Pesach was coming up and we were going to a hotel for the whole thing. Usually somewhere pretty exciting, none of the traditional Florida stuff, my father hates Florida, oh the heat and the humidity he would complain and then rant about how he doesn’t want to just hang out on the beach all day, he would say boring and draw out the word to emphasize his point. As teenagers of course me and my brother wanted to go to Florida, we would think of all the hotties walking around in bikinis on yom tov afternoon or meeting girls who were seated on the couches outside of the main seder room because they were bored with the whole affair. Of course we never ended up in Florida for Pesach, which was fine because it was better then going to Monsey or Buffalo or Columbus.
When we were wee little ones we used to go the Kutchers hotel in the Catskills for Pesach, I don’t remember it except that it was where I learned to ride a bike, an event that hanged my life forever. Then all of the sudden we were going to my uncle Yanky who was a principal of a school in Columbus Ohio, that was exciting driving that long way, but once again I was too young to remember. I do remember Buffalo when Yanky became the principal of the school there joining my fathers other brother Leiby who had already called Buffalo home for many years. I remember walking 3 miles to shull, and building snow forts in the backyard. I guess as the years progressed we ended up closer to home, it wasn’t until the last few years that some of it was spent at home. It was the worst having my dad yelling and cursing at us to “clean up our shit” that had piled up in every existing spot of emptiness in our small one bedroom apartment.
Then we started going to relatives in Monsey. A grueling experience for folks who are rather modern in terms of dress. My father brought us up as the types who like to sit around shabbos afternoon in shorts and T-shirts and if we go out we wear the same. Sitting for the a long yeshivish seder in which every kid has to say the ma-nishtana in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew and sometimes Hungarian, while wearing our dress clothing was almost as grueling as staying in a house with no secular books. My father could only take so much, we would stay at my Aunt Sheindy and that even frummer, not only were no secular books present there weren’t even seforim with English translation. The one good thing about it was the food, and hearing my dad and his sister reminisce about their days growing up in Boro-park 50 years ago. Half of it was in Yiddish but still it was interesting.
Then one year my father says were going to a hotel. I was a senior in high school, I was excited. I thought of all the girls I would meet who would be willing to hook up because after Pesach we would never see each other again, and hotel food brought drool to the corners of my mouth. That year we went to a hotel near Morgantown, West Virginia. This would be the first time I was ever “south” not that south since it was only 75 miles south of Pittsburgh but the people there had the southern drawl which made it south enough for me. You se before my car days I was confined to the immediate states on the sides of New York with the exception of Rhode Island and Michigan.
The Pesach hotel experience is an interesting one, it’s the ultimate in Jewish geography because many of the people including our family since my father doesn’t like leading his own seder get bunched up together with a bunch of random people for 8 days. You get thrown with a bunch of boring old folks who complain about their dentures, young couples who yell at their small children the whole time or just plain old boring folks who talk about how the pool is of nice size. Once everyone is seated its up to someone to introduce themselves and break the awkward silence of sitting with 10 other people you would never have any interest in talking to. Politics discussion at the table is always sketchy and can lead to interesting outbursts and high fives. Sometimes the offended party will choose to leave the table for being offended usually by my old man who besides offending everyone, doesn’t seem to see the problem. Different generations I tell the folks who I know will get offended. This one time in a hotel in Cape Cod, which was a rather boring place I must say, my father said something of the not politically correct nature, like “Al Sharpton is a F—- bigot and should be burned at the stake” and the folks on the other end who were French and their son attended Harvard thought that it was a racists comment, to which my old man readily agreed and to add kishke to the cholent proclaimed the fact that he and everyone in the room was prejudice in some way, and tolerance was a farce. Well the family got up bowed their heads and asked to be seated at another table. Quite embarrassing for a 19 year old and his 16 year old brother don’t you think.
Communal seders go basically like this. A bunch of old folks with white teepee yarmulkes and their wives clenching their purses and wearing those white lacey coasters on their heads sing every classic seder song and in between a few token fols including my old man mumble the rest of the haggadah very quickly. My old man asks the people at the table to share something, but their dentures are hurting and the matzo is making them too constipated to care. My dad then complains about how no one does seders right by telling seepor yitziyas mitzryim, he’s right but me and my borther are just trying to make eyes with a couple of girls on other table to listen to his old man ranting.
That first hotel in West Virginia was followed by Pesach spent in Cap Cod, and then two years spent at Mount Washington in New Hampshire obviously the best place if you know me. Spending Pesach in a hotel surrounded by endless National Forest, tons of skiing, hiking and biking is like Shangri la for me. I would always try to get girls whom I met at the hotels to come hiking with me but of course as I would begin to learn later in life. Religious girls from everywhere would rather sit around and chill then hang out in the woods surrounded by G-ds wonders. But the same things happen at all the hotels in my experience. The first night of the seder all the kids would get to know each other, someone would figure out hw they were all connected and then others would know each other from “last years” hotel. Then someone would grab a deck of cards and that’s what folks did for the first two days of yom tov. In the midst of this one or two couples would form and a very small percentage of kids would get any action. We all wanted it, but most folks including me never seemed to garner up some kissy-kissy or feely-feely during our Pesach vacation. I have heard its easier in Miami. One year my brother did get some, he was 16 and had met a 19 year old Stern girl, lucky bastard. Yeh she was nasty, but hey better than nothing right?
The food makes the hotel. When it comes down to it, the amenities or area is second to the food simply because for four days of yom tov and or shabbos all you do is eat. The whole shachris held in a makeshift shull in a conference room with moveable walls is spent thinking about what the food will be like. The first chance to check out the food is the welcome tea room, a good sampling of food and the type of folks that were at the hotel. My father would always choose the hotel based on who they were marketing to. If it said non-gebrokts, separate swimming only or any other detail which would scare away a diverse group of people he would veto it automatically. He wanted to come in and see yeshivish folks, modern people and the non-religious crowd all under one roof. The best food by far was in West Virginia, and after that we spent a Pesach near Stroudsburg, Pa, which according to my dad had too much choice. He is simple give him some slivovitz a piece of matzo and some herring and he’s set, the old school eaters. I need a plethora of choice, I like walking in and getting horny from all the food placed out before me, stacking my plate so that the oil and other sauces drip over the sides and you can’t tell what is going on under all of that matzo lasagna. By far the worst food was in Mount Washington, which sucked because the hotel and its surroundings were the best; they canceled each other out so to speak. The food at that hotel had this layer of goo on everything my brother and I countered by my dads screaming would always make the joke that it was man-goo, it was nasty to say the least, everything looked like I was slathered in mucus, tzimis, Hawaiian chicken, even the cholent, how can cholent have the same viscosity as a piece of okra?
The other great food experience was towards the end of Pesach usually the last day when they decided to get rid of all the leftovers and have a huge buffet. On a few instances my brother and I got into fights with old women who pushed us out of the way to get to the feast. One year I shoved a women who had pushed me and when I shoved her she fell over a table and everyone looked at me like I was crazy, they were probably right, but my 18 year old ego had been hurt and I wanted that last potato latke which she had stolen.
Another interesting food event happened one year in New Hampshire, I had decided to take a bunch of these toffee crunch things they had one afternoon in the tea room. Tea room by the way is a fancy way of saying stale Pesach cake made of coconuts and sliced fruit laid out all day long for the people watching CNN, which some non-religious person turned on in the bar where the tea room is. So an old lady angrily commented on how American kids are so rude and have no manners by referring to me and my basket of toffee crunch, to which I responded that she is a Nazi. Oh how that offended her, she started yelling and fussing and proceeded to according to my brother check through my jacket when I had gone to the bathroom. My brother confronted her and asked her why she was in my things, she said that I should be arrested for offending her and so on. So after a few days, my brother over heard her talking about me with her friend an older man that was apparently around 70. My bro decided to set the record straight and instead the old man punched my bro in the face. Bro of course has a huge ego, sorry bro, and he proceeded to punch the man back, then the man punched my bro and then my brother knocked him out- of course no one saw the initial hits and my bro was seen by a fairly large number of suburban Jewish types who have never been to the ghetto or public school, hit this poor defenseless old ma for no apparent reason. Uproars and all sorts of things followed by me and my brother being given strange looks b y everyone for the rest of Pesach. This combined with the fact that both me and my bro sported hair down to our shoulders at the time added insult to injury.
Cape Cod sucked, I was all excited to be staying in Hyannis of all places, but after a few days there I realized that all it was, was stores and beaches of white sand that didn’t do it for me. Hyannis did have a huge concrete bowl but it was closed for the season. The only entertaining part was driving to Boston, Providence and Provincetown which is on the tip of the cape. I went to Provincetown with my dad who heard they had cool art and architecture. They did, but no one told us and especially him that almost 100% of the population in Provincetown is Gay. That was embarrassing, I love the gays they crack me up but my old man born in 1938 has something offensive to say about everyone. He kept saying that the biggest problems with these “fags” are that they are sooooo Liberal. Problem is he kept saying it so everyone in a 20 foot radius could hear, so it was quite embarrassing, luckily gays are not the beat you up in the back of the alleyway types.
I will keep adding to this as I think of more memories.