Story: The History of David McKowski

27 May 2005 // books

[updated May 2007]

Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight, you will witness the genius of world-renowned magician David McKowski. You will see, before your very eyes, those famous hands perform feats of magic that will make you question reality itself. Those magnificent digits possess occult powers that have seduced audiences around the world. You, ladies and gentlemen, are doubly blessed for what you will witness here tonight can never be learnt; it can only be inherited. But we do not want to shroud this Chinese-Jewish Magician in obscurity, and by way of introduction, we will shed light on the mystery. Ladies and gentlemen, who is this Multi-cultural International Man of Magic? Some say his magic descends from the Hasidic masters, others say that he owes his powers to Confucius, some even say that he draws his powers from an animal totem, a Fish. Perhaps there is a speckle of truth in all of these speculations.

The origin of David McKowski is murky. What traces that exist are fragmentary. It is known, for instance, that the grandfather of McKowski, Elie Kowski was a young Jew from in northern Germany. Elie was a Rabbi student at a Yeshiva, in the Jewish sector of Berlin. Stories from people who lived at the time suggested that Elie Kowski was a prodigious gifted student. By a tender age, he had already imbibed the holy Kabbalah and learnt the unspeakable names of Jehovah and. Some even say that he had been earmarked to become one of the Holders of the Living Torah. Stories of his mysterious hands, larger than normal and super-dexterous, are legion. He healed diseased children, converted prostitutes to virgins, and filled the stomachs of the hungry with magic.

But not even the Kabbalah can resist the tides of history. As Hitler burnt down the Reichstag, those who could leave Berlin, left. The records of that time are particularly murky but we do know that in 1941, Elie Kowski found himself on a ship heading out for Japan. Why Japan? Escape? Look at the facts: a promising Rabbinical student, most probably skilled in the Magic Arts of the Kabbalah, would not have gone to Japan merely for safety. No. Most likely he was on a secret mystical mission, perhaps to find the ley-lines, or maybe to petition the Secret Masters of the World who dwell on the lofty peaks of the Himalayas. Such speculations, however, are futile, for we know that the ship did not reach its destination. In the dark of night, a Japanese convoy attacked and sunk the ship. The only known survivor was Elie Kowski, who washed up on shore near a tiny village in the region of Canton.

Near the delta of the Zhu-Jiang river, lies a tiny village, Jing-Jang. Villagers had lived there for centuries. The villagers nurtured their existence from a particular species of fish that could only be found in Jing-Jang. It was a kind of flat-head, with a greasy textured flesh and a rainbow-fluted tail, a renowned delicacy in the region. In ancient times, learned Confucian scholars in silken brown robes were known to have made the arduous journey from Canton to Jing-Jang, just to taste this delicious fish. And it was in the fishing nets of this fish that the near-drowned body of Elie Kowski was found. He was in a state—his curly-locks bedraggled, his head bare, and his yarmulke long since washed out to sea. Yet even in this near comatose state, his whitened knuckles still gripped a tiny Torah, which had miraculously survived the journey.

The person who found the near-dead Rabbinic student, tangled up in the fishing nets of Jing-Jang was famous, on the shore of a rural Chinese fishing village, was none other than David McKowski's paternal grandmother, Xu-Xu. On that day, the tiny demure fishing-girl was dressed in the weavy-fishy patterns of the village dress. The exotic sight of a pasty-faced, hair-covered, proboscally-endowed European would have been a shock to Xu-Xu but it was a shock that would
shake loose the bonds of love. The connection was strong. His bloated face, puffed-up from floating for such a long time at sea, resembled the faces of local fish. She gingerly untangled him from the nets, loaded him onto her tiny back, and carried him back to her house.

Xu-Xu slowly nursed Elie back to health, feeding him tiny morsels of that delicious fish. She chose the choicest morsels, pieces from the cheek, the most tender part of the fish. At first, it was difficult for Elie to eat, but each bite of the fish was like a kiss from Xu-Xu. As his strength improved, the portions of fish that he could eat also grew, until he was able to eat a whole fish in a whole sitting, eating in the traditional Jing-Jang way, such that the skeleton was picked clean but remained intact. It was fortunate for Elie that fish was kosher.

The war passed the village by. Elie recovered, fathered a child, but he feared for what was happening in Europe. He left and was never heard of again. It is suspected that he died in a concentration camp.

Meanwhile, the son that Xu-Xu bore, the future father of David McKowski, grew up in rural China. The boy was given a good Chinese name, Bing-Bing. Post-war China was a vastly different place than the China that had come before. It was communist. Bing-Bing grew up wanting to become a good communist like the rest of the good village. He studied hard to master the thoughts of the Great Leader, but try as he might, Bing-Bing was always treated differently by the other villagers. Driven by a deep-seated fear of foreigners, the other children frequently slurred the gwei-lo, the half-jew half-chinese boy, and occasional beatings occurred throughout his childhood. Despite the maltreatment meted out by Bing-Bing's fellow villagers, he possessed a skill that still garnered respect in Jing-Jang. He was a natural fisherman. Whenever he would go out in the boats, Bing-Bing would always come back with an over-abundant catch of fish. Such was his ability, the other villagers would swear that he knew the secret name of fish, and by a guttural incantation known only to him, Bing-Bing could call the fish straight into the nets.

The Communist government looked after the village, and for the first time in living memory, the children of the village got an education. Bing-Bing gravitated to medicine and became a doctor, and later, a surgeon. Bing-Bing was a practical man, not prone to introspection. A few times in his life, he might have wondered about his long-lost father and the funny little book that his father had left behind. He vaguely knew that his father was Jewish, but that meant little to his orthodox Communist mind. Yet his medical career owed everything to his father. His father's legacy was the gift of those marvelous hands, hands more appropriate to a Master of the Kabbalah than to an earnest Communist cadet. Bing-Bing's hands were marvelous. They were dexterous and steady, long and pointed, almost feminine. They were real surgeons' hands, his university teachers would later say. Merely with a slight brush of his hands, Bing-Bing could detect tumors, liver problems, and all manner of internal maladies. His surgery technique was exquisite, the feather-sensitive control of his digits allowed Bing-Bing to cut-and-dice in places no other surgeon would dare. Bing-Bing soon built up a successful practice. As with all successful professionals, Bing-Bing moved to the capital.

And thus, David McKowski, the son of a top-ranking Beijing surgeon Dr. Bing-Bing, was born – a quarter Jew and three-quarters Chinese – with the blood of the Torah and the spirit of fish running through his veins. But the name David McKowski was not the name he was given. Although he inherited the hands of his father, he did not inherit his father's practicality. Instead McKowski inherited the mystical inclinations of his grandfather, which coursed in the shape of his lovely hands. His Jewish heritage was something McKowski had to discover for himself. At the age of five, he discovered his grandfather's little book of Torah in a forgotten crevice of his father's house. The book fascinated him, and obsessed him for many years. Fortunately for McKowski, he grew up at a time when China started to open up to the world, and through his exposure to the new influx of foreigners, McKowski learnt of the Jewish nature of his grandfather's book.

At age fifteen, he ran away from home to America, to discover more about the book, and the ancient tradition behind it. He ended in New York because he knew, to the marrow of his bones, that New York was the true center of Judaism. The details of those years in New York are sketchy at best, but it is known that in New York, McKowski was able to track down people who had known his grandfather, and learnt that his grandfather's name was Kowski. It was there, for there are city records, that he changed his name to McKowski, son of McKowski, in honor of his grandfather. He desired to be like his grandfather and endeavored to master the Kabbalah as his grandfather had done. But by the time McKowski tracked down the great Kabbalah masters, they had all gone into show business. Instead of the healing Kabbalah that his grandfather had known, McKowski was initiated into the Performing Arts of the Kabbalah, a subtle but vastly different lore of knowledge, for the living Torah is not static but evolves and adapts depending on the seasons and the time. Through years of self-denial, David McKowski mastered the Secret Arts, and so, ladies and gentlemen, tonight, I present to you, the Chada, the Hierophant, the Grand Kippur, the one and only Multicultural Master of Magic, Dr. David McKowski.