Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Hairdresser Is In

(Photo courtesy of John Starr) 
Tired of worrying about how your hair looks?  Who isn't.  Sure, your hair might look okay in the moment you're standing in front of your mirror.  You might tell yourself, "Damn, my hair looks bitchin' today." I love that about you, the self-delusion, the complete denial.  And yet, what happens to your hair once you step outside? Nothing good, that's what. Unless you step outside in a protective hair bubble, you're screwed. Unless your hair is linked up to a Satellite Selfie Service, allowing you a global view, you really don't know how your hair looks at any given moment, do you?  Hey, I'm talking to you.  Why let life be one endless Bad Hair Day?  Why not let someone overly sympathetic since birth take charge of your 'do and oh-no-you-didn't?  At Carol's Hair Fashions, I'll tell you how your hair looks for reals. I'll give you the encouragement you need to get through the day.  I'll tell you whatever lies you need to hear, and you'll believe me.  I'm that good.

I'll give you that spritz of confidence you can't get anywhere else.  I'll tell you to take your hair back to bed and call in sick.  I'll even write you a doctor's note.  Better yet, I'll call work and pretend I'm your doctor. "Trudy can't come in today.  She's come down with the Follicle Flu.  It's very contagious. Trust me, you don't want her around."

What are my qualifications for opening my no-frills Salon de Sassiness? A lifetime of haircare disappointment. A sink full of tsouris. A cabinet of useless products. Ten photo albums of Horrible Hair Choices.  You don't need a license for this sort of expertise. You need a hair therapist. I'm your gal. I'll analyze your needs in two seconds flat and send you on your way. It'll be the best $300 you've ever spent. Too much?  Fine.  Bring a coupon, I'll give you 50 percent off.

So please, stop by Carol's Hair Fashions for an overpriced, but then, what isn't, assessment of your personal hair mishegas. Walk-ins welcome. And remember, it's not just what's inside that counts.  That's a lie, my friends.  First get your outside in order, then we can volumize your baby fine psyche.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gonna Take A Sentimental Journey

The photos.  Boxes and boxes of life stories captured in a split second. The Russian grandparents at 16 and 17, stony-faced, staring at the camera, afraid to blink. My grandfather in uniform.  A young married couple. A daughter arrives. And then my dad. Cute baby. Cute little boy. Look, he's playing street hockey in Brooklyn.  He's growing up fast. Here's his bar mitzvah photo. And the menu for the reception.  A big selling point:  "mayones."  

And now they're in Los Angeles.  The money ran out. Photos of the first apartment.  Life stories in boxes, everywhere I turn.  There's my mom as a little girl getting a big hug from her daddy.  Probably the last photo they took together.  He died in a car crash when she was five.  Photos of my mom and her brother, growing up in Chicago without a dad.  Raised by my grandmother.  Everyone on the beach getting too tan. My mom and her handsome brother on horses. Living a privileged life. And now my mom's in college.  She's a sorority girl.  She's got flowers in her hair. She looks genuinely happy.  Then life rudely interrupts.  The timeline stops.  No photos of the move to California. The money ran out.

Why does money do that?

Now I find the best stuff.  Except it makes me cry.  Photos of my young parents, before and after the wedding.  There's Jerry Lewis under the chuppah.  And a roomful of crazy radio writers overstaying their welcome in the honeymoon suite.  Look, the funny ones are throwing snowballs at my parents, instead of rice.

There's the first house, the one my parents built up on Beverly Drive. My mom is pregnant.  Here come the baby photos.  Baby butts.  Baby steps.  More baby photos.  An expanding family.  And then there are three.  Two brothers and the SJG. In every photo, I'm smiling and giggling.  

Everyone looks so happy in photos.  Maybe in that moment, they really are happy.  I like to think so, anyway.

Box after box, I watch myself grow up.  I watch my brothers get big and strong.  I watch my cousins, too.  Two young boys growing up without a dad.  History repeats itself in the strangest ways. All the joy and celebration, the sadness and grief.  And here I am, graduating junior high... high school... college.  My parents are getting older.  We're all getting older.  Getting married, too.  Having kids of our own.  There are birthday parties and vacations to exotic locales.  My parents in Russia and Israel, Greece and Italy.  Here they are on a cruise to Alaska.  All the trips to London to see plays. All the journeys they took together. All the fun they had. It's right there in the photos. Their love story.  Almost 50 year's worth.  Boxes of the life they shared.

Finally, it's too much for me to take.  I'm sobbing on the floor of my office.  Sorting through photos and more photos.  It's getting to me. I'm reliving every moment, every loss all over again.  I need to put a pin in it.  Put it on pause.  I make room in my closet for the memorabilia.  A scaled down version of many wonderful lives well-lived.  I'm not trying to open a museum.  I'm trying to manage insurmountable grief.  I'm throwing my own stuff away, stuff I've been saving.  Saving the way my dad saved everything.  Out it goes.  In the plastic bag and in the trash.

Outside, I hear the garbage truck pulling up to take it away.  It's time to let go of some things, whether I want to or not.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Macaroon Fever

I'll be honest with you.  I find little about Passover irresistibly delish. Would I miss the gefilte?  No.  Lox, I would miss.  I would cry from lack of lox.  But gefilte, not so much.  Would I miss the crunchy stuff spelled fourteen different ways, because Jews can't agree on much? Not really. Put something on  matzoh, and immediately that matzah is going to taste better.  Butter, cream cheese, peanut better?  That's a serious matzo upgrade. But just between us, I wouldn't miss a year without matza.  I'd survive. In fact, I could probably go many years without noticing an absence of unleavened anything.  Give me gluten and I'm good.  Call me untrendy.  I was raised on bagels.  In terms of matzoh, I'm not that sentimental. The one thing I'd miss, foodwise: macaroons. Chocolate-covered macaroons, to be specific.  A year or two without a chocolate macaroon would make for a bitter, withdrawn SJG.  So now the secret is out. What I love about Passover (and this year, there wasn't much to love without my favorite old Brooklyn Jew seated next to me), what I honestly adore?  A nice chocolate macaroon.  I'm so glad I have a few left over. Correction: had a few left over.  As of this morning, they're all gone.  Hmm. I guess I'm not the only one in the house who prefers macaroons to matzoh.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Passover Miracle

(Sherman Oaks)  A charosis-related incident broke out Sunday morning, around 10-ish, in the palatial estate of the Short Jewish Gal, when she lost her grip on a jumbo bottle of Manishewitz and splattered sweet sticky wine all over the kitchen counter.  Spillage in the home of the SJG is a near-daily occurrence, but the spillage in question was different from other spillages, in that the nice new laptop took a cup intended for Elijah.  "Eff!  Eff! Eff!" echoed throughout the neighborhood, as she  attempted to mop up the Great Early Bird Passover Mishap of 2014.  "Clean up on aisle 5," her husband yelled, heroically, swabbing the nice new laptop with rubbing alcohol.  By some miracle, he saved the MacBook Pro from a trip back to the Genius Bar and a made-up story that wouldn't fly under the best of circumstances: "Listen, it worked, and then it didn't work.  Only God knows why."  In this case, it seems God decided to bless the SJG's nice new laptop with a splash of Passover wine, so it should bring her health and happiness, creativity and monetary gain, kina hora.  "The lesson here is obvious," the SJG told her family, mid-Gefilte.  "Don't cry over spilled Manichewitz." L'chaim to you and yours.  Happy Passover.  And please, keep the cap on the Manichewitz.  It's safer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

In Search Of A Nice Brisket

You can't fail with foil
"Brisket hotline.  What went wrong?"
"Nothing yet."
"They why are you bothering me?"
"I just wanted to know how long to cook a six pounder."
"It depends."
"On what?"
"So many things, you have no idea."
"But you do?"
"I answered the phone, didn't I?"
"Can we get back to my brisket?"
"If you insist.  Why is your brisket different from all other briskets?"
"That should be the fifth question."
"Tell me about it."
"I put mine in about four hours ago, wrapped in foil, with the onion soup mix, the ketchup, the Manischewitz, at 325 -- "
"Call me again after it's been in eight."
"Eight?  That's crazy."
"It takes a meshugana to know a meshugana."
"I'm sensing you're a little burnt out on this job."
"Hmph. What makes you such an expert?"
"What makes you one?"
"I got the job and you didn't."
"Good point.  So, you think I should leave my brisket in another four hours?"
"You could cook it ten hours, no one would know the difference."
"I'm looking to serve a tender brisket, not a radial tire."
"Good luck, doll face."
"But how will I know when to take it out?"
"Put a fork in it.  If you can remove the fork without wrenching your back, it's done."
"You've been a big help."
"I try."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Is This Seat Taken?

Oh, Passover, you are so involved, so detail-oriented, you make the SJG want to hide like the afikomen. This year, I'm doing Passover Lite (patent pending).  I'm giving a fairly good impression of a Passover Seder without all the intense effort.  I'm doing Early Bird Passover. Why wait till the first night when I can do it the night before the first night? Turns out, when it comes to Passover, I can pretty much do whatever I want. Turns out, I'm the boss of me.

If only I'd arrived at that realization a little sooner.  Like elementary school.  The other day, I was having lunch with my childhood pal Albert.  I've known him since Warner Avenue, which probably explains why we act eight years old when we're together.  We are silly and goofy and sometimes our memories of certain events don't quite sync up. He's still apologizing for that time he forgot to come to my birthday party -- he'd left the invitation in his desk at school. I have absolutely no recollection of his horrendous breach of etiquette, but I keep forgiving him, anyway. "It's okay, I'm over it.  Let it go.  Let's focus on something else you did that was far worse. Remember when you served mushy matzoh brei at the 9th Grade Brainy People Brunch?" "That wasn't me." "It wasn't?" "No, it was you." "Oh, right.  I tend to block out the incident that prompted my extended stay at Jewvy Hall."

After fressing at Art's Deli, we took a walk and decided how fun it would be to go back in time and take on the bad guys we once let walk all over us.  Our middle-aged, kick-ass attitudes would give us the confrontational chutzpah we lacked back then.
Which leads me back to Passover, believe it or not.  Passover is all about escaping the bad guys.  But then, so many Jewish holidays share a similar theme: "Run!" Let's face it.  The bad guys are everywhere. Sometimes they're three dimensional, sometimes symbolic like a Seder plate.  Either way, they enslave us.  (See what I did there?)  So this Passover, I'm sending the bad guys, metaphorical and otherwise, on an exodus outta town.  There's no place for them at my table... or yours.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Matzoh Matzoh Man

A Jew took his Passover lunch to eat outside in the park. He sat down on a bench and began eating. Shortly thereafter a blind man came by and sat down next to him. Feeling neighborly, the Jew offered a sheet of matzoh to the blind man. The blind man ran his fingers over the matzoh for a minute, and exclaimed, "Who wrote this crap?"
During one of my many trips to London, I became friends with a very wealthy, yet very modest, Jewish chap named Hyman Goldfarb. On one visit, Hy told me that because of his large donations to charities through the years, the queen wanted to knight him, but he was going to turn it down.
"That's a great honor," I said. "Why would you turn it down?"
"Because during the ceremony you have to say something in Latin," he said. "And I don't wish to bother studying Latin just for that."
"So say something in Hebrew. The queen wouldn't know the difference."
At the ceremony Hy waited his turn while several of the other honorees went before the queen. Finally they called his name. He knelt before Her Majesty, she placed her sword on one shoulder and then on the other, and motioned for Hy to speak. Out came "Ma nishtana ha laila hazeh."
The queen turned to her husband and said, "Why is this knight different from all the other knights?"
A cranky man named Herbert sits at the Passover seder table. He speaks: "Why do I hafta sit at the kids' table? This stinks!! This really stinks!!" Moral:  No seder would be complete without the bitter Herb.