The Origin of Barry
The following article contains original biographical material.
A NUMBER* of readers have told me that they have forwarded, or, in some cases, backwarded my articles on to their family and friends. In response, they are getting queries like, ‘who is this guy?’ and ‘why does he keep sending us this garbage’ and ‘to whom do we make the check to?’
This article attempts to answer those very questions. Who am I and why do I write this stuff?
Who indeed is the mysterious Barry, idol of thousands of ETNI lurkers?
Why does he write this stuff if, indeed, no one is paying him.
To begin with, a lot of confusion centres around the name itself. So let me make it clear that I am --
Not Barry, Dave, who is a real humour writer and with whoms columns I have wallpapered the bathroom with.
Not Barry, Chamish*, whose ‘Who Killed ‘Tshok Rabin’ theory has made millions of copies and sold millions of enemies or vice versa. .
Neither nardle nor am I Barry Dafna of Kibbutz Prague or Bari Nirenberg, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee or Bereetsa Kalla Tageea Lepo.
Here, for the first time, is my story:
Once day in 1963 a pudgy boy with glasses about to enter seventh grade of the Winnipeg Jewish day school, feeling fairly miserable about life in general, decided to try to up his popularity rating by recording all the jokes and amusing anecdotes that went on during the school day in a blue scribbler (Winnipegese for notebook.) Thus was born ‘School Junk,’ A magazine of parody and comment which spread from scribbler to scribbler until graduation at the end of Grade 11 (Wpgese for 11th grade.) I spent countless evenings – as well as a lot of daytime class periods, under the desk , recording, composing, cutting, pasting, and punning. My schoolmates circulated the finished products behind their books.
This gained me some favorable attention from peers and even staff. The crowning moment of this period in my life was orchestrating a full scale production of a parody of Fiddler on the Roof just after the school produced the real musical. Everybody was sure I was cut out for some kind of writing career.
* A number such as two
And then, shortly after, I began my final year of school, now in a public school, In the emotional trubulence of making new and intense friendships so different than those in the Jewish school, in the traumatic breaking off from these friends and lovers, coming to Israel,
doing the Oleh Haddash number, student life, army life, family life – the muse took a snuze. I would pen the occasional poem or sketch for a birthday, a demonstration, a letter to the editor; Once even tried to help Danny Sanderson adapt his Poogy tunes for audiences abroad. But to no avail. ( Free pun: I paid a shiva call one day late, but to no אבל = avail ).
Years pass. It is now November, 1999. I am an teacher of English in Kiriat Shmona, Israel. Perusing the ETNI site one morning, , I come across a letter from a colleague, seething with venom against certain sectors of society. My wife –not an English teacher at all but faster on the draw,--grabs the keyboard and sends off a a wickedly nasty and funny reply. To our surprise, she is deluged with enthusiastic responses from all over the country. Somehow, this sets me off. I pound out a funny, pun filled article about a teacher adapting to hi-tech. Up it goes on the English teachers site, and soon I too am pulling in fan letters. A sarcastic piece on Oslo gets some angry replies, but it is also used as a text in some schools in lessons about democracy and political satire! My third article gets published in “The Jewish Angle” an E-zine of Jewish humor with aspirations to sophistication of sorts.
For a year, I neglected ignored my family clamouring for food, my pupils begging to get their homework checked, and penned about 30 articles of nonsense and satire, sketches on the EFL business, and how it felt waiting for that next Katyusha to fall. Whatever time I had left was spent pushing them all over the virtual world in the hope of getting published. But I hardly ever did. I’m much too Hebrew for the North American audience. I’m much to English for the Israeli audience. To religious for the Heelonim, to wild and vulgar for the Dottyim. And while I can crack up a class of Ethiopian immigrants with my pidgin Amharic , my chances of writing a weekly satire column for the Addis ‘Appointment’ are Haile Unlikely. Still, every so often, an idea comes for an piece that I feel is a work of genius. And when it is finished, I must satisfy the urge to have people read it!
... ... ...
Going through my late father’s shelves during the Shiva, I came across a pile of my old ‘School Junk’ magazines; I hadn’t read them since twelfth grade – 1969. I've always had difficulty getting along with my past selves, and I found sentiments of the past embarrassing. Returning to my old poems and schtick was like having slices of lost brain grafted back in. Some of the stuff is actually funny. And some of it sounds like my most disgusting fourteen year old whiny students. That was once me? But the point is, that the readers of the past, kids who once read my scribbled scribblers, well, I can see thru the Google that one is a renowned psychotherapist, one a newly elected CEO of a high tech company, and the others are all successful lawyers, doctors, businesspersons etc..
As for me -- thirty five years later, I’m still writing ‘School Junk.’
Silverberg, Kiriat Shmona, Feb, 2002, and once again, Sept 2005