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Aunt Tess called just as I got out of the shower. I took the call dripping wet and juggling a towel with one hand and the iPhone with the other. I didn’t ask if I could call her back. You do not put the old dear on hold. At 87, she counts her convenience more important than mine, and when it comes to standing up to that tough old bird I am what Churchill called a “boneless wonder.”
“Elliot Spitzer!” she snapped. “I don’t know what they use for brains these days, but why would they put that meshugganah on television?”
“Messhugganah” is Yiddish for “whacko.” Aunt Tess is as Irish as Paddy’s pig, but has found a new friend and kindred spirit in Becky Gottlieb, a fellow resident of the assisted living home who is from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Aunt Tess likes anybody who remembers FDR with approval. She’s learning Yiddish terms from her new friend at a rapid rate and loves to show off. God knows what Mrs. Gottlieb’s family think of the Philadelphia Irish vocabulary she’s getting in return.
“Where did you see Spitzer?” I asked, buying time to towel my back.
“They’re all over,” she said. “You can’t turn on the TV without seeing some freak or thief being treated like he knows something worth hearing. Here’s Spitzer, gets left millions by his family and gets elected Governor of New York, and pays some call girl a thousand dollars an hour to spank him! He had to resign in disgrace. Now he’s trying to make a comeback as a TV guest. And that guy Weiner, the congressman that got caught sending pictures of his private parts on his cellphone! They had him on talking about running for Mayor of New York! Don’t these slimeballs have any sense of shame at all?”
“Not these days,” I agreed.
“I blame Bill Clinton,” she said. “Smart as a whip, but when he was at the White House every time some hussy walked in front of that dog he jumped right off the porch. Now even the church is in on it. The cardinals can’t even get together to elect a new pope without scandals cropping up all over the place.”
“What’s the College of Cardinals got to do with Elliott Spitzer?” I protested. It did no good.
“It’s all part of the same problem,” she said. “No standards of decency. I remember in England they had a cabinet member got caught with a topless dancer … what was her name? Keeler! Christine Keeler! He had to quit and do good works for 15 years before he was allowed back in decent company. Nowadays these guys get caught and chased out of office just long enough to write a book about it before they’re back in the limelight. Look at what’s his name, Don Imus. He runs his mouth on his talk show calling those black college girls who won a basketball championship ‘nappy-headed ho’s,’ and now he’s allowed back on television with a new show! I’d give up television,” she announced, “except then I’d be left with nothing to do but my laundry.”
“Why not take one of those bus trips to a casino?” I asked. “Maybe your new buddy would keep you company.”
“We can’t,” she said. “Last time we went those casino goniffs wouldn’t turn the music down in the lounge. That lousy rap music, and they played it full blast. Becky was so mad she almost hit the manager with her bag. She’s a real mensch!”
“There’s other casinos,” I pointed out.
“We’ll look around,” she said. “Anything’s better than watching these schmucks on TV.”
“Give my best to Mrs. Gottlieb,” I said. “She sounds like a live one.”