Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

AN EVENING WITH MARGIE, or
THE GREAT FUCKO MYSTERY

I’m down in Florida right now visiting with my Aunt Margie, who has recently relocated to what is known in these parts as an independent living residence.

There is an orderly progression in these matters. When everyday life in one’s own residence gets to be too challenging, one relocates to independent living. When medical issues dictate additional levels of help with the tasks of daily life, the next transition is to assisted living. When that is still not enough, the next stop is the nursing home, AKA “very assisted living.” One of our doctor friends has characterized the residential progression as “Go-Go - Slow-Go - No-Go.”

Margie still has all her shit in one sock, to use a vulgar expression: Her main issue is difficulty in walking, with the attendant risk of falling. Fortunately, she is a wisp of a thing, and when she falls she generally doesn’t get too banged up. But you do not want to (Gawd forbid) break a hip, and so it is best to be in an environment where you have plenty of help getting around.

We had a delightful home-cooked meal this evening: roasted sausage and grapes in a wine reduction, steamed artichokes with melted butter, tossed salad, and a nice Merlot. And, as always, good food brings out the stories.

I love Margie’s stories. Back in the day, she was one of my mother’s closest friends, a connection that ended up with her marrying my mother’s elder brother - Uncle Phil! - and becoming family. And now, with both my mother and Uncle Phil gone, those long-buried stories are getting more and more interesting.

Margie grew up in Atlantic City during the latter days of Nucky Johnson’s reign, moving to Brooklyn when she was a mere sprat of nine years. And right away, she discovered that Brooklyn people sounded different when they talked. One of her young friends, on their morning walk to school, announced that she wanted a “fucko.”

Not wanting to appear ignorant, my little Margie did not ask exactly what said “fucko” was. That was a question she saved until she got home, lobbing it out as her mother was mixing the water for Margie’s bath by swishing her hand back and forth in the tub to blend the water from the separate hot and cold taps. The shocking enquiry caused said hand to stop dead in the water. “Don’t use that word. It’s not nice!”

But the Great Fucko Mystery was resolved the following week, when Margie’s friend showed up for the post-luncheon walk back to school... wearing a brand-new rabbit coat. “Look, I finally got my fucko!” she said, with a runway twirl.

Fucko, indeed. Is it any wonder I’m crazy about my Auntie?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

DEAN MARTIN MEETS H. P. LOVECRAFT

Fhtagn-Dazs
 [Sung to the tune of That’s Amore]

When the Old Ones, asleep, lie in wait in the deep
Cthulhu fhtagn
When you lie in your bed with your mind filled with dread
Cthulhu fhtagn

Elder Things – ring-a-ding a-ding, ring-a-ding a-ding
They don’t like you
And when you hear their call you will fall
Madness strikes you

When that vile protoplasm crawls out of its chasm
Cthulhu fhtagn
Then your mind, it will crack - you’ll be some shoggoth’s snack
O, the pain

When the Old Ones stop dreaming, that’s when you start screaming
O, R’lyeh!
’Cause when you hear their greetin’ you’ll be first to be eaten
(That’s scare-ray!)

[More Cthulhu-related foolishness here.]

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

ASCENSION DAY

Eli at Shabbat services, December 2012
Eli (z''l) attends Shabbat services at the Veterans Home, December 2012.

In Jewish tradition, a person mourns a deceased relative for a prescribed period: A seven-day period of intense bereavement (shiva) is followed by thirty days (sh’loshim) during which certain restrictions are observed. A mourner does not go to movies, concerts, or other amusements; males typically do not shave. In addition, the mourner recites Kaddish.

Kaddish yatom - the form of Kaddish recited by mourners - does not mention death or loss. It is a doxology, a verbal expression of praise to God. In its various forms, Kaddish is used as a sort of punctuation for worship, indicating a transition between one part of the service and another. It’s not obvious why Kaddish should have especial significance for mourners, but perhaps it is because the highest evidence of one’s love for God is the ability to speak His praise after suffering loss.

The customs one observes for mourning a parent are different than those for other relatives. One mourns for a full year, not just thirty days - but recites Kaddish daily for only eleven months of that year. Why stop at eleven months? The Sages believed that the souls of the deceased endure a year-long period of judgment after death, but that only the wicked are judged for the full year, the righteous presumably being allowed to ascend to Olam ha-Ba - the Next World - after only eleven months. The implicit presumption is therefore that one’s parents, because they are emphatically not wicked, only need eleven months of human intercession for their souls.

Both my parents would have dismissed all of that as complete mumbo-jumbo. They were very aware - and proud - of their Jewish identity, whilst simultaneously being quite irreligious.

My Dad - Eli, hizzownself, of bless├Ęd memory - would inevitably decline my invitations to attend morning Minyan with me on those infrequent occasions when he would visit us in Atlanta. “It’s not my thing,” he would protest. But in the last years of his life, after he suffered the stroke that eventually landed him in the Long Island State Veterans Home, he found religion of a sort, deriving a measure of enjoyment from the Sabbath services a visiting rabbi would conduct Friday mornings. “I can’t stand all that Hebrew,” he would tell me, “but I really like how the rabbi explains the weekly Torah portion.”
* * *

Today was the last day of my eleven-month Kaddish recitation period. I marked the occasion by leading the morning service and then taking the Minyan Boyz out to breakfast afterward... a small “thank you” for being present in sufficient numbers to enable me to fulfill my obligation of reciting Kaddish. The next time I say Kaddish for Dad will be at his Yahrzeit, the anniversary of his passing, a month from now. 

If I truly believed in all of my ancestral traditions, I would be able to take comfort in the knowledge that this is the day on which my father’s soul finally is granted permission to ascend to the Next Level of post-Earthly existence. But that doesn’t comfort me much... because I am a skeptic, and I know mumbo-jumbo when I see it. And Dad would agree.

No: I take comfort in knowing that my Dad had a long and (mostly) happy life, and that he instilled in me a certain love for my family, my country, and the people I come from. And I take comfort in knowing about my people’s traditions, even if I am generally not scrupulous about following all of our rules and regulations. (I like to be educated so that I know what laws I am violating at any given moment.) I am grateful that he was who he was, and that in his final years he himself was comforted by my visits and the memories we would share.

Ave atque vale, Daddy. I’ll never forget you.

UH-OH

Churchy Panic
Churchy LaFemme, famous triskadeikaphobe. Borrowed from an early 1970’s Pogo strip.

Yes, it’s Friday, and as Churchy LaFemme was wont to exclaim, “Gyack! Friday the 13th come on a Friday this month!”

The late Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo (one of the great comic strips of the twentieth century, for you young ’uns) used to milk this gag regularly, no matter what day of the week the thirteenth actually landed on. When it actually coincided with a Friday, well then.

If you are a confirmed triskadeikaphobe, stay home. But everyone knows that the fourteenth - specifically, February 14 - is waaaay scarier than any Friday the Thirteenth.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

THE CONVENTIONEER: A 100-WORD STORY

Phil trudged down the dingy Motel 6 hallway, scanning the doors for his room. Ah, there: 202.

He always reserved Room 202 whenever he could. The desk clerks understood. Fucking sympathy, Phil thought. They knew, and Phil knew that they knew, that he had seen better days.

Once he had been a celebrity, regularly seen on national TV hobnobbing with a phalanx of top-hatted gentlemen. But climate change and a string of bad predictions killed that. Now it was DragonCon. Bullshit.

Pulling a tattered copy of The Book of Marmot from the nightstand, Punxsutawney Phil settled in for the night.

Monday, February 2, 2015

DIES MARMOTA MONAX REDUX

Groundhog Day
©2006 King Features Syndicate.

Or, the Day of the Land-Beaver. Groundhog Day.

To call Groundhog Day an actual holiday may be a bit excessive. Nobody gets the day off, nobody gets time-and-a-half, no special festive meals are prepared and consumed. Call it, rather, a Folk Celebration... and a rather ridiculous one at that, in which a bloated marmot is assumed to have weather prognosticative abilities. Statistics would seem to indicate otherwise.

I’d say, “Only in America,” but that’d be inaccurate. Our Canadian friends observe this silly-ass occasion, too.

The day received a shot in the arm from the eponymous 1993 film, in which Bill Murray’s character, a newsman sent to cover the festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, relives February 2 over and over again until he “gets it right.” [By “gets it right,” the film script apparently means “figures out how not to be a Gaping Asshole any more.”]

I‘d be horrified at the prospect of reliving one day over and over again. Like this guy:



Thank goodness everyone knows that’s impossible...




Groundhog Day
©2006 King Features Syndicate.

Or, the Day of the Land-Beaver. Groundhog Day.

To call Groundhog Day an actual holiday may be a bit excessive. Nobody gets the day off, nobody gets time-and-a-half, no special festive meals are prepared and consumed. Call it, rather, a Folk Celebration... and a rather ridiculous one at that, in which a bloated marmot is assumed to have weather prognosticative abilities. Statistics would seem to indicate otherwise.

I’d say, “Only in America,” but that’d be inaccurate. Our Canadian friends observe this silly-ass occasion, too.

The day received a shot in the arm from the eponymous 1993 film, in which Bill Murray’s character, a newsman sent to cover the festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, relives February 2 over and over again until he “gets it right.” [By “gets it right,” the film script apparently means “figures out how not to be a Gaping Asshole any more.”]

I‘d be horrified at the prospect of reliving one day over and over again. Like this guy:



Thank goodness everyone knows that’s impossible...




Groundhog Day
©2006 King Features Syndicate.

Or, the Day of the Land-Beaver. Groundhog Day.

To call Groundhog Day an actual holiday may be a bit excessive. Nobody gets the day off, nobody gets time-and-a-half, no special festive meals are prepared and consumed. Call it, rather, a Folk Celebration... and a rather ridiculous one at that, in which a bloated marmot is assumed to have weather prognosticative abilities. Statistics would seem to indicate otherwise.

I’d say, “Only in America,” but that’d be inaccurate. Our Canadian friends observe this silly-ass occasion, too.

The day received a shot in the arm from the eponymous 1993 film, in which Bill Murray’s character, a newsman sent to cover the festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, relives February 2 over and over again until he “gets it right.” [By “gets it right,” the film script apparently means “figures out how not to be a Gaping Asshole any more.”]

I‘d be horrified at the prospect of reliving one day over and over again. Like this guy:



Thank goodness everyone knows that’s impossible...

[Previously posted here on February 2, 2011.]