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Friday, February 08, 2008

New York Travelogue

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Apparently, my ploy to use Fudge as our family’s Bad Travel Karma Magnet is working, since my flight with Moe to La Guardia went without a hitch. We took off on time, landed on time, and even got our luggage. And we had a magnificent view of Manhattan as we circled around from the north for a southern runway approach. We waited approximately 30 seconds on the curb before the Enterprise Shuttle (I believe it was the Galileo 7) picked us up, and we even got our car upgraded to a Chrysler 300.


There Goes the Neighborhood

The first thing I noticed as I pulled up to my mother’s house was the monstrosity being erected next door. I guess I’m not very observant, but my mother tells me that for the 20 or so years that I lived with her in that house, and then for another 20 after I left, she had the same neighbor. I’m not sure how it is that I never realized it was the same person all those years, other than maybe it having something to do with the fact that I can recall only a handful of conversations with her. I have a few snippets here and there. I remember her son and how he had a Pontiac Bonneville. I remember the ambulance coming when her husband died. I remember a new car suddenly appearing in her driveway when, presumably, she remarried. I remember going over there one day when I was a teenager, when she wasn’t feeling well. I remember suddenly seeing her son again on the porch, after 30 years, when she was dying of pancreatic cancer, and of having my 2nd or third conversation with him, the first as an adult.

And since then, she has passed on, the house has been sold, and has gone the way of most of the houses which get sold in my mother’s neighborhood. It was torn down, to be replaced by some gargantuan edifice extending to the sidewalk, obliterating the lawn. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought that a house that goes up in a neighborhood should look at least a little like the surrounding houses, so that it looks like it belongs there. Fudge would remind me later on that, looking around the block, it’s not so out-of-place anymore.

What really bothers my mom is that the workers show up every morning at 6:30 and start making a racket. She was very happy when I pulled my 300 up in front of her house.

“Good! Now those jerks won’t be able to park there!”

Suburban Legends

After some reheated Benjy’s Pizza, we had an appointment to visit Boba.

From left to right: My mother, Moe, Fudge, Cousin Meyer, Cousin Rosie, and Boba, in Boba’s parlor, where she greets visiting dignitaries and Internet celebrities. Note that in my family we follow the convention of pre-pending the title to the relative’s name, e.g. Uncle Fester or Cousin It. This does not apply to Boba, however, because that is not her real name. She acquired that name from me, as apparently, much like Adam, all creatures in our family were paraded before me as a child to name (see Moish), and I was unable to pronounce “Aunt Paula” and so anointed her “Boba,” and it stuck.

We take that in our family as Urban Legend, or maybe Suburban Legend, much like the famed story of “Moishe's Fish Has Feathers,” or the one about how I use to call soda “clumsy” because whenever Cousin Yossi poured soda, he spilled it, causing Boba to yell “CLUMSY!!” Or the story of how apparently I borrowed money from my sister when I was twelve and never paid it back.

“Your sister was like a bank!” Boba exclaimed. “She ALWAYS had money. You,” a dismissive flip of the wrist towards me, “gornisht!”

“Yes, that’s true,” said my mother. “You were always borrowing money from her. And then when she went to collect, you asked for an I.O.U., and she didn’t have one, because you wouldn’t give it to her, so you never paid her.”

“I have no memory of this.”

“Markie! You are losing your mind!”

The Restaurant

Mom: How do you like that! You (gesturing at my sister and brother-in-law) finally get a night away from your kids, and what happens? They sit you at a table next to a bunch of screaming children!

Fudge (mortified): It’s OK, grandma, they really aren’t making much noise.

Mom: (yelling over the shrieking baby) Ha! If your aunt and uncle wanted to eat with a bunch of vilde chayos they could have stayed home!

Sister: Thanks.

Me: I don’t really care. As long as they’re someone else’s kids, they can make noise. It only bothers me when it’s my own kids.

Mom: Your kids! Your kids would never make noise!


Me: Well, not everyone can get a baby sitter. I don’t mind. It’s heimish.

Moe: Heimish, eh? I have to remember to use that word more.

Mom: (to my sister) So, you remember when your brother used to borrow money from you?

Sister: No.

Brother-in-Law: What?

Me: Mommy seems to be under the impression that I borrowed money from your wife.

BIL: When?

Me: Like around 1978. Do you remember this?

Sister: No.

BIL: How much money?

Mom: I don’t know. Five dollars.

Sister: I don’t remember this.

Me: Neither do I.

BIL: Five dollars! In 1978! Did you ever pay it back?

Me: How should I know? I don’t even remember borrowing it.

Mom: He never paid her back. He told her “the Torah says you should be happy with your lot.”

Fudge and Moe: WUAT??

Me: That doesn’t sound like something I’d say…

BIL: Five dollars in 1978? Do you know how much that would be worth today??

Mom: I don’t know. Probably ten dollars.

On the Lasting Impression I left at YU

Monday we drove up to Washington Heights for Moe's interview. During the 5 hours he was doing his thing, I was studiously attempting not to be a helicopter parent. So basically I had...nothing...to do...for several hours. A situation I rarely find myself in these days.

Fortunately, I was able to call on my old college buddy and former roommate to rescue me by doing what we did 20 years ago. Hang around campus making fun of people discussing politics and philosophy.

Here you see us enjoying a meal, or at least maybe waiting for a meal to enjoy, at the place that is not Chopsie's Pizza. After that we went to the library to steal some internet time, and I had my second encounter with the security guard.

The first one was when she eyed me suspiciously as I went through the metal detector. I quickly volunteered that I was a visitor, but an alumnus as well. The latter impressed her not in the least, as she firmly requested some form of photo ID, then begrudgingly allowed me access to the inner sanctum of the backwards building.

This second time, she saw my friend, and said, "You were a student here." We were both taken aback. "I recognize you. You can pass." And just like Brave Sir Lancelot in The Holy Grail, he was waived off to the other side.

It was then I came to realize what little lasting impression my seven years at the uptown campus had left. My ego severely deflated, I spent the rest of the afternoon noticing how unnoticed I was. It seemed that there was no one there who recognized me.


"Excuse me! Hey! Excuse me!"

"Yes?" I replied, as my ex-roommate and I searched for the remains of Heshie's and tried to figure out how Grandma's had morphed from Cookies to Pizza, or even how it was possible for there to be so many Pizza shops on one block.

"I think I recognize you!"

"YOU DO!!!"

"Yes! You're the Psychotoddler!"

Er, thanks for totally freaking out my friend, Brad. I guess I should be happy for what little notoriety I can get.

On the Best Freakin' Chinese Food I've Had Since The Last Time I Ate at Estihana

It was totally worth the 30 minutes I spent circling the block looking for parking.


Miriam L said...

Sounds like a great trip. That's a very good idea, appointing one family member as the bad travel karma magnet. Must consider doing that, especially as I have three weeks of almost non-stop travel ahead. But I don't want it to be me.

I have a fear of our neighborhood turning into one of those tear-down areas. The land is getting more valuable every year and the houses are getting... well... older. They are old-fashioned houses with tiny bathrooms and kitchens, built in the ranch-style style of the 1970's. Appliances barely fit in our kitchen. Of course, once the children are grown, we won't cook anymore anyway.

Ezzie said...

Oh, those monstrosities are even better in KGH, where they build them on ATTACHED HOUSES. Just picture half a house that's clearly 60 years old, run down... and the other half is 1.5 times as high, just 15 feet further to the front with its fancy porch, has a fancy brick wall with lions or something surrounding it, and clearly cost about a million dollars.

The nicest ones are definitely the ostentatious Russian Jewish Mafia ones.

Is Estihana better than Cho-Sen Garden (Forest Hills)?

REReader said...

Your former roommate is my t'ai chi teacher!

PsychoToddler said...

Miriam: The whole point of the 'bad karma magnet' is that it can't be you.

I understand the urge to remodel, or even to add on to or enlarge a house, but these houses are ridiculous! They don't match the neighboring houses at all. It's like someone beamed a house out of Russia and rematerialized it in Queens.

Ezzie: I don't know, I haven't eaten at Cho-sen in a while. I liked the food there. Unfortunately, I've been suffering through bad chinese take-out for the last few years, to the point that I was starting to fear that I was losing my sense of taste.

Fortunately, Estihana reassured me that it's still intact.

rereader: You should tell him you read the blog. That TOTALLY won't creep him out!

REReader said...

I emailed him the link to this entry, heh heh!

... Is the Window to Our Soul said...

That pretty cool that you are getting recognized. And those mini-mansions are ridiculous. In this one very upscale neighborhood, there are these magnificent, large homes with barely any yard and literally five feet between them and their neighbors. Doesn't make any sense at all. If you can afford that type of home, then I assume you can afford a gardener to take of care of a proper yard that befits that type of house.

RaggedyMom said...

Isn't it weird how we grow up here and never know most of our neighbors? The only thing I knew about the daughter of my next door neighbors who lived on the other side of our attached house wall was that she listened to the same Ten Thousand Maniacs album, and therefore, so did I. I could hear it well enough through the wall that I am pretty sure I could still sing along.

Also, if there is a local Russian Jewish mafia, why aren't the Raggedys benefiting? Maybe I should get some glue-on lion statues to fancy up our digs.

RaggedyMom said...

*that was supposed to be "the same . . . album every day . . . "

PsychoToddler said...

...is the window to our soul: Yeah, I agree, I mean--wait: What "is the window to our soul"? You're kinda just leaving me hangin' here. Oh well I guess I should go read your blog.

But I don't really understand why they move into the neighborhood if they don't really like the layout or the houses. It's like they really want to live somewhere else, but they bought property here, so they are going to transform the landscape. Kinda like the Borg.

RM: Hey, I liked that 10,000 Maniacs album! When Mrs. B and I were first married, I bought her that cassette and listened to it while I waited at the train station to pick her up.


RaggedyMom said...

I actually like that album a lot too. It was more the annoying aspect of having to hear it muffled through the wall of the neighbor's house at odd times.

If you bought Mrs. B the cassette, why were you the one who got to listen to it?

Anonymous said...

It was great meetn the pscho toddler. If you think I freaked you out, you should just imagine how freaked out your daughter was when some semicha guy comes up to her at her orientation and says" hey arent u psycho junior?" SHE was freaked out!! the first of many freak outs during her time in stern.Brad