gefilteI’m in the 7 Eleven on the corner of Gramercy and 16th buying a decaf coffee when I strike up a conversation with a couple of smiling young men standing at the end of chip aisle.
The young men, who are wearing white shirts, red ties, have 5 o’clock shadows, gel in their black hair, and lanyards around their neck with a cigarette company logo on them, tell me they’re employed by the cigarette company to seduce smokers into changing brands.
‘I gave up a very long time ago,’ I say when they offer me a samples, ‘because I dislike the idea of choking on a throat tumour.’
The young men laugh and I tell them I hope they don’t smoke.
They laugh again and one of the young men tells me he smokes, but only crack.
‘You do? I ask him, and we all laugh again, ‘it’s lovely isn’t it?!’
This makes him and his colleague laugh even more.
And then, because I am waiting for Erin, who is in the queue paying for my coffee and her sweets and chips, I tell them that I smoked quite a bit of crack when I lived in London.
‘What’s it feel like? they say, all of a sudden taking me seriously.
‘If you ever had cocaine,’ I tell them, ‘well, crack is to cocaine what lobster ravioli with asparagus sauce is to ramen noodles.
Then one of the young men asks me if I have ever ‘done molly’, and when I tell him yes, he briefly closes his eyes and moves his head around in a circle, as if he is a 1950s crooner commencing his set.
Then, for the next few minutes while I drink some of my coffee and they half-heartedly attempt to convert a couple of smokers, we discuss the merits of ecstasy: the enjoyment we get from taking it and the absence of violence amongst ecstasy takers compared to drinkers of alcohol.
Then, suddenly, we are interrupted by a very large man who is leaning forward and pointing at my tee shirt.
Next to him, and holding his hand, is a very large woman, covered in tattoos, with a 1950s style bandana on her head, and she’s smiling and giggling at the man.
‘I have to tell you that I love that stuff.’ he says.
‘Really?’ I say to him as everyone looks in the direction of my my chest, and my dark blue tee shirt, which has the word ‘Gefilte’ written across it in white lettering.
‘Really?’ I say, ‘I think it’s awful stuff.’
‘Naw,’ says the large man,  ‘the jelly is a bit gross, but if you get over that, it’s pretty good.’
Then the young men from the cigarette company ask the large man about Gefilte, and the man begins to talk, knowledgeably, about Jewish food and holidays.
‘You’re not Jewish, are you? I say, when he finishes, ‘you look a bit big and …Hispanic to be Jewish.’
‘No,’ he says, looking down at me and laughing, ‘I’m from El Salvador.’
‘I never had Jewish food before I came to the US,’ I tell him, ‘ thought it was all going to be spicy and yummy, like you’d get in a Bedouin tent, or something, and I have to say I was disappointed when it turned out to be brisket and gefilte and eggy bread and chicken soup.’
We laugh at this and then I turn around to see Erin standing off to the side, with chips and sweets in her arms, waiting for me to stop talking so we can leave.
‘Oops, I have to go,’ I say, turning back to the young cigarette company men, ‘it’s been lovely talking to you.’
‘You too,’ they say, and we smile and wave, and so does the large man who liked my gefilte tee shirt, and so does the girl standing next to him: the girl who smiled and giggled, and is wearing a bandana and is covered in tattoos.


  1. Jack Large

    Your post this time is a little embarrassing and satisfying at the same time. I’m sure I hadn’t gotten out of my teens by the first time I encountered the term “gefilte fish”. You forced me out of my convenient ignorance. If I was as good at that as you, I’d patent it, and bomb the world with it (not the fish, the method). It doesn’t seem like something that will become a staple of my diet, but now I know what it is, I’m at least willing to try it. That’s a kind of progress. It seems comparatively harmless alongside some of the stuff this latest group of informants have been up to.

    One of the things I do is exchange weekly journals with Aekyoung’s middle- and high school students. Today one of my favorites took me into his confidence about a day he spent in the River Park with a small group of friends who, it turned out as a surprise to him, had planned all along to drink soju there, something he’d never done, at 17. He found it tasted like “acetone”, which morphed into “acid” on second taste. He’d spit out the first. Then he described the different behavioral effects it had on each of the kid friends, five or six in number.

    After pledging me to secrecy (“the parents would kill me”), he asked if I ever did anything like that when I was in high school. I thought about the 42+ years I spent a day at a time reliving the answer to that question to help myself avoid doing it again even one more time, and offered to get into it a little bit the next time we meet, and to go ahead and tell his parents about it. They should breathe a sigh of relief and great pride in him.

    Did you find yourself wondering how far your informants would be able to stagger down those dizzy alleyways before the “progress” claims their lives?

    It’s a staggering good read, T.

    Be safe, be well.


    On Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 11:24 AM, Short short stories about people I talk to. wrote:

    > Clemmy posted: “I’m in the 7 Eleven on the corner of Gramercy and 16th > buying a decaf coffee when I strike up a conversation with a couple of > smiling young men standing at the end of chip aisle. The young men, who are > wearing white shirts, red ties, have 5 o’clock shadow” >


    • Clemmy

      Somehow, judging by the look of them, I think they won’t stagger that far.
      They were the kind of young men who ‘grow out of it’, if you get my drift.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s