Monthly Archives: March 2010

Heckling at The Matzo Ball With Cocoa Butter Mark

To the best of my knowlege, my friend Mark doesn’t use cocoa butter nor does he have a deep tan. This name was given to him by my daughter to distinguish him from my BROTHER Mark who I also assume doesn’t use cocoa butter and really is more likely to burn than tan.

The origins are this: about 4 years ago, not-brother-Mark gave my daughter a Barbie Doll for her birthday, whose special feature was smelling of cocoa butter, Malibu Barbie for the new millennium. I think, 4 years later, she still does.

Throughout our 17 years or so of knowing each other, Mark and I have been on many priceless adventures. The first one I remember is being very stoned and finding an open, rusty gate to an urban garden hidden behind brick walls that I used to see from my apartment. Literally, a la The Secret Garden, it seemed as if the gate had been left open just for us to entertain us while high (I remember being in disguise, sunglasses, trenchcoat and a hat, but, I think this might be a false memory.) Incidentally, ten years later, I got married in what will always be known as The Secret Garden. However, I don’t think I was high.

Every Christmas Eve, Boston (and probably cities all across the country) have something called The Matzo Ball to entertain us single Jews, post-Chinese and a movie. For YEARS I have been appalled yet slightly intrigued by a throng of lonely Jewish people looking for love, to later have to tell people that they met their future spouse at something called The Matzo Ball. But, really, who am I to judge? I’m a 45-yr old, single Jewish woman, looking for love.

Anyway, after watching a movie released for Oscar consideration just in the nick of time, and eating and drinking at the bar of P.F. Changs (yes, despite being at the gateway to Chinatown we ate at P.F. Changs–so sue us!), we decided to check out the Matzo Ball.

The door was being staffed by a rather large bouncer (not Jewish, I’m thinking) and the cover charge was too much for us to fork over despite our burning curiosity. Instead, we decided to lurk outside, a few yards from the entrance and just observe. Mark can cut a rather imposing and threatening figure, so with me leaning into him, God knows what people were thinking about what the hell two middle-aged people like us were doing hanging around the entrance to the Matzo Ball.

Activity was rather slow. Occasionally, a pair of giggling women in boots and too-short skirts would be deposited by taxi, or a single man, hands in pockets and head down, would pay the cover and go inside. Every once in a while we would comment on the “Jewishness” of someone’s look (we’re allowed to do that, because you know, we’re Jews)or imagine what a certain guy would be like in bed (oh, right, Mark is gay and we were a teeny bit tipsy.)

Much to our glee, just as things were getting a little dull, a group of 5 or 6 20-something guys got out of a cab, all button down shirts and white teeth, “dude” and backslaps.

“Exuse me,” some odd force grabs hold of me. “Can I take your picture?”

The snarky and apparent alpha male of the pack says without missing a beat “What, have you never seen Jews before?”

“Um HELLO, I was bar mitzvahed in Israel,” Mark quickly says back, suddenly sounding VERY gay.

“I’m writing an article on The Matzo Ball,” I say, “and would just love to have a picture.” So, clearly, ruining and slowing down their Matzo Ball momentum, they posed for the picture above. They quickly de-pose, we say thanks, and they re-puff themselves up and go inside.

“Wow, Jewish boys didn’t look like THAT when I was their age,” Mark says.

After about a 1/2 hour and feeling satisfied that our craving for Matzo Ball knowlege had been satisfied, we walk to the subway, all giggly and amused. I comment that the night has risen to the top of Mark and Gayle adventures (little did I know that less than 6 months later, it might have just been outdone, or at least matched, by our attendance at a fireman’s bachelor auction–more on that another time.)

It might not have been long after that that Mark and I, over the phone, decided to simulatenously, join JDate. He had always wondered if there were gay Jews on the site, so in solidarity, we both clicked away at our keyboards, answering questions about what we were looking for. I gave up when I got to the “do you keep Kosher question.”

Mark coined 2009 “The Year of the Jewish Husband” for both of us. Well, it’s looking like that moniker has been carried over to 2010. Christmas Eve is only 7 months away, giving us plenty of time to put money aside for the cover charge, iron button downs and whiten-up our teeth.

Meeting Darrell

“An impulsive act of one, often leads to a pleasant surprise in another. I truly hope it has done so for you.”

30 years ago I was an awkward-yet-happy freshman at Syracuse University, idealistic about so many things. I felt like Katrina from Katrina and The Waves. I walked on sunshine. The bloom was still on the rose.

I lived in an all girls dorm (with a somewhat developmentally slow girl from the Bronx who was swept up in a matter of days by Jews for Jesus.) I think we said maybe all of 100 words to each other in a year. Oh, and one time she threw up (not from drinking, mind you) and left it on the floor for a week.

My dorm was known for having the best dining hall on our side of a massive campus and people would come from other dorms to eat. Every morning I would watch as an extremely handsome, tall, wiry guy with a mustache, blew through the line carrying a rather cumbersome art porfolio. He would get his cereal and sit at a solo table. This was not a man who should have been eating alone. It made no sense. And, there was something very strong in me that said I needed to KNOW him.

Right before Christmas break, I wrote him a card, with the italicized words above (and later had it framed for his 30th birthday), walked right up to him in what I remember as a black mumu and a felt hat (I know it wasn’t a mumu but I think Darrell remembers it as being rather Maude-like), said “this is for you” and placed the card and a chocolate santa in front of him. He looked at me, stunned and grateful. The note included my dorm phone #.

When he showed up that very night, I beamed. He came with a poster that he had designed (graphic artist still to this day) and as I remember it, it was a quick and comfortable visit. He told me he was going home to his small town outside of Binghamton the next day for Christmas break and that we would get together as soon as we could when we both came back from our respective corners of New York. And then began what can only be described as a life-long friendship cram session.

For five months, every single week night I went to Darrell’s very large single dorm room (his roommate had left school and noone was ever reassigned.) Our ritual consisted of sitting across from each other at his dorm desk, lamp on the side (with a shade that Darrell sometimes stuck his head under in order to help him sneeze), a bong being passed back and forth, and chainsmoking, he Newport Lights, me, Marlboro Reds (because I used to run out of cigarettes before him, I got so used to smoking his, that Newport Lights became the only brand I could smoke.) We managed to learn each other quickly and intensely. I learned that Darrell loves orange and vanilla ice cream. I learned the weird thing about him sneezing.

He would go home to see his girlfriend at SUNY Binghamton every weekend. It only bothered me in the sense that I hated losing our momentum.   When he ended up transferring to be with her, after only one semester of our knowing each other, college was never quite the same.

Darrell moved to Manhattan via Brooklyn, really, the only place that makes sense for him to be. Every once in a while, he’ll call me all breathless and say things like “Gayle, you should have seen this runway show. The models are like giraffes.” Or “the so and so hotel is so fucking cool. I wish you lived here so we could go have a drink.” There are things that I think are so “Darrell” that doing them with anyone else seems like a compromise.

Now Darrell and I are both middle-aged parents. I wouldn’t dream of going to NYC without seeing him for at least an hour. When this happens we just look at each other and say how fucking fabulous we look. Darrell has aged better than anyone I know. In a way that my gay, male friends don’t, Darrell can tell me how “fucking hot” I am (and that’s how he would say it, without it being a come on.) We laugh a lot and that laugh is precious to me.

Even though I would have written “Meeting Darrell” eventually, I do it now as a way to remind him how dear he is to me, on the week after his father’s death. Darrell, what you have brought to my life is invaluable and namely what that is, is light.

Now go have a cig.