(Interrupting the story yet again.)
This past Shabbat I chanted again, 23 long verses--the most I've ever done. I was fortunate to be able to iron out the mistakes, and there were many, at the minyan on Monday and Thursday mornings with F., the Shabbat gabbai, and M., a sweet, elderly man who's there every single day of the week, following along at the bima. They're the best possible guides for (as F. puts it) an "out-of-town tryout"--between them they've probably read every word in the Torah thousands of times, more even than the rabbis.
F.'s usual gabbai role on Shabbat is the other meaning of the word. He's the master choreographer who scours the pews for in-laws of the bride's cousins and other errant olim, making sure they have tallitot and sheparding them to the right spot on the bima so they can open the Ark or perform additional stress-inducing honors. In a suit that looks like the one my father bought off the rack at Alexander's in 1973, and a tie often coordinated, absent all irony, with the week's Torah portion (rainbows for parashat Noah), F. arrives at around 10 and escorts his mother to her usual seat on the left aisle. He then begins to prowl the sanctuary and gather up all the players so there will be no break in the morning's theater.
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