I was up early this morning having lost yet another round of my long-running fight against insomnia. I didn't mind, however, because Uncle Slappy was awake, listening to the BBC on the radio and sipping a demitasse-sized cup of thick, black coffee. He and Aunt Sylvie are heading back to Boca today (I've persuaded them to eschew the train and fly instead) and I welcome spending every minute I can with the old man. I never really got to know my own father, but knowing his brother has had its compensations.
Uncle Slappy was for over 50 years the Rabbi of a small Upper East Side congregation--Beth Youiz Maiwom Mannow--so he's given thousands of sermons. As you might expect, the man can tell a story like nobody's business.
"Did I ever tell you," he snuck to his story on little cat feet, "did I ever tell you about your distant cousin Moshe Schlesinger."
"I don't know him, Uncle Slappy."
"Well he's a cousin removed more times than beer stains from a frat-house sofa. But here's the thing about Cousin Moshe, Moshe was a blind mohel."
A mohel is a Jewish man trained to perform ritual circumcisions on Jewish boys eight days after they're born. Thus fulfilling a covenant with god.
"In my business, as you know, as a Rabbi, I was often asked to recommend a mohel. And Moshe, blind Moshe was the best I've ever seen. Moheling, after all," Slappy went on, "is all in the hands. It's not in the eyes. And Schlesinger had the hands of a god.
"You've heard of Maya Angelou. You've heard of Michelangelo. We called him Mosheangelo. He did in cock, what Michelangelo did in rock.
"The poet of the penis. Genghis Schlong, the Penis Genius, the Sultan of Schvanz they called him. He was a living legend. If Michelangelo had wanted David circumcised he would have called Mosheangelo. He was an artist. Without hesitation I recommended him.
"Naturally, life ain't easy for a blind mohel. Some parents couldn't make the leap of faith on Moshe. They heard he was blind and they'd go with a more conventional mohel choice. Mosheangelo hung up his scalpel about 20 years ago, sold his "bris kit" and opened two Carvel ice cream stores in the Bronx. Soft-serve you can also do blind. There are only two basic flavors."
I kept waiting for a point but Slappy stopped here and finished his coffee and shuffled off to the guest room--his bedroom, to finish packing.
He left with this exit line.
"It should be a quick flight back to Boca. It's straight downhill."