11 July 2017

The Place to Take Children in Portland that You Haven't Thought Of

I've had occasion recently to visit a couple of shiva houses and I've been thinking of King Solomon's statement (Koheles 7:2) that it's better to visit a house of mourning than one of feasting. I was kind of reluctant to visit the first one -- "I am going so the mourner can talk about the person who passed away but others there are going to make small talk, it's a long walk, it's raining, there's a lion in the road, do I HAVE TO??" and yes, yes I did, so I went; and I was glad I did; the mourner was telling stories about her mother, and what it is like when someone passes away, and what it's like for the family, and it was a meaningful experience for all of us.

Fast forward to a recent trip to Portland.
My mother proposed that we ride the tram that flies across the city on a cable, which was built ten years ago to transport hospital staff from one OHSU campus to another. The ride is a few minutes long and quite beautiful, and we all enjoyed it, although Loops thought it would be more like a roller coaster and said she thought it ought to bump a little more. You can see all the mountains, even Mt. Adams; and I noticed for the first time that Portland's Mt. Tabor closely resembles the original Har Tavor in Israel; and the area below the tram is the old turn-of-the-century Jewish neighborhood of Portland, which is nice to look down on; and if you, reader, are wondering along with everyone else who rides the tram what the big round building you passed on the OHSU tram is, I can tell you: it's a synagogue built by Jews from the Isle of Rhodes, still in occasional use and known affectionately to the community as "the beehive."

Once we got off the tram we stayed in the station for another cycle to watch how the mechanism works (I'm glad we rode it before I saw that the whole thing boils down to just three wires - it's very elegant) and then we discovered that a set of stairs leads down from the tram to other parts of the hospital.
The best banister to slide down in Portland is the one in the Hilton hotel downtown; the second banister disappeared in a remodeling years ago and the third (the Keller Auditorium) and fourth (the Arlene Schnitzer) are nothing too out of the common; so I am pleased to tell you that the new banisters up at the OHSU tram station are almost as good as the one at the Hilton, better than any other banisters in town for sliding down.

Should you be weighing the merits of taking children for a ride on the tram (and down the banisters), the factor you haven't considered is that the tram station was built as an addition to the Doernbecher children's hospital and that of all the wonderful things we did that morning (it's only early July but the salal berries up there are already ripe -- OH JOY), walking through a children's hospital en route was an unexpected but very important experience for my kids.

There are exhibits in the halls of art by the children in the hospital and their families. A thousand paper cranes... sneakers the children designed that were made by Nike... and installations in memory of others.
It's all very beautiful and well-designed (children's hospitals usually are) and it served as a good opening for conversation with Loops.

Highly recommended.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living shall lay it to his heart.בטוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל בֵּית אֵבֶל מִלֶּכֶת אֶל בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כָּל הָאָדָם וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ:

16 June 2017

35 by 35 no. 32: Frock Coat - !

32. Frock Coat.
This really deserves a post of its own, I'm so pleased with it.

One of the aesthetic perks of orthodox Judaism is that we've never entirely discarded the frock coat. Especially in Israel, many outstanding Torah scholars (and married men in the Ponovezh yeshiva) still wear them.

To me the acme of sewing is frock coats. They are tailored, lined, and beautiful; and to get a good one you employ all kinds of exotic techniques, e.g. ironwork -- shaping wool with an iron -- which is more sculpture than sewing. Sewing a frock coat is not even on my wish list.

Nevertheless, frock coats lately took on a certain urgency to me because of a discrepancy in children's clothing. It's not hard to find nice dresses for girls -- there will always be someone in the world selling full-skirted jumpers. But even formal little boy clothing almost always looks to me like loungewear - polo shirts and cargo pants, &c. So from the time we had a member of this family in need of little boy clothing (ahem! mazel tov), I have been thinking that this child REALLY needs either a smock or a frock coat; and since smocking is a delicate operation, I settled on a frock coat as the simpler project. Because in my head that makes sense.

I have the Laughing Moon pattern, #109, which came in very handy for understanding what shapes I needed and how to fit them together. A frock coat is really a beautifully constructed garment; there is a single pleat giving the whole thing its frockiness.

The victim was asleep. I laid a roll of tracing paper on him, hoped he was symmetrical (since I wasn't going to wake him up to get the measurements in back), and scribbled.

Lesson no. 1: Swedish tracing paper, which is almost a fabric itself, is a wonderful thing for drafting patterns for small children who think tracing paper is lunch.

Three Swedish tracing paper muslins later (Lesson no. 2: children are not symmetrical), I had a frock coat.
I left the back seam closed all the way down, since I thought tails might impede crawling. This is a problem roshei yeshiva tend not to have.
I used a single layer of cotton. We'll save ironwork for another lifetime, I think.
I sprinkled buttons all over it and off we went.

Of all my sewing projects so far, this might be my favorite. Frock coats are beautiful things. Frock coat construction is a beautiful feat of engineering. More than anything else, though, the entire time I was sewing, there floated through my mind the classes of my teachers in Israel who wear them -- Rabbi Orlowek, for instance.

Here are the HSF details:

The Challenge: To be honest, I didn't make this for an HSF challenge. It's just another foray into historical sewing. I'm sure no one ever dressed a baby in a frock coat.
Material: Navy blue cotton.
Pattern: Laughing Moon no. 109... sort of.
Year: The present, if you're Jewish (and an adult -- making a frock for a baby is just my idea of a good time), and 1870 or so, if you're not.
Notions: Ninety gazillion buttons.
How historically accurate is it? The shapes are all there but, you know, it's baby-sized and unlined and cotton. So... not very.
Hours to complete: about a week.
First worn: Purim. But he wore it every Shabbos after Purim until he outgrew it.
Total cost: just the buttons.

35 by 35 nos. 28-31: doll, doll, doll (do we see a pattern here) (no pun intended), skirt.

Sewing again

Today's discovery in the Wait, What? Dept.; also, Jewish utopian communities, farming and otherwise

"Jew Valley is a basin in Lake County, Oregon, in the United States.

Jew Valley was named for a colony of Jewish farmers who settled there in the early 20th century."
(Thanks Wikipedia)

Wait, what? I grew up in Oregon and I never heard of this.
Apparently the colony, founded by 25 families 'including a shochet,' experienced success for a few years before disbanding.

Speaking of utopian Jewish farming communities... there's a new one in the offing:

The "Frum Farm"

I spoke with the family behind it & it seems to be quite a serious endeavor.

Of course, to me one paradigmatic utopian Jewish community that I never got to see (born just slightly too young; nuts!) is Rav Bulman zt"l's kehilla in Migdal haEmek.
Here's one article that mentions it briefly: by Mrs. T. Katz.

And before that there was Frankfurt.
This is a wonderful, sparkling article about Frankfurt: Hermann Schwab's memoirs