Shabbos Nachamu Singles Shabbaton: Thoughts and Inquiries

I could not hear the Rabbi from my seat at all, in fact I couldn’t even see him considering the fact that the lights were in romantic setting mode, they were turned way down and combined with the drone of the older Rabbi and the dark color of the room itself I let myself gradually fall asleep. It was a comforting sleep, one of those sleeps that only seem to happen around kabalas shabbos that signals the week is over and I can concentrate on filling my stomach, chilling and sleeping.

I was jolted awake by the Rabbi as he loudly stated with unwavering vigor something to the line of NA-CHA-MU, NA-CHA-MU. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about- besides the fact that it was shabbos nachamu, the way he said it was comical in a way and reminded me of the rather popular TV commercial for Washington Mutual Bank that has this whole room of naked old m en saying WA-MU and how easy it is to open up an account online. Thank God the theater that the makeshift shull had been set up in was not full of old naked white guys, or maybe that’s what jolted me awake a nightmare along those lines possibly.

I was seated on the top row of the theater, a beautiful room where one may have expected to see Charlie Parker playing on stage with his band. It had this 1950’s jazz hall feel to it. Tables set up with those little candles flickering long shadows of folks wearing hats tapping their feet on the walls. Ladies in white gloves with long cigarettes sat and gossiped while some black bell hops in white suits with gold buttons waited on them, giving them tonic waters and martinis as they enjoyed some of the Catskills best live entertainment. Whoever thought there would be a few hundred mostly older singles davening out of blue birnbaums instead of some world class entertainment. But that’s how most of the Catskills hotels met their demise, the younger generation made fun of the older and while older folks just wanted the borsht belt to return to its glory days of the 40s and 50s the younger generation flew to hotter and more wild destinations, leaving the borsht belt to the weeds and ultra orthodox Jews who took over the decaying hotels and turned them into, well, decaying bungalow colonies.

Kutchers and the Nevele are two of the remaining hotels I can think of. I remember going to the Concord and Browns as a kid. I never appreciated them in all their grandeur during their decimation of the late 80s. But Kutchers is something else, it is slowly dying trying to fend off its inevitable death, crumble and eventual sale to some Chasidic group by holding singles events and having the over 80 year old crowd stay in its decaying rooms.

I marveled the whole weekend at how the hotel is a perfect example of post war architecture, it resembles in larger scale all the old road side motels with their neon blinking signs and swooping curves and large played out triangles. The baby boomer architecture is great. I love the square fixtures and the old furniture and carpets. The flamingo themes are great as well.

As a child I used to accompany my father to many singles events, I was always the child in tow, sitting at a table with a bunch of older singles, divorcees and widows. It was never interesting, in fact I always hated when these women who were hitting on my dad would pinch my cheeks and say, oh he’s so cute, enough is enough I always though to myself. I would say that this was my first singles event that I accompanied my dad to that I could have potentially been a normal guest. It also made me beg the good Lord to never make me endure one of these things like many of the guests go through all the time. It also made me realize how amazing it is to be young, vibrant and happy with life.

We sat at a random table since there was unassigned seating. My father, brother and I, made hamotzy and picked at the meager usual offerings on the table. Seltzer, salad that had seen better days and a piece of gefilte fish that was definitely not how bubby made it. A couple folks sat down and the awkward meal began. Two very weird ladies, one of whom was a speech therapist that my father started jokingly saying didn’t help me out when I stuttered back in the day. My old man is the chief person you want at your table if you want to get deeply offended. This women in fact got deeply offended and tried to change the subject. The old man, the goal of a family vacation is for the parents to embarrass their children as much as possible, well he just went on and on. I remember one time he offended some family so much with his right wing banter that 3 people left and requested a new table.

Let me get something straight, my father aint single, he has been dating one women for quite some time and we are waiting for the inevitable marriage- so we can get some gifts or something. I think my father became so accustomed to the singles scene that he wants to hang onto his years spent at these awkward events talking to weird men and women for kicks. I cannot figure out any other reason why my father would attend a singles event, well, actually he also likes to reminisce about the good old days in the Catskills, before the mockies as he calls them, took over.

I am bored sitting at my table and trying to find some young folks, folks under 40 lets just say and I see the table next door has some fine looking younger ladies. I look closer and see that I know some dude on the table from my high school. In fact I have not seen this kid since 1996, very coincidental. After out fast paced 5 minute conversation of our memories, he flat out turned around and started getting all touchy feely with his dinner partner. Pretty shmucky thing to do may I say. So I strike up a conversation with this guy who may have been trying to grow a mullet, though I cannot be sure. Suddenly a couple girls come by and introduce themselves and ask me if I want to go to a party. Fine with me, and so started the first of many.

Are you old enough to be here?
No teenagers allowed.
Man you should hang out with my kids.

These lines and lines like these were repeated so many times over the weekend I started getting pissed. I really don’t get pissed much, but it did get way out of hand, even though there were several folks under 30, my brother and I each look at least 5-7 years younger then our actual ages. Someone even thought I was 16, usually I pass for at least 19.

The “party” is something that apparently goes on at singles events everywhere. Rich guy gets fancy hotel room and tries to get laid by inviting everyone in the hotel to drink and see how nice the non-ghetto rooms are. It was quite nice actually with a sauna and hot tub, and tubs full of beer, jello shots and mikes hard lemonades (which is funny because 2 weeks ago I saw a CRC bulletin that said they were not kosher)

So I sit on the couch, grab some ice and start crunching it between my teeth. For some reason everyone decides they are shadchunim and try and figure out who they know under 30. Funny because older singles constantly complain about this exact thing. Instead of thinking for suitable matches, people trying to fin someone for older singles tend to think that age is all that matters. So older singles tend to get set up with folks totally unsuitable save for the similar ages they have.

I have decided that based on the 100s of random conversations I did have with some very nice singles, I think older singles are way more interesting then younger ones. The younger ones concentrate too much on crappy conversation centered on who they know, where they went to school and where they live. While the older folks tend to have a more genuine interest in seeing if they are compatible with each other.

It is easy to strike up conversation since the party is a complete sausage fest to start, there are maybe 3 girls and 20 guys so I start talking to some dude chilling next to me. He is 29 and from Boro- Park but has since shed the look, not too old I think to myself, though he thinks I am still in high school. It bugged me that based on my young looks folks would not give me the time of day, they simply said, aw how cute or some dumb line like that. If they didn’t do that, they almost always had some girl in mind for me, someone “my age” who they knew through a friend, though they didn’t know anything about me or the girl.

I started talking with this girl I met in the lobby while checking in, I then started meeting a whole slew of folks who were rather interesting. This one rather cute young looking girl who looked familiar was the catch of the night and turned out she was an avid outdoors person. Of course I threw it all out the window when I did eventually ask how old she was and she said she wouldn’t tell me.

HERE IS WHERE RANT: She obviously thought I was too young for her, turns out she was like 35 and divorced- so probably yes- but nevertheless this was my first experience with a bunch of folks who would not reveal their age. I think it is a lack of confidence and too much caring about what someone thinks. If someone with good potential would dismiss me because of age matters. I am not talking about me and a 35 year old wom en because that is understandable, I am talking about folks in their 30s and 40s who will not say their age due to embarrassment. I think that is plain old crap. I of course am young and naïve- so I am sure some of you older ladies can tell me the real scoop. My opinion is this, if you are cool and confident you should reveal your age and if the person rejects you solely based on age- they can go screw themselves.

Then I decided to leave and go upstairs to the ice breaker. The ice breaker was a huge circle of about 100 people sitting on folding chairs facing the center of the circle where 8 judges sat. Each person in the circle would stand up when their turn came and say the 3 things that were most important to them. Seems pretty good eh, well after 3 people I realized that the ice breaker was more of ice maker then breaker due to the simple fact that if you put 100 people of similar religions and purposes for being at a “singles” shabbaton they mostly have the same 3 things. Religion, getting married, family, God, children, friends, career and so on… What a shitty way to break the ice, I thought after hearing the 10 person in a row say religion. They should have made the same ice breaker and said tell the audience 3 interesting things about yourself.

Of course there was one girl that got up and immediately busted out the “Hi I am Ilene and I am an alcoholic”, yes it was very funny considering how lame everyone else was. One guy said nature, another guy said the Mets, but mostly it was the same. You could tell a persons political leanings if they said caring about other people and some multi cultural diversity stuff straight out of a political debate speech.

When my brother got up the crowd erupted with Laughter “Hi I am Charlie and I am 23, and my dad is one of the judges in the center of the room.” The judge thing was random, and yes my dad was making fun of everyone’s answers, my dads answer to the question was “my two sons and a blat gemara”, classic pop.

Apparently my brothers little tidbit about himself and his age made him famous amongst the older ladies, who all kept coming up to him with their shidduch suggestions. My brother is more of a cynic and I am more of a sarcastic. He would just lambaste the suggestions asking the people if they knew anything about him other then his age and height, he is 5”4 as opposed to my 6”0 stature.

When I got up the room once again erupted with laughter and I could hear a few people say, oy they must be brothers. I wanted so badly to say that the ice breaker sucked and instead I said sucked it up and said Judaism, family and my outdoors lifestyle. The guy next to me with this long flowing gray beard also said something similar so I struck up a conversation with him. Turns out he is this huge solo backpacker, he definitely did not belong at the shabbaton and while I didn’t say anything we could both relate to each other with our similar passions. He had just gotten back from Isle Royal National Park in Lake Superior- the least visited national park in the country. He has sectioned hiked most of the AT and he is going to Glacier NP next month.

I walked into shull a bit late shabbos morning and it was exactly like many shulls I have been to in NYC, you could not hear anything over the hum of people talking. Pretty much everyone was talking and they were out of siddurs, I saw a lone siddur on a table and took it- then suddenly two guys are accusing me of “stealing” the siddur. Don’t go anywhere with that siddur they proclaimed interrupting their loud conversation fro a couple moments. I responded in kind and asked if I could please daven on the side, they refused and my next response was that I couldn’t daven when they were talking as if they were at a baseball game and not at shull. They responded and said they hoped they would be entertainment while I davened. Jacob recently talked about how he doesn’t like to go to shull, and I have to say, if I lived in the NY area I probably wouldn’t go either, the talking and social scenes are just not a place to daven.

I finished up my daveing and walked outside to the lobby with my bro. At kutchers this weekend were two groups, the Flakey Jake group of mostly singles, and a whole bunch of folks with walkers, pace makers, oxygen tanks and daily pill packets. In the lobby there was a morning aerobics class going on. A bunch of women and one rather large man lifted their arms and did breathing exercises while a man who could have been the senior citizens answer to Richard Simmons, was leading them on and in a gay voice told them how good this would be for them. He played tapes on a small boombox, the electric slide and other classic 70s and 80s workout tunes blared through the speakers and he lead this rather odd looking bunch on a number of workout routines. One women wore this shorts and jacket that was bright blue and straight off the rack at foot locker from 1985, while the large man wore a pair of jeans shorts with a black t-shirt tucked in. My bro and I sat on chairs thumping out feet and pretending we were in one of those late night Chuck Norris commercials trying to sell the revolutionary Bowflex. The people on their way to shull stopped and stared, I wanted to get in but wasn’t sure if that was correct. The instructor started talking about how important fruits and veggies were, but he warned that grapefruit could not be taken if you were on Lipitor, then everyone started saying, oy vey my Lipitor, it was quite funny. Like Grumpy Old Men take a vacation in the Catskills movie or something.

My bro and I started talking with these girls we met at the party and received the most blatant cock block of all time. There we sat on these U-shaped couches chilling with these decent looking girls and these two guys mosey up and start talking to the girls, I sit for five minutes until I feel so stupid that I get up and leave. There is nothing as awkward as a two way cock block, that is when the guy initiates the cock block and then the girls want to talk to the cock blockers more then they want to talk to you, it is quite humiliating I must say.

If any of you made it this far you must be wondering when is Hesh going to get to the food. After all this is a hotel and hotels have food, so Hesh must have been in heaven, he must have been slobbering and gasping for air as he chowed down on some great fancy food. Well the lack of food talk is for a reason, due to unforeseen circumstances the hotel food at this particular hotel resembled leftover Pesach food. Everything pretty much sucked in my opinion and many other folks whom I interviewed. The younger folks who are used to Thursday nights at Le-Merais and dining out at nice restaurants in NY were all in agreement that the food was just plain old bad. I did eat and enjoy the brisket on Friday night and the veggie cutlet on shabbos day, but enjoy is relative, due to the fact that I did not pay for the hotel and was treated it makes a big difference. I would have been pissed if I had paid for it.

I slept through the speed dating on shabbos afternoon, deciding that the age range of 21-39 was rather large and didn’t want to speed date folks who were old enough to be my mom. I am curious, what do you guys think of the whole speed dating thing???

Right after havdalah I walked into the lobby and could hear disco coming through the doors of the bar right next to the lobby. Inside the bar were folks still in their shabbos outfits getting their boogie on. I guess I was shocked at first to see a whole bunch of folks in skirts and yarmulkes dancing together, one couple actually resembles two coke heads from the 70s, snorting lines from the bathroom floor of studio 54. Okay that funky music white boy was blaring and even I could hardly resist the need to shake my booty out on the floor. There was a whole crowd watching the scene including some of the token frummies who were at the hotel. The crowd was interesting, mostly folks who grew up yeshivish and then became modern, at least that’s what it seemed like from all the yeshvish lingo and Yiddish being tossed around. It was a modern scene mostly, there were no barbed wire fences around the pool and mixed swimming hours were short. Folks wore shorts on shabbos afternoon and the few black hats could be picked out real quick.

After attempting to find the scene in Woodbourne on motzoi shabbos, my bro and I returned to the hotel which was having a pizza and ice cream party. It is sad to say but the frummy rebel scene in Woodbourne on shabbos nachamu is gone. The pizza party was weird, everyone had changed out of their shabbos clothes and you could see how modern or frummy everyone liked to portray themselves as. I personally think that guys wearing shorts and t-shirts and girls wearing pants doesn’t really portray anything, but girls wearing cleavage shirts and mini-skirts and guys wearing muscle shirts with gold chains is another story.

The pizza sucked, good thing because I had just eaten in both pizza stores in Woodbourne. The music also sucked, but there was a dude spinning bass thumping music and a few folks were dancing, it was super weird. I guess I have flowed in the yeshiva/chabad/BT/ no category scene for so long and have missed out on all the mixed dancing. I guess its weird for me to see folks that identify as orthodox- doing things that are clearly not orthodox in “public”, privately everyone I know does stuff which aint too orthodox, but publicly- as Rebel would call them Fakerdox. Which is worse? I really real don’t know.

Well even weirder was the fact that the frummy crowd was in the lobby enjoying the soft sounds of a pianist who had a singalong of yeshiva tunes. Talk about segregation and definitely not abiding by the supreme courts original ruling of “separate but equal.”

I have to say it was an interesting weekend, the fact I didn’t pay and that I was not there specifically for the singles shabbaton kept my spirits up. If I had paid, I may have even opted to leave and try and find somewhere else to stay due to the horrible food and older crowd. I must also say that I appreciate End The Madness ten times as much now that I have seen what a “normal” singles shabbaton is like.

If anyone reading this attended the saw you at Sinai event this past weekend, I would love to hear about it. If you want you can be guest poster as well and share your views on it to the world.

Click Here and Here for my other two singles shabbatons