Friday, June 17, 2016

"Heading East - Friendly People And Unfriendly Skies"

Backstory:  We were invited to a Bat Mitzvah (a Bar Mitzvah for girls) in New York, and we decided, since we were already East, we would visit my family in Toronto. 

This report involves three components:  People, places, and planes. 

(I had thought about “shuffling the deck”, interweaving the disparate elements, but it seemed like a lot of work serving no practical purpose.  How’s that for a “laziness copout”?)

Our first night… well, it was actually not our first night, but more on that later.  (I am not too lazy to generate suspense.)

– Dinner with a substantial portion of my Canadian family, hosted by my brother’s gracious and capable offspring Jennifer.  Aside from my distributing gold American silver dollars to the children; I seem to invariably provide presents of money… because it is easy to pack, and because I personally like money – a memorable highlight of this wonderful reunion was being escorted upstairs to view grand-nephew Josh’s impressive array of sports trophies, an exceptional treat, I was told, as he rarely invites anyone up to his room.  (He must have appreciated the Turkish coinage I doled out on our previous visit.)  

– Reconnecting with my older brother , our lifelong relationship, eighty per cent genuine affection, twenty percent “Cain and Abel.”  (Possible faux pas.  At a subsequent deli lunch, when I was introduced to my brother’s acquaintance sitting at an adjacent table, the acquaintance said to him, “Hart, I have known you for forty years and I never knew you had a brother; where have you been keeping him?” To which I reflexively replied, “I’m the ‘White Sheep’ of the family.”  The subsequent laugh, though immediate, betrayed an uncomfortable undertone of “Ouch!”)

– Lunch with my Auntie Bea, a valuable repository of “Pomerantz Family History”, although she herself is a Pomerantz by marriage.  Though I’d been informed Auntie Bea was suffering troubling eye problems, of which she spoke nary a word of it when we were together.  Inconceivable to me, this behavior.  Complaining is the meat and potatoes of my repertoire.

– A sumptuous dinner with husband-and-wife friends of closing in on half a century, followed the next day by enjoying a Blue Jays game in their basement.  (On television.  It is too small for them to actually play there.) 

One of life’s underrated pleasures:

Comfortable companionship. 

Which gets better with age.  (Possibly the only experience that does.)

Sure, we also did stuff.

– We visited an outdoor market, once in the heart of Toronto’s Jewish community (with Sabbath-bound chickens hanging in the window), now in the heart of Toronto’s Chinese community (no visible chickens, but they might have possibly been in the back, “sweet and souring.”)

– We relaxed contentedly at the Toronto “beaches”, breezy and pristine.  (I have no idea why I put “beaches” in quotation marks.  They are actual beaches.)  When we departed, we stopped at nearby “Mary MacLeod’s”, a local emporium purveying mouthwatering shortbread.  Since Mary herself was absent from the premises, we were not treated – as we’d have been had she been present – to the traditional, on-the-house “Wee nibble.”

Although the tourist sites were highly enjoyable, it was the people we remember, the warming and wished-for re-connections.

Moving on…

New York and Toronto have one obvious element in common:  The streets in both of them were built for Nineteenth Century traffic. 

Nineteen Century Carriage Horse:  “And even then it was terrible turning around.  I mean, we’re not ballet dancers!” 

(In Toronto, the major streets are two-lane thoroughfares, and if you are driving in the right lane you could be blocked by a parked car and if you are driving in the left lane your progress is regularly impeded by a car in front of you turning left, those street becoming effectively no-lane thoroughfares.  In New York, you can sit in traffic until you die.  New York Cab Driver:  “There’s another fare I am not going to get!”)  

Our “New York Experience” included theater – which I shall talk about later – an abandoned elevated train line turned into a remarkable (although narrow) public park, excellent dinners, especially the steaks.   (In my view, New York steaks taste considerably better than Los Angeles steaks because the cows headed West were promised they’d be in the movies and when you eat L.A. steaks, you can taste the disappointment.)

Plus, of course, there was the primary purpose of our journey – the Bat Mitzvah itself.

First let me say that the “Bat Mitzvah Girl” was magnificent, impeccable in her prayer recitation and Torah reading, and unbelievable in her Midrash (a self-written commentary on that Saturday’s Torah portion.)  

The Bat Mitzvah celebration itself?

In an episode of Blue Bloods, the twelve year-old Catholic family member announces he is thinking of turning Jewish as a result of the lavish Bar Mitzvah celebrations he has experienced.  That fictional character may well have been imagining this one.  (If fictional characters can imagine actual Bat Mitzvahs.)

Had I bankrolled such an event, I’d have been required to seek immediate bankruptcy relief under “Chapter Eleven” and hide coweringly from my creditors.  Remember the “Lady Di” wedding?  I believe these were the same party planners.  Did I enjoy myself?  Absolutely.  Not the least because somebody else was footing the bill.)

I’m afraid I have outstayed my welcome for the moment.  I’ll have to bump the indignities of air travel to a separate post - “horror stories” not because they are rare but because they are outrageously typical.

Still, there are no “horror stories” like your own.

Feel free to offer personal favorites of your own.

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