Thursday, December 25, 2014

Apple Product Placement

Dear Mr. Cook: 

So my Christmas gift for you (and for me, too!) is a brief excerpt from Chapter I of Cooperative Village. I am getting such a kick out of thinking about you reading it and trying to pronounce some of the Yiddishisms, however kookily improbable that scenario is. It's just funny. The whole situation. Me writing you every day after market close, and now even on a national holiday. 

So no set up needed other than Frances has just laundered her dead neighbor. She had her reasons.

Please enjoy the rhythm, I hope it makes you smile.

Merry and jolly,

Frances Madeson
View of Grand Street showing 26 years of cooperative development: Amalgamated Dwellings (1930) in the foreground with two of the Hillman Housing buildings (1947-50) behind it. One of the East River Housing towers (1953-56) in the background. Not far beyond the trees on the left out of frame is the Management Office where this fictional scene takes place. This is Grand Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

[Excerpt from Chapter One, "The Gentle Cycle," Cooperative Village, A Novel by Frances Madeson, p. 18]

The day was so lovely I almost enjoyed running the
gauntlet of ancient neighbors inching their walkers forward
on the sidewalk outside the building. I even took a
moment to admire the tenacity with which they hauled
their decrepit, wasted selves onto the touring coach that
would speed them to Atlantic City for an action-packed
day of inserting nickels into one-armed bandits.

I especially admired the stooped crones who remained
unbowed by concerns of personal vanity and
who, like catfish, let the thick white hairs grow on their
chins and upper lips for all the world to behold. I was
glad we’d chosen this community and hoped that services,
such as free bus trips and moderately priced annual
luncheons at Kutscher’s in the Catskills would
still be available as we got older. I’d heard them talking
and already knew that “they give you so much at the all-you-
can-eat-buffet, they should call it the more-than-you-
can-ever-possibly-eat-at-one-sitting buffet,” and I
looked forward to partaking of it someday. But everything
in its time.

Rivka-Leah, the experienced customer service associate
in the Management Office, who’s probably old
enough to retire but cannot relinquish the reins of
power, buzzed me in so I could wait my turn while she
dealt with several other Cooperators who’d arrived before

“What’re you completely crazy? I’m not giving you a
receipt for your maintenance check. The canceled check
will be the receipt. We don’t do that.”

“But I had a problem one time before when I put the
check in the rent box, and you people said you never got
it and you charged me a late fee. A late fee! Writing the
maintenance check is one of the highlights of my month.
Do I look like I would ever be late with such an important
check?” The crowd, including me, shook its head as
one. No, certainly not.

Seeing the tide turning against her, Rivka-Leah had
to think fast. “Mr. Abrahamson, if I do it for you then I
have to do it for everyone and before you know it that’s
all I’m doing, sitting here on my tuchas all day long
making out receipts for rent checks.”

“Fine, then let it be on your head. And these people
are my witnesses. Don’t charge me no late fees. I got

“Fine. Abi gezundt. Next!”

While the two other Cooperators in line argued heatedly
over who was next, I slipped ahead of them. After
all, I had a time constraint. I had to transfer my loads
from the washer to the dryers, though I wasn’t sure
about whether to dry Mrs. Plotsky or not. Maybe on low

“Hi Rivka-Leah. How are you this morning?”

“Thank God. What can I do for you?”

“I’m sad to say my neighbor Mrs. Plotsky died. I
found her dead in the laundry room.”

“Did she have a parking spot?”

“I don’t know. I doubt it. She was well into her

“This is important,” Rivka-Leah was wagging her
finger in my face. “’Cause if she had a spot, someone
else moves up on the list. Wait a minute, I’ll ask my
son-in-law. ISH-MA-EL,” she screamed into the hallway,
“Plotsky in the Y building. Did she have a parking

“I told you never to call me that,” he screamed back.
“What’re you kidding? The woman’s in diapers, she don’t
drive no more.”

“Maybe a storage room?”

“Since when do I know from storage rooms? Ask
Fritzy, if you can find him.”

Franklin Delano “Fritzy” Mandelbaum was the new
wunderkind on the staff, hired right out of the Cornell
School of Hotel Management largely on the strength of
his honors thesis entitled, “Don’t Flatter Yourself: All
Living is Assisted.” He’d made a splash from day one,
riding his Vespa around the complex, his yarmulke securely
bobby-pinned to his fiery red curls, proactively
looking for problems to solve before they even became
problems. He was rarely spotted behind his desk.

“FRIT-ZY, Plotsky in Building Y. Did she have a storage

Luckily, he was in the office downloading tunes to
his iPod. His answer was also negative.

“No parking spot, no storage room, why’re you bothering
me with this? I don’t have enough to do? Her
fahkakte son moved in with her after they stapled his
kishkas, right?”


“Tell him. Abi gezundt. Next!”

While it didn’t feel great being dismissed by Rivka-
Leah like that, I realized she was, as I once had been, a
very busy woman who had a lot of demands on her time,
and I respected the fact that she had many details to
manage. I moved along, taking some comfort in the fact
that I’d done the responsible, if not wholly appreciated,
thing and had been a good Cooperator.

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