Great Adventure (Passover Edition)

4/24/2008 7:04 AM

We went to great adventure yesterday and had a great time, sort of. The drive through zoo (aka safari) was kinda neat, I especially liked the baboons and the ostriches picking at us and fighting across the yard.

I have to say the experience of going to a zoo in our car was weird, there was something quintessentially American about it, not in the good way. Each pod of people has an experience that is a) isolated and b) tainted by driving (dipped in traffic). The isolation is probably why this is such a popular experience, so you can see the unwashed animals without having to stand next to the unwashed masses. Driving slowly around the track jockeying for position with other (suburban) drivers reminds me too much of rush hour. I know that there were at least two times when people (men) zipped in front of us and kept us stuck where we were or took the spot in front of the (non-human) fauna that we had been waiting for. And don’t even get me started about those people who did open their windows to get better pictures (having reviewed ours I see why now).

I noticed in the various queues for the park (all automotive) that there were a lot of orthodox Jews. I have the middle-class liberal affinity for Hasidim, so I was kind of excited. I didn’t say anything to the kids when I saw a floatilla of four late-model minivans and a couple of nice Acura and Infiniti sedans off to the side of one of the roads with bearded men in white shirts and black hats kibitzing. I thought, “how cool, Hasids, must be because of Passover” (which B&H photo, where I’m buying a new camera soon, has been announcing that they are closed until next Monday for the holiday).

As we jockeyed for position in the next parking and purchasing lines in our car I felt like the park had been reserved for orthodox Jews. There was our car, a mid-90s Continental with Anti-UN bumperstickers and a sea of shiny family cars full of eastern-European Jews in their starched white shirts and modest skirts. Inside the park it seemed like about ¼ – 1/3 of the guests were there for Passover.

Not all of them had the old-world mien of the Hasids. There were more suburban looking men and women with Rangers gear and a couple of hippy families with colorful hand-embroidered yarmulkes that looked more functional and perhaps north-african. There were a few groups of young men who were hip-slick-and-cool, tricked out in the latest oversized warm-up-suites with three day growths and (in one case) black-leather yarmulkes.

The Country Kitchen, off by the waterfront and away from the main-(streetUSA)-drag, had an adhesive sign, not hand lettered, but also not part of the regular signage, that announced that this restaurant was Kosher, and the lines there were long and white-and-black. I wonder if the food there was any less greasy or less expensive. My stomach still aches from the food I ate yesterday.

It was right by there that I saw a young Hasid, say early 20s, who was obviously downsey (had downs syndrome). Ever since I saw the two downs-syndrome kids making out in Madison Square Park in 1984 I’ve had an affinity for this particular sort of “special person.” He was dressed like everyone else but more excited then most of the other orthodox adults there. He was holding his mother or grandmother’s hand and lobbying for some great-adventure-delight or another.

There were folks who looked like they were less into the starched formality of some of the families. While they technically had the same outfits, white shirts, black pants and shoes, fringe dangling off the belts as the others I noticed that they were wearing Marshall’s-type no-iron shirts and black chinos. These families were in marked contrast to the ultra-starched white shirts of the men who had custom slacks (suite-pants) and hand-made shoes. The variations go on and on, and since I am not an anthropologist I’ll leave these distinctions for better suited chroniclers to catalogue.

I will add, however, that two or three times I saw groups of men and boys off to the side, not totally public, but also not quite private, praying in small groups of about 10. The last time I saw them pray, off to the side by the exit, there seemed to be a rave-like quality to the unsynchronized quality of the floating and rocking back and forth that they did. There were a couple of pre-adolescent boys who seemed to have a rhythm of their own that was, well, rebellious, shocking and rocking.

I will spare you my usual anti-amusement-park diatribe, maybe I’ll look for an old one and post it up later.

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One response to “Great Adventure (Passover Edition)

  1. I work in Boro Park which is Hasidim central like Williamsburg. I’ve learned from my Jewish co-workers that there are several sects within the Orthodox community. Some consider themselves ‘modern Orthodox’ which means they don’t wear the ultra conservative and modest all black/white clothes. There are also the groups where the men wear the round fur hats…different from the basic black hat. And always, ALWAYS underneath is the kippah/yarmulke. I’ve tried ultra Kosher or Glatt Kosher versions of food – pasta, pizza etc. and it really doesn’t taste as good as the regular stuff. Probably because of their dietary restrictions w/ dairy. But their food – challah, matzoh, matzoh ball soup, etc. is pretty yummy. Furthermore I found that Glatt Kosher or Kosher (Glatt is a stricter law than regular Kosher) is more expensive. Mostly because the way the food needs to be prepared and that a rabbi serves as an overseer to ensure it adheres to dietary laws.

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