Posted by Elliot Steingart
When my girlfriend invited me to church on Christmas Eve I hid under the kitchen table hoping she would not find me. She did, however. With no way out, I agreed to celebrate Christmas for the first time. If Jesus could make a sacrifice, I could too.
I didn't go home for Hannukah so it was nice to join my girlfriend's family during the holidays. As a token of my appreciation, I presented her parents with a Rosenblum Shiraz, the Jewiest red I could find. Her dad fixed me a wonderful dirty martini which I drank near the Christmas tree marveling at the many sparkling ornaments.
“Who is the Angel?” I asked. “And how does she know Jesus?”
I felt the man of the hour's presence in the family room as I studied the nativity scene. What a scene it was with lots of Christianity taking place. I embraced the holiday spirits and got reacquainted with my girlfriend’s sister home from Stanford. At the dinner table my girlfriend led grace. I did not thank the Lord, but did thank my girlfriend's mother. We all drank two glasses of wine during dinner and quickly grew tired as a result of the wine and the tryptophan from the turkey. I was hoping we would all fall asleep and miss church. Everyone pulled through except for me.
As we took our seats a great thirst took hold of me. Desperate for a glass I nearly drank the holy water. Chewing gum helped for the moment until I saw the altar boys march through the aisles wearing white robes and waving flags in a scene reminiscent of KKK rally. I nearly choked until I saw a purple flag and remembered there are no gay Klan members. Once the music set in I felt more at ease. A sucker for Christmas music, I joined in song during “Hark the Harold Angels Sing.” The actual version seemed different than the version I sang to my girlfriend leading up to Christmas. The real words to the carol are not “Holy is the Jesus night.”
Before communion, the majority of my row knelt to the ground. I sat up straight and felt prayer books flicking the back of my head. At least I was the tallest person in my row for half a minute. I remained seated during communion next to my girlfriend’s sister. I gave her a fist bump for staying back.
After communion, Pastor Ed Bacon delivered a powerful sermon centered on ending gun violence in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. He thanked the many congregants and guests and even folks of different faiths for attending. So moved by his graciousness, I put $3 in the basket, the most I donated all year to any religion. I even sang the final carol the “First Nowell” extra loud, or especially off key, according to my girlfriend. I survived church and could hardly contain my excitement for opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
Attempting to pull my car into the driveway for the night I could not turn the steering wheel. It was locked. I tried again and slammed on the break as the car slid down the hill. No luck restarting the car. Was God punishing me for going to church?
"We'll call AAA tomorrow after we finish opening the presents," my girlfriend announced. The sheer number of presents under the tree amazed me. We needed to call AAA to help us open presents. We sat by the fire opening gifts. We ate breakfast and then opened more gifts. Gift giving was seamless. I only gave one gift to my girlfriend's sister that was in fact intended for my girlfriend. I received new bed sheets, kitchen utensils, personalized stationary and a brand new edition of Monopoly and later a new battery from AAA.
My girlfriend appreciated the gifts I gave her, a lot more so than the Hannukah collection of TJ Maxx toiletries with the price tags still on. Towards the end of the holiday we christened my new Monopoly game. I moved in on properties aggressively snagging Broadway and Park Place early in the game. I dominated the board and became the Jewish property owner collecting rent from everyone on Christmas.
For a first timer, I think I behaved pretty well on Christmas. There was no real reason to hide under the kitchen table. It's not like Easter.
11.25.13 at 8:30 am | Learning code of conduct
10.28.13 at 9:09 am | Parents Meeting Girlfriend's Parents,and more
8.2.13 at 9:12 am | Guest blog written by my dad
7.24.13 at 9:38 am | Going home
6.25.13 at 9:36 am | The longest day of the year
5.24.13 at 11:43 am | Taking the Socks off
December 20, 2012 | 11:39 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
My girlfriend complains I don’t teach her about Judaism but it’s not for a lack of trying. During Chanukah I explained that the candle burned for eight nights.
“It was the oil, not the candle.” She corrected me.
Like she was there! She asks me to take her to synagogue, a big step for someone who wants to learn more about Jewish culture but refuses to watch even a moment of Billy Crystal hosting a special edition of SportCenter.
The point is I’m trying. I invited her to the Jewish Journal’s holiday party, which made for a teachable evening about Jewish culture. When else would she attend a function at one of LA’s hottest nightclubs, “Morry’s Fireplace?” Before the party I prepped her on a few basics such as talking with her hands and using the phrase “you’re kidding” when at a loss for words. I even gave her a short quiz.
“How many questions are there in Passover?” I asked.
“Three?” she guessed.
As I mentioned, it was a short quiz.
Before the party we stopped for dinner at Factors, a signature deli on Pico. We ate pickles, ordered matzah ball soup and drank root beer then walked to Morry’s Fireplace complaining about the cold.
I was excited to meet many of my contemporaries. The rumors swirled about which Jewish Journal stars would arrive. Would the enigmatic Morry make an appearance? Blog Coordinator Jared Baker, perhaps? To my delight, the event was star studded with Jewish Journal celebs like Blogger Ilana Angel of Keeping the Faith; entertainment reporter, Danielle Berrin aka the Hollywood Jew; and even, Tamara Shayne Kagel of the controversial blog Tattletales.
We drank kosher wine and chatted about each other’s blogs. An older women approached me, “Are you Jay?”
While I very well could have been Jewish Journal Web Editor Jay Firestone, I politely said, “No. I am Elliot. ”
“Where’s Jay?” I was pressed.
Because I established that I am Elliot I was therefore not Jay. I could only answer, “I don’t know, but I’m sure he will be here.”
We met a very lively and wonderful new blogger named Michelle Azar. “I write Yoga Breaths” she shared. “It sounds like Yoga breasts,” she laughed. “It’s breaths.”
Also an actress, Michelle has appeared in numerous television programs and recently played the role of “Jewish Woman #3” on Community. She introduced us to her husband, Rabbi Jonathan Aaron of Temple Emanuel, a very friendly and down to earth Rabbi who complained about his Passbook App not working to find his seats for VH1’s “Divas Live.”
“I’m interested in learning more about Judaism,” my girlfriend said to the Rabbi. “My boyfriend doesn’t tell me anything about texts and the traditions.”
Not wanting the rabbi to look down upon me, I introduced him to Zite, my favorite news aggregator for the Droid/Iphone.
With no sign of Morry, Jay, the man of the hour, finally arrived with his girlfriend, Julia.
"A lot of middle aged women want to meet you" I told Jay.
I complimented him on the Journal’s reporting of the Wilshire Blvd Temple bomb scare earlier in the week. I also suggested we take a group picture with all of the writers and bloggers posing with pen and note pad.
“Can we also get all the writer's to sign a copy of the print edition?” I requested.
I thanked Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman for the opportunity to blog and bade farewell to the rest of my contemporaries.
“What did you think?” I asked my girlfriend when we returned home.
“It was really nice; thanks for taking me.” She said. “I really like the Matzah ball area of town.”
At least she didn’t refer to us as “you people.” Even if she calls Pico/Robertson the “Matzah ball area” she is becoming more educated, slowly but surely. She knows the meaning of “schlep” as in I have no plans to shlep to synagogue. She ought to know I am happy to expose her to other aspects of Jewish culture. Our next lesson of Jewish culture is a Netflix introduction to the films of Charles Grodin.
December 14, 2012 | 10:40 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
For Hanukkah I gave my girlfriend a bag of toiletries from TJ Maxx. From the moment I heard her say “You left the price tags on,” I knew I was in a heap of trouble.
“It's a bonus gift,” began my cop out.
“You didn't even take the time to wrap the gifts.” She sighed. “It's like you put no thought into this.”
I learned my lesson. TJ Maxx is no Marshalls. Still, I thought she would appreciate the toiletries a little more. One Hanukkah my dad just handed me a shaving bag. No razor. No shaving cream---an empty shaving bag. My girlfriend has no idea what that's like. At least she received toiletries.
Besides, a week earlier she was showered with birthday gifts. She received new eye glasses, experiences like dinner, a Clipper game, and a the gift of a Green Flash Brewery V-neck.
She hurt my feelings when she said I put no thought into her gift. I put thought into getting her a gift for a holiday she doesn't even celebrate. I spent a good half an hour befuddled in the women's section of TJ Maxx. I pulled shirts off the rack over my chest cluelessly to see if I was a size six. After every skirt in the clearance rack I scoffed “Over my dead body” or “that will be the day!”
Exasperated I found my way to the hygiene section. I put fruit flavored body soaps and shampoos up to my nose. I remembered she does not like the smell of bananas. I smelled every banana free soap and shampoo in the aisle. The accusation that the gifts I chose were thoughtless was simply wrong. Lack of thought? “Tuscan Blood Orange body bath” is one of TJ Maxx's finest Italian imports.
Is “Bath and Body Works Passion fruit facial cleanser” not a gift of passion? Do you know what it's like spending seven minutes reading hand lotion labels. I located a special “H20+ waterfall moisture-boosting body balm.” She located the $3.99 price tag.I bought her a brush to straighten her curly hair. She brushed the gift aside.Not even a block of Giardelli peppermint bark could excite her.
“Would you rather I take these gifts back?”
“Maybe,” she said defeatedly.
No way would I return peppermint bark. I was growing tired of Hanukkah before the first official night. “I'm going to get you a nice Christmas gift.” I told her. “You can get me something small. I really don't care.”
“I was going to surprise you for Hanukkah. I'm going to tell you now. I got you a crock pot.”
“Awesome,” I said matching her enthusiasm.
As Hannakah drew closer I apologized for not wrapping her gifts or making her a card. She apologized for not acting more gracious. She is using her toiletries and I am making Chili in my crock pot.
We haven't talked about Christmas presents yet. One of her presents is that I am going to mass with her on Christmas Eve. I am excited to attend church for the first time wearing my new red and green yarmulke. Here's hoping the gift of laughter is an adequate Christmas present. Maybe even a bonus gift?
December 5, 2012 | 10:42 am
Posted by Elliot Steingart
I'm amazed by stories of heroism. I caught a snippet on the local news about a three year old boy who saved his grandma's life by calling 911. “That little boy is a hero,” said ABC 7 General Assignment Reporter, Robert Holguin.
Heroes sometimes save lives. Sometimes heroes do less. Other heroes are unsung, like me negotiating a special rate for my company at the local gym.
It's a simple story of a company moving into a new office in the financial district of Pasadena with a prime view of the gym. From the street level you can easily see the tushes through the glass grinding on the elipticals. For months, all I was lifting were buffet trays next door at Souplantation. After enough crouton salads and potato soups, I kicked myself for not spending my time better.
I felt that my coworkers would feel the same as me. I continually see how many gush over cupcakes and eat more than one cookie when no one is looking. I would present my work friends with a convenient lunchtime/after work alternative and do so at a better rate than ordinary gym members. My co-workers would find it in their hearts to respect me as someone looking out for their best interests.
My name would be brought up casually in a 10AM meeting. “That Steingart is a real company man.”
I phoned the gym and spoke to Ernie telling him that I received a lot of interest from co-workers about joining the gym. “Six people are committed and we are hiring like crazy.” I explained. “Knowing we'll be funneling all this new business your way, is there anything you can do for us?” I asked.
“I can waive the initiation fee, no problem,” replied Ernie.
“That sounds good, but it would really help if we can get a break in the price, especially if many of my co-workers would need to leave the gyms near their homes and switch to yours.”
“This is the best I can do,” said Ernie. “It's a corporate policy that is beyond me.”
A few more phone calls with Ernie resulted in the same answer. Per Ernie's request, corporate emailed me and explained that the gym would waive the initiation fee if our company committed to a finacial sponsorship.
“When I spoke with Ernie there was no mention of a company sponsorship. The only way I would even feel comfortable approaching my company about a sponsorship would be to lower our monthly fee.” I made clear.
Corporate agreed to move forward waiving our initiation fee. I ducked my head into cubicle after cubicle announcing the good news with a smile. I shook hands with esteemed colleagues and hugged and kissed my girlfriend. As a final declaration, I sent an office wide email stating that we as a company shall join the gym intiation free for 30 days! Never before was I so tempted to end an office email with “Booya!”
A moment later a representative from management responded to the company via email. “I know that this company is a bit shady in their membership contracts. If you cancel in advance you're going to get hit with a negative mark on your credit rating. Be careful what you sign,” he warned.
“Shit, shit, shit.” I kept saying over and over in my head.
With my heroic status in jeopardy I decided to bring Ernie into the office. I figured the six who had initially committed and others on the fence would surely join after hearing Ernie's pitch.
“Ernie's here!” I shouted.
Two people came into the small conference room. “I heard something about a credit rating being affected if I cancel early. Is that true?” asked Jessica.
Ernie began to sweat. “Boy, is it hot in here.”
“I'll grab the others interested in joining,” I said to save the day.
Ernie led myself and four of my female co-workers on a private tour of the gym. Ernie showed me the men's the locker room, a stuffy, carpeted, dong filled space. “Let's see the rest of the gym,” I requested.
We saw the 2nd floor filled with elipticals and free weights in addition to a studio space. “That's cool that there are so many free weights,” I said trying to impress the group.
“Is there towel service?” asked Michelle.
“Towels cost extra,” replied Ernie.
We ran up to the third floor to see the many stationary bicycles and leg presses. Ernie led us back down and into his office. I was the only one in his office as the rest of the group stood outside. I couldn't figure out what everyone else was doing.
“Are you guys ready to sign up?” asked Ernie.
Almost in unison the girls said, “I'm good for now, thanks.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes,” they said walking away.
So far one other person besides me has signed up. She claims she was overcharged. However, I like the gym fine. I'm getting in shape. My main workout routine is speeding past Ernie when I walk through the entrance. For the rest of the company, I'm negotiating a special rate at Souplantation.