She always said that. We were never to leave the house without lipstick and earrings, for you never knew who you’d meet while you were out and about. She also set me up on my first blind date ever. That ended just as pleasantly as it started so there’s that. I learned how to play Spades and hold my tongue many nights in her ever party central apartment on the Upper West Side.
We lived in the Beacon Hotel, which was lovingly referred to as the Freakin’ Beacon. Nightly we could hear the shows going on at the Beacon Theater, naturally. The exit of the theater was the fire escape route from our apartment which also served as the ally where the bum slept, and where we’d toss out the “Jerry” that we caught on many a glue-trap. We’d share elevators with WWF wrestlers and their beefy lady friends and people-watch out our windows onto Broadway on any given Saturday.
“Pipe down, Junior”. That’s what all the big boys said to me every time I had a question. I didn’t understand the rules of the game and my partner was angry that we were partners in the first place. How I got looped into playing spades I can’t recall, but the torture continued. I knew it was funny, them being big and me being short (small but chubby, still) and giving me the nickname Junior, which stuck all through college and then some. I finally got the tricks down and counted cards as we played. I paid attention to the clues my partner would send me by watching how he’d strategically lay one card over another. I became really good, actually, and quite fond of my goatee, plaid-wearing, sh*t-kicker-stomping, smoker friends. So much so that I put my puffy paint to use and made spades visors for us to wear as we played. Even though they were in powder blue, those tough guys donned them and we had a good laugh. There was Q-bert and Sam and my partner and the other guy – from Chicago…wow my memory is great, and of course Shwez….my social savior.
I was quiet and shy and polite and a prude. All my high-school friends had shielded me from anything they thought was dirty. They’d cover my ‘virgin ears’ if they were about to curse and so on…so by the time I got to college, 1 and a 1/2 years after graduation, I’d not really had much exposure to the real world. I’d spend it in an all-girls seminary in Israel, a very wholesome environment with not so much night life, for the good girls, anyway.
When I got to college and there was a party at Chez Shwez, sure enough, she caught me off guard and introduced me to the room and told everyone I had something to say…suffice it to say I was mortified. Red cheeks, splotchy chest and burning ears I managed to eke out something normal enough and some guy asked for my number, totally as an ice-breaker, but it worked, and I didn’t have a number so that was easy enough.
She opened the door for me and I was forced to face the fact that I needed to be social. I needed to turn into the butterfly I am today. Today, I rarely get embarrassed though I still prefer NEVER to speak publicly. I grew up in that Hotel, I learned many things that I still carry with me today.
Here are some hard-fastened rules I learned:
- Never take an elevator with more that one bodybuilder at a time
- If you need more than one glue-trap a week in your home, it’s time to move
- Unless you LOVE gospel music, you should not live next to a theater that offers that nightly
- Bums that sleep in allies tend to pee in them, hence, close your windows if you face an ally.
- NYC apartments have a lot of cockroaches, beware. I warned you.
- Never leave home without lipstick and earrings
I once was out and about without lipstick and earrings and I met the boy I’d been staring at with my peripheral vision skills all week. He stopped to talk with me, and of course I had the natural blush working when I realized my throat was really dry, and then I noticed how dry my lips were…and OMG I had no lipstick and earrings on!! I heard her voice in my head screaming, “JUNIOR, ARE U CRAZY?” Which distracted me from what Gorgeous was saying so I looked liked a ditz…and no, he never asked me out. Go figure.
So now that I am older and wiser (and married – probably because I wore lipstick and earrings), I have become addicted to lip balm and almost always have a Lip Smackers in my pocket/purse/backpack…I have grown up slightly more (regardless of the fact that I still use Lip Smackers) and even sometimes change my earrings to fancier lady ones that shimmer or dangle.
Though she is far away I am channeling her now as I take off my fancy danglies and put in my diamond studs. Miss you Shwez. Come and visit us soon, everyone needs a Tante Shoshana!