Monday, October 26, 2009

My Own Private Housing Crash

I'm like Chairman Mao. I win hearts and minds and I live off the land in my little hovel. I devote myself to providing good blog posts for the community so they can have something to share with each over the dinner table.

During my first year in Los Angeles, I lived in my car for six months. I crashed with friends. Finally, I found a Holocaust survivor with about 25 cats. I lived with him for $200 a month in exchange for cleaning up after the cats twice a day.

He was crazy and set the place on fire. It did not endear us to the other tenants.

In the summer of 1980, my father lost his employment with the Seventh-Day Adventist church. My family moved from Pacific Union College in the Napa Valley, where we were renting, to the Auburn area, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range 45 minutes drive north of Sacramento.

My father set up his own non-denominational evangelical Christian foundation Good News Unlimited.

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I'm reading this new book by economist Thomas Sowell — The Housing Boom and Bust.

From 2000 to 2005, the average home price in the United States increased by one-third. Millions of Americans began using their homes as ATMs, getting credit lines from numerous banks to pay off their other debts (whose interest was not tax deductible, only mortgage interest payments are deductible). Then in 2007, it all crashed.

* One of the consequences of reselling mortgages — almost all mortgages banks make are sold to such institutions as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — is that banks have little incentive to be careful about the financial qualifications of people it loans money to.

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For more than a decade, US newspapers have editorialized that banks are more conservative than they should be about lending money to blacks. The current foreclosure debacle suggests otherwise.

A 1991 Federal Reserve study found that blacks and whites with the same income had different mortgage loan acceptance rates. Is this racism? It's not clear. Income is only one factor in determining whether someone is a good bet to repay a mortgage loan. Blacks and whites with the same income tend to have very different levels of wealth.

The same Federal Reserve study found that whites were denied conventional home loans more often than Asians and resorted to subprime loans more. This fact did not make it to most news reports.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Fantasy Girl

Josh emails: I met Jane* at UCLA in the fall of 1988. She was a compact, busty Christian from Asia. She played tennis. She was the sweetest girl. She had this shy retiring smile that would send her eyes way to the side. I often felt that she wanted to reveal more of herself to me, but as she sensibly pointed out when I started flirting with her, “You have a girlfriend.”

Many times when I was having sex with my girlfriend, I imagined I was with Jane.

I feared it would never happen, but a man can dream, can’t he? Those full breasts. That snug bum. That backhand. That innocence. That Christianity. I wanted in.

When Chronic Fatigue Syndrome forced me to leave school, I moved back home with my Christian parents, embraced Judaism, grew a beard, answered their phone “Shalom” and fantasized about Jane.

I wrote her a couple of times a year and on average she wrote me back once a year.

I became really religious. I abstained from tying my kangaroo down for 14 months straight. I refused to shake hands with women. I was going to be the real Jewish deal.

Then I met a Jewish girl with E-cup breasts. My resolve faded.

I plooked her constantly until I met someone hotter and then I plooked her until she gave me the boot and then I bedded a half dozen more women until partially recovering my health and moving to Los Angeles in March 1994.

One day in April, Jane came to visit me. I had a friend’s place in Westwood all to myself. I felt as triumphant as Douglas MacArthur returning to the Philippines. I had proven it was not all psychological. I was a warrior and I had returned home for my prize.

Jane wasn’t as hot as she used to be but she was still my fantasy.

We sat outside on the deck. The sun shone upon us. As was my tendency, I turned the conversation towards sex. Jane looked at me, leaned over and kissed me.

I kissed her back. Then I gathered her in my arms and walked her towards the bedroom. I took off her clothes. Everything was possible, I thought. I can resume a grand life, an even better life than I had before illness. I finally had those breasts in my hands. I was all over her.

She had hinted that she was a virgin, which only made her all the more exciting to me.

She opened up to me. Then it came time for the ultimate deed and it was awful. It was the worst sex of my life. “This is what I’ve been fantasizing about for all these years?” I thought. "I'm sure there's a religious lesson here."

After several failures, I told her, “You’ll have other lovers and it will be better for you as you go along.”

Our communication was excellent. I told her I’d been fantasizing about her since the day we met. She was confused. How could I feel that way when I had a girlfriend?

I told her that the heart has reasons of its own that the mind will never understand.

She shared her fantasies. She had never seen a guy *** and was dying to. I promised her I would show her, but somehow I never got around to it.

One night my former girlfriend from UCLA came over with a bag of potatoes. It didn’t take much effort to get her into bed. The *** was very good. She knew what to do. She knew how to maximize my pleasure.

Afterwards, she asked me, “How many women have you been with since me?”

“About ten,” I said. “How many guys have you been with?”

“One,” she said. “Those other girls, they taught you well. You used to be really awkward.”

The next day Jane came over and we spent the night. In the morning while I was shaving, I looked at the ****** and thought about how easily I could fulfill her fantasy. All I had to do was to take a ****.

Then Jane asked me, “What are we?”

“We’re daytime friends and nighttime lovers,” I said.

“Have there been other lovers?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

The next time she came over, she said she couldn’t see me any more. She said I was bad for her.

I never saw her again.

Ten years passed and I Googled her name and emailed her. She made a short reply, mystified about why I would contact her. I wrote back. She did not reply.

A few more years passed and I emailed her again. She did not reply.

According to Google, she has not married.

I wonder if she’s ever seen a guy ***.

Feedback: I want to know how her being Christian was also an aphrodisiac.
I want to know if the sex helped him recover his health. Did he feel like he was getting away with something? Did he feel like he was a different person when he was having sex? Did he feel ashamed? Was it OK?
What would the Torah say? Did that contribute to the bad experience?
Why did she bring the potatoes? Did one or both of you find that sexy? Was she some Russian farmer's daughter?
Why didn't he *** for her? What was his fascination with her? We never found out after the fantasy. What did she represent to him?
I want to know his reaction when his ex-girlfriend told him, you used to be really awkward.
Was there ever love? Is there union between his religious devotion and sex? Does he have to compartmentalize?
I'm an ignorant Jew and I don't know what Orthodox Judaism has to say about sex outside of marriage. I'm guessing he's breaking the rules. Does that add to the excitement? Does he feel guilt or shame? Does he think his religion is unrealistic? I want to get the context. The narrarator is obviously very devout and has made lots of sacrifices. How does he navigate all of this and what is he really looking for? I want to know what's in his mind and what's in his heart moment to moment. How is he able to captivate these women? (I should list off why all the different women I've known have decided to sleep with me. How did I get them into bed?) Does he understand women? Do they scare him? Are they triumphs for him? I want to know where he puts all this. Has he given up looking for a wife?
Religion and his parents and the path he took and why. How much introspection has he done about that, about his choices.
She was a Christian girl.
"Yes, I became really Orthodox when I moved back home to my Christian parents." I'd love to know his motivation.
Have any memories come up while you were listening to this? Any images come up?
Yeah, she was the attainment of all the hot girls I never got to ****. The girls in high school and the girls in church and the girls in college and the girls on TV and in movies and magazines and pornos. Now I was finally doing it to the beauty denied me all my life. After a lifetime of girls saying no to me, starting with my mother croaking on me at age four, here was the real deal.
I'd love to know more about that and what she meant to you and the reality of that and the disappointment. What was he still hoping to find and to recover by continuing to contact her? Maybe we'd both gotten better at sex and we could have a joyful and pleasurable reunion and salve our pains through sex.
Was there any emotional connection?
And if he was that obsessed with her, didn't he want to show her her fantasy as a way of hooking her in? Does he regret that?
Did she live in a cave? Did she never see her father when she was little? What is that innocence? Was it almost a biology lesson?
Your strength as a writer is that you don't sugarcoat things. You're telling what is instead of what you think is acceptable for women to hear. That's what makes your writing riveting. We're getting to eavesdrop and hear the truth.
What was the meaning of the E-cup breasts? What do they mean? What do breasts mean? The ultimate fantasy of bigger than big? Machoness? Conquering? This is the best thing since Angel Food Cake?
How did you learn to improve as a lover? I took my time. I lavished attention on her body. I stroked her. I got her ready. I didn't rush to intercourse. All those years I yearned for sex, now it was here and I was learning to take my time and to enjoy it and to share my joy.
How does he understand that? How does it affect his identity?
How did I feel when she did not respond back? I am used to women saying no. It is women saying yes that is noteworthy.
We never heard love.
What made the sex so lousy?

My First Time

Josh emails: Within seconds of meeting an attractive girl, I get a feeling about whether or not I’ll be able to sleep with her and how much effort it will take to accomplish this. I can be a bit of a womanizer but I am a very lazy one. I prefer to save my energy for writing rather than seducing.
My intuition has rarely been wrong. I’ve never bedded a woman who I initially determined was out of my league. I have, however, managed to bollix up numerous potential seductions by being too crude, too forward, too shy, too wimpy, too aggressive, or just plain too Josh.
I’ve always feared women. I’m scared by how much I want them. I’m scared by how awkward I can feel around them. I’m scared by their ability to cut me down and blow me off.
It’s much easier to masturbate to pornography. Starting in 11th grade, I kept a collection of Penthouse and Hustler magazines in the bushes outside my home to visit as the need arose.
I kept myself very busy after high school, so busy I was rarely in a situation to lose my virginity. When my one chance arrived on New Year’s Eve 1986, my hands were so cold from the adrenalin coursing through my system that they freaked her out when I applied them to her chest and I got no further.
In February 1988 my life slowed down forever when I came down with what doctors later diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. From here on, I would spend half of my life in bed.
I figured I might as well make the most of it.
I transferred to UCLA in the fall and lived on a special quiet floor in ***** Hall for serious students. I met a girl from Asia. She became my first.
We got together the week of Valentine’s Day, 1989. I was 22.
We spent our first night together. The next evening, my roommate was gone. This would be it.
I had hoped for more from my first. I had hoped for a beauty or at least a brain. I had hoped for a woman who’d become my wife and the mother of my children. I had hoped for a woman I could show off.
She was nothing like what I had hoped. She was just sweet and cuddly and most important of all, she was willing.
I had talked a very big game at UCLA, pretending that I was the biggest stud in the world. I had read lots of books about sex. And magazines. I’d watched porn movies. I’d tied me kangaroo down sport from the age of 16, sometimes three times a day.
Now I headed down to the scary zone. Oy, how it smelled of rotten fish.
I’m a vegetarian. I have a very delicate sensibility. I have vaginaphobia.
She was embarrassed and pulled me up.
I tried to slide inside of her but it was no go. She was dry. Even though I knew it could damage the condom, I generously applied Perfect Choice Dry Skin Lotion. I was frantic to succeed in this last area of manly endeavor left to me, but it still wouldn’t work.
She took charge and put me on my back. She lay on top of me and with her little hands guided me inside of her.
Now I was a man.
I hugged her and we laughed and talked for what seemed like 30 minutes. Then she waved her hands for me to finish. I did quickly and felt glorious.
As has become my lifetime practice, I got off the bed quickly and went to wash my hands. Outside my door in the hallway, I ran into friends who’d overheard our exertions. One guy, Tom, a fellow Asian, high-fived me by the sink. My new girlfriend, however, he could not look at for the rest of the school year.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do You Think It Is Psychological?

I so enjoyed hearing your deepest truths this morning. The intensity of your emotions is exciting to me.

When I offered a peep of my own emotion -- "I feel like I have lost a month" -- I got your old "Do you think it is psychological?" routine.

I'd like you to drop this question and this approach from all your dealings with me, and frankly, with the entire world.

I'm sure you have asked the question thousands of times in your life and I can't imagine it ever having a good result. Did it ever make you closer to anyone? Did they ever respond, "Oh, thank you. That is such a helpful perspective. I had never thought about the possibility that psychology might offer answers to the physical pain I am suffering right now."

You don't know anyone who is not aware of the power of psychology. You have zero training in psychology and playing amateur psychologist, when this is not sought, is obnoxious and contemptuous.

When I share my physical pain with you, from a bad back to a flu that never goes away to CFS, I don't want to hear "Do you think it is psychological?"

As you know, I believe deeply in the power of psychology. I have spent years on psycho-meds such as clonidine and lithium. I am in therapy. I have a psychiatrist.

Nothing good can come from your question, not to me nor to anyone. Let's say the physical pain I am describing is 100% psychological. do you think your question will hasten me to this insight? On the other hand, if my problem is not psychological, your question won't help either. However you look at it, your question can only come across to me and to anyone as smug, contemptuous, superior, and obnoxious.

Drop it!

Also, when I am sharing my feelings, or when anyone is sharing their feelings with you, this is not the time to offer a reframe such as "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be the greatest gift you have ever received."

You don't have Byron Katie's skills or training. I can't imagine you offering reframes would ever help anyone when these reframes are not solicited, let alone me. It's just obnoxious.

If you want to offer the good work of Byron Katie, share a DVD or CD or a book, that is one thing, but to try to play Byron Katie when a friend is sharing his feelings is obnoxious.

I am all down with watching a Byron Katie DVD with you or whatever... I'm into personal growth.

A sharing of feelings is a completely different type of conversation from a seeking for solutions. When we're sharing our feelings, this is generally not a time to seek solutions. When I or anyone start a sentence with, "I feel..." that should be a red flag for you not to jump in with your amateur psychology sleuthing skills and start offering up reframes and solutions. I don't do it to you and you appreciate it.

It's a time to empathize and to seek out uncover the thinking behind feelings etc...but not to jump in there with a "A ha! You might want to think this way."

Your reframe is the equivalent of an Orthodox Jew saying to you, "What do you think HaShem is trying to teach you through this?"

I have never once responded to your sufferings by suggesting that God is trying to teach you a lesson... That is obnoxious.

Perhaps this could be one of your old habits that you let drop away...

Casey Pratt: It's your tone. You *sound* to people like you're asking them to offer solutions. I have the same trouble all the time. I listen to dozens of unhelpful suggestions after I describe some suffering that's troubling me... then usually end up hollering, "I'm not asking you to fix anything--I just want you to pet my head and say 'there, there.'

Let me know what you figure out. If there's a better way...

Rodger Jacobs: I think Casey nailed it, Luke, in all seriousness. More insulting than your friend's behavior is when one exposes their worries and woes to a confidante and when said confidante offers advice, the beleagured person says, "I wasn't looking for your input" or advice. Really? So they're just sounding boards for you and nothing more? Might as well talk to the wall if that's how one feels.

Luke: When I say, "I feel..." I am not looking for advice. When I say, what can I do? I'm looking for advice. Sharing feelings and seeking solutions are two different types of conversations. Not that complex.

Casey Pratt: It shouldn't be that complex, but it seems like it is for some people. I sometimes come home on Thursday afternoon from my job as a professor, untuck my shirt, and say to my wife, "Are you SURE you want me to keep doing this? I feel like a liar most days. I have to play by so many rules. I feel like I could be more satisfied..."

I'm really not... Read More seeking a solution -- at least not from her in that moment. But she loves me, so knowing that I'm dissatisfied, she can't resist offering solutions. It's really hard to just sit there and know that somebody you love is hurting. To just pet them and tell them that it's all worth it.

But (for what it's worth) I hear you. Having that CFS thing must suck hard. No kidding.

Republicans Cracking Down On Government Funding For Acorn

Here are some insights on the one law that did most to put us in this mortgage mess -- the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.

Mad She Has To Work

A never married beauty tells me: "On Sunday, all I could think about was being back at work. I was just furious. It's just been so hard at work. I have rage. I'm exhausted. I've avoided working almost my entire life. I've put it off as long as I could. I had this thing about not working. On some level, it makes me feel that I am not loved. That I shouldn't have to work.
"I know where I got it from. It's why I didn't work in school and was furious that I had to.
"I have a really strong sense of entitlement. Also, an incredibly low sense of self-worth."
"Where does your self-worth come from?" I ask.
"Ninety percent of it from how I look," she says. "I just find it shocking that I have to work. That's only a part of me. The other part of me wants to be out in the world doing things.
"There are days that I drive to work and I'm sitting there talking to my inner child. You're not coming with me. You can go to the movies and eat lots of chocolate. I have to send her away so I can deal with the day. A lot of my nature is to just fuck off and sleep all day and eat bon-bons.
"I'd rather feel angry than sad because it is more powerful, but when I go to anger it immediately slips into depression, anger turned inward."
"A part of you expected to be married and taken care of," I say.
"Yeah," she says. "Or at least taken care of. At least by my parents. I don't know why. They practically abandoned me and I felt like I shouldn't have to do anything.
"I never believed in marriage. It's not the fairy princess thing. Good luck random stuff has always happened to me. I thought I would get by on my looks. It makes me mad I have to get by on my brains and it doesn't matter how I look."

JDub Records Adopts Jewcy

From 2009 has been a remarkable year for Jewcy. In February, as the economy went into freefall, we lost our source of funding and, in turn, our paychecks and our office. A small, committed circle of Jewcy employees banded together to make sure that the site remained in business, agreeing to work for free until a new home could be found.

Six months later, I am still the proud editor of and we are honored to announce that we now have a new home. JDub Records, the non-profit dedicated to creating community among young Jews, their friends, and significant others by promoting proud, authentic Jewish voices in popular culture, has adopted Jewcy. As 5770 begins, Jewcy and JDub look forward to, together, reinventing and growing the Jewish media world.

Like all of JDub's projects, Jewcy is dedicated to creating conversation and community and we now need you, the readers of Jewcy, to step up and support the site. Your donation will make sure that Jewcy continues to ask important questions, challenges the notions of Jewish identity and peoplehood, and provides entertaining, colorful commentary on the Jewish issues of the day. Jewcy is devoted to helping Jews and their peers expand the meaning of community by presenting a spectrum of voices, content, and discussion. We maintain one of the highest levels of traffic among Jewish sites written by and for young Jews.

Friday, October 09, 2009

'For What?'

I broke the news to a left-wing friend this morning that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

"For what?" was her response.

I laughed.

"I don't get it," she said. "For what did he win the prize? Afghanistan? Iraq?"

Save The Delis

Pico-Robertson, where I live, has one of the best delis in America -- Pico Kosher Deli.

The New York Times reports: David Sax, a 30-year-old freelance writer, listened and nodded. Many delis are seeing more African-American customers.

“In many ways, deli owners in places like Detroit or Chicago have told me, they are better deli clients than Jews,” Mr. Sax said referring to African-Americans. “They accept it as it is. Take a corned beef sandwich. A Jewish customer will say, ‘I want the corned beef lean, from the middle of the brisket,’ because their grandfathers did. It’s like Jews going to a Chinese restaurant. They love it for what it is and they are better clients because of it.”

Mr. Sax loves delis for what they are and mourns the loss of so many of them around the country. For the last two years he has been writing the blog Save the Deli celebrating great delis and chronicling their demise. And this month Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is publishing his book “Save the Deli,” an account of his journey of discovery through the world of delis, from New York to Toronto, Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles; London, Paris and Poland.

What Is A Sukkah?

A friend who's converting to Judaism emails me: I was talking to my mom on the phone just now, trying to explain to her what a sukkah is. I told her it was like a hut, a temporary dwelling place, like what the Israelites lived in. Then she said, "Oh, is that what Mr. Ford lives in? He lives in a sukkah?" She's been reading your blog, she said. I could've died. Mr. Ford lives in a sukkah year-round.

Friday, October 02, 2009

When Quinn Met Julia

I met Julia in October 2007. It was right before Rosh Hashanah. She was tall, blonde and beautiful. Her publicist arranged the interview. We met in the park at La Cienega and Olympic Blvds.

After I wrote up the interview, Julia email me: "Good god you're perfectly evil. Did you know that I used to keep a cut-out picture of you from an old issue of Rolling Stone in my diary when was 15? I think I was a little bit in love with you."

About nine months ago, I noticed on Facebook that she was engaged to a bloke named Quinn. I clicked the link and looked at his profile and wondered if I hated him.

The next day, I got a friend request.

I was freaked. How did he know I was looking at his profile?

I accepted the friend request and we had no further contact.

Three weeks ago, Julia calls me. She has a friend who loves my blog and wants to meet me.

"A hot chick!" I thought to myself. "Awesome!"

We finally meet for coffee this afternoon.

Julia is 45 minutes late. She brings Quinn with her.

"I don't know why Julia thinks all her guys friends will be excited to meet me," he says. "I don't get it. 'Oh, this is Steve. He's been trying to f--- me for five years. You must meet him.'"

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