15

Money, Honey

I’ve had my mind on my money and money on my mind recently, due to some surprising new developments in my life (only good things, don’t worry). But that did remind me of something.

The other night, Alec and I went to the Steepery Tea Bar on State Street after a particularly taxing Latin dance class. I was in the mood for some green tea with honey. I could almost taste it.

And then, when I got to the counter, and perused the list of flavors.

Almond…

Apple…

Blackberry…

and then…

next to the word Honey, a sticker: $.25 extra.

I don’t know the ins and outs of economics like I know the ins and outs of Fiddler on the Roof, but why, honey, why? Was there some sort of honey shortage? A worldwide bee strike? Why, whenever it is that I want you, or anything else, the price automatically goes up?

Or the product gets discontinued (India Hicks Island Night body lotion)?

Or becomes unavailable for consumers (Altoona Hills Red Wine)?

Or is only sold in Puerto Rico (Luna di Luna Moscato)?

Or is dropped completely (Whole Foods Vitamin Club punch cards, AKA the prime example of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it)?

Why, why, why does this always happen to me?

I don’t know where it ends, but I know where it started: Bibelot.

Once upon a time, when I was young and still begging my parents for contact lenses, was a Baltimore-based bookstore chain by the name of Bibelot. They started out with a small store on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville, which ended up getting bigger, then expanded to three more locations: one in Timonium, one in Cross Keys, and one on Boston Street, Canton in downtown Baltimore. They each had a unique look, a funky vibe that was cool for kids, teens, and adults, and a quaint cafe at each location. Most of all, they had an eclectic selection of books. Rather than featuring the latest movie tie-ins, the storefront was usually shelves of local authors, from Baltimore and the rest of Maryland. They also hosted cultural events like open mic nights; now that I think about it, I remember singing there with my choir one afternoon with shoppers browsing around us.

As my bar mitzvah came around, so did the gifts. A safe bet was a gift certificate to Bibelot; they had all the best books and music for the best prices. It was always exciting to open the Bibelot envelope, and see which store the person had been to by the pastel marble background of the gift certificate. Pikesville, the most common, issued them in light pink, Timonium did so in yellow, Cross Keys’ were a pale seafoam green, and the Boston Street store had them in a bright blue. When all was said and done, after my bar mitzvah, I had a rainbow of gift certificates, with enough money to buy whatever I wanted from the store for a good long while.

And then, one day, it happened.

Not long after my bar mitzvah, I was sitting on the toilet one Sunday morning (I am not making this up) when my mom knocked on the door.

“I’m in here,” I responded.

“Jacob, did you hear the news?”

“What?”

“Bibelot is closing. All of its stores.”

The sound that came out of my mouth was akin to a dying vacuum cleaner. “Nuuuuuuhooooooooooo.”

It was true, and all over the news. The company was folding. Rumors were flying everywhere, and the biggest one was that all those lovely gift certificates would soon be worthless pieces of colored paper, since some stores were no longer accepting them, cash or credit only. It happened really suddenly, and all four stores went under simultaneously. I was resigned to the fact that I would probably never get to spend them, until my nosy cousin called, telling us something that was actually beneficial to the situation: the store in Cross Keys was going to stay open all night tonight, and would honor gift certificates.

So, armed with more gift certificates than Deutschmarks at an East German flea market, my dad and I headed over to Cross Keys as soon as we could. However, the rumor, which turned out to be true, spread (I blame my cousin) and the parking lot was full of cars, stuffed with parents, teens, and kids. Quite a number of them had also recently had bar/bat mitzvahs, all of them speeding towards the door.

Inside, it was insane.

Books were flying off of shelves. CD racks were being emptied.

And, for the first time in my life, I had no idea what I wanted to buy at the bookstore.

It was a very scary feeling.

I don’t even remember most of what I bought that night, I just knew that I had to pick out several hundred dollars’ worth of stuff, and fast. I bought a completely random selection of books whose titles I have long forgot. I bought CDs for about 12 different musicals that I could download today for free. I bought some magazines, and a cool poster that’s still in my parents’ kitchen. I bought a cookbook, for reasons I do not know. And after much struggle with different cashiers who kept saying different things like “we can’t give change for partially-unused certificates,” “we’re only accepting green Cross Keys certificates,” and “all sales are final.”

It was probably the worst shopping spree ever.

Hours earlier, I had several hundred dollars’ worth of gift certificates. Now, I had a bunch of random shit and no money left.

Eventually, the store in Pikesville became a Barnes and Noble (of course), and the one in Cross Keys became offices, but Donna’s, the cafe, remained open. I’m not sure what happened to the ones in Canton and Timonium, but suffice it to say, they were all victims of corporate America, and the “as soon as you’re into it, let’s take it away from you” consumer conspiracy.

Anyway.

Opted for a green apple slushy instead.

And now, exhausted me is going to attempt to sneak into bed. I didn’t get the kitchen completely clean, but I vacuumed the living room and also had my first six-continent day in a while, so hello to North America (Canada and USA), South America (Brazil), Europe (UK, Liechtenstein, Ukraine, Spain and Georgia), Africa (Zambia), Asia (Pakistan and Philippines) and Oceania (Australia). Yay!

16

That’s SoMG: The New Jersey Horse Meat Mafia

It all started with a pot of coffee.

Last week, on my way back to Madison, my dad and I were sitting at the rest stop on I-90 northbound in Belvidere, Illinois, having some Starbucks and gearing up for the final leg of the trip. My dad does not drink coffee anymore, but he did in high school. So, I asked him if Grandma drank coffee. He said that she always had a pot of coffee ready, and usually she and her step-niece Ida from down the street (all names hereinafter have been changed due to protect the privacy of the individuals, and also because it’s fun to make up names) would spend the afternoon in one of their kitchens, drinking coffee and talking for hours. I had never heard of Ida, so I asked the question that launched the story of the century.

“Ida who?”

“Your grandmother’s step-niece.”

“Yeah, Grandma had a step-niece, Aunt Susanne’s stepdaughter from her first marriage.”

“Aunt Susanne had a stepdaughter?”

“Yeah, from her first husband, Alfred, you know, the one who committed suicide.”

“…”

“You don’t know that story?”

“Well, obviously, no, I don’t.”

“Oh, goodness, it’s a long one. Once we’re back in the car, you drive, and I’ll tell you the story.”

<pause button>

That was the beginning of what turned out to be an interesting and very juicy family scandal that was too good to keep to myself. So now, I share it with you all in the first ever episode of…

That’s So Jacob presents:

That’s SoMG: Scandals, Secrets, and Shockers That Will Make You Slap Your Hand Over Your Mouth

Imagine, if you will, Are You Afraid Of the Dark? meets E! True Hollywood Story.

Now, onto the show.

<play button>

Episode 1: The New Jersey Horse Meat Mafia

Bavaria, Germany, 1898.

It all started in a tiny farm town where a young Jewish woman named Huldah was spending another summer helping out some local families. Huldah was from a farm town of about 1,000 people, but this town’s population was even smaller, barely in the triple-digits. Every summer since she was old enough, Huldah would go to the smaller town, stay with a family, and do various chores around the house and farm. Over the years, she came to know most of the people in the town, to the point where she felt comfortable just walking into someone’s house to say hello and ask if they needed some chores done. There were only a few girls her own age in the town, and one of them was unusually fat. This girl’s name has been lost to history, so we’ll just call her Fat Girl.

One day, Huldah was just walking around town, and she decided to call on Fat Girl. She goes to Fat Girl’s house, opens the door, and hears a bloodcurdling scream coming from the kitchen. She runs into the kitchen to find her friend giving birth on the kitchen floor. Apparently, Fat Girl’s weight had been sort of an advantage in the predicament she’d found herself in; she had slept with one of the non-Jewish farmhands, and was able to hide from everyone the fact that she was not just fat, but also pregnant. That afternoon, she gave birth to a fair-skinned little boy.

Well, once the baby came, she couldn’t keep the secret for much longer. As was the custom in those days, she and the baby disappeared for a little while, “to an aunt’s house,” until the storm blew over. By the time she returned home, a young Jewish bachelor had moved into town, and with much prodding from Fat Girl’s family and friends, the two were married, and soon had children of their own. After awhile, another child showed up at the house one day: a little blonde boy whom they called Ernest.

Now, back to Huldah. She got married and had a family of her own, giving birth to three children. The oldest was a girl called Susanne, then a boy, and the youngest was my grandmother.

In the early 1930s, Susanne came of marriageable age. Through the grapevine, Huldah found a young man called Alfred, and the two were married, and not long after, they welcomed a child of their own, a little girl they named Penny. Soon after Penny’s birth, Alfred went to visit an uncle he was quite close with who ran a furniture store in America, in Baltimore, Maryland. He stayed for a short while with him before returning home to Susanne and Oenny in Germany. Alfred and his uncle corresponded frequently via mail, and one day in 1933, Alfred gets a very short letter from his American uncle, saying:

“Alfred: Come back to America. Take your wife and your daughter and leave Germany at once.”

The family had been aware of the rise of the Nazi Party in their country, because, well, how could you not. Their lives were not as affected as others, and until this letter came, they had no idea of how dangerous the Nazis actually were. So, the whole extended family made plans to immigrate to Baltimore, leaving Europe for good. Through good planning, the first to make it out of Germany were Alfred, Susanne, and baby Penny, setting sail for Baltimore in 1934. Penny celebrated her first birthday at sea, becoming a minor news story once the family landed in Baltimore.

The whole family, being farmers, was familiar with the cattle business, so as the rest of them trickled over – my grandmother, her mother Huldah, and all the rest – Alfred decided to set up a meat processing center in Baltimore. Through friends and acquaintances, he found a business partner who had come from a nearby part of Germany and also knew the meat industry. His name?

Ernest.

By the time Huldah finally made it over in 1938 – the last one – Alfred and Ernest’s meat business was hugely successful, churning out sausages and bratwursts for the people of Baltimore every day. When her son mentioned his business partner’s name to his mother, her eyes lit up.

“Ernest, from the next town? The blonde one? His mother was my friend!”

Yes, after close to fifty years, the boy born on the kitchen floor, and the boy of the woman who helped bring him into the world, became business partners.

As stated before, the business was hugely successful. Ernest kept a relatively modest lifestyle, but Alfred showered his family with money and expensive things: a house, cars, clothing. Susanne didn’t have to work, but she owned and ran a small grocery store while she raised Penny.

The reason Alfred and Ernest’s business was so successful was because of the source of their meat. Unlike other local meat markets, they cast their net somewhat wider, finding a supplier in New Jersey who offered them meat for extremely low prices. Once in Baltimore, Alfred, who was more of the businessman of the two, marked up the price of the meat to align with the higher prices in Baltimore and earn them an incredibly large profit.

Meanwhile, a journalist sniffs out a news assignment based on whispers and rumors; that A & E weren’t getting their beef from local farmers, but from some place in New Jersey. Undercover, the journalist acquires the name and address of the New Jersey meat suppliers, and goes there to find two incredible, game-changing secrets.

One: the meat they are selling was not beef – rather, illegal horse meat.

Two: the whole operation was run by a New Jersey mafia family.

Needless to say, the news breaks in a grand fashion back in Baltimore. People, some of whom have become ill from the company’s meat, are outraged at this deception and demanded answers. The newspaper prints the offending meat packers’ names, and Alfred and Ernest were now on the front page. Of course, Alfred and Ernest hired a lawyer to handle their case, one of the best lawyers in the state of Maryland. He agreed to defend them in court, telling them the best possible result (a minor fine) and the worst (three to five years in prison). But the damage to their business and social reputations would be irreplaceable. Confident as ever, Alfred invested in the lawyer, and everything was going to turn out most likely in their favor, due to lack of concrete evidence other than newspaper reports.

The trial came closer, but it became too much for Alfred. As much as he maintained that he was going to win the case, he was growing increasingly paranoid and upset, and Susanne was starting to worry. However, as comforted as she was in her lifestyle, worrying was not something she did often. Alfred began staying home for longer and longer periods of time. On one of the days leading up to the trial, Alfred went to work. That afternoon, he was found dead, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound from a gun he’d purchased without Susanne’s knowledge and kept in his office.

Susanne and Penny were in shock.

The trial, however, went on without Alfred. As it turned out, Alfred was the one who communicated with the New Jersey supplier, and the details of that arrangement went with him to his grave. Ernest testified that he knew nothing about Alfred’s dealings, and got off with a minor fine, no jail time. His reputation and business suffered a bit, but ultimately, Ernest lived to see the daylight, daylight that Alfred would have most likely seen had he managed to stay alive for the trial.

By this point in time, Penny had grown up and moved out of the house, and down to northern Virginia. She blamed her mother Susanne for her father’s death and all that went along with it, and they maintained very little contact over the years. Though Penny retained friends from childhood through high school and frequently came to visit them in Baltimore, she rarely visited my grandmother, who helped raise her, nor her own widowed mother, who married Irving, a neighbor and widower himself (his wife, whom Susanne had known, had died of cancer at a relatively young age) living with three children of his own. Penny never accepted her stepfather and step-siblings, who came to appreciate Susanne and eventually, regard her as their own mother. Though Irving was a decent husband and father, he also led a flashy lifestyle, financing it through his new wife’s money; money that was not going towards Penny herself.

Through the years, my father and his sister kept in touch with their first cousin Penny, but from a distance. She married a man called Woody, who was not particularly religious and also not a particularly…well, let me put it this way. Ernest, her late father’s business partner, remained in business but never offered Woody a job, as he had to other family members. Eventually, upon Ernest’s death, the business and the money stayed in his family. Her father’s uncle, the man with the furniture store, hired Woody as a salesman, but Woody did so poorly that he had to fire him. So, they kind of did their own thing, now living in the Washington DC area. My father and the others in the family remained in contact with Cousin Penny and her husband Woody, but they never quite found out how they got their money; Penny didn’t work, and Woody only gave vague answers about “business,” saying “it was fine.”

The final chapter of the story commences one hundred and one years after it began, in 1999. My aunt, now a mother herself, became a grandmother for the fifth time, to my little cousin Emily, that January. By this time, communication with Cousin Penny had slowed to a trickle; interaction happened only at a select few “state occasions,” weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. No letters, phone calls, or emails, otherwise. The new baby’s parents – my cousin Hillary and her husband – live in Washington, DC, not too far from the suburb where Cousin Penny resided. As a gesture of good faith, Hillary picked up the phone and invited Penny to a baby naming party they were holding for Emily, in May of that same year. Penny said she couldn’t come, her husband was sick.

Well, sometime later that year or in early 2000, Woody died. My aunt, father, and grandmother did not hear about this until many months later, around the time my father was preparing the family invite list for the Event of the Century – okay, it was for my bar mitzvah, that November. The three of them sent Penny a sympathy card, and received not a thank-you note, but a very long and nasty letter, accusing my grandmother and aunt of abandoning her in her time of need (this is the woman who abandoned her own mother), not visiting Woody when he was sick, not bothering to attend his funeral (which no one on our side of the family knew about, since no one had even told us how sick he was, or when he died), and other things that were apparently so rude that the three of them came to a decision to unceremoniously declare Cousin Penny and her children persona non grata.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my father quietly deleted Penny from the invite list, and my bar mitzvah was the first major family event that Penny was not formally invited to.

They have not attempted to contact her again.

Growing up, I knew of Penny’s existence and the fact that she was Aunt Susanne’s daughter, but nothing else. After Aunt Susanne died in the 1980s, we gradually lost contact with anyone associated with her, including my grandmother’s close friend and step-niece Ida, who was somewhat younger than her. My grandmother would have been 103 last year, so it is quite possible that Ida is still alive somewhere, in her nineties. Over the years, some of my father’s cousins have had brief contact with Ida’s children, but not for many years now. Their many afternoons of coffee and conversation are now lost to memory.

By the time Dad finished telling the story, we had driven over an hour from Belvidere to Madison, and were only a few blocks away from my apartment.

So there’s that.


Now that it’s inordinately late, off to bed for me. Once again, only a five continent day for me (no South America) but let me acknowledge those that did check in today from North America (Canada, USA, Mexico, Guadeloupe [first time, welcome!], and Puerto Rico); Europe (France, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein [first time, welcome!], Italy, Norway, Sweden and Spain); Africa (Mayotte); Asia (India, Vietnam, and the Philippines) and Oceania (Australia).

8

The Worst First Snow Ever

It’s funny how the smallest things can get you thinking about a story to tell.

So, today, I was getting a new car after spending Thursday and Friday of last week shopping. I know, I got one last year, but it was under extreme circumstances, and my dad said that if I wanted to, in 6-12 months’ time, I could trade it in if I wanted, so I took him up on it. I looked at about four cars at two different places, one in White Marsh and one in Timonium. I ended up finding a practically new used car (2014, only 6700 miles on it) at the place in Timonium. The salesmen was from the African nation of Burkina Faso, and while I waited the requisite several-hour wait for a new car, all the usual questions came up, including “tell me about the first time you saw snow.”

He didn’t have much to say, but it reminded me of when my family hosted these two girls for my high school’s basketball tournament. They came from Miami, and I’ll call them Meghan and Melissa, because both of their real names actually started with M. It was February, and it had snowed the week before, but most of it was gone. The first afternoon the girls arrived, the topic of snow came up. Meghan had visited New York in the winter before, so she had seen snow, but Melissa, who was born and raised in South America and had only recently moved to Miami, had never seen snow. When my dad mentioned that he saw some snow still on the ground at a local mall, Melissa went crazy, so my dad took her to see the snow.

They arrived at the mall at sunset, and indeed there was snow.

But it was the littlest, grossest mound of black parking-lot snow there ever was. Looking something like this.

Still, that didn’t stop Melissa.

She bolted out of the car, in her jacket, capris, and little hemp sandals, and climbed up the little mound of snow, and stood proudly on top. Her first ever snow. She thought that it was the most exciting snow ever, even when we told her it was probably the worst bit of winter. She asked if she could eat it, to which my dad was like…normally, yes, but not this black snow. Or yellow snow.

And that’s the story of Melissa’s first snow.

Oh, and I bought the car. It is new and cute.

6

No More Cookies

I did not do too much today, so here’s an update to a story I posted last July, with some more juicy (er…sugary) details.

Today’s post comes from the archives of my Amherst days.

You know sometimes in life you just have to live a little. And other times just have to say “no mas, por favor.”

So, one Friday night, I was at Hillel doing the usual. That night happened to have had a particularly generous sponsor and something must have been happening on campus because there was hardly anyone there. And usually, after the main course, people filter out anyway. Usually, the food was edible, but not great, with some lame dessert, and then after dinner we’d jet over to Chabad for Round 2.

But that day, however, there were cookies.

So few people, SO MANY COOKIES.

Just sitting in brightly colored piles of sugar, in pink and green and brown and yellow. As the meal wound down, there were fewer and fewer people to eat the cookies, so they were gradually being consolidated until they ended up on one gigantic plate that happened to be near where I was sitting.

I know what you’re thinking; this can’t end well.

So, my friend Zippy and I were just sitting there, talking about something, I don’t know what. Every so often, one of us would reach for a cookie, and nibble on it as we continued talking, and then take another, and another. Almost comically, the pile kept getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller. At the beginning it was a small mountain of cookies, and then somehow it became just a mesa, and then a plateau. We kept saying that we needed to stop eating the cookies, but they were there, so obviously that wasn’t happening. Neither of us actually thought of getting up and moving the cookies to any of the other unoccupied tables in the room, or to the kitchen.

Then, someone came to the table asking for a cookie, and we turned to him/her in unison, sugar shock in our eyes and voices, pleading, imploring:

“Take them away! PLEASE!”

And that’s how I learned that you can have too much of a good thing.

6

DDS: What It Is, and What to Look Out For

Hello from Baltimore, everyone. After 2 days on the road, including stops in Chicago to see cousins and an overnight in Fremont, Ohio, I am back home for a few well-earned weeks of R & R.

Part of the reason I started this blog was to write down all the stories and experiences that have been percolating in my brain for ages so I don’t have to continually relive them and say, “gee, I wish I had written this down somewhere.

So, totally, an actual goddamn story from my actual goddamn life.

Has any older person ever told you that they (or you) suffer from CRS? Well, for those of you who don’t know, CRS is an acronym standing in for a condition known as Can’t Remember Shit. CRS affects women who write in online forums and use expressions like DH (dear husband/dear hubby) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome/I be shittin’). It is used as an excuse for misplacing items such as keys, glasses, and dentures; for missing appointments and birthdays; or, in general, for forgetting a certain word or the rest of the sentence. Often a symbol of the wackiness of aging and senility, it is usually viewed as “cutesy” by the person using it and as a “copout” by the rest of the world.

DDS is an offshoot of that.

What exactly is DDS?

No, it has nothing to do with dentistry. I coined it, to stand in for Doesn’t Do Shit. Basically, it refers to anytime an older person feels so entitled to being waited on hand and foot that they have absolutely no interest in the feelings of other people, their time, or their willingness to help them out.

Now, I’m not knocking the elderly; most are kind, sweet, and well-mannered. They deserve help and attention, especially when it’s needed. Most of the time, when an elderly person asks for something, they try to help as much as they can, or are at least gracious of your efforts and apologetic for taking your time.

Here’s an example of DDS:

For two consecutive summers, I worked as PR for a local theatre festival. I heard about the position via word of mouth, and when I went to apply, I was basically handed the job (yes, a job; it came with a small honorarium) on a silver platter and told about the (soon-to-be) previous PR person, an older lady whom I’ll call Trudy. According to the head of the festival, Trudy was not only a bit old (read: grandmother of 3), but a bit…old school. She had been working on this festival for almost its entire existence as its publicist, and her idea of publicity involved telephone calls and snail mail. Yes, snail mail. In the 21st century. She did not even own a computer; she typed up everything on a typewriter, with the excuse that “I don’t do e-mail, that’s for young people,” yet she’s a publicist. A PUBLICIST. 

No wonder I had barely heard of this festival, and it was 25 years old already.

Basically, they needed a change, and fast.

Getting wind of this, however, Trudy was not prepared to go down without a fight. She begged and pleaded to be reinstated with “you’re replacing me, replacing me!” She even convinced one of the directors to continue allowing her to do her PR, even though she had been explicitly told not to. If we were going to keep this little play festival going, we needed to do so with more than $50.00 in the bank account, which is approximately what we had. Money comes from ticket sales, and tickets need people to buy them, and people come via PR; clearly, somebody had not been doing a very good job.

So, that first summer, it was a continual battle for me. We would have biweekly committee meetings, and somehow, she usually managed to show up and sit there sadly. However, she didn’t drive. I honestly don’t know how she got there; probably a taxi, but usually a ride from a family member or some big-hearted committee member. And generally, if you’re in a position where you need transportation, the thing to do is arrange it beforehand, both ways. Every meeting, without fail, she would realize, “oh, I don’t have a way of getting home.” Rather than calling a taxi to pick her up, or call one of her many children or other family members, she would beg for a ride either home or to a taxi stand from one of us. I would usually duck out of the meetings as soon as they were done so I wouldn’t be stuck with what we would call “Trudy duty.”

One time, however, one of the other committee members, a kind woman who usually moonlighted as Trudy’s chauffeur, had to attend another meeting or something and asked me if I would be on “Trudy duty” for the night. I said yes, not knowing what I had gotten myself into.

The meeting ended, and everyone jetted. I told Trudy to wait out front and that I’d be back to pick her up. With a quickly-whispered “thank you” from my friend (the chauffeur, not Trudy) I headed out and returned a few minutes later with my car. She gets in the passenger door, and we sit there.

And we sit.

And I ask her, “So, where am I dropping you off?”

Trudy goes, “Can you take me home?”

Me: “No, that’s a little too far for me to go tonight [note – she gave me her address, and it would have been quite a long trip out of my way and it was already getting], so where can I take you to catch a cab.”

Trudy: “I don’t know.”

Okay, Trudy. You’re about three times my age, and you’ve lived in this city all your life. You come downtown regularly, and you never drive, since you don’t do that. You either get rides or take taxis. In fact, you are usually in this neighborhood when you come downtown, so you should know how to get from point A to point B, or at least direct people how to get there. And here I am, being gracious of my time and energy, to take you at least part of the way home.

And you don’t even know where to get a taxi?

I ask her, “Where do you usually get a taxi?”

Trudy: “Um, there’s a taxi stand somewhere around here…”

Me: “Do you know what street it’s on?”

Trudy: “No.”

This is getting ridiculous. Finally, Trudy contributes something, even if it is sort of a command.

Trudy: “Just drop me off down by the Inner Harbor, by one of the big hotels, and I’ll get a taxi there.”

Me: “Which one? How do I get there?”

Trudy: “I don’t know. Whichever.”

Helpful, Trudy.

Anyway, I drive her over to the Harbor, navigating the way myself, and just as I get to a hotel, she goes “Oh, no, not this one! That one over there!” So I do that, and she gets out of the car without so much as a thank you or an offer to repay me for gas money, for something that she should have honestly planned beforehand, with either a relative or a friend, instead of constantly relying on the kindness of others to delay their lives and wait on you hand and foot. Just because you have gray hair does not mean you get to use people and be treated like a queen while bringing nothing to the table.

Readers, don’t be a Trudy. Say no to DDS and do shit. Have some forethought, be appreciative of others’ time and energy, and for goodness sakes, offer to help them while they do it for you.

Anyone who is reading this who is familiar with the Festival or the Baltimore theatre scene in general probably knows who I’m talking about. I’m not embarrassed, though, about being so frank with this story. Given Trudy’s stance on technology, I doubt she’ll ever read this.

6

Best Friends are Best Friends

A few days ago, my best (and oldest) friend celebrated her 27th birthday. Since I’m here in Baltimore and she lives in Baltimore, I decided to attempt to get in touch with her; our busy schedules have kept us from seeing each other for probably two years or so. I always wonder if I should call her my best friend, since she was for most of my childhood and is an all-around awesome person even though we do not get to communicate very much, or merely my oldest friend, since we met in kindergarten in 1990. It was hard to get ahold of her, but once I did, she took time out of her busy life as a librarian (at a public library, and on the day after Thanksgiving, no less), so I guess that still makes her best friend material. As usual, we go to Jasmine, in the Quarry, walking distance from my house and between her parents’ place and the library.

I like everything about her, but what I like the best is her consistency. Even after all these years, she has not changed. Her hairstyle, her clothing choices, her sense of fashion, and the fact that she’s always cold. She surprised me today, though, when she deviated from her normal Philly roll and tried the Alaska roll along with it. I hope that’s the most she changes, because she’s just awesome the way she is.

Here’s a very brief rundown of all the awesome moments of our friendship. It began at age 4 when we instantly bonded over being the only two in our kindergarten class who could read. We ended up outsmarting the teachers and cheating on our worksheets by reading the answers that were printed upside down on the bottom of the page; I guess we thought they put them there to help us out. Whoops. After kindergarten, we went our separate ways, as her parents sent her to a private girls’ school, but we still managed to get together periodically on weekends for play dates, and always went to each others’ birthday parties. I would use my dad’s office fax machine to fax her hand written notes, which we thought was SO AWESOME, which it was for kids of the 90s. As teenagers, we would send each other IMs periodically. For some reason, however, we did not attend each other’s bar/bat mitzvahs – I don’t remember it being so much of an animosity thing as it was a mutual agreement since we would not know anyone else at the other’s party (on her RSVP card, she wrote “Let’s celebrate together another time!” and we probably did).  High school was busier for us, but she managed to surprise me by showing up at my school to watch me in Hello, Dolly! in senior year. I  always sent her a postcard from my vacations, and I still have the ones she sent me from Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, and Israel. In college, we sent each other birthday cards, which was always easier for me than it was for her since my address changed every year and hers was always either at her school or her parents’ house. In my junior year, she accompanied me to the closing performance of my play that was produced in Baltimore, and to the cast party afterwards, where one of the other playwrights was her seventh-grade science teacher, which was kind of cool but a little awkward. And during my senior year, she flew up to Amherst for a weekend of fun where we road-tripped through Vermont and saw Mountpelier (“the city I want to retire in” she said), the Ben & Jerry’s factory, Vermont Teddy Bear, and a used bookstore safari tour of Brattleboro, which remains one of my favorite towns anywhere. We have so many private jokes; Aladdin colorforms, Weekly Readers, “do you need a razor?”, Grandma Lois, how she will one day become a coffee drinker but not today, that picture of us from kindergarten where I look terrified and she’s just blabbing away in her favorite blue sweater, two minutes at Goucher, the creepy photograph doll, watching my first episode of Friends with her, the garage door opener story (or how her parents tricked her a lot as a child),  and as of today, real life math and Timonium chopsticks.

Wow, those were a lot of highlights.

I don’t know if she’ll ever read this, but if she does, I salute you, Flamingo Kid. We’ve muddled through 23 years together, which is longer than I have known most people. Thanks for always being the wonderful you that you are, and I hope that you and me will always be best friends. I don’t really know why we’re still close to each other even after spending most of our lives on different wavelengths, but sometimes friendship doesn’t need an explanation. It just is, and best friend-ship is even better.

And that’s the story of me and my best friend.

 

2

Three Times I Have Fallen Asleep in Public

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been eating well, or I’m behind on work, or I’m just…I don’t know, overwhelmed, maybe…but I haven’t been inspired by anything lately. I always say one of two things about blogging: a) I’ll edit this entry later, and b) That’s a story for another entry.

So I looked back at some previous posts, and since I could use a good story anyway, here are…

Three Times I Have Fallen Asleep in Public

It should be noted that, as a child, I had a horrible time trying to sleep anywhere but in my own bed, so none of these events occurred until I was at least in high school.

SeaTac Slumber Party

In between my sophomore and junior years of high school, I went on a cruise to Alaska with my dad, aunt, and sister. As it is, Alaska fucks up your sleeping schedule, especially if you are only there for a few days, like we were. So with an already destroyed body clock, we disembarked the ship in Seattle with a whole day before we had to fly home, so we went to explore the city. It started off all right, but after the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, something within me began to unravel. I don’t even quite know why or how it happened, but I just started crying. Nobody did anything to upset me, and I was not hurt, but there I was, sitting in the rental car somewhere in downtown Seattle, bawling for no reason. Unusually, my dad was being very supportive and comforting, telling me, “it’s okay, you’re just overtired, you miss home, you’ve had enough vacation for now, we’ll be home soon.” I can’t remember where my aunt and sister were at the time, but I do remember that I wished that they were around to see my dad being so nice.

After I had cleaned myself up, pulled it together (as much as I could), we returned the rental car and went to the airport. I was still a little shaken up from sobbing my eyes out so hard that I couldn’t breathe, so my dad bought me a book or something in the terminal. Next thing I knew, I was on the plane. Apparently, I had fallen asleep so deeply that I didn’t even remember where I was or why I was sad. And to make it even funnier, I was sprawled out on the floor on my stomach and people were walking over me. I only found that out after I got home; on the ship I had made some friends and exchanged email addresses with them, and two of those friends, a mother and daughter from Tennessee who had arrived at the airport after we did. On their way to their gate, they walked past the gate where we were and they recognized my dad. According to their email, they walked over to say hello/goodbye and asked my dad where I was, at which point he directed them to look towards the floor.

Sleeping Beauty in Boston

In 2008, I attended my fraternity’s national convention, held that year at a Hilton in Boston. I helped out on the workshops committee, participated in events all day, and also had a lot of late nights hanging out with brothers; basically, very little sleep for me for a few days. It was the final day of the convention, and my roommates and I had just checked out of the hotel, and along with some other brothers, were storing our luggage in a small conference room while waiting for the closing event of the convention, the final banquet. Someone started talking about how tired they were, and how they were going to skip out on the final banquet and take a nap instead. In response, someone else crawled under the large conference table in the center of the room, and thinking it was funny, a few others (including myself) joined them and continued the conversation while sitting under the table. I guess I became bored or something, because I crawled over to my bag, got the book I was reading, and crawled back beneath the table.

The next thing I know, I open my eyes to a darkened and empty room. Putting on my glasses, I get up and turn on the lights. Then, I remember about the banquet, and was horrified to think that I had possibly already slept through it. I look around the room for a cell phone or anything, and of course there’s a huge wall clock which lets me know that two hours have gone by. Two hours. Which means that the banquet…is in about fifteen minutes. And I still need to get dressed. Needless to say, I threw on my outfit and booked it to the banquet hall, managing to make it just in time to get a seat.

The convention ended, and I spent the next few days hanging out with Dan, ringing in the new year at his place, hanging out with them, and flying home in January, when plane tickets are cheaper. A few days later, my Facebook becomes clogging with tagged pictures of me from convention. Most of them are fun and happy, but then I get to a picture and see myself passed out on the floor of the conference room, lying on my stomach with my book and glasses lying next to me in a neat little pile.

Whoops.

I was kind of hoping that kind of picture wouldn’t have existed, but at least I was fully clothed and nobody decided to write on me.

One Long Clinic Wait

This happened sometime during the brief period between Israel and Houston where I lived at home. One day, I went with my mom to visit my sister in her classroom in Rockville. She happened to be terribly sick that day, so after following her home, she got into the car with us and we went to a 24-hour urgent care clinic somewhere in the DC/Rockville area. I did not expect this activity, so I didn’t bring any books or my laptop. As my mom and sister are seeing the doctor, I sit in the waiting room…waiting…waiting…waiting…

…And then I’m awake, still sitting in the clinic, but about an hour has passed, it’s gotten a bit darker outside, there are different people sitting around me, and my mom and sister are nowhere to be seen. At first, I think that they’re probably still with the doctor, but then realizing that I had already been waiting a long time before I fell asleep, other thoughts enter my mind. I’m already picturing the headlines: “Have You Seen This 22-Year-Old?” or “Mother Enters Clinic With Two Children; Leaves With Just One.” So my curiosity gets the better of me, and I head outside. At first I had trouble finding where I was because I was in a strange city and disoriented, but after a few minutes of walking around, I found my mother’s car, still in the spot where we parked it. Okay, I thought, so they’re around here, somewhere…but where? There are a few stores nearby and a Dunkin’ Donuts, so I spend a little time poking around there, and then head back to the clinic to wait some more.

Of course, the expected story would end with them being finished with the doctor just as I left, and then leaving to look for me as I came back, but really, it was just a long appointment and they didn’t even know I had fallen asleep or had left the clinic for a good ten-fifteen minutes.

So, yeah.

Not much of a point here, but hey, more stories, and even though I shouldn’t, I actually feel like I’ve been productive for the last hour.

Wow, I have issues.

Here’s a fuzzy bunny.

6

27 Things I’ve Learned In My 27th Year Of Life

So, I just spent time I should have been studying going through my blog and reliving the past year, good and bad, on this, the eve of my 27th birthday. And I realized that I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and the world. Take notes, if you like.

November 2013

1. I can, in fact, memorize 55 pages of lines and recite them three times a week for two weeks. Maybe my acting career isn’t dead after all.

December 2013

2. Coffee cup lids are evil.

3. Cheese and crackers are Wisconsin’s answer to chips and salsa.

4. Einstein Brothers Bagels is always a bad idea.

5. I can drive down a country road through an ice storm.

6. But I need to scrape the ice off the windshield first.

7. Underground parking is a must in the Midwest.

January 2014

8. Car shopping sucks. Get a new one before yours dies in Mount Airy with all your stuff in it.

9. I can blog by talking into my phone. Technology!

10. Lacrosse has been the official team sport of Maryland since 2003.

11. The battle of Bunker Hill did not actually occur on Bunker Hill.

12. I will probably never develop orthorexia (thank goodness)!

13. Wisconsin is cold.

February 2014

14. Naps are underrated.

15. A true friend is one who listens to you cry and make unintelligble sounds for a solid half hour on the phone.

March 2014

16. Identity theft sucks.

17. Southwest Airlines offers free alcoholic beverages on Saint Patrick’s Day.

April 2014

18. Seeing your school lose in a sports game is still depressing, even as a grad student.

May 2014

19. Making good on resolutions is so not my thing.

June 2014

20. Arguing about race in high school musicals is one way to end a friendship.

21. Getting fined for horseplay in a state park is a horrible way to end a day trip.

July 2014

22. I own so much crap.

23. When bunking with three friends in a hotel, make sure your phone’s ringer is turned off at night.

August 2014

24. My favorite wine still exists, but it’s only available in Puerto Rico now.

25. Turkey burgers are fun and easy to make.

September 2014

26. Frustration is futile; forgiveness is fantastic.

27. I am a good person and I can make it on my own.

and as a bonus

28. I’m actually a pretty good cook.

So there we go.

27 years old…bring it on.

This post was inspired by my new online crush Taryn Southern‘s “Awkward Lessons from Instagram” video. Thank you, don’t sue.

4

To Grandma, On Her 103rd Birthday

Dear Grandma,

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Grandma, happy birthday to you! It’s your best grandson here, and your only grandson.

It has been almost nine years since you’ve been gone, but I still think about you all the time, especially today, on what would have been your 103rd birthday. Time flies, doesn’t it?

So much has happened since I’ve last seen you. When we last talked, I had just moved to Washington, DC. I ended up switching out schools and finishing up at UMass Amherst, when I started writing plays. In 2008, one of my plays won a competition and was performed in downtown Baltimore for a whole week! I know you would have been there with Mom, Dad, and Aunt Ruth in the front row center, and you would have been so proud. You would have also been proud when I decided to move to Jerusalem for a year, and when I would call you every week, you would immediately call my parents and all of your other friends, telling them that your grandson called you from Israel. You would have baked a challah and sent it to me and it would have been delicious. You would have been puzzled when I moved to Houston for two years, but proud when I successfully graduated with my master’s, and got into the University of Wisconsin, where I sit today, on my way to become the first of your grandchildren to get a doctorate. Well, Susan technically has a doctorate in pharmacy, but never used the title. I will most definitely refer to myself as Dr. Jacob when I get that degree in my hands. I think you might have been confused over what I am deciding to get my degree in, and what I am going to do with it. You would not have been alone. But you would be proud nonetheless.

I don’t know how you would have felt learning about our family trip to Germany and Prague two years ago. I think you would have listened patiently on the phone or on Skype (if you knew how to use it) but you would have been sad not going with us and maybe a little worried for us. You would have loved to have seen the pictures and videos, and you would have felt much better about being here in America seeing how much things have changed. You would have been amused by our dinner at the American Embassy in Prague, and you would have not wanted any souvenirs at all.

You would be pleased to know how much all of us have grown up. You would be proud of my sister’s cooking and her job, and if you were feeling up to it, you would be right there in her kitchen helping her. She might also feel better about herself, since you were really close with her, and you would probably say things to her that would have helped her get through things. You would be so proud of having a great-granddaughter with a degree (and a job!), two great-grandchildren in college, and two others in high school. You’d also be happy to know that your name comes up at every single family function, and we are constantly asked by those outside the family if we remember you, and that you are remembered by others as a “tough lady” even though we all know how much you love us.

You would be very concerned about events in Europe and the Middle East, so I am glad that you are not here to worry about those things.

I don’t know how you’d feel about my decision to apply for German citizenship. You would probably not be happy with that choice, since they gave you nothing. But you might support our decision after we explained to you about the job market. Even still, you probably would be kind of weirded out. But you would love us all the same.

You would be shocked to learn that Cookie died, among others, but not at others who have also left. You would be pleasantly surprised by some of those from your generation who’ve stuck around, like Irma and Bluma.

Finally, you’d be happiest to learn that we still celebrate Jewish holidays together as a family as much as possible. Usually we have a few who are absent (I’d be the worst offender, so sorry about that :-/) but Thanksgivukkah was a blast. You know I’d call you every week and visit when I got the chance. You’d still be happy knowing that we’re keeping the family jokes alive and passing them on to the younger ones.

From your greatest, best, and only grandson, as always, with love,

Jacob

3

A Portrait Of The Man As A Young Artist

Among the things that generally happen when I am home is the Great Purging of Childhood Belongings.

When my sister graduated college, she never moved back home, staying in DC to this day. As she made a more permanent home, more of her things went with her. When I graduated college, I moved back home for varying periods of time, during which my parents and I both came to the realization that a twenty-something has more stuff (clothes, books, whatever) than can fit in a childhood bedroom. Since she wasn’t going to be using the space in her room anytime soon, my parents asked her to move some more of her stuff to DC; not everything, just enough clothes to give me an extra drawer and a few knick-knacks so I could have some bookshelves in her closet.

But this deal wasn’t just one-sided; I had to get rid of things too.  The kids’ books were out, and the textbooks were in. The stuffed animals either got sent to live with us or donated. Any childhood clothing saved for posterity was gone. The last big purge occurred before I moved to Houston. I thought that I would miss all my stuff from babyhood through childhood and teenage-hood, but now I largely can’t even remember what I threw out.

The minute I got home last week, there were more childhood things of mine that my almost-but-not-quite-cured pack rat mother had for me to go through and get rid of.

This time, it was my childhood artwork. Let me take a look back now and see what exactly my elementary school art projects say about me.