Friday, April 07, 2006


Existential Friday: the giant pickle


Some places are just heavily layered with meaning.

The Carnegie Deli in New York is a place I first went to as a young kid with my parents. It's the setting for the comedians' round table in Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose. A short walk uptown from Times Square, it's at once a hackneyed tourist destination and a regular hangout for locals.

The family sitting next to us is a good example. Clearly from one of the plains states -- I'm guessing Kansas from the twang-inflected midwestern accent -- the middle-aged parents are in town visiting their daughter. (How do I know this? The Carnegie jams its tables together, so you often end up seated elbow-to-elbow with total strangers whose conversation can be difficult to ignore.)

Their daughter has been married less than a year and her litany of complaints suggests she had not gotten to know her fiance all that well beforehand. She is quite surprised, and indignant, that her hubby is a slob who doesn't lift a finger around the apartment (the phrase "clean the toilet" grew into a sort of repeated cadence like "hallelujah" at a prayer meeting). B and I guess that she's going to be heading back to Kansas within six months.

The dad, who is straight out of central casting for the unflappable middle-American 55-year-old dad from Kansas, but who was incongrously going to town on a monstrous pastrami sandwich, pipes into the conversation at one point:
"Well, you know, relationships are complicated. Usually both parties have something that they want out of a relationship that they don't get."
Mom and daughter pause, look at him briefly. Then with a dismissive wave of the hand, daughter says:
"Like what, Dad? Mom does everything for you. She does the laundry, she cooks."

"Mmm," Dad shrugs. "I'm just saying..."
The conversation flows on back to complaints about the daughter's hubby. Hmmm, I wonder, what could Dad have possibly wanted that he didn't get? B gives me a significant look and silently mouths some words: "a 3-way?"

Our wait person comes up to get our order. The Carnegie always featured a classic archetype -- the obnoxious middle-aged Jewish waiter. This is a 55-60 year old unsmiling, paunchy man in thick horn-rimmed glasses with a thin rim of graying hair around his balding head. He looks like he's about to say something really funny, but he's totally humorless. His conversation extends only to curt negations of your order:
"You don't want the chopped liver today."
"Why not?"
"I'm just telling you. I'd get the smoked fish plate."
The problem of course is that this guy was 55-60 about thirty years ago, so now he's gone. Who is there to replace him?

Thanks to globalization, sarcastic Jewish waiters are now immigrating from India. The late 30-something Indian waiter may not actually be Jewish, but he does a perfect, "I told you not to order the hamburger!" when the customer at the next table complains about his meal. Problem solved.

But not really. Our wait person is a woman in her 60s, somewhat bent over, moving with difficulty through the dining room. She's wearing thick bright-red lipstick that beautifully highlights her expression of purse-lipped disapproval. But she touches your sympathatic nerve -- you want to jump up and tell her, "No, sit sit!" and clear away some dishes.

Unless she enjoys her work -- and I don't see it -- I really don't like the idea that a woman in her mid-sixties has to keep working swing shift at a physically arduous job.

The Carnegie has it all -- the globalized work force, the aging workforce, women (both patrons and employees) who have to hold down jobs and do all the housework themselves, and of course pastrami sandwiches bigger than your head.

When I count out about a 30% tip, I ask B, "is this too much?"
"I wish we could leave her a 401(k)" says B.
On the way out, I find myself backing up near the door and bump into a hard object. It's the giant pickle, shown above. That, too, is symbolic of something. I haven't figured out what.

that was hilarious. Thank you.

Could you please write a short story (or even a novel) about the Kansas family and the new son in law? I really want to know what the father is missing from his marriage, and if the girl will escape from New York back to the big sky and the cornfields of her homeland.

jsrcx = listening to Jazz-Rock while riding a BMX bicycle.
I want to marry B!
Arlo Guthrie was actually the first thing that came to my mind when I saw that.


iaqai - Mayan for sneeze.
Oh, come on, this is easy.

Dad wants oral sex.
See, this is why you live with people before you get married. So you don't go running home to Mom and Dad within 2 years!! Let's you weed out and/or retrain the slobs
what *are* those giant red things hanging next to the giant pickle? giant slimjims? giant salamis? can we possibly get any more phallic here?


tgljp = tug lip -- that distinctive lip-stroking movement associated with psychanalysts and also with men who stand in contemplation of a giant pickle.
Pickles are funny.

That's all I've got for a comment, because I really am here to submit some WVC words. MT left a brilliant one on my site, and she did say she was determined to win, and I'm tired of being the bridesmaid (aka honorable mention winner). Not that being a bridesmaid isn't nice, it's just that this dress is ugly.

MT left this one on my site:
apigq--obviously a line at the trough.

My submissions:
efczi--(effect z)-- The snappy skill employed by cartoonists to show their characters are sleeping.

gwhor-- G. W. (w)hore, better known as the FOX cable channel.
Thanks, Wendy.

Feng: great, now you've put that song in my head. Clearly, the wait people at Alice's Restaurant won't tell you not to get the hamburger... but you can't have Alice.

Tonya: thanks for making that crystal clear.

Psycgirl: I see you're in the right profession.

Warren -- yes, they're salamis. Regular industrial sized salamis next to a giant pickle.

Janelle -- and giant pickles are very funny.
You describe the CD perfectly.

I once got sufrd when commenting on an infertile site. Pretty appropriate, I thought.
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