Monday, October 03, 2005

These Are Days

Well, the past several days have been a hell of a run, and most of it really wasn't hasn't been blog-friendly.

Meral, my co-worker, is going through an incredibly awful time. Both of her parents are gravely ill. Mom is in Canada, and Dad's out in Brooklyn. For the past year, she's been dividing her time, running between the two of them. However, Mom has taken a marked turn for the worst, and Meral flew off a week ago to be with her. We have LOTS of installations going on right now, and I'm doing them alone. I can deal, and god knows, the occasional Valium works wonders. Its just stressful, and I feel terrible for the ordeal that Meral is going through.

My favorite non-related relative, Alice, went to the doctor this week and had bad news as well.

Alice and my Mom started outy as working girls together in the early 60's. They were part of a secretarial pool at a company located on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street. Once a year, my sister and I were dressed up and taken by my Mom to her office, where we sat in a conference room, bored out of our minds until it was time to visit Stern's Department Store to see Christmas Village, around the corner on 42nd Street. As little Jewish kids, we were reminded that, no, we could not see Santa, speak with elves or receive a gift. We were there to just admire all the pretty lights, and the twirling cut outs of figure skaters cavorting on fake snow and glitter.

Years later, I discovered that Alice and my Mom kept a bottle of Jack Daniels in their desk drawer, and would enjoy a nice mid-afternoon (or even late morning) snort. They ran around Manhattan when ever Mom could pawn us off on my grandmother for the night, or ship us off to summer camp. A memorable story involves one or both of them throwing up pure bourbon on the old Women's House of Detention at 6th Avenue and 9th Street. I believe they switched to Dewar's sometime around then. Something about Bourbon not being a summer drink, I believe.

The girls became fast friends, and I came to call Alice Tante, which is German for Aunt. I still call her that.

Alice loved to cook, and along the way, introduced this kosher kid to the Raw Bar at Lundy's in Sheepshead Bay, as well as the varied glories of the international cuisine of the day, featuring myriad forbidden combinations of meat and dairy. I was a happy, satisfied boy.

Alice lived and still lives in Manhattan, and seemed an impossibly glamorous figure to me. Her husband, Sy, was in the music business, management and money matters, mostly. Due to an early partnership with Sid Bernstein, Sy's office became the go-to address for all the thousands of young girls looking to purchase tickets to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965. Alice, Mom and my sister spent most weekends that year opening envelopes, collecting checks and sending out tickets. Yes, Alice and Mom were on the field at Shea, screaming along with the rest of the teenagers. My sister and I had been shipped off to summer camp, of course. The girls needed their space.

However, en famille we did get to see the Rascals, Cream, The Who, The Staple Singers, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Sarah Vaughn, Liza Minelli, Pearl Bailey, Peter Allen, The Critters, The Vagrants and even a band I seem to recall as The Fuzzy Bunnies. Usually these concerts were preceded by dinners at long gone Manhattan establishments: The House of Chan, Les Champs, Dan Stampler's Steak Joint, or Peter's Backyard. Alice would always order ginger-ale cocktails "for the children", and when they arrived and the waiter had left, pour a substantial splash of bourbon in each one. I realize now that it was most likely an attempt to quiet down a rambunctious 10 year old, but it seemed really sophisticated at the time.

In point of fact, Alice basically taught me how to drink, curse and eat well. I never did pick up the smoking habit, but I can do the other three with elan and eclat!

Of course, Mom is not dealing well with the news. Alice has been her running partner for 40 years. We're a pretty unconventional family. I've always wondered how this scene would play out. It remains to be seen.


Blogger David said...

Sorry to hear about the bad news. Didn't know you were a landsman, by the way. L'shanah tova.

12:01 PM  
Blogger seymour said...

Dear Mark, this is a really beautiful post. Thanks for sharing such an intimate part of your life. It is totally blog friendly mate! What a great son your mum has! I hope all turns for the better in your tough times, soon.
hugs big man

7:42 PM  

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