Дойти до ручки [dayti da ruchki]

This idiom means ‘to reach the handle’ or ‘to reach rock bottom’. The handle refers to the part of a traditional Russian bread that was not eaten as it had been held by different people. The handle was given to dogs or poor people. So if someone ‘reached the handle’, that meant they were eating leftovers that dogs normally ate.

“A SAFEHOUSE MONOLOGUE” in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. 

“I call out for her still into the death of a black ghetto night!” I will tell you now, most dear Tovarish, a story of our times. For if in the past I have written you of things that were and things that also could be; of fanciful alternate lives; or perhaps of wars or magic beyond your range of sight and passions beyond your range of feeling. I have now set pen to paper to put down the events of our common year 2011, 5773 in the year of my tribe the Ivory. Known in your argots and crude vernaculars as the calendar year of the Hebrew people, ‘the loathsome Jews.’

We found ourselves in that year in the City of New York, called ‘Newyorkgrad’ a city where no one I had grown up with could live anywhere near the center for a mass of aristocrats, entertainers, money handlers, robber barons and oligarchs had pushed us all into their service living in the districts that ring the rivers East and Hudson. In that year I was surrounded as was my way with former and post-Soviet gangsters, with newly arrived immigrants, with various Muslims and mystics, with Karibes and subversives, with ambulance workers, with jazz musicians, with those who live the life of night. The right composition of any good dancehall party. Then, living most precariously in a string of south and central Breuklyn apartments, making the kind of small talks I’d made for years, small talks of very, very big things I was reminded of an Old Russian saying, the words of some bathhouse mystic; that: 

‘If I saw the size of my blessing coming, I would understand the magnitude of the battle we must fight.’ 

Someone said that to me in the winter preceding the Labor Day Rising. It was the voice of Emma Solomon broadcasting on Fire Switch Radio, live from Port-Au-Prince.

For years I had been part of a little embattled Otriad, a small group of idealists and EMTs, of visionaries, malcontents and perhaps also some hard radicals, a group of paramedics and their sympathizers that had on an island off the Coast of Galilee, Rhode Island pledged their meager resources to building a resistance movement. A movement which we certainly did not begin and will not perhaps unlikely see the freedom and equality for which we have prepared to lay down our lives and accepted as our duty to act upon.

On Labor Day, we participated in a failed and foolish uprising in the borough of Breuklyn and most of us were rounded up, arrested, displaced or simply killed.

I told my brother Benny in a letter, ‘that I do not know if the resistance is now 40 or 4 million women and men. I have not spoken to my commanding officers since 2007. I do not know where Tabor commander Solomon is, if she is even alive. I do not know where General Avinadav DeBuitléirs is building his secret army in Mother Africa, if still alive.’ I told my expatriated brother, that ‘I took my orders from Tel Aviv in the fall of 2001 and have attempted to carry them out to the best of my human agency, despite so many setbacks and perilous dehumanizing conditions we all have faced.’

Shortly after publishing a manuscript about the events of the uprising and uprising, as I remembered them the secret police dragged me off the street, into an ambulance and I spent some five weeks in the camps. And then was released, as if nothing happened, but everything was different.

I then, broken and despondent, met a woman on the roof of my family home in the District Financial which changed everything. For this was the most important woman of my life. And I was to battle and die for her, over, and over and over again! Tragic hero made me! She was and is the bravest one. I play along.

How now, this was to be the story of her future and my past, everything would take on new significance. I cannot fail this time, for so many other times there has been such a dashing of hopes! Over five thousand years we have had our hopes so utterly dashed, we “Jews”, we the Ivory ones. I digress, as if mad with love and war and such high emotions.

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