Sukkot in Atlanta wrap-up
I spent the first four days of Sukkot in Atlanta. This was notable for two reasons. One is that I think it is the first time in my life that I have ever flown for pleasure (not work), to a place where I don't have any relatives. I mean, I've stopped in Madrid and Athens on the way to Israel, but since the main object of the exercise was to get to Israel, where I have many relatives. It was nice. It felt very extravagant. I anticipate being able to do this more now that I am no longer going to be flying to Palo Alto several times a year to see my grandma. But, boy, do I miss her and wish I could spend more years of my life going out and seeing her (and hearing her occasional comments about my various "getups") instead of taking these carefree pleasure trips to visit friends!
The second reason that the trip was notable was that I had never been to Georgia before, and was excited about the trip to a new part of the country for me.
The flight down was one of the easiest of my life. Newark was practically empty at 8 am on a Wednesday morning, and the Atlanta airport seemed organized and manageable, if a bit poorly laid-out. People were, indeed, much friendlier than in New York. I was particularly impressed by the person who was standing at the entrance to the MARTA station, helping bewildered tourists use the MARTA Breeze card machines. This, in contradistinction to New York, where there is no one, often even at the "staffed" booths, to help wayward tourists. The only mildly confusing thing about the machine was that there was a fifty-cent charge for the paper card, so it cost $2.00 to buy a $1.50 fare card. It's a nice little incentive for people to reuse their cards, but if they're going to cost fifty-cents, I wish they would make them out of thinner, hardier plastic, or else charge less for the paper cards.
I davened at the Young Israel of Toco Hills, which I found to be a nice, small, warm community. I've been a fan of the sort of projects their rabbi, Rabbi Michael Broyde, works on for awhile, and hearing him speak a few times over the course of Shabbat/Yom Tov did little to dispel that fanhood (fandom?). He was a very clear speaker, who tackled interesting intellectual topics (e.g., whether a Jew can benefit from melacha done by another Jew on Shabbat if the melacha itself was done b'heter, such as cooking food for a very sick person), but also had the distinct unrabbinic ability to laugh at himself (e.g., a joke poking fun at rabbis' empty derashot, based on a verse from Kohelet on the Shabbat chol hamoed Sukkot). Every time I am forced to think (very rarely in shul), I wonder why I don't do it more. Come to think of it, this is also true every time I burst out in uncontrollable laughter.
I spent the long weekend with MUL, DAL, and YYL. (I think DAL's middle initial is A, but I could be wrong.) YYL is just over three years old, and quite delicious. I've known him since before he was born, and he was a sweety pie as an infant, but then went through a few brief periods of being a bit standoff-ish and shy. I never doubted his ultimate affection, but did tire, a bit, of trying to win him over. A few moments stick in my mind:
I always bring him a book. For the past few visits, his parents and nanny have been trying to teach him to wait until I deliver it, and not ask for it as soon as I come in. I didn't give it to him until a few hours after I arrived this time, and he immediately proudly declared, "I didn't ask for it!" It was a proud moment, indeed.
He came over and gave me a spontaneous hug and kiss at least once. There are few things sweeter than a hug from a three year old boy.
He was, within the course of only a few days, a fish, a frog, and a horse. Playing with little kids reminds me of the power of imagination, and how endlessly fun imaginative play is. It also reminds me of being a kid and constructing kitchens out of old Pampers boxes.
We went to Stone Mountain Park, and, among other things, saw a 19th century one-room schoolhouse. He was ecstatic to play the role of teacher! First he taught us how to count until five, and then the letters aleph, bet, gimel, and daled. When asked to teach free-form, he launched into a stern debate about being careful when closing doors and windows, to avoid getting one's fingers stuck in them. I found it interesting that this was what came to his mind when asked to teach. Clearly, the sternly-issued parental safety warnings have sunk in, and this is what he sees as the value that adults (him, in this case) impart to children (me and his imma, in this case). Fascinating. Child development--the actual development of children, not the study of it--is freakin' amazing.
The trip back was less pleasant. I took the MARTA back to the airport, arriving one hour and fifteen minutes before my flight. For some now-forgotten reason, I didn't get into the line to go through security immediately after checking in, but bought and ate some ice cream instead. I guess I got into line about 55 minutes before my flight.
This is the very bad thing about the airport in Atlanta that all of my readers should take to heart: there is one security area for the entire airport, terminals T, A, B, C, D, and E, each with apparently 15-30 gates. This one security area had about five or six open lanes (out of ten or twelve that existed). This includes domestic and international flights. Please keep in mind that Atlanta is Delta's hub, and a rapidly-expanding city in its own right. It took 45 minutes to get through security. (I thus recommend getting into that line at least an hour and a half before your flight, since it can take some time to get to the more distant terminals via train/shuttle and you aren't allowed to board starting 1o minutes before the flight's scheduled departure.) My flight was from terminal B or C, I think. I took the train/shuttle thing from terminal T (where you get out of security) to my terminal and ran to my gate, getting there at 6:43 pm for a 6:47 pm flight. The flight was already "dispatched," and even though the plane was still at the gate, with its door open, we (all of we who got stuck in the interminable security line) were not permitted to board. We were put on standby for the 8:15 pm flight. The guy who was in line right ahead of me got onto that flight as a standby passenger, but I had to wait for the 9:30 pm flight.
I got into Newark at 11:36 pm, got my suitcase quickly (since it came on the 6:47 pm flight, not being stuck in an interminable security line), and hoped to get the 12:06 NJ Transit train back to Manhattan, but, alas, the AirTrain runs on a reduced schedule starting at some hour like 10 pm every night, for daily maintenance. (This makes sense, but wasn't particularly good news for me at 11:45 pm on a Sunday night.) I got the 12:40 am train, and got out of Penn Station after 1 am, at which point I wisely invested in a $25 cab ride home.
I do not know why I have a propensity for remembering all of these random times to the minute, but persist in being unable to remember much more useful things, like words in Aramaic or Spanish, or, occasionally, my own apartment number or phone number. (It does scare me when I can't remember the latter two things. I usually remember them about a second later, but it does make me wonder if I have some undiagnosed neurological problem.)
Also, I just couldn't resist buying this, since it was a favorite of mine when I was seven. (I know that YYL is only three, but, i"yh, he'll be seven before you know it!) I'm glad he likes those two poems! Part of the uproarious fun of Shel Silverstein is the cadence of the poems and how you read them, regardless of the content.