Archive for the New York Category

Spotting The Greenhorn

Posted in Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, New York on March 7, 2010 by frumpunk

So there he was, spotted as soon as I entered the shul. Couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d been wrapped in neon and fitted with the bass system from a riced out Honda Civic. He eyed me the same and proffered an Ashkanazi siddur, one of the rare ones in this little nusach Sefard chassidic place. I accepted the siddur and sat down next to him. He asked where I was from, I told him. He apologized for not recognizing me, offering by way of explanation, “I’ve been in yeshiva for the past few months, this is my first time back since Elul.” I smiled at him. “I know,” I said. “I know.”

You can spot them everywhere at certain times of the year. Many greenhorn spotters (or “grotters” as we prefer to be known) will tell you that chanukah is the best time for this widely practiced, yet little talked about sport. Others, the ones with less finesse, you might say, will dig out the binoculars and set up camp only at pesach time. Not to be too arrogant, but they’re amateurs. My preferred game is the unexpected. It takes more skill to find them, but when you do they’re unawares and therefore easier prey. I tag the species and the location in my little book and release them back into the wild. Just this past week I saw a fantastic example of a Medrash at J2. Perfect specimen, a prize catch. He was talking about how he’s just recently started to buckle down and work on himself. It really made my week. I eschew the obviousness of catching them when they come back for yom tov in favor of spotting the ones who trickle in here and there for the family bris or wedding. It makes them more of a catch because you never know if there will be many, if any at all.

They’re an interesting species to be sure. This time last year they were just another batch of seniors obsessed with pog cards and their hippety-hop music (I think. I have no idea what the kids are into these days), totally unaware of the evolution that would soon transform them. They head off to Israel to their chosen (or not so chosen) yeshivas and then, I wait. When they start to trickle back, the season begins.

 There are certain signs to start your hunt with. My favorite is the linear siddur. You know the one, the hebrew is on one line with the english below it so the words match up rather than the block of english text being on the opposite side of the block of hebrew text. These siddurim are used by only two people; those becoming frum who are trying to learn hebrew, and newly minted yeshiva guys trying to learn the meaning of all those words they’ve been mumbling daily since they were eight. You could also look for the copy of Pathway to Prayer, that little book where it goes into detail about one part of the davening (the greenhorns tend to prefer the shemonai esrei one), but I think that’s too easy. Other things to note: the white shirt. Is it crisp, like it’s new to him and he still takes pride in his appearance? A favorite tactic of mine is to check the collar if it’s on shabbos. Is it buttoned up to the neck, with the tie properly done? See, if it looks like it fits correctly, then he’s new to this. Look at the ex-yeshiva guys in their late twenties and thirties. They’ve been wearing it for so long that the neck hasn’t fit in years, so they simply go to the second button and pull the tie up partly, for comfort. If he’s more Mad Men than Hocker, you’ve got a greenhorn on your hands, my friend. Other things to look for are shoes, belt, glasses and type and frequency of chumash used for leining, but this has become a wall of text so those, my friends, are for the next installment.

Outtatownin Aint Easy

Posted in blogs, Me, New York on January 15, 2009 by frumpunk

As Kermit so nearly said, it’s not easy being from out-of-town. Everyones from New York, or as Moshe said when he friended me on Facebook: “You’re not from NY? I thought everyone was from New York?”

See, I was reading some blogs tonight, as is my want, and I started taking note of the content for once, instead of doing what I normally do and I assume I know what they’re talking about after reading the first few words then skipping to the end to leave a comment on how they’re wrong. And I realized how easy everyone has it. Everyone but me can blog about something that takes no effort. They can rant about Glatt Mart, or chassidim, or, I dunno, something else Brooklyn related or whatever. That’s the point, everything in New York, and even more-so in Jewish New York is bloggable. Brooklyn is a bloggers paradise! Remember when I was there for a week? I was blogging every day! You can go out for pizza and come back with blog material. You can blog about people, the food, the newspapers, the politics. Then you can blog about places afar and compare them to New York. Because as Frank Sinatra so nearly sang, it’s New. Bloody. York.

And I just don’t have that. I don’t have these Jewish social issues to blog about much. When I do, it’s normally because of something I read on a New Yorkers blog and it seemed odd to me. My blogging takes effort. I have to blog on something personal, or interesting, or I just try to be humorous. I can’t write something about a rude yeshiva guy on the subway, because we don’t have a subway, we have a train, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen another Jew on it at the same time as me. And noones ever been rude to me on it anyway.

Point is, I feel completely lost when Jewish issues get blogged on. I get envious when Frum Satire blogs about kiddushes. This wonderful place where the average shul kiddush involves more than cake, bisseli and crackers? Can it really exist. Weddings sound ridiculously over the top to me. I remember when I went to my first Brooklyn wedding, and it was ridiculously over the top. There was something in the realm of five different rooms, each with a different food group, replenished all night.

I’m going to end this post before it turns into a rant and rave about Brooklyn. But first, let me just insult you all for a minute, and probably lose all my readers: your accents. Speech patterns. Slang. What the h-e-double hockey stick? Not everyone sounds like it, but the stereotypical New York accent grates on me. That whiny stereotypical Brooklyn accent… why does it exist? My voice isn’t a musical symphony, but there’s something about New York accents from many strata’s that assaults the eardrum. From the Jewish Brooklyn to the buzzsaw Italian, it doesn’t work for me. I reached this epiphany last Shabbos while walking home with someone. We were discussing American girls, and I said, and he agreed, that the worst thing for me about raising my kids in New York would be to have kids who sound like New Yorkers.

You all hate me now, don’t you?

Allegations Worry Community

Posted in Funny?, New York on October 6, 2008 by frumpunk

Kiryas Yoel – This sleepy little town of several hundred has been rocked lately by allegations that it may in fact be part of the United States of America, an autonomous community of six hundred million that it has long bordered.

This has sent this normally quiet town into an unusual panic as residents struggled to grasp the implications of these allegations. “Nu, so dos dis mean ve must follow de law of zis treifa velt?” one worried resident asked, under condition of anonymity. The allegations came public after a series of notices posted by an anonymous whistle-blower only known as “Reb Yid”.

Kiryas Yoel has long been considered the last ethnocentrically segregated country in North America. It is known for its pioneering of technological advances such as the wall poster, a means of direct communication considered superior to email for its ability to transmit information to a large group of people instantaneously, and the tire-slash, a means of directly informing people that they should not, in fact, be living there.

While the identity of “Reb Yid” is unknown, speculation is rife. Public opinion at the moment is that he is a white male, between the ages of 18 and 65, probably with a beard, white shirt and suit. Naturally, this has put everyone fitting that description under intense scrutiny by the other residents.

One resident was heard to remark “Mamish, ze oilam vill nisht stand for zis”.

For VNN, I’m David Gallbladder,

(Note: Satire. Nothing written represent the personal opinion of the writer, or indeed, anyone at all.)

The Last Few Days

Posted in Me, Movies, New York on September 19, 2008 by frumpunk

So it wasn’t until after I landed that I realized there was one specific thing I hadn’t noticed before about the difference between American and European mentalities. While in JFK I started to get a headache, but didn’t have enough dollars left to pay for the overpriced Tylenol or Advil from the overpriced airport shops. After we landed in Amsterdam I was feeling full-on sick and started wandering around the airport shops looking for something for a headache. I couldn’t find anything in any shop so I asked a worker who directed me to first aid where they gave out medication for free.

My last shabbos in New York was in Brooklyn where I had a shabbos lunch at Moshe from Insanity Now, Serenity Later. Two nice write-ups were done by Child Ish and Frum Skeptic, also in attendance were The Babysitter and Moshe’s friend, Allen, who sometimes contributes to Moshe’s blog. It was an… interesting meal. I thought the cholent was fantastic, but I think Moshe needs to let go of his Russian foods a bit. You’re in America now, no need to still eat raw fish. It was a fantastic meal though, lasting almost six hours fueled by conversation and Moshe’s world class alcohol collection. I don’t want to drop too many hints, but I hope The Babysitter doesn’t drink like that when she’s watching the kids! (I’m kidding, she’s a teetotaler, I swear.)

The flight back was much better than the flight going. This time I got an aisle seat instead of being in the absolute middle seat in an cramped economy row of ten seats. I even got an empty seat next to me, two pillows! And this time they gave me my kosher meal instead of giving it to a random passenger. Because we were flying forward in time we were served breakfast only three hours after dinner. I got my kosher breakfast and put it next to me to save for later when I would actually be hungry. Then a minute later when they gave out the regular breakfasts they placed one in front of me as my tray was empty. I was about to give it back when I noticed it was just a muffin and juice box, and both had OU’s. Kinda makes you wonder what the point of the kosher breakfast is.

Once the screens in front of us were activated, about a half hour into the flight I decided to watch ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’ first. It was a weird thing to watch, as it’s a decidedly adult movie, so I’m torn between laughing at the comedy and cringing because I knew my fifteen year old sister had seen it when it came out and now knowing what she’d seen made it uncomfortable to watch. After that I needed to clear my mind with some more family friendly stuff, so I watched the new Indiana Jones. I’d heard it wasn’t that good but I enjoyed it. Then again, I haven’t seen any of the original Indiana Jones movies, so maybe in comparison this is like Star Wars Episode One. It was odd at the beginning, because Harrison Ford is now old and looks it, so every time he gets knocked down or something and the camera pans to behind him, its too clear that its a stunt double as the real Harrison Ford would probably hurt his back falling like that these days. It was a fun adventure movie once it got going for good.

I could probably write more, but I’m still running on an American bodyclock so I am, as they say here, knackered.

Edit: Also, on September first my blog was listed on WordPresses “Growing Blogs” list. Number 38. Just didn’t have time to mention it while I was away, as I had to be quick with every post.

Days Three and Four

Posted in Me, New York on August 28, 2008 by frumpunk

I’m bitten all over. Six on the back of my neck, two on my cheek, three on my elbows, two on my hand and two on my stomach. Met up with Jacob Da Jew tuesday, met Da Wife, Da Baby and Da Shy Toddler. We had a barbecue and later on I met Lakewood Falling Down, who I’d never heard of before but have since looked over his stuff, together we also met Jacobs pet mosquitoes. Also met Moshe picking his kid up from playgroup for about two seconds. I was talking with Jacob about whether bloggers are the same in real life as they are on their blog. Child Ish was exactly as I’d expected. Other bloggers weren’t quite the picture I’d had. But the ones I haven’t met but I read often still have me wondering. Is Frum Skeptic always complaining? Is Frum Satire always hyper and looking for the funny side of things? You know what I mean.

I’m enjoying a lot of stuff about New York, the conveniences of food and the ease of getting around. I like the fact that you pay the same flat fee to take the subway no matter how far you go, it’s also very nice that you can transfer to a bus for free within the time limit. I’m pleasantly surprised by how nice people are here, my stereotypes are completely shattered. My kippa blew off in Times Square and a random stranger grabbed it for me, I was pulling a suitcase up the subway stairs and the guy behind me grabbed the bottom and helped me carry it to the top.

I was dragged to a wedding last night by my friend (he got permission from the chosson who he went to yeshiva with), I have never seen so much free food before. Everything was amazing. I was thinking of those classic Frum Satire posts where he talks about the wedding shmorgs, my biggest problem was knowing how quickly I get full, and trying to ration it out so I get a taste of it all. After a minute I gave up and simply decided to enjoy the moment. I ate until I was sick, then I ate some more. (Bulimia: twice the taste, no calories.) Well I didn’t actually throw up, but I was very cognisant of the fact that I was already full as I took some more schnitzel and pasta. The wedding was rocking as well, entertainment was provided by the Neginah Orchestra, that guitarist was awesome and the drummer was kicking. They did the usual stuff as well as some Piamenta and some stuff I wasn’t familiar with, but whatever they played was great. I was talking with someone about the fact that half the Jewish CD’s out there seem to have the music provided by Neginah. Is it always the same musicians, or is Neginah sort of a rotating musical group? Were these guys the same ones playing on Jewish albums, and if so why isn’t the music better, because these guys kicked tuchus and took names. I always feel slightly sad when I look at a Jewish wedding band, because I know the guitarist, bassist and drummer grew up with dreams of being rock stars and they ended up playing weddings for the rest of their lives. They seemed to be having a great time though.

I’m in Touro right now visiting my friend. Tomorrow we fly out to Chicago. I’ve done a lot of the stuff you guys recommended about New York, whats to do in Chicago and more importantly, wheres the best real Chicago pizza?

Edit: In Manhattan I found an actual copy of The Onion! Kickin’ Rad! as I believe the kids these days say.

Day Two

Posted in Me, New York on August 26, 2008 by frumpunk

I’m typing this one from the Brooklyn Library. They’re charging me $2 per card and each card gives you two half hour sessions. I have 8 minutes left, so I may have to cut this short to get it out there. I asked people for a internet cafe and everyone just told me to come here. I’m not going to risk Touro again, not until I’ve given him a couple days to forget me, then I’ll try and bluff my way in again. Maybe I should get a Groucho Marx disguise kit, the nose, moustache and glasses.

So what I wrote yesterday was just my impressions of a morning in Brooklyn when all I’d seen was a few blocks around Ave J. I was definitely a bit disoriented, and I think I came across as a little pessimistic about the place. Or maybe I’ve just been reading too much AA Gill. He’s a travel writer for GQ and The Sunday Times in London, and he basically goes to places and bashes them. But he’s damn entertaining about it.

So yesterday after publishing my first morning impressions I met up with Mr Child Ish Behavior. He’s pretty much given our day a good write-up, and he was excellent company to boot. We did Manhattan on foot and bikes, took the ferry there and back and I finally got to see the Statue of Liberty. Its a bit smaller in person. Ate lunch at a kosher Subway, I still haven’t managed to finish a single meal in NY. Last night for dinner I had the other half of my breakfast bagel and fries and the chicken melt I had for lunch. Today I had pizza at Pizza Time. I’ve started to be more realistic so I ordered one slice and small fries. Most of the slice and half the fries later I was full. I don’t understand how people can finish meals of large fries and two slices with a large coke. I’m not a small guy, I’m 5’9 and 175 pounds. I don’t know if its that the food here is more filling or what, I just cant eat a normal New York portion of anything. Two minutes left, this ends here. More impressions to come next time I get a computer. Maybe I’ll try sneaking into a different college.

Day One

Posted in Me, New York on August 25, 2008 by frumpunk

Everything feels so foreign. It’s surprising, because it feels more foreign than it technically should. I’ve only been out of America for two years, but Brooklyn may as well be a different planet. This place is crazy freaky-deaky town. Everyone seems to be Jewish and no one seems to know each other. Half the signs are in Hebrew. The Walgreens has signs in Hebrew. I’m still trying to wrap my head around that. Not just the concept, but the apparent necessity. Is it merely a show of support to the Jewish community, or is it actually a necessity in that there are people living here, in New-York-frickin-City who can’t read English? Walgreens sells Paskez candy. The 7-11 last night had a hechsher and everyone who came in was Jewish. I haven’t had a slurpee in two years so I grab my old usual, the blue cup, second to smallest. My friend asks why I don’t pay the few cents and get the bigger size. How could anyone drink that much sugared syrup? I forgot America was like this. I tell my friend the story of how when they first brought the Mini to America, they had to revise the interior right after launch. Turns out they didn’t take American size cups into account. Had to redesign the interior for a country that demands the ability to have a cup with two gallons of coke in it.

Everything seems to be kosher. With so much choice how does anyone manage to make decisions? I pass by a corner falafel shop. The sign proudly announces their selection of Israeli style food, including chicken. I look through the window and see feathers on the floor. I’m not sure whether to be surprised or not. They sell chicken, doesn’t it make sense the feathers end up somewhere? I keep moving and decide to get breakfast from a bagel shop. I stand there for a minute observing and deciding. There’s no such thing as a line or any sort of civilized order, everyone seems to come in knowing what they want, shout it behind the counter, pay and leave. It’s an inelegant system but it seems to get the job done. I order the number two, an omelet on a bagel with a side of what they call home fries and what I would call hash browns. I specify no coffee because I don’t drink coffee. Turns out I still have to pay for the coffee, because it’s all part of the special. Ten minutes later I can’t eat another bite and I’ve still got half the omelet bagel and all the fries. How do you put away that much food for breakfast? I’m starting to understand the American obesity epidemic.

I find a payphone and call my friend, who won’t be flying in until tomorrow. I ask him where I can find an internet café. He suggests a bit of espionage. “You’re right near Landers. Go in and tell the security guard you need to go to registration go up then go down to C1 and you can use the computer labs there.” Don’t I need a login? Apparently not. Touro, your security sucks. On the plus side I get to write this post while my first New York morning is still fresh.

The Dutch are efficient. I would call them the nice Germans. My flight took off exactly as scheduled and we landed at 8.20pm to the minute. ELAL could learn a thing or two. On the downside they gave my kosher meal to someone else. The stewardess was so apologetic I ended up feeling sorry for her. No worries, I always pack sandwiches just in case. Did you know Amsterdam Airport has a casino in it? I’ve had a stopover in Las Vegas, so I was expecting the slot machines they had, but Amsterdam outdoes them will a fully featured casino. I didn’t even know the Dutch like to gamble. Despite the world thinking of Amsterdam as just Europe’s weed dealer, the airport is very gentrified. With the exception of some t-shirts you can buy you wouldn’t even know where you were. It’s all clogs, tulips and Rembrandt. Also they have a model of the airport made out of Lego. I badly wanted to start playing with it, move the planes around and make airport noises. I remind myself that I’m 23 and move on. I need to get gifts for my various hosts. The Department of Homeland Security has limited the amount of alcohol you can buy at duty free to one liter per person. Nowhere sells quarter-liter bottles, so I end up buy packs of Davidoff coffee as gifts. I didn’t even know Davidoff made coffee. I give it to my friend when he picks me up. Turns out he doesn’t even drink coffee.

(This post sponsored by the good people at Landers whose computers shut off twice before I’d saved it forcing me to start again from the beginning. Twice.)