Friday, June 29, 2007

Mangoes, Hayble’s Hearth, Michael Chabon

Thursday my uncle Tiberius was bringing my grandmother and her sister by for reflexology treatments and to go out to dinner. I told him beforehand that Wyatt wouldn’t be home until 5:30 or 6:00 pm, and I assumed that this would communicate the fact that I intended to wait for Wyatt to go with us.

But Tiberius shows up at 5:00. I open the door. “Come on,” he says. “They’re waiting in the car.”

“But Wyatt’s not home yet,” I said.

“Well, THEY’RE HUNGRY,” he said. From his tone I knew he meant business. I knew that what really mattered was that he was hungry. Generally my uncle is my favorite relative but there have been times when we’ve almost come to blows. The Botsfords are famous for having hard heads, especially when the male of the species is hungry. I call it PMS – pre meal syndrome. Tiberius and my father both become red-eyed devils when the blood sugar starts to drop. You can set your watch by it. When the sarcastic remarks and the amazing inflexibility begin, you are somewhere within 45 minutes of meal time.

I was afraid Tiberius was going to get really get pissy, but I pictured Wyatt coming home to an empty house and eating a lonely PB&J in front of the TV, wondering if I’d left him or been kidnapped. I told Tiberius to go out and tell the girls that I had snacks waiting for them.

He attempted to put on a veneer of well-adjustedness, and went out to retrieve his mom and aunt, while I sliced the mangoes. Can you imagine being 80+ years old and never having eaten a mango? They loved the Hell out of it. Declared it better than cantaloupe. Tiberius sulked a little and ate corn chips instead. To make him feel better I did his feet first.

Taking that introductory Reflexology class was the best thing I ever did. These are all people who’ve got all the basic items they need, so they’re hard to buy for. They can all bake their own cakes and cook dinner better than I could for them. They’re also the kind of people who’d feel uncomfortable getting a full-body massage. But they loved getting their feet treated, even though Tiberius wouldn’t admit it. And they’re all people who so deserve a treat.

There was a lot of conversation going on during the foot massages. So much for my concentration and Blue Medicine Buddha healing chants. The atmosphere was much more like that of a small-town beauty shop than a spa, which is I guess is to be expected since both women are of the generation that came of age getting their hair set once a week in a room full of gossiping neighbors, and that’s still how they do their hair.

Usually my grandmother Botsford is content to sit and let Tiberius and others do all the talking, but this was one occasion she reminded me that I love her personality.

She says, “Verona, it seems like it wasn’t too many days ago when you was just a little girl.”


Then she says, “Now you’re getting to be an old woman.”

I say, “Hey! That’s mean!”

She says, “Well at least I’m not by myself.”

Wyatt came home as I was finishing up my aunt’s feet, and after that we went to our favorite country cooking place, Hayble’s Hearth on Spring Garden Street. I had fried chicken livers drowned in Texas Pete. It was fabulous.

I got my mom a book for mother’s day, and last week she loaned it to me. I read it this week, so here’s my brief review.

There are no good stopping places in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. You get lassoed on the first page and held captive until you finish.

The main character is a fairly standard noir style detective. He’s a drunk and he gets knocked out a lot. He’s full of wiseass remarks, as is everyone else that inhabits this alternate universe where a Jewish settlement was given provisional status along the Alaska coast in and around Sitka beginning in 1948. Everyone in this story, except for a few outsiders, is Jewish. The folks in this book call each other Jew constantly. Now if you inhabited a society where everyone was Jewish, why would you even have to waste the energy of pointing out individual people as Jews? And even though I’m not Jewish, I’m also not a total dumbass – I can remember what kind of setting I’m reading about from page to page, so I don’t need to be reminded either. So why is every other word Jew? And every fifth word Yid?

Aside from that, I loved this book. It was like one of the magic books the Ashe character in the movie “Army of Darkness” encountered in the evil cemetery. The one that physically grabbed him with a gnarled hand and dragged his struggling person inside. It was almost unpleasant being in the thrall of a story so much. I got up in the morning, made breakfast, read the book. Left for work, read the book for the three minutes before the shift began. Read at break and during lunch, and when I got home. Wore my eyes out on it. There’s a couple of questions I have about what happened at the end – a couple of things bothered me, but I don’t want to bring them up and spoil the whole story before you read it.
The photo up top is of cilantro and johnny-jump ups blooming together on my balcony.

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