This list was bound to happen one day, I’ve always wanted to make a list for personal records, so I figured I would make the list public and throw in my thoughts if I had any about the community or place I stayed in.I also figured it would be like a shout out to folks around the country who read this blog and don;t think I care about their podunk community, because I do and if you want to hire me to do a show in you community, I’m way cheaper than most scholars in residence. (This list is not including the NY, Bay Area and Dallas communities which I have written long posts about while living there)
Minneapolis: I hear that Rabbi Leaf was pimp enough to be recruited somewhere bigger and better, but he’s a cool dude. The kiddush at his shul was awesome, the community has access to amazing bike paths, the mechitza was hard to look over and I don’t remember any hotties anyway. The people I stayed by had amazing food and asked a million questions for undercover shidduch purposes, my host took me to two private kiddushim after the shul kiddush to and one of the people had spicy jalapeno cholent – I wished I had a appreciation for scotch because it flowed in abundance.
Detroit: I’ve been multiple times, I call one of the shuls the Uchem, the Gra is friendly but has a very short ceiling and no women go there, I went to the beth yehuda to daven and not one person said a word to me – I was shocked and said so during a sit down kiddush at which not one person said good shabbos to me. Detroit is a really cheap place to live, thereis good music there and Jerusalem pizza remains one of my favorite kosher pizza places in the world.
Cleveland: The armpit of the world, I like the old industrial middle America feel, Abbas was good but had the worst service in the world, maybe that’s why it’s gone – I never got to eat at the fancy place that is gone as well. Getting onto Cedar Ave from 271 south is one of the strangest exits ever. I love Rabbi Duviduvitch, he may even read my blog, I was flown to Cleveland for a show at the Green Road Synagogue and I bombed, the only people who laughed were my fans who drove a bunch of hours from Columbus on Shabbos to see me (they were such dedicated fans I’m sure God will forgive them) I like Izzi’s pizza and they had a super cute pizza girl there, I also like the other pizza place that has a back door by a parking lot, I like the basement minyan in 2200 kirwin off of Cedar. I like fact Cleveland is cheap and poor, I would never pay to see a bunch of classic Guitars. Cleveland is home to the first and largest indoor mountain bike park in the country, I once went skinny dipping on erev Rosh Hashanah in Lake Erie – we Jews call it the mikvah.
Pittsburgh: Squirel Hill is the Jew place, it looked cool, I was there for a night and met a kid who’s brother was a park ranger in New Mexico, I wonder where that kid is now. I have some dear friends who went to the Lubavitch girls school in Pittsburgh, this one girl I met in Philly told me her Rebbe used to say Sporno when he would say the Sforno says, that’s funny, I saw an old high school mate of mine working in the pizza store – I wondered what it felt like to work in a pizza store in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is such a cool town, the bridges and tunnels into the city are shockingly awesome, the hills, the old factories, imagining Carnegie and Frick roaming the streets, didn’t Rockefeller buy Carnegie steel? I’m addicted to the industrial revolution, especially steal, coal and railroads – naturally I’m fascinated with Pittsburgh. I would love to go back and spend some time in the Jewish community.
Scranton: Such a strange place for a yeshiva and a bunch of really yeshivish and very random people to live. How on earth every whack job from Scranton’s kid ended up in the Rochester yeshiva is news to me, I say whack job in an endearing way, because all of those Scranton kids were really cool and fascinating. I used to go visit my friend who worked in Camp Nearim, we would get steak hoagies from blatts butcher block and head to the camp to shoot stuff with my two guns and go mountain biking on piles of ground up coal near Carbondale, this was before I became fascinated with the history of Scranton and Anthracite coal country, before I found out that Carbondale had amazing trails in Merli-Sarnowski Park and that Honesdale also had some amazing trails, I went to Camp Moshava when I was 12 and hated it. The Scarnton frum community is strange, apparently one of the clsassrooms in the yeshiva had a ledge and my old halacha teacher and now friend Yossi would jump out the window and hide on the ledge. There is this strange chabad shul that the weird folk go to Mulberry street, they have a good kiddush. I love the big old houses in Scranton, my friend Ezzie’s parents had old buzzers in the floor of the dining room that buzzed the servants.
Philly: A good friend of mine lives in Philly, no not Cherry Hill you modern orthodox buffoons, not lower marion you pretentious snobs, but Philly, the center of the action, the city that is home to the second I95, did you know there are two of them at once. Go to the falafal place in downtown, it’s amazing, go to the wharehouse chabad shul, go to the chabad shul where the rabbi curses like he’s one of the fellows and go to mikvah Israel and take a look at the letter from George Washington, Philly is cool and so not East Coast, random as can be, the homnes in Elkins Park are nice, but everyone’s pretentious. The frum kids who go to Penn don’t really get Philly, the gay neighborhood in Philly is called the Gayborhood, no joke. The city reminds me of San Francisco.
Baltimore: Really frum yet not, why is everyone so friendly in such a large Jewish community. Why doesn’t anyone stare at me in sandals in this chassidish shul, oh yeh, Baltimore is known to be home to a bunch of whacky baalei teshuva who didn’t feel like migrating to Passaic which is full of BT girls. Baltimore is diverse and good, the guy with farm in his backyard and the guy with a mini vinyard in his backyard, what about the shul with a bunch of non-yiddish speaking streimel wearers, Goldbergers rocks, Sharei Zion has a whack one way out mechitza, Traubs has a lookproof mechitza and I did a really awesome show at Ner Tamid. I like people from Baltimore, I love Mama Leahs and Tovs – they are different, David Chus is good, but not that good, I liked that Pizza store that served beer, Baltimore is full of cute single girls that can’t get married because no one wants to come and date them, so they will pay you to marry them – do you know how much the tolls are between NY and Baltimore – enough that I used to go around through Harrisburg on the 83 when I dated a Baltimoron who promised me that we were incompatible because I didn’t want to move to Israel and guess where her and her husband live? Oh and my ex-fiance also lives in Baltimore.
Sharon, Massachusets: The only time I have ever spent shabbos in Massachusets was in Sharon, I was there for a bar mitzvah in 8th grade and I got this boner during kabalas shabbos that wouldn’t go away, I also remember that the cot I slept on was the most comfortable cot I’ve ever slept on. I like those folks from In Over Our Heads – reality Jewish TV that is showing orthodoxy in very unorthodox ways.
Providence, Rhode Island: I lived in Providence for 8th grade, it was the fourth elementary school I would attend. It was fun times, I liked the community, small and not terribly over bearing, there were yeshivish people and modern orthodox, I’m curious how I would view it as a blogger, I really liked the people there. Oh and Providence is one of the coolest cities ever and it’s beautiful.
Burlington, Vermont: I rocked it at chabad once and it was friendly, I wish burlington had a larger frum community so I could make it one of my dream frum communities to live in, but alas it’s a cold and exciting town and has no orthodox life outside of chabad. I love it there and the chabad is in an old mansion which makes it even better, don;t even get me started on the music scene.
Birmingham, Alabama: I spent a night at the Birmingham Chabad years ago on the first road trip I had ever taken. I was with two friends, we were tired and hungry, they served us yellow rice with fried fish cakes, it was good I could see through my white paper plate and I remember the mikvah was beautiful, the beds were amazing and the covers were really thick. Years later the Rabbi emailed me for one reason or another and I related to him that I had stayed by him, pretty cool eh?
New Orleans: All I know is that I was there a few times, but the first time was a weird situation and I was hungry enough to eat treife, just so happens that God found me a parking spot right in front of kosher cajun, I had no idea it was even there and damn it was good stuff.
Saint Louis: I was talking on facebook to some kid named Alex and I had mentioned that I really had a pleasant stay in St Louis and he wondered why I would go there, it’s on the i70 smack in the middle of the country, it’s hard to avoid if you’re a serious traveler like myself. I remember that the agudah shul was possibly the friendliest shul I had ever been to, everyone invited me out to their homes and people found me a seat and after shabbos no one rushed home, every sat around learning for a few minutes. I remember going to the modern shul and thinking, “holy crap, these people aren’t friendly, I though Mo were friendlier than frummies” I didn;t eat at Kohns, but I hear their pastrami is to die for.
Chicago: Just didn’t strike me the right way, the pizzas good, the bike path along the lake is cool, the city is beautiful and I love walking it, but the Jews I remember thinking they weren’t too friendly and it was too big of a city for it to be, I’ll be going back soon and be sure to see what’s really going on there – I haven’t been there as an observer, just as a weekend stop before I headed into the wilds of the west.
Southbend, Indiana: How this city got to be where it is, is strange, but it’s super yeshivish and super friendly and very strange.
Ann Arbor, Michigan: All I remember is that the chabad had couches and the guy I stayed by was into swords. Very cool city.
Toronto: I’ve only stayed in Thornhill or downtown by bay and bloor, the Bayit used to be full of teenage hotties and they all wore those hooker boots, Froday night attendance was a must. Off the derech kids hanging out by Markeys by Steeles was interesting and I loved the zuchini pizza at tov li, Sobeys is a mind blowing foodie experience and my blog was started in Toronto so I owe a lot to the place, I have some good friends from there and I remember these beer and chicken wings kiddushim at the kehilla center. Hakerem makes mad good shawarma and there is this fast food Chinese place that is a good laxative, like bais burger is. I drove twice to Toronto just for a concert, 3 hours each way from Rochester – in 2002 to Dream Theater and later to see Reel Big Fish, both were amazing shows.
Calgary: The first time I can recall hearing them chant yechi in public, someone was breastfeeding at the table at lunch, strange city.
Edmonton: You have to go to the mall, we got free tickets, I went on my first roller coaster, all of the doors have mezuzahs, there’s a kosher place in the food court. The chabad shul and the other shul are really friendly, I met some very cool people in Edmonton and I really want to go back. It’s so cold that you have to plug your car into an outlet at night so the engine block stays warm and everyone has cords hanging out of their engines. I spoke to Jews who had actually been to the Northwest Territories. The chabad Rabbi in Edmonton is one of the smartest I’ve met.
Vancouver: It;s a shame that I only remember the mountain biking, it’s famous for that and there was good shwarma and everyone smoked a lot of weed – it was prior to my having tried it.
Seattle: Another place I need to go back to, I heard the pizza there is amazing and I remember the people as being particularly cool. We stayed at Kafka, no relation to Franz, chabad family and I remember a lot of cute eligible chabad girls around and talking to them, the shul had a really good kiddush but it was in 2001 and I really don;t remember much.
Boise, Idaho: The chabad is in a storefront, the food is amazing, the beds are amazing and the Rabbi and his wife are cool, Idaho is awesome – Boise isn’t really Idaho, go to the Sawtooth range or hang out in Moscow.
Spokanne, Washington: The chabad guy in Bozeman Montana wasn;t around and I was willing to drive an extra bunch of hours for the shabbos experience, solo shabbos in a dingy motel room listening to hookers disguised as room service is really the pits, so I drove to Spokanne, a dusty and hilly town in the dry part of Washington, the rabbis house was a few blocks way from dirt roads, it was cool, he had this guy over who explained to us that the only time he had eaten in a kosher place was the Hebrew National stand in NY, it was classic.
Reno, Nevada: The closest community to Tahoe, also the only chabad with a CSA in their backyard, don’t know what a CSA is? That’s probably why we aren’t friends? The chabad guys kids are brilliant and awesome, the members of the shul own casinos and are really right wing, they talk guns and scotch, I like the sage brush and dinginess of Reno – reminds me of downtown vegas, yet still not as glitzy, go to downtown vegas – it’s interesting.
Omaha, Nebraska: The Rabbi is super cool, his wife is a great cook and I love her dad. The bagel store there gives you tuna on both sides of the bagel when you order it as such. I was in Omaha riding my bike years ago and I met some folks in downtown, they took me out to dinner and I stayed on their couch, they were really wealthy.
Denver: One of the friendlier communities I have been to, interesting, diverse and full of outdoors nuts just like me, everyone skis, everyone loves living there, the closest large Jewish community is over 500 miles away, it’s an oasis of Yiddishkeit in the middle of the desert – yes Denver is in the desert and it’s got over 300 days of sunshine a year, it snows and the next day it’s 80 degrees in the middle of the winter. No they don’t ski to work. The yeshivish community is in the ghetto and the modern community is in the nice side of town, yeshivish people are starting to move to the nice side of town, I give it 20 years until the communities are finally blended, everyone knows each other. The east side kosher deli there has sushi night and their fajitas are the best and most consistent thing on the menu.
Boulder, Colorado: My brother lives there and it’s one of the only frum communities I have found that you can hike good wildrness trails within the techum. They play instruments at kabalas shabbos right up until lecha dodi, the mechitza is tall, the rabbi is Chabad-Bresslov-Kook and he’s cool. The kiddushim never have cholent and the campus chabad guy there is super cool. The skatepark there lets bikes in and is concrete. Main street is closed to cars or shall I say pearl street. I one time sat with my friend in a non-kosher vegan place on shabbos morning, some other Jews were eating there and we all sang shabbos zemiros as we ate in a non-kosher restaurant on shabbos – so strange.
Santa Fe, New Mexico: I remember finding out that a non-chabad shul existed in Santa Fe and was excited, no offense to chabad, but I try to see the local shul if there is one because I always that local feel more interesting and it was, I stayed by a ridiculously brilliant fellow who was into motorcycling and back country adventure, he was a flight medic and he made amazing food, his wife was very cool, their house was cozy. They explained to me the terrible politics of a community that couldn’t support two minyanim – their side of the story (I say side because I didn’t ask the chabad guy even though I davened there in the day time) is that the chabad guy was brought in to teach some of the kids with the stipulation that he wouldn’t open a chabad house, he opened it and basically stole the community, I’ve heard before, but there are always two sides – regardless – you should go to Santa Fe, everyone is brilliant and interesting and works at top secret Los Alamos.
Venice Beach, CA: I did a show there and it was a lot of fun, I spent the weekend expecting a bunch of hippies and a bunch of alter cocker middle aged herring and scotch lovers showed up – very cool. The view of the sunset was the best I’ve seen and whenever I was bored during shachris I walked out the door and watched the crazy people and tourists, there’s a lingerie shop and a marijuana dispensary next door. It’s ten degrees cooler than Pico.
Sacramento, CA: They have two cholents every week, one spicy and one not, they have 4 bottles of booze at kiddush for 20 people, they have one of the best shul libraries ever and they have amazing seats. Their singing during davening was hands down the worst I’ve ever witnessed, they all know this and acknowledge it openly – good they have a sense of humor – the shul is 30% gerim, maybe that’s why it’s so chilled, they have an eruv and a kosher restaurant – but there are like 35 frum families – I wish to know their secret, the rabbi wasn’t there but I hear he’s heir to the Baily’s thrown – too bad Bailey’s is treife.
Anchorage, Alaska: I slept on the chabads floor for Rosh Hashanah, they aren’t very nice, it’s common knowledge, it took nudging to sleep on their floor – they had good food, the husband is cool the wife is uh…the people who came to shul were talking about hunting and guns and fishing, it was cool, old school Alaskans sitting in a hotel conference room in Alaska, classic.We met a Jewish eskimo, he had whale meat and a coat made from wolverines, we watched his families whale boat hunting trips on DVD, he went to YU for law school but grew up in Barrow.
Fairbanks, Alaska: We sat around in a circle at the Reform shul, I was in the other room davening kabalas shabbos from a ragged old artscroll, it was cool, I bought a shirt that said “The Frozen Chosen”, Fairbanks is ghetto and white trash, don’t go there, but people don’t go to Alaska to go to cities, our hotel had all electric doors and we got ouyt of paying for Saturday night by stashing our stuff in the lobby and walking around Fairbanks looking at homeless people and pawn shops. We met an Israeli guy at shul based at one of the Forts in the area and he got us in to a hardcore thrash metal show on Saturday night, it was weird to see a bunch of shaved head kids with fists in the air on an army base in Alaska.
Boynton Beach, FL: The chabad shul is huge and very litvishe, everyone there is old or right wing modern orthodox hockers who don’t want to live in a big Jewish community. They had cholent for kiddush, I was invited to someone’s house who had lots of booze and was very cool, the wife was into yoga, the husband into scotch and cholent, classic. I couldn’t find any yechi materials in the shul.
Ottawa, Ontario: All I remember is that in shul when they announced the a mazel tov, the rabbi would go One Two Three Mazel Tov!!! Like hip hip hooray. Oh and the mechitza allows for full sight without staring or straining your eyes.
I am sure I missed some spots and will add them if I think of any, I stayed in Montreal twice but remember nothing of those stays.