Yesterday concluded the Jewish holiday of Passover, commemorating Exodus, by which I mean the biblical story of Exodus, as opposed to “Exodus” the Bob Marley album, Exodus the thrash-metal band or “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale as an exceptionally beef-cakey Moses.
The chief Passover custom entails gathering for a ceremonial dinner called a seder. Seder means “order,” in reference to the specific order of rituals performed before, during and after the meal. Also, because you’re invariably “ordered” to eat a slab of someone’s cold, slimy homemade gefilte fish (with extra fish gel … yes, “fish gel”). You don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, on Passover, do you?
After the traditional guilt is served — often several heaping helpings — we recount the Ten Plagues of Egypt, a series of increasingly harsh divine punishments inflicted upon the Pharaoh until he finally freed the Hebrew slaves from bondage. They are: blood, frogs, lice, wild beasts, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and slaying of the firstborn. Interestingly enough, these comprise 10 of the 11 secret herbs and spices in the Colonel’s recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken (the 11th is salt).
Of course, the Ten Plagues of Egypt originally took place several thousand years ago, when plagues such as blood and lice proved far more catastrophic before the advent of Band-Aids and Rid shampoo. And in Juneau, hail, darkness and wild beasts are part of daily life (and do mosquitos count as locusts?). What might a more contemporary, geographically appropriate Ten Plagues look like for the capital city?
• Kombucha: And while we’re at it, nutritional yeast. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as pro-probiotic as the next guy. But I don’t feel the need to homebrew my own penicillin. In my own digestive tract.
• Hypnosis Seminars: In fact, there’s one coming to town on April 22. Of course, that’s on top of the shamanistic retreat headed here this summer. Who will we bring up next, that guy who talks to dead people?
• Four-pound bags of Costco chocolate chips: The entire reason why your life vest now fits like a jogging bra. This plague is especially insidious when combined with the 80-ounce tub of peanut butter.
• Wintry mix: Hail, schmail. Make it snain for three straight weeks, I’ll free anyone you want. Heck, I’ll probably buy them candy and play “Flappy Dunk” on my phone, too.
• Manboobs: While medical science long ago figured out how to treat Biblical plagues, there’s still no cure for manboobs. And not a shirt exists — not even a hockey jersey — that can truly hide your gynecomastia, or, if you prefer, fatboy funbags. Your best bet remains binding yourself with a towel, like Barbara Streisand in “Yentyl.”
• Network connection error: You know the old saying, “he who fixes his own server issues has a fool for an IT guy.” This plague is especially likely to strike at 6 a.m. on a weekend, when no help desk is open your kids won’t let you go back to sleep until they can stream “Garfield and Friends.” The worst part: if you still haven’t managed to restore connectivity later that evening, you’ll have to go back to analog pornography and who can remember where you stashed that?
• Lice: This plagues stays on the list, as anyone who’s ever raised children in this town can attest.
• That two-week stretch in August after camp ends but before school begins: Chances are, you’ll also be battling lice.
• Endless legislative sessions, year after year, yet still without a balanced budget … or an official state marmot to prognosticate over Marmot Day.
• Expiration of REI membership dividends: So what if the angel of death spares your firstborn son? If he doth smite all REI membership dividends, how are you supposed to pay for that new set of stainless-steel, double-wall wilderness wine tumblers? What about the Sahara Outback Cape Hat in Beachwood, Deep Lichen and Asphalt Grey? You’re sure as hell not going to pay your own money, even with the 5 percent back you get when you use your REI Co-op credit card. And yet, you’re not logging off the website without those Down Insulated Camp Booties, either. This is perhaps the cruelest plague of all (which is why I saved it for last).
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday, as it has since summer 2009. The Geoff Kirsch Experience Experiment Projeqt featuring Margie McWilliams will be performing all your favorites (assuming you like REM, Twisted Sister and Guns ‘N Roses re-imagined for acoustic guitar and fiddle) at 8:30 pm, Monday, April 9, at the 44th Annual Alaska Folk Festival.