This starts deep in a legend told to me by my brother Avi, who wasn't so innocent in this matter, so I have no obligation to change his name. He discreetly revealed to me, when I was an all-believing child, that in our house there was a secret passageway. Not only did he reveal to me this secret – but he also carefully tended the vision that he planted in my brain, to make it one of the main myths I lived with as a child. Of course as is the custom with mysterious secrets and secrets-tellers, he let on in the beginning that he knew where it was and to where it led. For my part I could only guess where it was located in our house, but when it was first mentioned to me I was sure that it led to some place that wasn't Kansas, Toto.

Now that house wasn't some ancient estate from an Edgar Allen Poe story. It was built about the time I was born, but that didn't stop me from imagining. I suspected the secret passageway to be in the monster-infested dark area of the basement.

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I bet when the house was built – the basement was all cheery-like, with a bar, an aquarium and a large recreation room. On the "other side", of a wall, was the laundry room. The washing machines were under the light of windows, but there was a part, under the stairs, that was "dark shadows" land. By the time I came of curious-child-age – the aquarium was empty, the bar too, while the dark shadows of the laundry room were full of monsters who always hid from my gaze… which was a good thing. That's where the incinerator was. Now why would a non-monster-infested basement have an incinerator? Did you ever think of that? So of course I "knew" it was there to burn caught monsters! [Remember: this was in the old days before everyone and everything had rights. I mean – as a kid, monsters didn't have no narrative, mister.]


As I got older and bolder I actually explored the entire basement: the mysterious closets that I had imagined had once been tobacco-drying rooms but really held suitcases that had come from Europe; I checked the corners in the room under the vast table that held a toy railroad that no longer puffed and could. I even explored the assumed entrance of the secret passageway under the stairs in "dark shadows". I knew by then that the secret passageway wouldn't lead to Oz and that 'Dark Shadows" was just a soap opera some of my friends liked to watch. But – no secret passageway.

Finally when confronted with my lack of findings my dear brother said it wasn't in our house, that's not what he meant, but it was in our neighborhood and led to our house. This upgrade of the myth paralleled the phase of moving from finding the house the sphere of activity to hanging out in the 'hood. Still – no secret passageway. I often found possible avenues of movement, usually through neighbors' backyards, and checked with my brother to see if that was the secret passageway – but no dice.

At some point in life – after I knew there was no Santa (a Jewish one, of course, Tanta Clausenberg), no tooth fairy (ecumenical) and, in post-Watergate shock, knew not to trust government – I knew to not trust my brother in certain critical matters. So I finally figured out for myself: "Dude! There ain't no secret passageway in my parents' house or in the neighborhood!"

So now I'm thinking: If I – a barely civilized, uncouth settler who never had tenure in a university, a subscription to the NY Times or a regular stool at a Starbucks – finally figured out that there's no secret passageway from where I live to "somewhere over the rainbow", how come Obama and company can't figure it out, that there isn't any secret passageway in my neighborhood, the Middle East as the Europeans called it, that can lead miraculously from the present chaotic situation to a near-utopian (and some would say dystopian) peace at the end of the rainbow?? And how come intelligent people (usually on the left) think that Israel alone holds the key to a secret passageway to peace in the Middle East? I mean – we're not leprechauns holding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow; we're Jewish, holding a pot of cholent at the end of Shabbat morning prayers!!

Hard work, resisting evil and building good through much patient perseverance – that's the not-so-secret passage to a better way!
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