"The Little Jewish Lady" (3rd Continuance)
Jesus, I keep hoping I'm not on another episodic journey here--I don't wanna be. My intention was to jot out a quick piece on this woman, a quick tribute, but then I realized once I got into it this woman couldn't be described in one piece--Yikes! there were more pieces to this woman than met the eye. Yes, she was stereotypical, you couldn't help but give her that, and she played the role to the hilt, too, especially when it came to her continuing lifestyle, but that wasn't all of it. She played the stereotypical role beyond her capacity--her acting out her childhood fantasies as a 60-year-old woman was certainly ludicrous while certainly "touching" at the same time to a person so steeped in human observation as myself.
[This morning while reading Jane Bowles, I came across this very telling passage: "I want you to know the whole truth about me. But don't imagine that I wouldn't be capable of concealing my ignorance from you if I wanted to. I am so wily and feminine that I could live by your side for a lifetime and deceive you afresh each day. But I will have no truck with feminine wiles. I know how they can absorb the hours of the day. Many women are delighted to sit around spinning their webs. It is an absorbing occupation, and the women feel they ar getting somewhere. And so they are, but only for as long as the man is there to be deceived. And a wily woman alone is a pitiful sight to behold. Naturally." That's from Jane's brief Emmy Moore's Journal, which was to be a portion of a larger novel Jane was calling Out in the World; I'm reading her work in The Portable Paul and Jane Bowles put out by Penguin in 1994 as part of their inherited Viking Portable Library. I love reading Jane Bowles even though Paul is the much better and cleverer writer--it's hard to top The Sheltering Sky plus I'm also getting a big stunned kick out of reading his Let It Come Down--a book that has a fascinating long scene in which the protagonist is supposed to be high as holy hell on Paul Bowles's favorite Moroccan weed, what he calls majoun --he actually Anglicizes it as just majoun--no itals--which in essence is the highest grade hashish possible--and Paul Bowles is such a skillful writer that soon you begin to believe the whole novel may be a majoun trip--hallucinations galore; subtle gore galore--to me he and Jane are teasing writers. (Remember hashish? The Lebanese kind used to have flakes of opium in it. The Jamaican Bad Boys came up with liquid hashish. The best hash ever, though, supposedly was this majoun Paul became so hooked on while living in Tangiers and Morocco--I have a film of Paul getting high on majoun while his Moroccan poet friend takes great Thai sticks of some awesome-looking pot which he then begins chopping up into the silky ground herbal-looking substance needed to then cook it down into the majoun state, which comes out as a sticky licoricey looking substance that you then smoke in a hookah or a long hash pipe. Remember the Firesign Theater's accusation that our white forefathers ("Never Tell a Lie" George Washington, Ben Franklin, etc.) were hashheads? I recall Phil Proctor, one of the Firesign actors, reading from Ben Franklin's diary, "And I took meself down to the Hashfire Inn..." Damn, I love those old Firesign Theater things--cleverest bunch of dudes I've encountered in my looking for the most satirical shit the world has to offer to guffaw at--and I love guffawing--these guys nailed a lot of shit dead on the head in those many Firesign Theater episodes--arghhhhhhh! and I am getting episodically epileptic here....]
Back to being episodically epileptic: After we were embroiled at the agency in this superdrug launch, work became for sure "late" every night, and late meant up into the wee hours of those gruesome mornings. Why I've left work at like 7:30 am, come home, showered, shaved, you know, and then been right back at the job by 9, ready to do another long haul. As a result of this late night work, the Little Jewish Lady and her smoker pals decided, shit, after the bosses left, especially the big tall red head, fuck going out into the stairwell to cop some smokes, why not just smoke right there in the office--you know, smoke up a storm and then shoot this gaseous deodorizer into the already putridly stale air thereby covering up the illegal sin of smoking in the offices. I called them the Smokers Circle. There was the Puerto Rican woman; the Staten Island Italian chick whose favorite word was "fuck"--"Fuck that fuckin' shit. I'll be fuckin' damned if I fuckin' put up with that fuckin' shit" and I joked about how she must have been a crusty sailor in one of her other lives 'cause boy could she cuss just like the proverbial sailor of cursing legend. This cussin' Staten Island babe had a boy friend who worked there, too--she later married him to detrimental effects--but the boy friend was a kind'a dull pugnacious little Irish kid, a graphic artist making better bucks than she was--and he, too, smoked and he would join the Circle at times. And there were always unexpected guests dropping in, "Ohhhhh, I hear you guys are lightin' 'em up in here, may I?" Then there was the Puerto Rican woman's young cousin--a really nice woman who really didn't smoke but she liked to bring cookies and cakes and shit in there and eat those while participating in the incessant jabber that eventually turned into whispered gossip, "Did you hear that Big Snell is getting the axe?" "Get outta heah, him, I thought he was an agency hotshot?" "Yeah, looks like only he thought he was a hot shot." "How 'bout have you all heard that Kerry the Stud is banging Cheri the married account exec?" "Or how 'bout that Melissa bitch bangin' that goofy Otis guy?" Gossip; oh how these women--and men--loved their gossip--and speaking of men, the last regular member of the Smokers Circle was a guy I called Uncle Teddy Boy, a totally neurotic dude who while smoking his one cigarette after another loved to broadcast his various ills and give us a detailed count of all the insane asylums he'd been instituted into and then one night out of the clear blue sky he up and reveals with a darling little innocence that he was HIV-positive. "Does that mean he has the AIDS?" the Little Jewish Lady asked me after Uncle Teddy Boy had left the office to go back to his PowerPoint work. "Not necessarily. Magic Johnson has been HIV-positive for years--in fact, by now, nobody even remembers Magic Johnson is HIV-positive--and he's healthier than a horse. But Uncle Teddy Boy--hey, I'll give you 4-5 odds he's got the AIDS." "Shit, wow," LJL said, "but then, hell, he's gay isn't he, or if he isn't he'd better be?" Uncle Teddy Boy was thin, bony, sad looking, yellowy at times, limp wristed (oh yes!), and constantly dancing with his personal death wish of which the cigarette smoking was his chance to confess his many warps, and he had more warps than just the AIDS.
And every evening during these long hauls, and they lasted for more than a year and a half--the Smokers Circle would pile into the office after the bosses were gone and they smoked and jived and then went over ordering dinner--and then all of them got the hots for food and we ordered dinner and then everybody went back to work. The Little Jewish Lady, however, decided, shit, as long as the Smokers Circle was getting away with smoking up a storm in the office, why couldn't she just keep on puffing away the rest of the night as long as she kept the door closed and the can of deordorizer handy, and she did. Did I complain? No. What I did was start telling her about everybody I knew who had died from cigarette-related cancers--my best friend in NYC, the photographer, a chain-Kools-smoker (Kools for many years was the favorite brand of good-looking black dudes)--his father, also a chain-Kools-smoker had died a few years earlier of esophageal cancer; my mother's brother had died of lung cancer and as a kid I'd visited him as he lay dying in a Vet's hospital in McKinney, Texas, and he was constantly begging all of us to please get him a pistol so he could blow his diseased brains out--"Please, god-dammit, the pain, please, son of a bitch, get me a gun, a pistol, that's all I want, god-dammit, the fucking pain, god-dammit, please just kill me, mother, kill me, put a pillow over my face--please mother." His mother was my grandmother and she was more concerned about his soul, she was a poet, than she was his pain. I think perhaps she believed if her son would confess his sins and accept Christ as his personal savior he might not get the cancer cured but at least she'd feel he was going to Heaven when he did eventually die. Unfortunately he never accepted Christ as his personal savior--in fact, the last time I saw the poor bugger he was cursing God to high heaven--his mother included--cursing his own mother because she wouldn't put a pillow over his face and do him in. And I started describing sitting by my photographer friend's bedside at Sloane-Kettering Hospital (the last stop of hope for terminal cancer folks) while he was radiated to a cobalt-blue black--especially describing in detail the ordeal he went through, blah, blah, blah. You catch my drift. I had some feminine wiles up my sleeve, too. Yes, I soon figured out--and this is why I included that passage from Jane Bowles in this episode (YIKES! My writing is imprisoning me!)--yes, the Little Jewish Lady was using those feminine tricks on me. But the irony here is, I was using them on her, too. I wasn't like her father at all. Soon for me it became a psychiatric trip as I flipped through my Smokers Circle Roll-a-Dex and studied each patient--I was the sane one in the room when the Smokers Circle met. To be honest, I loved putting myself in such situations. I feel it makes me a stronger character in my own imagination--makes me a better writer--HELL, look at the words that are coming into my brain as I relive this past! Jesus, I can't shut 'em off; I'm like old Thomas Wolfe, the real writer, I just can't edit my own work! No cuttin' in me when it comes to my holy writ.
So that's what I started doing when the Little Jewish Lady lit up. And by God it actually got her to quit lighting up after the Smokers Circle left the room. Yes, she admitted, smoking was bad, she'd been smoking since she was a teenager--all her pals smoked, too, heavy. Her husband smoked. Her son smoked. Her other "sons" smoked. The whole world smoked in her world. Me, no, I never smoked cigarettes. I always thought them foul. I sold cigarettes for my brother's magazine stand and tobacco shop as a high schooler--instead of stealing cigs and smoking them, I stole cigs and took them to high school and sold 'em black-market style to make a little extra spending money for myself. I never wanted to smoke cigarettes--well, at least not tailormades--nope, if I smoked cigarettes I smoked those special Jamaican and Mexican brands you had to roll yourself.
Still the Little Jewish Lady puffed on on her smoke breaks all day long and with the Smokers Circle on the long-haul nights and early dawnings.
As a working musician I had gotten used to second-hand smoke. I've played in dives so full of cigarette smoke it made my eyes steadily water, getting so bad it blinded me and irritated so much I would have to excuse myself after a tune and run into the men's room and wash my eyes out in order to return and whack out another tune for the drunken gang that surrounded the little stage above the bar in this joint. And, yes, we used to smoke in the offices, too, yes we did--there were no bans against smoking then and every desk was issued an ashtray and at one time when I first went to work at the Big Eight accounting (executive management and financial counseling--they hate the term "accounting") firm I got into cigars and my reading partner in those days smoked cigars, too, and we puffed away heartily to the great consternation of the cigarette smokers, mostly women, and women who hated cigar smokers--all women hate cigars--it must have something to do with oral and anal conflicts within their lives--yes, maybe a cigar looks like a penis to them, and it reduces a man's masculinity in their sight to see him puffing away on a hard penis (why not a turd?)--remember Bill Clinton and his illegal Cuban cigar stash he sometimes substituted for his penis when Monica Lewinsky--a Little Jewish Lady--was giving him many happy endings there in the Oral Orifice (the Oval Office), so he returned the pleasure by giving her an illegal Cuban cigar fuck? Bill Clinton, what a joke, but, hey, I'm told American women love the man--think he's hot shit! And all he got was Hillary--no wonder he diddled around all over the place with semi-ugly women. And didn't we all at one time or another.
And the Little Jewish Lady closed the door one night and confronted me with the following trick attempt: "I know you are beginning to want to sleep with me, Mr. Wolf." Whaaaaa! "What?" "You. I can tell by the way you look at me." Now, folks, let me try to describe what this woman looked like. I called her The Empress because she bore a striking resemblance to Queen Victoria, the English-Prussian fop queen who ruled HER British Empire and her role as Empress of India with a calcified vagina for over 75 years. One reason the Little Jewish Lady resembled Queen Victoria was in her reddish-pasty flesh--a highly powdered, rouged, and perfumed flesh. Also, they had similar hair--a thin, scraggly burnt-out hair that looked henia orangey in its finest hours and like a bowl of molded spaghetti at other times. I never saw Queen Victoria's body but I assume it was probably in the same baggy shape as the Little Jewish Lady's body, which I got frightening views of all day and night long since this little squatty roo woman who was totally pear-shaped, tiny upperstructure with a big huge wide-load ass, because of the clothes she wore--very tight cheap clothes--none of her clothes fit her loose--it was as if she were still buying misses or petite sizes when she should have been in the "big gals" section when she bought her wardrobe--mainly pants suits--and oh what a bulbous, flour-sack ass she had, all overflowing and cobbly fatty sloppy. So, no, I had no sexual desires for this woman. None whatsoever. But, she insisted I did. Going so far as to tell me once while pretending to be suffering from the sexual hots, you know, opening her blouse down too low and fanning herself like a women getting hot flashes, which they may have been, too--I was dealing with a menopausal Little Jewish Lady, "You know you don't know what you're missing, Wolfowitz." "Sorry?" I said, feigning inattention.. "You don't know what you're missing by not going to bed with me." "And what would I be missing?" I asked while thinking of my girlfriend at the time--there was no comparison--my girlfriend at the time was 5' 2", much younger than I was, with a figure to die for and a pretty face to match, with burning-deep brown eyes, and a skin so smooth and inviting it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and all around my constantly erect penis when I was with her. So, no, I didn't know what the hell I was missing by not boffing the Little Jewish Lady.
Like I say, this situation went on for nearly two years. After a year, I was totally seasoned, totally adjusted, totally acclimated to it--I paid it no mind, went along with it when it was fun, and as an extra torture I even got to taking her to lunch at her favorite restaurant, not a restaurant at all but an Irish bar (Muldoon's) that sold food in the back--with a pigeon hole kitchen and a couple of sweating-like-crazy short-order cooks back there--hamburgers were their speciality and the Little Jewish Lady loved her hamburgers, with the works, too, the cheese, the bacon, the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and dill pickles and tons of French fries and catsup, "Dahlink, may I have some more catsup...and dammit, the salt shaker's empty, too"--all of which she chawed and lugged on down--dribbling a lot of food out the corners of her mouth--why she wore her gold-lame bibs--and she always put a bib on when she ate. "When you get my age you start having more food falling out of your mouth than you can shovel in it, thus the bib--and I can only get these bibs, my favorites, in Florida, down near Fort Lauderdale where my cousin on my father's side lives." No one else in the office, and that included all those people who swore they "loved" this woman and they thought she was so clever and so typically a "Little Jewish Lady"--"And you know she's pretty damn wise, too, when you get right down to it"--yes, so even with all that love and admiration for her no one else in the office wanted to go to lunch with her. It wasn't pleasant watching her eat--the drooling and dribbling and hawking up lugies while she ate--and at that time you could smoke in restaurants so she had her cig going while she ate--ashes dribbling along with the food--"Ah, fuck, I burnt a hole in this bib--and I just got this one, too."
Still being continued as a Cont'd thing--I never intended to relive this level of my Inferno this long--merely a passing glance at a passing figure--but no--God, as a writer, I am cursed.