The Carousel

My parents are going through the attic, sorting old boxes, and find my great-aunt Gertrude’s wooden carousel. They ask if they can throw it away. How could they? This carousel will make me always remember Aunt Gert.

Never would one expect such a generous woman out of a family of immigrants who made their fortune from the credit business.

As a young child, I visited my Aunt Gert, and was mesmerized by the beautiful ornamentation of her apartment. Her stories would always capture me, but the best ones were about the artifacts she kept around her: a piano, a wind-up mandolin, a statue of a dog. But for a long time, the story behind the centerpiece of her dining room table– the gold-trimmed wooden polished carousel– remained a mystery. The hand-carved pieces on the carousel were beautiful– horses, mainly, but also some exotic creatures from the African savannah.

Aunt Gert gave me many gifts. She said that she wanted to spread beauty to her family, knowing that she would soon leave us. Her carousel is the epitome of that beauty. It’s intricacy is reminiscent of the complexities of our family’s history and strength.

Aunt Gert was very committed to her family and cared about all of us very much. She was the eighth of nine siblings, older than only my grandfather. She carried over her older-sister protection of my grandfather to my mother, her youngest niece. Aunt Gert was always giving of herself– material possessions, yes, but more importantly, family stories, interesting anecdotes and facts about our history. My middle name would be meaningless if she hadn’t allowed me to hold the gavel of Judge Benjamin Glass– her husband, and the man my middle name is borrowed from– as she explained his personality and history to me.

The carousel had one quirk: it was not musical. Not that this is shocking– few wooden carousels had music attached to them when it was built. No, the surprise was that my great-aunt, a woman who reveled in the joys of her piano, flute and other instruments, would keep a silent version of a musically-involved object.

Aunt Gert’s carousel represents the turning of time, yet the repetition of our family stories, the same “horses” moving round and round. It represents the circuitousness of time, how we repeat ourselves through our children and our stories. The spinning carousel plays Aunt Gert’s grand piano and reminded me of my Juliard-educated grandfather, who never pursued his dreams of becoming a musician. It plays the mandolin to the tune of my mother’s envy for her cousins for having such riches. It tells the story of our ancestors who left everything in Europe to make a new life in America.

The carousel is in my room on Long Island, but I can always come back to it, wherever I am, by closing my eyes.

“Once Upon A December” by Liz Callaway

Fresh Paint – Rhinoceros

Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” an absurdist play about the dangers of fascism and conformity that premiered in Paris in 1960, is told through the perspective of Bérenger. An unconfident, shy man, Bérenger ends up as the last human in his own skin as a plague of “rhinoceritis” slowly transforms the people of his small French village into rhinoceroses. (No, I’m not kidding.)

Fascism is about control, and “Rhinoceros” portrays this quite colorfully- and at times, “colorlessly.” The opening scene includes an array of carefully arranged gray chairs amid a dark background, symbolizing a society that is conformist from the very start. The sounds of a rhinoceros crashing through the town square cause a panic, and all the actors onstage leap into motion- an allegory for the alarm and mindlessness of a crowd. No leader steps in to subdue the panic, and the scene ends with this flurry of activity.

The second scene shows Bérenger at work in the government printing department- an homage to Orwell’s “1984.” The office workers discuss the rhino rumors, arguing about trivialities such as “whether it is an Asian or an African one, sporting a single or a double tusk.” These minutiae distract from the larger issue- exactly what fascist propaganda aims to do.

As this conversation is going on, the floor starts to slip from under their feet as the tiered set rises and tilts the actors towards the stage. This literal disorientation is a metaphor for the mental distress and anxiety caused by uncertainty, rumors, and the absurd.

The end of “Rhinoceros,” a pledge by Bérenger to retain his humanity and not join the “flock of sheep” (or, in this case, rhinoceroses) raises the question: is conformity about refusing to leave the baseline status quo that you know, or about acquiescence to the pull of the masses? The question is open-ended; it is up to you to see the play for yourself and answer it.

@®I HIMB€®

Hello there!

I am Ari Himber.

I am very into health, and plan on doing an interdisciplinary major in Nutrition and Exercise Science and Sociology through the CUNY BA program. I wish to work on community-based preventative health systems. My past has formed this desire in many ways.

First, I was born with a non-functional thyroid. I’ve taken a pill every day since I was 7 days old to replace the thyroxine my body cannot synthesize on its own. It made me aware of metabolism and the importance of nutrition at an earlier age than most people.

Second, I have to be careful about what I eat. I am allergic to peanuts and soy, and I grew up eating Kosher, so I have been forced to develop a consciousness of what is in my food and what it will do to me.

Third, I am an “FFK” – a former fat kid. I had asthma and was not nearly active enough in my younger childhood. Finally, in 10th grade, I kicked it: I started biking to school and dropped about 15lbs in around 2.5 months. Since then, I have made sure to keep off the fat and am always working towards a better body.

But anyway… on to other things about me!

I love to debate and discuss issues. I was forced to develop my skills in those areas due to my religious environment growing up. As I am (1) gay and (2) an atheist, I often had to defend myself on multiple fronts to those who did not understand, and worse, to those who did not want to.

I spent much time on music when I was in high school. I sang, I danced, I listened, I played, and I wrote (albeit not so well.) Music was a means for me to stop analyzing and rationalizing everything, and it allowed me to revel in and develop my emotions.

I free reference very well- at times a little too well for my own good. I can be very random and spontaneous. This was my main reason for joining College Bowl (a trivia league) in high school. There, my seemingly-random associations between songs, shows, math, science, writing, etc, were appreciated. In fact, I was one of the four people on our team who competed in a televised trivia competition. While we did not win the competition, it was a great experience 🙂

I am glad to be in college and living on my own, and gladly anticipate the coming years.