Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marry the Guy who Picks His Nose

So this is way overdue, but Phyl and I had a wonderful 5 hour drive to Binghamton a few weekends ago (we took the VERY scenic route and stopped to pee and eat). Really though, it was a remarkably quick five hours. Why? Because we talked about why one shouldn't marry Marty Pinkus. Allow me to elaborate.
Marty Pinkus was Phyllis's serious boyfriend before Papa Herbie. He was slick, a smooth talker, and had a name that evokes my suspicion of some degree of sadism running in his genes. But his name is besides the point. (But sidebar, let's take a moment to thank God that my name isn't Jenna Dorfman-Pinkus. That sounds like some horribly sunburnt midget.) Anyway, you shouldn't marry a Marty Pinkus (for reasons beyond his name). Why? Because he's pretty much the exact opposite of Papa.
The story of Grandma Phyllis and Papa Herbie is positively adorable in that "The Notebook"-y kind of way. The setting: The Bronx, somewhere off the Grand Concourse, circa 1945. Phyllis, a vibrant young college student, returns home one day after gallivanting in the city with friends. She sees a soldier, recently returned from war, standing outside of her building and instantly recognizes him by his big floppy ears. She remembers him. He had grown up on the other side of the building (on the same floor as her aunt Anna) and the only notable thing she remembered about him was that his pants were always falling down during stickball. She's less than attracted to him, but given the patriotic sentiments of the time, feels obligated to say hello and share her respect for his having served in the military.
They get to talking. She is again less than swept off of her feet, but because he is still wearing a uniform and so skinny from returning from war so recently, she politely engages. The conversation wraps up and he asks her, "Listen, my brother, Lenny, is pretty short and has a hard time finding girls shorter than him to date. Can I get your number to give to him?" Again, patriotic duty, maybe a dash of Jewish guilt, she gives her number. (Sidebar: Sweet move Papa!)
A few weeks later, she gets a call. It's not from Lenny, it's Herb. He asks her if she wants to go out for a drink and she is about to say no when he says "I know a great place to get an ice cream soda." To Phyl, this was the earliest sign that he was not a Marty Pinkus. He wasn't interested in the trendy bar scene like Marty; Papa wanted his calories sans hangover, just like Phyllis did. (Clearly, this is a trait I did not inherit.)
The story goes on and Papa becomes more and more adorable. They went to drive-ins, he kissed her in the backseat while going around "opportunity curves", and most importantly, her intrusive and large Jewish family approved of him.
The proposal story is also adorable. He of course asked her father, who approved because of Papa's non-Marty Pinkus-ness. Phyllis and Herb had talked about it, and Phyl insisted that she didn't want a large ring. This is where Herb first exhibited his ability to translate Phyllis's words to Phyllis's desires. Even that early on, he knew that insisting that she didn't want a big ring meant "I want the biggest rock you can get your hand on." He used $5000 that he had won playing poker in the service and bought a flawless pear-cut diamond from a jeweler for whom he had apprenticed (Papa was planning on becoming a jeweler at that point.).
One night, she came home from work and they had plans to go out. She neared the front of the building and he stuck his head out the window "Phyl, come up!" "No, I'm tired and it's a fifth story walk up," she responded. "Just come up!" he insisted. She walked up, and when she walked in, the whole apartment was dark. Suddenly, the lights came on, french doors opened, and there was Herbie, with his whole family and her whole family standing behind him. There was no getting down on one knee, but he did take out the little black box and ask her "Phyllis, will you marry me?" Marty Pinkus might have made a dramatic production. Papa Herbie didn't, but he did include both of their families. Score for Tandlich.
The wedding plans were immediately underway, but tension-filled with two strong-willed Jewish mothers arguing over synagogues, catering halls, and the over-salted matzoh ball soup (which Phyllis will be happy to tell you about). Phyllis and Herb actually eloped mid-wedding planning. They feared that their new extended families were already coming to hate one another before the wedding even happened. They returned from City Hall with their marriage license, told Phyllis's parents, and Phyllis "needed a shovel to lift Nana's jaw off of the floor after hearing the news." The formal wedding still happened (and I'm not sure that Sigfried and Celia Tandlich ever found out about the elopement). It was old Hollywood stunning; the pictures are all in 8L and you should definitely stop and see them next time you're in the 'Dale.
Phyllis and Herb had a wonderful marriage. The travel stories alone warrant many of their own blogs. But out of our entire five hour ride there is one line that sticks out to me: "Marry the guy who might pick his nose every now and then when he thinks you aren't looking. Sure, he might not be smooth talking or perfect or even sanitary, but you know what Bubbelah, he's the one who will love you unconditionally, with all your imperfections. He's the one you want to grow old with." And as we've seen, that wasn't Marty Pinkus. and I think things worked out quite nicely.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Should Carry a Tape Recorder (Shit My Grandma Says)

So Phyl and I made the very long journey (it's a lot longer when you stop to pee and eat every hour) to and from Binghamton this weekend. We had a wonderful car ride; she told me old family stories: the story of how she and Poppa met (which is amazingly sweet), how she knew my dad was going to marry my mom, etc. We laughed, we cried; it was better than Cats. (Points to whoever can identify the Bravo show from which I extracted that quote.) Tomorrow afternoon I'll probably write a long, heartwarming blog about Travels with Philly (obviously I thought of the blog title about ten minutes into our car ride) but for now, I have to tell you some of the ridiculous shit my grandma says.

I think this might be a reoccurring blog theme. "Shit My Grandma Says" will be similar to "Shit My Dad Says" (a very funny blog for those of you who aren't familiar), but less crude and more Jewish.

So some hilights from the 4th of July weekend:

We were driving back from Caren and Howie's and discussing how the only person who has the right to sport one of those "My boss is a Jewish Carpenter" bumper stickers is my dad's employee Jason, because as far as we know, Jamie Tandlich is the only Jewish carpenter, at least in the Southern Tier.

Phyllis cuts in, "Jesus was a good man. You know why? Because he worked with his hands, and he took good care of his mother. That's why i named my Jamie --- after Jesus. I knew what i was doing. Yep, daddy is like my Jesus."
Jenna responds, "What about curing lepers and spreading a message of love?"
Phyl: "Yeah that was good, but more importantly, he took care of his mother."

After some brief googling, I'm not too sure where she got this idea of Jesus taking care of Mary. (But as I've come to learn in the world of Phyllis logic, fact/historical documentation are generally irrelevant.) Jesus died when he was 33 and asked John to take care of his mother. So yes Jesus worked with his hands, but, for latter half of Mary's life, Jesus outsourced taking care of his mother. Not that it was in his control (awkward?).

Our next two Phyllis quotes find us in the car on the return ride, listening to old CDs that were taken out of Rachel's car.

In Response to R Kelly's "Thoi Thoinga":
Phyllis: Is this a Hawaiian song?
Jenna: No, it's R Kelly. He's an American rapper.
Phyllis: Now a rapper is someone who does the rapping?
Jenna: Yes, a singer sings, a rapper raps.
Phyllis: Hmm, well I think he got the song from the Hawaiians. I can see the men doing their dances to this song like this (proceeds to flap arms like mocking chicken motion from Arrested Development and make "woof" sound).
Jenna: Grandma, you're flapping your wings like a chicken and barking like a dog. You were a first grade teacher; you're supposed to be good at matching animals and their sounds.
Phyllis: Animals are different in Hawaii, dear.
Jenna: Okay.

And finally, as we're driving through the Catskills (translation: lots of Orthodox Jews everywhere), on comes Sean Paul's musical masterpiece "Just Gimme the Light":
Phyllis: Do they daven (as in rocking motion during Hebrew prayer) to this?
Jenna: What?!
Phyllis: I could really see people davening to this. (Starts to rock in her chair to beat of music as if she's davening.)
Next to us drives up Orthodox man, complete with peyot and yarmulke. He turns, see old woman davening in car next to him, does a double take as if he just saw the messiah sitting in the Rav4 next to him. I wish I could make this shit up.

So there they are, your Phyllis quotes for the weekend. Time to go on Amazon and look for a cheap and discreet tape recorder. I'm thinking a page a day calendar....

Forehead kiss,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bubbelah's been Bitten by the Blogging Bug

So finally I begin. July 1, 2010: the adventures of apartment 8L go public. For those of you with whom I spoke prior to beginning my intergenerational roomie experience, I planned on blogging from the very beginning. But as those of you also know, there were a lot of mental and physical health ups and downs, and it might not have made for the most pleasant blogging.
But at 7:30 PM today, I posted the facebook status "Jenna D-T is pajamatized and in bed at 7:30. I love my 83 year old roommate" and it became apparent to me that clearly, my lifestyle (and sleep and pee cycles for that matter) have been influenced by surviving my 83 year old roommate.
A number of other factors have also influenced me to start documenting and sharing my experiences of life with the Big P. First, Rach started blogging. They're really funny; you should read them (http://indecisiveexpat.blogspot.com/). Yes, she paid me to say that. Seriously though, I often think my life with the Big P could be a sitcom, and who doesn't love to watch a sitcom? Sure, it may not be Modern Family/Arrested Development funny; maybe more on the Everybody Loves Raymond/Two and a Half Men level. But lets be real, Phyl and I watch the latter two shows every night (as I'm sure you do without really trying) and we all walk away with a smile.
Second, I realized she's all I talk about. I think I'm a few weeks short of carrying around a picture of her in my wallet and forcing people I work with to ooh and ahh. People at work (clients included) constantly ask "How is Grandma?" and I always have a ton to say. I went over to a friend's house last week and all I could think was "Why isn't she asking about my grandma?! I have so many hilarious anecdotes to share."
Third, I'd like to record my progress in responding to both yiddush and hand-signaling/using gibberish for obvious words. If I didn't go to work I'd probably forget that my name is Jenna and respond exclusively to "Eh, Bubbelah." Additionally, I can currently translate the following from Phyllician:

1. Putting out hands and wiggling fingers: internet, computer, email, or anything else one might do on a computer.
2. Putting right hand out and squeezing palm while saying "Eh, you know, the thingamagig!": Remote. And it's on the dresser next to the TV. No, it's not near the chair where you sit to watch TV, it's next to the TV itself, so you have to get up to get it, hence counteracting the purpose of "remote" control. But that's besides the point. We keep the remote on the dresser next to the TV, because that's where Phyl can find in it the morning in case she needs to watch TV in the bedroom before 7 am when I wake up.

I have a million anecdotes and one-liners flying through my head right now, but a) I need to save them so I have more to blog about in the future and b) It's 10:15. My bedtime was half an hour ago.

Forehead kiss (which leaves residual bright pink lipstick),