Tuesday, October 30, 2007


If I had to pick a ''favorite personal attribute'' it would my ability to absorb languages. I am one of those annoying people that can go to Russian language art film...and after 20 minutes kind of understand what is going on.

This skill has nothing to do with intelligence. In high school, I tested well....at everything. And I didn't know shit. I was the Ultimate Dumb Fuck from Reno.

When I took the SAT Advanced Placement exams it turned out that if you paid for two tests, you could take as many as you wanted. On the given morning, I did my French test, and my German test.....and when I turned the page, there was Hebrew.

Now, I knew nothing about Hebrew....but I had paid for two tests, and the third one was free....so I took it. I randomly marked the answer sheet, pretending I was the New Zealand All Blacks...passing the rugby ball around between A,B,C,D,E and F.

I got a 420 out of 800. This is a pathetic score for someone who actually knows one or two words in Hebrew....but not bad for someone who did not even know that they read the language upside down and backwards.

Meanwhile, my genius brother.....author of two novels, editor-in-chief of Harper Collins....took the math SAT and only got a 380. After 16 years and god knows how many hours of special tutoring and prep.

Still, despite my intuitive language skills....and my obvious mastery of Hebrew...the definition of the term ''Mitzvah" escapes me.

There is Bar Mitzvah. The passing into Jewish manhood of a 13 year old boy. There is Bat Mitzvah. The same thing....kind of. Check this out: the Bat Mitzvah to end all Bat Mitzvahs.

Then there was the day I was boarding a plane at SFO for Philly. An elderly woman was struggling with her wheeled suitcase and her carry-on. I had my own problems...but she was struggling. I dropped my stuff with the steward, went up to the lady and took her bags and got her to her seat, and loaded her stuff in the overhead.

She turned to me, clearly exhausted from her part of the ordeal....and said: "Thanks. I needed a Mitzvah."

So what does Mitzvah mean? Blessing? Favor? The fact of someone going out of their way and carrying your water a tad?

Who knows.

Today was the Monday Night after The End of the Season. Our hard drive from our computer actually failed due to rust last week. It took a Herculean effort just to get out physical printed menus....plus all that actual cooking stuff.

If anyone ever needed a Mitzvah.......

Still there was Good News: Grant Risdon is turning himself into The Victory Mission in Salinas. No booze, no drugs. Turn his genius into helping others get off the booze and drugs. He goes tomorrow.

Tonight, it is pouring rain. Grant has been evicted from Nike's place.....so he sleeps on the bocce ball court behind the Store now.

This was OK in the Summer.....but sleeping in the Creek is not so great when the Creek is actually flowing with actual water.....

I ask Grant to sleep inside the Store and stay dry.

A Mitzvah?

Anyway, today at 4pm...the girls arrive to cheer us up, and change the energy.

Nike, Rachelle, Shari, Gilda

Except that Nike's dad also showed up....dead drunk....and screamed at her for a half hour in public....in the parking lot of The Store. Nike's dad is the normal one of the parenting couple....the mom's idea of quality time with the daughters is driving them to the drug dealer's to wait in the Volvo while Mom has sex with Hoppy Dave in exchange for crack. The dad has an actual job as a contractor....too bad about his anger management issues.

We calmed Nike down.....and got on with Monday Night. We tried to reassure Nike that it is not OK to be yelled at. She had done nothing wrong. It is natural to feel bad about being screamed at, but it is not your fault.

Nike is fifteen.....just. She spends every waking minute trying to figure out safe places to stay with friends. She feels bad because sometimes she eats too much at her friend's houses, and worries that it will make her unwelcome with her friends' moms, and she might have to go home.

Nike would love to be emancipated, and get away from her crazy parents. She can't, because she is on probation. She and her friend Cassady got caught breaking into an empty house to find a safe place. Cassady's dad had just blown his head off with a shotgun, you see....behind his own substance abuse problems.

We would love to adopt Nike....or call her Probation Officer and tell her what is going on....or call Child Protective Services to get some help for Nike.....

Can't do it. If the P.O. or the the C.P.S. decides that Nike is living in an "unhealthy environment" for whatever reason.....even her dad's rage or alcohol problems, or mom's drug problems.....NIKE goes to jail.

The girl has to walk the tightrope until May...when she gets off probation....and can petition for emancipation.

I can't say a thing: the fact of her employment with us...past 8pm on any given night....is a violation of her probation. Her dad knows this....and despite the fact that Nike is the only breadwinner in the family....her dad would rat both of us out to make a point.

At the end of the craziest two weeks of our business life....as I close the door and lock in Grant....safe and dry....into the Store for his last night of non-sobriety....before he assumes the Missionary Position.

I am looking around for my Mitzvah for helping Grant.

And I realize that I just let a completely defenseless fifteen year-old girl walk into a tiger trap.

Abandoned by her parents. Abandoned by the legal system. Abandoned by the school system. Emotionally and physically abused by both Mom and Dad for fifteen years.....

And we drop her off at the end of the driveway?

No Mitzvahs for me.


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