Tag Archive for 'europe'




It’s 1961. I’m only 18, but my black deeds are mounting. I win an $800 scholarship for high scores on the State Board of Regents exams. I tell my parents I’ll use it for text books and a new typewriter, but my secret plan is to cash the check and run off to Europe where I intend to sport a beret, seduce French girls and write the Great American Novel. I see myself, standing alone on a windswept deck, while my sobbing mother reads my terse note of farewell.

I smoke marijuana and drink cheap wine every night, curing the morning malaise with a cherry Coke and an egg salad sandwich. My father tells me I look like a raccoon. To cover I make up symptoms–back pain, insomnia, nausea. My mother plies me with cod liver oil and chicken soup–I draw the line at an enema.

I am an erection in search of a home. Candidates can be of any age. Breasts are the main attraction. But I can be driven crazy by thighs swishing through a tight skirt.

I am an eclectic lecher. I nurse a frenzied fantasy for one of my buxom aunts. Somehow she senses it and won’t give me her usual wet kiss when she comes to visit. Occasionally, I am transfixed by the swinging buttocks of police horses.

NY State won’t send the scholarship check until the winner has completed at least one semester with a 3.0. Every morning I wrestle torpor and lose in freshman survey courses at Brooklyn College. In the afternoon I go to the Riverside Memorial Chapel across from Prospect Park where I defame the dead, the bereaved and the faith of my forebears.

NY State law requires all undertakers to serve an apprenticeship. My colleagues are young men whose families own small funeral homes. They are Italian and Irish and Riverside is a Jewish funeral parlor so the night manager, Tom Mammana, gives them Jewish aliases. Celiberti becomes “Krieger;” Aiello is “Altman;” McCadden answers to “Morris.”

But these names are too tame. The boys make up their own burlesque versions, calling to each other across a lobby crowded with mourners…”Mr. Shmatler, will you please take these people to the Gladstein room…” “Mr. Krapinsky, could you please direct these people…” “Be right there Mr. Plotzstein…” And then run into an alcove red-faced with suppressed laughter.

Still, there is some sacrilege not even these pranksters will commit. They’ll wear skull caps, but won’t say the short prayer for the dead. Because I am the only real Jew I’m elected. On Sundays funerals begin at nine-thirty and go non-stop in fifteen minute intervals until three-thirty. I stand in the family room off the chapel keeping an appropriately grave face as Shmatler, Plotzstein and Krapinsky try to crack me up. They lurk out of sight in the wings of the chapel, making faces, obscene gestures, even dropping their pants. I stare at them stony and unmoved. Before the ceremony I recite a short prayer, which the immediate family repeats after me. Then I rend their garments with a razor blade and lead them into the main chapel, requesting the mourners to “please rise,” and then “be seated.”

The families often misunderstand my simple instructions. “Please repeat after me,” I say to one man. “I’m going to cut your tie…”

“I’m going to cut your tie,” he blubbers.

“No, just the prayer,” I say.

“Just the prayer,” he repeats.

“No the Hebrew part…”

“Say the prayer already,” someone interrupts. “He’s only the brother-in-law.”

I begin the prayer…”Baruch atah adonai..”

Aiello/Plotzstein enters at the proper funereal pace. I know what he’s going to do and steel myself.

“Eloheinu melech haolam…”

As Aiello passes he turns to me and opens his mouth. Out pops a lit cigarette. He swallows it and walks on. I bite hard on my lip and finish the prayer.

“Dayan ha emet…”

Most funeral are models of decorum, but there are occasional outbursts, which test my impassivity.

A widow looks down at her husband.

“Harry, how many times did I tell you: Nobody buys pencils. Paper Mate ball points Harry…”

And is cut off by an anguished cry. “Let Daddy rest, Mama, you’ll sell the pencils…”

For weeks after that we greet each other with “Paper Mate ball points, Harry,” and answer in helpless mirth: “we’ll sell the pencils, Esther…”

One night I drink a bottle of Romilar Cough Syrup. An hour later I am whirling, aimless in the cosmos. Space winds howl in my ear. I try to open my eyes, but they have been locked shut. Then I realize:


God is punishing me for my lies to my parents, my petty larcenies and perverted lusts– my disrespect for the dead. I cling to the slimy walls of my sanity, thinking: this isn’t real, this isn’t happening. But the deceased fly by me in their shrouds, their hospital gowns, their sad pajamas. The fat lady I threw onto the stretcher. The old man with the camp tattoos on his arm. Chalk white, blue veins protruding, crabbed fingers pointing.

Somehow I am on the cool tile of my parents’ bathroom. Then under a hot shower. The same God who is sending me to hell has also provided cherry Cokes and egg salad, heavy on the mayo. I am given another chance. Henceforth, I will be truthful, honest and respectful.

But mere days later I am in an Orthodox burial shroud stuffing myself with Italian sausage.

“MARILYN FUCKIN’ MONROE” is coming to the Miller funeral.

We grab the “first call sheet.” The deceased is Augusta…Next of kin, husband Isidore, daughter Joan, son Arthur…

That’s it.

“Arthur Miller, the playwright,” I say.

“Debts of a Salesman…”

” They’re separated,” Sconzo, the day manager says.

The office is now crowded. No one is out on the floor directing the mourners. It’s anarchy. People wandering into the wrong reposing rooms. Looking in the caskets: and running out:

“That’s not my Uncle Max.”

Sconzo has been on the phone with Marilyn’s secretary. “She says Marilyn is still very close to the family,” he says. “She wants to come and express her condolences, but she doesn’t want to cause a commotion.” He takes a dramatic pause. “She asked if it would be possible for someone to meet her at the door and take her to the family room? Then, escort her to a private place where she can watch the service without drawing attention…Then, back to her car…” Another pause. “I told her it could be arranged…”

The room explodes.

Who’s gonna meet her?

“Me, who else?” says Sconzo.

Suddenly, everybody’s a communist.

“Just ’cause you’re the boss?”

“You don’t have no special privileges…”

“We have just as much rights as you do…”

“What’d we fight the war for?”

“Okay, okay,” Sconzo says with a gleam, as if he had it planned all along. “We’ll do it the democratic way.”



Igor Yopsvoyomatsky
Editor of paranoiaisfact.com
Answers readers questions.

Dear Igor,

My Western Civ. prof, Leon Notsky says Obama is not the saviour we have been hoping for, but just a counter swing in the dialectical pendulum from right to left. He says nothing will change in Washington but the faces. Is this paranoia or fact?


Berkley, CA

Dear Hopeful,

This is fact. Obama can revive America, but cannot save it.

But first a little background. In the Book of Judges the Hebrews, chafing against rigid divine rule, appeal to the aging prophet Samuel: “Make us a king to judge us like all the other nations.”

God punishes the Hebrews for rejecting him by granting their request. He plucks Saul, a clumsy, unlettered peasant from the ranks and elevates him to kingship. And thus the “charismatic Ruler,” the tragic figure that has haunted history, is born.

At first, Saul is a hero, uniting the tribes and leading them to victory. But he proves unable to control his pillaging troops. And later cannot master his homicidal jealousy of the young David. The people lose faith. Even his own son turns against him. In desperation he turns to witchcraft. A sorceress summons the ghost of Samuel, who predicts Saul’s downfall. The next day he is killed in battle.

This is the paradigm of the rise and fall of the Ruler. It continues through the Bible and into recorded history in the stories of the Roman Emperors, the kings of Europe, the Czars, and Napoleons; the totalitarian cult figures of the 20th Century; the demagogues of bourgeois Democracy. The people, unwilling to assume responsibility for themselves, rush to surrender their autonomy to the charismatic one. At first he (or occasionally she) is a hero, bringing triumph, wealth and national pride. But inevitably the Ruler becomes mired in the swamp of daily rule; the rise of an oppressive bureaucracy, the petty squabbles and intrigues of the courtier class. As the Ruler’s power grows so does the resentment against it. Sensing that it has lost the faith of the ruled, the Ruler strengthens its power over them. It oppresses dissidents, rewards favorites, encourages corruption and deceit, plays off competing cliques. In the end, nothing avails and the Ruler is discredited or overthrown.

Obama has studied history. He knows how charismatic Rulers crash and burn. He was a cautious child, treading carefully through an alien society. His rule will be circumspect. He has sought to dampen messianic expectations, backtracked on some of his promises, warned that tough times lie ahead. His administration will be lullingly familiar. We will have Clinton, Gates, Summers, Holder, etc.—familiar faces from previous controversies of arrogance, lost opportunities and abused power.

But as cautious as he is, Obama will be beset by the parasites on the body politic.

The bankers and CEOs who believe that they are the victims of the crisis they caused and will oppose any attempt to curb their wealth or influence.

The oil companies who profit from waste, pollution and over consumption.

The racists who will seek to undermine with rumor and innuendo.

The hypocritical radicals who will condemn him for not leading a revolution that they secretly do not desire.

The sub- cultures—abortion crusaders, animal rights zealots, gay marriage advocates, gun owners, BCS critics, etc., who will judge him through the monochrome prism of their single issue.

The Chinese, who have declared economic and cyber war on the US.

The Russians whose suicidal bravado will increase as their power declines.

The Europeans whose anti-American schadenfreude is so intense they act against their own interests to confirm it.

The runaway media that is increasingly addicted to scandal and exaggeration.

A popular culture that encourages self-pity, greed, over-indulgence and outright stupidity.

On Election Day America gave itself a reprieve. If the world does not change the fault will not be with Obama but with ourselves.

But at least we will live to be discontented another day.