Hello my friends, It’s Jose, I’m sorry that it has been a while since we have last met. I’ve been so busy at the deli with the overwhelming demand for take out orders and outdoor dining that I haven’t had a moment to continue my stories of our infamous gem of Brooklyn. But I have some time now that things are getting back to normal and The Godmother is back in action. So my dear friends, let me fill you in with what’s been happening.
It was a sticky hot August day in Brooklyn, and in the backroom of the Oy Va Voy Deli there was a flurry of activity. It was 3 weeks until the start of the Jewish High Holidays which is usually a time of self-reflection and atonement. But for us here at the deli, it is about opportunity. For in the Jewish community there was fierce competition for the best seats at the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services in all the better synagogues. Throughout the year The Godmother gathers intel and dirt on all the big wigs and Rabbis from all the shuls in Brooklyn. Because of this, she was in possession of tickets for all the prime seats.
This time of year the stakes were always high, but this year because the synagogues were re-opening and seats were limited due to social distancing, it was mayhem. We needed to pull staff from the kitchen to help with ticket sales and worked at limited capacity in the deli. It was like nothing we had seen in previous years. It was the perfect storm and people were frantic. The possibilities were endless and there were no holds barred; everything was up for negotiation and it wasn’t just about money. It was about position and reputations. It was dirty dealing.
Don Bubbieberger was known as the Ticket Master or should I say “mistress” of the high holidays. The back room was busier than a bookie’s office before the Kentucky derby.
We had 5 phone lines open where Avi and I along with some of the kitchen staff were helping. We were all crammed in the back with The Godmother in the middle wearing a visor and chewing on a Cuban cigar. We ran a silent auction with Martha manning the big dry erase board and the high bids were constantly changing.
Francine was on the phone negotiating when she called out, “Ma, Mr. Hershowitz really needs those seats at the Baron Hirschberg synagogue right behind Michael Bloomberg and his family!”
I put my hand on the receiver of my phone, “Oh those seats, the ones called the Bloomberg seats? Those are the best!”
Godmother replied, “Tell him to bring me his spleen and he can have the seats!
Francine answered, “He can’t, he says he gave it to you last year!”
The Godmother became agitated, “Tell him to bring someone else’s spleen and the seats are his!”
Francine was puzzled, “Ma how many spleens do you need?” She quickly turned to Avi, “Avi, how many spleens do you have in the walk in?”
Avi put his phone down and looked up trying to think, “Eh, Not enough, there is high demand for spleens in Bulgaria.”
I then called out, “Rabbi Brenner from Beth Akiva is on line 3, he says the seats in the second row near the bima are no longer available.”
Godmother was astonished, “Why not?”
I replied, “He says Bebe Netanyahu will be in town and has requested them.”
Upon hearing this Martha started to erase the tickets from the dry erase board, but The Godmother stopped her by throwing a bagel at her head and blurted out, “Horseshit! Those seats are mine to sell to whomever I wish. You tell him either I sell those or I post on Facebook and Twitter about the fishing trip he took last summer with Saul Kirshbaum when he ate an entire lobster with the bib and the butter!”
Avi was shocked, “But Godmother, what about the Prime Minister?”
Godmother retorted, “He can have the seats next to the falafel table instead!”
Avi, then receiving another call said, “Hiram Cohen is having emergency knee surgery, he will be bedridden for a month and he would like a refund on the seats he bought.”
Godmother was furious, “What do I look like? The layaway department at Sears Robuck? He will be lucky that I don’t send you over there to break his other knee!”
Francine then blurted out, “Ma, Miriam Silverstein wants to know what’s the highest bid for the seats at Bnai Shalom near the bathroom.”
Godmother answered, “I bet she does! Tell her I want to know why her grandson sold me those Cutco knives above retail! When I get a break then she gets a break!”
I had another call, “Godmother, Sylvia Nessbaum has a problem. She found out the seats she got at temple Kol Rashi are next to Bruce Grossman.”
Godmother, “So? What’s the problem?”
I then explained, “He has a personal hygiene problem, he constantly stinks, he vowed to never bathe until we elect a Jewish president.”
Godmother replied, “No take backs! Avi, what do you suggest?”
Avi slowly answered, “He jogs every night at 6pm in Prospect Park. Night before services, we kidnap him, take him into woods, with towels, high pressure firehose, steel wool and tide detergent. We make him squeaky clean and smelling like roses from Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.”
Godmother, nodding, said, “Make it happen.”
Avi whispered, “We also can take spleen if needed.”
And so my friends, this was Godmother’s favorite time of year; when she went from the red to the black!
I must go, but when we meet again, I will tell you what develops in the days during the high holidays. And how we untangled a very messy ticket situation!
Let me tell you my friends, after meeting Don Bustamonte behind the dumpster I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning all night long. I did, after all, make a deal with the head mob boss of New York City. The excitement of owning a piece of Via Roma Pizzeria got me so fershimmeled and I ended up biting off more than I could chew. How will I follow through? What will happen to me if I don’t, is he going to break my kneecaps or give me my own pair of cement boots so that I end up sleeping with the fish? Maybe I’ll go the way of the beanie baby empire!
The next morning at the deli I must have looked awful because Francine took notice and asked, “What’s the matter, Jose’? You didn’t happen to eat the whitefish that was accidentally left on the counter last night?” I answered, “No, it’s not that, I’m in big trouble Francine.” At that, Francine motioned me over to the walk in refrigerator for privacy. She put a sweater over my shoulders so I wouldn’t catch a chill and then shouted, “All right Jose, spill it!” I then explained to her the encounter I had with Don Bustamonte and the deal I agreed to. “Francine, it’s obvious she loves him, how can I make this happen?” Her eyes lit up and she replied, “I saw Fiddler last week at the theater, I have an idea, don’t worry, I’ve got your back, I am my mother’s daughter after all, aren’t I? Trust me!” As she walked out of the refrigerator she turned to me one last time, “Oh and another thing, just to be clear, if this works, I want a cut of your pizzeria cut!”
Soon after, The Godmother entered the deli. She grabbed a fresh bagel and some shmaltz and headed to her office in the back. It was then that Francine put her plan into action as she gave me a ‘wink’ and rushed to the back of the deli. “Ma…ma…ma!” The Godmother, startled, answered, “Francine! What’s the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Francine clutched her chest, “Oh my gosh ma, is it that obvious, something’s happened, I had such a vivid dream last night. At least I think it was a dream, but it seemed so real, I’m not sure what to make of it.” This got the Godmother’s attention, “Sit down, tell me all about it.” She handed Francine a plate, “Have some leftover cholent from Shabbos, it’ll calm you down, I’m all ears.”
Francine continued, “I was in my bed sleeping and I was awoken by a small crowd of people bursting into the room. “The Godmother was curious, “A crowd of people, what were they doing, why were they there?” Francine replied, “They were celebrating, singing and making such a racket! But Ma, they weren’t strangers; they were our relatives, ones that have passed away.” Francine then reached for her mother’s arm and placed her hand gently on it for effect, “Ma, your Bubbie Sylvia Faiga was there.” At hearing this, The Godmother gasped, “My dear Bubbie, Sylvia Faiga? My beloved Bubbie whom I loved more than anyone? How did she look? Was she wearing the scarf I knitted for her when I was 12 years old?” Francine knew she had her mom on the hook, “Other than needing a little bit of sun, she looked great. And she was wearing the scarf, she looked quite lovely in it.” The Godmother was happy, “Was she asking about me? What were they celebrating?” Francine answered, “Well they were celebrating the happy couple who found love at last.” The Godmother was puzzled, “Who is the happy couple?” Francine then went for the kill, “Why, you and Don Bustamonte, that’s who!”
The Godmother’s spine stiffened, “I have no interest in that man, that will never happen.” Francine then pulled out a small notebook from her purse and opened it, “Really? No interest? Then how do you explain this? Here on page 3 you wrote the words: Mrs. Sylvia Bustamonte 20 times!” The Godmother’s face turned red. Francine went on, “I know you are fighting it ma, so I had to let Bubbie Sylvia Faiga know that you are not interested!”
The Godmother looked worried, “What did my Bubbie do, how did she react to the news?”
“She said that if you two do not get together there will be serious repercussions.”
The Godmother was quivering, “What kind of repercussions?”
“She said that I’m going to get married.” Francine replied.
The Godmother looked a little relieved, “That’s a bad thing? I’ve waited for this your whole life!”
Francine narrowed her eyes and paused for dramatic effect and then let the ax fall, “Ma if you don’t end up with Don Bustamonte then I will end up marrying a goy! And not just any goy ma, she said I’m gonna marry MEL GIBSON!”
At that moment The Godmother acted as if she was struck by lightning and clutched her chest. She leaned back and fell off of her chair and as she hit the floor the entire deli shook, dishes fell off the shelves, patrons scattered and some even ran out the door in fear!
I had a feeling that Don Bubbieberger saw this as a sign. For she valued the opinion of her Bubbie more than anyone, and took the warning seriously. Francine and I could see her mother’s demeanor change, she then gave me another wink. We both knew her plan was working. The Godmother turned to me and said, “Jose’, I would like to see The Godfather. Do you know where he is?” I answered, “Yes, I know exactly where he is, he’s in the back parking lot by the dumpster. He spent the night there, refusing to budge until you agreed to see him.”
The Godmother then stormed off towards the back parking lot. Upon seeing The Godfather, she said, “Well Don Bustamonte, you look like something the cat schlepped in, you must be hungry. Jose’! Get him a sandwich.”
The Godfather held up his palm and answered, “That’s ok, I found some day old marble rye and tuna salad in the dumpster. You guys throw a lot of stuff away! We don’t do that at the pizzeria.” It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I should rethink the deal I made to own a part of Via Roma’s.
The Godmother looked him over and held her nose, ” You need a shower!”
The Godfather replied, “Sylvia I’m filthy because life is not perfect.” At that, The Godfather pulled out a piece of cardboard from behind the dumpster. “Sylvia, during my time spent behind the dumpster I realized something. I wrote all of my feelings down with some spicy brown mustard I found.”
He then began reading as a crowd started to form around us. “Sylvia, my darling bagel with everything I’ve ever wanted on it, I recognize that our love is not perfect, God did not make us to be perfect. The universe is perfect, pizza is perfect, at least it is at Via Roma’s. My Mamma’s meatballs are perfect, The Brooklyn Bridge is perfect, especially when it’s lit up at night. But we are not perfect. I have a very quick temper and I can be very messy at times.” The Godmother nodded her head as she pulled off a piece of herring from his shoulder. He continued, “I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but one thing I know is that I love you and we were meant to be together. Our relationship will not be perfect.” At this point he grabbed a second piece of cardboard and kept reading, “But I can’t live without you. You are my Brooklyn Bridge, you are my Mamma’s meatball.” He then got down on one knee, “I’m pouring my heart out to you and in front of all these people Sylvia, my darling, will you have me?”
The Godmother was blushing, I could tell she was completely smitten but she was still holding back to keep up appearances. “I’ll give you my answer after I get you cleaned up upstairs.” And with that Don Bustamonte took her response as a “yes” and a smile washed across his face. He scooped The Godmother up and led her upstairs. The crowd began applauding as they witnessed something very rare. This man, this mafia boss who comes from another world, just won the love of the woman whose heart is as cold as Brighton Beach in January.
You see my friends, love does prevail in the end, and to top it off, I get free pizza for the rest of my life!
fershimmeled: flustered, confused
shmaltz: chicken fat
cholent: a traditional stew served on the Sabbath
shabbos: the sabbath
goy: a non-Jew
schlepped: carried or hauled
For part one of The Godmother Introductory Series:
Well my dear amigos, when we last met I was telling you about all of the romantic gestures that The Godfather was making in order to win The Godmother’s affection. He did not hide his feelings; this was a man in love.
But through all of the Godfather’s wooing, the Godmother seemed unfazed and refused to give in to his amorous advances. When she walked outside and saw the words “surrender Sylvia” written across the Brooklyn sky, The Godmother scoffed and called the Environmental Protection Agency and reported his contribution to emitting co2 into the atmosphere. Upon seeing the back room of the deli full of Ruby Begonias, she claimed to suddenly be “allergic” to them and started sneezing and coughing into a big vat of matzah ball soup. Upon hearing that his DNA test verified his Jewish heritage, she exclaimed, “The only Jewish thing about that guinea is his accountant! He’s probably not even circumcised, If he wants a chance with me, not only is he gonna have to cut off the tip of his cigar but also cut off the tip of his ‘Italian sausage’!”
But, was The Godfather’s efforts making an impact after all?
Although It seemed like The Godfather’s romantic efforts were not winning her over, I started seeing subtle changes in her behavior. When Avi brought out her usual lunch of borscht and tuna on rye, she pushed it away and exclaimed, “Jose’, you know what? For reasons unbeknownst to me, I have a sudden hankering for some Italian. Go down to that place on 4th street and get me the Calzone Special!” She also had me take down her picture of Mayor Bloomberg from the wall and replace it with a picture of the former Governor Mario Cuomo. She had me change the piped in music in the deli from Klezmer tunes to opera sung by Pavarotti and Bocelli.
It was obvious that she was falling for Don Bustamonte, all the signs were there. But she was so stubborn, she refused to admit it. She continued with her daily business but I knew that deep inside, she was pining away for him. She rejected his constant attempts at contacting her. She ignored his text messages, his snapchat stories and his even finsta account. He even found her profile on J-date and she responded by swiping to the left, then swiping to the right. In frustration, she threw her phone towards the front of the deli and it knocked a knish out of the Dean of Yeshiva University’s hand. The knish ended up in poor Sheila Mendelbaum’s lap.
After the apologies and the cleanup, I received a text from non other than Don Bustamonte himself. It read, “I am in the back parking lot of the deli behind the dumpster, I request a meeting with you, and bring me one of those egg creams!” I was a bit frightened, but I grabbed an egg cream and I headed towards the back of the deli and out the door. Behind the dumpster I saw the Godfather, who seemed like a shell of his former self. His hair was disheveled and he looked like he had been through 18 Yom Kippur fasts back to back. He snatched the egg cream from my hand and chugged it down and threw the glass in the dumpster.
What did he want from me?
He approached me, grabbed my shirt collar, pulled me towards him and he said very slowly, “Jose’, you have to help me, I’m a wreck, I can’t sleep. All I can think about is your darling honeysuckle of a boss, my love, my sweet feisty Sylvia!” He started smelling my shirt and exclaimed, “You even smell like her, a mixture of matzah balls and Jean Nate perfume!” I felt my pulse racing and I had to calm him down so I responded, “Don, what can I do to help you?” He said, “Whatever it takes to win her love, you do this for me and I will do anything you want, name your price!” I thought about it for a minute because I knew I had the advantage, but I didn’t want to push it. I then said, “Don Bustamonte, you have the best pizza in New York City, I want a piece of the pie! I want to own a “slice” of Via Roma Pizzeria!” He let go of my collar and mulled it over for a few seconds. He then kissed me on both cheeks and said, “All right it’s a deal, I’ll make it happen.”
My dear friends, I have to say that I have never made a deal with a mob boss before, this was risky to say the least! Next time we meet, I will fill you in on whether or not love prevailed!