Maggid Andrew Ramer
I was born in Elmhurst, New York in 1951, across the street from an amusement park called Fairyland. Three days before my sixty-fifth birthday I moved to Oakland, California, where I now live up the street from an amusement park called Fairyland. I had my first spiritual experience, age five, under a bank of honeysuckle blossoms beneath a huge pin oak and a horse chestnut, in Rockville Centre, New York, and I’ve lived longer than anywhere else so far in Brooklyn. I know that there isn’t really a brook in Brooklyn, but even though I was born in a fire sign, I’m a water lover. My new Fairyland sits by a lake and my house is filled with beach rocks, some of which I gathered in boyhood.
Place, names, and elements have shaped me, and so did my family, a wild clan of talkers, readers, storytellers, and prolific fabricators who shared their love of words with me. Although I was read to every night, drawing and painting were my first loves, until third grade when my teacher recited Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Bells” to us. Shaken to the core, enthralled by the way that Poe made music with words, I went home to write my very first poem, and I’ve been writing ever since.
Some people travel. My journey has taken me through fairy tales, mythology, archaeology, books on slavery, Native American spirituality, Russian novels, Brecht, all of Jane Austen, Doris Lessing’s Canopus books, Jane Roberts’ Seth books, and Nachman of Bratzlav’s stories. My favorite writers are Woolf, Colette, Proust, and Kawabata. My favorite stories: Gogol’s “The Nose,” and Peretz’s “Bontshe Shvayg.” Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Sufi texts have fed me, along with the Jewish stories I heard growing up, the Jewish books I’ve devoured, and the gay stories I had to intuit until they started to be told around me.
You will find in my writing a range of voices, some my own and some received, a term I prefer to ‘channeled.’ My styles vary. I write very long novels and very very short stories. My published work includes books on angels and stories in gay erotic anthologies. Years ago I decided that I would write a book in every genre: cookbook and murder mystery still lie somewhere in my future. And, amazingly, my unpublished work includes thirty-five finished and several unfinished books that live in ream boxes in a cabinet in my kitchen and in tidy files in my computer.
In 2012 I was ordained a maggid, a sacred story teller, in two ripples, first by a Reconstructionist rabbi and a Mennonite pastor – making me to the best of my knowledge the first interfaith maggid – and then again by a Reform rabbi in the center of my San Francisco community. When I told my family about it they all said some version of, “So, now it’s official.” Words enthrall me: on the back of a cereal box, in a conversation overheard on the bus or sitting in a café drinking rooibos tea. Stacks of books surround my desk, my bed. The single most sustained act of my life has been keeping a journal, which I began in 1971. I write with a fountain pen, not daily, but often, and am now in Volume 141. And while I reside in a sunny apartment in the land of oaks, my true home is a house of words, words the luminous bridge between matter and spirit.