Everything I know about Jews comes from Philip Roth and Erica Jong in the seventies and maybe even eighties. I grew up in a village of seven hundred people in Western New York. We only had Christians -- United Methodist and Roman Catholic. There were Episcopalians about seven miles away, but I never even met a Lutheran until I married one. I met a Jew when my community college PE class went bowling because the new gym floor had buckled. He was a Russian Jew, tall and skinny, with a name that could be spelled to the tune of Mickey Mouse. We Nicolazzos make our name fit the music by dragging out the Zs, but David's name took to it naturally: R O G A C H E F S K Y.
The few Jews I've known personally are as religious as I am, so it never comes up.
I was in Publix the other day and saw a thirteen-dollar item that I really wanted. I had to have it. Well, no I didn't. It was too much money. The end. So I went home without it, but as soon as I reached my driveway, I turned around again. I was right: I did have to have it.
It's a Passover Bag of Plagues. Yes.
Normally, this is the point at which I'd google Passover, and I'd come up with some actual information about it, some facts. However, I don't want to. The most research I did (besides checking out that pox-on-your-sox thing) was to stretch up to my wall calendar and search for Passover. It says it starts at sundown on April 8, but I don't know when it ends. For some reason, I think of it being a two-week thing. Whatever. I'm not looking it up. Sorry, Olga.
It turns out there are ten plagues, even though I'm sure you'll agree that twelve is a more spiritual number. The package has a four-column info sheet starting with Hebrew (which always looks upside down), followed by the short version of the ten plagues (blood, frogs), the long version (All the waters of Egypt turned to blood, Frogs covered all the land of Egypt), and finishing up with What's Inside (fake blood, plastic frogs).
So here we are:
- lice All the dust turned to lice and covered everyone. Hmm. Everyone? Or just the Egyptians? And really, what a clever plague. But the Bible's big on dust anyhow, you know. There's that whole mote (of dust) in your eye and log in mine thing. And the shaking the dust off the sandals bit.
- wild beasts These "terrible beasts" went into Egyptian homes and are depicted in the bag by finger puppets of a lion and a tiger.
- cattle plague This one's too vague for me. It just says that All the cattle were covered with this plague. As you see in the photo, sweet Benji obliged me by donning the Cow Mask provided -- not an easy task for a creature without opposable thumbs.
- boils Well, it's not like I want something too realistic, but in this case, it's a green hand made out of a Gummi Bear-type substance, with white boils. And a long skinny string for the arm. Huh?
- hail This is represented by a plastic ice cube with tiny red Jell-O balls inside representing fire because "hail" is just the short version: A mixture of hail and fire rained on the land. THAT would be something to see, wouldn't it? And I'll tell you what. If your god could do that and mine couldn't, I suspect I'd be an eager convert. Or I'd Let Your People Go or whatever it was you wanted.
- locusts Ah. Well, we here in Florida experienced something along that order last summer. One or two is disgusting and creepifying. I can't imagine an actual plague of same. Yeah. I'd give up. I'd give in. I'd give out.
- darkness The entire land was enveloped in darkness. Okay. Could be an envelope, but in fact, it's kid-sized sunglasses.
- And finally: Death of Firstborn This is tastefully represented by a nine-piece puzzle, a seriously impaired rendering of a weeping mother and a prostrate father, with pyramids in the background. And a palm tree.
I had lunch with Kate and Leone the other day at the Kopper Kitchen, one of my favorites. Kate lives in St. Louis and has worked for a caterer who does Passover work. She was surprised at the apparent fun kids were going to have with this Bag o' Plagues because she'd been working in an Orthodox Jewish home when the plague ceremony was on, and it was very serious.
It occurs to me that I know just about as many Egyptians as Jews, both groups of whom seem to be flourishing, so I'm guessing that the plagues, terrifying as they were, didn't really accomplish anything, at least not in the big picture. I'm sure there's a lesson here.
In the meantime, here's yet another horrible photograph. You'd think I'd quit. Still, how often do you get to see three art cars all in row, no matter how lousy the photo? I thought so. Liz and Jill are parked next to me in front of the new French restaurant in Gulfport.
Once again, we tried many restaurants before we found one open for a late lunch. Hmm ... and they all start with Ps: Pia's, Peg's, the Peninsula. For all I know, the new French one is Pierre's, since it, too, was closed till suppertime. Yummy's was open, and I really like it. It's dog-friendly. And it should be: it's a hot dog joint. We were in the mood for whole meals, though, so we ended up at Domain, which is where we should have started, of course. It turned out that it has paper tablecloths -- one of my favorite things! -- so while young Riva and I doodled and Liz took Flat Becky photos, Jill did some arcane thing with math. Lee and Bob were there, too, but I've noticed that when women outnumber men, the latter keep a low profile. Hmm