Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Denny and I - among many others - receive regular heaps of e-mail from the legendary Catfish. Jokes, cartoons, mostly funny stuff. Occasionally a more serious “touchy-feely” piece.

And Denny, when he’s feeling a little lazy (admit it, bwah) will post one of those Catfishy pieces. With appropriate credit, of course.

Yesterday, Denny posted a joke that was not only familiar, but one that brought back some nice memories.

It’s an old chestnut about an old guy who prays at the Western Wall. I won’t quote it here, nor will I spoil the punchline - go and read it at Denny’s site.

Old? Yeah, it’s been around a while.

Buried in the Archive d’Elisson, there’s an old VHS tape that we recorded 21 years ago, back when we were living in Atlanta the first time around. We were visiting the ’Rents d’Elisson in the herbaceous suburbs of New York at the time, and someone had managed to latch on to a videocassette recorder. Big and cumbersome it was, but it worked just fine.

One night, I had the machine set up to record Eli (his ownself) telling jokes. Eli was, and is, a consummate storyteller, and he can make the most horrible jokes sound funny. One of his specialties is telling jokes in (moderately ungrammatic) Yiddish, which adds greatly to the comic effect - provided you understand it to begin with. There’s one that, translated, goes like this:

A teacher is reviewing the idiomatic expression “It seems to me” with her class. She asks little Mendel to stand up and tell a story that includes a sentence containing the words “it seems to me.”

“This morning, my father got up and went into the bathroom. He shaved, took a shower, and got dressed. Then he had some cereal and coffee for breakfast. Then, he picked up his briefcase and went out the door. It seems to me that my father is going to work.”

“Very good, Mendel. You may sit down. Deborah, please stand up and tell us a story with ‘it seems to me.’”

“Today I went to the food market with my mother. She bought eggs, milk, butter, flour, nuts, and raisins. It seems to me that she is going to bake a cake.”

The teacher thanks little Deborah and calls upon Josh.

“My 17-year-old sister is taking piano lessons. Yesterday, the piano teacher came over, and the two of them went into the music room and closed the door. One minute, two minutes, three minutes go by, and I don't hear the piano. So I go and look in the keyhole.

“And I see the piano teacher with his pants down around his ankles, and my sister has got her dress lifted up over her head. And it seems to me...

“...that they’re gonna piss on the piano.”

Yeah, I know. It’s funnier in broken Yiddish.

But that night, my Dad told the joke about the old man praying at the Western Wall. I have it on tape: Dad sitting on an ottoman with my Mom behind him, holding him about the waist, using her hands to punctuate the story as it’s being told.

It’s fun to take out those old tapes and watch ’em from time to time, but it’s bittersweet as well. Mom’s been gone for almost eighteen years now. Yet watching those tapes, hearing her voice (with a Lawn Guyland accent you could cut with a knife) - it all brings back some warm memories.

So: thanks to Denny and Catfish for the trip down Recollection Road. Cat, you’re a Good Man in more ways than one. Heh.

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