There was a time when you’d make a new friend, and you’d get to know his or her brothers and sisters, father and mother, or children… depending on the ages involved… you’d get to know the family. Today, the family is often a more complicated entity… with a somewhat fuzzy definition. My friend John has a daughter from his first wife, and a son from his second wife, but he’s closest to Annette, his second wife’s daughter from a previous marriage, and she was over having breakfast with him and his present wife Sally the other day when I came over with a recording of Oscar Peterson that John had wanted to hear. Annette had come with her best friend, Miriam, who as it turns out, loves Jazz too. Miriam is Annette’s ex sister in law, because she was married to Annette’s half brother Sam, before they divorced.
Shortly after I arrived, Avigdor, John’s upstairs neighbor came by with Ruthy, his step mother who is five years younger than he is, and they joined us in the consumption of lox and bagels, while listening to the music and telling us exotic tales of intrigue in the world of jazz here in Israel.
Miriam was telling me about the guy who introduced her to Jazz. That was Bill. He had one of the largest collections of CDs she ever encountered, and as it turned out, he was a second cousin of Ephraim… or maybe it was Oscar Peterson who was a second cousin of Ephraim. Ephraim is a disc jockey on radio 88, and his biological mother is Chava, who’s now married to Bill. They have these two boys who are part of the band called the ‘who dunits’, which is quite popular in France and barely known here… or was it Peterson who is well known in France but couldn’t make a living if he were living here…? Forgive me, it’s not that I don’t want to remember… it’s just that life has become a little confusing in recent years.
Well, Miriam was telling me about how much she loved Oscar, and it was only about twenty minutes later that I realized she wasn’t talking about Oscar Peterson. It was when she mentioned that Oscar had died in a motorcycle accident when coming off the freeway in Tel Aviv. I told her that as far as I knew, Peterson had died in Canada in ’07, and I hadn’t heard that he was on a bike at the time… and it turned out that she was talking about Oscar Goldblum with whom she’d had a love affair before marrying her ex, Ilan, who is now married to Hagar, whose ex, Yekutiel has just recently joined the ‘who dunits’ in Paris, and they are thinking of doing a special ‘come back’ concert in Tel Aviv.
While talking of her love for Oscar, she shared with us that his wife Ruby had arranged for a very private funeral service, and none of his old friends had been invited. So Miriam was aching for closure… she told us she felt like she was just hanging in air. John suggested that she might hold a wake for him, and invite all of his old friends. But Miriam said that he had a lot of old friends, and she didn’t know if you could legitimately advertise a wake with a ‘bring your own bottle’ policy. And then Sally suggested that she might organize a minion of ten people and visit the grave and say kaddish there.
My role had been mostly that of a listener up till then. But having gotten completely lost in my attempts to follow the family ties in this story, I tried to approach the subject from a philosophical point of view, and raised the possibility that after the love affair had fallen apart, and both she and Oscar had each found a separate spouse, maybe it would have been best if she had forgotten all about him, and put the memories behind her. ‘Isn’t it better to disconnect when the relationship is over?’ I asked, ‘rather than to feel pangs in the heart each time you see him?’ Looking back, the question was probably superfluous, now that he was in his grave. But the answer I received was unanimous, right across the table. The general feeling seemed to be, the more love, the better. And once you realize that you and that special other weren’t really made for one another, there’s no reason not to be friends… and then there are no heart pangs either.
‘But what about simplicity’, I groaned. How the hell do you remember all of your relatives? I looked across the table, in a vain attempt to find an ally. Sally met my eyes and winked at me as she said, ‘life isn’t that simple anymore’.
The photos here are of a hedonist gathering of friends on the balcony of my new home.