High Holidaze reminds me of the time I brought a gun to Shul. I was in high school at the time and like a good Jew I took full advantage of my birthright to slack off while the sad goys were forced to work. Never a believer in the concept of private property, shoplifting (in addition to book thieving) were my favorite teenaged pastimes. Finding myself alone on the Day of Atonement in an unattended costume rental shop I sensed opportunity. This was the era wherein I wore women’s scarves wrapped around my head as an advanced turban fashion statement. I’ll never forget when a shirtless muscle jock at the bar inquired sneeringly if I was a “Paki”. I butted my cigarette out on his pec, saying: “this is for the Pakistani people of the world.” That was when you could smoke in bars, and why he didn’t punch my lights out I’ll never know, but I digress.
Exploring the racks of rental costumes I came upon a pair of ass-less leather cowboy chaps, I’d struck gold. I whipped open my knapsack and spirited them inside. The chaps felt heavier for some reason and there was a stiff object in the bundle, but as all shoplifters know – you gotta move fast, get in and get out. I was outside and walking quickly down the back lane when I reached in the bag to finger my new treasure. That’s when I first felt the cold steel of the starter pistol attached to my new cowboy outfit. The revolver was realistic, and holding the heavy weight of it in my hands sent a shiver down my spine. But just as soon as I was over the shock, I forgot all about the firearm and wandered through the city with my schoolboy’s bag on an autumn’s flâneur.
Passing the hospital where I was born and the library where I was wanted for unreturned books, I crossed the bridge approaching a synagogue that was the site of many a peer’s bar mitzvah, and my graduation from Hebrew school. It was the rich people’s Shul, and from the bridge I saw many freshly waxed Lexerim ve Lexerot pulling up for the penitential prayers. I thought – jeez, maybe I should listen to the Shofar and repent for my thieving, perverted ways. Earlier that year a Turkish synagogue had been firebombed and unbeknownst to me local Jewish community sites had private security for the holidays.
On that warm afternoon I was dressed in a zoot suit with a black turtleneck sweater and shady Rayban sunglasses. Feeling very cool, but in reality a little sweaty, and with my dark olive complexion looking every bit the terrorist, I was stopped by security as I mounted the stairs asking to examine my bag. Remembering my loot, and feeling nauseous karma wash over me, I suggested that he might want to hang onto my bag while I prayed because there was a gun inside. I had scarcely said the word gun when the contents were scattered on the parking lot and I was strong-armed down to the synagogue’s boiler room. This is Canada, people don’t wander the streets with guns the way folks do down south – I was in deep shit.
Examined and cross-examined by the rent-a-cop and the president of the board of the synagogue (“do you know how many old people would have heart attacks if you walked to the bima with a gun?!”), no one would believe that I was a Heeb, and a B’nai Brith Youth Organization alumnus, and the son of a prominent local Marxist Yid. It wasn’t until my dentist from the congregation was summoned to the basement that my identity was confirmed, and I was ushered to the backdoor, asked never to return. I threw the gun into the river and later that night at the bar where I worked as a busboy my Hebrew school classmates whispered nervously, the word “gun” on their lips. Finally one of them mustered up the nerve to say: “Shana Tova, Noam.”