Thursday, January 6, 2022

A kibitz.

Since Monday, my wife and I have decamped to Turks and Caicos for our first vacation since the plague began. Of course, Uncle Slappy and Aunt Sylvie are in tow. And along with them, a cooler bag stuffed with the New York pastries and things Sylvie and Slappy cherish. It was small feat getting rugelach and such through customs, but my wife has her comestible wiles and she succeeded.

Uncle Slappy slept late today and did not emerge from our the second bedroom in our suite and start clanging dishes in our kitchenette until 4:15AM. Like all members of the withering Tannenbaum clan, we are early risers. Many of us, myself included, have done a day's work or more by the time most people are finishing their second cuppa Joe.

Uncle Slappy, always quick with a bon mot or two puts it this way, "I have the sleep habits of a Gloucester fisherman. And the aroma." That's good enough for me and there's no sense trying to top that most seminal of the Delphic maxims: "Know Thyself."

As Uncle Slappy was pouring his first cup of viscous black coffee, I pulled up a chair and sat at the table. Early morning talks with the old man are a currency that surpasses in value Etherium, BitCoin or even S&H Green Stamps.

"Boychick," he began between bites of his first of three cinnamon rugelach. "An idea I have for a new business. Something we could do together. Have fun with during our waning days as visitors to this benighted planet."

"I'm not too crazy these days about Earth either," I said. "As Preston Sturges wrote in "Palm Beach Story," 'That's one of the tragedies of this life. That the men most in need of a beating up are always enormous.' I'm thinking of course of people who shall remain nameless."

"But," Uncle Slappy said while rugelaching, "I have a solution. We open a room--I'm thinking East 23rd Street Area, or Murray Hill..."

"How is Murray?" I interjected.

open a room," he ignored, "a small place. We call it the Kibitz Room. A few sofas, a few tables and chairs, an urn of coffee, maybe a pitcher of Tang (it has more Vitamin C than orange juice) and old-fashioned seltzer in spritz bottles. And a blackboard."

"A blackboard?"

"On the blackboard, we write one word. The word of the day. Anyone who wants to play, pays $10 or $20. And we kibbitz about that word or topic. The whole thing is filmed. We upload on YouTube. Boom. A billion subscribers."

"I'm not entirely following," I admitted.

"Say it's Wednesday. I write on the blackboard the word 'screen door.' The kibbitzing that day is all about screen doors."

"My wife's cooking is so bad, the flies in the backyard are chipping in to repair the screen door."

"How can you tell a Polish submarine?..."

"We embrace the ethnic joke?"

"Yes," Uncle Slappy said, ignoring the very idea of self-censorship. "The Polish submarine is the one with the screen door on the conning tower." 

"The subject du jour is screen doors."

"Yes, then a guy like Medium Murray takes over. He could keep an audience rapt for thirty-minutes with a screen door story."

Uncle Slappy had three friends named Murray. Medium Murray is the medium-heighted of the three.

"He is a good storyteller," I admitted. "And he's no stranger to the art of the digression."

"The next day, we change the topic. We kibitz that day about indoor-outdoor carpeting. I promise you, we could fill a day. Easily."

The old man paused for a moment. He took a large bite of a rugelach and then a long sip of coffee. The pause was as well-timed and dramatic as anything by Shakespeare's Lear or Macbeth or Iago or Portia.

"If push comes to shove, we change the topic to wives."

He paused again.

"That might be good for a month. Please.”

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