The catskills: A summer long sociological study

In the front of the dimly lit store that appears to be closed, half built, and definately not ready to provide paying customers with the nosh they so strongly crave. “Heimishe Shabbos Take Out” a cardboard sign pasted on the window with white scotch tape states. The sign looking like one of those projects that a 3rd grader would do with cut out letters and marker is accompanied by a similar sign stating that they are open for business. Indeed behind the counter stands a man with his peyis flapping in the wind blowing from a large industrial fan attatched to the ceiling, the tables are simple picnic tables that give it the bbq style feel. Burger Nosh- a new store in Woodbourne, the first new store that has sprung up in this Jewish ghetto for years. It does not look like a new store, but in Woodbourne even the stores that try to improve their looks are brought back down to the same level after a summer of families containing 15 children, garbage strewn about, and New Yorkers that couldnt care less if the bathrooms had soap or not.

Chasidish girls wander about with their striped polo shirts- trying but failing to conceal any hint of womenhood, tucked into their long mid ankle lenght black or grey or blue skirts- no colors alowd. It is just another Thusday night and already signs of the coming weekend are abound- minivans overloaded with children trying to finagle their way into an unparalel style parking job, paying no attention to cras ahead or behind them, Acura MDX’s with their hocker gear accompaning them, sirens and EMT plates signal to the passerby that these hockers are Hatzolah and therefore the uber-cool amongst frummies everywhere. For some reason the Acura MDX has become the car of choice for hockers- the really cool hockers drive lexus’s but for the avergae Hatzolah hocker an MDX will do. For some reason frummies like Honda’s and Toyota’s with leather that contain the Acura or Lexus logo.

The Hocker makes his presence known before enetring the Pizza store by making sure the walky talky is on loud volume causally sticking out of their white shirt-which is always half tucked in revealing white undershirts and sloppilly hanging tzitzis. This look has not really evolved since the begining of hockerdom somewhere back in the early 90’s. Hockers always tend to sell used cars and cell phones on the side. They also tend to peel out of their double parked parking spots in Woodbourne the second any call no matter what it is comes in on the scanner. “We have a house floating away on fire, with a hostage situation on board, reuest backup” All of the sudden route 52, 17, 42 etc is a sea of Black SUV’s full of children driving 80 mph down the shoulders to reach a call that their measely knowledge of CPR and the Heimlich Manuver will hardly suffice. No worries the hocker in the MDX ladden with 3 car seats and 2 cell phones with a very loud walky talky is here.

Its common to see an accident anywhere within the Catskills or the Mountains according to heimishe terminology, where there are a bunch of hockers playing Jewish geography on the side of the road and showing off their high tech cell phones to one another.

Woodbourne Pizza an infamous establishment with a checkered past as one of the most notorious hangouts for frummy rebels. During the late 90’s in the height of the “Kids at Risk Crisis” it was common for frummies in small clusters to hang out smoking and talking about Metallica till 4 in the morning on Saturday nights- those days are over, but there still remains a feeling of nostalgia every time one enters this infamous establishment at one time compared to speakeasies durring the Prohibition years. In the years since the slice of pizza has risen to an astronomical height of $2.20 a slice compared with a mere $1.95 at the lesser known pizza shop across the street- it may be a racial thing since it is run by Persians and most Frummies are not down with the brown- I am definately down with anyone charging less for better pizza.

Right next door to Woodbourne Pizza is Bubby’s- a Jewish version of Family Dollar- a cockytail of various items strewn about in no particular order, brightly lit beaconing the casual shopper to come in and buy cheap chachka’s of which they will never have a need for, if only for the sake of stating to someone back in Brooklyn that you payed only 15 cents for some particular item.

I am perched on a newly built planter of which contains no plants, that is situated in front of Mazel Wok, a pathetic excuse for a Chinese Restuarant. Even the Chinese who defected and hate china would be embarrased by this cesspool of oily, bug ridden, ameri-heimish-chinese- “food”. Oh and dont forget the Sushi the only reason why these establishments are back year after year. A few years back Sushi became a big hit amonst Frummies everywhere- it all started with Estihanna and Eden wok and quickly spread throughout the heimishe velt- yes indeed sushi can be marked up incerdibly high so why not serve it everywhere, and they did. Suddenly every pizza store, Italian, Israeli and Mexican restuarant had a sushi stand. Little did these unknowing consumers know that they were paying a dollar per rice and raw fish morsel. Of course when you pay $6 for 6 peices of sushi with the cool green stuff and pickled ginger it is definately worth the stares of all the people in Circa that think you are way cool- kind of like 24 inch spinning rims for frummies- expensive but very cool- or Starbucks for yuppies.

Maariv, Maariv- someone is screaming half chanting down the block, yes I dont have to wait for a minyan at the beautiful Woodridge shull. I follow a throng of people and we are cast forth into the middle of Dougies- another infamous restuarant that was clean and fine tasting before the wrath of the heimishe owner came and began the heimishe cost cutting. Where else but the Ctaskills would you find a resturant with paying customers enjoying their $17 steak sandwiches and being serenaded by a bunch of street walkers saying Maariv- I love these piece meal, makeshift minyanim. Walking down the street with shorts and a t-shirt on will only garner stares from the passerby’s but here we are on equal terms. We are all Jews and all a necessity to this collection of people wishing to pray udner the proper conditions- white and black is thrown out and equality is in- unless you are open gay or sleeping with a shiksa- then your kinda screwed eh. I am relishing this moment of Thanking the L-rd and being an equal amongst Chasidim, Litvacks, and the regular Joe Shmoes.

This will be a summer long sociological study of the Catskills.