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.

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.

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.

6

Heard It Through The Laptop

Today, I heard some voices through my laptop.

No, it wasn’t Marvin Gaye. Nor was it Gladys Knight and the Pips. Nor did it tell me to plow under my corn and build a baseball field.

My dad sent me a link to an mp3 tonight, and with him and my sister in the room, I opened it.

And what I heard amazed me.

The crackle of the static and the whistle of the feedback yielded to the first voice, accented by the chirp of a parakeet in the background.

“Stanley? Stanley…Stanley?”

It sounded like a sweet old lady, but not at all who I thought it was. But as she began her recitation, it became clear exactly who it was.

“Dear children, and grandchildren, and the children who will come after we are gone…”

It was my grandmother. She identified herself, and announced the date as November 17, 1972, and began to tell the story of how she, along with my grandfather, great-uncle, great-grandmother, and aunt (a baby at the time) escaped Nazi Germany in 1938.

I’ve heard this story many times, from my grandmother before she passed away in 2005 at age 94, and then from my father. Even I have retold the story, a few times. First, shortly after my grandmother’s death, to a group of students from my college, and then one day to my friend Stacey over lunch at Franklin Dining Commons, during my junior year at UMass, who listened with wide eyes and a spoonful of cereal that never made it to her mouth. My grandmother openly told the story at school assemblies, in synagogue, and even on camera for the Steven Spielberg Holocaust Archives at Yale University.

But this was the first time I heard it through the voice that my father knew, that my aunt knew, before age deepened and roughened it slightly. She spoke slowly, with grace and dignity, adding dramatic pauses for effect and choosing her words very carefully.

After a few minutes, another voice emerged from the background.

It was not a familiar voice, but it was one that I felt like I had known forever.

My grandfather.

My grandfather, whose name is in mine, who died in 1973.

I had never heard his voice…until now.

For the next twenty or so minutes, we listened to the story that we all knew, now told by my grandfather. His voice was slightly more accented than my grandmother’s was, but it wasn’t hard to match the voice with the photos I’ve seen of him, notwithstanding the fact that I always imagined him speaking in a deep voice with a German accent, which is exactly what I heard.

But listening to him, it was like hearing the story told for the first time.

0

Two Of Them Almost Kissed Last Night…

I went to Chabad for the first time in awhile tonight. It was the “midsummer Chabad event” thing or something, I don’t know.

Anyway.

I was going to save this story for the first Shabbat of the school year, but I can’t wait that long, so here it is.

Shabbat is a time for seeing and greeting friends, especially those you haven’t seen for a while, or at least since last Shabbat. I think it was one of the first Friday nights of my senior year at UMass Amherst. I was (and still am) a pretty affectionate person, and at Hillel, the rules of negia were not always in play. I mean, I usually messed up the first time I met anyone because I have terrible negia-dar, but after awhile, you know how to greet which friends, and you do it the same way every time. I would do the man-shake with a male friend, or a quick hug. With a non-shomeret female friend, I’d do the squeeze thing and maybe an air kiss or a cheek kiss if I felt close enough to her.

So, one Friday night, I was greeting people like I usually do, but with a bit more enthusiasm since it had been a while since we’d seen each other. I went to hug one of my female friends, who was similarly happy to see me as I was to see her, and with our heads turned to our left, I kissed her cheek briefly without my lips directly touching her face. Like I usually do, I exited the hug by stepping directly backwards, keeping my face turned away from hers until I was out of her personal space. Only this time, as we released the hug, she turned her head to the right, and her lips brushed against mine for a millisecond.

I know, I know, accidents happen, and this is nothing to write home about, but it was one of those moments that’s so sweet that it’s awkward and so awkward that it’s sweet. Her eyes went big as did mine, and we looked around; thankfully, everyone around us was talking and hugging each other so nobody noticed.

Well, until she started giggling awkwardly, and someone near her said “what?” and she said “Nothing, we almost kissed.”

Then it got a little awkward. I started apologizing, and she said something like “no, I know you weren’t trying to kiss me, our heads just went in the opposite direction.”

But fortunately, it was only awkward for like five minutes. Then everything went back to normal.

I will not be identifying said friend, but should she read this, she’s a pretty cool chick and a good sport. This story had no point, I just wanted to tell it.

Please enjoy this clip from Friends.

2

Tick, Tick…Oy.

I’d like to return to my current read, Elana Maryles Sztokman’s The Men’s Section: Orthodox Jewish Men in an Egalitarian World. I’m still about halfway through, and while Sztokman is dealing with a limited perspective of mostly Israelis, some of the larger concepts about Orthodox Jewish men that she tackles in the first half of the book (Chapters 1-5) are, for the most part, true. Some of those reasons are why I feel the way I do about things, why I’m annoyed at Orthodox Judaism today, and why I continue to identify as Orthodox in spite of all those feelings.

On page 36, Sztokman cites Paul Kivel’s “Act Like A Man” box, and through the remainder of Chapter 2 (and bleeding over into the next few chapters), creates what she calls the “BOMB” or “Be an Orthodox Man” Box. Kivel’s box consists of three concentric rectangles. The innermost contains the things that men try to hide, such as anger, love, and sadness; the middle box contains actions that men do to protect themselves such as yell, fight, and be stubborn; and outside the box are the abuses which men (usually boys) are subject to when they fail to meet these criteria such as name-calling, hitting, and sexual abuse.

So, yeah. Rough stuff.

I can definitely see where Sztokman finds her parallels. Instead of quoting her, however, I can use hers and Kivel’s information to synthesize some thoughts of my own.

Let me start off with a story.

It was senior year of high school, and the junior and senior classes were all going to a pro-Israel rally on the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, DC. It was mandatory, and with the world being the way it was in 2005, everyone was pretty much on the edge about coming back alive. So we loaded ourselves into buses with posters and set off for DC. We got to the rally and it was a lot bigger than most of us expected. High school students had come in by the busload from as far away as Boston, New York, and Atlanta, not to mention all the families that attended. It was also longer, hotter, and sunnier than most of us expected, and a lot of people, including myself, came home that day with horrible sunburns. As anyone who’s been to a rally knows, when the rally ends, people disperse en masse, and this dispersion was of Pamplona-proportions, only with Jews running down the street and not bulls. We were put into groups to make it back to the bus, and hopefully find some cold beverages along the way since those of us who brought water had finished it long ago. I was in one of the smaller groups, about six guys and one of our teachers, who was also a rabbi. Of course, where there are Jews, there are Chabadniks, always trying to engage Jews in conversation at inopportune times and places. As we walk/jog down the street trying to find a 7-11 or something, a Chabadnik pulls aside our teacher – who is a rabbi – and asks if he put on tefillin that morning. My teacher didn’t respond and just kept moving, probably because he was as hot and tired as us students and was wearing a suit, looking very much like a rabbi, which he was.

A few blocks later, when the crowd thinned out and the stragglers caught up, my teacher turned to me and said, “Can you believe that guy? Asking me if I wore tefillin this morning. Just look at me; who does he think I am? Who does he think he is? Bastard.”

Okay, so I added the “bastard” in there for effect (although I’m not entirely convinced he didn’t say it under his breath as we were walking or in his mind) but he was insulted. He didn’t know the guy, but it sat on his mind for several blocks and he felt so challenged that he had to blurt something out to his students. His sour reaction to the event is a good lead-in to the concept of competition in Orthodox Jewish manhood – a topic which Sztokman heavily focuses on in her book.

It’s the truth. Orthodox Jewish men are competitive, from childhood to adult. It’s about how high your education is, how young you were when you got married, how many children you have, how much halacha you observe, how much you pray, how much you study, what you do for a living, what you look like, what you eat, and what you wear. People say that these things don’t matter, but to Orthodox Jewish men, they do. Looking at myself through this “be an Orthodox man” box, my score is pretty low. I am 26 years old with no wife and children (practically “old bachelor” age in the Orthodox world), I don’t wear a kippa every day, I don’t observe all the laws of Shabbos every week, I don’t wear the Orthodox Jewish uniform (white Oxford, black jacket, black pants) 24/7, I never went to yeshiva or did much in the way of Jewish learning/limmudei kodesh past-high school, I don’t go to minyan three times a day, and I got my education in non-Jewish colleges (pretty much anywhere besides YU, Brandeis, Touro, or an Ivy) and I studied theatre. At least I have an advanced degree and am working on my second, I still observe kashrut, and I have a mezuzah on my door; those things should count for something, I guess. Still, if I were to register myself with a shidduch, I’d probably strike out before getting up to bat.

12

Happy 1st Blogiversary!

That’s right…a year ago today, That’s So Jacob was launched. Happy birthday/anniversary/founder’s day/blogiversary to me!

So, what was my life like a year ago?

I began this blog right here in Madison; not in this apartment, but in a room at the Doubletree several blocks away. I was living in Houston, in an apartment twice the size of the one I’m currently living in, with a temperature I could set, a bathtub, and a swimming pool. I hadn’t started the program, or experienced the worst winter ever. I still had my olive green Subaru, and I hadn’t seen Oklahoma or Iowa yet. I hadn’t done anything APO related for a year.

But hey, I’m still here, and so is this blog.

Speaking of which, I haven’t posted a story for awhile. Wait…I posted one yesterday. Scratch that – I haven’t posted a good story lately.

So here’s a tale from years long past.

How That’s So Jacob Got Its Name

This is not my first blog, or journal for that matter. When I was 10, I found a ginormous notebook and decided that I would keep it as a journal until the pages ran out, whenever that would be. I was pretty faithful to it. It lasted me through sometime in freshman or sophomore year, when the pages actually did run out. I think it’s under my bed at home. I tried other paper journals, but none were the same, so I switched to the Internet. I had a LiveJournal when I was a moody teenager, like everyone else in the early 2000s, moody or not, teenager or not. And no, I am not going to link you to it. Most of my entries were terrible. I stopped for awhile, but always intended to start back up again. After a failed attempt on blogspot, I needed to start a new journal, with a new tactic, and a good name.

I always have my best ideas in the shower or at night before I drift off to sleep, but this one came to me courtesy of this one girl I knew awhile back. It was in my second semester of APO, and my third and final semester at AU. It was getting down to the wire with things, and I remember I was fed up with something or someone at the time, and it was one of those nights where everything was happening at the same time, so I was rushing around, trying to be in a million places at once. Normally I like being super busy like that, but I wasn’t feeling it that night. I don’t even know what was in my head, but I was telling some of the people in my pledge class about how my day was.

So there I was, walking across the lawn of the National Cathedral, babbling, when she said it.

“Hey Andrea, did you hear what Jacob just said? It was a classic Jacob line.”

And then she repeated what I had said less than a minute ago and had forgotten.

“He said ‘…and then I went to a JSA meeting and we just sat around and bitched at each other because we’re Jews and that’s what we do.'”

Okay, so it was kind of funny, without meaning to be, but it meant more than that. It meant that someone was actually listening to me. I wanted to channel that same feeling upon starting on the Internet anew. A place where I can just say what’s on my mind, how I feel, and stories that I want to remember and that other people might find amusing, or inspirational, or…worth reading.

Oh, and course, in honor of my spirit animal, Raven-Symone. So here are some gifs to honor her. Behold:

I have 280 followers as of today, and visitors from over 100 countries. Here’s to another year of fun, weirdness, and random memories. Thanks y’all…much love.

5

If This Coffee Cup Could Talk…

Today, I decided to have an adventure in the wonderful town of Madison. I had heard of Dig N Save, but I wasn’t really sure what it was all about. I knew it was a resale shop, but we’ve got plenty of those, St. Vinny’s being the most prominent. Another friend told me that she had gone to Dig N Save and bought three hundred Beanie Babies to gut them and make a rug. I know that the 1990s aren’t coming back, but eviscerating them and sewing together their furry exteriors for art’s sake? Shudder.

Beanie Baby guts aside, I went to see Dig N Save for myself, and I couldn’t believe what I saw once I got there. There are resale shops, and then there are resale shops. Dig N Save wasn’t particularly big in terms of floor space, with only two large rooms, but the amount of crap they had was spectacular. The front room had dumpster-sized tubs full of used clothing, which people were rooting through. In the back, though, was where they had some really interesting crap. Mounted on pegs were wooden chairs and stools, most of them in great condition. The floor beneath them had dressers, file cabinets, desks, shelving, tables, sofas, and chairs, which, again, were a little dusty but not unusable. I guess if was truly unusable they wouldn’t bother putting it out. In the front of the room, however, were three rows of bins full of dolls, stuffed animals, board games, Beanie Babies (the ones that survived the massacre), and other childhood toys. The bin on the far wall contained china, and that’s where I found this gem.

Photo: Okay, so I saw this coffee mug in a junk shop and I couldn't look at it without laughing so I bought it. So much character. I wonder what it's story is and how it ended up in Madison.

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have bought it, because who knows what’s been in that cup. But I saw it, laughed, and every time I passed it by, I couldn’t help but laugh. So I had to buy it, dust and all. They charge by wright, 35 cents per pound, and all I had was the mug, so it came out to a bank-breaking 37 cents.

But just look at it…it’s hysterical.

Someone named Bernie (or with a friend named Bernie) went to Las Vegas and bought this mug, pictured here on my kitchen table. First of all, there’s that name…Bernie. Bernie. Seriously. Do you know anyone under the age of 65 with that name? And no, pets don’t count. Plus, Las Vegas, the place where you can get lucky in the casino, or in other ways (if you have the money).

So here’s the image I have, and a story to go with it.

This guy is about 5’7″ and a half, average build, maybe a bit of a pot belly. He appears to be in his late fifties or sixties. He’s got wrinkly skin, a slight tan from working outside, a brown mullet, and of course, a porn-mustache offset by his grayish facial hair. He’s not from Vegas; he’s just visiting from California because he won his disability case for choking on a Good-n-Plenty while driving the forklift at his job at a beverage supplier. He drove here in his pickup, and is staying at a fleabag motel but spending all of his time between the blackjack tables and the bar. There he sits, in his blue striped dress shirt, faded leather jacket, jeans, and boots. He’s also wearing those thick-framed glasses that are kind of a pinkish at the top and fade down to clear. After losing almost all his money on a poorly-placed roulette bet, he’s at the bar, flicking cigarette butts into an ashtray, when he sees a quarter someone left on the ground by his stool. On a whim, he picks it up, goes back into the casino, sticks it in a slot machine, and what do you know – five thousand dollars. He goes “whoopee!” and then off to the mall to get some classy duds and to a dealership to trade his car for a white Cadillac. He drives down the Strip, catching the eyes of some drunk ladies, and tells them to get in. They do, and he takes them on a shopping spree for sequinned dresses and jewelry, so they look like his fantasy: the spokesmodels from The Price is Right. Then, he checks all of them into a fancy hotel where they get even more drunk, possibly snort some coke, and play around naked in the hot tub. Then, Bernie announces that he’s feeling lucky, so he gets into his new purple Hugh Hefner pimp suit and the ladies back in their dresses (silver and gold, of course) and back down to the casino. He shoots some craps, plays some blackjack or poker, then tries his luck on the roulette wheel. He asks one of the girls when she was born, and she says “26!” so he bets it all on 26 as he kisses her and she coos. Of course, his roulette wheel luck returns with a vengeance and the ball lands on 17. He turns to the girl and she says “how strange, I’m 17!”

“Wait, I thought you were 26?”

“Yeah, 26. I was born on June 26.”

“I asked you your age.”

“Ohhh, I didn’t understand the question.”

An undercover cop notices, and arrests Bernie for bringing a minor into a casino, taking him away as the girls vamoose. As the cop’s loading him into the car, Bernie trips and falls face first into the console, which pops open to reveal a bag of marijuana. Bernie quickly grabs it with his teeth, and as he gets up with it, head bruised and bloodied and all, the policeman realizes he’s been caught. A bunch of people have been watching this whole thing and go “ooooh.” The cop quickly grabs the bag from Bernie’s teeth, jams him in the car, then gets in and speeds off, narrowly missing a lady who is knitting while walking. He quickly makes a deal – he’ll release Bernie if Bernie leaves Vegas immediately. Without much of a choice, Bernie heartily accepts. The cop keeps driving past the police station and arrives at the airport. He stops in the loading zone, quickly, goes to the back seat and unshackles Bernie, leading him to the ticket agent and giving him $500 to pay for the ticket right there and then. Bernie buys the ticket, and the cop then runs out of the airport, gets in his car, and speeds away, yelling, “keep the change!”

Bernie goes through security, only to find out he’s got some time to kill before his flight. So he gets a pizza and a coke. After he finishes, he’s on his way back to the gate when he spies an airport gift shop. He goes in and pokes around, before seeing the mugs on display, and what do you know, they’ve got one “Bernie” mug left. He has just enough money to pay for it. They call his flight number over the intercom, and he hustles back to the gate and gets on the plane, ready to put the trip behind him, with his coffee mug as a souvenir.

Then he realizes that he drove to Las Vegas.

Whoops.

If you’ve read this far, congratulate yourself. I wonder: what do you think of Bernie? I want to hear your “Bernie in Las Vegas” story…if you write and post one, comment below with the link and I’ll reblog you!

4

Groove Is in the Car

So, two summers ago, I went on a family trip to Germany. By family, I mean myself, my sister, my dad, and two cousins, because my mom’s ideal vacation is preferably within walking distance of our house (okay, my dad came up with that one), but you get the picture. The first part of the trip involved flying into Frankfurt, spending a day there, then renting a car and driving around Bayern (Bavaria) to see the house where my grandmother was born and the town she and my grandfather lived in as a married couple (which was also his hometown; people didn’t go too far to meet their spouses, kind of like Tinder, only with more actual tinder since they lived in the countryside). Also, to visit the gravestones of our great, great-great, and great-great-great-grandparents, which involved some breaking and entering (but that’s another entry). So it was basically our death tour of southern Germany. We joked that Christians go to Europe on church tours, and we Jews go to Europe on the death tours. We would then get rid of the car in Fuerth, which was incidentally where my aunt was born, and take the train across the border to Prague, Czech Republic for Phase II of the trip, which still managed to venture into death tourism. But more about that in another entry.

We arrived in Frankfurt sometime in the afternoon and checked into our hotel to catch up on sleep, so we could check out and get the rental car first thing in the morning. I’ll point out that I was not as tired as the others, since I decided to pack everything in one large backpack as opposed to a rolling suitcase. A rolling suitcase is better for the back, but – shocker! – Europe is the land of stairs and cobblestone streets, especially in Germany, and I’ll never forget bounding up the stairs out of the metro station in downtown Frankfurt with two weeks’ worth of belongings strapped to my back like nobody’s business, only to realize that I was standing alone on the street level, looking down at everyone else who were trying to lug their suitcases up, step by step; unfortunately, a recurring theme throughout the trip of me waiting at the tops of staircases. But I was probably tired anyway, so I slept.

The next morning, we eat breakfast, during which time my dad and one of my cousins goes to get the rental car. I’m kind of excited; this might be my first chance to drive in a foreign country, as all of us on the trip except one cousin had licenses. After a long, long, long time, they come back with good news and bad news.

First, the bad news: the car is a stick shift, and my dad is the only one of us who knows how to do that.

Then, the good news: since my dad hasn’t driven stick in a long time, my cousin got to laugh at him attempt to figure out how to do it.

This was clearly going to end well.

So, we grab our stuff and troop around the corner to the rental car lot, and load in. That was the easy part. Then came the task of turning the car on and driving it out of the parking lot. We had a couple of backfires and rocky starts, but before any nausea could set in we were off on the road.

And that’s when it got worse.

I don’t know much about driving stick, but apparently there is gear switching involved, and other things, so my cousin told my dad when to shift gears from the passenger seat, while my dad was driving down the open road and attempting to navigate us toward Wurzburg. If you’ve ever driven in Germany, constantly stopping and starting the car on the road is never a good thing. One minute we’d be sailing along, then it would get clunky for the gear shift, then it would settle out again. All the while, my dad is not watching the road as closely as he should, so we have a few close calls and swerves into wrong lanes, and plenty of honking German drivers. Plus, there’s the fact that we’re in a foreign country and we don’t know where we’re going.

Eventually, my dad gets accustomed to the car, but by this time we’re a little off course. We have the voice GPS on, but she’s speaking in German and we can’t figure out how to switch her over to English. Also, it’s getting stuffy in the back, and we need some A/C, so my cousin hits the button, and what comes out isn’t air, but…

“I couldn’t ask for another/I-I-I-I-I/I couldn’t ask for another/I-I-I-I-I/Groove is in the heart…”

And I broke out laughing.

Because when you’re driving down the roads of rural Bavaria at 9:00 in the morning while trying to figure out how to work a stick-shift, the perfect soundtrack is 1990s one-hit wonder “Groove Is In the Heart” by Deee-Lite. It was just such an irreverent moment, and the spontaneous remergence one of the most awkward songs ever really captured the zeitgeist (German word, yes!) of the moment. Not to mention that the song is probably still on the German pop charts.

Sometimes things are upsetting and funny all at the same time; and then that moment hits where the right song comes on.

And of course, I had to awkwardly do hip hop while belted in the middle seat, between my cousin (who was not born when this song was a hit) and my sister (who does not approve of dancing in the car).

Nice to see that song still has relevance.