Gary Epstein
And now for something completely different . . .

Ambulatory Confused

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When I started teaching at Iowa State University some 50 years ago, I earned the less than munificent sum of $8,700 a year. I needed to find a traditional synagogue for Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur and could not afford to travel east. The nominally Orthodox shul I attended during the year allowed mixed seating on the High Holy Days, which was the only time there was a large attendance. On the ordinary Shabbat, the 12 or 15 men who showed up sat anywhere they pleased, and when, from time to time, women attended, they were quite satisfied to sit on the other side of the mechitza.

But Yamim Noraim was a problem. The Rabbi suggested that I speak with the director of the old age home, circumspectly called The Jewish Home for the Aged, who was in the process of searching for someone to lead the services. I immediately volunteered to do everything for free – daven, blow shofar, read the Torah, even deliver a dvar torah if necessary – in exchange for room and board for my wife, toddler son, and myself, a temporary mechitza, and assurance of a minyan. I figured that with my voice and their hearing loss, it was a match made in heaven.

My wife and I accumulated enough funny stories and anecdotes from those three days a year at the moshav zekeinim to last a lifetime – the first was, of course, the Yom Kippur of 1973 and being a young couple with a toddler in a Jewish old age home over a holiday when a war is going on in Israel is an experience that every young couple should have…once.

In this episode of the blog, however, I just want to focus on one term I learned that was used to describe some of the residents: “Ambulatory Confused.” In practice, it meant people who were walking around, appeared perfectly normal, could carry on a conversation, but – how shall I say? – lacked the mental acuity they had enjoyed when they were in their prime.  They were confused; I’m not especially proud of this, but I was mostly amused. I was young, and they were delightful people with lots to talk about and opinions on everything.

Well, what goes around, comes around. At age 75, I find myself ambulatory confused pretty much all the time (well, confused all the time; ambulatory when my stinking right knee behaves). And I can’t figure out whether it’s me or the insane times we are living through.  Plus, as I am about to demonstrate, I talk quite a bit, have opinions on everything, and am frequently confused.

For example:

I met someone who wants me to refer to her as “them.” She are one person. Or, perhaps, they is one person. For God’s sake, I taught English on a university level, and I no longer know how to distinguish between singular and plural in a simple conversation with a…whatever.  In my defense, I think that I could have handled it better had she merely wanted to be called “him.” At least the grammar worked.

If I wear a sombrero and eat tamales on cinco de mayo, or if I wear my still reasonably abundant, if graying, hair in dreadlocks, I am committing cultural appropriation, but if I put on a dress, wig, high heels, and lipstick and enter the girls powerlifting competition – not to mention the girls restroom – that is just peachy. (To be clear, I would have no expectation of winning the powerlifting competition.)

Ambulatory confused.  See?

Most people who oppose capital punishment (i.e., executing miscreants for capital crimes) support unlimited abortion (i.e., executing unborn children for being inconvenient). I know that this is a discussion in which any sensible person would not ever want to get involved, but does that make any sense after, like, the third or fourth month? Please direct any offensive answers elsewhere; I have a fragile ego. And I am confused.

There are homosexual people marching on behalf of Hamas (which would execute them on sight) and denigrating Israel (which is pretty gay-friendly). But then, Jews who are Zionists vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the party of Cori Bush. And see my earlier blog article making reference to “Jews For Hitler.” [“Max, Peter, and Tom,” Published in TOI 2023/11/01]  

The two front-runners for the office of President of the United States of America are Donald J. Trump and Joseph R. Biden. [Pause.] [Consider.] Trump. And Biden.

Each of them is older than I am and that leaves me Ambulatory Absolutely Bewildered.

Iran became chair of a United Nations human rights forum in November 2023. Yes, that Iran. The Iran that kills young ladies if they go about with their hair uncovered. Human. Rights.  Forum. Iran. President Obama’s policies preferred Iran over the only democracy in the Middle East. How could one be ambulatory, or sentient, and not confused?

Being unqualified for admission to an august institution of higher learning apparently qualifies you for admission to an august institution of higher learning. If you are Asian, being more qualified is not sufficient for admission. Being still more qualified is still not sufficient for admission. And if you complain, you are demonstrating your white privilege, even though you are neither privileged nor white.

Speaking of white, my grandson advises me that Snow White is now black. This is not such a big deal, except for the name thing, and the cruelty from the mean girls she – they – would probably have to endure in school. “Snow Black” would be silly and “Coal Black” would be downright offensive. But if they fix the name problem, everything seems fine to me. Maybe Cinderella. Sarah Bernhardt played male Shakespearean leads, including Hamlet. Meryl Streep would be a fine Othello. Susan Sarandon does an amazing Yasser Arafat imitation without even trying. So just Ambulatory Amused on this one.

The marketing geniuses at Bud Light thought it would be a good idea to appeal to their demographic target audience by hiring a slight man pretending to be a woman as a spokesperson.

Jews have lived in Israel for at least 2,000 years; of that, there is ample historical and archeological proof.  King David conquered Jerusalem in 1,000 BC and made it the capital of his (Jewish) kingdom. Islam started in the 7th century, and Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem over 1,600 years after King David.  The Ottomans did not colonize the land known as Israel until the 16th century. After WWI, the British colonized it. After most of the Jews were expelled from their Independent State in 70 AD, there was never an independent State in Israel, except for . . . Israel. Yet the anti-colonials are lined up against the Jews for being colonists, but not the Johnny-come-lately marauding Muslims? The Jews are about as indigenous to Israel as you can get.

And while we’re on the subject, many black people were enslaved and transported to North America. Many Arabs were involved in the slave trade for centuries. Many Jews were integrally involved in the civil rights movement. The Black Lives Matter movement aligns itself with the Palestinians.

Ambulatory. Confused.

People wear camouflage pants in New York City. And, if they are supposed to be camouflaged, how did the people find them to wear in the first place?

Grouping students by ability is racist, unless…it’s by athletic ability, in which case it’s OK.  Hear the NBA breathe a huge sigh of relief.

All women are to be believed, except the inconvenient Jewish ones.

Women buy clothing that fastens in the back. Even if they live alone.

If you unexpectedly stay away from home for three days, your dog is deliriously happy upon your return. Your wife, on the other hand . . .

The New York Times allows Tom Friedman to keep writing the same column about Israel over and over again. Can’t they find anything actually fit to print?

Do Biden and Blinken seriously believe that Israel is fighting this war in order to restore Abbas to power in Gaza?

The LA Times wrote a story about an attack on an elderly supporter of Israel, saying that he was fatally injured when he fell backwards and struck his head against the sidewalk . . . without mentioning that his fall backwards had been occasioned by a blow to the head from a Hamas supporter.

Names of people belonging to certain ethnic or religious groups who commit crimes are typically withheld by the press, presumably because otherwise people might conclude that people from those ethnic or religious groups commit crimes.

Freedom of speech is only protected on eminent college campuses if it is approved free speech. There is no freedom to speak on behalf of unpopular causes. Unpopular speech is violence. Violence against purveyors of unpopular speech is…free speech. Master this and you too can become a university president. In the right context.

Jews can not safely walk on college campuses or in their neighborhoods wearing visible Jewish symbols. [Stop. Read that again. Pause and consider.]

Ambulatory. Confused. And so disappointed. The old Jews in the home for the aged in Des Moines, Iowa would just be shaking their heads sadly. 

About the Author
Gary Epstein is a retired teacher and lawyer residing in Modi'in, Israel. He was formerly the Head of the Global Corporate and Securities Department of Greenberg Traurig, a global law firm with an office in Tel Aviv, which he founded and of which he was the first Managing Partner. He and his wife Ahuva are blessed with18 grandchildren, ka"h, all of whom he believes are well above average. He currently does nothing. He believes he does it well.