Of Dollars, Pushkes’ and Adult Entertainment

Many mornings I find myself at a local morning minyan. A minyan is where we Jewish types strap on the legos (as a friend called the t’fillin (Phylacteries)traditional observers wear) and daven (pray) the morning service. Nice way for yours truly to start the day and get in a little “something bigger than myself” time. I do really enjoy the experience, spiritual mediation with some mental yoga thrown in. Maybe all yoga is mental? Mrs S. likes to do yoga. I find it interesting to watch. I had a bad experience with Asana, the productivity app, not the poses, and as such, prefer to avoid it even thinking about it. Besides, one of the curses of getting old is that my flexibility is limited to bending at the waist to pick up the newspaper. (Newspaper, also a sign of aging) I’m also just a bit too childish not to handle the weird names of poses and not think “alternate Kama Sutra” names. “Exhausted dragon urinating on former presidential candidate” for example.

I digress.

Back to the minion thing. There is a section in the service where we try to elevate ourselves by preforming a mitzvah, or good deed done from religious duty.

Hang with me, it gets funny soon.

The mitzvah in mind is giving to the poor. At a certain auspicious point in the service, one of our number, same guy every morning, goes and grabs the “pushke” and walks around the service collecting alms. Pushke is a yiddish word that translates to “little box in the home that you shouldput donations for charity into”. Anway, my friend with the box starts at one end of the group and works his way around collecting from everyone assembled. Typically, in the modest amount of one (1) US dollar. A buck is a pretty modest amount, except for the fact that these days I rarely carry cash.

Which leads to my feeling intimidated by one of the most gentle and unassuming men I’ve ever met. Our guy at the shul is the very epitome of a kindly grandfather. And when I see him coming toward me with his hand outstretched, waving a beautifully ornamented charity box, with dollar bills sticking out because, well, every other person in the room has put a dollar into it ..

Again, that’s often when I realize that, uh, I… ain’t go no cash. Like I said, I never have cash. I never got to the bank. Who carries cash these days? Unlike everything else in my world, the pushke doesn’t have an iPhone reader or a Venmo address.

There is a very poignant part of the Masonic initiation ritual, which I have also been through, where the candidate as asked to deposit something of value into a similar box. Only that experience is rigged, we Lodge Bros know the dude doesn’t have anything on him. That gives us a chance to remind the new initiate of his current penniless situation and to admonish him to always contribute to relief of the poor and distressed. I get to relive that experience more often than I’d like to admit, and this week, on every day ending in a “Y”.

Progression of events is thus:

  1. We get to the part of the service with the pushke.
  2. I think, “Shit, I didn’t go to the bank”.
  3. The kindly man approaches, I try not to make eye contact, then I try to nod him away with an embarrassed apologetic nod and like a drug dog next to a carry-on with a joint in it, he stops in front of me.
  4. I tell him I don’t have any cash.
  5. He reaches into his hand where he keeps a few extra dollar bills and tries to hand one to me, and when I say no, he drops it in, and kindly pats me on the shoulder and says, “I got you”.
  6. I say to myself, “I’ll go to the bank this afternoon”.
  7. Never think about the bank or cash again, and we repeat all 7 steps the next morning.

Need a big sharpie, template for an old English letter “L” for losers and some spare forehead space, which with my freakishly large head.. I have plenty off. I nothing worse than being the recipient of pity charity, so you can give other people charity because you were too stupid to remember to go to the damned bank.

In my defense, it’s not that easy. “Going to the bank” is actually a two step process. You have to go to the ATM and get a crisp new $20. Problem is the next step, you have to break the $20. On a good day, I can get one of those done, never both.

This Monday, like several in the past, I found the box in front of me, held by the same kindly gentleman with the angelic smile.. I reached for my wallet and found actually did have come cash, I had a $20. So, I did what I believe I’m compelled to do, put the Jackson in the box. “Very generous” was the response. I suppose I could take change out of the pushke, an option. I don’t think having me dump out a box of charitable givings, only to sort through it through and take out some ones, and fives, is a particularly flattering look. Besides, there is a rational in my head that, if I’m too lazy to get change, someone else needs the money more than I do. Let others benefit from my fogginess.

I tried thinking ahead on this. What if I went into the bank and picked up a stack of ones and put those in my wallet. I tried it. A few months ago picked 40 one dollar bills. Figured that I’d be set for a couple of months.

Ever put 40 bills in a wallet? Looks awesome, like I’m ball’n or gambl’n. Big ol’fat wallet dude.. Mrs S noticed as well. She saw my overstuffed wallet sitting on the counter. And with a “What the…”, she started rifling through it.

Side note-just want to point out, in the spirit of observation of double standards, if I had grabbed her purse and started rifling through it, that would not have gone over well.

Two things happened.

First she counted off five $1 bills, palmed them into the secret wallet she keeps under her blouse. “Going to coffee tomorrow…” she said, explaining and ending discussion right there. Second, she looked at me oddly and asked, “Why do you have like fifty $1 dollar bills, what the hell?”

“Well, I got them for the morning minyan and now there’s only 35 so uh… “

“OK, that’s what you want to call it now? Do you roll them up when you get there or in the car?”

Clarification here, the woman who just slipped five of those bills into her undergarments has just insinuated that I’m also stuffing bills in to women’s undergarments. Which is not the case. Ever.

I have never been to a strip club, and unless there’s air raid and the cinderblock building with no windows is also a fallout shelter, I don’t plan to ever go. I’ve never been interested. I had a boss who got sort of angry with at me once in Vegas. I refused to go into such a place when we out entertaining clients. I declined and waited outside. Which, for the record, is at least as entertaining as whatever was going on inside because when the guys came out, 15 minutes and $150 lighter, they didn’t look so happy.

Quick confession, there was once a strip club that did intrigue me. Years ago, when you crossed the border into Wisconsin on the way to the lake, there was a club on the hill called “The Mine Shaft”. Legend was when you went in, you were handed a minors hat with a light on top. And when the performers came out, you turned on the lamp. I know right? Adult entertainment innovation.

I never made it in there however, so I can’t tell you if that’s true or not. Now the place is a burger joint and beer hall.

This week I’ll be off t0 the bank to get a $20. Then I’ll pop into the Kwik Trip next door to buy a bottle of water for .69 cents. And I’ll ask for change in ones. I’ll get a sore back sitting on my big ol’fat wallet, and Mrs S will shake her head at me, again.

But, this should spare me the shame of being penniless for another month.



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