But He Wants To Be A Paperback

I watch his TV show because Biblical archaeology is good storytelling, so I know this face well.

Simcha Jacobovici. Photo by: Nir Kafri

Simcha Jacobovici is the Naked Archaeologist. I don’t know why a person would conflate nakedy nakedness with a painstaking activity carried out in caves, tombs, deserts and dusty museums. No matter. Simcha’s not actually an archaeologist. He’s a filmmaker. He tells stories. Sometimes as I’m watching the show, I have trouble following his very athletic leaps through the texts and history. During two episodes last week, he made if-then statements that took away my breath and I’ll just tell you this: I have a pretty good breathing capacity. I breathe a lot, every day, but not so much when Simcha says museums were looted in Baghdad during the invasion and occupation and oh by the way you can buy these relics in London antique shops for a few thousand clams. Sometimes he says this people over here must be related to that people over there because both had boats or glass or this symbol or called their children Hey You until they turned 30, which can sound like evidence but isn’t always.

Yes, I do shout at a TV show about archaeology. Glad you asked. Anyway, now you understand why this story is both surprising and not at all surprising, coming from Simcha:

Are these the nails used to crucify Jesus?

Oh brudder.

The name Caiaphas is rare for the Second Temple era and in fact is totally unknown among archaeological finds. This allowed the digging detectives to say with confidence that the site is the burial cave of the family of Caiaphas, the Jerusalem high priest in Jesus’ time and one of the primary antagonists in Christian scripture.

It was this Caiaphas who gave Jesus up to the Romans. He, along with Judas Iscariot, was the symbol of Jewish treachery, a denier of the truth and the de facto basis for Christian anti-Semitism.

Aside from the ossuaries, the cave held other treasures: coins, a perfume bottle, an oil lamp in an earthenware pot, and two rusty and bent nails. These nails, Jacobovici claims, are no less than the original nails hammered into the hands of Jesus Christ as he was crucified.

He did that without a pole vaulting pit to land in. I’ll let you catch your breath there. Better? Okay, moving on:

And if Jacobovici is to be believed, these nails have the potential to cause a revolution in the way we view early Christianity, the Jewish religion from which Christianity emanated and the relationship between the two faiths. But first one must believe Jacobovici; many, primarily in the archeological world, do not, and even view him as a charlatan.

Jacobovici, an observant Jew sporting a large skullcap, has a light American accent that disappears as his outrage at the archeologists who dismiss his findings grows. He was born in Israel, but has lived in Canada for many years, garnering recognition for several documentaries he has made, including a film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and another on the trafficking of women. He has won two Emmys for his work.

Yes yes yes, Simcha is a personable guy, has an interesting way with words and tells a hell of a story.

He gets to interview people I’d love to have a drink with, like Robert Eisenmann. He travels all over the place and has a mountainous pile of stock footage. He is about to present evidence for his claims in a new movie.

Jacobovici’s main claim is that the character of Caiaphas must be reconsidered. According to him, Caiaphas may have changed his mind about Jesus after the crucifixion, and his descendents thought it appropriate to bury the father of Christianity with the nails alongside other items meant to accompany him to the next world.

Jacobovici says that Caiaphas even became a member of the Judeo-Christians – those who maintained their Jewish identity while claiming Christ was the messiah (but not God). Jacobovici says that evidence of Caiaphas’ paradigm shift can be found in multiple places, including the mysterious symbols that were engraved upon the ossuary.

Other archeologists do not rule out the possibility that Caiaphas was buried in the cave; they say it is reasonable to assume that it was the family’s cave, although other members of the family may be buried there.

Dissenting archeologists maintain, however, that although the ossuary is elaborate in design, it is not in the style of a typical high priest burial site.

The excavation of the cave was done by two senior archaeologists, Dr. Zvi Greenhut, today a leading official at the Israel Antiquities Authority, and Dr. Ronny Reich, now the chairman of the Archeological Council, the highest archeological body in Israel.

Jacobovici has been cautiously critical of these two experts for ignoring what he perceives to be the most important finding in the cave: the nails. The other items discovered in the grave have been stored in the warehouses of the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the ossuaries can be viewed at the Israel Museum.

The nails, on the other hand, have been neglected – barely documented in the excavation’s findings and disappearing shortly after the dig. Now, they are in the hands of Simcha Jacobovici.

A few things:
1. The nails disappeared and reappeared? Ruh roh.
2. New movie = publicity stunts. Ruh roh!
3. “The father of Christianity”?

These are problems with the article’s reporting. We can’t discuss problems with Simcha’s theories until I see the movie, which I won’t do without elbow and knee pads, proper footwear and a cushioned helmet. A good story is one thing, but I’m not making any leaps without a solid place to land.

Why Not Wyoming

Man oh Manischewitz, I couldn’t wait for this work week to end. On Wednesday, I had an episode I still don’t understand in which sudden, severe neck muscle cramps caused me blinding, debilitating pain that resulted in my walking around all day with my head facing to the left. Poor Impulsives, you have not lived until you’ve descended stairs perpendicular to the direction you can see. To his credit, Pete observed this without passing coffee through his nose. Today, as I was saddling up the bicycle to ride home, undergraduates of the unnamed university flooded the avenue, squawking and racing toward their exciting, regrettable futures. It’s a big weekend in the tiny city. Traffic clogged the surrounding roads. I got out just in time.

Siobhan: Three idiots tried to make a living the old-fashioned way: by breaking into her house and kidnapping the old lady on the Columbia Sportswear commercials.
Tata: That’s going to look funny on their tax returns.
Siobhan: And their arrest records. They got as far as tying her in Boy Scout knots before the cops showed up.
Tata: So an alarm sounded, security worked and the police saved the day?
Siobhan: Yup.
Tata: Well, paint me red and call me Josephine. That never happens!

The 87-year-old [Gert] Boyle was approached at her West Linn home last November by a man offering a gift basket who pulled a gun. Boyle was able to trigger a silent alarm, bringing police.

Boyle didn’t appear at Thursday’s sentencing but released a statement through her attorney, saying the three defendants “caused me to suffer indignity, violence and indescribable fear.” She added that her life was forever changed by the incident.

Presiding Judge Robert Herndon told Caballero that the plot was “a completely lame-brained scheme.” He described Boyle as an Oregon[sic] and American icon.

“It couldn’t have been worse if you tried to kidnap Santa Claus,” Herndon said.

It’s April 15th and for some reason that escapes me the tax deadline softened from a firm Friday to mushy next Monday. So since we’re firmly entrenched in financial FantasyLand, let’s picture a kidnapper’s visit to the accountant.

Bernstein: Mr. “Smith”, what kind of work do you do?
Smith: I’m in acquisitions.
Bernstein: Unh huh. You’re self-employed?
Smith: I think of myself as workplace-flexible.
Bernstein: How much did you make last year?
Smith: $350,000 in small, non-sequential, unmarked bills, not at all dyed red.
Bernstein: Sure. Did you pay your quarterly taxes?
Smith: No, I kind of acquired that all at once.
Bernstein: I see. Any work-related expenses?
Smith: Rope, duct tape, rubber gloves, monogrammed crow bars.
Bernstein: Education? Take any work-related classes?
Smith: I’m a proud 2010 graduate of the county’s locksmithing school.
Bernstein: Really? Me, too. For the off-season. Are you going to write a check?
Smith: Have you been watching C-SPAN? Bankers are CRAZY. Here, have a stack of cash.
Bernstein: Good thing I’m wearing lifts. Sign here, here and here, Mr. “Smith.”
Smith: X, x, x.
Bernstein: Well, have a good year and recommend me to the grand jury, will you?

Tax amnesty has real potential.

Crazy Everything Seems Hazy

The restaurant supply store in town is a lightweight affair. Shelves are loosely stocked with one of each item, which the customer orders and which is delivered to the store at some time in the future. It’s all cups, flatware, sauté pans and aluminum trays of every description and dust. There’s been a for sale sign out front for years. I suppose when I imagined the restaurant supply store in Edison I imagined it would be like this: dusty, silent, oddly empty. It is not at all those things.

The warehouse sits at the end of an industrial park road that was paved at one time and never given another thought. The street sign looks new but it is rendered illegible by its angle to the intersecting road. The industrial park looks like it lost a battle with developers so it decays in the middle of remote and odd-looking apartment complexes. At no time does the main road through them identify itself. We found that many times during this excursion: you had to know something was there or you wouldn’t find it at all. So it came as something of a surprise when we drove over an abandoned railroad track, past a field and a dump, turned a corner marked with the name of another business and found the restaurant supply store. Despite the appearance of wasteland and open space, parking was cramped. Vans and SUVs circled, waiting for spaces. We happened to be in the right place at the right time and got a space. Inside, we waited as an energetic young woman registered Pete’s business, checked his license, his tax ID number. It took a very long time and a line accumulated behind us. A man holding a laminated bloody hunk of meat in his arms chewed gum and waited. The customers passed us on their way into the store represented a wide variety of racial and ethnic groups. About half the people passing us were speaking English. That seemed promising.

Pete tends to move quickly and lose patience with stores. I was determined to carefully examine every aisle and take in as much information as possible. The first discovery of real use was recycled paper products in bulk form. Pete walked through a doorway I missed and waved me in. It was the refrigerated section of the building. I hadn’t noticed it, but as we walked through it I realized the building was twice as large as it appeared. We entered an icy wonderland, passing freezers stocked with familiar restaurant size cases of hamburger patties, calamari rings and goat portions. We passed cheese wheels, halves and quarters. We passed bales of vegetables, packed to bursting. We came around a corner and found ourselves walking through corridors filled with meat. Giant cuts of beef, lamb and pork lined shelves and refrigerator cases; cases of chickens, ducklings and larger foul lined another corridor. It seemed to go on and on. My hands were stiff with cold. At the end of the rows, we found a spotless fish section that smelled like ice and the ocean. Crates of baccala and carts stacked with smoked fish formed a portico, on the other side: great banks of ice, beautifully arranged fish of impressive size gleamed. A whole tuna loin could be seen from some distance like a treasure. One imagines it was. We turned back and walked through the meat aisles again. The perspective shift – walking through stacked shelves of meat as opposed to meat separate, stored away – was jarring. I thought, ‘One hunk of this meat could feed us for weeks. It would be so much cheaper than the grass-fed free range beef we’ve been eating in small portions. But this stuff is mass-produced poison. The animals were raised and lived in terrible conditions. The factory farms are a blight. If it were a question of life and death, this might be okay but it isn’t, so this is disgusting. It would be easy to abandon what I believe and pick up that hunk of meat.’ And I really felt that temptation to betray everything I feel. I don’t need to eat that way, so this was a deeply weird sensation. I did not pick up a hunk of meat.

Back out in the main part of the store, we walked down each aisle, talked about everything we saw from salad dressing cups to the giant rondele pot I covet. Pete is going to do some personal chef work so he’s got supplies for that in mind. I was thinking about food preservation ingredients like oils, vinegars, spices in bulk. We were looking for useful flours, containers, work clothes, problem solvers. Of course, we walked down an entire aisle of #10 cans of tomato products. I started to feel grave doubt creep up on me. ‘What am I doing?’ I thought. ‘I don’t need to jar these small, crazy-expensive, boutique foods. This is madness.’ And for a few minutes, I heard the rush of blood in my ears. What am I doing? Well, what am I doing? We turned into the last aisle: condiments. Beautiful oils, vinegars, sauces, sauce bases as far as the eye could see. I sat down on a palate in the middle of the aisle and took a few deeps breaths. What am I doing? My plan is to spend the next six months of my life learning as much as I can about food. I could throw cans in a cart and sustain myself, but nothing would be gained by it. The idea is to learn. The idea is to push my brain, which I have had every reason to doubt in recent years, as hard and as far as I can; if I succeed, I can learn other things. I stood up and set about examining the vinegars. I might be able to do better on some of the prices.

We went to the checkout with a restaurant container of whole nutmeg: less than $8. That’s a good price. I didn’t say much on the way home, but I did say, “I feel like I’ve been to the House of My Enemy, and how am I going to use that without being corrupted by it?” We stopped at my sister Anya’s. The family can benefit from the restaurant supply store by buying in bulk and dividing between the houses. Anya mentioned that the food pantry and the soup kitchen might be able to use donations to buy in bulk there; I’d have to research that. Maybe they already do. But I was really shocked by the meat and how easily doubt and temptation shook me.

I was quiet for a long time when we got home.

It seemed very important to work in the garden.

In the Morning With Everything You Own

We’re just back from the garden center, where we picked up seeds, seedlings, wire fencing and ferns. I’m giddy with oddly timed excitement. I mean, the reason we had a great time in the garden center – as opposed to a shitty, arguey, stabby-stabby time – is that it’s nighttime. Even the cashier seemed surprised to see us. At home again, we put nearly everything into the slipcover greenhouse for the night and put our feet up.

I’m not sure how to talk about this. Maybe you can help me find the words. I’m not disabled, but I have trouble getting around unless I don’t. Sometimes, I stand up and everything works fine, but most of the time, when I get out of the car or up from a chair, straightening up is going to take a minute and walking looks like I’ve never done it before. What are you gonna do? Anyway, I could barely walk in February so I took some time off from the food pantry. Today, I was walking into the family store and saw the food pantry’s administrator. She asked if I felt better. I was standing and walking, and considering myself lucky until that moment. So feeling pretty good made me a shitty human being. These are exciting problems!

Pete’s built a raised bed and raised it a second time. He’s fencing in open space about three feet all around it so I can sit on a stool and work in the bed. As we set this up, it is making me feel like I am about 80. Further, I am pretty sure the bed’s too low for me to comfortably work it. We’ll see. I can’t wait to plant broccoli. Tomorrow, we will lay out the grid and draw up a plan. The seed packets offer the promise of fragrant treasures. I’m not 100% sure my joints will allow it.

She Wrote Me A Letter

Today, I learned I have to always carry a camera. That’s because I also left my phone at home.

On a filing cabinet in my cubicle, someone left a note in magnets. If it’s still there next week, I’ll take a picture:

delirious beauty
you are a goddess
honey I will always love you

Nineteen syllables, not seventeen; it’s not a haiku. Of course, it makes mention of my incandescent beauty. And the author loves honey.

Through the Cornfields Down By

Approximate contents of my cranium.

About midday today, I realized the reason I was staring into space and had been for a couple of hours was the fever that seemed to come and go, talking of Michelangelo*. Six or seven tasks awaited my attention, including a few snaps like paying bills, but I couldn’t concentrate long enough to even take them up. In fact, it was a miracle I wasn’t drooling. Then I remembered this intermittent fever-stoopidity thing happened last time I got really sick, probably because I was determined to ignore it. Also hilarious: until that moment, I was planning to drool a little and ignore the fever-stoopidity thing today. Yeah, but now what? It’s hard to do something smart about feeling stoopid – and how do you know when you’re done?

I might not be the first to know.

*Congratulations. You’ve been Prufrocked.