Misreading The Room

We’re watching “Mrs. Maisel.”

I know, I know, it won all those awards, but it’s on Amazon, not Netflix or HBO, so there’s just not the buzz, and the tone of the show goes from reality to farce and just when you’re about to give up there’s a moment of truth and your heart sighs.

Actually, I wanted to write about the first episode last night. The Lodge didn’t have enough bandwidth for the big screen, so we ended up watching it side by side on the iPad, like Robin and John, that’s Hickenlooper and I don’t like to drop names but it’s when we reveal our humanity that we bond to people, our insecurities, our peculiarities, our habits, we see ourselves in others’ behavior, or we’re just happy to know they’re weird too.

Like Midge.

Actually, she’s not that weird, she’s just not doing what’s expected of her. You grow up in a Jewish family and there are steps. You get good grades to get into a good college so you can become a professional so your parents don’t have to worry about you. I know, I know, the gentiles read about the entertainers, the tech titans, but the rank and file Jew is looking for safety, then again, they’re not boring in real life.

Like when the Weissmans checked into the Steiner Mountain Resort. They were bitching and talking over one another and that’s exactly how it’s always been in my life. Especially when my dad was alive, when we went on regular family vacations. Back before he passed in ’92 and the estrogen trumped my testosterone. I can still whomp it up, but there’s not room in the family, there are too many people talking, I just retreat into my own cocoon. That’s where the books and records come in. “In My Room” is not one of my favorite Beach Boys songs, but I resonate with the sentiment. That’s what I love about the internet, the stimulation at my fingertips. Those with enough action in their real lives abhor the internet, but for those of us a bit more introverted…

So in last night’s episode, Midge spoke about the inspiration. Her husband leaving her. That’s when she tried comedy. She spoke her truth, she was honest. And all the great work emanates from a similar place, someone with no place to go decides to press forward, because they just can’t stay where they are. They don’t worry about the consequences, they don’t worry about the risk, they just act, in an unfiltered way. Which is why most people can’t do it on a sustained basis. Once the rewards come in, they’re inhibited, they’re uncomfortable, except for legendarily irascible people like Van Morrison. That’s the conundrum, you’ve got to be on the outside to make it on the inside, or to quote Bob Dylan, to live outside the law you must be honest, and Zimmy is coping by staying on the road, in his own personal fog, so he doesn’t have to think too hard about his fame and his life, he just keeps playing, he’s stripped it down to the essence.

And what draws people to “Mrs. Maisel” is story. It’s king in America. We want to be taken on a journey, we want to forget about our troubles, we want to know how it all plays out.

And we want that honesty and truth, that’s what we resonate with.

Like when Midge does her act at the wedding. At first there are laughs, then it’s “Springtime For Hitler.”

Jews know about this.

It’s changing now, with intermarriage, but back when boomers were all told they had to marry within the faith, they went to shul, they went to summer camp, they spent most of their time with the tribe, and when they intersected with the goyim…

I remember working construction, however briefly, lifting I-beams did not mix well with my back and I put out my thumb and left home, but that’s another story.

I took some rye bread and Hebrew National salami from the fridge and my co-worker criticized my meal, as he ate luncheon meat on Wonder Bread.

Sure, everybody’s now into bagels, then again, bagels are not what they used to be, they’ve been homogenized, they’re just circular bread as opposed to donuts that could break a tooth.

And you stick out on a regular basis growing up. You’re with gentiles and you talk too much. Jews are not silent, they speak, they ask questions, they live for conversation, arguments, and when they do their act with outsiders…

It is not pretty.

Some learn as they get older.

Some never do. They never tone it down. They believe irreverence and being the life of the party is de rigueur, until it isn’t.

So Midge is cracking jokes, putting people down, not understanding that she’s misfiring. She’s so caught up in who she is, what her experience has been, that she cannot see another perspective.

And it’s uncomfortable.

Then again, being a Jew is oftentimes this way. Especially when people don’t know you’re Jewish, and they crack anti-Semitic comments. Happens all the time, and all the ignorant are not poor, seemingly the more pure-bred they are, the more racist they are, they believe their tribe is better.

But Jews were always outcasts, we’re just trying to survive. The jokes are to keep us happy in sad situations. Seeing the humor in life allows you to keep on going.

But when you watch a show like “Mrs. Maisel,” you both resonate and wince, you think about your family members, how they’re smiling while watching too, but you’re also thinking about outsiders… Sure, they recognize Yiddish, but does it all seem foreign to them, are they judging us, you see Jews don’t want too high a profile, because they’re afraid of the consequences.

But when you get them alone, with their tribe…

It’s just like the show.

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