JEWS ‘N DRAG

I know this is hard to believe. I went through it myself and I am still completely befuddled about what happened. Each year the Jewish Federation sponsors a Jewish Film Festival. It runs 6 days and usually has some really good films that are not usually seen in theaters, or even art theaters. We have seen Israeli films, Egyptian films, and American films with Jewish themes and so on. The first film this year was Havah Nagila. Where did this song come from? Why is it so popular with everyone? Why is it almost always accompanied by the Hora ( a dance)? Why is it always played at Jewish weddings? Who knew that a Japanese singer made a record of Havah Nagila.
We could not go to the middle films, but made arrangements to see the last film, “Mary Lou, a musical.” The ads from the film showed some pulchritude, which I was kind of interested in seeing. I also love musicals, even if they are in Hebrew. I had no idea that the movie’s focus was cross dressing gay guys and their lives and problems.
It was right out there for all of us old timers to see. I could look around and see that some folks were really uncomfortable. There were men kissing men, discussions of the most intimate kind, lots of drag queens dancing and singing and the main character going from a lonely high school gay kid to a drag star.
There were sad things about the main character’s mother, who had left the family 8 years before. There was a suicide and lots of relationship problems between men and men, and men and women. At the end of the movie, there was a bunch of clapping and also some disgruntled looking people. One woman said, “I hated it.” However, from my vantage point, it looked like most of the Jews in the theater pulled on their long history of rachmonas (pity) and viewed this as they would an old Jewish tragedy. You must understand that the Jewish theater translated only Shakespeare’s tragedies into Yiddish. This appeared to be a traditional tear jerker with only the gender roles changed.
If that wasn’t enough, there was one more part to this event. We were invited to go across the street to a place called Stallions. Carol and I had eaten there some years ago, but had no idea that it had become a theatre of a type. We were told ahead of time that we would be treated to a “Drag Show.” By this time, I wondered whether some of our older folks (80’s and some 90’s) would even know what that was. They were soon to learn.
The place was never set up for a converging of 200 or so Jews trying to get comfortable in an area that probably could comfortably sit no more than 50. There was kind of a runway down the middle and a small floppy curtain at the end. One thing for sure, the bar did a land office business ahead of time.
The announcer came out and told us that we would be introduced to 6 “girl” entertainers who, he said “worked for tips.” We found out later that the tips would go to an organization that LGBT folks belonged to. The first performer came out looking for the entire world like a beautiful woman and lip synched to a loud and beat laden song. As “she” pranced around, people gave her dollars, and she paid them back with kisses.
All of the performers did the same kind of routine, some pulling off their outer garments to reveal themselves in a kind of skimpy outfit. They all did well and got loads of tips, while the audience was paid back in kisses.
I looked around at the Jews who were sitting there. There was one couple in particular. The couple was probably in their early 80’s. The man had a glazed look on his face, while holding his wife’s purse solidly in his crochtel area. His wife looked positively stoned with her arms across her chest. The did that for all of the time that I was there.
Others seemed to enjoy the loud music, the performers and the company of the other people in the audience. I am not sure that I will ever see such a thing again. There will be no such gatherings in the future. As I write this on Mother’s Day, I wonder if most of the Jews in the audience will think of their experience last night, as a dream.

I NEVER KNEW MY FATHER

I was shocked to learn last year that I did not know what my father’s name was. I had for over 70 years believed that his name was Murray Rubin. My older sister casually told me that his real name was Morris Rubin. All of his siblings had nicknames which they lived with until they died. Other than the youngest one, Irving, they were called and died with their nicknames. I have a picture of my father’s tombstone and it says MURRAY RUBIN.
Those of you whose dad lived long enough to tell them stories of their youth, or remember them until they had reached old age, have an advantage. Since my mom worked as a waitress for 35 years and at her retirement, she did not have the memory of the “old days,” I got few pieces of information about my father.
My sister is older than me by 8 years, yet her memory of our dad, is rather sparse. He seemed to be kind of a drop in father, who spent most of his time involved in his avocation, sports, rather than either working, or spending time with his family. My mom’s stories about my father were skewed by her being left with two children and no money at all. If it were not for grandma, we might have lived in a hovel or on the street. Remember, social services were at a minimum in the early 1940’s.
I did learn quite a bit from two older cousins, both children of the eldest of the Rubin children, Tillie Gromis. What I learned was completely new to me. My dad actually was a professional fighter in small fight clubs in Brooklyn and elsewhere. He fought under the name of “Kid Russia.” I am not aware of how good he was, or why he did not continue to fight. I do know that he used his fists to accumulate some dough. Cousin Marvin told me that you could always count on Murray to take away your troubles for a couple of bucks.
I do know for sure that he had a really bad temper. My cousins and my mother told me that he was subject to rages from time to time. I really don’t need to have any confirmation of that side of him, I was the same way. If it weren’t for some fortuitous circumstances, I might have wound up in the pokey because of my temper.
My dad’s father Sam owned a book bindery shop on Hudson Street in lower Manhattan. I did go and visit the place a few times after he died. When we moved in with Grandma, it was not too far away. It appears that he was not in my grandfather’s favor. Murray would leave work and not come back for a few days. He was traveling somewhere to see a ballgame. I may even have a video of him waiting on line at the 1938 World Series in Chicago, a month before I was born.
He also seems to have instilled a love of sports in me. I have been an active participant in lots of sports over the years. He played semi-pro baseball at Bushwick Park in Brooklyn. When a Negro League team came to play, we was the second baseman on the equivalent of the Washington Generals (the patsy team for the Harlem Globetrotters). At one time, I even had his glove. I did not know its value then, but what does a fifteen year old know anyway.
So, be happy that you had your dad for all of those years. I have many holes in time that I will never be able to fill. When your dad dies when you are four, your mentor becomes yourself.

THEY ARE ALL DRUGGED UP

This morning I read in our local paper that the Oil and Gas people in northern Pennsylvania( read Marcellus Shale) cannot find enough workers. The reason for that is that there is a paucity of undrugged applicants. I was astounded to read that. My wife and I have spent many years traversing that area, had a scholarship program that ran in that area and spent many hours with students in the schools in that area.
I have noticed that when some companies want to either save money, increase their share of the market, or pay people lower wages, they seem to come up with weird reasons for doing what they do. A number of years ago, the superintendent of schools of Erie told me that General Electric was having a problem finding engineers and had to go to India to fill their complement. I kind of did a bit of research and found out two things: the “engineers” that they hired from India were being paid a lower salary than would be paid to an indigenous worker, and that there were many engineers (from our our colleges in PA) who would have liked to work for GE.
Just the graduating class at Penn State in the engineering department would have sufficed to fill their needs and then some. So why do these companies feel like they have to create a straw man to knock down. I believe that we are at a time when saying bad things about our country is in style. Actually, according to every measure, our workers are the most productive in the world. Yet, as time goes on, the pay for workers seems to be going down in direct proportion to the amounts of money that CEO’s are earning. Those are the facks Jack.
A waste management company president claims that it is difficult to get employees and that 15% of all applicants fail a drug test. Those that come in to apply leave when they find out that there is a drug test. So let’s see, the waste management jobs attract lots of people who cannot pass drug tests. The president claims that those who do not want those jobs rely on unemployment benefits and have no desire to work in the waste management industry. So, here is another “drugs are the reason.” It could not be that the people that industry attracts might not be the same kind of people who would want a job being an engineer for General Electric?
So, you can’t be not hiring people for your own selfish reasons, so you make them up. The programs that produce workers for the natural gas industry in northern Pennsylvania, at Mansfield University and the Career and Technical schools must be really surprised to learn about this “drug problem.” Actually, the number of people on drugs according to one research firm, has remained the same for a number of years ( being 3.5%). It appears that the companies would rather get workers from other parts of the country to work in their industry ( as they have). Maybe they are also misinformed.