Thursday, June 01, 2006

I promise, as God is my witness, this story is kosher.

OK, another New York story.

I graduated from DuBois High School in DuBois, Pennsylvania, a place where being ethnic meant you were Polish, maybe Lithuanian. I go to New York and get a job in a boiler room which, for those of you who don't know, is a small hot room filled with phones on long counters. Men, shoulder to shoulder, would dial all day, calling businesses, wheedling money with scams like this one, selling ads in the Police Athletic League yearbook. This yearbook would be published, otherwise this would be illegal, but it will never be distributed. Every volume, I'm sure, still rests in a warehouse somewhere in New Jersey.

I'm 18, a kid from the backwoods (DuBois was two hours from the closest city and that city was Altoona), and I'm working with all these middle-aged New Yorkers, honking their New York honk into phones, hunched over legal pads and lists, stacks of lists, of every business number in Manhattan.

It's lunch. My first day. The older guys, protective of the kid, take me down the street to my first kosher deli. I'm 18. I scan the menu. I see pastrami. Now, I've heard of pastrami, but being from DuBois, I've never actually had pastrami.

The waitress comes over, pulls the pencil from behind her ear and asks what we'll have. My turn. I order a hot pastrami on rye. The waitress asks, "Something to drink?" I order, in a kosher deli, a glass of milk.

The waitress says, "No."

I ask, making things even worse, "Are you out of milk?"

She says, "No."

The middle-aged men sigh a collective sigh for this goy from Pennsylvania and one man says, "We'll explain. Bring him a Doctor Brown's."

To this day, when I go into a deli, I get the Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray. I know, some people swear by the Cream Soda, but I go for the Cel-Ray every time. And when I take that first sip I'm 18 again, a kid from the sticks, with a whole world of things to learn.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Great story, David! I love your sense of detail, right down to the waitress pulling the pencil out from behind her ear. It's amazing what a great story a simple thing like a glass of milk can tell.