Thursday, January 13, 2005


We have a lot of Steves in our congregation. A lot of Steves. I’m not sure why, but I suspect that “Steven” was a very popular name among Jewish families of a certain vintage.

In addition to Yours Truly, we have Steve the Gameboy, he of the Cream Cheese Sculpture. We have Lung Machine Steve (no, he doesn’t use one; he sells them). We have Steve “After Dinner” Mintz. We have Houston Steve - more about him later. We have Shanghai Steve, who grew up in Shanghai when his family fled the Holocaust. We have Broadway Steve. There’s even a Stephen...and a Stefan!

Our story today features Houston Steve, who, with the Minyan Boyz this morning, celebrated the imminent departure of his son, who is off to spend twenty-seven months serving in the Peace Corps. Yeah, kids still join the Peace Corps.

Twenty-seven months. Three months in language immersion classes, then two years in the field. “And where is that field?” you may well ask.


Jeez, think of it. Two years in a country full of guys like Borat. Uz-Frickin’-Bekistan.

Two years in “FoodDreckistan,” where who the hell knows what they eat?

As if to ensure that his son had a full belly (or at least the memory of a good meal) when he left, Houston Steve treated his family, along with the entire Minyan crowd, to breakfast at the Local Bagel Emporium. And, dear friends, this was a serious breakfast. Fish of every variety: smoked salmon, baked salmon, smoked whitefish, pickled herring, sable. And the accompaniments: bagels; sliced tomatoes and onions; hardboiled eggs; good, salty black olives. Not those miserable things you get out of a can, either. Real olives. All of this washed down by lashings of the Local Bagel Emporium’s fine, hot, creosote coffee.

Houston Steve and I share an interesting bit of connected history. A couple of years ago, we were having breakfast with the group at the Local Bagel Emporium and I mentioned, offhandedly, that I was going to be heading off to Sweat City later that day. Whereupon Houston Steve said, in a tone of mock indignation, “Now, don’t be saying anything bad about my town!” For indeed, he had been a resident there some time ago (which is why I call him Houston Steve. Duh.)

And I explained that we, too, had been residents of that fine (but sweaty) metropolis. Not once, but twice – in the mid-1970’s, and then later, through much of the 1990’s.

“Where did you live?”

“Oh, the first time around, down in the Southwest. The second time, we were on the west side, two blocks off Memorial Drive.”

“Really? Where in the Southwest?”

“A little ways south of Bellfort…just west of Hillcroft. It was a reasonable neighborhood back then…”

“Well, we used to live right around there. On Lattimer Drive.”

And then Houston Steve proceeds to announce the house number. Our house number. The exact same house number on the exact same street. The first house She Who Must Be Obeyed and I ever owned, back when I was just learning how to obey.

Further discussion revealed that Houston Steve had actually bought the house from us when we moved to New Jersey in early 1979. Since it was a corporate transfer, we had never sat down at the closing table together. Who knew?

Amazing, the things you can learn over a Smoked Fish Breakfast!

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