Monday, December 31, 2012


I rang in 2012 in Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy.  During the remainder of the year, I taught my first workshops in Brazil, I chaperoned 40 teenagers in Israel for three weeks, and I returned to Italy for two more weeks.  I worked my ninth summer as Director of Dance at Camp Alonim, I got un-engaged, I drove cross-country, and I arrived in Florida in time to help nurse my mom through quintuple bypass surgery.  My road trips took me to and through 21 states in the last three months of the year (and a district and a province!), and I'll watch the calendar turn over with a dear friend in Panama City, Panama.  I turned 35, I dragged a friend through a half-marathon on a whim, I saw the President.  I learned many things, including just how many amazing friends I have all over this country.  As Lewis would say, Dear 2013:  You have some pretty big shoes to fill, but I'm looking forward to seeing what you have in store for me.  

Happy New Year Everyone!  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lila baila!

Um, you know my dear sweet wonderful friend Lila is in the Peace Corps, right?  Serving in Panama?  And that she keeps a blog about it?  And that it's great and you should read it?  Right.  You did.  Ok.

Laila Baila en Panama!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sweet New England; Or, RDB Gets a Tick on Her Back and Almost Dies

So, I'm a little bit behind on blogging The Great Wanderlust of 2012.  I did a decent job with documenting the West Coast Edition of the Teach Erica Something World Tour and summarized road trip one ("up").  Next came the trip cross-country ("over"), which was captured mostly in pictures from here and there, and summarized by the numbers.  Since then...  well, these trips began 9+ weeks and 21+ states ago, so I have some catching up to do.

My first stop on trip three ("down") was the Bardo Farm in New Hampshire.  I was there nearly three weeks and could have stayed much longer. I did quite a lot of learning, and my trip was bookended by two big events:  seeing President Obama on the first day and walking the Manchester City Half-Marathon on the last day!

 In between, I spent a lot of time with great friends, helped (by some vague definition of "help") with an assortment of farm activities, and basically spent as much time with power tools as possible.  Here I am with the log splitter, the chainsaw, and a weed whacker.  Lord, could I even get any handier?

I spent some time shooting guns of all sizes... mostly at paper, plastic, and metal targets, but I did manage to shoot my share of (exploding) zombies at the Zombie Apocalypse party!  

And since I've become a little bit obsessed with PhotoGrid, here's one more collage of me and various farm animals and farm vehicles - a four-wheeler, a three-wheeler, and a two-wheeler.  It's hard to tell how adorable those piglets are from the picture but trust me:  A. Dor. A. Ble.
Other adventures in NH included getting to visit my fabulous cousin, the Deputy Field Director for Training and Internships at Obama For America; helping hold down Shadow, my friend's poor dog, while we extracted porcupine needles from his mouth (ouch!). Oh, and ALMOST DYING FROM A TICK ON MY BACK.  I hope to be back in May :)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Today's lesson - G

The Teach Erica Something World Tour: New England Edition has mostly consisted of teaching Erica to use power tools.  Today, however, something a little bit different:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In a sense, I am Edward Gorey.

An excerpt from Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer:
Of the two men, Gorey emerges as the more avid correspondent, and the more confessional — a startlingly out-of-character turn, given the solitary artist’s notorious evasiveness in interviews and disinclination to answer mail or, for that matter, return calls. In Elephant House, a book of photographs of Gorey’s home, the photographer Kevin McDermott recalls “boxes of opened and unopened mail, much of it from fans,” surrounding Gorey’s sofa. Typically, Gorey replied to such letters, if he replied at all, with a postcard of his own design. Featuring a Gorey cat dozing on top of a mound of correspondence, it informed the recipient, “You’ve written me to no avail, because I never read my mail.” The novelist and critic Alexander Theroux notes, in his memoir of their friendship, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, that the artist’s “doors lacked knobs, and I am convinced they were intentionally left that way.” When the telephone rang, Gorey was often heard to shout, “I am not here.”

Indeed, I am not.

(Also, I may have once memorized The Gashlycrumb Tinies.  But I've since forgotten most of it, and that's a different story altogether.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012


I know there's a perfect West Wing quotation to put here, but I don't know what it is.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


So, having driven cross-country and dropped off the car, my original plan was for Road Trip 3 to begin.  However, I find myself without an actual car, and that makes road tripping a little more difficult.  I'm planning to spend some time out here slowly making my way down the East Coast nonetheless, visiting friends from NH to FL.  First stop:  the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH.  Closed for the season, but we found the yellow wood anyway.

Stats, stet, take two

Road Trip 2 of 3 Complete! 

Number of nights spent at friends' places: 2 (in OK and IL)
Number of nights spent in motels: 6  
Number of states visited:  11! (AZ, NM, TX, OK, MO, IL, IN, OH, PA, NY, MA)
Total miles driven: 3400 (almost exactly the same as trip 1)
Minimum total number of Diet Cokes consumed: no really, you don't want to know
Number of gas fill-ups (but not full tanks): 10
Highest price paid for gas: $3.99/gallon (lower than trip 1)
Lowest price paid for gas: $3.32/gallon (also lower than trip 1)
Average miles per gallon:  29 (in someone's early-2000s Honda Accord)
Number of hours of the audiobook of Game of Thrones listened to: 7 hours, 20 minutes (arrgh)

Number of hours of the audiobook of Clash of Kings listened to: 5 hours, 29 minutes 
(Number of hours of the audiobook of Clash of Kings still to go:  31 hours.  Not gonna happen.  Maybe.)
Number of college campuses visited: 1 (Harvard)
Number of New Jew alumni met, on the other side of the country:  1
Number of speeding tickets received:  0 (Thank God)

So, I completed Trips Up and Over.  Now for Down... and maybe Back!

(I mean, yes, Back, but that'll probably be a flight, not a road trip!)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012



Also:  finished listening to the last ten hours of the first book of Game of Thrones and let me say this:  Fuck you.  HOW ABOUT WRAPPING UP EVEN ONE LITTLE STRAND OF SOMETHING, IT'S CALLED THE *END* OF A BOOK FOR A REASON OMIGOD.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stats, stet.

Road Trip 1 of 3 Complete!

Number of nights spent at friends' places: 13
Number of nights spent in motels: 2 (one on the way up, near Redding, CA, and one on the way down, near Medford OR)
Number of states and provinces visited:  4 (CA, OR, WA, BC [Canada])
Total miles driven: 3300
Minimum total number of Diet Cokes consumed: you don't want to know
Number of gas fill-ups (some only half tanks, though): 11
Highest price paid for gas: $4.39/gallon
Lowest price paid for gas: $3.79/gallon
Average miles per gallon:  33.82 (in my 2001 Toyota Corolla)
Number of hours of the audiobook of Game of Thrones listened to: 22 hours, 45 minutes (still not done, but close)
Number of speeding tickets received:  1 (AARRRRRGGGHHH.  For SUPPOSEDLY going 82 in a 65.)
Number of former students visited on their college campuses: 3 (Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Puget Sound)
Number of books bought from and signed by their authors:  2 (the previously mentioned Enlightening Moments by Gary and Radha Bello, and The Rabbi Wore Moccasins by Arthur Gross Schaefer)

Total number of nights I slept in my own bed until Road Trip 2 of 3 began this morning:  5

Here we go!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Literature is like DNA..."

My last full day in the Bay Area was spent, again, Visiting Former Students At Their Universities.  I went to see the lovely and talented Hannah at UCSC - supposedly the University of California at Santa Cruz, but I can see now why it's often called UC Summer Camp.  Totally different view of the campus than I got at the beginning of this trip when I visited another friend there.

Took some of the apparently requisite Mom-pics...

 I took Hannah with me to dinner with good friends and then dancing at Loui Tucker's Monday night Israeli dance session (yay!) and there, Aaron gave me another lesson:  How to Poach A Pear.  This guy came seriously prepared! 

Which one is the college student?
On Tuesday, I went to my first-ever 8:30am college class, because when I was actually in college, I dropped every single class that started earlier than 10am.  (Nope, still not ashamed.)  I fit right in, no? 
Before hitting the road, Hannah taught me the guitar chords for "Nights in White Satin", one of my all-time favorite songs, and thereby ended the Northwest edition of the Teach Erica Something World Tour.  So happy, so satisfied, so ready for the Cross-Country edition!


Friday, September 28, 2012

Why did Snoop Dogg [Lion] need an umbrella? Fo'drizzle.

 Back to Seattle for a delightful Shabbat dinner and some more lessons, notably...


And then, continuing on with the Tour Of Former Students At Their Universities, I went to Puget Sound to see adorable Shosh and take the sort of pictures of her that her mom would take:

Next, on to Portland solely to spend more time and money than I really had to spare at Powell's City of Books, because, honestly, how could I not? (Did I download (and use!) the app?  Of COURSE I did.)

On the road with my audiobook for the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday.  I MIGHT have gotten a speeding ticket but I MIGHT be pretty pissed about it and not want to talk about it thankyouverymuch.  The redeeming stop for Sunday was dinner with some wonderful old friends from Cambridge, MA - funny that we all live in California now.  They're all married to each other with ADORABLE toddlers... well, almost-toddlers.  Somehow, Sola didn't make it into any of the post-able pictures, but it was so nice to see her and Stephen (and Skyren!) and Jofish and Erin (and Rebecca and Lizzie!), whom you can see here:
Sonata for Ten Hands

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"We'll open the window so you can hear how polite everyone is during the merge."

[For the beginning of these adventures, or Why Is Erica in Canada, see here.]

So, I went to Canada, eh?  I drove up to Vancouver, got a stamp in my passport, and met up with some friends I met last year at Stockton Folkdance Camp.  They are an amazing couple and their house features a living room that looks out onto the harbor... and as soon as I walked in and sat down on their couch, I declared I was never leaving.  

Of course, moments later I was whisked off to a quick tour of the city, a walk across the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a visit to the hatchery where we saw actual salmon JUMPING up the ladder (awesome), a ride up Grouse Mountain on the aerial tramway cable car funicular thing and then an even higher ride up on the chairlift, and then we went even higher higher up to the Eye of the Wind, which the webpage says is "the world’s first and only wind turbine that allows you to stand in a clear glass viewPOD at the top of the tower, three metres from its massive, rotating blades."  Breath-taking and fabulous. On the way down, we saw some bears. Then dinner, ice cream, and we stayed up talking in that greatest-living-room-ever until 2 in the morning.

The view OF the Eye of the Wind
The view FROM the Eye of the Wind

The next morning we walked around Granville Island while the weather was lovely, and just as I left their house to go visit some other friends, it turned overcast.  Once safely inside the other friends' house COINCIDENTALLY JUST DOWN THE BLOCK ON THE SAME STREET, WHICH IS TO SAY I KNOW TWO PEOPLE IN ALL OF BRITISH COLUMBIA AND THEY LIVE ON THE SAME STREET, it began to rain.  I have to say, I really appreciate the way the weather has been working with me on this trip.
The other friends I was visiting were Gopal and Radha Bello, also known as the Swami and the Married Woman, who led the trip to India I went on with my mom in 2010.  I haven't seen them since the trip, and it was just wonderful to see them and catch up and be reminded of some of the enlightening moments I had during that incredible tour.  They signed their new book for me, we chanted the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra (Om Tryambakam, my favorite!) and I drove back to the US.

I will be back, for a much longer visit.  I need to sit in that living room again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What do you call a prune-plum that...

One of the main reasons I set out on this particular Northwest roadtrip was to spend some time with my dear friends in Seattle, Becca and Lior (and Bailey the Cute).  Becca and I go back a long ways and I've spent the holidays with her and her family before.  A noteworthy and memorable item from these holidays?  The 
tzvetchkedaatsche, obviously.  And since it's High Holiday time once again, the Lesson Becca teaches me should surely be how to make tzvetchkedaatsche.

The what?  you may now ask.  Like I said, the tzvetchkedaatsche, obviously.  Pronounced, by Becca and her family, as tsvetch-keh-dah-chi.  Pronounced by me, all these years, as tsvetch-keh-dah-chKi.  I swear that extra /k/ used to be in there, but anyway.  You don't care how it sounds, you still want to know what it is.

It's a German dessert, a Italian-prune-plum tart, obviously.  Sheesh.

Of course, I have failed to find reference to it on the web under this name, but I have found recipes for the cake itself under names like Zwetschgenkuchen and the one at German Pastry Baking, which explains that the German word for the plums is Zwetschgen, even makes reference to topping it off with whipped cream, which they call "Schlagsahne"... and which we call "Schlag".  So, you win some (syllables), you lose some (syllables).

We made the crust first.
Enough about what it's called, RDB, we want to eat already!  Well, so did we, only I arrived in Seattle in time to eat a last supper and go to temple to hear Kol Nidre and then FAST FOR OVER 24 HOURS.  Because what better time to learn to BAKE a DESSERT?
Then I cut a MILLION plums.
We even hand-made the schlag!
Yeah, bad planning.  Regardless, Becca lived up to her promise and we went grocery shopping for ingredients and I learned how to make the tart, all without tasting a thing.  And when it was finally time to taste it, after break-fast at temple and then a seriously yummy second break-fast at an awesome sushi restaurant in town, it proved well worth the wait. 

Soooo....  (you knew this was coming...)

What do you call a prune-plum tart that complains a lot?


What do you call a prune-plum tart that does yoga?




Monday, September 24, 2012

Lessons Four and Five: Singing and Circles

Lesson Four:  How to Breathe.  Or, more accurately, How to Sing.  Or, most accurately:  How to Breathe For Singing.

(No, it's two, two, TWO LESSONS IN ONE.)

We spent Saturday in San Francisco, beginning with an unbelievably ridiculously wonderfully delicious brunch at Wise Sons Deli, half-created and managed by Evan Bloom of Camp Alonim fame.  Which is to say:  this is my friend's restaurant and it's damn good, so you MUST go there when you are next nearby.

A&R in the Fish Viewing Room
We walked around, we visited the pirate ship at 826 Valencia (I was mopped! Why? Why me?), and we went to the Park and made beautiful music together.  Which is to say:  we took turns playing the ukulele, the harmonica, and the flute (recorder?)  that I bought at the pirate ship.

Rebecca gave me a lesson in breathing for singing.  And I gave her a lesson in tap dancing, sort of.  And we danced and sang and the passersby were truly entranced.  ...That we weren't too embarrassed to be doing those sorts of things in public.

On Sunday I hit the road and on Monday I arrived at a friend's house in Bend, Oregon.  She took the crochetting skills I learned from Dani and taught me (TES Lesson Five) how to crochet in a CIRCLE, so I can make the kippot I want to make.  Check out my progress!

Her son, age 11, showed me a coin trick.  And being in the Pacific Northwest, I ate salmon and marionberry (DC mayor, anyone?), as required by law.

Next stop:  Seattle!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Scenes from the Road, Or; RDB gets a little crazy with the Instagram

Spent a quiet lunchtime in Dunsmuir, CA.  Ate the most amazing eggplant sandwich with, what was it, tomato jelly and tamarind glaze?  SO GOOD.  Thank you, Dogwood Diner!

Mount Shasta
Oh yes, a town called YOLO

 This terrific sign is posted all over at a rest stop.  You park, you pee, you go check out what everyone is looking at over by that little wall...

...and you found out that the answer is OH A 300-FOOT CLIFF.  Now you understand.  Dog, get back in the vehicle.

Where are you now, RDB?

Oh, I'm in a...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Teach Erica Something Lessons Two and Three

Man, I love Berkeley.  I'm definitely going there in my next life.

This road trip, number 1 of 3, is off to an amazingly wonderful start.  Great times with good friends and excellent lessons!  Teach Erica Something Lesson Two was how to play the very nerdy game Dominion.  I failed kind of disastrously at my first game, but I still learned how to play, so it counts, and any game in which I can say the sentence "I'm going to Throne Room my Festival to buy a Province" and have it make actual sense is a win in my book.

Plus, I had drank a Whole Entire Beer by time the game was halfway through and for me, that's A LOT.  That's like, RDB's Totally Sloshed (cheap date, anyone?), so I am willing to cut myself a little slack.  Lesson Two was immediately followed by Lesson Three: how to play the ukulele.  The ukulele!!  I learned four chords and one strum pattern, and apparently I can play about half of North America's popular music with just that.

So fantastic.  And that whole day began with an extremely exhilarating ride on a friend's motorcycle.  We ride for a little bit and he says to me, "Isn't it nice to remember you have adrenaline?"