Monday, September 25, 2023


It is an affect of New York, maybe because it is such a challenging and exciting place to live that many people assign it so many epigrams.

It seems like half of New Yorkers call New York, with a great deal of New Yorkian arrogance, "The Greatest City in the World." Or the "Culture Capital of the World." Or the "Fashion Capital of the World." Or the "Finance Capital of the World."

Conversely and therefore negatively, you could call New York, the "Garbage Capital of the World," the "Income-Inequality Capital of the Year," the "Dog Shit Capital of the World," "the Vermin Capital of the World."

Or in homage to the great Sinatra anthem, "The City that Never Sweeps."

Amid this monikering-cacophony, one thing is certain, New York, without question is the "Kibbitz Capital of the World." 

Everybody in New York is funny. It's the only way to survive the place, and it's why eight-million New Yorkers strong exiled our ex-president to the mosquitos of LandFill, Florida where, I hope, he'll live out his days in gilded linoleum squalor.

While some might say New Yorkers walk faster, or as Thomas Wolfe, not the white suit guy, wrote that the electricity of New York travels by subway, or that taxis keep the city's life circulating, more than anything else, the current and the currency of the great metropolis is the twisted bon mot. Everyone has something to say, and everyone can be a recipient of those somethings if you're smart enough, aware enough and New York enough to hear them. 

Of course, it also makes sense to cross that bridge too far for most inhabitants of the modern world. If you really want to live a lively life in New York, you should look up from your phone. That's the modern equivalent, I suppose, of wearing sackcloth and ashes, or a hairshirt. It's too much to even imagine.

On a rainy Sunday before the Holiest Day of the Jewish year--the year Agency "DEI" people don't recognize because though Jews are only 1.5% of the population and are victims of over  50% of the rising wave of American hate crimes, we are not considered minorities or diverse. That that in and of itself is anti-semitic in my eyes will earn me rebuke. But WTF, it's Yom Kippur and rebuke and hate are as Jewish as a circumcision. And less painful.

In any event, my wife and I walked through the drizzle to the world's greatest food store, Zabar's. 

You go to Zabar's for the food. And for the laughter. And to see that this 11 billion-year-old planet keeps spinning. There's something life-affirming about that much life in one place. 

I've been going there since I was a little boy, watching my father kibbitz with the best of them as he ordered our Sunday schools of smoked fish and grabbed a handful of pistachios on the way out that would stain his fingers pink and with shells and a nut or two flying every which way like Soviet Katyusha missiles, behind the cushions of every seat within two-hundred miles of his slim Jewish ass.

Going to Zabar's just before Yom Kippur is like going to St. Peter's on Easter or Mecca during Ramadan. The whole world is there. The difference is at Zabar's they're waiting in line for lox. A salty absolution that ends in cosmic infarction.

Once there, I avoided the fish counter, and on the fiat of my wife got a ticket at the meats and prepared foods counter. They were on 36 when I got my ticket, which was 62, the number of home runs Aaron Judge hit last season, breaking Roger Maris' 1961 record of 61 and the Babe's 1927 record of 60.

By the time my number was called, John Glenn could have orbited the earth 12 times, or you could have gotten cross-town on the M79, but it was called, finally, and you take your victories how they come.

"62," Candido called.

"62," I responded waving my ticket like it was the starter's flag at the Indy 500. "D'ya wanna see it?" I asked Candido. "I had it notarized."

He waved me off like I was a fruit fly on a pastrami and began filling my order. 

"This must be your worst day of the year," I said. 

"It's bad for the fish guys," Candido answered. 

I had heard the line at the fish counter was over an hour-and-a-half long and someone had contacted MIT in an attempt to discover more numbers they could use on their paper tickets.

"It's bad for the fish guys," Candido repeated. "But they only work two days a year."

That's another thing about New York. We love a good internecine rivalry. Yankees vs. Met. Giants vs. Jets. West Side vs. East Side. Uptown vs. Downtown. Seeded vs. Plain. Fists vs. Chains. Chains vs. Knives. Knives vs. Guns. Jets vs. Sharks.

Finally done at the meat counter, I made my way through the burning lake of shoppers to the brusquely-efficient phalanx of cashiers. Along the way, I heard a snippet between a 40-something man and a 70-something woman, adjacent to the fish-counter.

"You have lox," the lady asked.

"Not yet," said the 40-something. "I have a pound of lox in my freezer. But that's not Yom Kippur lox. That's rainy day lox."

Over at the checkout, I told the cashier that I'd have to buy two bags, since we don't use plastic anymore in New York. 

"I must have 30,000 bags," I said to the cashier.

"Then I have 30,001," she answered. "My husband always forgets."

"When I die, we'll have a giant sale," I offered.

"What's your address--I'll be there. I could use a few."

Spending half a week's salary, we walked our goods uptown to 86th Street to wait for the M86 crosstown bus. The crosstown bus is one of the last institutions in New York where, in the words of the great Louis Jordan, you can pal around with Democratic fellows named Mac. 

It's one of the last places that isn't festooned with corporate logos from extortionists, climate terrorist petroleum companies, or the 1/10% who have cordoned off for themselves, their wives and their girl-friends what were formerly institutions and places open to all.

A white Cadillac SUV took a right turn, running a light and cutting off my bus in the center of an intersection. 

The young bus driver screamed at the Caddy driver. 

"Dontcha see the light? Whattaya doing? Dontcha see the light?"

"Maybe he's color-blind," I offered. 

"He's brain-blind," she one-upped.

"Well, he doesn't have to worry about a cop stopping him," I said. "There are no more cops."

"I see people running lights in front of cops. Nothing."

The bus finally stopped beside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the east side.

"The museum!" She shouted with pride. "The world's greatest museum."

About half the bus exited. Only my wife and I kept traveling east. Us and a young Hispanic man with a blunt the size of a telephone pole.

"Happy Yom Kippur, everyone," he said, pushing through the rear doors. "The High Holy Days are here."

The greatest city in the world.

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