My father liked to tell me funny stories when I was a kid. One was about a house painter named Mr. Senior, which I always thought was an odd name. I would imagine he had a son who was called Mr. Senior, Jr., which would make the father Mr. Senior, Sr. When I learned señor meant mister in Spanish, off I went. ‘I’d like you to meet father and son, Señor Senior, Sr. and Señor Senior, Jr.’ (My father enjoyed some of my mental wanderings and would usually join in or even be the instigator; my sister Dale would groan, “just shut up already”; Jerry begs me to “please stop” (he’d say “shut up” but he never uses that expression.)
|DALE, OUR FATHER, ME, AND FOUR OF OUR COUSINS.
BELMONT PARK, LONG ISLAND, 1956.
One of these days, I’ll have to tell you about Doody’s Farm Fresh Eggs in Branford, Connecticut — and Judy and Rudy Doody and the rest of the Doody family. But, I might have to hide that post from Jerry. I just about drove him over the edge with that one (he threatened to stop the car and make me walk home).
BACK TO TODAY’S STORY
Mr. Senior was a Jewish man originally from Eastern Europe. He painted houses and apartments in Brownsville, Brooklyn, in the ’20s and ’30s. One day, Mr. Senior was hired by Mrs. Krupnick to do some painting. She was also from somewhere in Eastern Europe. She gave him instructions in her heavily accented English and left Mr. Senior to do his work. When she got home she discovered that Mr. Senior had painted the entire apartment white. Mrs. Krupnick was furious.
“But, vot did joo do?” she wailed.
“Vot do you mean, vot did I do? Just like you tole me, I paint de houz,” he replied.
“But I din’t vont you should paint de whole house!” she stormed.
He looked at her and said, perplexed, “But Mrs. Krupnick, votta you talking gabout? You tole me, ‘paint de whole vhite.’ So I did.”
She said, “I din’t mean paint de WHOLE vhite. I meant paint de WHOLE vhite. Just de WHOLE! De von to de bedrooms!”
Mr. Senior simply scratched his head.
NOTE: In Yiddish-American English, “hall” was pronounced “hole.”
I always thought it was a funny joke and I loved the way my father did the accent. Then, when I was 10, we moved from Long Island to Brooklyn. It was a brand-new co-op and, coincidentally, a few people my parents knew from their childhoods in Brooklyn had also moved in. One day, when I was out for a walk with my father, we bumped into a little old man (thinking about it now, he was probably approaching 60!). My father,who was in his late 30s at the time, proudly introduced me to the man, saying, “This is Mr. Senior.” I looked up in obvious surprise. Mr. Senior smiled at me and said knowingly, “De painter vas my older bruddah. He says it din’t heppin like dat.”
|VEE PAINTED DE WHOLE TERRA COTTA, BUT JUST DE WHOLE.|
In any case, our friend Miguel was here all last week to paint. And, although my Spanish may have confused him a few times, thankfully, he didn’t paint the whole white. We love having color on the walls. White and off-white are beautiful, but they just don’t fit our personalities. (Maybe we need something loud to drown out the noise in our heads.)
|THROUGH THE ALCOVE AND BEYOND.|
PAPIRO (PAPYRUS) AND ALBERO AMARILLO (MY NAMES FOR OUR COLORS).
IN MY NEXT LIFE, I’M GOING TO NAME PAINT COLORS FOR A LIVING.
|ONE WALL OF THE DINING ROOM IS MORE BROWN AND LESS GOLD.
(TOO SUBTLE AND TOO DARK, SO WE SWITCHED TO PARCHMENT FOR THE REST.)
We had Miguel paint the “salon” (living room and dining room), the large alcove off the salon, the entry, and the kitchen (just a touch up there). We chose colors that sang to us and, not surprisingly, ended up with very Spanish/Sevillano colors. The gold on the walls is a dark version of “albero amarillo,” the famed golden sand color of Southern Spain. The entrada (entry hall) is a rich terra cotta, like the tile roofs and much of the stucco in the city. We ended up choosing a parchment color for some of the walls in the living room and alcove, and a medium cork color for one wall in the dining room. We may have a bit in common with Mrs. Krupnick, however. The “hole” — the von to the bedrooms — is still vhite.
|MOOSE AND DUDO, LOCKED IN THE “HOLE” AND BEDROOMS… AND NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT.
MIGUEL WAS PAINTING THE WOODWORK ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR.