Saturday, June 7, 2008

What This Says About Me

So I'm sitting in Starbucks the other day (even though they don't have an apostrophe) reading and drinking my grande nonfat caramel macchiato, upside down, 190ยบ (that is so mortifying, but I felt I had to out myself. Yes, I'm fully aware that I am not a real coffee drinker.), and there is an attractive couple sitting across from me. Automatically I like them, because I'm shallow like that; I like the attractive. They weren't conventionally good looking, I suppose, it was more how they were put together, the care they took in their appearance. Not overdressed or overly made up, just nice. He was in a crisp shirt and tie, she in a simple blouse with a tasteful broach. What delighted me was that they were hmm, 50? I'm not so good with age. Around 50. They both had iPod buds (awkward word) in their ears (that was the delightful part, by the way).

Sitting in comfy leather chairs, the inner arms of each creating a cozy V together, both husband and wife ('cause I'm sure they were married) were reading the newspaper. And what I loved was the way they kept leaning into each other to point out something in their section of the paper that they thought would interest the other. Maybe they were waiting for some meeting. They had that quality of "spending a dash of time." There was a book on each lap, his hardcover and large, hers smaller with a soft cover. Maybe even a journal. This couple caught my eye the moment I walked in. I suspect it was he. Not gorgeous or anything, just striking. Probably the color combo. That Danny Glover dark skin/gray hair thing. Balding, salt and pepper beard. It was definitely that balding head that caught my eye; I love a finely-shaped pate, and nature's chosen color scheme was really working for me.

This is all just to say, I liked these people, simply by looking at them. They looked very comfortable in themselves and their surroundings and with each other. I kept watching them and happily they were too engrossed in their music and their papers to notice me. And as I was reading they eventually put down their papers and picked up their books. I glanced up and noticed the tell-tale sign of ribbons in the books. Oh my god, the books are Bibles. They're actively reading the Bible! And suddenly, it was over. They had disappointed me. They were religious, and so religious that they were reading the Bible in Starbucks. And then I realized they probably weren't waiting for a meeting, they were probably taking a rest from proselytizing. And I detest proselytizing. Clearly some of them childhood Jew studies still resonate within me. Jews don't proselytize, no no no, big no-no. In fact, if you want to become a Jew, it ain't easy. The Rabbi will actually turn you away. Three times, I believe, but these days I suspect that's mostly ritual. And then you have to study like crazy, 'cause that's what Judaism is all about. And like a lot of Jews, I'm full to brimming with the cultural stuff and tradition I was raised on, but I think that "religion" and "faith" business is rather a lot of hooey, and, dare I say it, doo-dah (waggle fingers in the air, when daying doo-dah, please, for the full effect).

I don't fully respect religious people. (I will understand if you don't want to be my friend. I think I'm an ass for feeling this way, I just can't help it. [And don't really want to help it.]) My feeling is, "What's wrong with you that you need to believe in that? What are you missing inside of yourself? And wouldn't you be better served by seeing a psychiatrist and finding all the strength of the world within yourself?" All the searchers I've ever known, all those "spiritual" people looking so very hard elsewhere, never seem to look inside, nor have I ever known one to actually find his or herself. They're looking in the wrong place. Look at yourself, and look to your people (family, and those you consider family. Unless your family isn't worthy, then look to the family you've made).

So, um, yeah, what the hell was I saying? Where did I start? Oh yeah, I'm a lousy judgmental bitch (I really wanted to say cunt, but I worried that would be too startling), who decided what I wanted to about this couple at Starbucks (damn that apostrophe), first good, then bad. And the thing is, they were perfectly happy with their world and their choices, and I don't know them at all. But when all is said and done, I don't care to know them.

(And by the way, said the freaky hypocrite, I regularly thank some amorphous being for all the things that make me happy and content every day. Like reading a book in Starbucks with a quasi-coffee beverage.)

I am awfully fond of you,


Sunday, June 1, 2008

Uncle Harvey, Alava Shalom

It's made me very very sad that Harvey Korman has died. For a lot of reasons. I know he was a kind man. And fabulously funny. I have adored him for as long as I can remember.

My dad and Harvey Korman were best friends in the Navy. They met waiting in line for Synagogue in, I guess, 1945. Now, my dad is not the kind of guy to keep up relationships over years, but he certainly followed Harvey's career and was very proud of him. While we watched him on TV we felt like we knew him.

I didn't meet him until 1979 when I was just about 10. Our family took an epic western trip, drove across the country, six people in a Jeep Wagoneer. We took a month in August and wound our way over Route 66 and then back again along the northern route. Dad called Uncle Harvey and said we were acomin'. He greeted us with open arms and was warm and funny and delightful as can be, and so "Harvey Korman." He took us to the famous deli Nate'n Al, showed us around Beverly Hills. Kim Richards (of "Nanny and the Professor" fame [and, weirdly, it seems to me, Paris Hilton's aunt]) rolled by on a pair of roller skates and bumped into us. She looked up at Harvey and was immediately dopey and star struck; she'd grown up with him too, after all. We went to his home in Bel Air and his son played Atari with me. Harvey gave us a tour and when we got to the master bath he said to me, "This is where the star makes a doodie. It's all sparkley." I believe I was delighted.

Sometime later Harvey came to Detroit for work and called my dad and we all went to dinner. In fact, I think I answered when he called and I was terribly confused by his voice. It was so familiar, but I didn't know who it was. It's not every day The Great Gazoo calls. I just gave the phone to my dad, thinking for some reason it was one of the teachers from Hebrew school.

One delicious highlight for me came that night at dinner when I made Harvey Korman, a brilliantly funny man, laugh so hard he pretty much flopped his face into his pasta. I don't think it was what I said so much, I suspect it was my delivery. I was very earnestly describing my beloved fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Miller. She was a great teacher, but her serious smoking and coffee habits made for remarkably bad breath, and I remarked on it. I said to Harvey, "and her breath is amazing!" Well, something about the way I said that, my eyes wide and my voice awed, just tickled him. I don't think I'd been trying to make him laugh, but I was so proud of myself that I had.

Not long after that, Uncle Harvey met and married a nice lady and they had a baby and my dad's my dad and they just lost touch. Hell, I'm not even sure they had any communication between 1945 and 1979!

When I moved to LA 13 or so years ago, I didn't feel comfortable calling Harvey and saying I was in town. He would have been thrilled to hear from me, and perhaps even saddened if he'd known that I hadn't looked him up, but it just would have seemed like I was hoping for a leg up in the business and I couldn't bear him thinking that. I would have liked to have seen him, and heck, once I was making a living in my chosen field, that wouldn't have been a problem. But it just didn't feel right, ya know? I secretly hoped I'd run into him somewhere and tell him who I was. That never happened, and now I'm feeling wistful because it never will.

I always felt warm and fuzzy toward him. And I also associated him so strongly with my dad, and not just because they'd been friends. In fact, I've always had a love of what I feel is the Harvey Korman/Alan Alda/My Dad trinity. (By the way, there's also the My Sister/Lucy Ricardo/Madonna triumvirate, but that's a whole other thing.) All three men were tall and semi-lanky, somewhat bulbous nosed, and funny as all get out. And Jewey, even though Alan Alda isn't, but might as well be (Italian and all that, same diff). My dad and Harvey were about 10 years older, though. Both born in February 1927. And both balding. So of course Harvey's death makes me deeply sad not for just who he was, but for how much I associate him with my dad. I'm pretty much counting on my dad never dying, and Harvey running off and dying like that was a bit nervy on his part.

So I wanted to tell you. Harvey Korman was just the man you would imagine him to be. And one time I made him laugh very hard. And I'm very very sorry that he's not here anymore.