The Best Laid Plaids - Israel Story The Best Laid Plaids - Israel Story

The Best Laid Plaids

 Judah Kauffman

On Sunday I walked into the Tel Aviv Opera company on a mission. The company was selling off its old costumes in anticipation of Purim, a Jewish holiday marked by big masquerades and dress-up parties. My plan was to talk to as many people as possible on mic about what they were buying, or what the ultimate, most fabulous Purim costume was, or whether dressing up helped them feel more themselves. It’d be like Billy On The Street meets Project Runway.

I had even started writing the script for a Vox Pop in my head. If you’re unfamiliar with Vox Pops, they’re a kind of radio segment where a series of people answer the same question one after the other. It’s a kind of voice-montage that gives the listener an idea of what a cross-section of society thinks about an issue. Here’s a favorite example of mine from NPR’s ‘Invisibilia.’

I could hear it in my head. I’d find a hulking soldier going through princess costumes, a little girl trying on a monster costume, a boyfriend arguing that there-was-no-way-in-hell he’d wear tights in a couple’s costume. I thought I’d even sprinkle in some existential reflections from people about what it really means to focus so much on how we dress up.

So when I walked into the costume sale, I confidently strode up to the first English speaker I could find. “The ultimate Purim costume?” she asked bewildered,  “Um, Queen Esther maybe…? Am I on the radio right now?”

And that sort of set the tone for the next two hours. Most people vigorously waved their hands at the sight of my microphone, as if I was offering them a dead squirrel to speak into. I didn’t find my soldier or my couple or my existential musings about masks. Just a bunch of normal, busy people fighting over a couple racks of frilly shirts.

Purim is based around the biblical Book of Esther. A central device of that text is peripeteia, the reversal of fate: victims become victors, tragedy turns to celebration, and those on high are brought low.  And so, in thinking about my botched costume sale adventure, I wonder if a story of plans not bearing out like I thought is actually a successful Purim story after all.


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