I wasn't happy with the bouncer frisking
me, but it was O.K. as long as he didn't card
me. This was one of the many wild spots of the New
York night scene and the high security was not out of line. Perhaps
the Limelight, an old church that had been converted into one of the city's
hard-core hangouts for the club crowd wasn't really the best place for
a Jewish sophomore at Columbia College to blend in on Yom Kippur. But heck
it- this is half the reason I'm in Manhattan to begin with- I need a noise
loud enough to pull me into the present so I can communicate my vision.
And it sure beats hangin' with Old Jews in some synagogue and listening
to some shmuck version of Rabbi X (the head Rabbi
at the Yeshiva I went to) shriek
a mussar shcmooz (Yiddish for long boring speech) in my ears.
I come for the music, but I think its more than that- its the anonymity.
You can just blend into the mass of swaying bodies and not have too worry
about anybody looking at you, or making sure to say your Yom Kippur prayers
the right way. Just the way I like it- free as a dolphin. The two friends
I was with had already chugged down three beers down a piece. As for me,
I preferred to leave my senses unaltered so I could soak in this heart
thumping world. And besides, I'm messed up enough without the alcohol,
and I find it easier to get high off the music. Its not like this was my
first time at a club; I discovered this entertainment during my year in
Israel, the year that I had my vision quest. But that's another story.
Sort of. [The truth its all the same, and Double Mirrors
is on my mind always- my situation and physical environment is irrelevant
except for its capacity to affect my physical energy levels- the fuel I
translate into spiritual energy so that I can keep my ideas flowin.' We
are all half finite and half infinite and trying to maintain a constant
vision can get pretty trying on the animal side. The limelight's hard-core
techno is a good energy booster.]
There were no inhibitions in this house of pleasure. Guys were walking
around without shirts. Girls were walking around without shirts. Couples
were passionately kissing and fondling each other all over the place.
Yep. This sure as hell wasn't Milwaukee anymore.
Best of all I could just sit on my bench in the corner, and just watch
the whole thing unnoticed.
I wonder what Rabbi X would think if he could see me now. "GET
THE heck OUT OF MY YESHIVA!" he might shriek. Without the heck part.
Or my mother for that matter. But at least she's happy with my two brothers
and little sister whom in her eyes are perfect children. Good Jewish boys.
____ My mother is so proud. My family is messed up. [Funny thing about
my family But don't get me wrong- I love my parents and its not like they
are disappointed with me either. It was a big day for us when I got accepted
to Columbia. Dr. Stein, my private elementary school principal who was
constantly trying to get me expelled was at my house when my father opened
the acceptance letter. I wish I could have seen the look on his face, but
I, thank god was busy conducting a vision quest in Jerusalem and didn't
have time for such pleasures. My father was all excited to start bragging
to his friends that his son was the first kid to get into an Ivy League
school from the yeshiva
(religious Jewish boarding school) he shipped me off to at the age of thirteen.
I fought with my parents too much to live at home, and I guess my dad figured
that the rabbis at my yeshiva would straighten me out. $$ And besides, it was
a hell of a lot cheaper than the other boarding schools $$. The only catch
was that I would have to live with seven fanatic rabbis breathing down
my neck. And I thought my parents carried too much authority for my taste-
Rabbi X was enough to make me wish I was in catholic school! There
was no way that I, the messed up kid with messed up teeth- I refused to
wear my retainer just because my Father told me to- was going to stay in
"shitsville," and put up with seven Rabbis telling me what to
do. After three years in Milwaukee, as much as I would have loved to hang
out with C and eat Kugel, I split town without my diploma. heck
graduating- I would rather be high school drop out than put up with one
more day of the lies and bullshit all around me. I was in a very dark cave,
and God took pity on me and pulled me out.
But I didn't come to the Limelight to think about my parents, or the yeshiva-
they were all ready taking up too much room in my nightmares. It was Yom
Kippur, and while my parents, Rabbi X, and the rest of my family
were all in synagogue, I was pondering the reflection of a red beam of
light off the snake tattoo on the shaved head of the guy dancing in front
of me. I tried to see if I could get hypnotized by the rhythmic motion
of the swaying skull and crossbones earring hanging from his left ear.
I couldn't. But that's not the point. In club society you can never have
too many body piercings. Counting the earring connected by a chain to a
ring in his nose, this guy had three that I could see, and I was sure I
didn't want to know if he had others I couldn't. Tattoos, earrings, they're
all status symbols here in club society, I guess. Its what kind of car
you drive out there, but in here its how many earrings you have, how funky
your clothes are, how much gel you have in your hair, and of course how
well you can move.
My "friends" [I don't have any real friends except the Mediterranean
Sea off Tel Aviv and Dr. Weil who's seventy five now. Oh yeah- and the
4 million New Jews living in Israel who call themselves Israelis] were
off dancing with these two girls wearing outfits that would make my mother
faint. I was happier making myself comfortable on my bench and getting
lost in the music, flashing lights and artificial fog or whatever they
call it. I like that stuff. Its just another part of that making the "real
world" disappear thing- I mean that's what all this is about, isn't
it? Its like we're trying to fog up the Double Mirrors in our minds, returning
to our animal nature, grooving to the primal beat, forgetting our self
consciousness, riding the waves of the present. Sorry but I often get philosophical
in moments like these.
What we call the real world is just an illusion. The Emperor has no
Plato, I found out, said this already his own way- he calls these illusions
shadows in a cave. We assume these shadows are reality until we escape
the cave and discover the world that is producing these shadows. Until
we see this spiritual truth, all we know is the physical- what we can experience
with our five senses. Until we find the light for ourselves, all we know
is shadows. I borrow Plato's metaphor, but one thing I should make clear
right now is that I don't believe in reading. If I had not discovered this
truth for myself already, Plato's allegory of the cave would be just words
on paper. One living idea, introduced to the soul through life experience,
is worth more than all the dead intellectualized ideas in the world. My
father calls me a smart-ass when I say things like that. But he's a professor
of medicine and philosophy- an Old Jew. Call me a smart-ass, or anything
else, but I will still say that the only way to learn is through living.
Through interaction with others, and living in the present. By some twisted
irony or bizarre joke from God, I am now at Columbia, a capitol of intellectualism,
where they "teach" things like the philosophies of Plato, the
writings of Jesus, and the Old Testament. But reading these books is just
intellectual masturbation- shadows- unless their words transcend the ink,
paper, and rational framework in which they were written. Yes I do believe
life is all one big dream- that like Plato says we are stuck in a dark
cave, staring at shadows we assume to be reality. That the only thing that
is real is God/truth/love. But I didn't figure this out by reading the
cliff notes of the Republic like half of my classmates at the distinguished
institution of higher learning known as Columbia. It was only through my
Vision Quest, in Jerusalem the city where men have been having vision quests
for thousands of years, where I discovered these truths for myself. We
all have the same need of a search for Truth of some sort. A little vision
quest never hurt anybody. Unfortunately those who are still stuck in the
cave have trouble understanding this. One of the many crackpot shrinks
I have seen determined my romanticism, vision quest, and general way of
thinking, to be a result of a Jerusalem Syndrome- a Jesus complex- but
I say it is he who is suffering from illusions.
Get out of your cave, buddy -- the Revolution is here. And if you don't
open your eyes you might miss it.
Dr. Winchel, Rabbi X, my parents, and countless others have
tried to put me down but they will only succeed when I allow them to pull
me into the burning past they have created for me. Mohammed might say they
are unbelievers- infidels who must be annihilated. But I say they need
to be loved. . . or dumped on a beach in some remote island until they
see the light for themselves.
The same sensitivity that helped me to see the good of the New Jew left
me susceptible to a point blank attack from the spirit demons of my family
of Old Jews. For every vision of Love there is a counter force of deadness
from the past. With God's help, I will be strong enough to keep my vision
strong, and to be free of the chains of this memory. Through living in
the present, like the New Jews who inspired my vision, the human spirit
will survive. And this is, at least on the spiritual level, what brought
me to the Limelight that night.
The dream of life can get pretty convincing if we let ourselves get
sucked into it. The loud music, beer, and wild partying , to hide our Past
and pulls us into the Present. Its like a little kid shutting his eyes
to make his world disappear. [The funny thing is that on the spiritual
level, where perception determines reality, this can actually work. . .
] People in this place can leave all their problems outside; In here they
don't have to think about ex-girlfriends, late bills, or where they're
life is headed. As for me- I get a chance to stop remembering the Rabbis
in Milwaukee waking up at 7 in the morning for prayers, or my mother winning
that I should clean my room. Here, the human condition is reduced down
to loud music, artificial fog, flesh, and more flesh.
Which of course brings me to the second reason people come to a place
like this- pursuit of pure hedonism. Not that there is anything wrong with
that, as long as you don't hurt anybody in the process. A sin is only a
sin if you think its a sin. And I sure as hell know that I'm not evil.
I was in a club that used to be a church on Yom Kippur, but was this any
less spiritual than sitting in some synagogue listening to the old farts
gossip in the row behind me? "Through loving one boys correctly,"
says Plato, we become immortal and become one with God. You can find god
through loving young boys, but you can't find Him at the Limelight? What-
you think God got carded at the door or something? He's over 21 even if
he don't got I.D. . . .
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Coke, do you want some coke?" the big guy with the shaved
head in front of me repeated himself.
"No thanks," I answered. You see what I mean; this place was
intense. But that shit is not for me- yeah I go to sleazy clubs, but I
believe I'm a good boy. No I don't say my prayers in the morning or study
Talmud anymore- I pray my way. And I try to be nice guy. Tell that to my
mother if you get a chance. Somehow, I don't think she is convinced. She
liked to call me a juvenile delinquent when I was little; in her naive
eyes I was evil because I refused to clean my room. But after the truckloads
of anxiety she dumped on me as a baby, (my parents were on the verge of
divorce at the time) she doesn't have the right to criticize me about anything.
My attention was soon grabbed by a gorgeous girl dancing a couple of
feet from my seat. Her hips swaying to the beat were completely mesmerizing.
I couldn't take watching this anymore. An ass like that is enough to
make a guy forget about any Jewish mother. I quickly looked around for
my friends but they had disappeared into the multitude of rocking bodies.
By now I was drunk on the music and could start dancing myself. The music
was so loud, I could feel my bones vibrating.
Memory of Mom was gone, and my inhibitions let go. I let my body move
as the music commanded it. Society's rules, self consciousness, set aside,
I was like a primitive dancer moving to an ancient drum beat. I was no
longer Dylan, frustrated philosopher, and campus Don Quixote, but instead
just one limb in a massive organism of swaying bodies. I was wasted without
even drinking any beer.
That lasted maybe a couple of minutes- I am still far from being a full
Jedi- until I was absorbed once again in self reflection. I was soon looking
for a seat where I could go back to pondering the meaning of our existence.
Suddenly, some commotion shattered my reverie; some asshole with a black
wool hat was harassing a girl a little to my right. She was beautiful dark
skinned girl- she looked black or Hispanic- with brown hair and brown eyes.
Like me. Except I'd hardly describe myself as Black or Hispanic. I thought
she was black- but it was pretty dark in there. I love black woman. . .
. They remind me of the Ethiopian Woman I met in Jerusalem. I spoke to
her for only ten minutes at a party, but I dream of someday marrying her.
She is the Dulcinea of my dreams. But before I launch into an ode to the
Land of Ethiopian Women, I'll get back to my story. Suffice it to say this
girl had my undivided attention.
I gathered up enough courage to try to make eye contact with this maiden
in distress. I stared at her until she noticed me. And then it happened-
she smiled. Well, not a real smile, but more like a hint of one, and a
sparkle in her eyes, I guess. You know what I mean. I was hooked, and was
quickly being reeled in.
So I moved next to her and was surprised when she grabbed me and started
dancing closer than I was even hoping for. I gave the son of a bitch who
was bugging her a dirty look. He moved closer to us, and grabbed the girl
but I quickly turned, giving him a little shove as he found himself staring
at my back. I'm not a big guy by any standard- I have a small frame and
I'm skinny- but people tend not to heck with me. God protects me, I say.
People say its because I look messed up. I have only recently figured out
what they mean by that. Anyway, the little vulture got the message and
I guess he moved on to search for other prey.
Pretty soon my newly found friend and I were performing the lambada
to hard core techno. This is my kind of woman, I thought as I caressed
her thighs. "What's your name?" I shouted over the music. I couldn't
hear the answer. But I think she said Jasmin. She then said something to
me. I just smiled; I couldn't make out a word of it.
After spending a seemingly short while doing the most sensual dancing
I had ever experienced, I asked if I could buy her a drink. Minutes later,
we had joined the scores of passionately kissing, newly aquatinted couples
on the couches in the back.
I couldn't believe this was happening. I mean, I love coming to clubs
but it was almost always the music, and, I guess, the voyeurism that was
the drive. Now somebody was probably staring at us.
She sure knew how to make a guy happy.
When we paused for a minute, I broke the number rule of this game; I
started an actual verbal conversation. Yeah, I know- that's not the kind
of communication that's supposed to go on at a place like this; when all
inhibitions are put aside, the language of the body comes most naturally.
But for some reason I felt the need to actually meet this stranger positioned
on my lap.
After the usual beginning of where are you from, where do you go to
school, and how old are you, I couldn't hold it back anymore. Something
about the uniqueness of the moment (probably that it is so rare I actually
have the balls to start talking to a girl that I like) was inspiring me,
and I just had to explain to this girl what I believe is the meaning of
life- you know- let her in on my vision quest. What's wrong with a little
I think I shocked the shit out of her.
I figured the actual Double Mirror metaphor was too deep, so I began
in shallow waters. In my mind, I said, every person here is merely trying
to escape from the prison of their past and self reflection. The harsh
reality of life is easily hidden by raw hedonistic pleasure, or at least
some intense voyeurism. That there is no absolute reality on the physical
level, and therefore the reality of this club is as legitimate as the reality
of, say, my mother. That I'm sorry I'm jumping from one idea to another
but I think I have Attention Deficit Disorder and I tend to jump from idea
to idea, talking really fast with a manic energy without finishing anything.
That even though in principle I don't read to read, I was assigned Ralph
Waldo Emerson's essay, "Self Reliance," in which he referred
to himself as a "transparent eyeball"- one who observes everything
without being seen or affecting anything- and this is what I personally
like to do at a place like this . . . . [probably because it is so hard
for me to Listen anywhere else] I could have went on all night but I was
soon interrupted in the middle of my of my sentence while trying to elaborate
the theory of the transparent eyeball.
In her thick Brooklyn accent she muttered, " That's cool,"
and we went back to our more urgent business of sucking at each other's
A mouth can be used for all sorts of purposes, I guess. But I think
I better keep mine shut- or else become satisfied with the transparent
eyeball view from my bench.
©Dylan Tauber, 1993. All rights