Friday, September 2, 2016

Klezfest, Oysters, Mixed Up Memories

My poor little brain has been awash lately with so many memories of when I lived in California that  I was just about to write a blog post for each one of them that I could think of.  I've changed my mind, because that's a lot of remembering and would be too much writing, I think.  Or maybe too much second-guessing about the importance of writing memories and who cares and are they memorable memories, or is it just that I have too many neuroses?

I will say, though, that there are some things I just feel like writing about and one of them is the Klezfest that Constance and I went to somewhere on the Northern Coast of California.  These Red Hot Chachkas performed at that time with a few other Klezmer groups.  It feels like the event was held on a compound of some sort, but probably it was just a community center in a small coastal town, somewhere near or at Inverness? 

And now that's my telling of the memory.  What else can I say?  We drove out there, listened, danced and ate kosher somethings.  I've long been interested in many things Yiddish, probably since the first time I read Leo Rosten's book, "The Joys of Yiddish."  I wore out my first copy of the book, couldn't stand to be without it and when I couldn't find another one to buy, I kept borrowing it from the library.  I eventually found another to purchase and I have it stashed away with other treasures.

I was living in Salt Lake City at the time.  There was a Jewish deli downtown, (owned and operated  Dutch holocaust survivor, Lu Dornbush,) where my sister Deborah and I decided to expand our horizons by tasting cream cheese and lox on a bagel.  It was a wonderful sunny summer day and we had traveled by bus from my apartment in Sugar House.  We ogled all the pastries and other foods, but our minds were set on cream cheese and lox.  It was going to be a taste of adventure, something we'd only known about from books and movies.  We stepped out onto the sidewalk and shoved huge bites of bagel and thin strips of orange-pink salmon into our mouths.  EW!  What's this?  It's just raw fish!  Deborah choked and sputtered, actually gagged for several moments.  I laughed so hard, I began to choke.  Such innocents, we were! The world was so much larger in those days.  Since then, I've eaten and enjoyed a lot of unusual and seemingly unfood-like foods, and I even like smoked salmon, now, too.  But happy were we for not trying it out inside the store.

One striking question I have as I recall this event is, how did we choose that particular food item?  I know we decided on purpose before we even went into the store.  That was the mission.  Cream cheese and lox.  Deborah and I both took a lot of things seriously that we gleaned from the media, and, for me, it was that from then on when anyone in a movie or on television casually mentioned cream cheese and lox, I would relate to the experience.  We probably didn't have enough money to head back in and order a piled-high Reuben or even a couple of pieces of  Rugelach with which to wash down that lingering fishy taste.  

(Years later I was to meet this beef brisket Reuben in San Francisco at Miller's East Coast Deli. Did it blow my socks off, you ask?  Yeah, I think it sorta did.)

The only other time I saw my sister have such a strong reaction to any kind of food was many years later when she took a swig of my daughter's fresh raw goat milk out of curiosity.  "This tastes like goat hair," she exclaimed to my wonder that she knew what goat hair actually tasted like.  Why is it so funny to see someone so stunned and displeased with something they have just unwittingly done?  I don't know, but I laugh.

(This picture is from a few years earlier than the 70s when Deborah and I were there. Except from the cars, this is pretty much how it looked mid-70s, only not so faded!))

Several years after that experience at the kosher deli, I met my friend Constance, who lived in SLC at that same time as I did.  We didn't meet until at least a decade (or more) later in San Fransicso.  Constance had better memories of that deli.  Did she even work there, at one time?  Something like that.

But back to Klezfest California.  That might have been the same trip we took in search of hidden-gem-status barbequed oysters on the half-shell.  A bit of a juxtaposition, you say?  Maybe.

(Only one other book in my whole life has been as endearing and hilarious to me as was Rosten's lexicon of Yiddish .  It was "The Last Catholic in America," by John Powers.  I wore that one out, too, while I laughed until I sobbed and couldn't catch my breath.  You had to be there, and you probably had to be me. I wonder if it would do to write about a couple of my favorite books and what actually endears them to me.  I never enjoyed writing book reports in little school, hated writing reviews in High School, and almost enjoyed reviewing them--with annotations-- as an English Lit Major in college!  I loved reading and discussing, though, discovering the symbolism and how it all so poignantly showed the predicament of man.  I'm over it, but there are just some things still near and dear, so maybe I will write about them.)

Forewarned is forearmed. 

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