What's funny? What isn't? And why do I never get a laugh when I tell that joke about the moose?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

True Lazar Tales #1

As a young man, I went away to college at a university in upstate New York.

As was the custom then (and now, I believe) all the incoming freshmen lived on campus together, in one of several hastily built dormitories. (These dormitories had been hastily built right after World War II to accommodate the influx of returning G.I.s getting their educations under the G.I. Bill. They were still standing -- mostly -- some 30 years later).

In any case, I found myself in a building with some 200 other nervous 17- and 18-year-olds, many of us away from home for the first time in our lives.

We began sorting ourselves out into groups, roughly based on our room assignments, though not entirely. Among my cronies were Dean, a Vermont kid who had never met a Jew before and was surprised that I didn’t have horns; Rich, a red-headed guy from out West who had--as far as I could tell--been stoned since the day he found his first Bic lighter; and Don, a tough Italian kid (or the Ivy League equivalent of a tough Italian kid) from New York City.

The bunch of us were standing around the Flight Deck swapping stories and insults. (The Flight Deck was the dormwide designation for our particular corridor of the building. It was so called because on weekends it was generally five or six inches higher than the rest of the dormitory.)

These exchanges, though rough, are basically innocent. They’re a way of learning about one another, and incidentally, establishing the social pecking order for the year.

In any case, after Rich and Don had sparred for five minutes or so, discussing one another’s cleanliness and sexual proclivities, it was my turn. Don turned to me and said something about my incipient moustache and what it suggested about my masculinity.

Laughing, I turned to Don and said, “Your mother…”

I don’t know what I was going to say next. I might just have left it there, in fact. But I had no air to say anything else because I found that I had been gripped firmly by the throat, raised a good foot and a half in the air, and slammed against the cinderblock wall.

By Don. Whose bright red face as perhaps an inch from mine, wearing an expression of fury such as I had never seen on a human being before. Understand, I was almost a foot taller than Don, and outweighed him by a good 80 pounds. It made no difference to the raging maniac who had me by the throat.

“My mother,” he hissed, “is a saint!”

“I…” I gasped, as well as I could with an angry Italian kid cutting off my windpipe, “I’m sure she is…”

The grip was removed from my windpipe, I crashed to the ground gasping, and the door to Don’s room slammed shut with a building-shuddering crash!

I crawled back to my own dorm room, rubbing my throat and groaning.

MORAL: ALL mothers are saints. It is a good idea to remember that.

Happy Mothers Day to Risa, Frances and all the other Saints.


  1. Risa, Frances, and your mother are hereby saints, at least in the Norse Brahmanist religion - Domine, Oxblood - Domine!

  2. The war movie allusions here are deliberate, right?

  3. Jon:

    No, actually, my life is just a series of movie tropes.

    For instance, my next door neighbors are a nice family consisting of a blustering, but well-meaning garbage collector; his ditzy wife, a beautiful former movie actress who retired to raise her family (she dusts wearing pearls); and their 10-year-old son, who builds rockets in his backyard laboratory.


  4. I don't think I've ever met those neighbors, Jerry, but it sounds like you'd get along with them beautifully. At least, the "blustering, but well meaning" dad and the rocket-building son. (Your wife is of course anything but ditzy, and I suspect she saves the pearls for more appropriate occasions.)

    My neighbors, next door, across the street, down the block, are mostly pretty boring by comparison, though I think we set a record for ethnic diversity. (And some of that is *within* families, including mine.) But we do have a former actress, who might well dust wearing jewelry she designed and made herself. And a fair number of musicians, though only a few perform in public.