Thursday, February 24, 2011

Soccer Mom or Saki Bomb

Soccer Mom or Saki Bomb

My wife and I and another couple were going to dinner.  We decided to go to a Japanese Restaurant that cooked at your table.

When we arrived the restaurant was very crowded, but we had a reservation and we were seated at a large U shaped table that would accommodate about 20 more people.

We placed our initial order when a large party was seated with us. 

They were loud and boisterous screaming out “Soccer Mom” and pounding on the table.

One of the women came over to me and said “We are loud, let me apologize in advance.  It’s my husband’s 50th birthday”.

“No problem” I said, “we like loud”.  Barbara claims I speak with everyone.  She would prefer it if I didn’t speak to people we don’t know.  I think that’s rude and you would be missing out on some fun.  So I started up a conversation with them.

Turned out they were all Miami cops, including most of the women.  They worked undercover, murder investigations, SWAT, narcotics, and probably some other divisions I didn’t catch.

They kept chanting “Soccer Mom, Soccer Mom” and pounding on the table.  Shortly, the waiter brought them all a glass of beer and a shot glass of Saki.  They balanced the shot glass over the mouth of the beer mug on a pair of chopsticks.  Then, all together, they hit the top of the shot glass and when it dropped into the beer mug, chugged the whole thing.

I realized then that they weren’t saying Soccer Mom, but Saki Bomb.  Barbara says I am going deaf, but I swear it sounded like they were saying Soccer Mom.  She and the couple we were with thought so too.

They asked us to join in the fun.  They had rules.  You could only drink with your left hand or it cost you a dollar, everyone had to drink Saki Bombs.  They bought us a round.

After a couple of Saki Bombs, they didn’t seem so loud anymore.  They were friendly and I thought we blended right in, except for us not being cops.

They told us stories of recent happenings including the birthday boy almost getting shot that afternoon in a drug bust gone wrong.  He had a cut on his forehead from the fight he got into with the guy with the gun.  They all thought that story was particularly funny and kept kidding him about it.

They invited us back to one of the houses to continue the celebration.  I asked how I would know the house.  They said “the one with the Giant Gazebo in the backyard”.  Since it was night time, and the house in question was in a semi-rural area, I didn’t think it wise to wander around and risk getting shot looking for the Gazebo landmark in a backyard.  One of the few times I let discretion rule.

I bought a round of Saki Bombs for everyone and of course it was reciprocated.

By the end of the evening, everyone was happy and many of them were feeling no pain.  It was time for us to go.

I stood up and said, “We have to leave, but I need some protection from the local police while we drive home, what you can do?”  I was hoping for a badge of some kind.

One of the guys gave me his card and said “If you get pulled over show him this, and tell him to call me.  It probably won’t do you any good, but you can try.”

I took the card, and we left.  They stayed and as we left we heard the chant “Saki Bomb, Saki Bomb”.

We had no need to show it, I wasn’t really drunk or even tipsy. I can’t speak for the other three in the car.  We made it home safely, laughing about the evening all the way.

I now know what a Saki Bomb is and what it tastes like.  I think I can tell it apart from a Soccer Mom, but not sure what would happen if you mixed the two; a Soccer Mom who thinks she’s a Bombshell?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Fabulite Caper or How I was Tricked into Marriage

The Fabulite Caper or How I was Tricked into Marriage

Barbara and I met in college and began dating in the middle of our sophomore year. 

After a while, we became serious and Barbara started hinting at getting engaged.

Getting engaged at that time was a very big deal for the girl. 

She got to show off to her peers her ring by feigning headaches and putting her left hand on her forehead a lot, or by doing everything with her left hand so as to showcase her status.

Since I was working only part-time, and I hadn’t really asked her, I figured we would just go along for a while status quo.

I was wrong.

Keep in mind that I had never formally asked Barbara to marry me.  She just assumed we would.

First came the hints about buying a pearl ring instead of a diamond.  I successfully fended that off by saying when I could afford a diamond that would be the time to talk.  This worked for a while.

Barbara’s mother decided to take a hand.

On her own, she contacted a childhood friend who owned a jewelry store.  He told her about this new sort of gem called Fabulite. Fabulite was the first attempts at CZ’s.  

She brought some sample rings home with her and showed them to Barbara who then showed them to me.

The price was right, about $200 if I remember correctly, but the ring was not.  The Fabulite looked like a milky glass prism.  In short, it was not very good.  I refused to consider it.

I pointed this out to Barbara and her mother, but they were looking at the bigger picture, a future wedding.

Barbara decided to “mention” this to my parents who always liked her better. 

My father had a childhood friend who had a store in the Diamond District on 47th street in Manhattan.  He called up his friend and sent us down there.

Again let me point out, I hadn’t asked yet.

We got down to the store and he showed us some rings that he thought suited our needs.  Barbara became very excited and picked out one of them.  The stone while under a carat was a good one, and the price was one I could afford.  The ring had baguettes and was in white gold.

The ring decision was made.

The deciding factor in this saga was the Fabulite ploy.  I think Barbara and her mother knew I would never agree to that horrible looking ring.  They shamed me into getting a real one.

I became engaged without ever having asked Barbara.  All so Barbara could fake having several headaches a day to show off the ring to her friends and anyone else she came in contact with.

I am still married to my first wife all these years later.  I have always maintained she asked me, since I didn’t ask her.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Walk to the Bronx Zoo

My Walk to the Bronx Zoo

When I was about 8 -9 years old, I spent some time at my aunt’s apartment in the Bronx.  I don’t remember why I stayed there, just that I did.

My aunt, she was called Tillie at the time lived in a one bedroom apartment on Walton Avenue one block off Burnside.  She lived there with her husband who was sick and her daughter Rocky, aka Carol, who is 8 years older than me.

Rocky got her name in Junior High.  She wore a black leather motorcycle jacket and was always in trouble.  Once she got stuffed in a garbage can during a fight.

She almost didn’t graduate from high school because she spent so much time in the balcony of the Loews Paradise Theatre with her boyfriend when she should have been in school. 

Later in her 40’s she went back to school and eventually became a teacher and Assistant Principal.  As an Assistant Principal she was the disciplinarian.  The kids quaked when they had to go see her. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it.

My aunt Tillie, who later changed her name to Natalie, was very close to me.  As a baby she would carry me around bundled up beneath her fur coat.  She introduced me to coffee at about 6 months and Jelly Apples about the same time. 

My grandmother once went to the coffee shop with my aunt, my mother and me, and was shocked I was pointing at the coffee cup, wanting some.  She got really angry, and really let my aunt and mother have it for allowing a baby to drink coffee.  This was repeated when we passed by the candy store and I cried because I didn’t get a Jelly Apple which I was pointing at in the window.  I still cry at not getting a Jelly Apple.

It was summer time, and I was with my aunt for a week.  I don’t remember my uncle being there; perhaps he was in the hospital at the time.

My aunt worked every day in Manhattan and I was left to my own devices.  Its possible Rocky was supposed to watch me but I’m not sure.

There was another boy in the building about my age and we became friendly.

We were bored and he suggested we go to the zoo.  He said he knew how to get there so we started off in the morning with no plan other than walking in the direction we thought it was.

The Bronx Zoo is a great zoo and is on Fordham Road about a mile or so from the Grand Concourse.  That made it about 4 miles or so from where we were.

We walked up Burnside to the Grand Concourse and headed for Fordham Road.  Once at Fordham we turned in the direction of where he thought the zoo was and continued walking.

We eventually found the zoo.  We had no money but managed to get into the zoo.  We walked around looking at all the animals and the exhibits, and late in the afternoon we headed back.

We hadn’t eaten since breakfast and we were hungry and thirsty.

My friend said his uncle had a store on Fordham Road and we should stop in and ask for some money for food.  We eventually found his uncle’s store, it was a hardware store, and he gave us each a quarter and some ball bearings.  We used the quarter to buy some ice cream at the candy store next door and continued walking.

We eventually made it home.  We were exhausted and hungry.  I got in just as my aunt was getting back from work.

I excitedly told her about my day and could we eat now. 

I didn’t get the reaction I was expecting.

She didn’t seem too happy about my adventure.  She was angrier about my going off without telling her than the adventure itself.

Times were different then; two young boys could safely navigate the streets of the Bronx and go to the zoo. 

I don’t think she told my mother right away or I would have been picked up and brought back to Queens, and some appropriate punishment doled out.  Not sure if she blamed Rocky for not watching me.  I hope so.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dead Guest at the Wedding

The Dead Guest at the Wedding

When I was in college and for some time afterward, I worked part-time on weekends for a Caterer.  He did weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, engagement parties, etc.  He threw a great party and we all had our weddings done by him.

My friends Bob and Mark also worked there.  Bob was the maitre d’ and Mark and I worked as waiters or bartenders.  Mark’s and Bob’s mothers also worked there.  Bob’s mother made the fruit and other displays and Mark’s mother was a waitress.

Bob’s house was filled with left over food from the parties.  You could go to Bob’s house at any time of day or night (his mother was always up) and his mother would lay out a complete spread of meats, poultry, pastas, desserts etc.  Her freezer and refrigerator were always packed.

When I was working as a bartender, we were told not to throw away the bottles of the “good stuff”.  The caterer would re-pour the cheap stuff into the bottles with the better brand labels.

At every party there would be one guest who would come up to me and brag how he could tell the difference between the brands, usually scotch.

He would insist I pour shots from different brands like J & B, Dewar’s, Johnny Walker Black, Johnny Walker Red, Cutty Sark, etc and he would “educate” me on the differences in taste, color and aroma. 

The guest would sip, sniff, swirl and pontificate on the glories of each brand and their differences which he, connoisseur that he was, could readily discern.

I would nod my head and smile, thinking all the while “Schmuck, they are all the same ‘chief Kahoochee fire water’.” 

Never the less, the guest would go home, secure in his infallible knowledge of Scotch brands; happy to have imparted his wisdom to a young ignorant guy like me.

Anyway, one time we were working a wedding, when a guest had a heart attack and died in the bathroom.

What to do?  Should we tell the host and hostess, stop the affair and call the cops, what to do?

Bob spoke to the father of the bride.  The dead guy was his wife’s brother.  He decided we shouldn’t tell anyone and ruin the affair.

Now, we were faced with what to do with the body.  We couldn’t leave him in the bathroom, someone would see him.  Bob decided to put him under the table of the buffet during the cocktail hour. The table was not being used at the time.  If we left him in the bathroom someone would notice.  He was covered by the drape of the table and no-one knew.

The party continued.  It was time for the Viennese Table (dessert).  We had to take the buffet tables and fill them with desserts and wheel them into the dining room.

What to do with the dead guy?

Fortunately, it was winter.  We picked him up and put him in the step van in the parking lot that we used to carry around supplies.  It was below freezing so we figured he would keep ok.

The affair came to a successful conclusion.  The guests departed.

Big George, the dishwasher, who had to come in early tomorrow to help set up decided to take the truck home.

Big George was this 300 lbs very Gay Black Man.  He had wild crazy hair which he never washed (sometime you could see bugs in it), but he always showed up and did his job.  He also kept hitting on my friend Mark, who after a while wouldn't go into the kitchen alone.

George goes out to the truck, unaware of the dead guy.  There is a horrible scream and George comes running inside in a panic.  We had forgotten to get the dead guy out before turning over the keys to the truck to George.  George didn't even know we had a dead guy.  He is somewhat upset.

We move the dead guy back inside and call the police.

The police and coroner came.  They were not happy they hadn’t been called immediately, and they suspected that the body had been moved.  They started asking questions.

We all hurriedly left to let the police and caterer sort it all out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Class Trip

The Class Trip

Barbara, who was my girlfriend at the time, was taking a Geology course in college.

She took this course because she had to fulfill her Science requirement and it was considered easier than Physics, Chemistry or Biology.

The course was taught by a professor who took everything seriously and it was actually a good course, I would have found it interesting.

There was a field trip scheduled for a Spring weekend to the Delaware Water Gap.  It sounded like fun and I asked Barbara if I could go along.  She agreed.

That Saturday morning, we all assembled in the school parking lot.  There were several buses and lots of students.  I boarded the bus with Barbara and her friend Cindy, no-one asked if I belonged, and we took off for a 2 hour ride to the Delaware Water Gap.

We happened to be on the bus the professor was on, and he spent the whole time discussing what we would see there and the types of geographic features we were travelling on.

We finally got to the location and it was quite exciting.  We climbed up and down the area, finding trilobites and other fossilized sea animals from when the area was part of the ocean.  We spent several hours there exploring.

It was sunny and hot, and everyone was tired by the time we got back on the buses.

Once again, the professor was droning on about what we had seen. 

As the buses continued down the highway back to Queens, everyone was slumping in their seats.

Undeterred, the professor, speaking with a megaphone, sought to keep our attention with his lecture.  He continued speaking and trying to get everyone to pay attention.

After about a half hour, everyone had a glazed expression on their faces, the professor oblivious to his audience continued unabated.

He decided to quiz the students on the bus.  He asked, “What type of geographic feature are we riding on?”

He hoped someone would say “Alluvial Plain”.

I looked around, everyone was dog tired, something had to be done. What did I, not a student in the class have to lose?

Wise ass that I was, I shouted out, “Asphalt”.

The professor was startled.  He looked around to see who had said that.  He realized no one was prepared to participate in any lesson. He sat down and didn’t say anything for the rest of the trip.

Barbara, goody two shoes that she was, turned bright red and slumped down in her seat to try to disassociate herself from me.

I would like to think everyone else was very grateful for the peace and quiet.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Parents' 30th Anniversary Party

My Parents 30th Anniversary

It was coming up on my parents’ 30th Anniversary.  My wife, sister and I decided to throw them a surprise party.

We arranged to use one of their close friends’ home up in Rockland County.  They had a large house with about an acre of land.

We sent out invitations to my parents’ friends and arranged for Barbara’s parents to drive them to Rockland on the pretense that they, my parents, in-laws and the family friends who owned the house, were all going to dinner.  Barbara, my sister and I would go up that morning and prepare everything.

A few days before the party, my mother cornered my sister on the subway. 

My mother, sister and Barbara all took the subway together to work in Manhattan.

Taking the subway in rush hour was always an adventure.  Stalled trains, mechanical trouble, etc were the norm.  Barbara once caused everyone to have to leave the train because her pocketbook was caught in the door and it wouldn’t close.  The conductor thought it was broken and ordered everyone off.  They weren’t happy.

Another time, Regina tied Barbara to the pole for fun, causing her to almost miss her train.  There were many adventures on the subway.

Barbara and Regina (my sister) worked in the same insurance company at the main office.  My sister was an administrative assistant to the underwriters and Barbara, at the time was the Status Girl.

When agents would call the underwriting office to see how their applications were progressing, Barbara would tell them the “status” of their file, hence the title “Status Girl”.

My mother worked for a big agent of that insurance company and would always call asking for the status of the applications from her office.  She would get Barbara.

Barbara couldn’t tell her everything in the file, some of it was restricted information.  This led to threats on my mother’s part trying to get Barbara to give her information.  My mother would often threaten not to feed Barbara dinner, or threats of that nature in order to get her way.  The dinner threat was very effective. 

There were also threats between my sister and mother over the work of the underwriters. 

My mother would call asking to speak with a particular underwriter (after getting information out of Barbara), my sister trying to protect the underwriter, would try to make up an excuse why the underwriter was unavailable.  Threats would be made to get the call put through. 

There seemed to be a conflict of interest going on between my sister, Barbara and my mother.  My aunt who also worked in insurance would also call up and threaten. 

I found it hilarious as I sure other people in the office who knew what was going on did.

Getting back to my mother cornering my sister on the subway, my mother wanted to know if we were doing anything for her anniversary.  My sister denied anything was going on.  This answer did not satisfy my mother and she leaned my sister over the platform trying to scare the information out of her.  My sister held fast to her story. (I got this part of the story from my sister, I cannot verify this actually happened, but it sounds true)

I don’t think my mother would have pushed her off the platform, but you can never be too sure.

The day came, a nice warm sunny day in August. 

Barbara, Regina and I made up an excuse as to where we were going that day and headed up to Rockland County.

We set up the party. 

I made deli platters and fruit displays.  I even made a heart out of a watermelon and filled the cavity with individual melon balls secured by toothpicks.  We had cake, drinks, salads, music, everything to make a successful party.

The guests arrived.  We all waited for my in-laws to drive my parents up to the house.

They pulled in the driveway. We all hid, except for the owners of the house.  When they came in we pulled off the surprise.

The party was a success, there was eating, drinking and dancing.  Everyone had a good time.  I filmed the party with my Bell and Howell Super 8 Film o Sound camera system which consisted of a camera and a cassette tape recorder linked to the camera by a cable.  The system synched the film and the recorder.  This was before video cameras.

I used that Bell and Howell a lot.  Unfortunately the projector and cassette player broke about 20 years ago, so I can’t show the films with the sound.

I went around filming the guests and they gave me little interviews like at a wedding where the guests are asked to say something to the bride and groom.

Finally, I cornered my mother and father and asked them to say a few words to the camera. 

Before my father could say anything, my mother who was quite tipsy by then, grabbed the mike and said: “Joe, after 30 years you’re still a good screwer!”

My father and I looked at each other and decided there wasn’t anything else to say.

 I shut off the camera.