Last week Yduj and I went to Sarasota (Fla.)for a little vacation. I don’t know what I was expecting but this was a little bit of an eye opener. Everyone seemed so old. True, they were probably around my age but these people just felt so much older; maybe it had something to do with the extra weight they were carrying or the clothes they were wearing or possibly their gentileness. Whatever it was, it scared me. The kind of fear that makes me resolve to live each day to the fullest…as if it’s my last. This resolution usually lasts about a day…or an hour…or less.
One of the tourist sites along Sarasota’s harbor is a huge sculpture based on the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ day in 1945. This had particular meaning for me. I used be friends with a woman whose uncle–Uncle Carl– is the sailor in the photo. This is precisely the kind of fame that I believe accrues to me and makes me even more fascinating than I already am. Unfortunately, there are several other men who claim to be that sailor, so my fame had to be divided up amongst a lot of strangers. Still, it was an interesting piece of art although a bit unsettling when I started wondering if the 25′ tall sailor had been created in an anatomically correct way. If so, he’s someone I certainly don’t want in the urinal adjacent to mine when I visit a public bathroom. I have enough problems.
On the day we were leaving, Yduj and I went to the botanical gardens which had been highly recommended. When we were buying tickets I inquired sotto voce if there was a senior citizen discount. I think I can still hear the staff there laughing. EVERYONE in Sarasota is a senior citizen. What I should have asked was if there was a discount for being less than a senior citizen. I think I might have been able to pass myself off as a bit younger. The last time I tried to do that (other than while internet dating) was when I was a kid and tried to get into a movie for the children’s rate. Actually, I never did that. It was my childhood friend, Natie, who did. It would have required a kind of chutzpah of which I’m completely devoid. (For my gentile friends who are not from the Metropolitan area, chutzpah is the Yiddish word for an amalgam of nerve, audacity, entitlement and balls. The exact proportions are a well-kept secret–akin to the formula for Coca Cola [trademark here]–kept in an airtight room somewhere in the bowels of Jerusalem). Natie (the original Bad Seed), would roll up his dungarees so as to look younger in order to get into the movies for the cut-rate. He just didn’t care if he got caught. Somehow, my portion of chutzpah, which should have been my birthright, had been passed, as if by osmosis, to him. One of life’s misfortunes.
After the gardens, Yduj and I were looking for somewhere to have lunch before heading for the airport. While driving around, we passed an Amish restaurant. That’s right…AMISH! Neither of us had ever come across Amish cuisine before and although we didn’t eat there, we spent some time trying to imagine the menu. Probably all kinds of oat dishes. Maybe a horse-drawn omelet. Who knows?
As we departed and our plane became airborne, a wave of calm came over me. I wondered why that was happening. And then I realized… only a small percentage of Jews leave Florida alive; and I was one of the lucky ones.