"All public transportation is stopping. Buses are stopping at 5: pm in the city and the counties. The underground subway is being shut at 7: pm. They expect to be closed until Monday! The National Guard has been called out!” my son wrote. I wrote back. “That is terrible. We too are having a weather fright. They are calling for serious winds and very, very cold weather. Everyone rushed to the stores to stock up on groceries, batteries, Depends, Maalox, Preparation-H and Little Blue Pills.”
What is a Beacher supposed to do? Get undressed and then dressed to walk ten feet to the next office to be told take off your cloths and wait for the doctor who will be with you in five minutes thirty minutes from now. Who the heck is going to bend over and tie your shoes?
Well howdy, to ya’all out there, fellow members of the Tribe and otherwise. Name’s Yiddle Joe. That is the name I chose. You have to choose a name. I could have used my name William but then they would call me Willie and I don’t feel like no Willie. It sounds like Lilly and I ain’t no Lilly – the wife will verify that.
Rabbi Fuchs was a kind man and only wanted well for his flock. It troubled him personally to see any Chassid in any sort of difficulty. It pained him so much he could not stand to see it. Mendel too did not want to pain Rabbi Fuchs. After services Mendel did as he was asked. He sat with Rabbi Fuchs. He sat and they talked behind closed doors in the Rabbi's office. It was more that he sat and Rabbi Fuchs talked. An hour, maybe more, Mendel emerged, grimaced this time from more than the arthritis.
Let it be said, no, let it be proclaimed from the highest vantage point on Mt. Sample that in the autumn days of life there are Boynton Beach Jews who do not avoid risk but face it cheek to jowl. These are the Jews who dare to venture into the unknown. These are the Jews who decided they need a life-changing event. They refuse to accept the inevitable decline of retired life, golf, boredom, mah-jongg, card playing, kvetching, early birding, arthritis, and synagogue hopping for the best free Shabbat morning kiddush. With their loins girded for battle, their faces crimson with holding deep breaths of what in the hell are we doing; off they go to Sheldon's Puppy Palace on Boynton Beach Blvd. to buy a dog.
Our local Jewish newspaper, the Boynton Beach Jewish Week always amazes me. They have a special weekly article profiling a typical Boynton Beach Jew. Sometimes it is a woman. Sometimes it is a man. Sometimes it is a secular person and sometimes, but rarely, a religious person. What do they do, or did, for a living, what sort of Jewish life do they lead, and how do they express their Jewishness is important. Do they attend synagogue or not isn’t considered important. Have they, or have they not saved the whales is important. The most Jewishly important piece of information about the BBJOTW, Boynton Beach Jew of the week, is what is their favorite holiday.
When we hear the name Romeo, or Romeos in this case, visions of love-besotted youth in Shakespeare’s immortal tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet, play in our minds. Most of us have seen Romeo and Juliet the movie. We were forced to go to what our children call a “Chick Flick”. You know the movie the girl picks and you go to just so the girl will think you have a sensitive side and maybe she will be sensitive to your needs later that evening. I doubt if taking her to see the Dirty Dozen, A Fistfull of Dollars or Rambo would have the same after movie effect on the ladies.
So there I was, asking God to get me home safely. I had not asked God to get me to the eye doctor safely, just home safely. Perhaps, I should have asked the wife to drive, but my male ego assured me; she is not as good a driver as I am. I have often wondered how, why and the ways we call upon God?
When I opened the door to our home Norman, our Cockastzu - the name sounds like a chicken sneezing - came running up, tail wagging and a look of thank God you are here. Take me for a walk immediately. I need someone to play with. The wife was waiting up and smiling also. She was glad I made it back safely. With a gentle caress of her left hand and kiss of welcome she handed me my honey do's for the morning with her right hand. My delusions of sleeping in, reading a book on the lounge, basking in the warmth of the sun, napping after an afternoon beer receded quickly. The first thing on the list was taking Norman to get groomed.
There must be something mystical about Jews and Chinese restaurants. Why is it that Jews flock to Chinese restaurants but the Chinese do not flock to Deli’s or Kosher eateries? It is not like they will be asked to buy Israel Bonds or to contribute to the local Yeshivah.
What is a name? A personal name, a family name, a nick name, an identifier, a cognomen, a forename, a moniker, a appellation, a pseudonym, a code name, a noms de guerre, or a nom de plume, a symbol, a title, a destination, a designation, a image…..
My own taste is for the half done pickles, green, crunchy. Sheila’s is for well done garlic flavored ones, mushy and salty. I was about to spoon another heaping helping of the free coleslaw, super sweetened to induce a diabetic coma to counter the pickle when my cell phone rang. Last night Sheila had been called by her friend Bonnie, from up North, that a mutual friend in Florida had died that morning. Such is the case with death in the Jewish world. People may not know or speak to another person for years, because of this or that, but when someone dies, the phone tree grows far reaching tentacles, super fast.
Twenty seven channels later my finger zipped and froze. Not quite as agile as I used to be, I backed up to the previous station. It was a movie Chandler and I had watched together, it seemed darned near on the same sort of rainy, cold day in sunny Boynton Beach, 12 years ago – “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” My hand rested my speedy channel changer back into its table top holster; the Pier One wooden remote control holder box made in Indonesia of dark brown rattan. The decorator said we had to have one or the neighbors would talk about us.
Ever since I was a kid, in the last century as my grandchildren like to remind me, I have always had a dog. It is hard to imagine life without a chewing, barking, pooping, loving four legged companion. It also seemed a strange question to me, does Norman have a soul? The question was asked, seriously, by a dear non- tribal friend. Actually, I had never thought much of, do dogs have souls, except to think, of course. Does Norman have a Soul? That is a real question. Do dogs have souls? I assumed, of course.
It is a strange way of remembering Otto. But every July 2, I go to his grave site at the Judean Garden of Light and Remembrances off of Route 441 in Boynton Beach. I have two ice cold Beck’s beers with me. I place his opened beer on his grave. After saying Kaddish drank mine down with a soft L’Chaim.
Always looking for the positive, I went for the get out of the house and away from the wife alternative. What I did not expect was my simple thought for something to do, brought me face to face with something I read only happened to other people. It certainly never happened to cynical marginal Jews like me. It only happened to Christians who saw Jesus’ image in a bowl of corn flakes or Mary in a reflection on a pond. It definitely did not Jews.
When I first saw the sign, I was not sure what it meant. Were they selling $10.00 bones to seniors because the economy was so bad? Many of us are on fixed incomes and some seniors use food stamps. They couldn’t be that crass. Did it mean a large dog bone was for sale for $10.00 for seniors only? I hope it meant for dogs and not people. A small sign in the window said Happy Grooming. Who wants to get groomed by somebody with a “ferbissene punim “?
“Grandpa, is God king of the Jews or president of the Jews?”“Chandler, where did you get that idea from?” “Well, yesterday at Temple Hebrew School, Morah Batya said the Jews chose God. Did they vote for God?”
"Mendel, I apologize, my mind is a million light years away right now. I watched a PBS documentary last night on the Holocaust. Yom Hashoah is coming in a week and the PBS station is looking to raise money. They are doing their annual, let's run a timely Jewish show and ask for a donation programming. You know, for every hundred dollars to the television station, you can get a full hour long black and white video of the death camps and horror to keep on your shelves in the library."
The phone rang once, then twice. I have been trained well. Do not answer the phone until the third ring even if I am standing next to the phone. Sheila insists that in Boynton Beach there are many wrong phone calls with no voices on the other end. Just wait for the third ring then pick up. So I waited when the phone rang. One ring, two rings, and then I heard from the other room Sheila had picked up the phone violating her own prohibition on the rules of picking up the phone. God forbid if I had done that. "Hello", I heard follow by a loud sigh of happiness. "Hello darling. I so love to hear your voice".
Cohen-Hymen-Hershkovit-Hackson, Thelma J. Hackson, 102, of Boynton Beach passed away on Dec. 24, 2008. Thelma (Cohen) was born in Atlantic City, NJ. on January 5, 1906. She married Zeidel Hymen in 1921. They worked together in retail, and had many stores and moved many times. He receded her in death after 47 years of marriage in 1968. In 1968 she married Jack Hershkovit until he died in 1987. With the support of her children and step children she met James Hackson at an ecumenical pancake breakfast at the All Souls Abyssinian Church of Christ in Del Ray.
Timing is everything. Chandler showed up fifteen minutes early, sweaty with a black and white checkered kafiya wrapped about his neck. Chandler was showing his Palestinian solidarity with his pro-Arafat neck wear.
Let me share with you a true Boynton story of life here. It is called going to the Star. No, it is not a special geriatric presentation of an old entertainer from the 50’s who still can stand up straight and sing (sort of). No, going to the Star is going to the Star Bakery; a special experience made even more excruciating, oops, special when the snowbirds have migrated.
“Sheila, why don’t we go out for a ride today? You don’t need to watch this ‘drek, this crap’. I found an incredible place to visit, Opa Locka. “Opa what?” she responded, still half distracted from the shock and daze that none of the five guys were the father.Opa-tisha-worka-locka”, it’s an area near Miami named by the Native Americans who lived here a long time ago. Long before when Miami was nothing but a mosquito infested swamp. It means ‘a big island covered with many trees and swamps’. No one can say that. The locals shortened it to Opa-locka. Its a city built in the 1920’s to look like something from the Arab world” I finished saying.
"M&H came up with a brilliant gimmick. They had a band playing and they even got the mayor to stand in front of the store and cut a grand opening bright scarlet ribbon. What really got the people to come outside M&H was the special traveling, astounding, astonishing, amazing, unbelievable, never seen before or probably never again, act of strength, gravity and common sense defying stunt. They had hired a 69 year old one legged, the other was a peg leg – like a pirate – man to tight walk across a rope strung across Beaton street, from the second story of M&H to Jackson's Saloon and Gentlemen's Relaxation Salon.
Perhaps it was a coincidence. Perhaps these things do just occur –a mikreh as the Israeli’s call it. Now, so many years later I still find it hard to believe, (even if true believing is hard) that it was nothing but a mikreh.