Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mercaz Mystery - Solved

It is July, 2008. I rarely think about Mercaz HaTorah anymore, even though I am a mere 30 minute drive away from 17 Ein Tzurim. It is the past. A few weeks earlier a seminary girl visited us for Shabbat, and without knowing I was a Mercaz Alum, told us her boyfriend of four years attends Mercaz. When she learns that I am a Mercaz alum who ditched his hat the day he left Mercaz, she breathes a sigh of relief, and hopes her boyfriend does the same. I don't tell her that he is much likelier to drop her, as the hat is something he picked up this year. But other than that, Mercaz is the past.

Or so I think.

I check my email and get a comment from Deenz on an old Mercaz post. She loves the blog she says, but I am wrong when I wrote that Boomer never got anyone kicked out of Mercaz. She claims that her friend, "L," was very close to a Mercaz boy, who she calls "K." At some point, she says, "K" was busted by boomer and kicked out of Mercaz. The only other clue she leaves is that "K" had a funny last name.

I wrack my brains but can't think of "K." There is only one "K" I vaguely remember, a guy named Kestenbaum. We were in different circles, but I doubt he is the one.

There are not many Mercaz people I am still in touch with, but there is Lippy. He loves traveling down memory lane, and I send him an email. Did you ever hear this story, I ask. No, he answers, and asks if I am sure it is from our year. I leave a comment for Deenz, wondering if she will come back and answer. She does, and confirms that it is 1991-92. She adds a bit more information. The boy is from New York, she says, and was a total Mercaz Cutie.

I expand the circle to include David and Yitzi. David expands it one step further, adding Stretch and Yehudah. Between the six of us, we have never heard the story, and cannot think of who the mystery “K” is.

We contact our Mercaz Alumni rep, asking for a roster of our year under the premise that someone is trying to get in touch with someone. The emails start flying back and forth. Many of us have fallen out of touch, but the rhythm between us returns. Smart ass answers, and then a guess. Donny King, says Yehudah.

In the meantime, I have opened an email chat with Deenz. She has confirmed that it is Donny King. But she does not tell us the story of how he got kicked out. Only that she thinks that he was the victim of geography, and used to hang out with a Machon Gold girl in her seminary named Lisa.

Emails continue to fly between me and my old Mercaz buddies. No one has been in touch with King since our Mercaz days, and no one knows how to reach him. Oddly enough, Yehudah sends out my original email to Dudi, a friend who did not attend Mercaz.

Dudi, it turns out, has been friends with King, and sends the email to him. King replies to Dudi, who forwards it to me, and soon, Donny King and I have opened up an email conversation. Yes, he confirms, Boomer caught him and another guy, Edward Z at the mall in Talpiot.

The day began in Netanya, where two girls needed to be pulled out from the undercurrent by lifeguards. I was not there, but arrived in Netanya after the girls had been rescued. My friends and I spend the night in Netanya. We are not friends with King, and did not know he was there. He returns back to Talpiot, and goes with Edward to the mall to shoot some pool.

They were alone in the pool hall, during Bein HaZmanim. It is the very beginning of the spies in Mercaz. When they are approached by Boomer, they ask, beg, plead with Boomer not to turn them in> He seems to waver about what he is going to do, but then reports them anyway. As they leave, they bump into two other Mercaz guys. They warn them about Boomer, and the other boys flee.

They are summoned to the Chief’s house, and wait in a small room, cell-like in nature, and wait. The first student, Edward Z is called into the dining room and chewed out by the chief. Then the chief calls Donny in to his office. He is more resigned with Donny, and tells him that Donny is like a son to him, and he is kicking him out. There is no yelling. The chief says that they can stay in the dorm for now, but he will help the boys find an alternative yeshiva.

Succos Bein Hazmanim ends, and the chief calls Edward and Donny into his office. He has reconsidered, and will allow them to stay in the yeshiva under the following conditions. They must sleep at a kollel man’s house, Bodkins, and must pay him $100.

They accept the terms and move in with Bodkins. They have avoided ouster. Time passes. One Saturday night they King arrives at Bodkins house. Bodkins is getting ready to go spy in town. Where were you, he casually asks. King tells him the truth. Ben Yehudah street. They both laugh. Bodkins does not believe him.

King continues on in Yeshiva, and strikes up a friendship with Machon Gold girls. Sixteen years later I am impressed with his sac. After nearly being thrown out, and certainly put on probation, he had every reason to hide in the Beit Medrash and ride out the year. But he does not. He manages to get involved with a Machon Gold girl, and while he and Deenz dispute the nature of his relationship with Lisa, there is no doubt that he put himself out there.

Sixteen years have passed, and there is still much bitterness toward Boomer and Bodkins. But I notice something interesting as these various conversations unfold. Donny tells me that the night Bodkins turned on Yonaton, he told Bodkins that he ruined someone’s life. I am still in touch with Yonaton, not as often as I would like to be, but enough to know that in no way was his life ruined by getting kicked out of Mercaz. I wonder if any of the drama we create for ourselves in Yeshiva really matters at all.

We had fun, and expanded the boundaries that Mercaz laid out for us. But after all this time I have come to realize that the mistake Mercaz made happened long before the spies and the threats and the drama. It happened when they let too many of us in who didn’t belong there. On paper, we may have fit the Mercaz mold, but when it came down to reality, most of us were not Mercaz material, and both us and the Yeshiva would have been better served if we went elsewhere.


Blogger Just Shu said...

Not really relevant to the post, but did I tell you that I bumped into Lippy when I was STL a few weeks ago? He wasn't thrilled that I was walking around with a Tigers hat the day the finished Tigers taking 2 out of three from the cards

July 13, 2008 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not really relevent to trhe post either, but did I tell you that the other year I was at game 3 and 4 of the World Series when the Redbirds ate Tiger for dinner

July 13, 2008 8:58 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

AirTime: Totally. Awesome. Post.

I love your merkaz posts.

July 14, 2008 8:58 AM  
Blogger David said...

I'm sorry....did you really say that you were "impressed with his sac"?? I think I lost you there.

July 14, 2008 10:50 AM  
Blogger Air Time said...

Dudi -

Admit it, you're impressed with a guy who almost gets kicked out of yeshiva and then ups it to the next level.

July 14, 2008 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why cant I remember most of the guys you were talking about? And an FYI about being busted. Boomer busted me once on BH and didnt say anything, but Bodkins caught me at the mall in Talpiot and reported me but I managed to stick around. I think you know all this but I thought I would throw my 2 cents in.


August 04, 2008 7:19 PM  

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