In New York City, located in the meatpacking district lies the McKittrick Hotel, an entertainment and dining venue. One day, my friend and I decided to go to see the highly acclaimed and much talked about interactive theater piece by Punchdrunk Theater Company called Sleep No More. We knew we were headed into a macabre experience, one like we’ve never had before when they took our cell phones away, made sure we were wearing closed toe shoes and they required each spectator to wear a venetian masquerade mask.

As we entered, an unusually tall woman dressed in a ball gown said in an uncharacteristically low voice, ‘Welcome my darlings, come with me.” She then proceeded to tell us that there was no talking permitted during the “performance.” This was like daggers to two Jewish middle aged women. We were given a brief description of how to maneuver through the production. There were multiple levels with a series of intricate sets and we would be walking through each scene, up and down stairs, into different rooms and corridors. All without any direction. If a room was empty, we could wait for actors to appear, or we could find an actor and follow him or her throughout the venue. The scenery was highly detailed and we were encouraged to rifle through props, drawers, cabinets and so on. They guaranteed that groups would be not be able to stay together, but we vowed that we would. Well we lost each other within 5 minutes! As I was wandering in a very dark space completely alone, I wondered, where was everyone? Suddenly a barrage of spectators who were following an actor came into the space and a scene was played before our eyes. The production was based on Macbeth; however, very little of what we saw that night was recognizable as such. During some scenes they actually took audience members into rooms and closed the door. No one knows what happened to these people. I was trying to find my friend, but to no avail. I remembered they told us that if we needed a break we could go to the bar. But if at any point a spectator asked the attendants where they were, the attendants would hold a finger to their lips and say, “shhhh.” That wasn’t helpful at all. Every scene was a myriad of gyrations, orgies with strobe lights and dance scenes that reminded us of something out of a satanic ritual. We finally found each other in the bar during one of our “breaks” and we couldn’t find the words. My friend was sitting in the back of the bar drinking heavily with her mask pulled up on the top of her head and when she greeted me she was unintelligible. I held my hand up and said,” Let’s take a moment to wrap our brains around this and then decide if we need to go back in and continue.” We drank in silence for 15 minutes and then finally we proceeded to share stories of what we experienced. Then, believe it or not, we went back in for more! It was similar to knowing you should look away from a train wreck, but you just can’t. In the next few minutes we were standing 10 feet away from a naked Lady Macbeth in a bathtub filled with bloody water. That was bit uncomfortable, but with that being said, it was the only glimmer of Shakespeare’s famous play that was recognizable. At that moment, we looked to our left and saw a 60 something tourist from Dayton, Ohio ( we asked her later because you know, the whole no talking rule). She was visiting her children who lived in Chelsea. It was her first day ever in New York City. I thought, Why did her children bring her here? Did they dislike her or did she lose a bet? The poor woman from Ohio who rarely left her front porch was watching a woman strip down to nothing and bleed to death in a bathtub in front of her. To this day, we have heard rumors that she never went back to Ohio. She now lives under the Brooklyn Bridge and sings show tunes to herself all day long! When we finally took the train home, we both agreed that we felt like we were dragged through the seventh layer of hell backwards by our toenails and yet we vowed to see it again one day. We heard that every time one sees it, the experience improves even more, and as much as we Jewish ladies like to complain, we have to admit it was quite a captivating experience!

#sleepnomore #ohio #middleageproblems #shakespeare #MacBeth #Mckittrickhotel #meatpackingdistrict #venetianmask #notalking #interactivetheater

My Rosh Hashana fish head, how I love you so.

I wish I could see the rest of you,

but it’s only your head that is for show.

You are important for my New Year table I set,

so I caught you with my golden net.

For this occasion I only need your head you see;

and I will honor that part of you endlessly.

As of tomorrow you will begin to smell,

but my love for you will not quell.

So in the garbage you will be;

but our love will be a distant memory.

There was a synagogue that had a mouse problem. They tried everything to get rid of them. They used traps. They used chemicals. They called several exterminators. Nothing worked. Finally, in exasperation, the congregation turned to the rabbi for any advice he could give.

“I’ll take care of the shul’s mice problem,” the rabbi said. “I will arrange for all of the mice to have a bar mitzvah, after that you’ll never see the mice again!

I don’t know where this joke originated, but it’s worth sharing!

#jewproblems #barmitzvah #jewishjokes

So I ended the last segment with the Godmother throwing hot borscht in Alejandro’s face..I will continue…

The Godmother’s friend Lucille was on her way out of the deli but someone entering caught her eye.  She then rushed back to the Godmother as she said breathing heavily, “Olga Davidovitch just walked in! She’s getting rugelach at the counter now, She’s Russian and she’s such a yenta, I bet she knows about the illegal high stakes mah jongg game!”  The Godmother barked, “Lucille, on your way out send her back.”  

Olga Davidovitch was a strong, stocky woman in her mid 50’s, she walked to the back of the deli clutching her purse and clenching her teeth.  

“Olga darling,” piped the Godmother, “Do you have time for a game of mah jongg, you do play don’t you?”  Olga stammered in a thick Russian accent, “Godmother, I have no time today, husband have scalp infection from toupee made in China and I must run home to make soup.”  At this the Godmother retorted, “Olga, boobala, the soup can wait, let me pick your brain for a moment.”  At this Olga nervously sat down and the Godmother continued, “ What do you know about a certain mah jongg game in Sheepshead bay?”

Olga channeling Sergeant Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes replied, “ I know nothing! I know nothing about this!”  Francine leaned into the Godmother and whispered in her ear, “She knows Ma, I can see it in her eyes, those Russians stick together.”  The Godmother whispered back, “ There are ways to make her talk.”  At this point Olga got up, noisily pushed her chair back and said strongly, “ With all due respect Godmother, I hear what you say, you cannot push me around.  I am strong proud woman from Russia, now you listen to me, If we want to play mah jongg, we play mah jongg! We don’t need permission from a so called Jewish Godmother!”   The tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a challah knife.  Olga stood there defiantly, but if you looked closely enough, you could see the corner of her upper lip twitching…

The Godmother cleared her throat, and started whimsically humming. She bent down and reached into her purse and pulled out a nearly empty toothpaste tube.  Francine gasped, “Ma! Not the toothpaste!”  Olga asked,

 “ What is that, a toothpaste tube?”  The Godmother, holding up the tube replied, “ Yes, an EMPTY toothpaste tube!”  

“ So, what are you gonna do with it Ma?” said Francine. The Godmother replied, “I’m gonna throw it into the garbage can, it’s empty!”  Olga, falling back into her seat cried out, “ Empty? This is not empty, there must be 10 or 12 good brushes left in the tube!”  

The Godmother then walked towards the garbage can and Olga reached out to her, “Just start from end and roll up! No please, give it to me, I will find it good home.” The Godmother, opened the lid to the garbage can, she said, ”I have a good home for it right here.” Olga dropped to her knees and clasped her hands together as if in prayer and lamented, “How could you do this, in old country we didn’t have toothpaste, we used soap scum from tub after father take bath.” The Godmother, dangled the toothpaste over the garbage and said,

“ Does anyone want to say a few words for the dearly departed toothpaste?” Olga shrieked something unintelligible in Russian and then finally said, “ Oh, you evil Cossack, Ok, Ok, you break me, I tell you everything, just give me toothpaste!” The Godmother then handed the toothpaste over to her and Olga sighed with relief, holding the toothpaste tube to her chest. The Godmother sat down and said, “ Now talk!”

Olga calmly spilled the beans, “This game you speak of is held in back room of the Ballsy Bolshevik Bowling Alley on Sheepshead Bay road. Every Tuesday night at 7pm. Password for backroom is Putin on the Ritz! Bring your own vodka, BYOV. Bowling alley is only a front.” Francine turned to the Godmother and said, “Ma, what are you gonna do?” The Godmother then turned to me, “Jose! Bring in the big guns! This is a job for Avi!” At that moment, I went to get Avi, the dishwasher at the deli, also a former Israeli Mossad commando. He came in with his Uzi on his back and wearing his usual camouflage gear, sunglasses, rubber gloves and an apron. (He tries to avoid dishpan hands). The Godmother wrote the address of the Ballsy Bolshevik Bowling Alley on a deli napkin stained with spicy brown mustard, handed it to Avi and said, ‘ Here’s the address, it’s the back room, you know what to do!” Avi quickly memorized the address on the napkin then proceeded to eat it. Avi then spoke in their special code, “Eh, should I give them the ‘tickle?’” The godmother shook her head. Then Avi proceeded, “Eh, should I give them the ‘noogie?’” The Godmother said,

“ No! The ‘nipple twist’, followed by the ‘atomic wedgie.’” Avi said, “ Eh, first I finish making pots and pans sparkling clean, eh, then I go on my mission.” With that, the decision was made, no more would be of the mah jongg illegal ring. It was dissolved that very night. With that my friends, I will leave you be. Until next time, this is Jose Flores de las Gutierrez Perez de Fernandez de Leon de Jesus. #jewishgodmother #bubbie #funnyjews #jewishmafia #mahjongg #sheepsheadbay #brooklyn #deli #bowling

So let me tell you what happened as Yankel hobbled away from the deli with the gefilta fish pressed against his groin… The Godmother’s friend Lucille walked in to deli. She approached Martha who was working behind the counter. “I’m here to see the Godmother,” she proclaimed. Martha replied without speaking as she timidly raised her arm and pointed to the back of the deli. Just then, you could hear the Godmother bellowing, “Where’s my borscht?” Martha with hand shaking, gave a plate to Lucille and said with great trepidation, “Here, you bring the borscht to her, it might help your plight!” Lucille walked slowly towards the back and approached the table. She set the borscht down next to the Godmother. “Here’s your borscht,” she said as she kissed the Godmother’s ring and then remarked, “You look younger every time I see you, what’s your secret?” The Godmother replied, “An ounce of shmaltz and a good shtupping daily, it keeps you regular!” Lucille sat down in an empty spot next to Francine with Mah jongg tiles set up. That’s when the Godmother blurted, “Jose, sit down and be our fourth for Mah jongg!” I obediently sat down and we proceeded to play. The Godmother started the conversation. She said,” So Lucille, to what do I owe this pleasure, you didn’t just come for the Mah Jongg.” Lucille, who as East, started the game said, ” There’s talk in the street I think you should know about, 2 Crack.” Then Godmother replied, “Tell me more, 5 Bam.” It was my turn and I said, ” Are you referring to the alleged illegal high stakes Mah Jongg game, 7 dot.” Francine mumbled, “what are you talking about Jose?, red dragon” Lucille revealed, “Yeah, it’s real, it’s in Sheepshead Bay, 6 crack!” Godmother then took her turn, ” Everyone knows I run the Mah Jongg ring in Brooklyn, 1 dot!” I then turned to the Godmother and replied, ” Well this one you don’t know about, I’m in this deli everyday and I witness everything as I sweep, I hear it’s run by the Russians, 9 crack.” Then Francine exclaimed, ” Oh the Russians, why do they meddle in everything? 4 bam.” Then Lucille chimed in, ” Instead of betting in change they are betting in BIG dollars, Svetlana Oosterveld, was seen carrying 50’s and 20’s down Sheepshead Bay Road last night, Soap!” Godmother gasped, ” 50’s and 20’s? Where’s my cut? Red Dragon.” I then added, “And I heard that they are photocopying the Mah Jongg cards, North!” Everyone fell silent. The Godmother uttered, ” This is a mockery on so many levels,” as she stopped playing . She then tasted her borscht and immediately spit it out. ” The borscht is scalding hot”, she shrieked, “Martha, who is responsible for this?” Martha came running to the back of the deli and nervously replied, ” We have a new cook, Alejandro, he just got off the boat from Columbia.” Francine with her face twisted confusedly asked, ” Columbia University has a boat?” I then shook my head and went to get Alejandro from the kitchen. Alejandro walked in holding his dishtowel in his hands as he shakily whispered, “Si, Godmother, Si.” She replied, ” I’m going to send you back to your home country in pieces!” Alejandro, confused spoke the only 4 English words he knew,

” I no speaka English.” Godmother sneered, ” Let me put it in a language you’ll understand, borscht is a dish best served cold, like REVENGE!!! ” She then flung the scalding borscht in Alejandro’s face. Alejandro ran screaming through the front of the deli covered in borscht, ” El Diablo, La Abuela del Diablo!” And with that Godmother says, “Mah Jongg!”….Tune in next time ( in 2 weeks) for the rest of the story….

In the deepest part of Brooklyn there lies a force to be reckoned with.  It instills fear in the hearts of every man woman and child, even undomesticated pets.  Don’t be fooled by her innocent grandmother-like exterior…she is a bubbie like no other, for inside there beats a heart that is as hard as an undercooked matzah ball.  With blood colder than Brighton Beach in January, she’s The Jewish Godmother, and she runs Brooklyn with an iron fist. Her name was Don Bubbieberger.  What? Do you doubt me? Well sit back and listen, I was there, I used to work for her at her base of operations, the “Oy Va Voy Deli.” A nondescript deli on a nondescript street in the heart of Flatbush. My name is Jose Flores de la Guiterrez Perez de Fernandez de Leon De Jesus.

If you look past the deli counter in the front, you will see a trifold screen from Chinatown behind which she sits. On a Manichewitz-stained fourtop with a few mahjong tiles tucked under one of the unbalanced legs, she runs her empire.  This was her ‘office”.  Such things I heard and saw there…let me tell you about a memorable day a few Chanukahs ago.

A grandmother entered the deli with her grandson who stopped at the counter to order a bagel with a shmear. She had an appointment with Don Bubbieberger.

The Godmother’s daughter, Francine, who was her gatekeeper said: “Ma, you’re 2:30 is here, its Gertie Gershewitz who just recovered from hip surgery at Mt. Sinai.”

The Godmother greeted Gertie with “How’s the new hip?”

Gertie replied in the typical Jewish manner:  “Don’t get me started! I think the Doctor left an extra screw in there!  I nearly died! You shouldn’t know from the pain! But I’m not here for the hip.  Its about my grandson Yankel.”

So her daughter Francine exclaimed, “ The one in Law School? A full scholarship at Columbia?  You must get such nachas from him!”

“How is he doing with his studies?”, asked the Godmother adjusting her silver wig.

Gertie replied pushing aside her bagel, “Not good Godmother, that’s the problem, he’s not studying.  He found a summer job and now he doesn’t want to be a lawyer! He’s not going back to law school in the fall”.

There was a collective “OY!” that resonated throughout the deli and the Godmother responded clutching her chest, “My heart just stopped for a second!”

Francine then handed her mom some pastrami to calm her.

Gertie continued, “I know it’s terrible.  His mother is back at her apartment sitting shiva!”

Francine asked, “So what is this summer job?”

Gertie whispered audibly, “A male stripper.”

The shocking news caused The Godmother to spit out the pastrami, which sailed over the top of the screen from Chinatown. Wiping her mouth she calmly said: “Gertie send him in, I can adjust his attitude, I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (stroking the side of cheek with back of her hand )

Gertie shouted: “Yankel, get in here!”

Yankel sulked in and said, “Bubbie, I told you its not Yankel anymore, its Jake.”

Gertie shouted  “Jake, shmake, this is a name for a boy in law school?”

Jake answered, “ It’s my stage name.”

Godmother then said to Gertie, “Give us a moment, Help ya’self to some fresh rugelach at the counter.”

At this point, Godmother turned to me and said, “Jose, we need to make a mood here, turn off the lights and turn up the music. Ok Jake, show us what ya got!”  So I put on the Godmother’s favorite, Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking.”

So he danced in front of us, the shirt came off, the shorts came off and he was down to his Spiderman undies and socks.  He danced so horribly, and as Francine put a pity dollar in his underwear the Godmother shouted, “Jose, cut the music!” She turned to Jake and said, “So Jakela, do you remember your circumcision?”

Yankel then replied, “Godmother, how can I remember, I was 8 days old.”

Godmother then did something that most bubbies would deem unthinkable, she grabbed his family jewels and held onto them with her Jewish GI Joe Kung Fu grip and said, “Allow me to refresh your memory!”

“Now listen to me very carefully, your future is in my hands, I am only going to tell you one time, your grandfather was a lawyer, your father is a lawyer and Judge Judy is your second cousin once removed!  You’re gonna go back to Law School! And let’s hope you are a better lawyer than you are a stripper!” As she released her grip, she said, “Francine, give him an ice pack for the road!”

Yankel cried out, “Godmother it hurts…” he kissed her ring and picked up his clothes and backed away and Francine handed him a frozen loaf of gefilte fish.

The Godmother channeling her grandmotherly instincts, then gave her final directions to Yankel:  “Apply it to the inflamed area 3 times a day, 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off and it will be good as new!”

Yankel answered as he stumbled away, “Thank you Godmother, you sure know how to ‘handle’ things!”

And that, my friends was just the beginning, there will be more to follow…..