Sunday, January 3, 2016

Bagels on the Pacific.

Years ago, say when Americans were first entering into space, I first entered into the world of the Jewish deli. My guide was not Werner Von Braun or Robert Goddard. My pathway into the illuminated world of procuring lox and pickled herring and chubs and baked salmon, were the Castor and Pollux of the smoked fish universe: My old man and my Uncle Slappy.

Old Jews teaching young Jews how to get fish on Sunday morning might be as old as Jewry itself. It probably predates bowing down to a golden calf or the synthetic ritual of the Bar Mitzvah. It is an introduction into the golden arts of Judaism: the kibbitz, the schtickle and the tall tale.

For nearly 60 years now I have accompanied older men on Sunday morning to buy fish. I have, as is my religious and cultural responsibility, indoctrinated my daughters into this society. And I did it once again this morning, of course, with Uncle Slappy.

You might ask, how did you find lox on Wailea?

But like many old Jews (myself included) we have a sixth sense for lox, like Walter Huston's wizened old prospector in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Yes, we can smell the stuff.

We can smell it past cans of spam. We can smell it through pasteurizing, homogenizing and blanderizing. We know when lox is nearby.

You might say we are lox seeking missiles.

Uncle Slappy directed me from the passenger's seat of the red Camaro I was renting.

"Left. Sharp right. Left. Left."

And suddenly we had found it.

A small neon sign in between a Post Office express and a Scuba Shop.

"Luau Bagels. 'Handrolled from Brooklyn to Wailea."

It was a touch of home in the tropics.

Hand-sliced lox. Sable. Smoked whitefish. Three kinds of cream cheese (including tofu.)

Uncle Slappy got to talking to the counterman. Part of the aforementioned kibbitz kulture.

"I'm Lou Weintraub," he said. "I moved here with my brother after Vietnam and opened up a bagel shop. My brother Al Weintraub.

"Lou-Al quickly became Luau. And you could say an institution was born."

He handed Uncle Slappy a schtickle of lox on a small slice of bagel and gave me one too.

"Not bad," said Uncle Slappy.

"We had some lean years," Weintraub said. "But we've been here 40 years and business has never been better.'

We dropped about $120. Not hard to do on Hawaii and in a deli.

And had ourselves a breakfast Luau.

Or Lou-Al.

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