Thursday, January 28, 2016
A Word From the Weiss
Last week, I was sitting there minding my own business – writing my blog, that is –
when I looked down at my left hand and saw something so awful that I nearly screamed.
Never fear. All five fingers were still there. Ditto my gold wedding band. But there, beside it, on another ring that I wear on
my middle finger, was a small, dark, empty hole where a diamond was supposed to be. Kind of like a cavity in a tooth from which the filling had fallen out.
How long had that stone been missing? A minute? A month? A day?
I couldn’t say.
That ring had once belonged to my father’s mother, Sadie. In fact, it most probably was her engagement ring, given that there’s a matching white gold band soldered onto it. Somehow, although she had a daughter and three daughters-in-law, it had eventually
gone to my own mother, and then upon my
mother's passing, nearly seven years ago, to me.
God knows why grey-haired Grandma Sadie – a supreme cook but so oblivious to style
and glamour that I can’t recall ever seeing her without an apron on – had such a flashy, flamboyant-looking
ring. On the garish and gaudy side, it was not
something I’d ever coveted or considered being caught dead
wearing myself. In fact, I had never noticed it on Grandma Sadie, and I never really liked it on my mom.
But one day when
I was missing my mother more than I could bear, I put it on –
just for a moment, I thought -- and it felt so right that I had never taken it off again. Just seeing it there made me feel as if I still had my mother with me, kvetching, watching over me like a hawk, and weighing in on my trials
and tribulations, as well as those of my kids. You know.
All the good stuff nice Jewish moms are supposed to do and that she did to the hilt while she
But now, along with missing my mother, I was missing a diamond in her ring. Granted, it was a small diamond, a teeny-weeny cog in this wheel-shaped mother of a ring. It was merely a satellite – one of six – to the main
stone. But seeing that empty spot amid the sparkle made me go out of my mind.
When had I lost it? And why hadn't I noticed before? Might it have been weeks since
it had gone astray?
Far more significant, where
the heck might it be? Had it fallen out while I’d been traveling in LA last month or wandering the streets of New York City? Or might it be
on the floor, at the bottom of my purse, or elsewhere inside my house?
suddenly recalled that a week or so earlier
I’d noticed a small glittering stone
on the floor near the chair in which I write. Assuming it to be a rhinestone, and
not knowing what it might have come from, I had put it into a little dish somewhere for safe-keeping. But evidently that keeping
was not all that safe because now I couldn’t
find it anywhere.
Perhaps my cleaning lady had lifted the dish to dust underneath and the stone had
fallen to the floor.
Whether or not it had been my diamond, in the coming days I couldn’t stop looking,
day and night.
I searched inside all of my gloves in case the stone had gotten caught inside a finger when I peeled them off. I scoured the carpet, peeked under the couch, and groped around inside the covers of my bed.
I even looked in the washing machine
and dryer. Ditto the dishwasher and fridge.
Perhaps that sounds crazy, but we were talking about a diamond here, and ya never know.
I also began to mull over everything I had done lately
that might detach a diamond from a ring.
Only the week before, on a particularly frosty winter Sunday, my husband and I had taken advantage
of the Jacuzzi in our bathroom (yes, I
do mean together), for the second time in nearly 17 years.
We had just seen the film The Big
Short the night before, and that had inspired me. In case you haven’t seen it, I’ll tell you that it embodies an odd combination of being excitingly dramatic yet also insufferably boring at times because it focuses on extremely arcane financial matters. To make
the financial matters a little less boring and arcane, the film employs a rather cheap strategy. It has the most esoteric details explained by celebrities, such as singer Selena Gomez and the decidedly sexy (albeit tattooed) chef Anthony Bourdain.
Then there’s Australian bombshell Margot Robbie, who expounds on sub-prime loans and tells how to “short”
the market while sipping champagne in a bubble bath.
The next morning, I had
an urge to replicate that last scene, minus the sub-prime jargon, of course. Just be thankful that I resisted
my husband’s own urge – to take selfies of ourselves inside that tub. (Margot Robbie I am not, and just for the record, he is no Ryan
But I did not resist the chance to add soothing bath salts to the water, plus plenty of bubble bath. Had the suds
and roiling currents in the Jacuzzi eased
my diamond out?
Come to think of it, we had been lolling in another
hot tub only two weeks before. This one, far from being in the privacy of our own bathroom, was parked in a yard in LA.
I am talking about the Carpool de Ville, the nifty hot tub
our friend Kristin’s clever boyfriend Phil had fashioned
right inside a flamingo-pink 1969 Cadillac
Coupe de Ville.
Could my little diamond have become dislodged while
I was lodged inside of that?
The truth was it could be anywhere. And wherever it was, I probably would never see it again. So I should just bite the bullet, go to a jeweler already, and have the stone replaced.
But I am nothing if not my mother’s daughter. She could never give up. Neither can I.
to look for the missing stone throughout the house, day and night, night and day.
When I mentioned it to our cleaning lady, Margaret,
when she arrived that week, she came up with an inspired idea. Why not check the bag inside our vacuum cleaner?
Brilliant! I proceeded
to pour its filthy contents into a pan.
Then I put on rubber gloves, and for the next hour or so painstakingly
sifted through the dirt and detritus that had been collected throughout my house for the past month or so.
I persisted for that length of time because after
about two minutes of this, I saw something tiny
and shiny and screamed to Margaret, “You’re a genius!” Then I realized that the tiny, shiny thing I’d found
was just a tightly wadded smidgen of aluminum foil.
She was so dejected after this that I couldn’t bear to give up, if only for her sake. Well, not only for her sake. We were talking about an actual diamond
But finally, after unearthing only a collection of dropped pills, coins, and candy wrappers, and inhaling a whole lot of dirt (which is by definition dirty), I couldn’t bear to go on.
“Well, it was nice to have been a genius, even for only a minute,” Margaret sighed.
I resigned myself that at
last it was indeed time to bite the bullet and go see a jeweler. My best option, I figured, was a small, rather unpretentious
shop in the center of our town where I had gotten repairs done before.
I headed over there late the next afternoon. Very late that afternoon. By the time I’d managed to get out of the house, it was well past 5.
Then I had trouble wrestling with one of the fancy new parking meters in our town, the kind which allow you to use a credit
card but make you enter your license plate number, your social security number,
your age and weight and the names and birthdates of all your children. Then crap out
and tell you to start all over again.
By the time I’d
reached the shop, it was 5:31, and it apparently had closed at
5:30. The store, which had been open and brightly lit when I had driven past minutes
earlier, was now dark and deserted.
managed to get out of the house and finally prevailed over that persnickety parking
meter. I might as well take advantage of the hour of parking for which I had paid.
So I really bit the bullet and headed for the nearest other jeweler
– a far fancier and vaster one, which purports to have the area’s largest diamond selection.
There, the pleasant young woman behind the repair counter examined
my ring under a loupe, then quickly summoned an older male colleague named Dave.
“The problem is getting four prongs back on there,”
he said, explaining that the missing stone had apparently fallen out because the
quartet of teeny prongs holding it in place had withered away to nothing, and there
was now nothing left to attach them to.
He estimated the missing stone to be 6 points in size (.06 carats), and said it would cost $120 to replace. He also explained that my ring was a very old one, with
diamonds cut in an old-fashioned style, so they might
not be able to find a stone that matched the others well.
But there was a bigger issue.
The prongs holding the large center stone had also worn down to the point of being "paper-thin." It was probably only a matter of time before it would have fallen out too. And at an estimated quarter of a carat in size, it would have cost a whole lot more to replace.
“So you’re saying that this was one of those situations where you break your leg, only to discover that
there was a tumor inside it, and that ends up saving your life,” I ventured.
“Exactly,” Dave agreed.
The five other satellite stones also needed tightening, he told me. To do this and everything else necessary would cost
a total of $375 and take about two weeks.
I have never considered
diamonds to be this nice
Jewish girl’s best friend. Most pieces I wear consist of funky so-called costume jewelry. I really don’t know jewels from Jehoshaphat, and must admit that I hadn’t been expecting the repair to be nearly that much. So I thanked Dave for his time and said I would think about it.
Then I took my holey ring into our town’s other high-brow jeweler, directly across the street.
In business since 1898, and now run by the fourth generation of its founding family, Lux Bond & Green is virtually synonymous
in my area with luxury and class. No doubt they would do a good job on the repair. The
question was, at what price?
trim fellow at the repair counter, whose name was Shiva, pegged the missing stone to be 7 points, rather than 6, and said that it alone would cost me $175.
The ring was 14-carat white gold, he said, so I would have to pay for something called rhodium to be reapplied. This was evidently
the substance that made white gold look silver in color so that it would “pop,” he said, since all gold was naturally yellow.
The prongs that had held the missing
stone needed to be replaced, he said, and the other stones needed tightening.
Yet he said nothing about the prongs on the big center stone.
He also said it might be difficult to find a replacement stone that matched the
others, although “we can try to get something as close as possible,” he said. The
work would also take about two weeks, and it would cost $442.
That price, however, was only an estimate,
he stressed. It might be more if they discovered more issues,
or if I insisted that they find a matching stone,
for which they might have to send to New York.
At this point, I was beginning to wonder. Maybe it made sense to entrust a valuable piece, a true family heirloom, to a well-known jeweler because
you could trust them to do good work. But you could also trust them to charge a bundle, and
the better known they were, the
more they might feel entitled to charge. So, as well-respected as they were, I thanked Shiva for his time and left.
I did some soul-searching. Did I really need this gaudy ring, even if it reminded me of Mom? And did I really need it restored to its original pristine state?
simply keep wearing it in its holey state. It would
still be precious to me even if it weren’t perfect. But I knew that wouldn't
work. It would bother me every time I saw it and eventually wear a hole in my heart. And that would be much harder to repair.
I could also put it away for safe-keeping. But then I wouldn't get to enjoy it. Besides, that
would just be delaying the inevitable, or
passing the baton. Because someday the ring would go to my daughter, Allegra, and she’d have to pay to repair it so
that it could remind her of both my mother and me.
I decided to consult her
about it, without mentioning this rather grim eventuality. And she had a very good point. Perhaps I should find out how much
the ring was worth. If it was valued at thousands of dollars, then paying a few hundred to fix it was clearly well worth it.
So the next day I
headed back to town again. But now I left early enough to arrive long before closing at
at Sevan Jewelers, the small store for which I’d originally headed the day before.
This time, the person who waited on me was the only person there, the owner himself. John had repaired my own engagement ring years ago when a small satellite stone had gone missing from it. I knew that he gave a fair price,
and also knew that he did good work.
The first thing he noticed when he looked through a loupe was that one of the tiny stones on the attached band was
badly chipped. No one else had mentioned this yet. Neither had anyone offered an opinion about the style of my ring, but he blurted his out.
“This is the strangest, strangest piece I’ve ever seen, and I grew up in this business,” he said, noting that the stones in it
were all mismatched and of varying degrees of quality.
All of these rocks were also
in urgent need of tightening. Plus, he instantly noticed the need to build up the prongs on the center stone.
Yet to do all of the work necessary to completely restore
the ring would run me only $200, he said, and he
would have it ready in a week, or maybe even less.
I laughed. Now it was my turn to blurt out something I had not intended to say.
I told him how much the other stores had wanted to
charge, noting that to replace the missing stone alone would have cost $120 at the first place and $175
at the second.
He said that the price of the stone would be less than
half these amounts at most from him, and that the far greater expense was the labor required, which he would undertake to
“I’m a jeweler,” he said, explaining that he and his brother did all of their own repair work right on the premises. He also said that he had plenty of loose diamonds on hand from buying estate pieces, and that he could easily find a close
match for my missing stone.
the value of the ring, it was probably worth “between $1,600 and $1,800 tops,”
he estimated. But that number was almost immaterial.
“If I had this ring
in the store and someone came in looking for an estate piece and wanted to buy it, I would sell it to them for $700 or $800,” he said. Given that, he would
only have offered me $300 to $400 if I’d been interested in selling it.
Given that, maybe it was crazy to invest
$200 in fixing it. Then again, maybe not.
That ring is a true family heirloom. So its value cannot be measured in dollars and cents. It is something that connects
me to my mother and grandmother. As they say, it’s priceless.
Besides, compared to
the other two estimates I’d gotten, $200 was
Maybe, just as it had been fortuitous that the little stone had fallen out before the big one could, it had been lucky, even beshert, that I’d struggled with that ornery
parking meter and been forced to get more estimates. The night before, I would have hesitated to shell out $200. Now I was
“Do it!” I said. And I happily handed my precious ring over to John's care.
its age and fragility, I probably shouldn’t wear that ring every day anymore. But I can’t wait to get it back, and once I do, it’s going right back on my finger again for good.
Of course I’m filling the hole in that ring –
not because of what the ring is worth, but because the ring helps fill the hole that’s been in my heart ever since I
lost my mother.
have never been my best
friend. My best friend was my own mom. And I’m happy to say that my own nice Jewish
daughter seems to feel the very same way about me.
Someday, she’ll get to wear my mother and
grandmother’s ring, too, as well as my mother-in-law’s engagement ring, which I also wear because it helps remind me of her.
But no rush on that. Once the hole in the ring is filled,
l hope to have a whole lot more time left to still enjoy it – and enjoy my daughter, as well as my son – so that I can keep kvetching, watching
like a hawk, and weighing in on their trials and
tribulations, and those of their own future children someday. You know. All of that good stuff that nice Jewish moms are supposed to do, and that I intend to do to the hilt while I’m still here.
Note: I will not be posting my
blog next week. Sorry. See you SOON!
Friday, January 22, 2016
A Word From the Weiss
I’m one of those people who feel compelled
to make a big deal out of birthdays – everyone’s but my own, that is. Last year being a big one for me, marked by an unnerving number ending in 0, I chose to dodge any prospect of a party by getting clear out of town… only to learn when I returned that you can
run from getting older, but you cannot hide. So many people wanted to get in on the celebratory action that I spent the remainder of the month flitting between coffee dates, lunches, and
dinners out. I think I put on 5 pounds from the birthday cake alone.
This year, with the dreaded milestone behind me, there was no such problem. Quite the contrary. I had nothing to do on the actual date but stay home with the dog.
My husband, who is a newspaper reporter, had
to attend a meeting that evening, then stay up late writing
a story about it. Although we had already gone out with good friends the previous Saturday night, it seemed pretty sad and anticlimactic to be staying home on the actual occasion with the dog (no offense to the dog).
That is not to say I had no other options. When my daughter Allegra learned of my plans, or lack thereof, she refused to hear of it. She insisted
I come meet her in NYC,and even offered
to get tickets to The King and I, a production I’ve been dying to see. One of her
roommates was away, she noted, and I could stay overnight in her room.
Given all that, and my mounting birthday malaise, you might expect that I wouldn’t have thought twice about accepting her invitation. But it wasn’t as simple as that.
For one thing, my husband and I already planned to
drive into the city on Friday, then meet our kids and their significant others for a birthday brunch the next day. It seemed wasteful to drive two cars
down and have to deal with parking both.
One solution might be for me to take a bus down on Thursday instead. But if you suffer from severe
motion sickness, as I do, then perhaps you’ll understand why I dreaded the prospect of spending three queasy hours sitting on a Greyhound,
on my birthday, no less. Besides, I had no way to get to the bus station while my husband was at work.
“Oh, c'mon. Just take an Uber!” my
An Uber? Was she joking? That may be totally routine for city folk. But I’ve never actually been in an Uber. Where I live, out in the boonies. I’m not sure they even exist.
Besides, beyond the transportation issue, there were other things to hold me back.
Nineteen things, in fact.
was the number of items on my to-do list, many of which were marked "urgent."
were bills I needed to pay, a prescription or two to be refilled, and several unwanted holiday gifts that still
needed to be returned to stores before it was too late.
You might think many of those tasks could wait,
but I didn’t want to take a chance. Most stores, I'd heard,would accept holiday returns through the middle of January. This was the middle of January. I didn’t
dare put the task off until after we returned.
Yet chief among the many things I didn’t want to put
off was finishing my blog.
It may sound like it made perfect sense that I needed to finish my work before
I could play, even on my birthday. But the sense
that it made wasn’t really all that perfect. At least it didn’t make perfect sense to me.
For the sad truth is
that, as much as I regard writing this blog as genuine work, and I take it as seriously as any job I’ve ever held, no one actually pays me a cent to do it.
I could have waited until after the weekend to post it. I could simply have put up a
note to my readers saying, “Gone fishing,” or whatever the modern-day equivalent is. (“Gone off
in an Uber?”)
crazy thing about doing something like this is that, even if I don’t get paid for it, I worry that if I don’t put it up regularly, my readers will lose interest and stop reading.
Also, the story that I had nearly finished writing
was about holiday shopping, and like the gifts that I needed to return, its relevance was rapidly nearing
its expiration date.
So, as much as
I was dying to see my daughter, and maybe even that Broadway show, I didn’t feel I could leave until I’d finished all the things I was supposed to do first.
My plan was to get through all these obligations as fast as I could. And on any other day, I might have been
able to do this with some degree of speed and efficiency. But this particular day happened to be my birthday.
That meant that from the moment I woke up, the phone rang,
buzzed, or dinged as countless people called or
texted birthday greetings or posted them on Facebook.
Of course I was thrilled that so many friends and relatives had thought of me and were taking the time to wish me well. But the awful truth was that
the more that they called, the less I got
done, and the more miserable and frustrated I became. For now I would be obliged to turn down an amazing invitation from
my daughter, in addition to being doomed to
spend a rather desolate evening home alone with the dog… no offense to the dog.
that afternoon, my husband stopped briefly at
home before racing off to his meeting. If I were ready to go, he said, he would drop me at the bus. No Uber necessary.
At this point, I had managed to contact all of the stores involved and learn that all but one would allow me to wait until Monday to mail the various items
I wished to return. However, I was still busy putting up photos
on my blog (which, given my limited skills and my lousy Wifi
connection, tends to take me almost as long as the writing itself).
So I reluctantly but resolutely told him thanks, but no thanks, and he abruptly left.
Now I really
felt lonely and miserable. I was MoroseJewishMom.com.
If this sounds
a little pathetic, let me assure you that I am not nuts or needy. Normally, being home alone is
no big deal for me. Hey, I’m someone who writes a blog. I’m always home alone (with the dog).
But this particular day was my birthday. And no matter how many people may post good wishes
on Facebook, cyber socializing is a sorry substitute for the real thing.
My daughter texted me periodically to ask about my progress. Man, I felt like a fool! By this point, I had already put in so much effort that is seemed ridiculous to give up now. Never mind that it was too late to make the show. At least we could go out for dinner.
Besides, had I
lost my perspective? I mean, what was more important in this case? To sit there writing about being a nice Jewish mom, or to go out and actually be one?
What was the value of getting older if I
didn’t begin to act wiser? My own father had been one
of those nose-to-the-grindstone types who put work before relationships. Sure, he loved me, but I always felt like I played second fiddle to his financial pursuits.
And where were my priorities? No offense to you,
but I don’t actually know almost any of my readers. I don’t even know who they are. Why did I feel a stronger
obligation to them than to my own daughter and myself?
Given all of the above, this birthday was turning out to be about the worst one ever. Not to mention the loneliest.
Finally, at 6:30
p.m. I was finished with everything. But I was
feeling absolutely beat.
when my daughter called to check in on me one last time.
not too late!” she insisted. “Forget about the bus. Just get in the car and come. Come now!”
I may be a whole lot older, but she was clearly wiser. And I realized she was right.
I did it.
By the time
I had loaded up the car, it was nearly 7. The drive
is over 100 miles.
I pulled up to her door on Roosevelt Island just past 9, utterly exhausted. After writing all day and racing frantically to
get there, I realized that I was too tired to go out at this point. Frankly, I couldn’t wait to get into that roommate’s empty bed.
But seeing Allegra’s face light up when she opened the door
was enough to revive me. Kaitlin, my son’s fiancé, was there, too,
and they had managed to make big plans. We had reservations at a Japanese restaurant in midtown. So we got into the car again.
By the time we were seated at this eatery, Lucky Cat on East 53rd Street, it was
after 10. No matter. My son, Aidan, met
us there, along with Allegra’s boyfriend JP, and a friend of his who was visiting from
Luxembourg. We ordered all sorts of interesting foods, from ramen noodles with sea urchin eggs to salmon sushi tacos, to mackerel sashimi that
was seared lightly at the table with a blow torch
right before our eyes.
We also toasted the occasion with countless rounds
of sake, both hot and cold.
at last, the red velvet birthday cake Allegra had brought along was served.
I don’t want to tell you what I wished for before I blew out the candles because that means it might
not come true. Suffice it to say that my mood had lightened considerably and I was feeling
a cheery inner glow even more radiant than the blaze atop that cake.
Had my story ended there, it would have been enough – dayenu, as we say at Passover. But I still had a whole birthday weekend ahead of me,
and it only got better and better.
After being up till nearly 2, I woke up late the next morning when
Allegra poked her head through my doorway. She was already dressed and headed to a jazz conference.
“Wait! I’ll go with you!” I cried.
Within minutes I was dressed and out the door. No time for a shower, let alone makeup. I wasn’t going
to miss another chance to be with my kids.
Although it seemed doubtful I would get into the conference, which cost a bundle to attend, at least
I got to ride with her into the city, then grab
a quick breakfast with her at an incredible Jewish deli called Ess-a-Bagel.
But more surprises ensued. In the lobby of the conference
venue, I ran into my son, Aidan, who, being a jazz journalist, was also attending. My good friend Liz was there
as well, and she managed to get me in for free!
all went to a fascinating lecture, after
which Aidan insisted on taking me out to lunch.
The celebration continued the next day when my husband and I met the kids and their
significant others for brunch at Café du Soleil, a charming French bistro on the Upper West Side.
You might expect that the young
folk had had their fill of us fogies by then, but no. They let us tag along that night for the Winter Jazzfest, a live-music marathon featuring over 100 jazz acts performing in a dozen venues throughout the East and West Village.
This culminated in the wildest and craziest scene I have ever experienced in my life – a concert
near Washington Square Park featuring the Sun Ra Arkestra, a big band that carries on the “Afrofuturism” tradition of Sun Ra, the late legendary jazz composer, philosopher,
and keyboard and synthesizer player who
claimed to be an alien from Saturn.
and I planned to stay for only the very start of this event, which
was slated to commence at midnight. But
by the time the musicians had taken the
stage, it was nearly 1 a.m. and we were unable to tear ourselves away from the spectacle underway.
and “cacophony” were the words that came to mind as a large group of musicians decked out in glittering sequined caftans and caps began playing deafeningly loud, chaotic notes. Soon the lead singer, a woman sporting a giant Afro hairdo and dark green lipstick, began to chant the same spaced-out phrase over and over again.
“Love and light in-ter-ested
me so that I dared to knock at the door of the cosmos!”
The next number was equally otherworldly, albeit repetitive, as
the singer went on to embrace a slightly different refrain. “Space is the
place! Space is this place! Space is the place!" she crooned.
be wrong, but I think at that particular moment, this was the only place to be. But wait...
what was that funny scent emanating from some of the young patrons nearby?
As a child of the mid-50s
and 60s, I just managed to miss out on the
goatee-and-poetry scene of the Beat Generation. A decade later, I was still too young to go to Woodstock. But I’m happy to report that I didn’t miss this. I felt the love. I felt the light! And I think at that moment I felt younger, lighter
and lovelier than I ever have in my life.
Even though by the time we got to our hotel it was 3 a.m, and I was so tired that I was almost ready for a
Which could only make me wonder.
Was it getting old that was making me so tired? Or was it not giving in to getting old?
Whatever. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I only wish
I had gone down sooner.
And now that
the celebrations are done and I’m back home alone again, I will dare to tell you what I wished upon those birthday candles at Lucky Cat (even at the risk of jinxing my wish).
I looked at my kids, I looked at that blazing cake that
read "Happy birthday, Mom," and before I began to blow, I thought, “If only all of
my birthdays could be as happy as this one.”
All is well that ends well. Even if it starts out feeling lonely and miserable. I only wish that I could guarantee that birthday wish. Then I might become a
fan of everyone's birthdays -- even mine -- after all.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Word From the Weiss
I know it may be lame to even mention, but happy winter weather at last to you, and happy
birthday to me!
I also know that I promised you the conclusion of my story about the wedding. But last week I was up to my
nice Jewish eyeballs in the lyrics I
was writing for my synagogue’s annual Purim spiel. (Yes, I know, Purim is over two months away. But that means that, like spring, it’s practically right around the corner. We need to begin rehearsing now!)
So instead, I’m going to just treat you to a couple of final holiday misadventures.
My husband and I were shopping for a few last-minute gifts in a store on the Upper West Side late last month when he got hungry and developed a major case of spilkes (Yiddish for, essentially, ants in his pants). So he left in search
of fresh air and a much-needed nosh.
About 10 minutes later, he texted
that he had come across a fabulous selection
of cheese at a fancy gourmet food shop called Epicerie Boulud on
64th and Broadway. (Actually, the spellcheck on
his iPhone changed that to “Epicerie Boiled,”
but I knew what he meant.)
Seconds after I read his text and managed to
interpret it, though, my phone died. So I figured that I had better check out of the store and go rendezvous with him fast.
Well, maybe not quite so fast. On a street corner en route, I came across one of those large open trucks selling fresh fruits
and vegetables. This one had a holiday special – blueberries at only a buck for a pint. Now, that was an offer I could
Since I knew I had only two large bills in my wallet,
I decided to beef up my order a bit. And after
selecting two pints, along with some raspberries and an avocado, I forked over one of those bills. To my distress, the fellow
manning the truck handed back a five.
“Excuse me, but I gave you a twenty!” I protested.
He quickly remedied the situation by handing over a ten-dollar
bill as well. But then he did a quick search of his wad of cash and asked me
if I was sure about that twenty. He had plenty of singles, fives, and tens bundled up, but nary a twenty in the bunch.
I was. Absolutely sure. We had just
returned from LA two nights before, and I had
been carrying around two crisp $20 bills
for the entire week that we’d been out West. But if I had given it to him only seconds earlier, how could he possibly not have it?
“Maybe it blew away,” this diminutive man, who
looked Central American, ventured.
In fact, it was an exceptionally blustery night and
that corner was a wind tunnel. But if that
bill had gone blowin’ in the wind, I was fairly certain that I would
I urged him to check his rather large bundle of bills
again, as well as his pockets. But after a quick search,
he assured me that a ten was the largest denomination there. He said that his manager collected cash from him every hour and he had just stopped by.
he said. “No big deal. Just ten dollars. Don’t worry!”
I’m a nice Jewish mom. “Worry” is my middle name. Besides, the last
thing I’d ever want to do is cheat someone, least of
all a man selling fruit on the street.
At my urging,
he flipped through his wad of bills once more. But time was passing. Fast. What if my husband left Epicerie Boiled? Boulud, I mean. I had no way to find him.
“It’s only ten
dollars,” he repeated. “No big deal.” Then he added a phrase that, due to his foreign accent, I didn’t understand. I asked
him to repeat it, but was still at a loss.
By now I was getting my own case of spilkes. “I’ll be back,” I promised earnestly. Then
I rushed up the street.
There was indeed a lovely selection of cheeses at that Epicerie place,
whatever you might call it. All of them, needless to say, cost more than $10 for just a little chunk.So we made do with only one, which the clerk carefully swaddled in pale waxed paper.
But all the while that was deliberating over the cheese, I was
thinking about the man. I could have sworn I'd had only two $20 bills in my wallet. But could he perhaps have been right?
Had I changed one of those bills when we had checked out of our hotel in LA in order to have money to tip the bellman and the parking attendant, leaving me with only a ten and a twenty instead?
Had I only handed him a $10 bill after all?
Like the adamant jurors in Twelve Angry Men, the more that I mulled over my memory and
convictions, the less I was quite so sure.
So the moment we left the Epicerie, I dragged my husband back to the truck. The little man looked amazed to see me. Trust, clearly, was not
his middle name.
Needless to say, in my absence he had not managed to come across my $20 bill. But he still maintained that it didn’t matter. Then he repeated that other thing he’d said.
still didn’t catch it, so I got him to repeat it again. “Money doesn’t matter,” he said. “What matters is what you have in your heart.”
What I had in my heart? What I had in my heart was a growing ache over the fear that I had
cheated someone less fortunate than myself out of a measly amount of cash.
I had in my heart was misgivings and a burgeoning sense of guilt that had grown from the size of a blueberry to something
bigger than one of his green honeydew melons.
So I forked over my remaining $20 bill, and without hesitation he gave me $10 back.
But that didn’t completely settle the score because now we had another problem. Namely, what was in his heart.
So after returning his stash of bills to his pocket, he proceeded to
hand me a quart of strawberries and a mammoth bag
of bright yellow bananas.
Never mind that we were going straight to the theater that evening and I didn’t really want to be lugging around more than
enough fruit to fill Carmen Miranda’s hat.
I realized that I
had either just been given a whole mess of free fruit, or I had shelled out a little more than necessary to make sure that I ingested enough fiber… and had no longer gotten anything close to a bargain on those two pints of blueberries.
No problem. The only thing that mattered was what I had
in my heart. Peace at last.
I would like to tell you that my holiday misadventures ended there. No such luck.
The following day, we returned home from our trip, which we had extended for a long weekend in
NYC after returning from LA. During our
10-day absence, we had asked the U.S.
Postal Service to hold all of our mail. The form we had filled out requested delivery on Saturday, December 19, so that we could go through it all on Sunday evening, after we returned. But when we got home,
there was nothing on our doorstep.
It turned out that our carrier
had in fact delivered it, but it was
no longer there. Gone was not only a whole slew of junk mail (good riddance!), but also our bills and nearly all of the holiday cards we
normally receive from friends and family. Argh!
Couldn’t the scoundrels who presumably made off with it all have had the decency to leave
those cards behind or drop them back into the mail? What was in their hearts?
During our absence, I had slipped a 12-year-old boy who lives across the
street 10 bucks to keep an eye on our doorstep and bring in any packages that might arrive. When we returned, he’d handed over three boxes that he had taken in for safe-keeping.
But that was another $10 possibly down the drain. For evidently the thieves had beaten him to it that day. According
to our postal carrier, many scoundrels are skilled enough to drive around behind mail and delivery trucks and snatch items before their rightful owners even have
And according to some emails I received, two boxes had been delivered along with our U.S. mail late that afternoon (which
may have been what attracted those thieves).
I can only imagine these dreaded felons’ faces when they opened those parcels.
One was from a Website called ModernTribe.com, which sells assorted Judaica.
From them, I had ordered two cartons of Matzolah, a kind of granola made out of matzo, otherwise known as “the trail mix of the Exodus.
(I wrote all about this yummy, crunchy and eminently healthy stuff when I covered Kosherfest in this space just last month.)
In addition, I had ordered a poster commemorating Thanksgivukkah, that double holiday
marking the once-in-a-lifetime case in which Thanksgiving
and Hanukkah had overlapped. I hadn’t been sure what I would do with that bit of kitsch, modeled after
the classic painting American Gothic, considering that this 2013 event will reportedly not reoccur for another 70,000 years. But it had been on clearance for a buck, and I’d figured what the heck.
In retrospect, I could
live without another piece of clutter. Even nice Jewish clutter.
But what about our little dog, Latke?
The second box that had gone astray was a Barkbox from Barkshop.com, a monthly subscription service that delivers treats and toys to dogs.
I had first discovered this company when they had advertised a soon-to-be collector's item for
dogs called The Dognald. Unfortunately, they had been temporarily sold out of this treasure, but I ended up signing Latke
up on a three-month trial basis. I had saved her November box of booty for Hanukkah, when she gets eight nights of gifts along
with the rest of the family, but then her December
delivery never managed to arrive.
This was particularly disconcerting because poor Latke suffered
a terrible calamity just after we returned from LA. My husband took her to play ball early one evening, but it had been dark
and raining and she had run headfirst into a post on a tennis court.
result was deep lacerations around one of her eyes and on her head, requiring multiple sutures and obliging her to wear a
cone around her neck for over two weeks.
I will not tell you about the tongue-lashing my husband suffered from me when he brought home my sweetheartlooking like that. But believe me, he was in the doghouse!
Perhaps to make amends – and also because he just happens
to be the consumer reporter at the Journal Inquirer, a daily newspaper in Connecticut – he decided to follow up by doing
a story on any recourse we might have about
those two missing packages.
We both wrote to Barkshop and received a response from someone named Moriah.
“Thanks for barking in about this, and I'm so sorry you and Latke did not receive
this BarkBark! … Unpawtunately, this month's BarkBox was pretty pup-pular, so we do not have any replacement boxes to send
out to you, my sincerest apawlogies. However, I have added an extra month onto the end of your subscription to make up for this missing BarkBox. I hope this helps! Pawlease give Latke
some extra belly rubs from me for being such a patient pup, and if there's anything else I can lend a paw with, pawlease just let me
When I wrote to thank Moriah profusely and happened to mention Latke’s accident, I received yet another missive back from someone else at the company named Erika.
“Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear that Latke suffered
an injury! I hope she's doing better and receives all the belly rubs to reach a full and quick recovery! I have sent along
a couple items for Latke to make up for the missing box in addition to the extra box that my co-woofer has added to the end
of your subscription. The BarkHappy team sends their good thoughts to Latke in hopes that she recovers quickly and is back to
chasing balls again, safely. If there's anything I can do to lend a paw, let me know and I'll be happy to help.”
The promised extra treats arrived shortly after, including
a squeaky penguin toy and a carton of bacon gingerbread cookies. (Are those kosher? Just kidding!) Latke had no compunction about trying
one, then immediately downed a few more just to be sure they
met her approval. The unequivocal and rather vocif-fur-ousverdict? Two paws up!
As for me, I was cannot thank them enough. To show my gratitude, I plan to extend my Barkbox subscription for a least a little
that, meaning that lucky Latke will be getting more gifts this year for everything from TuBishvat to – you guessed
it – Purim!
I am also happy to report that Latke’s sutures were removed last night and she is no longer a
conehead (and that she won’t be chasing any more balls in the dark and rain).
I’m sorry to report that Modern Tribe was not quite as
munificent about my missing Matzolah. That is, theyresponded to my husband’s inquiry with a bit less sym-paw-thy.
“…I'm sorry to hear that your items were stolen,”manager Caryn Liss wrote
to him. “How crazy!”
“Unfortunately, we have no control over what happens to packages once they
leave our warehouse,” she continued. “I would immediately call your local
post office and give them the tracking number and file a claim for a stolen package.”
As for replacing
my missing merchandise, she said, “We will be happy to send you new items if you place an order
online, assuming we still have these items in
stock.” In other words, they would make restitution only at our expense.
As a token of appreciation
for our business, she did offer me a free shipping code. My first inclination
was to give up, believing that God doesn’t want me to eat Matzolah.
I had already returned
to Kosherfest on the second day of
this two-day event, when merchants give their goods away, only to be told that it was too late in the day to enter, then watched longingly as countless people helped themselves to a mountain of the stuff right inside the
doorway, until a security guard had ordered me to step away.
could not believe in this case that the third time would be the charm.
day last week, I got another email from Modern Tribe offering clearance prices on holiday merchandise. They were down to their
last can of Whole Wheat Maple Matzolah, and for
bargain price of $4.95 I bought it, plus more stuff I
didn’t need, like a few feathered Purim masks and some Jewish note cards that say “Totally Kvelling!”
Yet I decided
to live without the Thanksgivukkah poster, which was now up to $3. Money may not matter, but neither does what is on my walls. Just what’s in my heart. Peace and gratitude, for guess what arrived just in time for
my b'day -- my very own trail mix of the Exodus.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
A Word From the Weiss
I don’t know where the past week has gone
– let alone the past year – but let me be among the very last to wish you a happy new year… although I may
be among the first, maybe even the only,
to wish you a happy Jew year!
Don’t let the photo of me all alone at right fool you. A selfie it was surely not. As usual, I rang out the old with my husband and some dear friends over a hearty four-course meal at one of our
favorite restaurants, Treva in West Hartford, CT. Then we moved on to the home of some other close friends, where we somehow
managed to consume even more food, including my friend Lois's phenomenal homemade rugelach, along with
a glass or two of something fizzy and maybe even authentically French.
What I am most excited to show you, though, is a photo I received that night of my two wonderful
children with their wonderful significant
others. Just seeing them look so happy was cause to celebrate. But the nicest part of all was that they had chosen to celebrate
together… albeit along with three dozen or so of their closest friends at my daughter’s New Year’s bash.
Is my liking things quieter and more sedate a sign of getting old?
Don’t answer that.
If I had any
other major cause to celebrate, it was that I had managed to put together my annual holiday photo-collage card and mail out
nearly 100 of them by that afternoon.
Given how much else I have managed to do lately, that felt
like a minor miracle.
I made the first of these annual creations back in 1998, then discovered that once you start a tradition like that, it is almost impossible to stop. In fact, since then I have only
missed one year – 2002, when my daughter had just celebrated her bat mitzvah.
Can you blame me?
This tradition, like eating matzo at Passover or making potato latkes on Hanukkah, has also proven over
time to be almost impossible to alter or improve upon in any way.
that time, despite any technological advances the world has made, I continue to make my collage the very old-fashioned way – with a pair of scissors and a glue
I have never tried resorting to Photoshop (although even that is now passé, I hear).
And so, even after I manage to painstakingly narrow down an entire year's worth of photos, it
Plus I make a royal mess, not to mention it costs a fortune
to have all those color copies made on photo paper at Staples.
when I'm finally done, along with being ready for the loony bin, I am always amazed at how much time I have managed to spend with
my kids during the year and how happy my family looks.
I worry as I send the cards out each year that
my compilation might be taken as an overt form of bragging – not so much in view of the couplet I compose about each family member, touting some accomplishment or
other, but the radiant looks upon every one of our faces, as though we hadn’t spent one second kvetching, or hadn’t a care in the world.
Just as there is no place like home, there is no family like that. Least of all mine.
It’s just that when you are in the midst of kvetching, or spending hours slaving over an arduous annual art project,
or bickering with your husband, as the case
may be (especially the case in my house), no one ever thinks of running for the camera.
Not to mention that there is probably no waiter nearby to take precious moments out of his
busy routine to snap assorted poses of you and your loved ones toasting or mugging or grinning like idiots.
No matter. No one wants to see crabby, everyday-life faces or hear about our squabbles, anyway.
Also, this card, like my weekly blog, is a way for me to keep track of where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and whom I’ve
done it with. And I would just as soon forget about all the kvetching, arguing, and other bitter moments and move
on to better days ahead.
Let’s hope they are better.
For me, even.
For us all.
Everyone but ISIS,
But whatever happens next, you will hear about it here…
and see it, I can almost guarantee... on next year’s holiday card. Happy Jew year!