in intellectual and ethcial good shape - and thus, in emotional good shape, too. Can't end without admitting that I see your relationship to your parents as the test of all this.
Jules, I've hardly related to my parents since moving to Florida. It's time for me to make it on my own without them. We communicate about once a month.
On the 11th of December, Jules writes to me:
Our correspondence has been so intense and open that the added detail and perspective in your autobiography, while meaningful, is never startling....
Knowing what your autobiography means to you and what other people have meant and mean in your life, I am honored at your dedication of your book to me, "your best friend." Should you ever, at another stage in your autobiography, choose to dedicate it someone else, I shall not be unhappy, knowing that you have a number of people from whom you draw intellectual, religious, ethical, and/or personal support. Being honored at this time by your present dedication is not only a surprise but more than sufficient.
Your manuscript is continuously interesting, thanks to your clever organization of it. I like the way that you vary the perspective on yourself by shifting time and viewer. You narrrate what happened years before you began these pages, interjecting quotes from those years from both yourself and from others. Occasionally but not often, you pass a judgement on events that differs from these quotes. I like those passages in which you simply register others' views of you. You follow your prologue with "What People Say About Luke Ford" and commence chapter eight with "Friends Comment." Your quotations, followed by answers are fun, too, as in that section of chapter eight where you quote Robyn and others. I don't always agree with the kinds of things you say about others, the way you quote responses which may have been intended as private communication between just the two of you, or your responses to some criticism, especially since you are sharing your autobiography with third, fourth, and goodness knows how many other parties. Yet, indirectly, in repeating and in giving considerable space to the most telling criticisms others have of you, you are acknowledging the worth of those who criticize - quite apart from your sometimes acceptance of the criticisms themselves. (It's interesting that your least persuasive writing, at least to me, is when you defend yourself whereas your most convincing and captivating writing is when you narrate things about yourself that you appear to realize are questioned by others but about which you take a defiant pride. Your writing is then wittier and more eloquent.)
While not learning anything new in kind about you, I have gained further insight into the degree you are Luke. Although knowing of your dedication to ideas and to your intellectual and physical goals, I was continually impressed with your will, not least in driving yourself physically - marathons, push ups, etc..... I still marvel at the will you displayed in maintaining a positive attitude during years of bedridden illness. Your tapes contained no self-pity and made no complaint. Despite nausea, headaches, etc., and an absence of medicine's ability to compe with your syndrome, you kept whatever frustration you had to yourself. Your tapes contained your intellectual, not your physiological, struggles. To turn your thoughts and energies to a search for a religious and ethical way of life, with the scarce physical resources you had was extrememly impressive.
Not everyone is so impressed by me. I've corresponded with 70-year old retired Judaism teacher Shari Jay Brodsky for a year-and-a-half. We've never met even though most of that time we were only 45 minutes drive away from each other. On Nov. 13, 1993, Shari Brodsky writes to me:
You have great friends who advise you, but do you listen? I think not.
I don't think you love Deb. You think you do. She appears to treat you as mommy would! And you like it and expect it. Makes me almost angry to think that a 27-year old man can be so immature and selfish.
Why are you so hung up on sex? A really good relationship takes work - giving and taking. You remind me of the Jewish boys I grew up with. They were sure that marriage to a Japanese or Chinese woman would be great for them. These women were subservient. If your problem was only a sexual one, there is always testosterone!
When you learn to give with heart and soul, on all other things in a relationship, then sex will be what it should be - loving, giving, and joyous.
Hey kid, I don't think you're ready for this!
You sure as shootin' don't need a momma - you've already had one. Grow up, dear friend. Are you honestly willing to change? Dear G-d, I hope so. It will be about time!!!
Listen to your dear friend Zentner. He's on to you and so right.
I can guess why your relationships were not good or lasting. Luke, you are selfish and unnaturally, still a little boy. A little boy who wants sex.!
My 20-year old grandson would be a lesson to you. And you are (bookwise) much smarter than Zack is.
I don't trust your conversion to Judaism. If you need an audience to sermonize your Judaism, you're sick.
Shari, I do love sex. And I do like to be nurtured by my woman. At times, I like to be undressed, bathed and tucked into bed.
Yes, I do want an audience to listen to my presentation of Judaism. So I guess I'm sick!
I had to laugh that you had the chutzpah to call Jewish Family Services to ask them to get you a "home" with a nice Jewish family. I couldn't believe a smart guy like you could so chutzpahdik!!! Peel me a grape!!!
You crave attention. Why? Who are you to crave attention like you do - especially of Deb. You expect too much of her and you give nothing of yourself!
How dare you go through her things. She's crazy not be furious with you! Any other woman would have had your head. I sure would! I'm hoping you and Deb split from one another. You're both feeding a sick relationship.
You don't mention love ever. Do you know what love entails? I think not. Trust. Whom do you trust, Luke? Yourself? Nah!
For a bright well-read guy, beloved friend, you don't know nothin'. Relax Luke, learn to give with your heart and soul. Stop expecting - it does not become you.
For the first month after our break-up, Deb (not her real name) and I talked regularly. She gave me many rides to the doctor and I took her out to eat half-a-dozen times. I generally found her tired, angry and unpleasant but I got enough hugs to fuel my addiction to her. Sensing this, on her 38th birthday, Thanksgiving Day, Deb told me that she wanted nothing more to do with me. I'm too pushy. I read more into our time together than it deserved.
Perhaps I should call my book, Luke Who Loves Too Much And The Women Who Leave Him.
Trying to put Deb behind me, I dated other women.
I still see Deb frequently as she volunteers up to 24 hours a week at the synagogue gift shop as well as attending meetings, classes and services. But at her request, we do not speak. I find it strange for us who were just weeks ago intimate, to walk by the other person as though he/she did not exist.
Aside from pursuing my primary goals to be a good person and a good Jew, I seek friends of both sexes. Many of the new people in my life are non-Jews, particularly Christians.
My happiness dramatically improved through November as my Nardil medication took effect. I gained weight, lost my headaches, and increased in energy and self-confidence.
1/1/1994 I'm up 20 pounds in the last two months to 142 pounds on my 6' frame.
I have the strength to take care of my responsibilities - to Judaism, to personal growth, to my new and old friends, and to my roommates Ginger, her 12-year old son Beau, and Ian. I clean our apartment and run errands in exchange for free room and board.
I primarily thank my psychiatrist Dr Daniel Golwyn for my dramatic turnaround. Normally, Dr Golwyn charges an appropriate fee of $210 an hour. But with me, he takes my meager Medi-Care payment without at all discriminating against me because of my inability to pay properly. I think Dr G. finds me fascinating.
I also thank God and my ex-girlfriend Deb who introduced me to Dr G.
While one person close to me says that I'm either "evil or sick," and perhaps suffering from either "Multiple Personality Disorder" or "Narcissistic Personality Disorder," Dr G supports me. He put me on Nardil to subdue my CFS, and he guides me in my present behavior. Among Dr G.'s suggestions to me:
· Be more careful about speaking ill of myself in public. I'm a people-pleaser who tries to please others by saying how rotten I am.
· Experiment with long periods of silence in public. There's no need for me to dominate every conversation.
· Battle my fears of personal confrontation.
· Be courageous. If someone walks up to the urinal beside me, don't run away to a toilet stall. Be not nervous, rather stand and deliver.
· Don't be afraid to be afraid to love people. It's ok to be vulnerable.
· Bring home big paychecks to boost my self-esteem.
So far, all of my outside work has been voluntary. In addition to writing my 200-page plus autobiography, I've published in the last few months a five page essay on my journey to Judaism in Jewish Ties as well as this letter to Heritage Florida Jewish News.
I recently converted to Judaism. I object to Jim Shipley's November 19 column attacking Reform leader Alex Schindler's proposal to seek converts to Judaism.
Shipley writes: "We (Jews) are by tradition and teaching not proselytizers."
Where does Judaism say that?
Judaism aches for converts. "Said the Holy One, "I cherish the convert. Abraham was a convert.' " [Lech Lela 40]
Writes Jewish thinker Dennis Prager: "Not only the first Jew was a convert. The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) holds that the Messiah will come from a convert (Ruth). Could Judaism have made a more powerful statement on behalf of converts?
Writes Bernard Bamberger in his book "Proselytism in the Talmudic Period:" "That the tragedy of the exile...should be interpreted even by a few teachers, as a method used by Providence for the increase of proselytes, indicates how great was the importance attached by the rabbis to the missionary movement."
Because of Judaism's desire for converts, Jews have sought converts whenever possible. According to historian Salo Baron, Jews numbered eight million in the Roman Empire by the time of Jesus.
It was Christianity, not Judaism, that stopped the massive movement of people to Judaism. When Christianity became the state religion of the Romans, it made it a capital offense for a Christian to convert to Judaism. As Dennis Prager puts it: "Jew-haters, not Judaism, stopped Jewish convert seeking."
When Jews such as Jim Shipley sneer at seeking converts, they show that they get their values more from antiSemitism than from Judaism.
Ohev Shalom Rabbis Aaron Rubinger and Dr. Rudolf Adler praised my letter as Judaicly sound. My fellow Jews by Choice at the synagogue also stood behind me. Older, less Judaicly-educated Jewish acquaintances disagreed strongly with my letter.
I am an enigma to two types of people that I meet - Jews and non-Jews.
Most Jews have a hard time understanding why I became Jewish. Many, seeing my passion for Judaism reflected through my observance and study of halacah (Jewish Law), wish to assign my enthusiasm to nefarious motives. Several Jews at shul (synagogue) suspect that I'm a Jew for Jesus.
Most Jews that I meet are ignorant of Judaism. They believe that being Jewish boils down to being nice. Many Jews don't even have faith in God. Many are not even nice.
Many non-Jews do not understand how I can be publicly inconsistent in my observance and yet be a good Jew. My Christian friends tell me that if my rabbi knew about my sex life, he'd throw me out of the synagogue.
So, one day in class, I asked Rabbi Rubinger if he would throw me out for not leading a chaste life. Rabbi Rubinger, like me, thought the proposition ridiculous.
Non-Jews, particularly Christians, cannot understand why my observance of halacah (Jewish Law) has merit when I doubt many of the essential foundations of the Jewish faith - such as belief in a personal God who rules history.
I surprise many when I doubt the efficacy of prayer, which seems to be the essence of religion in the popular view.
"I don't understand you," says my new friend K.... "You're passionately religious and yet so secular and sexual."
My greatest encouragement in the last couple of months to proceed with my studies and observance of Judaism has come from our synagogue's Rabbi Emeritus - 73-year old Dr Rudolf Adler. He praises me publicly and consults with me privately.
I'm taking Rabbi Adler's nine-hour a week month-long course at Rollins College on America Judaism.
Rabbi Adler has recommended his editor to me for my book.
Everyone who's read large chunks of my autobiography says it's good. The 46-year old Baptist, Vicki Leetun, says to me: "You're crazy not to devote yourself to writing."
"You're not crazy," replies my Hebrew teacher and friend Benny Isaiah. "It's hard to make money writing. Come into business with me and sell trips to Israel."
I feel good about the way I've built up my life in a strange place. I feel particularly proud of the mentchlikeit (goodness) of my new friends. Like attracts like.
For the new secular year, I wish to remain dedicated to my values that I've already described. As my health improves, I will be able to work or go to school, or both.
I've submitted a new letter to the Heritage (published 1/20), replying to Jim Shipley's reply to my reply:
Jewish theologian A. J. Heschel said that "The Jews are a messenger who has forgotten his message."
What is the Jewish message to the world? Ethical monotheism.
"We Jews should teach the religious world that God's primary demand is goodness. Any other top priority assigned to God, such as faith, leads to the evil of Crusaders, Inquisitors, and Ayatollah Khomeinis," says Dennis Prager. "And to secularists, we should say that trying to build an ethical system while denying God leads to the evil of Nazism and Communism."
Bringing the world to the morally-demanding God of Mt Sinai, howwever, is not the main concern of Jews in central Florida or the rest of America.
Instead, most Jews prefer to blame outsiders, particularly Christians, for their problems.
Let me give two examples.
The Friday night sermon that I listened to at my shul Christmas Eve called for removing Christianity from the public square. The rabbi wanted Christmas trees, Christmas carols, and most everything Christian out of public schools, public property, and seemingly out of public sight.
Why? Because it makes Jewish children uncomfortable.
(What basis is there in Judaism for trying to remove the public witness of a fellow monotheistic religion? None.)
"American Jewish organizations and myself have different agendas," notes Prager. "They most want Jews to be comfortable in America. I most want Jews to be Jewish in America."
Example number two. On page five of the 12/31 Heritage, a Jewish Ph.D. writes his own agenda into the mouth of my synagogue's rabbi emeritus Dr. Rudolf Adler.
(Incidentally, Jews for Ph.D.s are a far bigger threat to Judaism, the Jewish people and the world than Jews for Jesus.)
Dr. A. writes that the first problem facing Jewish children in America is Jew-hatred from outsiders. "AntiSemitic messages... bombard... Jewish children... undermining their sense of worth... [causing] loss of hope... suicide... alcoholism."
How come Jews didn't have such problems as alcoholism and teen-suicide in the old country when we lived under true oppression? Because most Jews until this century got their values from Judaism rather than from secular liberalism.
Finally, the single best thing that American Jews can do to further their divine mission is to seek converts to Judaism. My rabbi at Ohev Shalom, Aaron Rubinger, does a helluva job. In his three year tenure, he's brought dozens of non-Jews under the wings of the Shekhina (divine presence).
But most Jews disdain seeking converts. In his 12/24 letter to the Heritage, columnist Jim Shipley wrote that while he welcomes converts, he objects "to funneling funds meant for Jewish work to a proselytizing campaign."
The whole point of my essay showing how Judaism aches for converts (published by the Heritage 12/17) is that proselytizing IS Jewish work.
"You cried for yourself [when you broke up with Deb]" said my new girlfriend Paula Lemire. We walked through the cool Monday evening hand-in-hand.
"You cried that you lost. You didn't cry over Debbie. You cried over losing her money. You cried that you couldn't have what you couldn't have."
"Do you think that Deb's owning her own home played any role in my decision to move to Orlando?" I asked Paula.
She laughed at me as we walked away from Rollins College.
"You wanted to marry Deb because Florida is a community property state," said Paula. "You thought that you could stick it out for a year or two, then divorce her and take half her money.
"You like older women because they're more likely to be able to support you while you study and write all day.
"You want to cash in on your youth, good looks and charm.
"My only hope to get you to marry me is to win the lottery."
My girlfriend Paula Lemire describes the way I treat my girlfriends: "You're a wasp who stings the central nervous system of slugs and leaves them paralyzed."
I reply with a smile: "That's because after a woman's experienced me, she can aspire to nothing higher. She may as well join a nunnery."
My brother Paul flew in to town. After picking him up at the airport, Paula and I walked Paul around Lake Aeola and the Orlando Public Library. Paul bought us a late lunch at the Olive Garden and by 7PM he hit the sack and Paula drove home (after staying with me for the previous few days).
I phoned my ex-girlfriend Deb and we arranged to spend the next day together visiting gardens in the upscale suburb of Winter Park.
3:30AM: Paula's younger sister H. came into her room and beat her up. The two have been on bad terms for a couple of weeks because of Paula's friendship with H.'s boyfriend J.
Paula suffered scratches but no bruises. H. later said that she wanted to kill Paula.
10AM: Not knowing what had happened to my non-exclusive girlfriend, I got into Deb's car with Paul and we drove away. The gardens were beautiful and Deb enjoyed my brother's company. Despite this, Deb appeared tense. She frequently disparaged me. I generally replied with smiles, silence and acknowledgement of the many times that Deb's been right and I've been wrong. I praised Deb frequently but she only loosened up in the midafternoon when Paul and I sang medleys of pop lyrics, national anthems and Christian hymns.
Deb pointed out the large amount of money (about $1400) and time that she had spent on me before our painful breakup. "At least I did a good deed," she said, referring to my dramatically improved health which she attributes to getting me out of my parents' home and into the care of her doctor Daniel Golwyn.
A few minutes earlier, I had phoned Paula for five minutes and heard her bad news. We arranged to meet at the Rollins College Chapel at 5:30PM for the beginning of Rabbi Rudolf Adler's second week of his month-long nine-hours a week class on American Judaism.
My irreligious brother Paul fell asleep during the Monday evening class but I engaged in heated debate with the guest lecturer - left-wing Reform Rabbi Larry Halpern.
9PM. Back home at Goddard Ave, I opened my latest letter from Jules Zentner:
Dennis Prager says that male concern with laws rather than with feelings may relate to lustful male nature.
Men believe that they need rules to control themselves. Whereas women, who are not as continually lustful as males, don't experience a need for law to restrict themselves - and therefore can assert (in accord with their nature) that people "should express their feelings." For females, this is suitable. But, in urging males to express their feelings, they show ignorance of male nature. Ready male expression of feelings of constant and insistent promiscuity, would undoubtedly shock or outrage most women.
This reminds me of my question about your dedication to a religion based on laws. I've always been surprised that you find Jewish Law so meaningful...What does the primordial Luke find in laws? Does he instinctively feel that he needs the restraint of law on his thought and behavior? Or is it that you think that the rest of us need laws? Which came first: your feelings of your need or of ours?
Jules, because I am more interested in the world than in myself (though I do think more frequently about myself), my belief in the necessity of law to make humanity good came first. But my reluctant acquiescence to Prager's and Judaism's thinking on this matter came largely from my inner knowledge that I need rules to control myself. (I was also influenced by my readings and by my conversation partners.)
Primordial Luke finds in law the necessary breakwaters to generally limit my self-expression to the decent. Before my knowledge of halacah (Jewish Law), I had vaguer notions of boundaries. Thus, I frequently felt guilty about harmless behavior while feeling little guilt about actions that gratuitiously hurt people. Now I have more specific instruction, and so long as I don't hurt anyone, I feel free to let out my primordial desires.
Also, as the atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell pointed out in his book Why I Am Not A Christian, the advantage of a religion like Judaism that has many laws is that it enables a person to feel like he's doing a great sin while in reality he's done nothing. For instance, consential pre-marital sex, carrying a handkerchief on a Holy Day or eating a bacon cheeseburger on a Friday night violates Jewish Law but causes no harm to anyone.
Jules, I love learning minute Jewish Laws because it gives me great pleasure to break them (which I probably do 10-70%? of the time).
By Luke Ford Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve 1994-1997 1997 1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009