For Nan, eating and friendship went hand in hand
â€œPlease! Step on the scale! a firm male voice directed me.
I waited a second, listening carefully to make sure my grandmother sounded busy three rooms away. When I heard the sink running, I got on and the scale"s voice came back strong.
â€œYour weight is 178 pounds. Have a nice day. Goodbye!
I"m a fat bastard, I thought. Laughter started in the kitchen at the other end of the railroad apartment on York Avenue. My grandmother, Nan to me, with the hearing ability of a nocturnal animal was clearing her lungs and stomach, big ol" belly laughs starting way down. She didn"t have a normal sense of humor, but thought it was the funniest thing in the world to see you in psychic pain. I wanted to kill her, and kick my cousin in the ass for buying her the talking scale with Don Pardo"s voice.
I loved Nan dearly but she wanted me fat. She wanted everyone fat. She worshiped food and loved eating with people, so she filled her fridge to the point that the 15-watt light bulb was shaded by a colossal head of iceberg lettuce sitting on top of two large tubs of Cool Whip. The Cool Whip was on top of the Turf Cheese Cake that she bought twice a week.
Italian Village, the pizza place on First Avenue, considered her family, and the owners of Parker"s Grocery bought their first car on the profits they made off Nan"s cold cut orders. She never bought a quarter pound of anything. Half pound was a snack. Three quarters of a pound was getting into sandwich country.
Similar to recreational drug friendships, the bond with my friends was strengthened by the quality and quantity of cold cuts, Jewish rye and condiments in Nan"s fridge.
In 1969, Artie Peters met me Saturday afternoons on lunch break from my delivery job at Corner Pharmacy on 79th Street. Throwing a football back and forth, we"d go straight to Parkers, buy a pound of Swiss cheese and a loaf of rye on Nan"s credit in the marble book, go up the apartment and make six grilled cheeses, two each's Nan included.
â€œUse the big knife. Cut thick slices. Don"t be stingy! Nan ordered from the living room couch. Artie and I created dark chiaroscuro swirls on the white tin ceiling with the plume of smoke coming from the butter-soaked black frying pan with a foot-high flame under it. Nan liked everything cooked quickly.
Buddy McMahon and I had an exchange student relationship with his mom and my grandmother. I"d call for Buddy and he wouldn"t be home, but I"d go up to the apartment anyway and hang out with his mom and shoot the breeze with her while she loaded me up with 4C Iced Tea. Buddy would drop by my grandmother"s when I wasn"t there for a sandwich and glass of milk, and catch up on the local gossip and politics since she was the local Democratic District Leader and Buddy loved to blab and listen to Nan complain about me. Being a blabber myself, I did the same thing with his mom. About a month after Nan got the scale, Buddy dropped by the apartment. For a change, I was there. â€œHey, Buddy, try out the new scale, Nan said.
Obediently, Buddy stepped on the scale, clueless, and Nan looked like she just ate a canary. â€œYour weight is 180 pounds. Have a nice day! Goodbye!
Buddy startled, frowned and rubbed his belly; I was pleased; and Nan grinned.
Thomas Pryor recently completed his first book and he curates a show at Cornelia Street Cafe. Read his blog at YorkvilleStoopstoNuts.blogspot.com.
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