Wednesday, August 6, 2008

"A Story About Jews"

This story is about Jews. But I imagine – and maybe you can confirm this – a similar story could be told about any group, of which you are a member, and with whom, through either impatience or embarrassment or something deeper, you sometimes become thoroughly exasperated, as only one member of a group can with those of his own tribe.

I heard this story from a guy name Lew, who’s moved on, but whom I loved and admired and thoroughly enjoyed. Lew was a self-taught musician, who could sit in comfortably with everything from jazz bands and symphony orchestras. Then, at an age of his choosing, he said, “That’s it” and stopped, never touching an instrument again.

Lew was smart, observant (not in the religious sense, in the “Look at that!” sense), Perelmanically witty, and crusty with a transparently mushy center. We used to watch westerns together. When I’d leave, Lew never failed to remind me to keep my power dry. In every way imaginable, Lew was, in the vernacular of his era – though he’d have a cleverer way of expressing it – aces. I miss him.

The story involves four musicians who happened to be Jewish, carpooling back from a benefit performance at a Jewish Home for the Aged, “benefit” meaning, they did it for nothing.

The musicians were unilaterally irate. The benefit had been a nightmare experience. The worst. And the blame, they all agreed, could be laid squarely at the feet of the audience – a hall full of unruly and obstreperous old Jews.

The postmortem of the disastrous incident went something like this:

“The noise! They just wouldn’t stop talking!”

“And we were performing there for nothing.”

“Shouting across the room. Arguing with their wives. Screaming at the waitresses.”

“’There’s no more cake!’”

“And we were performing there for nothing.”

“The man in the front row was snoring so loud, I could barely hear the music.”

“And they kept walking around the room. Where were they going? We were doing a show!”

“And we were performing there for nothing.”

“I’ll tell you this. I’ve been playing benefits for over thirty years. I’ve worked before every kind of audience you can think of. And, by far, Jewish audiences are the worst.”

To that point, Lew, the carpool’s driver, had remained silent, allowing his fellow band buddies to vent. Finally, he spoke up.

“I completely agree,” he concurred. The band members’ complaints, though ethnically unkind, were unquestionably on the money. “They're was rude, they were disrespectful, totally unappreciative of what we were doing for them.

“But what are you going to do?” he added.

“They’re the only Jews we’ve got.”


Max Clarke said...

Funny and wise.

Reminds me of a Cheers episode, when Carla refuses to fly and visit Eddie because she's afraid of flying. It's obvious Carla needs help overcoming her phobia. Carla and the guys at the bar debate whether to ask Frasier, they know him too well. Sam ends the debate by saying, "He's the only shrink we know."

Pidgy Gordon said...

Thanks for the sweet memories of my favorite curmudgeon (next to you, of course!) I'll never forget the sight of you two 'covering' each other behind the chairs in the living room as you watched Bonanza.....this sounds stranger than it was, but you know what I mean. The original Butch Cassidy and Sundance!