Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dining and Donations

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Not much has changed since this photo made on Jan. 7, 2006. Looking south on Eighth Street NE, homes continue to be blasted by one group’s amplifier for more than four hours nearly every Saturday. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Walking home from the bus Saturday afternoon, I encountered several members of the Israeli School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) conversing in a huddle several yards and facing away from the other fellows using the obnoxious amplifier—obviously distance was necessary to hear each other over the loud decibels. I stopped and said hello to the guys who call themselves Mahayaman (whom I’ve dubbed “The Hurler” in previous posts), Mayach, and Yahanah.

Well away from the amplifier’s direct aim, we could actually talk. Mahayaman asked me where I’d been lately. I told him I had been around, but pointed out that his group was absent from the corner two consecutive Saturdays.

“Watching football with the guys?” I asked. He shrugged and said they simply had other places to teach.

He then rattled off a series of questions about my origins, my work, and me. I told him I was from Iowa, worked on behalf of credit unions, was married and spent most every Saturday at class. He asked about my mom. (Yeah, right…like I’m going provide any information about my mom to some guy who likes to hurl insults with an amplifier.)

“Your wife should join you when you come out and photograph us,” Mahayaman said.

“She doesn’t need to come out here because she can hear your amplifier quite clearly at home,” I answered.

bwMahayaman2x2 Mayach2x2 copy bwYahanah2x2 bwDevil2x2
I asked Mahayaman similar questions, but he wasn’t forthcoming, beyond telling me his group was “nomadic.” I asked about their colorful garments and the initials “ISUPK” riveted into their jackets. Were they ordered from an official ISUPK catalog? Mahayman said the men customized their own fashions.

“Which house is yours?” he asked and then proclaimed we should learn to trust each other and said I should invite them to my home. “Your wife could cook us a meal,” he said.

“A terrible idea,” I replied, “she doesn’t cook.” I suggested we meet for lunch or dinner at Birdland, a restaurant on H Street. “We can talk about how to resolve this noise issue,” I said.

Before they could respond, a man interrupted us and presented to Mahayaman an envelope. I presumed it was money and asked how donations were used.

They explained it was for travel, ISUPK garments, the amplifier, and a “legal defense fund,” they smirked, apparently referring to the community’s less than enthusiastic support for the group.

“You’re welcome and can say whatever you like,” I said, and reiterated that the neighborhood’s only beef was with the noise. Somehow, that’s a reality they choose not to believe.

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