Yesterday was yet another beautiful Spring day in New York. Temperatures were in the low 50s when I started my 45 minute run and in the low 60s when I ended my slog. The sky is a clear lapis lazuli with nary a cloud. In short, it was a perfect day for a run. Except, of course, for the tourists who are everywhere, blocking every path you can conceivably run on.
One of the signs of our civilization's downfall is that people no longer know how to walk. Three-quarters of them have their faces buried in some sort of hand-held device and the final quarter are pushing strollers the size of a Russian T-34 tank.
The worst, in my opinion are the people who walk every which way on the Jackie Onassis reservoir, turning New York's best place for running into an obstacle course. I run there because my knees, after 32 years of looping the track, are painful. The soft, cinder surface suits perfectly my permanently pained patella, so I battle the tourists while I shuffle round and round the 1.557-mile loop.
Uncle Slappy called after I got home from my run. And though I wasn't necessarily in the mood for the Slappy show, I took the call anyway.
"Schmendrick," he began as he almost always does, the pejorative serving as a term of endearment, "did I ever tell you about Shecky Weinstock? The man had angles. He was always figuring out a way to beat the system."
"I don't know him, Uncle Slappy." I settled into my chair, put my feet up on the ottoman and got ready to hear one of Slappy's Byzantine legends.
"Weinstock was the last of the original goniffs," Slappy began using the Yiddish word for thief. "He lived to get something for nothing."
"I know the type," I interjected, mostly to give Uncle Slappy a chance to catch his breath.
"He was actually arrested once and sentenced to three to five years for impersonating a Koshering Rabbi. He would sell bogus Kashruth certificates to restaurants that couldn't otherwise pass a Kosher test. Commuted.
"But none of this explains how Shecky got his nickname, 'Shaky Shecky Weinstock.' For about ten years after he retired Shecky spent most of his weekends attending shivas."
A shiva is a mourning therapy for the close friends and families of a deceased Jew. It usually involves some fairly spectacular corned beef sandwiches and sponge cakes from Ben's down in the garment district.
"Shecky would crash these shivas and make with the hollow leg. He'd pretend he was on the other side of the family and make off with enough sandwiches to keep himself fat and happy for a week. Sponge cake, the man swam in.
"But I still haven't explained how he came to be called 'Shaky Shecky.' Shiva sandwiches are great--but Shecky needed cash as well. He was living on a fixed income and things were tight. You can't blame the guy really. He needed a couple of dimes to rub together to see a movie, go to a ballgame or put two dollars on the nose of."
"I think I see where this is going," I said to Uncle Slappy, hoping to speed this along.
"So Shecky would show up at a Bris--a circumcision--as a mohel with Parkinson's disease. He would reach into his Bris kit for his scalpel and start shaking like Katherine Hepburn in an earthquake.
"The parents would freak, of course, a mohel with Parkinson's and just to get rid of him would hand Shecky a check for $125. Shecky would apologize--say he was steady as a rock, really--but in the end, he'd take the money, a few sandwiches and run."
"Thus is born," I said, "the legend of Shaky Shecky Weinstock."
Slappy paused for a moment and cleared, dramatically, his phlegm.
"I forget why I called" he said, hanging up the phone.