Category Archives: music

Why aren’t books like these being written for Jews?

The books Dharma Punx and Hardcore Zen are real. I have seen them, flipped through both of them, and marveled at the way they were written. They are geared towards a specific demographic, those looking for something in Buddhism that fits into their lifestyle. Aside from reading Letters to a Buddhist Jew by Rabbi Akiva Tatz and David Gottleib, I don’t know much at all about Buddhism. I do know that these two authors and many within the non-Jewish religious publishing world realize that speaking a generation in their language is important when it comes to getting your message out there.

So, why aren’t books or e-books like these being written for the not-yet-observant Jewish Gen Xer and Millennials? There are, as I see it, two reasons.

  1. It’s exactly the same reason punk music isn’t popular in the Jewish music world. Any BT with a punk music background or FFB who is into punk would rather use their talent towards more “mainstream” music, rather than create any frum punk rock. Once you create something that sounds clearly like non-Jewish music, the odds are that those nice boys (and girls) who listen to it will want to check out the original sources of the music. So, in essence, the frum musician would be indirectly responsible for frum kids listening to non-Jewish music and no one wants to deal with that on Yom Kippur.
  2. They just haven’t been written, yet. They are probably in the hearts, minds and hard drives of slackers who “sold-out” in order to pay tuition for their kids to learn in yeshivos and day schools. When I use the term “sold-out”, what I mean is that they realized that they can be just as individualistic, independent, and iconoclastic without having to look that way externally. Many (and I’d like to include myself) haven’t given up any core values, they have just focused than punk energy into things like Torah, Avodah, G’milus Chassadim, family, work, and community.

Those involved in kiruv know that that Torah needs given over in a way that is customized for each generation. The success of both “campus kiruv” and Chabad on the university level is proof that you have to know how to market to your demographic. NCSY‘s initial success in the, in part, was due to their leadership realizing that teens had a tendency to rebel. They simply give teens the option of focusing their rebellion against the prevailing culture of the 1960 and towards Torah u’Mitzvos. Chabad‘s success, on a family level, is partially due to having excellent pre-school programs and providing amazing day camp experiences for both children and their parents. Ohr Someach and Aish HaTorah have capitalized on providing opportunities for college-aged young adults to get a “yeshiva experience” that give them a taste for more learning.

These alternative sub-culture styled religious books, tend to take punk ethos in one hand and religion in the other and attempt to make the two fit together. With Yiddishkeit, the two can fit, but you have to be willing to accept that the priority is Torah.  The Torah is a constant.  It was around before the world was created and will always be here. I think there’s a whole segment of Jews that we are not reaching.  It’s not because their music is too loud, or their noise-reducing earbuds are to effective.  It is because we have yet to figure out a way to successfully communicate the idea that being mevatar yourself (withdrawing from your ego) or demonstrating bittul (nullifying your will) is probably the most hardcore punk thing there is.

"After changes upon changes, we are more or less the same"

Graphic by me

The tile for this post comes from the “missing” verse to Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”:

Now the years are rolling by me
They are rockin’ evenly
I am older than I once was
And younger than I’ll be and that’s not unusual.
No it isn’t strange
After changes upon changes
We are more or less the same
After changes we are more or less the same

It’s funny, I think, how some things sort of lead up to other things. Since the first day of Chanukah I’ve been playing a few Simon & Garfunkel songs on my mp3 player (mostly in the car and in the kitchen, while making lunches for the kids). It started with a radio newscaster mentioning the “Sound of Silence” and then I started humming and found an old CD.  This has lead to me playing (and singing along) to some songs that I really haven’t thought of in almost 30 years. 

The truth is, my father a”h, was a big Simon & Garfunkel fan.  I remember being in 2nd grade and listen to our LPs of their “Greatest Hits”, “Sounds of Silence” and “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”.  I learned words like “superficial” and “confidence”.  I’d listen to them all the time and can remember long car trips to Texas and Pennsylvania listening to the cassettes, as well.  Driving to and from work last week and listening to a song here and there has reminded me that I have always liked music and enjoyed singing.  At some point, I started equating singing secular music with my pre-teshuva past, almost on the same level (in my head) as eating non-kosher.  This is, of course, narishkeit (nonsense).  I’m happier when I sing.  Also, I even heard a difference this past Shabbos night in shul when I was davening.  My voice sounded better than it had in a long time during Lecha Dodi because I had been exercising my vocal cords.

I thought for years that by trying to control what music I choose to listen to and even drastically limiting what secular music I would play (every now and then) that I was on the correct path.  This derech is, as I’ve been thinking about since Tishrei, a major difference between trying to control and quench a bad middah or tyvah (urge) and harnessing it for our avodah.  Holding back from something that is part of who I am hasn’t brought me the shelaimus (completeness or wholeness) that I’ve been working towards.  So, despite my refraining from throwing in odd Simon & Garfunkel references throughout this post (and I had some good ones that I didn’t use), I will simply write that for the first time, in long time, I’m “feelin’ groovy”.

A Pesach lesson from my son

Photo from here.  Personally this reminds me of
the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine.

Last week during carpool my 12 yr old son shared the following revelation with me:

Abba, did you know that a Mitzvah Tank is just an RV that they Na Nach up Lubavitch style?

I smiled at his his observation, but it also initially bothered me. I have always found it somewhat troublesome when someone copies something from someone else and then they (those who copy) get credit for being creative and original.  I cringed when people would tell me how Blue Fringe had this “awesome new song” called “Hafachta” (originally written and performed by Diaspora Yeshiva Band).  I smirked when teens would tell me that “they came out with another Willy Wonka movie, but that guy just isn’t as weird as Johnny Depp”.  Some remakes of movies and cover songs are not all bad.  I just don’t like it when the originals get overlooked for, simply, being original.

Now, I don’t blame my son.  He’s seen Mitzvah Tanks in Chicago.  He has also seen videos of Na Nachs dancing in Tel Aviv, photos of their Na Nach’ed up vehicles, and even seen some guys selling their swag Motzei Shabbos on Central Ave (in Cedarhurst, NY).  In his mind, the Chabad that copied the Na Nachs, not the other way around.  It’s his frame of reference only because he saw the Na Nachs do it first.

I have been thinking about this for over a week. At first, as I described above, I was bothered. Then, after some hisbonenus  I gained a better perspective on things.  A number of years ago I heard an amazing vort on the chatzatzros, trumpets, used in the Mishkan.  R David Orlofsky quotes Rav Moshe Shapiro, who brings up the point that after Moshe was niftar, the trumpets he used were put away and hidden. Yehoshua had to fashion his own. Rav Shapiro says the reason is that each generation doesn’t aways respond to the clarion call of the previous generation. While the message is the same, the mode for communiting it has to be different.

R Micha Berger puts it like this on his blog:

The call of the shofar is eternal, and thus a shofar is not invalidated by age. However, in contrast to the raw, natural, shofar, the silver chatzotzros are man-made. Their message changes as people do. The call of the chatzotzros is distinct for the generation.

If each generation has to be approached differently then, kal v’chomer (even more so) for each person.
We know that, ” A person is obligated to see himself as if he were leaving Egypt.” (Pesachim 116b)
The way that I might perceive my own freedom from Mitzrayim is, in fact, totally different than how anyone else sees it.  This obligation totally makes sense based on my son’s observation about the Mitzvah Tank.  My son has no choice but to see things from his perspective.  Hopefully he will experience Pesach in a very personal and meaningful way.  Hopefully I will, too.

2nd yahrzeit of my father a"h

So, tonight marks the second yahrtzeit of my father Al Harris a”h, Avraham ben Zorach. While the picture on the the right might not be the clearest, it was taken on his last visit with us in Chicago, in July of 2009, only three and a half months before he was niftar. 

It’s funny how the mind works. A few months ago when R.E.M. broke up I had a flashback to my sophomore year in high school. It was a Thursday night in the fall of 1985 and my father was driving me from Wichita, KS to Kansas City- a three our drive. It must had been fairly late at night, because we were listening to Larry King’s talk show and he had Michael Stipe (lead singer from R.E.M) on as a guest and there were tons of calls to him about the state of college music.  My dad thought it was cool that “my music” was being talked about on the radio.  That wasn’t the cool part.  The really cool part was that my dad was driving me all the way to Kansas City, so that I could catch an Amtrack train to St. Louis to attend an NCSY shabbaton (youth group retreat weekend).  He drove me and then drove straight back home.

So, tonight marks the second yahrtzeit of my father Al Harris, Avraham ben Zorach.  While the picture on the the right might not be the clearest, it was taken on his last visit with us in Chicago, in July of 2009, only three and a half months before he was niftar. 

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l taught the world that it is giving that leads to love, not love that leads to giving.  Meaning, that the love we have for another is a natural outcome of our giving to another, of the deeds we perform.  Deeds that come from giving, like driving me three hours away to catch a train. 

Reflections of a "fringe" Jew

Full disclosure:  I don’t fit in all the time, but then again, most of us don’t.

In truth, I play the part of blending into the “mainstream” frum lifestyle fairly well.  I talk the talk and I walk the walk.  However, when I walk, I think about how the word הלך is the root word of halacha, meaning “to walk”.  I also usually hum the song “A Walk” by Bad Religion.  I just can’t help myself.

I rarely have time or schedule time to think about what makes me different from those around me who are frum.  It usually is just a waste of my time.  Once in a blue (new) moon, I find myself in a situation where I cannot distract myself with my Blackberry, hisbodedus, or a sefer and am forced to actually accept that neis that Hashem made each of us different.  Case in point: this past Motzei Shabbos.

I ventured out, on my own, to see the band Pitom.  They were great.  While I am not a major fan of klezmer music, there were enough electric guitar riffs, hard drums, killer bass lines, and one insane electric violin to make me forget that I was actually listening to “Jewish”-based music.

As I sat in a crowd of about thirty, I scanned the audience and found, maybe, one or two others who I’d label as “frum”.  Not a big deal.  It did get me thinking that even though I have changed in many ways since becoming observant year ago, I still am sort of an “arty-hispter-type”.  I still find myself moved by music as an art form, not just as a niggun, a tune to Adon Olam, or the newest song by any generic “boys choir”.

I think that most people, if they look hard enough, have something that makes them different than everyone else.  That is how Hashem made us.  We are all on the fringe of something.  It could be the fringe of getting closer to Hashem or the fringe of going out of our minds as we get ready for Pesach.

Just as each shevet has a different degel, we are each different…created by Hashem, who is “Echad”.

Getting the band (that I don’t have) back together

Summer 1990

Recently I’ve been wanting to acquire two things.  Both are probably due to what is termed a “mid-life crisis” (my Hebrew birthday was the 21st of Kislev and will be falling out in a few days) and attempting to recapture my youth.  First, I am ready to start driving a “Smokey and the Bandit” Trans Am and I want to start sporting a goatee, instead of my short beard.  It’s high time that I shake things up with my image.

Just kidding. Now I’ll be serious.

Firstly I’ve been thinking about growing my bangs out.  I had rockin’ bangs in the late 80s and I think that it’d feel younger with something hanging down over my forehead.  It really won’t happen because I have no interest in that “in between” stage of waiting for bangs (been there, grown that).

Secondly, as I’ve jokingly told my wife and a few friends, been think of getting the band back together.  Of course, that would be the band that I never had.  Two days before Chanukka I felt an urge to buy a guitar and start taking lessons.  I, once upon at time, from first through fourth grade played guitar.  Due to a geographic move I wasn’t able to continue.  At the suggestion of a good friend I decided to sit on this urge and see if it’s a real desire or just a fleeting idea.  I’m still sitting.  However, the initial catalyst is that I know that it shows a lack of middos on my part to just sit and complain about not finding J-music that I like and I’d rather be pro-active and just make my own.  There are a nice amount of frum musicians in Chicago and if motivated I’m sure I could cold call a few and ask if they want to join my band that I don’t have.  Then we could play the music I have in my head and the seven odd songs that I haven’t written yet (but know the pasukim/phrases that would make up the lyrics).  I would convince my closest friend here to play drums and I would sing, maybe strum guitar (if I take lessons), or play my instrument of choice…the slide whistle.

It’s the perfect time in my life to start a band. My kids are still young enough that I can play for a while, get it out of my system and still not tarnish my family’s image when it comes to future shidduchim. I have a few ideas for band names:

Shelaymus (refering to perfection & a reference to mussar)
Vytair (Yiddish for continue)
The Noise Kloiz (a Klotz was another name for a shul/sheibel that like-minded people belonged to)
Husker Nu (a pun on Husker Du)
Hispa’alus (literally “with energy and passion”, a method of mussar study innovated by R Y Salanter invovling repeating phrases in a melody and invovling your whole body)
Oi Vaad (a play on words of the Canadian metal band named Voivod and also a reference to Mussar vaadim)
Derech Eretz (way of the world, good manners)
Novordorock (play on words of the Novordok school of mussar and their network of 70+ yeshivos)

Ok, these are only ideas. Nothing is set in stone.  Speaking of which, I was thinking about “Even Shelayma” as a band name, since it has that “rock” thing (and is also the name of a sefer containing idea’s by the GRA), but it’s to similar to Evën Sh’siyah.  I can totally see the band that I don’t have performing at the Chicago Jewish Music festival (held every three years) or even playing a gig at someone’s Purim seudah.  Of course all merch for band would be available from and I could even make some bumperstickes that say:  If you don’t like my driving then go against the system and purchase a song by the band (fill in name of band here) on iTunes.
While the music would be rather fast paced with emphasis on base, guitar, and drums with catchy harmonies, the pasukim and lyrics would resonate with the thinking Jew (or the Jew who isn’t even aware that they need to be thinking) that wishes to be passionate about their Avodah and relationship with Hashem and those around them. I don’t think any tracks would be vehicles for kiruv (like Journeys’ “Conversation in the Womb”), but you never know. I sort of imagine songs that you would want to crank up when driving in the snow during carpool, yet melodic enough that you can slow them down and sing them as niggunim at the Shabbos table or after havdalah, to start out the week pumped and ready for action. Maybe I’ll even start singing a little this week after havdalah. I always tell my son a short short mussar idea, usually from R Yisrael Salanter, so to add a niggun for another 30 seconds couldn’t hurt.
I don’t think the band would be invited to any gigs in day schools, since our music wouldn’t sound traditionally Jewish (unless we sang acapella, then anything goes). I also don’t think we would make a video and put it on You Tube, I’ll leave that for the Maccabeats and other boy bands who would have more universal appeal. For sure we would not get booked for late night talk shows or multi-day music festivals, since Mattisyahu seems to have that covered quite well and affectively (I might add).

We’ll probably only play in someone’s basement or the social hall of a shul somewhere. Maybe if we get a following (as in people related to those in the band) we could even get booked at a local restaurant. That would be super-sweet, especially if I can work out arrangements for the band to get unlimited Coke or Diet Mountain Dew. I guess that when the band that I don’t have finally forms and starts playing, then we will only have one true way to see if we’ve made it. The true tell-all sign of our success will be if we get banned and an article appears on Yeshiva World News, Matzav, and VIN about how our music is an affront to Emunas HaChamim and listening to us is far worse than not allowing internet in your home (but letting your teens have a cell phone with unsupervised web access).

Is it a dream? Probably.

I’ll add it to my current dream list:
Health for my family
Financial Security
Writing for my Nineteen Letters blog again
Starting two mussar vaadim in Chicago (one for those already observant and one for those who are currently non-observant)
Taking my son to a Piamenta concert
Helping my children reach their potential and feel fulfilled
A long and happy life with my wife
Getting the band (that I don’t have) back together

J-Music and my angst

Four years ago, I blogged about my search for the type of Jewish music I would love to hear and I know that I’m not alone in my search for a “fresh sound” (see this post by the Rebbetzen’s Husband or this classic by A Simple Jew).
For me, the Jewish music I crave would combine the musical sensibility and passion of Carlebach, Diaspora, Yosef Karduner, Yitzhak HaLevi, Ruby Harris, Piamenta, and the Rabbis’ Sons. If you really want, slip some Blue Fringe, C Lanzbom, or Yeshiva Boys Choir in there, as well.  Now take that list and throw in the power and edge of Husker Du/Bob Mould, Bad Religion, Black Flag, or even a little Green Day or Foo Fighters and a pinch of R.E.M, Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, or The Police… just to balance things out.

It will probably never happen. In my humble opinion, the reason isn’t because of lack of musicianship, lack of now Observant Jews with a musical background, or lack of money to put out a CD (these days people record albums in their basement and simply sell MP3’s online). The reason is because of the stigma that is attached to rock and in-your-face-obviously-non-Jewish-music.

Were four frum college students to record acapella versions of the songs of the Ramones and replace the lyrics with “oy” and “neiy”, making niggunim, then put out a CD a week before Pesach and call themselves the Rimonim, I’m sure it would be the biggest hit ever. Why? Because for some reason acapella has became a somewhat acceptable heter for completely goyishe music that many b’nai Torah would never listen to.

So, what’s a guy like me to do. I’ve got my kids, finally, getting hip to “Hafachta” (Diaspora) and “Hashem Melech” (Yosef Karduner). I constantly play Piamenta’s “Mitzvah” album and find myself humming everything from the Offspring to They Might Be Giants. There’s no middle ground. I get it, it’s like Havdallah (hmm… good name for a band. I should have them record my little niggun). It’s that separation between kodesh and chol. However, part of internalizing Havdallah is that we take that kedusha and infuse it into our six days of chol. It’s funny. Musicians have been banned, black(hat)listed, and looked down upon because they have chosen to mimic or base their songs on non-Jewish music. I can hear it (no pun intended).

However, look at the consumer food industry. Baruch Hashem we have many non-Jewish owned companies that are producing warehouses and truckloads of products with hechsharim on them. Ketchup, canned beans, sugar, pasta, soda, oven bags (we call them chullent bags), salsa, and the list goes on. Now, if I can buy those items, many which have been influenced by non-Jewish food trends, and I’m making a bracha on them (before and after), then it’s ok. I’ll go step further. Let’s say that a frum company in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Toronto (for those readers in the Great White North) decides to make (we’ll really they co-producing and co-packaging, they are not “making” the items themselves) their own brand’s salsa, canned beans, dishwashing soap, or chocolate chips. What makes that ok?

I know. Because it’s important for us, the consumers, to helps support frum people and companies. If I can buy a heimishe packaged product instead of a non-Jewish owned product or a “store brand”, then I’m helping to complete the circle of life (the Yidden make/package the food and then other Yidden buy/consume the food). It’s part of what makes America great… free enterprise. I’m all for it.

That being written, we know that many Torah observant Jews are listening to non-Jewish music. Why not quench their thirst with music made and sold by frum Yidden? We do the same thing with everything from orange juice to chocolate syrup. There is a possible light at the end of the tunnel, though. But, first you’ll have to let me reminisce about my high school days.

I grew up in a city that didn’t always have concerts featuring band that I liked in high school. Wichita, Kansas was only three hours from Kansas City, so many of the bigger names would play there. We did get our share of smaller bands on independent labels come through, but it wasn’t a concert destination. The lack of punk/alternative shows helped produce a semi-thriving local band scene. With everything from folky-R.E.M.esque bands to bands that played faster that the speed of light, were were consantly looking forward to watching them play everywhere from bowling alleys to “under 21” clubs to living rooms. It was great. These bands combined the sounds of “our music” with local references and kept us happy and buying cassette tapes.

The aforementioned light at the end of the tunnel may be in the many observant communities that are home to fantastic day schools, excellent yeshivas/girls schools, innovative chessed programs, and effective kollels and outreach programs. Call it the “out-of-town-sound”, if you will. It’s the local Jewish bands. These are bands where you have FFBs and BTs getting together to create music that they want to play. Often these band have blended several styles of music into something that sounds a little familiar to our favorite “non-Jewish” music, but distinctively original and interlaced with pasukim that are just as familiar to us. They may rock hard and have a dedicated following that spans a generation, but their success and popularity still is under the radar. There are many of these bands out there in many of our communities, I think.

Baruch Hashem, there are a few fairly local bands in my neck of the woods that I enjoy listening to. They are both comprised of skilled musicians who have various professions. In Chicago there’s Even Sh’siyah, Ruby Harris, and a little further away in Milwaukee you can find The Moshe Skier Band. All are solid and passionate about their music. If you are looking for something “new” and not a low-toner-produced-photocopy-of-bad-non-Jewish music, then check them out.

But, there have to be more bands out there. If you know of local bands in your area, please let me know by way of commenting or simply emailing me.

Ease of Access to Lifestyles

Graphic found here

Maybe I’m just getting older, but I often find myself thinking, “I remember when…” about a great many things.  Consumer demand, the internet, and mainstream acceptance have made it easier for today’s teens and young adults to become:

1. More observant and knowledgeable about their Yiddishkeit
2. Buy into and feel part of “punk” culture

When I was becoming observant (the thinking, reading, exposure period was between 1985-1987) web wasn’t even around.  This alone allows people searching to get legit information and have a virtual library at their fingertips.  Back in my time, Artscroll was figuring out how to build up their catalogue.  The OU/NCSY publications written by R Aryeh Kaplan zt’l was about all there was to read.  Today, even without living in a large Jewish community, you can read experts from books, e-books (Artscroll actually just rolled out several titles available in the iBook format), order seforim, read Chumash w/ /Rashi online, or even “Ask Moses“.  I mean, come on, today you can even purchase challah covers and washing cups on!  It’s a whole new world and it’s great.

And it’s not only online.  Many libraries now have fairly impressive Jewish book sections and allow books to be ordered from other libraries across the country.  You can even purchase some Artscroll titles at Barnes and Noble.  This still blows my mind.  The availability of programs like Partners in Torah and Jewish Pathways have allowed those in even very remote areas to grow in the Jewish knowledge.  The ease of access to such storehouses of Jewish knowledge have made it much easier for those seeking answers about Yiddishkeit to truly grown from within.

Contrast this with the ease of those teens or young adults who yearn to be “so punk it hurts”.  Back in my day, you had to actually stay up really late and position your radio just right to catch various music programs on the local college radio station.  That’s were the bands I “grew up with” were being played.  Or, if you had cable, you could figure out a way to stay up late on Sunday nights to watch MTV’s “120 Minutes” a show that aired “underground” music videos and had interviews with non-top 40 musicians.  Both options involved drinking some coffee around 7pm at night.  If you wanted a cool band merch you had to use something called “mail-order” and wait for weeks until your shirt, button, or patch showed up at your door.  You had to hunt down the albums, cassettes, or CDs you wanted.

Today, if you want to be punk, you really just need to go your local mall and enter the chain of stores known as “Hot Topic”.  I walked in once, a few months ago.  They have the clothes, the band t-shirts, CD, vinyl albums, and even a slick kiosk that allows one to order additional band merch and music from a website then get it delivered to the store.  Amazing.  I was impressed, and I admit that I felt a bit nostalgic, when I saw t-shirt for sale from the Ramones, the Clash, and Black Flag.  I won’t even get into things like file sharing (to get the entire discography of most bands for free) and any punk history lessons you want from various Wiki articles.  The commercialism of the punk scene had made it to the masses.  Now everyone could look the part.

And that’s just it.  You can look the part today.  Accessibility for those seeking Yiddishkeit has resulted in an internal growth of Torah knowledge and availability of a few “necessary” items that can enhance your observance.  It is mostly, in my opinion, something that happens from within and then sprouts up to a blossom of Torah observance.

With the “punk” thing (and most cultures/sub-cultures) its almost completely the opposite.  You can adorn yourself with shirts, bracelets, rings (for your finger, ear, or nose), and fill you ears with music that was difficult to acquire even 30 years ago.  However, it’s mostly just a anchor to externally identify with a sub-culture.  Its’ easy of access most not something that moves on from within.

A local favorite

(Photo from here)

Growing up, I thought it was normal to have a 44 foot tall sculpture of an Indian warrior in your city.  Above is the structure known to all as the Keeper of the Plains, located in Wichita, Kansas at the point where the Little Arkansas (pronounced in Kansas as Ar-kansas) and the Big Arkansas rivers merge.  During a short visit to Wichita last week I stopped by to see the Keeper.  It’s still there, standing tall.  A symbol of the greatness of Native American culture that existed long before Kansas was even a state.  Oops, I almost got policital for a second, sorry.

The scupture was designed by a Native American artist named  Blackbear Bosin and it happens to be a local landmark.  It also happens to a bit on the unusual side, I admit.  It just stands there, being proud and facing the point where the two rivers meet.  My parents took me there several times when I as younger.  It was always a destination when relatives came to visit.  It’s name defines it, it symbolically stands guard over the land, keeping it safe and allowing residents to use the plains as they see fit.  To plant, grow, build, to make the plains their home.  Hmm… I think I’m waxing lyrical a bit too much.

Really, it’s only cool if you’re from Wichita, because it’s local.  Like the local sports team that everyone follows.  Like the local bands in any given music scene that only you have heard of.  Like the local Rav that does more outreach in a week than most people do in a year.  Like the local restaurant that makes that one item that you can’t get anywhere on either coast.  Like the local one guy in shul who seems to know all the answers in every halacha shiur.  Like the local short-cut that will get you home faster than the main streets.
It’s all of those little things that make us feel comfortable when we are “home”.  Having that bond of “common knowledge” can bring people closer together.

We are all, in some ways, locals.  However, we are also just visiting.