I tried, today, to give my readers another excerpt from Ask Avigail, who is a sagacious, Biblical-era, advice giver. I am a humorist, and we can all share a laugh. As a matter of fact, humor has been our inner banner because it is our best weapon in bad times (which has historically been always, without repose). But, with the release of 26 sub-humans, and their war against the Jews, I am having trouble creating laughter. Ironically, the way to combat these disturbing feelings, besides slitting your wrists (luckily, I don’t own a razor; I use Nair hair removal, or a machete. Lucky is she, who has a closet full of Borkas), is to use the most effective weapon I know: laughter.
So, who is the authoress of Ask Avigail? How does she get her ideas? More important, can they prove to be an unbelievable source of income? How do you think that old adage, “laughing all the way to the bank” came about?
I was born in November of 1955. My father still insists it was irregularity, as he handed my mother a prune, on the way to Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital. As was his minhag (custom), he got lost. That’s why I was somewhat of a miracle baby because with my dad’s keen sense of direction, I could have been born in our driveway.
The fifties was a time of TV, which we now call Transcendental Vegetation. It was the cornerstone of family social life, although the Jews loved to engage in the pre-program, conversation game, “Guess Who Died.”
My first newborn images of my family were this:
Although everyone seemed to have five digit fingers, my mother had six, and one was on fire. Later in life, she was viewed as a Jewish Buddha, surrounded in smoke (not only did she confess to inhaling, but exhaled too). She made groove marks in the orange velveteen couch. (Later, as a teen, summer shorts led the way to derm-abrasions of the thighs, resulting from sweat and plastic slipcovers. My birthday wish list asked for a Gucci skin graft).
Mom ate like a monk, existing entirely on gum drops (not the black ones), mallomars*, Carlton cigarettes and black coffee. If something green dropped down from Heaven, on her plate, she pushed it over to the peel and pit side.
Another thing I noticed from my carriage; most people had friends, but my mother’s were fictional. She read the Star Magazine tabloid like an unearthed scroll. She would lift her head and say, “That Burt Reynolds seems like a regular guy.” I wondered why she was so interested in this guy’s bowel movements… did he wear diapers, or Pampers, like a big boy?
My father would sit on the couch in his boxer shorts. Being a modest man, when the phone rang, he would grab for his pants before he answered it. In his spare time, he would come back from the supermarket with cheese ends. The cheese clerks would save them for him, and he had an international collection. Years later, when he died, the cheese flags were hung at half mast.
It was not surprising that at six months, I sat up in my carriage, and said my first words: “Arthur Godfrey*. News spread through my neighborhood in North Bergen, (which was not in Bergen county, and not north, but actually south of it). With this kind of identity confusion, it was not a surprise that we were the only Jewish, middle-class family that went downwardly mobile.
My neighbors had a gathering, every Friday night at 7:30. This usually interfered with my favorite TV program, The Wild, Wild West. But, as soon as we heard the screech of the brakes and the crash of fender glass, we were out there like a Pep Rally. Everyone gathered around the damaged car and complained that Old Lady Gristedes should trim her edges!!!! This was enthusiastically endorsed by the twins’ mother, whose sons usually turned a corner on two wheels. There was “Hook”, a small-time bookie, who phoned in his bets in Mary’s restaurant. Mary always wore her geisha-like wig, which was shellacked, rather than coiffed. She had a painted beauty mark, as well as painted eyebrows. She smoked from a continental cigarette holder and always sported a starched “flower” handkerchief to her uniform. Her husband, Fred, who had a striking resemblance to Boris Karloff, was noted for his mayo sandwiches, with a residue of tuna.
My story would not be complete without my brother, Stevie. We had one bathroom, and when he would lock the door with a book in hand, everyone would groan. It wasn’t a comic book; more likely War and Peace, or Ulysses.
He was in charge of reading a bedtime story; his choice being George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” (later sued by PETA). Well, if I didn’t understand something, my brother gleefully explained it, in detail. By the time I got to Kindergarten, I had an uncontrollable eye twitch, every time I picked up the Elmer’s Glue.
And, how do I get my ideas for Avigail? My husband and I discuss the latest Parsha (Torah segment), Mishna, Sodom and Gomorrah, and suddenly, I start the internal rewrites. Is Ask Avigail irreverence or a cheeky thank you to Hashem, for giving me a wicked sense of humor?
*mallomars- delicious, chocolate cookie, produced only in the winter. It was only about fifteen years ago, that I had the shocking realization that there was no kosher symbol on its box. I await the coming of the Moshiach, when the pig will be kosher, and so will its dessert.
*Arthur Godfrey- Talk show crooner and known Anti-Semite (it was in his contract).