Sit down, make yourself comfortable, have a cup of tea, or maybe something stronger, and let me tell you two stories - one happy, one disturbing. Each with a moral, or at least an attempt at it. Any excuse to tell a good story.
The first features a grandchild of mine. I know, I know, columnists who start writing about their grandchildren should be quietly led off to the Old Columnists' Home. (It's located just this side of Grudge Creek and up the road from Calumnia.) But we can't help ourselves, grandparenthood being what it is. And telling you grandfather stories, Gentle Reader, beats all heck out of telling them to my barber, who keeps interrupting with stories about his own grandchild.
So the other day, while the World Series was still on, my daughter in Boston - actually Newton, Mass., which might as well be Boston - picks up Grandson No. 1, Aviav, from his Jewish day school. Five years old now, he tells her today was Red Sox Day at his school and he wants her to tell him all the rules of baseball. (I myself would love to hear her explain the infield fly rule; it'd be good training for Talmud 101.)
Soon mother and son are back at their house to keep an appointment with a workman. The workman arrives, wearing a noticeable cross around his neck, and proceeds to the basement while little Aviav and his mother settle down for a snack and a talk in the kitchen.
The boy hasn't quite got all the nuances of what was once our national pastime down, but his enthusiasm is boundless. One thing he wants to know is why he's learning about baseball at Maimonides, his orthodox Jewish school. Well, his mother explains, the Red Sox are Boston's team and his teachers (doubtless following Rabbi Hillel's injunction not to separate oneself from the community) want him to love the Red Sox. He gets the point at once: "And Jewish people love the Red Sox!" At which a deep, resonant voice is heard from the basement:
"NOT JUST JEWISH PEOPLE!"
The moral of the story, if you must have one: Only in America.
The second story also features a craftsman, a plumber by trade. I am in my own basement this time, talking to the contractor who's going to fix the water-soaked cabinet in the downstairs bathroom - as soon as the plumber has fixed the leak that caused it.
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