Greek night, twenty years ago
The day of my divorce was completely and utterly miserable, but right now, in this moment, I’m remembering the celebration that sweetened it.
I just looked up the date and discovered that Greek night was actually the day after, not the day of, it was on my birthday, apparently the memories must have merged in my mind, but I like that. It works.
It’s beautiful to me that if I remember the pain of divorce day, I am brought back to the messy joy of Greek night.
Which is also a painful memory but a joyful-painful one, if that makes sense.
It was Srul’s idea, my bestie. I was the one who had introduced him to Thursday night (Greek night!) at Shaul’s, and it was a great and terrible idea, but the terrible is part of what made it great. Srul and I were always on the same page when it came to things that are both funny and not.
Chaotic times chaotic measures
Thursday night was the one night of the week I wasn’t working at another bar, it was my birthday, and I had just gotten divorced the day before.
So of course all I wanted was to sit at Satchmo, the dark, smokey, quiet-jazz whiskey bar in my neighborhood, sit there in the dark, listen to music and be the saddest, but Srul said no, we need wild, celebratory energy, we need to go straight into the madness for this one.
Chaotic times demand it!
Where were we? Chaotic times, chaotic measures. So we crossed “the bridge from heaven to hell” and made our way towards Shaul…
It’s no banana stand but
Shaul’s was kind of a rough pub in south Tel Aviv, very south, practically Jaffa, a little tricky to get to. Rough but not rough like the places that didn’t even have a menu, or a sign outside. Shaul’s definitely had a menu and a sign.
Shaul’s was also not like places that didn’t really have names and were just known as “the Syrian guy” or “the Polish guy”, Shaul’s was definitely no Raffi Bananas which was an actual banana stand, owned by Raffi, though everyone called him Raffi Bananas, who semi-secretly and definitely illegally sold beer at all times of day.
Raffi Bananas, both the man and the location, were unofficial Party Central for the day drinking troublemakers who made it to my bar in the evening.
Anyway, Shaul’s was an establishment among people in the know who wanted the feel of partying at Raffi Bananas combined with generous plates of food and a place to sit, and on Thursday nights at Shaul’s there was live Greek music, and the place just devolved into absolute chaos, I don’t know how to describe it but being there on a Thursday night felt like a party that might also be the end of the world.
Peppers and people-watching
People generally went to Shaul’s for the memoola’im (“stuffed things”, the perfect food group), they stuffed everything there, onions, zucchinis, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant but everyone agreed that the best of the best were the peppers, giant red and green peppers overflowing with spiced meat and rice.
And of course people went to Shaul’s for the foaming-over glasses of beer with shots of vodka on the side, the outlandish cast of characters that made for fantastic people-watching, and the high likelihood of a brawl.
A good place to drink to the great falling apart of [seemingly everything]
To be clear, none of my friends were willing to go with me to Shaul’s, ever.
Even Srul would tell everyone that he didn’t dare go in there without me, and he was Greek-Persian, making him much more likely to be welcome at Shaul’s than I should have been, the half-foreigner with what they called light eyes, too noticeable in every way: too young, too pale, too tall.
(Or, as my nemesis, my rival bartender in that part of town, would say while making a face and rolling her eyes, too long, as in: “Well, Havi is just very long.”)
Not to mention too much of a snotty North Tel Aviv accent which I’d acquired from years of imitating my cousins after being mocked my first day at university for sounding like a farm girl, and then found I wasn’t able to drop it when I started working in the dive bars and urgently needed to.
But most of the people who were there for the chaos of Greek Night knew me from Omri’s, and when I walked in there would be cries of “here’s the mozeget!”, the pourer-of-beer, and the old-timers lined up at the bar always made a point of shaking hands and introducing me to their friends. And if someone didn’t know me and asked what I was doing there, they would be told to shut up, the mozeget can drink where she wants on her night off.
I remember this and the clinking of glasses, the clinking of metal bracelets piled up my arm, the toasts, tears and laughter in the darkness.
To what do we owe this honor?
I got divorced!
Mazal tov, mazal tov, you should be healthy.
The noise, the music, the delicious peppers, the smoke, the hallucinatory nature of it all. Where am I? Where am I and how did I get here of all places?
Where am I
Where am I? Greek night at Shaul’s! A place where my very north Tel Aviv now-ex-husband not only couldn’t find me but would never be able to find me. He would never be able to find me or this place, he would never be able to imagine this place existed.
Even better, if somehow he found out about it, they definitely wouldn’t let him in the door.
Mainly I remember laughing with Srul at the bar, how he put his hand on mine in a quiet moment, “listen, neshama, it will be okay, it will all be okay, I’ll always be your birthday date!” I remember feeling cozy and safe, happy and contained, even after the terrible divorce day, even with all the fear around having to make it on my own for good.
Greek night, and that moment in particular, felt like a sanctuary-moment, both in the sense of safe and in the sense of sacred.
Yes, even in this place of all places, at Shaul’s, on Greek night, knowing that at any given moment we were maximum three seconds away from god only knows what kind of chaos breaking out.
Klezmer music is what I’m thinking of, even though it’s not what we were listening to.
The word Klezmer comes from the hebrew “kl’e” (instrument) and “zemer” (song) fused together to make a new word in Yiddish that sounds nothing like Hebrew.
And I am thinking about klezmer music because of how it can go from raucous to melancholy and back to raucous in a moment, turning on a dime, you’re in one place and then you’re in the other, then back in the first, unsure how you got there, tears streaming down your face, are you happy-crying or sad-crying, how would you even know.
It’s a very Jewish experience but also I know everyone reading can feel the elusive sensation I’m trying to pinpoint and unable to name.
That’s what this particular Greek night at Shaul’s felt like, like a nigun, a repetitive melody that shifts in mood, sometimes steady and calming, sometimes joyous and uplifting, sometimes deeply sad, it covers a lot of ground, even though all you’re doing is a sort of vocalized humming.
Humming our way back to ourselves, sounding our way heartward
If you ever came to a Rally (Rally!) at my first retreat center, the Playground, in Portland, then you remember that we sang nigun versions of sea shanteys, and how thrilling it was.
If you want to feel how a nigun feels, please listen to Batya Levine and friends singing this beautiful nigun for the birthday of the trees, happy birthday, trees, I hum for you always!
And if you want a fun musical rabbit hole to explore, bookmark this fascinating piece about how swing music was born from jazz and klezmer!
Anyway, I am trying to convey the Big Feelings of that night at Shaul’s, the night after my divorce, what I am recalling now on my divorciversary.
Twenty years today
Well, not to the night at Shaul’s, that’s tomorrow apparently.
But today I am twenty years divorced, humming a nigun, feeling the melancholy transform into the zany and back. And then back again.
Shaul’s is not how I’d celebrate now, even not-in-a-pandemic, I’m much more sensitive than I was then, and I don’t do well with crowds, noise, chaos, the sensory overload or the energy overload.
I miss my always-there-for-you birthday friend
I wish Srul were still alive and am furious with him for not being with me, I will never understand how he could have left me, and no matter how much I scream into the void, I receive no clarity, but I know he’d be keeping me company today if he could.
He wouldn’t miss it. So if he’s missing it, then it’s no one’s fault, it’s just sad. Into the chaos we go.
It’s funny too who I miss, twenty years later, not my ex-husband whom I’m not sure I’d even recognize if we passed on the street.
I would like to whisper that to the me of that Thursday night at Shaul’s, so that hurting self might be a little less melancholy, a little less fearful, a little less in the What Have We Wrought.
Things I want me of twenty years ago to know
Aw, babe. You’re the bravest.
It’s gonna be even harder than you think, but you will never, ever doubt that you did the right thing, there will be not one moment, not in the hardest times, when you wish you’d stayed. Brave on, there are some things we regret in life twenty years later, but this has never, not even for a second, been one of them.
What is a feast of liberations?
I like to convene feast days for celebrations, but also for sad days: anniversaries of losses and upheaval, experiences that ask for some sitting-with.
My beloved friend Darcy, whom I first met at one of my retreats all the way back in 2009, I think, holds a Feast of Madelyn each year to celebrate her vivacious mother who loved parties, hosting, conviviality, a great spread. I celebrate Madelyn and the Feast of Madelyn with Darcy from afar. It’s on my calendar of feast days, I’ll tell you more about that some other time.
BLTmas — Brave Little Toaster day, named for this tweet and not for the movie, though BLT can also always double as bacon-lettuce-tomato, I won’t say no to a feast day sandwich, is the feast day I mark when everyone else is busy celebrating Christmas, the loneliest day of the year for me.
On BLTmas, I keep busy making sure I am toasty warm, the coziest most wrapped up precious thing, and that I have the best snacks to get me through the day for I am the bravest of brave little toasters, I am the bravest and the loneliness will pass.
The #itscomplicated of Feast Days
For me, Feasts of Liberations are specifically for days that tend to feel melancholy but also contain a celebratory aspect, some relief, celebrating being free from what was, even if [Mixed Feelings] remain about parts of it, or about the whole damn thing for that matter.
A Feast of Liberations is bittersweet, sad-happy, like a nigun, the #itscomplicated of Feast Days.
I am free of what was, and so I celebrate freedom, and all forms of small symbolic liberations, the letting go that is needed, the releasing that is requested. Sometimes there’s crying.
And there’s food, because even though this isn’t technically a Jewish holiday, it is still a Jewish holiday by virtue of the fact that it is my holiday, I invented it, and it follows the logic of most Jewish holidays: things were not awesome, we lived through it, now we eat.
Eat, eat. Eat and be healthy.
We made it to freedom, and even if it’s still really fucking hard, we’re here, and that counts. It’s a cause for celebrating. Into the chaos. Or into the quiet.
How I celebrate a Feast of Liberations
With food. Waffles are a favorite.
With company, virtual. Checking in with friends, sharing something, asking them to eat something delicious for me or light a candle with me.
I like to go someplace beautiful that calms me if I can. If I’m in Tucson I visit my saguaro friends or walk a labyrinth, if I’m in New Mexico, I drive through Gila National Forest.
Twenty years divorced, today.
A thousand points to me for being so brave and doing what was needed, and facing the consequences, which were somehow even worse than what I’d been imagining in my worst imaginings. The bravest little toaster of all time. Good job, babe.
I don’t feel conflicted about my divorce, I don’t regret it, I also don’t regret getting married, I’m glad I had that experience so I don’t wonder about what might have been, and I never have to do it again. Being divorced works for me. It was a terrible day, and maybe I will tell that story some day or maybe I won’t.
For now, I want to be here, with my warm drink, my warm memories of Greek night. I want to be here, humming a nigun as the sun goes down.
The goddess Nyx
I was looking for a nickname for one of my Incoming Selves, a variation on The Sleek Assassin, but somehow new and different, and then I found myself in a “Greek Night” rabbit hole, and laughed out loud at the accidental double meaning of Greek Night when google misunderstood me.
How could I have forgotten about the Greek goddess of night? Greek: Night!
Of course my incoming is non-binary, but I am okay with goddess as a non-binary descriptor actually. Like assassin.
Nyx and I are going to have a quiet evening at the safe house, we will read cookbooks, stretch on the floor, go to bed early. Today is a quiet feast day, for quiet liberations, and that’s okay too. Twenty years is a long time, and I celebrate differently these days, I do everything differently these days, that’s a celebration too.
Sounding my way heartward, to my heart-self, where I tend to my one true love (me), which involves taking care of younger me (that precious little bean) and attuning to wise, loving-self me, and making waffles when waffles are indicated, crying when crying is indicated, and getting on the floor and rolling around more often than I think is necessary.
Appreciating all aspects of self, the parts that are hard and sad too, but also the ways I have liberated myself and continue to do so, appreciating how sometimes I am The Sleek Assassin or The Formidable Panther, and sometimes the bravest little toaster.
Sometimes a nonbinary goddess and sometimes absolutely losing my mind in grief over my dead friend, sometimes making waffles or driving to be comforted by my beloved saguaro companions, it’s all part of the Havi show. In fact, if the Havi show had a tagline, Feasts of Liberations would be a good one.
Heartward, heartward. We brave our way on. Inward and onward.
Tell me about your feasts of liberations…
What might a feast of liberations look like for you, what feast days are you conjuring and naming for yourself?
I support them all and will happily light candles and eat waffles for your meaningful and/or complicated days!
(I mean that. Let me know in the comments if there’s a date when you’d like me or anyone reading to light a candle or do a something to support your hard or bittersweet day, I will make a note of it and make it happen.)
Celebrate with me. Comments section waffle party!
You are welcome to celebrate my TWENTY YEAR divorciversary (and birthday tomorrow and twenty whole years since Greek Night) any way you like.
With candles or imaginary mind-candles if you like. Eat something delicious, sing a song, hum a hum, visit a place, choose towards comfort, choose towards Greek Night, I welcome it all.
You are also as always invited to share anything sparked for you while reading, or brainstorm your own feasts of liberations.
Thank you for being with me today and this week and at all, thank you.
If you received clues or perspective or just want to send appreciation, I could definitely use some miracles right now with an emergency situation I’m in.
I will happily accept support in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, and it all helps with fixing what needs fixing.
And if you can’t support in that way, you can light a candle for support or light one in your mind, share one of my posts with people, that all helps, and I appreciate it so much. ❤️