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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Off Track

I try.

My God, do I try.

But, gone are the days when you get an "A" for effort. Or even an "E."

I don't deal well with ineptitude, especially my own, of which there is an abundance. Everywhere I look, there are failures positively grafittied with my own personal tag. Some of these blunders are small and rather innocuous, some of them are, well, larger. This house is a testament to my incompetence, my attempts at manliness and homeownerhood. For almost two years now, I have been striving against my Jewishness in a futile attempt to subvert every stereotype about men of my particular faith:

We're just no good at putting things together, or taking things apart, or building things, or creating things other than screenplays.

My maternal grandfather and my father locked horns very early in their relationship. My grandfather had been attempting to subvert our religion one day in 1973 by putting together a table. Of course, I wasn't there to see it, but I can easily visualize him, in his brown plastic eyeglasses, rumpled dress-shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a pack of Marlboros showing through the thin fabric of the breast pocket, his gray suit trousers, argyle socks and Florsheims, standing in the living room with his hands on his hips, staring vacantly at a pile of wood and hardware, and an instruction manual on the carpet that might as well have been written in Farsi.

I can see it, plain as day. Because, now, I've been there.

He called my father, in a state of extreme frustration, no doubt, because men in my family, on both sides, do not ask for help. My father came in and, don't you know, he didn't just help, he put the table together in under fifteen minutes. Well, my grandfather freaked. He didn't want a magician, and he couldn't have known back then that he'd accidentally called one, he wanted someone with whom to commiserate-- an equal, not a better-- someone with whom he could share frustration, swears, sweat and, eventually, after maybe an hour or two, victory.

This was not a shared victory, and my grandfather knew it. It was a victory won by some hairy Middle Easterner with a two-foot-tall Jew-fro who was having sex with his daughter. And, way past his genteel, middle-class breaking point, poor Zayda popped a gasket. He didn't speak to my father again for three weeks.

While I had hoped that my father's brute strength and modicum of mechanical competence would be passed down to me, it seems that I have inherited only the ability to recognize my own bumbling nature, and I am truly Zayda's grandson. Yesterday was Tuesday, my day off that I somehow always manage to squander, and I decided that yesterday was going to be the day I was going to re-hang our louvered sliding closet door the right way (the previous owners of the house had hung it upsidedown, signaling that I'm not the only domestic retard in the world).

After catching my finger, twice, in the track and shouting several unfriendly words, I managed to get the door off the track.

[Sidebar: whoever invented louvered sliding doors should be disinterred and have his coffin and bones blowtorched.]

The pegs which go into the slots were driven into the door so hard that I had to use at least three tools to pry them out and switch them. In the middle of this process, I left the door lying on the bedroom floor so I could meet my wife for lunch at her work. By the time I came back, I was disoriented and the dogs kept running through my legs and generally getting on my wick but, wouldn't you know it, I got those pegs back in the door and, after catching my finger between the door and the track yet again, I re-hung the door.








That is to say, upsidedown, again. I stood there for a while, looking at my handiwork. I had my hands on my hips, corduroy trousers, beige socks, beige shirt, brown v-neck sweater, plastic eyeglasses, and I was tempted to scream, to laugh, to say "fuck it" and go watch some television or look at some porn or call someone, anyone, more competent and more heroic than I. More than that, I wanted to call Zayda and tell him, right at that moment, that I loved him more than I ever did when he was alive. More than any of us did.

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