The Feldman Dynamic: Chanukahmunication
Night 3: December 12, 2020
featuring Brian Feldman, Edward Alan Feldman, Adrienne McIntosh, and Marilyn Wattman-Feldman – Presented on Zoom Webinar
by Carl F. Gauze
Is that Bob Dylan singing “Don’t Let The Light Go Out” on a 1/4-inch reel-to-reel? It sounds like him, and after signing into Zoom five times, it’s good to get something interesting on screen. It’s sunset on the third night of Channuka, a holiday I’ve celebrated with Feldman more than a few times. In this traditional celebration, Feldman takes a COVID-friendly approach: the family gathers, and we watch as they eat while we supply our own food products. They nosh, they schmooze, and they hang out. The rest of us watch and keep our electronic peace.
These days, Feldman looks more and more the wild-eyed prophet, more at home in the Sinai desert than on the modern internet. Tonight’s first topic? Food. Second topic? Food… you get the idea. His father Ed, sister Adrienne, and mother Marilyn say their prayers in Hebrew. Feldman has it down when it comes to chatting up Yahweh; his family feels a little less confident. Kosher pasta is on the menu, and Feldman is broadcasting on Zoom from Wachington DC. Behind him, we see a modernist print, maybe a Klimt. Nothing else. Minimalism. Feldminimalism.
In the kitchen, a wiener dog named “Mitzi” wags her way around the set. The family works to keep her out of the kitchen, a nearly impossible task. This is not about love, it’s about food safety. We watch the scene from a fixed camera angle, no pans or zooms, as they are forbidden in the Old Testament. Something about “being still in the presence of God.” This sacred space is decorated in a “Clutter Moderne” style. A printer/scanner sits on a table under a 58-inch TV. Early-2000 oak cabinets store prized possessions, and a black metal folding chair allows one person to sit and enjoy email. The family is in Central Florida, Feldman himself far away but for the miracle of the internet.
The chatter continues. Food is consumed. Obvious things are stated. Others are ignored. The Feldman clan is the Modern American Family: separated by time and space, comfortable with technology. They even use a virtual Dreidel. But now – EXCITEMENT! The drone of family conversation is interrupted when the dog eats something off the floor! THE DOG WAS FED! ADRIENNE IS ENRAGED! But the dog seems happy. Adrienne will get over it. Ed points out the advantage of a pet: “less sweeping.” Now THIS is Feldman drama!
The eating continues, Adrienne breaks down and gives the dog a treat. Marilyn wanders off camera. Ed continues his stoic chewing. The dog’s tail is in high gear. We are 34 minutes into this celebration of ordinariness. I feel we should be flipping through a football game or a heart-warming movie. The dog retreats. Brian wipes his lips on a napkin. I deal with an email. The pumpkin bread comes out of the Feldman stove. The dog continues crumb patrol. Brian reports on the gluten-free food situation in Baltimore. No word on how John Waters is doing. Feldman says goodnight. It’s 6:19 Eastern time.
It’s a weird voyeurism on display here. Ordinary people are investigating other ordinary people’s lives, seeing themselves, and thinking: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”