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Shlepping the Exile extract

shlepping the exile by Michael WexI was, after all, a Jew with beard and sidelocks. Uh, a Jew. With sidelocks. And hidden away in the midst of my father’s cantorial records—Rosenblatt, Sirota, Leibele Waldman, he had em all—hidden away there, one, just one, unprepossessing little bombshell: Elvis Presley. And in my bedroom, between the mattress and the box-spring where my mother wouldn’t find it—go know she’d lift up the mattress when making the bed—one copy, slick and nearly new, smelling of plastic and glossy paper; one copy—gotenyu, my hands still tremble just thinking about it—of Nudist Life. Shmiley Greenberg gave it to me after I found him whacking off on his tsitses. Elvis, nudists, I may have had payes, but I was hip. Who the hell wanted to be a rabbi and spend the rest of his life deciding which chickens were kosher and which had to be thrown away to the goyim? I knew what I wanted. I was gonna be the nudist Elvis Presley, performing only in nudist camps, singing Heartbreak Hotel to audiences full of girls, women, female babies who didn’t care if I looked at their tits—Jesus Christ, they wanted me to look at their tits, not to mention their tukheses and you know whats—and who I didn’t care if they looked at my mileh no matter how hard it was, and who’d all want to touch it and want me to touch them and feel their dewy wetness (I got the phrase from a book of Shmiley’s). And finally…twelve times a day. A rabbi? Two weeks a month you can’t even touch her, and even when you can she’s always the same one. Unless…unless I could start a new kind of Hasidism—me, Yoine Levkes, the davening Jewish nudist with his ballbearing hips, and daven and sing Yiddish folksongs to roomsful of girls, women…

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