Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!! And Our Christmas Eve Party Crasher

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a healthy, happy holiday.

I just had to share this though.

Last night everything was going smoothly. It was so pleasant that I swear, it was almost boring. We were putting the finishing touches on our meal when my parents' housekeeper came and told me in Spanish that Canela (my cat) was at the front door and to please come, it was an emergency.

Obviously it would be an emergency if Canela was at the front door because I thought I had left Canela at home, safely in my apartment. There was pretty much no way short of teleportation that Canela could have been at my parents' house, so I went to see what was going on.

Sure enough there was a tabby cat at the front door meowing raucously to come in as if it lived there and how dare we shut it out. It definitely was not Canela though. It had a ridiculously long tail and Canela has a very short tail, which she is sensitive about so I'd rather not write any more about it publicly.

I opened the door and the long-tailed tabby tried to head butt his way inside. As soon as I got outside it started bunting at my legs and meowing and rubbing itself obscenely all over me. We got it some water and cheese, played with it for a little bit, because it was ridiculously friendly, and then went back inside. I am pretty sure this was someone's cat because it was a neutered male, nicely groomed and just too friendly to be wild, unless someone abandoned it. I don't know. This was one outgoing cat. I told it to go home and it strolled out of the driveway.

Then I went back in the kitchen and resumed dinner preparations. By this time we had about twenty or so people over. It was a muggy night and we had the back door open to let some air in. Some people were out in the backyard and at this time of year it's just nice to keep the doors and windows open down here.

About fifteen minutes later there was a ruckus the likes of which could have awakened the dead. Guests were running and screaming. The dogs were going completely ape you know what (I'm still not cussing), barking, howling and growling. There was hissing and screeching. I heard things fallings and people scrambling. It was basically mass hysteria.

It turns out that the pushy cat had gone around to the backyard and just sauntered right on inside the house through the open back door, not anticipating dogs. It probably wanted more cheese or just to hang out and be a part of the family. Well, no one really noticed it, except the dogs and the dogs went after the cat. The cat fought back and tried to scratch one of the dogs and the bigger dog tried to bite the cat, but the cat jumped on top of the couch, all arched and fuzzed out like a bottle brush, hissing. This whole event frightened several guests and the dogs tried to jump on the couch to get the cat, who then decided to open up a Costco-sized can of whoopass on them. By then my mom, who is so good with pets, managed to corral the dogs, get them out of the room and then set to work calming the cat so we could collect it and get it back outside. Then we discovered that in terror, the poor cat had peed itself, so we had to wipe up the cat. We gave it a thorough inspection to make sure it wasn't hurt (it was fine, just nervous) and once we had it calm and purring, we put it back outside where it took off running down the street, never to be seen again. I really don't think this cat will be back anytime soon. I also think it learned its lesson about not inviting itself into the homes of strangers.

But my goodness, that certainly added some excitement to our Christmas Eve.
Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve! I've always liked Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. When I was little it always seemed more rowdy. I love that sense of anticipation and excitement for the next day. On actual Christmas that's kind of gone. The day always seems more solemn.

In my family, even though we aren't actual Italians (that we know of) we do the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We have an enormous Italian meal with all kinds of seafood and pasta, baked fish and on lucky years, lobster. It's probably better than what we have for Christmas dinner. Then we gorge on cookies and fizzy cocktails and talk about how we want to go to Midnight Mass, but we never make it because someone gets drunk, someone else gets tired or we just stay up too late talking and forget what time it is. It's a lot of fun. I love it.

I have great childhood memories of Christmas Eve as well. My grandparents used to have what they called "Open House" where all their friends would come over for drinks and snacks. My grandmother made big platters of rolled up deli meats and cheeses, which she'd serve with potato rolls and chips and dips. Christmas Eve was the only night when we had ginger ale, so it was very special. Often, we'd have punch with lime sherbet floating in it. I loved this too. Then, we'd go to a candlelight service at church and then drive around town looking at Christmas lights and the nativity scenes in front of all the churches in town. The Episcopal church had the best one.

Then one year, a man no one knew, who lived on a lone country road in a big farmhouse, bought an animatronic nativity scene from a mall that had closed down and put it in his front yard! I had never seen something so beautiful in my entire life and it caused a huge sensation in Millpond. The figures were life sized and wore real cloth outfits. The animals had actual fur! They blinked their eyes and turned their heads. Really, words just can't describe this nativity scene. It was so lavishly over the top and it was in our little town. Most of the churches just had two dimensional wood cut-outs for their creches. When this man put out his nativity scene, people from three counties started driving to see it and the cars would line up down the country road to crawl past it and marvel at its beauty. I remember wanting to just stop and stand and stare at it. Last year, when I was home for Christmas I went past to see if he still did it, but I couldn't find it. I wonder what ever happened to it. Wherever that man is and whatever happened to that nativity scene, I would just like him to know how much joy it brought not just me, but our whole little town. We felt so special having something like that in Millpond. I have searched the web over and over to find a picture of it or one like it, but to no avail. If my memory serves me correctly, the nativity had originally come from a JC Penney window display.

I've always thought nativities were so beautiful. In Millpond and surrounding areas, every church had one in the churchyard, but every church up there also has a graveyard too. It's not like that in Florida at all and I miss it. There is only one church that I've found down here that has a real nativity scene. It's a Catholic church and they don't put Baby Jesus in the manger until tomorrow morning. That always cracked me up for some reason.

Right now as I write, I hear church bells ringing. It's cloudy outside. It feels like Christmas; not like in Millpond where they're having one hell of a white Christmas this year, but Christmas-y still.

I just wanted to share some of my favorite Christmas memories with you as you are all, hopefully, making your own tonight, and of course, if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a lovely evening still.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nasty Assed Recipes - Christmas Candy

I have been dealing with several disasters, namely my fridge dying over the weekend and trying to get a new one, and coming down with a bad cold. I just wanted to make a nice pan of fudge. Just a nice, smooth, velvety, dark chocolate cube of comfort with maybe some toasted walnuts. I couldn't find my fudge recipe so I went online to look for popular recipes and what do I find but this atrocity. Velveeta cheese fudge. God help us all. I hear Paula Deen has really popularized this nasty-assed mess and for that, I despise her even more. She and Sandra Lee are the queens of Nasty-Assed recipe land. Behold. I do not make this up.

VELVEETA CHEESE FUDGE
1 lb. butter
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
4 lbs. confectioners' sugar
1 c. cocoa
2 1/2 c. chopped walnuts or your desire
1 tbsp. vanilla
In top of double boiler, melt butter and Velveeta cheese. They do not mix well, so be sure and stir well. While cheese and butter are melting, in large mixing bowl combine confectioners' sugar and sift in cocoa and mix well. Add nuts and mix well. When cheese and butter are melted, add vanilla. Mix real well and add immediately to sugar, cocoa and nuts. Mix well. Pour into chilled buttered 9"x13" oblong pan, spread evenly and chill until cool. Cut and serve.

Yeah, don't forget to include "Your Desire" when you make this. No recipe is complete without a nice heaping spoonful of raw, unchecked desire. Desperation is often pretty tasty too.
Friday, December 18, 2009

Wide Lawns on Twitter

Ok, so I have signed up for Twitter now and my name or whatever you call it on there is: widelawns. I am still trying to figure it all out and I have it on my phone now and it appears to be working. If I can figure out how to link to my Twitter I will, but be patient because technologically I am stuck in 1994. If we could have all stuck with AOL on dial-up, I'd be ok.

Nasty Assed Recipes - Wedding Edition

I just had this brilliant idea that I would make breakfast for everyone tomorrow morning so we wouldn't have chaos trying to figure out what to eat, or a bunch of hungry people who want to stab each other. My ex-fiance had a mother who was certifiably psychotic but the woman could look like nothing else and she made this wonderful breakfast casserole thing that was so easy, in one dish and nicely fed a large group of people quickly. I want to make it but didn't have the recipe, so I started looking and God help me, I found something that made me literally cringe when I read it. I found a recipe as wrong as the nacho dip with Cool Whip in it. A Chipped Beef Casserole. My grandfathers, when they were alive, both adored cream chipped beef on toast. Maybe this was because they were both children of the Depression and also military men. One of them was a POW in a hole in the ground in Korea with nothing to eat but powdered milk and rice for six months. Because of that experience, there was nothing the man wouldn't eat, including creamed chipped beef on toast. Compared to half a year on powdered milk and rice, I'd probably think it was pretty tasty as well. But this recipe, I'm not sure even he would have eaten.
CHIPPED BEEF CASSEROLE
1/4 lb. cut up chipped beef
1 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
2 hard cooked eggs, diced
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 c. milk
1/2 lb. (2 c.) grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp. grated onion
Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly hot. Serves 4-6.

Comment: Easy to prepare and generally liked. Good.


Clearly, the best part of this recipe is the comment at the end. "Generally Liked." Mmm Hmm. Ok. Sure. I think the recipe would be "Universally Liked" if you switch out that fancy grated cheddar and replace it with some real man's cheese - Velveeta and then top the whole ordeal with some crushed potato chips. Sour cream and onion. Needless to say, we will not be having this as our pre-wedding breakfast tomorrow.

At Least I Didn't Get Money Nails

I'm afraid my mother is going to have a heart attack. If you've been watching the weather channel, you'll know that we're having severe weather down here. There are flash floods and it hasn't stopped pouring since lunchtime yesterday. We even have a tornado warning right now until one. It is a mess. It's the perfect day to stay inside and drink hot chocolate, but we have the wedding rehearsal, so that's not an option. I also have to pack because I am staying at my parents' with my sister tonight and I have to transport my uncomfortably snug dress in the rain. I kept feeling like I was forgetting something and then I realized, yes, yes I had forgotten something and that was the speech and toast I'm supposed to give. I'm going with this excuse - everyone wants to drink and no one wants to hear me yammer on, so I'm keeping it short. I've done some of my best work at the last minute. That's pretty much how I got through years of schooling anyway.

Yesterday we went to Nail By Asian Movie Star to get our manicures and pedicures and they were so excited about our special occasion that they really wanted to bling out our nails, although that isn't our style. My sister refused. I told them they could make one flower on my ring finger and that's it. Well, this was ignored and before I knew it my ring finger looked like it was going to get a blonde weave, wear blue contacts and ditch the bridesmaid's gown for a set of pasties and some booty shorts. At one point, it asked me to get it a 40 of Old E. I showed it to my darling and very diplomatic cousin Miriam who said that "it's really not your style I think." I asked them to please tone it down. One flower only. They just couldn't resist. They added some dots and then, horror of horrors, they put a tiny diamond in the center of the flower. The Asian Movie Star girls were so excited that I just let them. It was better than the first attempt and they thought it was so beautiful that I didn't want to hurt their feelings and be a pain and make them remove it. It is better, as I said. Now my ring finger just looks like it hangs out in the Super Wal-Mart parking lot for fun and eats bags of Krystal burgers in the car. I can promise you that my cousins in Millpond would think my nails were the most beautiful and wedding appropriate thing they had ever seen.

Last night a friend of mine, who is beautiful and perfect (one of those girls who never eats or poops) came over and I showed it to her.

"Oh my," she said, "And are you wearing a grill for the wedding too?"

"Girl please," I said, "Of course I am."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twitter Verdict

OK, at least by commenters, it's official. I am going to start my 30 day trial period of Twitter. Here's the deal though. I am signing up because I can post from my phone, but when I went to download the app that I assumed existed, there was no Twitter app. I thought it was like Facebook for the iPhone. Apparently it is not. Looks like there are several apps which one can use to Twitter. So, I am asking you all, which ones are the best? Which are easiest? Which are real and which are scams? And how do I put the little Twitter widgety thingy on the blog so non-Twitterers can see the posts? Dammit. I am NOT SAYING TWEET. I will not do it.

Twitter or Not?

Ok, so I have about all of three minutes to write this because I have to shave my legs because I am getting a pedicure and don't want the nail technicians laughing at me in Vietnamese for having legs like a saguaro.

I've been toying with this idea for several months now. I think I want to try Twitter for a one month trial period to see if I like it. There are several reasons why, in spite of the fact that all the constant talk about Twitter on TV and the radio annoys the pants off of me.

Here are my reasons in order of importance:

1. To improve my writing. Last year I took a workshop where we had to write micro-nonfiction pieces and I realized that I have a serious issue with overwriting everything, including too much detail and rambling off on tangents. To be a better writer I need to get more concise. I found the limits in the workshop a wonderful challenge and I wrote one of my best stories ever in under 450 words. I think Twitter would serve as a writing exercise and help force me to keep it simple.

2. Sometimes ridiculous moments occur during my days that would make such great two liners, but I can't work them into a whole coherent story, but I want to share them anyway.

3. Sometimes if I don't write these things down immediately, I forget them. I have notes on my phone and scraps of paper all over the place and then I lose them. Twitter on the phone could serve as a repository for all of my little image and moment collections.

4. I would post more because of the economy of time and space and lack of needing a computer.

5. Creative NonFiction has a daily Twitter contest and I want to win it.

6. I can kind of "live-post" certain events as they happen in short quips rather than having to wait for the whole big story to end. For instance, my sister's wedding would be more interesting done in Twitter posts, I think, than a whole blog story.

7. I refuse to say "Tweet" and I refuse to become as annoying as Rick Sanchez on CNN every afternoon obsessing about his stupid "tweets." I will not do it.

8. I only want to do it for 30 days to see if I like it or if I have improved my writing. If not, I'll delete the whole thing.

9. I will not abandon my blog in favor of Twitter. That isn't a reason though.

Still, I have reservations and I feel cheezy. Is it cheezy? I can't decide. After all, it's only 30 days. So I ask your opinion. Yes or No? Should I do it, or is it a stupid idea?

(Also, I'm done with school now FINALLY, so I will be writing on here much more because I have really missed you.)

I'm going to shave my legs now and get acupuncture and nails done. After that, I'll come back, check the comments and make my final decision at that time.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wedding

Ok, I just wanted to let you know that no one has yet been murdered because of this wedding. Yet.

If you see on the national news in the next few days something about a family massacre at a wedding in South Florida, well then you'll know it was us. And lest someone take me literally and call the police, which would be all I'd need about now, I am kidding. And because this is South Florida and family massacres are an unfortunate, regular occurrence around here, I guarantee you that one will happen this weekend and someone will swear it was me. It will not be. I am joking.

Here's some advice - don't get married at Christmas at home with only two months to plan. Please don't do this. For my sake. Don't do this and thank God I only have one sister so we won't have to go through this again.

Additionally, I have to walk down a long marble staircase wearing heels and carrying a bouquet as part of the processional. I have imagined every detail of the scenario in which I fall and roll the rest of the way down. I even have it planned out that I'll take the video of it and send it to America's Funniest Home Videos (please tell me it's still on) and win the grand prize $25,000. I will win that prize. I may even put the video on Youtube and go viral because I can not look at that staircase without seeing the image of me tumbling to the bottom of it, pieces of hair, ripped blue satin and torn flower petals tumbling with me and crushed under my weight.

Please tell me it is going to be ok.
Thursday, December 10, 2009

Just Peeking In From Final's Week

Hi.

It's finals week. I don't like it. It's also the holidays and my sister is getting married this week. I have also been getting terrible service everywhere I go. South Florida just doesn't have much Christmas spirit. Maybe that's due to the record heat.

I need like three or four personal assistants.

Here are some brief vignettes from my past week:

Husband and I went to a restaurant that is a personal favorite of ours. We don't get to spend much time together, so it was a big deal to get to have a date alone with him. When we got to the restaurant we ordered and got our food and then discovered and I kid you not, that the restaurant was out of forks. And they didn't tell us this when we ordered. There were no forks period. Husband had to run across the road to a Taco Bell to get some sporks. No one apologized. In the restaurant's defense, I wrote them a letter when we got home and they are sending me some gift cards, but seriously, how on earth does a restaurant not have forks?

Then we went to get a Christmas tree. We've never had one before and part of my birthday gift was that this year we would finally have one. I was enormously excited. I love the whole idea of bringing a live tree inside and hanging stuff on it. So we get to the Christmas tree lot and there's fake snow and carols playing and a gigantic man comes running after us with a chainsaw screaming. It was like "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

"WE CLOSE!! WE CLOSE!!" the man with the chainsaw yelled.

"What time do you close?" Husband asked.

"9!"

It was 8:45.

Husband went into the store that was in charge of the Christmas tree lot and got a manager who looked like a Mormon school principal from Utah. The manager was livid that the Christmas tree cutters were slacking and he marched outside and made them give us a tree and the whole time you could tell that they were secretly hoping our tree contained a nest of rattlesnakes that would wake up, slither out and kill us when we got it home. It wasn't the cheeriest Christmas tree shopping experience. It definitely wasn't what I had imagined for our first time choosing a tree, but the tree is very pretty, even if I only have seven ornaments, none of which match. It's a little on the Charlie Brown side, but it's ours and I think it's beautiful.

Then I had to go get my bridesmaids dress shortened. I went to the same place I always go to for alterations, but I hadn't been in a while. My normal tailor was an old Indian man whose claim to fame was that once, back in the 70s, the Osmonds had been in town and had needed alterations to their costumes and he had been the one to do it. He had signed pictures of the Osmonds all over the shop. Every time I went in, he'd tell me about the time he sewed costumes for the Osmonds.

This time, the Osmonds' favorite tailor was gone, replaced by his mean nephew. The mean nephew had the most elaborate bouffant hairstyle. It must take him hours each morning, and he was wearing pleated slacks, a silk shirt and far too much cologne. He explained that his uncle had retired and that he was taking over the shop. He was extremely surly and he had his son in the backroom at a desk. Every few minutes, he'd look over at the kid and yell at him:

"DO YOUR MATH HOMEWORK!! WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT???"

In addition to my dress for the wedding, I also took in some pants that are too long and a dress that needs taking out in the waist and he proceeded to tell me that I wanted my pants too short and that my dress was cheap. Then, as I stood on a block while he pinned up the hem of my bridesmaid's dress he told me I had a gut. Really, the man is lucky that I didn't kick him right in the head. He wasn't in a good position to be saying things like that to a woman in high heels.

After that he told me that I have no shape and the bridesmaids dress is flattering because it gives me a shape. I wanted to put pins in his eyeballs. The Osmonds would never have put up with something like that. I'm finding a new tailor the next time I need something sewn, which is likely to be in several years.

That's about it. I have a hundred papers to grade. Literally. I am just exhausted. I need some Christmas cheer.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Someone Was on Drugs When They Came Up With This

There is simply no other reasonable explanation. I remember back in high school when I was friends with a bunch of kids who had dropped out of school and well, life in general and all they did was smoke pot all day long. Mostly they never went anywhere except to see the Grateful Dead if they were in town or to a drum circle. They just got high all the time. Once they got high they'd want something to eat naturally, so they'd concoct weird dishes from the stuff in their moms' refrigerators. Then they'd crack up at their inventiveness and resourcefulness and spend the next several days talking about the things they ate when they were stoned and about how stoned they actually were. That is the only feasible excuse for this recipe.

CREAMY TACOS
1 lb. Velveeta cheese
2 cans chili - no beans
1 med. can ranch style beans
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1 sm. Cool Whip
1 bag tortilla chips
Melt cheese and add the next 3 ingredients. Heat until real hot. Add Cool Whip; melt. Add chips.

I need someone to help me with this. How is this a taco and who the hell thought to stir Cool Whip into beans, Velveeta and tomatoes?? And why??? WHY??? Also, don't forget to heat until REAL hot. You don't want it to be fake hot. REAL hot. OK? That step is very important. Cool Whip and Cheese needs to be REAL hot.

I'm Not Bakin' These Friggin' Cookies

Again, Cooks.com does not disappoint. Last night I got it in my head that I wanted to make these no-bake cookies that Aunt Janey used to give out every Christmas. I couldn't just call Aunt Janey and ask for the recipe seeing as that she lives on an Elk Ranch in Colorado in the literal middle of nowhere and does not have electicity. I kid you not. She has an outhouse. To communicate one must post an actual letter on a piece of paper, wait for it to get there, wait for her to drive forty miles to the post office to get it, wait for her to get back and reply, wait for her to drive forty miles back to the post office to send the reply and then wait for it to arrive. This could take months. I want cookies now. I took to the Internet. The cookies, which I finally found a similar recipe for, are cooked on the stove and then mixed with oatmeal or corn flakes. They involve Pet milk, Karo, cocoa and peanut butter. They sound a bit trailer park, but they kick ass and they are gluten free if made with the right cereal and oatmeal. I need to have them. I'm getting a salty/ sweet craving that could cause me to hurt someone if I don't get these cookies. While searching for the recipe last night, I found many, many a concoction fit the for Nasty Assed Recipe box. But this one was the best, not for its ingredients (which will make a rock hard cookie, so don't even attempt this recipe no matter how good it sounds) but for the spelling. I couldn't not share this.

NO BAKE FRIG COOKIES
1 (12 oz.) chocolate or butterscotch morsels
1 c. peanut butter
5 c. corn flakes
Melt morsels and peanut butter over low heat. Stir in corn flakes; mix until flakes are well coated. Drop by rounded serving spoons onto a buttered cookie sheet. Place in refrigerator until solid.

Oh and just wait. There is more to come. We might have to set up a Nasty Assed Christmas Cookie Recipe Exchange.

Here Comes Saba Claus

Thanksgiving this year was pleasant and heavily decorated. Pretzel salad made an appearance but hardly anyone dared to eat it. My mom made some people try it, but you could tell they were being polite and disguising their horror. We didn't have as big a crowd as previous years, though many people came in and out throughout the night and several neighbors popped by for dessert and coffee. Nothing untoward happened and the evening felt festive because Christmas exploded on my parents' house. Because of my sister's wedding in two weeks, my mother has decorated the house like never before. It's as if she's trying to break a world record for most decorations in one place. I remember seeing portraits of Queen Elizabeth I where she was so decked out, bedazzled and stuffed into elaborate costuming with jewels, ropes of pearls, high collars, crowns and vests and laced bodices that she no longer looked like a human being under it all. When I first stepped into my parents' house last week, seeing it decorated that way for the first time, I thought of Queen Elizabeth I. That's how the house looks and you know what, I like it. I should take some pictures of it.

So no one acted up. Nothing ridiculous happened. All was well and it was a nice holiday although I now need carbohydrate detox in order to fit into my bridesmaid's dress. I was alarmed at its sudden snugness.

My old world, Jewish grandparents Saba and Savta (grandma and grandpa in Hebrew) came and I hadn't seen them in a while. A lot has been going on with them lately and I believe my grandfather is up to no good here, but more on that in a minute. It was good to catch up with them.

Recently my extremely religious grandfather retired his post as Cantor of the Basura Bat Yam Synagogue. He is in his 80s and was still working over 40 hours a week. He loves to work. The man worked through stomach cancer a few years ago. Now, although he is very old and just had half of his head gouged out from skin cancer, he still wishes to be active. It amazes me how much energy my grandparents have at their age. Compare them to my grandparents in Millpond, who were a couple years younger, and it's really shocking. Up until my other grandfather died in June of 2008, those grandparents had basically spent the past decade in easy chairs watching TV from All My Children to Jeopardy, with the occasional, twice yearly trip to Red Lobster. Saba and Savta are the total opposite of that and are older! Every summer they tour Europe and then go to Israel where they spend two months there visiting relatives.

Since retirement, it's been almost impossible to track down Saba and Savta. I've wanted to go visit them a couple time in the past month but every time I try, they're suddenly out of town. Where were they going, I thought.

"Kentucky," my dad said.

"Kentucky??" I replied.

The next time they were in the Ozarks. Why?

Then all of a sudden my ancient, Orthodox grandparents were on a cruise to the Bahamas. After that, they went on another cruise. Something was up.

"You've been traveling a lot," I mentioned to my grandfather.

Then the story came out.

Last summer a time share company contacted my grandparents. This is a common scam. They offer you a free weekend somewhere and then force you to spend most of it touring timeshares and sitting in on an endless presentation. Afterward, sales people torment you endlessly with hard sell tactics designed to break your spirit and make you buy a timeshare.

But my grandfather is on to them and wants to beat them at their own game. He accepted the first trip and told them he was definitely going to buy a timeshare if only he could find the right location. He wanted to try out some other spots. They sent him on more trips. Then, all of the competing time share companies somehow caught wind of this and also began courting him. Now, every time he gets an offer to go check out some new timeshare, he accepts the free trip, sits through the presentation, which he says is relaxing because he just naps through the whole thing and then tells them he's definitely buying a timeshare somewhere at some point but just can't decide. This must drive the salesmen out of their minds.

"They are thinking they will break me," Saba explained to me on Thanksgiving, "I am not broken."

My grandparents actually had to leave early that evening because they had an early morning flight to New Orleans, where, you guessed it, they are looking at more timeshares that they aren't going to buy. The whole thing seems to have turned into a matter of great pride for my grandfather. He feels he is beating them at their own game, perhaps.

But the timeshare trips aren't the only unusual thing going on with my grandfather.

Not having seen my grandfather for some time due to his excessive travel schedule, I was surprised to see that he had grown an unusually long and bushy white beard. This is not like him. He's always had a beard, but it's always been very tailored and clipped quite short. This new beard is out of control and very suspicious. He also seems to have put on a few pounds and he's normally very slim and small. In addition, with all this new free time he has, he has been missing most afternoons for the and evenings for the past two weeks. On numerous occasions we've tried to call (when we knew they were in town and not off exploring timeshare options) and have found my grandmother at home alone and weirdly evasive.

"Where is Saba?" we ask.

"Oh you know," she will say.

"What is he doing?"

"You know, he is just out doing things," she replies.

Then she admitted that Saba was at the mall. Several times, Saba was at the mall. This is very out of character, as Saba is not a big shopper. He might go to the mall, begrudgingly, once a year if he has to and it's always with Savta. Now he's been at the mall by himself more than once in one week. I mean, he could be taking advantage of some of the holiday savings. He could be Hanukkah shopping. Maybe he's joined one of those mall walking fitness programs for the elderly.

My cousin said it first, and this is particularly notable because my cousin is also devoutly Jewish and also Orthodox, or Conservadox or whatever they're calling it these days.

"Dude," said my cousin, "Saba looks like Santa Claus."

"I mean, I wasn't going to say it, but I thought the same thing," I said.

I decided to confront my grandfather.

"Saba," I asked, "Are you playing Santa Claus at the mall now that you've retired?"

My grandfather looked shocked that I would ask such a thing. Then he laughed wildly and walked off to the bar where he poured himself a shot of this horrible, black Czech liqueur that only he enjoys. I'm serious. This stuff makes Jagermeister look like watery Kool-Aid.

But he didn't deny it!

I can't express what a scandal this would be both within the family and within the strict, gossipy community of petty, nosy old Jewish people that my grandparents are a part of. They live in one of those housing developments for people over 60 that are so common in South Florida. Remember Del Boca Vista on "Seinfield"? That's where my grandparents live, except it's Orthodox and all anyone there does is spy on their neighbors to see if they're breaking some obscure rule in the Talmud and then if they are it's a major scandal and gives the old people something to bitch and moan over for several months.

You have to understand how religious my grandparents are. My grandfather was Jewish clergy for Heaven's sakes. My grandmother has never worn a pair of pants in her entire life. They've never flipped a light switch on the sabbath or eaten non-kosher foods. They don't drive on Saturdays. Before Passover they make a bonfire out of bread in the backyard and when their oldest son married a shiksa with a shiksa kid, their devastation knew no bounds. Christmas is anathema to these people. Even acknowledging its existence seems dirty and wrong to them. I think when they look at a Christmas tree, they need Visine. Once, my grandmother admitted in a muted whisper that she found Christmas trees pretty and I guarantee she went home and flogged herself over it.

So given all this, my grandfather secretly working as the mall Santa Claus would be just as shocking as my grandmother wearing fishnets and a leather mini and strutting her stuff through the streets of Millenium Bay for the 90 year olds on rickety golf carts. If anyone found out, they'd be run out of the neighborhood. The Life Alert circuits would be jammed from all of the octogenarians in their complex having chest pains upon hearing the news.

Still, I think this may be what is going on. I think my grandfather is the Jewish Mall Santa Claus.

Perhaps if they offered him a timeshare at the North Pole...

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