All the Jews I know have an uncle named Max. I have some idea of what an Uncle Max might be like, but little actual experience. Max, I reckon, is a man of the world, but not a very successful one. Gentiles like me rarely have such a person in their lives and if they do he’s probably in prison.
He’d be apt to have a tattoo on his upper arm if he were a protestant. And he’d more than likely be heterosexual but not the type who is into women. A heterosexual who’s not into women, yes, that’s what I just said. Not a lady’s man, but a man’s man. I’d say, when getting at the WASP equivalent of your Max, you have to think he’s a kind of loser. Not exactly like the Jewish cousin living in suburban New Jersey. Max, no doubt, is heterosexual, too, don’t get me wrong, but a Jew would not be likely to have done time.
Naw, I mean, I don’t run with no criminal types. Nothing like that. I’m just saying, the Jewish Max is a guy who might be nothing special but is not likely to have tried anything smart to break out of his rut. You see what I’m saying? He’s bored but his wife won’t let him do nothing stupid. He’d like to go to the track, but his old lady keeps him on a tight leash. He might do some gambling, but he’s not going to do nothing to cause upset. Besides, he’s got kids.
All Jews, I’m saying, have an uncle Max who once worked in the meat industry. That’s my experience. I don’t mean butchers. I mean industrial, delivery, factories. They’re Jew owned. He’d be the sort whose wife has cooked rib roast every day of the week for 38 years of marriage and then goes and drops dead of cancer, leaving Max at 78 or so to fend for himself. They liked corned beef.
Max, mind you, has never so much as opened a refrigerator door. Max and “dear Ruthie” were married at early middle-age, each on the rebound from a failed first marriage. Max had gotten hitched to his high school sweetheart but came home one day to find her closets cleaned out. Ruthie’s first husband died of a heart attack while playing soft ball at the Jewish community center over on Prescott. He just keeled over one night in center field. It was a failed marriage in her case on account of the fact that he had been cheating.
The counter culture was invented in the 60s by the children of people like Max and Ruthie who had grown sick and tired of being served short ribs in heavy gravy night after night. These are the kids who invented yoghurt. These are the one who introduced bean sprouts and wheat germ to the world back in 1967. These are the ones who read The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and decided to dump their marriage licenses and monogamy. These are the ones who invented homosexuality.
The parents were decent, law-abiding people. Maybe they cheated on their taxes, who knows? On weekends they played canasta and Chinese checkers. They wrapped their living room furniture in plastic. Max ate dinner on a TV tray, so he could catch the news. These were not religious people. They raised a bunch of atheists. They took back their pregnant daughters and sent their gay sons money, unlike my people who would have thrown us out.
The children of Max and Ruthie couldn’t take it anymore. They cancelled their Book-of-the-Month Club memberships and moved to organic farms in rural California. These were the kinds of people who rebelled by refusing to wear underwear. They made a philosophy out of it like Allen Ginsberg. (I wonder if his father’s name was Max?) These were the women who took off their bras and never looked back. They let their children run around the house shitting on the floor like cats. They were in rebellion against litter boxes.
Robin, Phyllis, Andrea, and Mikey were all products of Jewish households that were run with the fanaticism of Japanese internment camps but with an abundance of food. Whereas a white kid of protestant heritage might be told to scrape off that little bit of blue mold on his slice of Wonder bread, the Jewish kid would be rushed to the emergency room and then held back from school for the rest of the week for fear of his developing lockjaw or hepatitis.
In the late spring, all the Jewish kids I knew would skip two to three days a week of school due to their having contracted pink-eye at somebody’s pool over the weekend. No WASP ever contracted pink-eye, I can tell you that. We wanted to, of course, we hoped to one day get that weekly pass, but our mothers knew how to cure pink-eye. “Get your ass in that car or I’ll wake your father.” And, sure enough our eyesight was as good as new.
Jewish kids might have had a granny who opened shop somewhere every morning at 6 sharp. A bakery, for example, a jewelry store. That old bag, the beloved granny was probably called something like Nanna. Max’s mother was called the top banana on account of the fact that she became boss when her husband Sammy died. She talked tough all right and probably had been around the block more than a few times, but she never told her child to get his ass out of bed if he were running a fever. Nanna Banana took those kids to school or nursed them at home in bed and then got the bus to the shop. When Max told her, he wanted to do something he liked, she laughed. When he told her he wanted to find himself, she left the room. She didn’t even believe in marrying for love. “Love? What’s that?” It would take another generation to break the mold. Max never did anything he liked, not once in his life, but his children did. In fact, they only did what they liked and were allowed to ruin their lives.
Not so my mother. “I used to walk 3 miles to a one-room schoolhouse. The least you can do is get into that car. Now move!” We never missed school. Didn’t matter what was the matter. Sick? “Move!” No child in America had an allergy until I was in college. Then it started. No vegetarian meal was served on an airplane until I was in my twenties. “You’ll eat it and like it” was what my father used to say. No alterations of the daily menu, ever. But the Jewish kids were finicky. They were taught to have favorites and to refuse things they didn’t like. Not us. “Eat.”
White children, for we were not WASPS, were thought of as ungrateful brats in my day, as burdensome ingrates. Selfish, spoiled and soft. Our parents hated us. Jewish kids, on the other hand, were also spoiled rotten, but their parents loved them just the same. This, as far as I can tell, explains the biggest difference between Jews and gentiles. But don’t believe me. Just look closely at Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Look at Barbara Streisand and Cher. Look at Woody Allen and Hitchcock. Work it out for yourself. All I know is that my friends who had an uncle named Max turned out all right in the end. What am I saying? Max turned out all right, too. But my uncle? Ask him yourself. He’s in state prison in Iowa.
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