Thursday, March 25, 2021

The tale of the mistaken book cover

I went to get my first vaccination shot at the edge of West Lawndale, near Gardena, the south LA industrial community where I started making a life for myself in Southern California by driving a warehouse forklift. 

As I stood in line at Ralph's in store Pharmacy I could not help but take notice of the man in front of me talking with the pharmacist. He was quite talkative and seemed to want every detail about his new antibiotic. I didn't mind the delay as I am no fan of needles going into my precious flesh.

As he blathered on I took notice of his many tattoos. This is hardly noteworthy as my wife and I seem to be the only Southern Californian's without tattoos. Additionally, so you get the proper picture of this young man, he was wearing a wife beater tank top and droopy drawers.

He was rather unkempt. And I won't make any presumptions about his race or ethnicity, suffice to say he was a young man of color, just not a lot of color.

As he was jabbering I took notice of an unusual tattoo written in red ink along the inside of his upper arm.

It caught me off guard. Because it was written in Hebrew. When he turned to leave I saw his face for the first time. Unshaven. Adult acne. And a broad smile. So I did what I never do and stopped him.

"Mind if I see that interesting tattoo?"

"Oh sure man it says...."

"No, no, don't tell me. I want to see if I can still read Hebrew."

"Oh cool."

He twisted his arm accordingly so I could get a better look.

"Tamshel? Temshel?"

"Close man. That's real close. It says Timshel."

Ok, I didn't want to pry, but I didn't have to. This young man was more than eager to explain.

"It's Timshel. A Hebrew word that comes from the Bible and is the key to the book East of Eden. Have you read East of Eden by John Steinbeck? It's a great book. And Timshel is the thematic thread that runs throughout. It's life changing. It you haven't read the book you have to."

I don't normally take book recommendations from strangers on line to pick up medicine for a thigh rash, but this was one of those moments in life when you have to stop and take account. 

I had wrongly made a terrible misjudgment of this young man, simply based on his appearance and his longwinded conversation about antibiotics. I usually rely on my more outwardly scholarly friends for book reccos, including George T., Paul S. and Claudia C. So I went on Amazon and bought a copy of East of Eden.

In thumbing through the 601 pages, I happened to come across the passage that explains TimShel. It is the Hebrew phrase for: Thou Mayest

I was, and continue to be humbled, by the scenario. In the future I will try not to judge a book by its cover.  Though if I commit myself to finishing this mammoth 600 page tome, I may never get out of the house again.

1 comment:

george tannenbaum said...

Send me somewhere
East of Eden
Where their best
Is like our worst.

Where there ain't no
Ten Commandments
And a man can
Raise a thirst.