Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Vignettes from Gotham: Lillian Rabinowitz part 1

Evelyn (Joey Kulkin photo)

GOTHAM CITY -- Was knee-deep into a pedestrian bacon omelet and god-awful hash browns and a fourth cup of coffee when she stopped at my booth at the end of Madison Restaurant, latched onto my left arm with her right hand, looked deep into my eyes, smiled and began to tell a 10-minute story with 14 chapters. Maybe even 24.

For a strange minute in time at the corner of 1st and 51st, I was right back at my desk at the end of the pod inside The Trentonian newsroom humoring Joan Galler (HERE) as she talked, talked and talked.

I wanted to record this conversation but Evelyn's swirl of words and Jewish exuberance and smiles gripped me from the start and I would have felt like a heel by trying to activate the record app. So I sat there and listened and thought "Just remember the names, Kulk." 


I told her I had an Aunt Evelyn. She smiled a big smile.

"Don't tell anyone," Evelyn said as she leaned in close, "but I don't look 81, do I?"

The first few stories recounted the days of boys and girls and long-ago rituals of dating in Brooklyn Dodgers America.

Lillian Rabinowitz -- Evelyn looked up and smiled and said "may she rest well" -- was one of her best girlfriendz growing up. It was Lillian who set Evelyn up with a fella to round out a group date. Evelyn was thrilled and eager but scared and unprepared, so she sought guidance from divorced Aunt Winifred, who was jaded and guarded and knew the score quite well.

Winifred outfitted Evelyn with the kind of demure threads that a thrilled but scared Jewish devotchka ought to wear on a first date -- then she gave her niece a $20 bill. "If it doesn't work out," Winifred told Evelyn, "tell him to go to hell and use this to take a cab home."

Evelyn still has that folded 20.

Evelyn's eyes lit up when I told her I was Jewish and she used Yiddish phrases galore to explain why elders frowned on her dating guys from "Goyville" and she threw in "shikse" to emphasize a point before she began the story of how she and David met. 


That's when David emerged from the barhroom, so my concentration was broken and I don't remember most of the details. That will be part 2.

I snapped their picture and Evelyn invited me to bring it to her home a few blocks away.

I'm in Gotham a few more days and might take Evelyn up on her offer to make me homemade matzo ball soup, bona fide matzo ball soup "with chicken and noodles, too!" because the matzo ball soup at Madison was an atrocity.

David and Evelyn Nachamie
will celebrate their 62nd anniversary
on February 3, 2013