A few days back, as I have noted, my having no more to do than memorize a list of discredited psychological theories, settle late-payment-charged bills and bone up on media violence, it seemed a good time to upgrade Donkey School’s iGoogle. How happy a boy was I (as you can see below) to discover that avoidance shame in the blogosphere is now as easy as placing a text-box gadget anywhere on your home page and letting it sit there, gaping, disappointed in you.
Still, as I say, that was days ago. Unending access to shame was not enough to make me write. But advanced telecommunications is a sidestreet whose seductions lie behind every shadow.
Take Facebook. I don’t think my story is unusual, not for someone who entered this world between the boomers and Generation X and is thereby old enough to remember both clichés. I mean, it did take a while but I signed up. I don’t think my story’s unusual: fun at first until someone shows up, not a person you’ve disliked, nor anyone you’d fallen out of touch with and regretfully forgotten that you missed: just somebody, and you wonder what on Earth you were thinking when you tossed your name into the index to tickle other people’s recollection.
Here’s my own recollection: We were friends (without quotation marks) from Hebrew school, quite literally in short pants, at his 4th or 5th birthday party at the Townhouse on the Green, a restaurant my mother must have let on was pretty slick for a 4th or 5th birthday party, even goyish. But then my friend’s mother was known to buy his underpants at Saks. (Mine came from Mr. Hank’s, a nostalgically musty dry goods bin on the gritty end of Speedwell Avenue near the other shul.) How my mother knew where Mrs. A. bought R.’s gottkes is a question whose answer, like so many others, to my own alas un-eternal regret, has gone to the grave.
As, apparently, have Stanley and Pearl Schlossman.
I hadn’t thought of R. in thirty years before he decided to renew our friendship through Facebook. It was a small gesture to accept; it would have been petty to decline. And anyway that was that, as Facebook goes so often for so many, ’til just now.
R. wrote on J.’s wall today to ask how well she’d known Stanley and Pearl Schlossman. Facebook’s News Feed made me eavesdrop. And some circuit in my brain reflexively, spontaneously answered, like a sour note in a recent Philip Roth book.
Sour and sweet: Stanley Schlossman, the dentist. Not ours: That was C. Kermit Botkin, of blessed memory too. (What names the Jews had in New Jersey!)
Stanley Schlossman in the basement social hall of Temple B’nai Or (when last I drove by, it was an office building; the Reagan-era crackpot economist Jude Wanniski, a tenant) late one Friday night, the last notes of my father’s booming aleinu long faded, Rabbi Levy having long since glad-handed every congregant, young and old. I mean, late: all the richly sugared lemon tea drained from the paper cup in the little hand the Rabbi so recently, so generously shook. As is my custom, I slip my other little hand into the cup, fish out the lovely browned lemon slice and raise it to my teeth for that last marvelous warm fruity squirt.
They were the only words I ever recall hearing from Stanley Schlossman, the dentist, and I can’t say I even recall them, just my surprise (my chagrin, my own parents’ irresponsible child-rearing betrayed, the irrefutable fact). They were something like, “What on Earth are you doing? Do you know what that does to your teeth?”
This is what it takes to return me to blogging.