All of My Friends are Strange

Oct 26, 2023

I dunno. Maybe it’s my age and I’m afforded the opportunity to look back. Or, maybe it’s because I’m kind of weird that I seem to attract weirdos. Or, maybe it’s because I’m Jewish and everybody’s Jewish mother was the dominating force in weirdness. Whatever the case, I’m seldom surprised at just how weird my friends really are.

Take my friend, Neil … for example. Many years ago he introduced me to his theory of “all inanimate objects have their own distinct personalities”. And, then he proceeded to tell me about his Volkswagen Bug car radio. For some odd reason, it didn’t work UNLESS you brought a wooden match stick into the car. No, it didn’t need to be threatened with fire. But, it did need to have the non-match side of the stick jammed into the left corner of the radio to make it work. I saw this demonstration with my own eyes. Once he jammed in the stick the damn thing worked.

Neil also had an old standup lamp that also required a matchstick in order to light up. Here…watch me, he said. Go figure?

My brother-in-law is more on the superstitious side. “If you don’t want bad luck, make sure you turn your bath towel towards the wall when you hang it up.” Guess what? This old wives tale must have something to it because I can’t start my day without hanging the bath towel just that way.

And then there was my friend, Mitchell. We both grew up in a very Jewish neighborhood on Long Island. When the Jewish High Holidays approached (I think it was 1960), the World Series Games coincided with the holidays. And, as any follower of the High Holidays knows, you can’t make a fire during this period because it is a symbol of work. Thus, any contemporary extension to fire making is also prohibited. So, if you wanted to watch the World Series you couldn’t turn on the TV because it required a spark to start the TV. What did my friend Mitchell teach me? Buy yourself a “Shabbos Clock” otherwise known as a pre-set timer. Set the clock – the night before the holiday begins – to the time the World Series game starts. And, voilà! Now you are just watching the game without creating a fire. Wow. That’s one quirky work-around idea.

Some of my friends have food quirks. Whenever I went to a restaurant with my friend Lee he would study the menu as if it was a engrossing murder mystery. It appeared as if he needed to interpret the menu selection to be sure that his familiar standards of a tasty meal were met. What do you mean it is “roasted”? Or, braised? Or, blackened? Wait a minute … didn’t my mother invent the word “blackened”? What’s in the tuna fish salad? I don’t like raw carrots or celery or any weird spices like dill weed. Oh, it’s prepared like that? Make me a burger with a nice slice of Bermuda Onion.

I have another friend Joe who I meet for lunch a few times a year in NYC. He mostly wants to go to vegetarian restaurants because, “as you know, I only eat dirt”. That means he’s very particular about carefully ordering foods that are mostly natural. One time I talked him into going to a famous Ukranian restaurant on NYC’s Lower East Side. It was busy and crowded and fast paced. When the waiter approached he said, “okay boys, what’ll it be?” Joe differeed to me first. I ordered a normal menu item just the way they described it. Then it was Joe’s turn. He was ordering while he was reading the menu at the same time. “I’ll have the egg white omelet … and, then Joe noticed there were a litany of vegetable options to add onto it. So, he said, and “add the yada yada yada.” The waiter paused for a moment and said, “we don’t have no yada yada yada”. I burst out laughing.

My friend Jeff is his own category altogether. He has a very limited palate. I don’t think he ever boiled a pot of water in his life. He eats out every meal of the day. And, his routine is pretty regular … a burger, spaghetti, eggs and a bagel. Ask him about vegetables. “I don’t eat broccoli, asparagus or brussel sprouts. Never did. Never will. I dunno. I think my mother cooked them until they were dead.”

And me? Oh, I’m normal.. I don’t walk under ladders. I hate kale. I hate wearing a tie. I pee in the shower. And, I always turn the toilet paper to the facing down position