Picture this, if you will, or if you imagine having the intestinal fortitude to behold such: A man-creature, about 5’8” tall, appearing relatively nondescript from behind, and most certainly from a distance. He turns around, and you find yourself facing the confounding image of a man of a certain age, but with the abdominal distension of a woman nine months gravid. Alone, this would perhaps not be too alarming, but then there’s the attire, at once contradictory on such a figure and, at the same time, almost viscerally and painfully stereotypical, but you have hope. Although he sports a velveteen jogging suit, you try to rationalize the comfort factor of his attire. But then you are confronted with the open shirt and the multiple chains, one sporting a rather large cartouche; the thick gold bracelet and the Black Hills Gold ring. That he has a bald pate is not to be faulted, of course, but it is yet one more element adding up, adding up…
And then he opens his mouth, and the thunderous voice, the expert-on-virtually-everything cadence seals the deal.
He is Shylock-become-flesh, Streicher’s boilerplate, a Riefenstahlian antithesis, and a plain old embarrassment to the rest of us tribal members who prefer to live their lives in (albeit relatively) quiet dignity: The bald-headed, loudmouthed, jogging suit-wearing, open-shirted, chain-jangling Niewe Yorkus Transplantus. Of the subgenus, Judaicus Embarrassallofus. And lucky, lucky me…he’s my father-in-law.
On the other hand, and equally luckily for me, he lives in Florida (naturally), where he spends his days compacting a particularly forlorn couch cushion while earnestly dividing his attention between all-sports or all-shopping channels. This would not be an issue to me at all -- after all, why would I ordinarily care how someone spends their time? -- but being the armchair expert that he is, the virtually total lack of interest in team sports on the part of my family (which includes his own son and grandchildren) becomes yet another object of his derision. Somehow, I get the feeling that the only sport he ever actively participated in was a rousing game of saluggi, in which he was the unwilling but desperate subject, hoping to rescue his errantly tossed pastrami-and-corned-beef on rye.
His generosity, too, is unparalled. To my husband and our children, he will occasionally grandly distribute largely useless and often age- and gender-inappropriate freebies he acquires from time to time from the travel companies he still does business with (he was a rather successful travel agent in his day, and has remained in the industry on a part-time basis). To me, he gives nothing, but occasionally affords me a tantalizing glimpse of his boxer shorts-clad physique. (Then again, he isn't one to deny anybody in proximity such splendors of the flesh, so perhaps I shouldn't feel so special after all.)
His "cave of wonders" is a spacious, filled-to-the-rafters, two-car garage. In there, off-brand wristwatches, hot dog cookers, vacuum sealers and additional never-removed-from-their-original-packaging small appliances nestle side by side and teetering toward disaster along with countless other precious items, such as those much-sought after, garishly-painted state quarters -- all presumably waiting for Indiana Jones to liberate them and reveal their glory to the world. In the meantime, they remain where they are and in his possession, because one never knows when that portable door alarm disguised as a plush bear will come in handy. And who’ll be the fool then? Clearly, not him.
In an attempt to make room for more treasures, he one day decided to climb up through the trap door leading to the crawlspace above his garage. He successfully sets up the ladder (a feat in itself), climbs through the opening (ditto), and then into the steamy, dark interior of a Florida attic -- not exactly the ideal environment in which to archive such alleged valuables, or materials of any kind, for that matter. In any case, the difficulty of negotiating the narrow joists soon takes its toll, and he spots some boards left behind by work crews during contruction of his residence. He steps onto one of them, and in a split-second realizes that it is, in fact, not attached. It shifts, and he plummets through the sheetrock below. My mother-in-law hears the crash, and comes running into the garage...to find him suspended by his belly, legs dangling through the smashed ceiling, debris scattered everywhere.
What I wouldn't have given to have been a fly on that wall. Or a Suzanne Somers ThighMaster. Mint in box, of course.