“So…P.S…. Gloria is getting shtupped by the Mike the apartment maintenance guy and that’s about as far as he’s going to fix her pipes!” Yeah, it’s true. Growing up in Queens in a 400 square foot garden apartment that’s the kind of stuff I’d hear every afternoon when my mother and her yenta friends drank coffee and puffed menthol Newports in our tight little kitchen while I was trying to do my homework.
As I watch the marvelous “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” it dawned on me. Holy kishka! I grew up with a posse of Mrs. Maisels–repressed Jewish housewives with potty mouths and punchlines with my kitchen as their stage and each other as the toughest audience.
There was the haughty one my brother dubbed “The Duchess.” Big hair, big makeup, big mouth and owned one of the first color TVs in the apartments so her only, coddled, child, could watch the New York Rangers games in living color. “The uniforms look better in color!” is how The Duchess explained the extravagant largesse. “Who gives a shit, it’s just hockey and he’s 12!” the rough crowd responded and in unison sipped their heavily lightened and sweetened lukewarm coffee and puffed a menthol ciggy hanging from their over-glossed lips.
Another one didn’t have a nickname, or much of an act, but she was funny anyway because she doled out her lines in a breathy stream with things like “Ooohhh…fuck the PTA. Me? Bake cookies? Oooooohhh….fuck that!” Laughs, sips, puffs.
My sort-of best friend’s mom was a cross between Totie Fields and Don Rickles. Chunky, spunky and insulting. “Hey Gert!,” she’d holler at my mother. “Where’d you get this coffee! It taste like if you dipped my Murray’s schmecky in boiling water–limp and weak!” Raucous laughs, tentative sips, hearty puffs.
My mother had her sights on a showbiz career before she got married. She was a good singer and even cut a record. We had a single copy but sadly it was one of those old style brittle records, not the later unbreakable vinyl. and eventually broke into many pieces. As the host and ringleader of the Glen Oaks Village Afternoon Friar’s Club and Coffee Klatch she kept things moving with lines like “OK ladies–I gotta make dinner and you all smell like shit!” Good natured..and knowing giggles, last, quick sips, ciggies quickly crushed followed by loud, deep, pre-emphysema coughs.
I never really did get much homework done. As they would say in the Catskills, the floorshow was very entertaining! Plus I’d attempt to figure out trig while I had my stereo on full blast and my feet were propped up on my little desk. When I once complained to my mother the noise in the next room was distracting me from my homework, my mother took a look over at the revolving turntable, cocked her ears to hear “Helter Skelter” blasting, gave me a questioning look, then smiled…and lit up a Newport, shook her head and left me with one last gut punch punchline, “Oh Edward, you’re gonna fail that test.” Humor is always based on truth. I laughed.
P.S. My brother’s name is Joel.