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Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Father's New Friend

My father's new friend is a twelve year old boy.

Don't worry-- it's okay.

Well, kind of.

See, my father talks to people. All people. Wherever he can. It doesn't matter who you are; you're fair game. If you're standing in line at the supermarket, if you're on the train, or at his favorite haunt, The Camera Shop, you're going to get chatted up.

And don't worry, it's not flirting. He doesn't know how to do that.

He's just being, well, Israeli. He's just being my father.

"Mummy," he said to my eldest sister at the table tonight, "we might get an email from Adam tomorrow."

"Who the fuck is Adam?" I asked.

"I met him on the plane on Wednesday on the way to Florida. He is twelve. He was with his mom. She is dee-vorced. His brother's name is Willie."


This is nothing unusual. My father picks people up like discarded pennies on the ground. They jangle around in his pockets-- sometimes for a short while, sometimes forever.

"I taught him some words in Hebrew. You know, all he knew was "Abba," "Ima," "Shaaaaalom..." So I taught him some words. He wants to invite me to his Bar Mitzvah."


When I was a little boy, my father would take me to the Office Supply Store (capitalized because that was its name) so I could touch the buttons on all the calculators and desk phones, flip through the mini address books, and twirl the combination dials on all the mini-safes. While in this store, my father would strike up a conversation with anybody who happened to be standing around, listlessly staring at desk calendars or whatever. And instantly, my palms would go clammy and I would roll my eyes. Other parents embarrass their children by asking them if the crotch of their pants is too tight in the Macy's dressing room, my father embarrassed me simply by opening his mouth.

"Did you ever think that maybe people don't want to talk to you?" I asked him on a markedly brave day when I was ten or eleven.

"Sveetie, everybody likes to talk!" my father declared.

"No they don't."

And they don't. My mother and I don't like to talk. I mean, we like to talk to each other. Sometimes. But we don't like to talk to other people. I'm amazed that my mother is as successful as she is as a librarian, because that requires a substantial amount of talking to other people. People think librarians are all about shushing people-- but that's old school. Now area libraries are as bustling and chatty as fucking Starbucks. The librarians aren't hot like the baristas, or metro, but they're every bit as talkative.

My mother, while sixty, has embraced the new, noisy style of librarianizing. She'll talk your goddamn ear off-- about your twins who just died or about your summer house in Pompano Beach or about the handyman who's making holes in your walls in order to install fiberglass insulation or maybe even about what book you'd like to read. I once suggested that, because of his unending love for accosting people and talking to them, my father should sell his business and get a job at the library. The only problem with that would be that my mother would kill him.

It would be a wicked blow to the bald spot with a John Irving book.

Maybe I'm projecting about my father-- maybe people really do like talking to him. Maybe I'm just jealous at his facile way with socialization. I was at a New Year's Day party today with six other couples and I was so uncomfortable that I must have looked like one of Queen Latifah's fingernails was shooting straight up my asshole. I have such difficulty talking to people, and my command of the English language is so much better than his. He asks rhetorical questions like, "What am I'm?" and he can converse as easily with a Wall Street tycoon as a plumber.

Maybe one day, he'll chat you up, and you can invite him to your Bar Mitzvah. Or, if you're an Orthodox Jewish rabbi's wife, and you're on an airplane and you suddenly decide that you need to change your wig, he'll be there to hold it for you.

"You know, not on the bottom, where is the sveat, of course."

Of course.


  1. I think you should let your Dad guest post once in a while. Just have him type it out in Word or Notepad or something, or write it down. Obviously he shouldn't be allowed online to actually see your blog, I'm not that crazy.

    I wish more people would want to talk to me in the course of my work. I spend so much time calling them and trying to get them to engage with me, I wouldn't care if none of them wanted to talk about Open Source but only about the books they are reading or their son's Bar Mitzvah.

    Outside of varies. It's only usually the annoying or the crazy ones who talk to me, the boy on the plane who doesn't take the hint when you have headphones on that you don't want to chat about the tv show you are trying to watch, or the psychotic toothless fella who wants to give me career advice. Both actual incidents.

    But I'm all for sane, friendly conversation.

  2. I don't avoid conversing with people, but what is odd for me is the number of people that start conversations with me. My husband is often dumbfounded by the randomness of it. I'll be honest, at least half of the people who talk to me are pants shitting crazy. But on the upside, I have had some very interesting, funny, weird, oddly heartwarming encounters. And only one that ended up being a stalker. Not bad!

    I think the guest blogging thing or you conducting an interview with him would be a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

  3. Oh, how I can relate. My husband is notorious for this kind of behavior- and I admit that I am both irritated and envious. His ability to talk with complete strangers about absolutely anything and absolute fluff is an enigma to me. At least we balance each other out.

  4. This was a great post. I always love to hear about your family especially your Dad! I agree with Jay and Cheeks! Get your Dad to guest write a blog OR... Maybe just make a random list of what your Dad says or does. I cant remember if you have done this before but then again i have a horrible memory.
    Happy New Year Mr and Mrs Apron! Looking forward to a crafty Valentines now! ha

  5. I'm the kind of 'kid' that gets picked up on trains and planes!

    Old women mostly, but sometimes men too.

    Probably because I always travel alone... and I guess I come across as harmless/pathetic/charismatic. Who knows.

    Made some good friendships though! If I was that kind of person, I'd probably have a few bequeaths coming my way in a few years...

  6. I feel your pain. I'm prety sure every bank teller, grocery store clerk, fast-food employee within a 10 mile radius a) learned my life story from my mom and/or b) was hit on by my dad. How I managed to be both introverted and socially inept is beyond me.


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