On Being Macho / Sobre Ser Macho

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

I KNOW. I know. You see the word “macho” and you immediately think this will be all about me. But, it’s all about my grandmother. She was a handsome woman.

I’ve been scanning photos from one of the old family albums and selected a number of images of my paternal grandmother in male drag. They were taken over a number of years in New York City in the 1920s and I’m assuming my grandparents were going to costume parties or just having fun at a photographer’s studio (click here for an earlier post), but we’ll never know. Oh, the stories we could make up.

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LO SÉ. LO sé. Ves la palabra “macho” e inmediatamente piensas que se trata de mí. Pero se trata de mi abuela. Ella era una mujer “guapo”.

He estado escaneando fotos de uno de los viejos álbumes de la familia y elegí unas imágenes de mi abuela paterna vestida como un hombre. Fueron tomadas durante varios años en la ciudad de Nueva York en la década de 1920 y asumo que mis abuelos iban a fiestas de disfraces o simplemente se estaban divirtiendo en el estudio de un fotógrafo (haz clic aquí para ver una entrada anterior), pero nunca lo sabremos. Oh, las historias que podríamos inventar.

A Couple Of Feet

So, the 36th anniversary of the death of Big Sister Dale has passed. San Geraldo honored her by buying a box of “galletas de rellena de naranja” (soft biscuits filled with orange jam and covered in chocolate). Dale introduced me to these in 1970. She usually bought Pim’s brand, but this Spanish version brought back the sweet memories just the same.

WE FINISHED THEM OFF IN ONE SITTING… JUST AS DALE WOULD HAVE DONE.
1954: LOOK AT MY EYES! MY REACTION TO THOSE CUSTOM FABRICS, PERHAPS?
OR MAYBE JUST MY SHOCK AT MISPLACING MY FEET.

Speaking of misplaced feet: Once Dale hit her teens, she began to train me in some basic social skills. For about a week before any party — wedding, bar mitzvah, school event — she’d drag me into her room every night, turn on her record player, and [try to] teach me to dance. The results weren’t exceptional but the lessons were a joy.

Dale taught me dancing in a hurry…

Supplier for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Funerals

While cleaning out My Mother The Dowager Duchess’s apartment in August, we had some surprises. She and my father purchased their massive bedroom furniture in 1950. I found the original receipt. I have no idea how they afforded it considering the fact that my mother always claimed they were poor. They paid $846 in 1950. In today’s money, that’s equivalent to $8,472.39.

We would have loved to have shipped it here, but it would have cost a fortune. Besides, our largest bedroom couldn’t fit it all. The two dressers together were about 7 feet long.

I found a bunch of doily-like items in black and white. They’re provided free for women to cover their heads at Jewish rites such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals. Black for funerals, obviously, and white for the happier occasions. Typical of my mother (“I might be able to use it for a project”) she kept every single one. One drawer of the side cabinet in a dresser was filled with them. I laughed when I tossed them all on the bed. But then I discovered that two more drawers were also filled. There were hundreds of them. I can’t imagine that my mother actually went to hundreds of events. I think she stole a lot of them. But, she would argue indignantly, “I didn’t steal them. They put them out for free. I only took some extras… just in case.”

(Click the images for the bigger picture.)

THE TWO DRESSERS THAT WERE STUFFED FULL.
TWO LARGE MIRRORS WERE MOUNTED ON THE SAME MAHOGANY.
THE HEADBOARD. THE ONLY PIECE OF FURNITURE THAT WAS EMPTY.
(EXCEPT FOR AN OLD, DEAD, LANDLINE TELEPHONE AND A BOX OF TISSUES).
A SAMPLING.
MY NEW BUSINESS: BULK ORDERS ONLY.
HIGHER RATES FOR THOSE WITH ADORNMENTS.

Out With The Frying Pan

Around 1974, I went with a friend to visit her great-aunt and great-uncle in Lockport, New York. We polished silver for them and were then served a huge meal, a rare treat in those years (the home-cooked meal, not the silver polishing).

The couple had been married more than 50 years. After lunch, she wouldn’t let us help with the dishes. He cleared the table and got to work at the sink. I was impressed with this liberated couple and said so. He laughed and she explained:

“Our first night as husband and wife, I cooked a nice dinner. He ate, went into the front parlour, lit up his pipe, and opened the newspaper. So, I threw everything, even our new wedding China, out the kitchen window into the driveway.”

“I’ve done the dishes ever since,” he laughed.

PART OF A WEDDING GIFT TO MY PARENTS, 1947.


The Dowager Duchess
The night before my mother’s apartment was emptied in late August, San Geraldo cooked our “last supper.” My parents had received a set of pots and pans as a wedding gift. Over the years, most of them developed bell-shaped bottoms that did not sit flat on any surface. Last year, my mother told me she hated those pots and pans.

“They were cheap and I never liked them,” she said.

“So, why didn’t you just replace them?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to insult [the person who gave them to her] and by the time she died [only a few years ago], I thought, ‘What’s the point? I never cook anymore anyway.’ “

A Dream Come True
My fantasy ever since I met my friend’s aunt and uncle has been to finish a meal and simply throw everything away instead of washing up.

So, after our last supper, I cleared the table and washed the dishes (they were part of a very nice set, after all). However, I took the three dirty pans (and only those three pans) and threw them down the compactor chute. (Throwing them out the 16th-floor kitchen window could have been deadly.)

The Dowager Duchess would have liked that.

LENOX CHINA DISH GIVEN BY THE SAME PERSON IN THE EARLY ’70s.
THE DUCHESS REGULARLY COMPLAINED, “I HATE LENOX!” BUT DISPLAYED IT FOR 40+ YEARS.
(IT WAS ONLY MEANT TO SERVE CORN AND COULD HAVE BEEN PUT AWAY SOMEWHERE.)

We Had To Eat

Of course, we ate while we were in the United States. In New York, there were the diners, a great Italian restaurant, a couple of chic restaurants (too dark for good food photos, but trust me). In South Dakota, there were feasts with family and traditional American breakfasts out. In Minnesota, exceptional meals around Saint Paul. And in Seattle, cool meals in trendy places. We ate a lot more than is pictured here.

(Click the images for bigger servings.)

THE NEW YORK EGG CREAM.
MILK, SELTZER, CHOCOLATE SYRUP (NO EGG).
BETTER IN MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES.
NEW YORK: PARKVIEW DINER, ROCCO’S TACOS, CASA BELLA.
THE START OF OUR MINNESOTA-TO-SOUTH DAKOTA ROAD TRIP.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON.
MY FAVORITE BREAKFAST IN SEATTLE AT “THE EGG & US” IN BALLARD.
PICTURED TOP RIGHT.