Al Seckel was a collector of and author of books about optical illusions. Back when the giant redwoods were saplings and I was an undergraduate, I took a series of biomedical engineering classes, one of which involved sensory and motor systems. Aside from getting to play with some intelligent prostheses (remember the Boston arm?), we had problem sets that involved predicting what an optical illusion would look like, essentially by taking its convolution with a model of the human visual system. I still think that was one of the coolest engineering classes I took at MIT. (The coolest class I took overall, however, was Evil and Decadence in Literature, but that’s another matter.)
And then there’s Yogi Berra. True, he played for (and managed) the Source of All Evil in the Universe. At least he also managed the Mets. Aside from being notable as a catcher, he was (of course) well-known as a folksy and humorous philosopher. I cannot tell you how many times (admittedly as a Red Sox fan), I have taken comfort from knowing "it ain’t over till it’s over." And, like Yogi, on weekends I often "take a two hour nap from one to four."
Yom Kippur: Wednesday was Yom Kippur. It was also (part of) the Pope’s visit to Washington. I considered just going to Shoreshim (which is in Reston, so well away from any potential chaos), but I was reasonably sure I would be disappointed in their abbreviations to the services. So I bit the bullet and went downtown to Fabrangen.
(I should interject that I had a similar situation some years ago. Pope John Paul II visited Boston during Yom Kippur in 1979. I don’t remember any particular impact on the area around the Vilna Shul on Beacon Hill, other than the joking about saying "Gut Yontif, Pontiff.")
Anyway, it turned out that the metro was not the nightmare everyone feared it would be. Not that it was perfect, as they are still dealing with some track issues that will probably have the Orange Line (and Blue and Silver) with fewer trains than scheduled for the rest of our natural lives. (I think they said about 6 weeks, but they said that the weekend track work they have been doing for the past decade would take a year.) But I got there reasonably close to the beginning of services, which is, as Jewish time goes, early. (Note, however, that they were starting late, because of the Pope’s visit.)
So… let’s see. Mostly closer to traditional service than Shoreshim. A bit too much showiness in some singing, e.g. rounds, which are a hard thing to do for those of us who are not inherently musical. Leaders for some sections were too chatty, but that’s kind of okay on Yom Kippur because it’s not like you’re trying to get out of there to get to a meal. Some of the things people said did resonate with me, e.g. the image of Japanese pottery in which cracks are filled in with gold to create a beautiful new object. And a poem (in the lead-in to Yizkor) that had to do with ironing underwear. My favorite part of the service was an addition to "Al Chet" (the list of sins we ask forgiveness for) which was written by members of the congregation. My least favorite was that they used a Reconstructionist machzor mostly, but not completely, leading to a lot of page-flipping to an additional book. (This is a common problem, by the way, but it still drives me nuts. It’s hard enough for Little Miss Short Attention Span here to pay attention to where we are without us suddenly being 100 pages away.) No musical instruments, at least, though there were microphones. And they have the entire congregation bless one another, instead of having the priestly blessing, so lose both tradition and drama. (I am more comfortable with skipping it altogether, actually, but really I want it done correctly, i.e. traditionally.) I left at Mincha, since I can’t lose on Jeopardy again by not knowing Jonah. And I needed a nap.
Overall, I’d say it was a reasonably satisfying and reasonably meaningful service.
I’ll also note that there is a part of me that expects to hear the High Holiday liturgy in my grandfather’s voice, since he was generally hired to do that at our shul when I was growing up. And then, it’s been a lot of years, and I can’t really remember his voice all that well. I actually remember it best on something entirely non-liturgical. I used to play the piano for him to sing Yiddish songs to, because my brother was too showy and impatient to accompany other people when we were kids. (I assume he has gotten past that, since he plays in bands and does sing-alongs.) So I think particularly of Grandpa whenever I hear the song "Papirossen." Somewhere I have a recording of him. I need to find that.