Thinking Of Doing A Do-It-Yourself Bar Mitzvah...DON'T
BM Also Means Bar Mitzvah. The Do-It-Yourself Bar Mitzvah, Oy Vey - Don't Get Me Started!
For those fans of the Some Like It Scott site, you have no doubt already read the story of "My Best Friend's Weddings" if not, go here and read this first... (http://www.somelikeitscott.com/somelikegay.html ). My dearest pal and I have been through sex, drugs (just a little dabbling back in the day), disco (we still do a mean "AB" turn) and death. When it came time for her first son to be Bar Mitzvah, the choice was easy, that it would be done at the synagogue in La Jolla, California where she and her recently departed husband had literally "ruled the shewl" but as time passed it was clear that for her youngest son, she would just do the whole thing herself in Arizona (where they are living now). In essence, as she was the only Jew in her mishpocha (family) having been converted and Bat Mitzvah, this was going to be a much more casual affair than the first...or so we thought. BM also means Bar Mitzvah - The do-it-yourself Bar Mitzvah, oh vey - Don't Get Me Started!
There was trouble from the start when I decided in a last minute packing frenzy to just throw caution to the wind and throw my toiletries in a gallon sized baggie, when I knew damn well the Airline Gestapo were going to surely notice that I had the wrong sized bag and would no doubt throw some product away before I was allowed to even board the plane to start this adventure. Now I know the rules, I wrote about them last Thanksgiving for Chrissakes so when they screamed "Bag Check" I just had a Homer Simpson kind of "doi" moment. I thought my winning smile might get me through...such was not the case. So here comes Candy, the four hundred pound TSA (Travel Security Authority) gal with her shirt tucked in (when it shouldn't be) and a belt buckle that no doubt left a mark every day on her stomach overhang when she got home and wiggled out of her sausage casing that was her uniform. As she held the bag with her plastic gloved fingers as if there could be radiation in it, she informed me that I had the wrong sized bag and that there would be a casualty, the Clinique shaving cream in the 4oz tube was going to have to go. Before I could even say, "Well, there's hardly anything left in the tube..." she was on to my thought process and looking at me like I was a female inmate in that Linda Blair TV prison movie from the 1970's. She barked at me, "It's the size that is printed on the label that matters." (The words, "creampuff" and "I'm going to rape you with a broom handle later" just seemed to be implied) And as the other security guard lifted the large green dumpster lid and Candy took her best shot, there went the Clinque to the product graveyard at the Las Vegas airport. (By the way, from a quick look before the lid was closed on the dumpster, my product really classed the dumpster up)
So I got in a day before the big event and everything seemed to be going according to schedule. Even the most important thing (finding a same day dry cleaner) as I had changed clothing choices at the last minute seemed to work out. We were betting on what would go wrong so that we could somehow be prepared. Would it be the machers (know everything schemers) from the ex-in-law side of the family coming in from out of town or would it be the fact that against better judgment, my pal had asked her sister-in-law who once did catering to handle putting the buffets together? The snotty Jews from La Jolla I could handle but as big as a surprise as it may be to everyone, while I have show directed major events and parties, I am one of the six gays in the world to have never been a cater waiter...until this day. Most Bar Mitzvah boys say, "Today I am a man." Well, "Today I was to be a cater waiter."
The day of the event and we have an hour and half to get the room ready and then it's back to shower, shave and FDS ourselves into a frenzy for the day long event. I knew there was trouble when the sister-in-law and her friend that we supposed to do the buffets had not shown up by the time we left to go back to the houses and make magic on ourselves. This was what we had "planned" on and we're not shocked, well not as shocked as learning that the dogs at my pal's house had gotten on the counter and eaten two of the challah loaves (egg bread that's braided - it's a Jew thing). Now let me take a moment to say, that I had every thought of just sort of doing the typical gay best friend stuff, sure there would be some manual labor involved in the set up of the room but once that was done and I was dressed, it was going to be more of a pointing here and there directing the non-gays like the fairy Godmother with the mice in Cinderella. Thus the reason for the choice of the brand new cream colored sports jacket and the silk Keith Haring tie. I know better now.
Nothing about this Bar Mitzvah was traditional and we were embracing it. The whole service was to be conducted by a rent-a-rabbi who was this woman that looked as though she had been wandering for forty years with Moses, never getting to eat any of the mana God sent (or any other food for that matter) with an oversized white Southern Baptist lady's church hat on that seemed to look more like a lampshade on her slight body frame. The service was not conducted in a synagogue but in the "club house" at a very elite housing development in Arizona. So the food would be in the same room as the service and timing was going to be everything.
Prettified, we all got back to the room and thank God, the so-called cater gals were setting up the buffets so it looked as if our fears had been put to rest. I did however begin to notice that there were way too many moving parts to this whole thing. There was a punch fountain, there was a chocolate fountain, there was a digital frame showing photos of the Bar Mitzvah boy through the ages, there were chafing dishes with sterno and finally there was all the food that was being brought in, the "faves" of the Bar Mitzvah - 400 hot wings, Chinese Food and all the sauces that go with it. Not to mention, blow up guitars (that needed to be blown up) for the "kids". Meanwhile, I was one of the ten Jews in the room. As the mechanical set up began certain "tip offs" started to appear. The punch fountain, I was told that supposedly at least three people knew how to assemble and get it started yet when asked all that anyone really knew was that you shouldn't plug it in until you put the punch in as it would be at risk of burning out the motor if started dry. (First clothing tragedy coming in two sentences) So as I iced all the beverages down at the bar and it was time to start the fountain, someone else poured the punch in the fountain with ice and when plugged, there was no cascading effect. That's when my pal's mother decided that we had too much in the bottom and had to "prime it" by pouring some into the top. As I'm ladling the excess punch out of the bottom with a four ounce silver paper cup, she starts pouring the punch in the top of the fountain. And as I looked down, it was as if it was slow motion that my brand new coat flashed before me and there it was a splotch, a dribble and a spooge of red punch on the top of the sleeve of the jacket. I don't mind telling you my interest in the whole event started to wane at this point.
I shook all of the above off and after briefing the two cater waiter gals on the challah delivery to the tables and other timing, the Bar Mitzvah service began. Now I had to do a little Hebrew and another reading (that I knew nothing about) during the service all the while trying to look reverent and somber by holding my left hand over the punch stained sleeve of the jacket. (Internally cursing that there was no club soda in the club house.)
The poor rent-a-rabbi was trying so hard with the service but there's so much call and response in a Jewish service and without Jews, there's just a lot of calling. Some of my favorite moments was when the rabbi did the canter duties as well and while singing an entire song in Hebrew would say, "Everybody sing" in the middle of a verse. These people couldn't have sung if someone was holding a gun to their head and they weren't Jewish enough to know that you usually just depend on the few people who know it and everyone else just sort of "die, de, die, dies" - keeping the tune but not really knowing the words. (It's like the old Name That Tune when Kathy Lee would "la la" the title of the song while contestants tried to name it.) But after what seemed an eternity for all, the service was over and as I motioned to the gals to bring out the challah and light their sternos we were off to the races.
Let me say that most of what happened after that is a complete blur. The buffet almost had all the food on it by the time the crowd dove in, which pissed off the lackluster cater gals because they had wanted to "present" the buffet. This caused some pouting and I took off the stained jacket to head for the kitchen as I knew there was more tragedy about to befall us if I didn't step in and make magic. When I get into the kitchen the chocolate fountain has not been put together and yet there are all these people standing around - including the pouting cater gals who were quickly becoming a weight around my neck about the size of what I'm sure they put around Jimmy Hoffa before tossing him off the pier. The desserts have not even started to be prepped yet and so it was no surprise that although I was told differently, no one knew what was to be done with the chocolate fountain. There I am, in shirt and silk tie, trying to melt seven bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave, stir and read the instructions with my other hand. My pal's mother says that it needs oil in it after it's melted and as soon as I get it melted, we discover that the oil should have been in before the chocolate was melted. No problem, I start to stir in the oil and back in the microwave. "Has anyone cut the cheesecakes yet?" I scream over the din of what seems like a million people in the kitchen doing a bunch of nothing. I look over just in time to see my pal's father hit the deck mid-bite of a chicken wing, having slipped in the kitchen. I send his son (who is also in the kitchen) to help him up and get him out of the kitchen, he is fine (and now I've gotten at least two bodies out of the kitchen for the moment). "Ding" goes the microwave and as I'm stirring, I hear the cater gals as they stare at the cheesecakes, "Ugh, I hate cheesecake." "Me too and I'm not cutting it." And so I bellow, "I'll cut it as soon as I get back from filling the chocolate fountain, will someone get that door for me?" Here I go with the big bowl of chocolate the temperature of molten lava to pour into the fountain, which was supposed to be heated up but was put in an outlet that didn't work. As I get there with the bowl of hot chocolate goop, children start attacking like killer bees in search of their queen who has the honey. I see there's no light on the fountain to let us know it's on and with a quick hand off from my pal's mom, we get the chocolate poured in, the plug switched to an outlet that works and the fountain is bubbling over. Success! But back to the dreaded kitchen to cut the cheesecakes. I get back to the kitchen to find everyone exactly where I left them. Not a lot of working, just picking off the huge trays of food, whining and pouting. I begin to cut the cheesecakes which have now sat out too long so they're really hard to cut because every time I cut, most of the slice comes back up on the knife. "Wet the knife" a voice says. It's my pal's father, back in the kitchen. The cater gals watch me like I'm Criss Angel doing a magic stunt. Finally the cheesecakes go out to the dessert table.
Shvitzing from every pore, I am more than a little wilted and moist. (Second clothing tragedy in two sentences) And so I decide to try one of the chicken wings. Now as I'm wearing a white shirt and silk designer tie, I decide to go and eat it carefully over the industrial sized sink. As soon as I go to pull it apart it begins to flip in the air like a professional skateboarder who is about to have the trick go horribly wrong. As the wing is flipping through the air (with the greatest of ease) it is spewing sauce all over the shirt, tie, pants and anything else that is me. The wing lands in the stainless sink with a ping and as I look down, I see that I am not only not stainless but I am covered with wing sauce. Just in time to give my speech to the Bar Mitzvah boy about what he means to me. Perfect.
And so I wiped my sweating brow with a paper napkin (hoping none of it had stuck to my forehead) put the stained coat on over the stained shirt and tie, tried to be witty when speaking in front of the hundred or so people and as I was speaking, I could see out of the corner of my eye that the chocolate fountain was starting to seem more like the tar pits than a fountain and would need more chocolate. I won't lie to you, I wanted to run away...but friends don't let friends go down in sterno flames alone so as I finished my speech to the Bar Mitzvah and posed for a photo I knew I had to go back into that hell's kitchen. The good news was that when I went back in, someone else was all ready melting the chocolate so I was off the hook.
The rest of the function, I just sat there, stained physically and emotionally wishing it was all over. But here's the moral to this long story, I adore my friend and I would do anything for her, I'd even go back and relive some of our best and worst moments in our over thirty year friendship but the next time there's a function like this, I don't care if I have to stand in a hot dog costume for a year to make the money, we're hiring a caterer, period. And the lesson here for all of you is don't try to do a Bar Mitzvah yourself because at the end of the day, as all Jews with any sense know, BM also means Bar Mitzvah - The Do-it-yourself Bar Mitzvah, oh vey - Don't Get Me Started!
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- Some Like It Scott!
An acquired taste, like Tab cola, Some Like It Scott is one gay man's experiences with love, life and things that make him crazy, all done to a musical theatre soundtrack.
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