In the Minority

The room was comfortably full, not packed. The A/C offered a Brrr so any remnant of heat left over from Indian Summer was left outside our “four walls.”Rabbi Lookstein walked up to the podium with his particular cadence I’ve come to know through the years. I was appropriately clad in the “right” length skirt. And so the stage was set, the evening began.

I was at KJ Synagogue to hear Dr. Rabbi Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University speak. The write up about the evening caught my eye and the kids set me up to gain entrance. He spoke on Sin, Self Perception and the Art of Living. 

The timing for me to hear this was propitious. Yes, G-d offers no coincidences. I walked away from the evening a little more fine tuned on some immediate issues that have been dealt to my extended family.

He touched on the distinction between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He detailed the difference in prayer between looking at and embracing your sins, your misgivings and your wrongdoings. He was light on the emphasis of sins necessarily being terrible shandas worthy of punishments and more on ways we have wronged others. He moved on to the meaning of wearing white on Yom Kippur and praying for the forgiveness of the past year’s behaviors that we feel we can better. He was straightforward, his words flowed with a pleasant melody and his sincerity offered comfort. We, as Jewish people are factually in the minority. 

Our importance and roles in society however, quite the contrary. What was in the minority last night as well, were cells phones beeping, ringing or being accessed. We were there to listen, perhaps learn and be respectful of a very busy man sharing his knowledge and wisdom about keeping the peace pipe moving. L’dor V’dor. 

I left the Rabbi’s sermon feeling comfortable, embraced and that my well being was cared about by a virtual stranger, an ordained man.

In the love your neighbor category and a look after your own way, I question why it is often easier to be more kind to strangers than intimates. As a divine order play out, we are placed in positions, in families and situations that because we are “just humans” will inevitably offer conflict and need for repair. So perhaps just for today, four days short of wearing a white outfit and maybe even sneakers why not look to our left, glance to our right and say we are sorry to an intimate we may have wronged. Perhaps if we begin to own our piece of behavior we can move on in a healthy way to the sounds of cell phones ringing and beeps of texts coming in. Amen!

Shelly Fireman- 212-308-8174

With Paul, Lenny and Murray kibitzing at the next table about how they met you and who knew you way back to the days of stick ball and Johnny on the Pony, the evening began. We walked into the Fireman Group’s splendid new venture. A beautifully appointed room, a stage setting for what looked like a grand scene from a Coppola movie. A staff of beautiful people appeared to be auditioning for a role in “Cafe Society ” a la Fireman. We marveled at how everything old is new again. The panoply of flowers and leather banquets combined with well shined brass and mirrors helped to create the setting. We comfortably nuzzled into our booth  glanced at ourselves in the mirror, smoothed down the cowlick on our bangs and hung our hat.

Everything slowed down, albeit quickly came flooding through in thoughts.

I met Shelly Fireman in 1977. I walked down a few steps into the old Le Drugstore, the new Cafe Tartufo. I had an appointment to interview for a job. I was 27 years old and waiting for my real estate career to take off. I distinctly remember his buttonless denim shirt that flowed over his very cool looking jeans. It completed the picture in my mind of a well dressed beatnik. I was impressed. I thought ok Village Voice and Allen Ginsberg move over, I got this gig down. And so I was hired as his “assistant . Little did I know this meant wearing lots of (hold on to your hats) and learning a whole new set of “Peas and Q’s, I love food and the environment in which it is created. Still do, always will. So I bought a new pair of jeans and realized this was not a sit behind a desk as an assistant, just anywhere job.

I learned a lot about the hospitality business, in the “back of the store” way. The people I got to meet were foodies in every sense of the word. They cooked it, wrote about and designed the hardware to display the food. This is actually where the taste buds begin. 

Shelly gave me a taste tester allowance as part of my job. I would go to other food shops and eat my way to a worthwhile review to present to him the next day. I also got to know the staff of sales people at the men’s dept. at Bonwit Tellers, very well. This was his go to store for even the simplest of cravats. If there is such a thing. Shelly’s creativity transcends to so much more than how to present a great bowl of pasta or who to hire to whip up the anchovy sauce for the mozzarella en carroza. Fritto misto –

let’s try it with carrots. Ok, he would say, now add less sauce. As sybaritic pleasures go, great food and how it dances off the plate is way up there. 

Fast forward 40 and I’m still holding on to my hat years later. I am still eating in his stores. Our friendship still real and long lived. Without a doubt his bride for the better part of his ride – Marilyn Fireman has held his attention, respect, devotion and love. She is his greatest success, his longest lasting pleasure and the prototype for the cherry on top of the Tartufo. Without her his tale would not have unfolded as the success story it is.

She is beautiful, talented and saint like in her patience. Brava Marilyn.

On Sept 7, 2001, Ira and I stood under the Chuppah on the

roof top of his 57th street restaurant, appropriately titled Shelly’s.

So a part of me feels possessive, as old friends often do. Not in like a claiming ownership way, but more of a I was there as the under belly of this empire was in its empirical stage. And ” you’ve come a long way baby.”

So my dear friend, with every morsel of good wishes shared, every memory of Gael Greene’s reviewing Fiorellos greatest pizza pie, (like her hats were ever a disguise)- every take- out order I brought out to Bill Berkeley to bring home to Marge and my thoughts will it make it home, every time you told me what a bad typist I was ( hello Apple where were you in the 70’s, I say Mangiare e Bene. Simchas biz hundert tzvanzig.

Can we play I spy with my little eye?

I took myself to the Lincoln Plaza Cinema to see a movie about an early period in J.D. Salingers life called “Rebel in the Rye.” I walked up to the ticket booth, money in hand and said “one senior please.” The gentleman selling tickets questioned whether or not I was 65 and could he see proof. I unbuttoned the top button of my blouse and pointed to my neck. He proceeded to hand me a ticket marked senior. I chuckled to myself aloud. Shout out to Nora Ephron, at the Algonquin Table in the sky. Her poignant book “I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman,” is a real feel good, feel better about yourself read. Read it in one sitting, especially if you are put on hold when waiting to speak with a social security representative. My take away from the book was a permission to come aboard, take off the perennial turtleneck and don’t think twice about what to do with Lemons.        Ok now to Holden Caulfield main character in “Catcher in the Rye. To skip around counters, I know I’m skipping. 

 Holden liked the Natural History museum because, no matter what else changed in his life, it was always the same: it was like a little freeze-frame picture of his own childhood, a safe spot he could always come back to.

Nowadays freeze-framing memories and continuing traditions help keep the balance. 

So with Nora Ephron and Holden Caulfield  in mind, we will say yes to playing “I spy” in a warm waiting room, when a grandchild is there for his speech lesson and complaining about his newly acquired blue braces hurting him. Just for today be a pacer, not a miler and make it a good one!

Note to selfie- your own backyard

After finding your grove and qualifying for the one last chance segment of life- sit back, don’t change the station and reap what you’ve sewn. Right before our very eyes and with no more courses in self actualization it’s there guys. The letter of acceptance may have gone into your junk mail as it’s sender was unknown. Accept the things you can not change 12 step fashion and you’ll recognize your name at the top of the program. Barry Manilow sang it – “This one’s for you wherever you are.” “You looking at me?” Remember tomorrow is only a day away according to Annie, but there really is no time like the present. Sign up for more Pilates classes, renew your subscription to Manhattan Theater Club- and kiss the sky because of one more pick-up, one more drop- off grandchild style. Make it a TGIF in style. 

Take two

What would you do if you could? As the Jewish New Year 5778-is approaching it offers a time of reflection. With the cooler days sandwiched in between Indian Summer, our tendency is to reframe our inventory. In typical fashion we move the “only if and do more”folder to the forefront. In Benjamin Button fashion if you could put a finishing glaze on your ceramic facade what parts would you smooth out first?  The front runner headline encompasses the concept of “Dreamers.” The we wish your were “fired”guy temporarily at the helm, is once again showcasing his insensitive arrogance and extreme lack of humanity through negating that “Dreams” are free. I know run on counters, I know. Hard to express loathing in a simple sentence. Worthy of a side bar your Honor.

So fast forward to dreams, wishes and make overs. As dreams really can come true I would bid on a breakfast with The Beatles. “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” Seriously one of the all time greatest quotes resonates loud and strong daily.

Ah! To have picked Einsteins brain for even just one hour. “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Imagine it’s possible and it is. Perhaps taken a smokey voice lesson or two from Lauren Bacall. “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

I would have listened more and talked less. Worked on relationships that offered less chemistry and more of a challenge. I see now they offered lessons in disguise in people skills. High on the list would have been to do more ego building activities, honing natural abilities. Perhaps learning sooner, it’s all an inside job. Softer ways and less hard ball goes further, indeed. Really walking  a mile in someone else’s shoes- huge lesson. So let’s add a spoonful of sugar to help swallow our pride and make it a blessed New Year. L’shana tova tikatevu.