Shabbos in Monsey

I walked into shull 20 minutes late and couldn’t find a seat. I knew that would happen, my cousin warned me when he knocked on my door earlier that morning. There was a bar mitzvah today. At least the sidduri were in the back so I didn’t have to make a scene as a walked throughout the cramped basement shull to look for a siddur and a chumash. Actually I cant help but make a scene, since finding fellow none hat wearing colored shirt folks was hard enough, causing all the little kids to stare at me, regardless if I gavce them a dirty look that said “knock it off I am trying to daven here”. Nope the kids stared at me, maybe they were trying to surmise if I was one of the guests from the ever present “none frum” side of the family. Always easy to spot in a cramped basement shull, is the token guy in a brown sport coat with kaki pants who doesn’t quite know how to don a talis in the traditional sense. The scarf wearers I call them, that how you can tell if it’s a bar mitzvah or some other shabbos event before they even announce that it is. And so I retained this status as the token single guy from the “other” side of the family. All of the sudden I spotted a man clad in a beige sport coat, grey shirt, grey yarmulke and I knew my status as “ token other side of the family guy” had been lost. I was reduced to normal rebellious sort who decided to wear blue to show my anti-conformity or to rebel against my more yeshivish parents. I was just some guy who was from the hood that didn’t daven at this shull often. The stares kept up their intensity but they had to stare at two people now since the other man had taken my former status.

I thought back to all those times as kids when my family would walk into these shulls and everyone would stare. The worst was my cousin Moshe’s shull which was yeky, so not only did we not have the traditional black hats, but every kid over the age of 8 had a talis on, just more discrimination to be aimed our way. My father never felt uncomfortable, but me and my brother always sweated those occasions. The davening was quick and yeshivish style, no singing, just plain old mumbling with an occasional verse said out loud to remind folks at the speed of which someone may have the ability to daven. The few songs that were sang were more oyoyoy and bumbumbum and deedeedee’s then actual words. So I sat in the seat found for me in the back, so I should block the aisle. The shull is so small that unfortunately it gets really stuffy and one has to constantly adjust their nether regions, but this cant be done with the whole pocket ping pong or simple quick pinch, it must done secretly since everyone is always looking around at whos there, it kinda sucked and I felt my betzim complaining for air and adjustment as everyone stared at everyone preventing any thing of the sort. After I finished catching up I sat bored, the women’s section was upstairs preventing any staring or eye contact during davening, very unfortunate I thought as I wondered if there were any hot frummies beyond the ceiling waiting for my brown retinas to turn their way and give them some entertainment as well as they try to pretend like they aren’t staring in the men’s section to ease their boredom as the little dude drags his laining on and on.

Its interesting that in shulls with lots of different clothing styles and looks one rarely notices the differences because there are so many. On the other hand in a shull with 99% hats and black suits and white shirts one picks up on subtleties immediately. I noticed a man in a hat with a feather then he tok it off and revealed a suede yarmulke, then a man in one of those large black knit neutral type yarmulke’s. Then I saw a man in a large black suede yarmulke. I began to feel more at home, sure that I wasn’t the only colored shirt non-black velvet yarmulke in the shull. I picked up a stone chumash and it turned out to be Shmurl Aleph and Bais. So Instead of following along in parshas Vayeegash- my bar mitzvah parsha, I read nuvee, nuvee rocks let me tell you, I was caugh up in all the battles and promiscuous relationships and totally lost myself in it. Nuvee is like soft-core porn meets gladiator it rocks your socks and other areas as well.

My legs were constantly shifting and I began to think about lunch. They did have this good barbeque chicken and that apple kugel with that crunchy topping- hmm that was good. I started having food fantasies about me at a big table filled with an all you can eat buffet and me with fork in hand ready for battle. Then the Rabbi announced that a Kiddush would be held at the Hempstead School. Yes I screamed in my head, not only would there be a possibility of good chow, I would get to gaze upon the lovely ladies that were upstairs chatting about sheitles and what kind of table cloths they use on shabbos. Oh I was excited.

The sea of hats and women in similar looking coats fluttered out of the building down the block passed a steel skeleton that was meant to be a yeshiva towards the public school with the food. No cars ere seen on the street and only Jews were walking, it was a good feeling knowing I could drive 100 miles and such things.

Upon entering the room that was colored sky blue and looked like the classic public school room from the 1960’s I laid my eyes on the main circular table. Amidst crystal bowls lay generous portions of the traditional broccoli salad with small pieces of red onion and cranberries, grilled veggies adorned a silver tray with slightly overdone red peppers, zucchini, and squash, their seedlings scattered about as people speared them with the serving fork. Baby corn salad, chewy fried chicken nuggets, interesting looking deli role in a wrap with 2 kinds of meat and a glass with deli mustard to slather on this delicate treat. Eggplant salad, mushroom salad and more, but suddenly out of my food radar otherwise known as peripheral vision I saw her, she was so beautiful, I started licking lips and heading her way, I could smell her sweat perfume as I tried not to salivate on myself. I glanced around me to make sure no one saw and then I reached her. A beautiful tray of kishke, the old school real stuff, cholent that was too beany and a rather soft potato kugel. I sank the serving spoon deep into the virgin kishke and took two pieces and then proceeded to pour a generous helping of the potato-less bean and meat cholent. A big chunk of potato kugel and a small piece of sweet yerushalmy kugel to top off my plate. I stuffed myself and walked around the room, I didn’t know anyone and that was perfect, since there is no time for small talk at such important food events. There were no single ladies and that was fine since I could give the ever increasing mound of delicacies taking up every square inch of my plate the attention it so deserved.

I ate and ate until my cousin Chavi complained that I would have no room for her feast, I then reluctantly put my plate that was smeared with brown cholent residue and liquid oil from my grilled veggies. As I put my plate down I realized that I had forgotten to try any of the expensive looking cakes that adorned the center of the table. I noticed a brown layered cake and realized that this was the same cake that I had drooled over at my Vort in April, which had also taken place in Monsey. I remembered how I had taken the cake home and had eaten it for at least a week later, it was rum cake from Mrs. Zieglman’s in Boro Park I think. Oh it is so luscious this cake and I once again ate it, enjoyed and remembered the food at my vort.

It was a coincidence that I had thought of my vort because almost one year ago on Decdember 18th I had met my ex-fiancée who my cousins were a friend of the family. It was interesting that I had invited myself to these people’s house since I had never done so and never really speak to them. Later that evening I asked my cousin if my ex had gotten married yet, and coincdentaly or not she had gotten married this past week on December 24th– and I saw from the invitation at the same hall that our wedding was supposed to take place. My cousin thought it was really weird I had invited myself to their house that week, shabbos kallah. I thought it was also weird after hearing all of that. Anyway I was able to get some stuff that my ex’s family had given my cousin to give to me. Engagement presents from my side of the family. A very heavy ice bucket from pottery barn and 4 long stem crystal wine glasses. Both of which the only thing I could think of doing with them is to se them as targets the next time I go to the rifle range.