Wednesday, March 31, 2010

passover pain

I thought my 100th post would be something special. Instead, here it is, a brief riff on an aching heart tilting toward pain.

The weather up north is rotten, I hear. The weather here couldn’t be more perfect. Blue skies, a cool breeze, even a day off. Over at Ed Smith stadium, close enough for me to walk to, folks are gathering to watch the Orioles play the Red Socks. A festival atmosphere abounds as I drive passed to Publix. It could be my very own Yankees and I’d still remain untouched.

I pick up a few things at the store, lingering a bit at the Passover table with its giant boxes of matzos et al. I throw a container of Streits chocolate non pareils into my bag—a favorite of my moms.

Yesterday, I stopped at Whole Foods and spurlged on a serving of prepared brisket for dinner.

The cashier wishes me “happy Easter.” I flinch inside, although I am certainly not an observant Jew.

I am not happy. Tears cascade down my cheeks on the short ride home.

I miss my family. The large extended family that was and the little which remains, scattered much like the Jews of old. The pull of ritual is embedded in my DNA. The sights, the smells, the sounds of Passover Seders past are extremely sharp this year. They do not fade with time.

It’s that simple.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

adventures in bookselling—sex


Seriously, though. Among the store sections that most of us HATE to straighten is the SEXUALITY section. It’s located—either by accident or design—on the far side rear of the store. Walk back there at any time and you’re likely to find bunch of crusty ol’ guys or giggling young would-be studs—depending on the time/day of the week.

For some reason I can’t fathom, the Kama Sutra comes wrapped in glossy, bright red paper, which naturally gets pulled off by those I search of, shall we say, enlightenment of the sexual nature. OK, so maybe pulling off a wrapper is no big thing, But why CONTINUE to take them off? It’s all the same book, folks.

(An aside: as a young child my mother would often return from shopping with a box wrapped in blue and white striped paper. When I inquired as to what it was, she replied “napkins.” For years, I wondered why our paper table napkins came gift wrapped. Only to discover in my early teens that Modess wrapped their sanitary napkins in that paper for discretion, I assume. Like anybody who knew what a sanity napkin was, wouldn’t recognize the paper, eh? Let’s hear it for the 1950s.)

Back to the 21rst century, people.

So the other day I’m heading to the head and glance down at an attractive, obviously enamored young couple, laying all over each other in one of our large armchair. As I’ve said before, many of our “customers” confuse our store with their living rooms.

I can’t help but notice the book splayed in front of the them—which they are studying—displays an intimate coupling I’ve never been limber enough to attempt, even in my youth.

“Hey guys,” I say softly, bending over. They look up, the girl turning scarlet. “No worries about me,” I add. “But the way you are sitting, anyone heading to the restroom will get a full view. You may want to switch to the chair on the other side of the table."

When I come out of the restroom, they smile and wave from the other seat.

Now for something completely different. A small case of sexual confusion.

A colleague adopted a tiny kitten a short time ago, which he named Bea Arthur. He would often regale us with tales of the trials of bringing up a toddler cat.

Last week I saw him sitting in the break room and inquired as to what Bear Arthur was up to. He grimaced a bit before explaining he had noticed during one of his daily bathing (Yes, his pet was bathed daily.) , something odd. Upon further examination, Bea turned out to be Bentley.

Who knew?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

grief in the time of facebook

This is not suppose to happen, at least not to someone I know. It’s something I hear Nancy Grace screeching about.

This is a television episode, one of those ubiquitous crime series, like the now defunct Without a Trace.

But it is real, and it is close. As close as my F
acebook page.

Last week, a posting from my dear friend Carol in Point Pleasant, NJ, simply stating that her nephew Martin Molinski, 26, living and working in Bermuda, had apparently gone for a swim in 60-degree surf before work—and disappeared leaving only his clothing on the beach.

Less than 2 hours later, her daughter had the Find Martin Molinski ASAP page up on fb. Not only did family and friends chime in, but the lead detective and island residents did also. The local paper posted the link on its front page.

The search lasted four days.

The body of the young man washed ashore on Sunday, and the fb page morphed into a memorial site, with stories and photos.

Overwhelmed with the need to hear my friend’s voice, I called, noting her phone must be ringing off the hook.

“Not really,” she replied. “Facebook took care of that.”

So it did. Facebook allowed her family, strewn over multiple continents, to come together in a comprehensive way, to grieve together virtually, in a manner they would never have been able to do without the much maligned social networking site.

THIS is what I love about fb. You don’t have to be Michael Jackson. Anyone can create community. Yes, a lot of it is silly and time wasting. I just ignore it.

In this electronic age, age-old rituals need not be forsaken due to time and distance. This is no small thing. Maybe it’s the Jew in me, but ritual exists for a reason. It connects, it amplifies joy, it gets us through the unfathomable—until we find the strength inside to go on.

This young man--a master carpenter taking time from his craft to figure out his future—was waylaid by death. I don’t pretend to know why.

I am grateful, however, my friend has her fb family at this time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

singing american pie

I break into song at the slightest provocation.
OK, so oftentimes with no provocation.

When I was growing up, we just sang with gusto around house, in the car, wherever. I thought everyone did. Needless to say, I soon learned otherwise.

When my children were young, it humiliated them. As they grew, they responded with snide remarks, sneers and the reaching over to increase the volume of the car radio. Even as adults, that hasn’t changed.

What has changed is me. I no longer care. As I’ve gotten older, the opinion of others, including me darlin’ offspring, matter less...and less. I’ve now reached an age where Simon Cowell could be sitting before me, rolling his eyes and I doubt it would touch me.

I will add here that I have a pleasant enough alto voice. Think Karen Carpenter, with dashes of Ethel Merman and a sprinkle of Judy Garland. People—not related to me—have commented favorably.

This is a good, as I often handle story time duties in my bookstore kids department. And I sing. I find it easier to keep the kids’—and their parents’—attention. And I freely confess I enjoy it. The tunes are simple. The standard children stuff to which I add Puff the Magic Dragon and the Marvelous Toy, all books. I often require participation and receive it. Occasionally, I indulge my yen to play Adeline in Guys & Dolls by including Bushel and a Peck which is also now a children’s book.

Back to Don McLean’s American Pie, a VERY long narrative tune from back in the day, written as an ode –“The day the music died”-- commemorating the death of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper in that famous Feb. 3, 1959 plane crash.

When it comes on the car radio oldies station, I naturally sing along. If I get to where I’m going, I just keep sitting there, singing, until its done. (The same is true at traffic lights, by the way.) In the spirit of full disclosure, I add that I don’t just sit there, I emote.

Yupper, that’s me.
I’m that crazy lady sitting in her car singing out loud—and strong.

So sue me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

more adventures in bookselling

In the spirit of my previous post, I continue with the latest list of quirky bookselling experiences.

I recently went to customer service to relieve a young bookseller for her 15-minute break. She was on the phone with a customer and online, frantically scrolling up and down on Ticketmaster.

“I’m sorry, I can’t find a phone number,” she kept repeating to the woman, who apparently refused to accept the fact that she would have to call information herself. At least I was there to witness that the bookseller wasn’t online purchasing concert tickets, should she have been questioned.

None of us is immune from these over reaching customer demands. Our store manager told me of a phone call in which a customer refused to be convinced she could not print out her airline boarding passes in the store after accessing them on our free wifi because THERE IS NO PRINTER.

I was on the phone with an elderly man the other day who wanted to order a book sent to his house, but did not want to give me his credit info on the phone, as required.

“I would go to Amazon,” he said, “but there’s none near me.”

While working café register for breaks, I asked a customer what she would like.

“I’ll have a large tai chi.”

With a smile, I suggested a large chai tea instead. She burst out laughing,

Back in my kids department one hectic Saturday, the Thomas Train Table was crowded with tots of varying ages jostling each other. A burly woman yelled across at me, waving closed Thomas cars packages.

“Do you have a scissors to open these?”

“No, ma’am I’m not allowed a scissors in this department, nor am I permitted to open up items until they are purchased. I’m sure they will be glad to open them at the cash register.”

As half a dozen stunned parents watched, she ripped open the packages so her children could play with them at the train table, since she “forgot to bring in her own.”

When she complained about me to a manager, the other customers leapt to my defense.

Oh, then there was the fellow who called asking if anyone had seen his dentures.

Who says life among the books is dull?

To be continued...