Image taken from Creative Loafing
Once upon a time, long before I was a rabbi and a blogger, I was the 23 year old singer for a crappy rockabilly-punk band. Actually, we weren’t crappy. We were amazing. But that’s not the point.
The first show I ever played was at a bar called Lenny’s. It was a dive in the true sense. Crazies, biker guys and of course, hipsters, crammed in a grafittied hole in the middle of Memorial Drive, which was like fly paper for people who want to stick you with sharp objects in return for spare change. It was the venue every city has, the place in the “seedy” side of town where every band gets their first gig, where the audiences don’t give a damn and the PBR is somehow tasty.
Like my old band, the venue shut down. But every day, I pass by its boarded up remains on my way to the PunkTorah office in Grant Park. I have this meditation I do when I see the place: taking a deep breath, I imagine all the memories I had there and at other venues like it when I was young. naive and full of hope, and I take those memories and I swallow them into myself, like I’m absorbing my past that’s evaporating away, and it gives me a shield of armor.
But now Lenny’s is slated for demolition. No more drive-by-reminisence.
Now I find myself with a new meditation, reciting a line of Lamentations (Eicha), a beautiful, sorrowful poem about the destruction of the Temple: “The Lord has rejected His altar, He has abolished His Sanctuary, He has delivered into the hand of the enemy the walls of her palaces” (Lam. 2:7).
Lenny’s was not an altar to anything (at least, anything worth worshiping), but the words of Eicha still resonate. When it gets torn down and turned into a condo complex with studios starting at the low low price of $400,000, would it be proper to rend my garments or sit on ashes in sack cloth? Can you say Kaddish for your memories, even if they are through rose colored glasses?
Rabbi Patrick Aleph is the director of PunkTorah. He was in The Love Drunks, Can!!Can, and now he’s in the band Air Wolves. He wants to be your friend on Facebook.