1. My friend the Rocket Man (the one who enjoys Whiskey Sours and Jack Daniels and is a disguised roughneck) is preparing to blast off and head to the stars with a lovely companion of the female persuasion whom we shall refer to as The Flower Princess. Thus, I wish them lots of mazal, happiness, joy, health and a fantastic future.
2. My NCSYers have nicknamed me Olly Wiz, and thus, from now on, I shall be known by that name.
3. My sister was one of three first place winners in the Art Contest at Ida Crown, which means that she has won a larger cash prize than I ever have despite the fact that she’s still in high school. Huzzah for Dustfinger!
She explained that the assignment was to draw a shoe and a background that represents the path you will take in life. She chose to draw a loud background to represent all the brightness and obstacles of life. The shoe, which is 3D, at first seems to fade into the background, blending in with the other bright colors, in order to ensure that the viewer has to take a second look to see it. To understand Dustfinger, one has to look beneath the surface.
The best part? My sister did not even know she was part of the contest. Her art teacher entered her without telling her. It was a complete surprise when she won.
4. I counted Sefirah for 49 days with a bracha! I totally rock; so much for women forgetting to count. *smirk* Seriously speaking, the only reason I did it is because my father claimed I wouldn’t be able to, and you all know what a competitive streak I have…
5. I got my first and only B+ in English Literature, a situation I brought on myself as I neglected to ever attend that class, do the homework (write in Forums) and wrote the papers at 4 AM. Despite this, it was the phrase my English teacher used to dryly inform me of it that I found hilarious. "Olivia, your grades in no way reflect your intelligence," was what she told me. What was I doing while I was not in English Class? Take your pick: The Observer, hunting for apartments in Washington Heights, talking to the Academic Advisor about registering for summer classes, going to the actual New York colleges to register for summer class, going again once the college lost my application, sleeping potentially, completely losing my mind regarding other matters....The point is, I find this grade insanely depressing, but I suppose it shall be my reminder forever that all of us are human.
(Disclaimer: This is about lingerie. Men who do not wish to read on, you have been warned, and can skip to the next bold header.)
Hidden on the Lower East Side at 157 Orchard Street is the store affectionately referred to as the "Lingerie Ollivanders." Orchard Corset sells every form of underclothing with every type of trimming that is possibly available to women. With a storefront that features corsets and bras against a garish bright pink background, looking as though one is entering an Adult Entertainment Center or Video Store but an interior that is lined with shelf after shelf of seeming shoeboxes, one is surprised to find that this establishment has been written up by the New York Times, the New Yorker and this very May 2009 issue of InStyle Magazine.
Even more surprising is the description of Ralph Bergstein, a Hasidic Jew in his late 50s, who per the articles is able to look at a woman, determine the bra size she ought to be wearing, and fit her in a matter of minutes. It seems an odd talent for a Hasidic Jew...until you realize that Ralph's father was a tailor, and therefore taught his son how to actually make girdles, lingerie and all sorts of other clothing for women. A complete professional, Ralph's mother used to run the store, and then it was handed down to him and his wife, Peggy.
After The Tent-Peg Wielder told us about this place, I was obviously eager to go. Who wouldn't want to see whether this store was really as good as the articles claimed? One more point to mention: all the articles state that around 90% of women wear the wrong bra size unknowingly. Apparently the Bergsteins are extremely good at sizing people up and ensuring that they wear the right size.
My friends and I took the D train from Stern, entering into the old, forgotten New York, with handpainted signs and beautiful enclaves of oddities. Fascinated, we walked about, and I exclaimed over pickles, delis, the Tenement Museum and lots of other shops before we actually found Orchard Corset. To my surprise, after walking in I was shy, which is not usual for me.
Interestingly, since it was clear that we were all Orthodox, Peggy took care of us; Ralph merely rang up our purchases by the register. Both of them were incredibly professional. I went with a group of three other girls; Ralph's wife looked at us, very lightly touched our shoulders and backs, and amazingly, told us the bra size we were wearing while informing us of our correct sizes. Then, like a magician, she danced through the different shoe boxes, pulled out different bras for all of us, and in a matter of minutes we were all wearing the most comfortable clothing known to women. She offers bras and lingerie in all kinds of different styles, with lace, without lace, in different colors...it was really fantastic.
But you have to enjoy Peggy's personality. One of our group went up to her and said, a little apologetically, "I'm very small...you may not have anything for me."
"Duh," she said, smiling. "But you're tiny in the back, not anywhere else."
Surprise! Apparently we were all wearing the wrong size bra, something which Peggy quickly rectified with amazing professionalism and expertise. Another amazing thing is that Peggy does not try to sell you lots and lots of her products; she will only sell you what she believes looks good on you...and she's very clear in her opinions of what does and does not suit you. We all walked out of there completely thrilled and really happy because we finally had comfortable and pretty "special clothes," as I termed the undergarments.
And best of all: It's inexpensive! You have beautiful brand-name clothes and they cost much less than they would if you were shopping at Bloomingdales or Victoria's Secret.
So ladies of New York, this is a public service announcement: Do yourself a favor and visit Orchard Corset. You won't be disappointed.
My Scarsdale cousins, who rock my world, were informed that they had to come pick up lots of stuff from my dorm a whole week early. You see, I officially had to move out of my dorm on May 24th before 11:00 AM. However, at that point in time I would be attending Spring Regional Convention for NCSY at Camp Seneca Lake. That meant that I would have to move all of my stuff out of the dorms sometime before May 24. And it turned out that the time that was convenient for my fabulous Scarsdale cousins to come get my stuff was May 15, Friday morning at about 9:00 AM.
Now, the question became: how in the world was I going to pack all of my stuff?
Well, I called up my fabulous friend Estee and asked her whether she felt like neglecting studying for her finals in favor of traveling with me to The Container Store via the 6 train and then helping me shlep big plastic bins and boxes back to the dorm with me.
She said yes.
And thus began the saga of all time-the ride to The Container Store, my almost going to Russia, dragging huge plastic bins back to my dorm via the subway and finally my packing of said bins, at which point I had 11 boxes (we had bought a total of 5 plastic bins from The Container Store) worth of stuff.
Friday morning I brought all of my stuff downstairs only to be greeted by a bearhug from Yechiel, my fabulous cousin who is joining the IDF, and while I profusely apologized to him about making him take off from school to shlep all my stuff he smiled and said he didn't mind at all. That's because everyone in his family is completely amazing and I love them to pieces.
Taking the QM4 to Queens
Despite the fact that Yechiel & Co relieved me of 11 boxes worth of stuff, I had to figure out how to transport a huge, oversized suitcase to Queens, as I was getting a ride to Laguardia Airport form there after returning from my NCSY Convention. So I decided to take the QM4, which is the express bus from 3rd and 39th Avenue, to Queens. The only problem? My suitcase was literally falling apart in the process, shedding shards of spat-up plastic on the ground.
And then there's the fact that unlike a normal bus, the QM4 is formatted like a coach bus, which meant my suitcase would not fit through the tiny space meant for people. After huffing, puffing, panting and otherwise being unable to drag it onto the bus for a good five minutes, the lady busdriver got off her seat, placed her gloved hands on the suitcase and hoisted it onto a seat, where it sat happily and exhaustedly. I gaped at her in awe. MTA busdrivers are awesomely strong.
She also had to help me get it off the bus, and she looked askance at me as she did it...I don't think I'll be taking the QM4 to Queens again anytime soon.
NCSY Spring Regional Convention
Then came NCSY! There were several fantastic portions to the NCSY Convention.
1. It is probably one of the most unlikeliest places on Earth to meet a fellow blogger, but I happened to meet Steg at the NCSY Convention, and learned about his love for blowtorches and kashering kitchens.
2. I had a whole Dance Party! Steg can attest to this. See, we have this fabulous guy who plays the keyboard and sings and is basically a one-man band; his name is Aryeh. And when the NCSYers were down at a Kumsitz by the Lake, I, who had volunteered to basically do Toranut for every meal, stayed behind to help clean up. And then Aryeh started blasting "Who Let The Dogs Out" and I started dancing and from then on I danced for an hour straight, concluding with "Forever Young." Aryeh dedicated ABBA's "Dancing Queen" to me. He told me that in another life, he and I are coming back so we can do the tango. Huzzah for dancing!
3. I was in charge of Decorations when it came to Banquet. Banquet is this whole fancy shindig where the whole room has to be beautiful because the Seniors are being given awards and it is very exciting, and I love sparkly things and therefore Muffins decided it would be smart to put me in charge of decorating the room. So I wandered around giving people orders, telling one person to line the platform and the other person to prettify the wall and teaching people how to arrange the table settings and the room looked lovely and I was happy.
4. Several of my NCSYers (graduating ones) wrote me beautiful comments, and there are two that made me especially happy.
A) Olly, I will extract your DNA and clone the perfect woman.
B) With highly-appropriate guy love, *insert name of NCSYer*
Those comments made me extraordinarily happy because they suggest I actually accomplish something in my conversations with my NCSYers, and that makes me glad.
Other than that, I was crazy busy because I volunteered for everything because I wanted to be distracted from the thoughts on my mind, and thus I washed dishes, cut vegetables, served food, decorated rooms and otherwise was an excellent Kitchen Maid. Probably the best part was when, after chopping about 70 tomatoes, I was informed that if I bleed on the knife that is potentially considered "Ta'am Hekdesh" and could be problematic. Hurrah!
And as you already know, Reuven, Yoni and other Yeshiva people told me stories all the way back on the NCSY bus about Yeshiva University Rabbanim and Israel experiences. Some things I learned:
Coast-to-Coast means Yeshiva students who go from Friday to Friday without showering in between. Pleasant, eh?
(While talking of terms, my NCSYers taught me what teabagging means, and let's just say that is not a term I needed to learn.)
There is this Rosh Yeshiva at YU named R' Yitzchak Cohen who is famous for phrases that sound crazy out of context. These include: "Torah is not a Muffin, Say Yes To Drugs, and A Dot? A Dot?" In context, Torah is not a Muffin means that you cannot choose to like Torah the way that you like blueberry muffins, one says yes to drugs because Torah is a drug. When it comes to "A Dot? A Dot?" you have to hear the whole story. Once upon a time there was a yeshiva student who did not understand why God cared about the little details, like how you put on your shoes in the morning and which laces you tie first. Well, he emailed his Rebbe to ask the question, and his Rebbe emailed him back. The next time the yeshiva student encountered his Rebbe, he said, "Why did the Rebbe not answer my question?" "I did answer your question," answered the Rebbe, "I emailed you back. I must just have forgotten to put a dot in your email address, and that is why you did not receive the answer." Of course, that was the answer: details matter.
Then there is the tradition R' Hershel Schachter has for testing Semikha students; apparently he asks them questions and they dance out of their minds trying to figure out the answers, when in truth the answer is a simple pasuk. "Can a woman be a Nazir?" is an example, and the poor yeshiva students try to figure out the answers from Gemaras, giving fantastical and long-winded explanations, at which point R' Hershel Schacter finally informs them that the answer is a simple verse...and now I understand this year's Purim Shpiel a lot better.
The subway ride to Queens was extremely eventful because there were so many colorful people on the 1 train. Included among these was a Hispanic boy and girl who were arguing over the book report drawing he was making for a book entitled Tunnels of Blood.
The girl claimed that she could draw the tunnels better than the boy, while the boy said otherwise. While they were arguing, another man walked onto the train alongside a group of people, and the following conversation ensued. First you have to realize what this man was wearing: it entailed shorts that reached the knee, a white shirt, a vest over it, a nicely trimmed goatee and a fantastic straw hat. He and his group were having some trouble defining the meaning of the word 'meniscus.'
Japanese Man: Isn't the meniscus the lowest part of water?
Man in a Straw Hat: The meniscus is in your knee.
Japanese Man: No, it ain't.
Man in a Straw Hat: Betcha 1000 bucks that it is. It's that jelly-like strip around your kneebone.
I thought about informing them that the Japanese Man was right, and then thought better of it.
The tale of LaGuardia Airport is a terrifying and awesome one. Strap in your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, for you are about to be fascinated.
I arrived at LaGuardia Airport at about 5:35 as my father had requested I attempt to go Standby on a 6:45 flight to Chicago. Upon arrival, I am informed my suitcase is Heavy (that crime of all crimes) and weighs 69 pounds when it should only way 50. I fight with the offending suitcase, repacking lots of books and placing them in my bag, but can only wrestle it down to 50 pounds. Time's a'wasting, so I pay $50 for the privilege of them shipping my bag, then rush off to security.
Wouldn't you know it, the YU Medical Ethics track jacket that I am wearing is considered bulky, and so the man sharply calls, "Female assist" as he motions for me to stand in a transparent cubicle. I look anxiously over my shoulder and see that my stuff is sliding down the conveyor belt and my Crocs have fallen out of the plastic grey bin (why are they always grey?) into which I have placed them. The female comes and pats me down, doing everything but strip-searching me, then assures me that I am fine. I grab up my things, swinging a heavy backpack over my shoulders, donning a raincoat, slipping into Crocs and balancing my two purses on either hand and rush to gate D5. Not a moment too soon, for when I arrive they call my name, I exist and am guaranteed a seat on the flight.
We are boarding, but I stop to purchase a bag of Chex Mix because I have not eaten anything since lunch and it will be a long time till I get to Chicago.
But even I had not realized how long...
The Miraculous Savior of Laptops
Two minutes before my flight was scheduled to leave, at about 6:43, a man suddenly appears by my seat, 31F. He is a TSA employee and is wearing glasses. He is red-faced and panting. He asks me my name.
"My name is Olivia," I say.
"Is this yours?" he says, and I open my mouth in complete and utter confusion, because the TSA man is holding my laptop.
Holy gods, I think, completely and totally bewildered and astounded. Is it really possible that I left my laptop on the conveyor belt?
"Show me some form of ID," he orders, and I, utterly embarrassed (who leaves a laptop on the conveyor belt?) hunt through my trackjacket, purse, backpack and finally find the ID. The man looks at it, nods his head, hands me my labtop and someone else asks him, "Did you just run all the way here?"
He gives a curt nod and disappears before I can properly thank him, get his name or in any way redeem myself.
It suddenly occurs to me that I do not have my name anywhere on my laptop. Thus, this individual actually turned on my laptop, waited for it to load, found my name (because my computer is password-protected), searched for me on the airport registry, found my gate and begged the agent to let him on to the plane in order to give me the laptop. He went entirely above and beyond the call of duty and I, in my embarassment and confusion, had failed to get his name.
Most employees would have just placed the laptop in the Lost & Found Bin, from which it would be promptly stolen.
Dear anonymous man, I love you so; you saved me about $1000 dollars yesterday.
The Never-Ending Wait
As we are scheduled to take off, the pilot's voice comes on overhead and he sadly informs us that due to the fact that there are thunderstorms to the South of Chicago, we are unable to take off. You see, all the planes that usually approach Chicago from the South now have to approach it from the North, and if we come in from New York we also approach Chicago from the North which means that there is simply not enough air-space to allow us to fly right now.
"But," he says brightly, "we are prepared. We have a full-length feature film for you; it stars Jim Carrey and is called 'Yes Man.'"
Boy was I glad I had thought to purchase that bag of Chex Mix; otherwise I wouldn't have had any food for the rest of the night.
Flight attendants wander about asking if anyone wants to buy headphones or drink water, and I decide this would be a good time to try to find out the name of my anonymous benefactor. Sadly, none of the flight attendants seem to know, and tell me I should write a letter to LaGuardia specifying the time of day (6:45 PM), the flight number (347), the airline (American Airlines) and hopefully they can track the man down.
However, I did get into an incredibly interesting conversation with two of the flight attendants, who told me all about how they have flown on chartered flights (one lady said the Chicago Blackhawks comprise some of the toughest guys she's ever met), that they can tell which people are nervous flyers right from the outset, that they have protected unaccompanied minors from pedophiles, and in one incredible story, prevented a kidnapping.
"What?!" I said, astounded, my image of flight attendants as pretty people who serve drinks completely disappearing.
"Yes," said the lady. "There was a fair-haired woman with two children and a baby who was speaking Spanish who got onto the plane. Something didn't look right so I told her how cute the baby was and asked if I could hold her for a minute? I took the baby back to my Spanish coworker and asked what she was saying; the baby was actually saying, "I want my Mommy." She had been kidnapped."
"So you actually saved that baby."
"Yes," my flight attendant says, shrugging it off like it's no big deal.
"And what happened to the woman?"
"She was taken off the plane in handcuffs."
These flight attendants had spent 30+ years in service, and they had plenty of stories for me. I was utterly fascinated. They promised to tell me if the pilot was able to contact the agent at the gate, who might know the TSA man's name, and I went to sit back down.
Alas, the Tower kept on making contact with the pilot and thus he was unable to get in touch with the agent. Finally, we were supposed to taxi down the runway and take off but this time we had a mechanical problem with one of the engines.
Eventually, we all had to get off the plane and be re-ticketed so as to take flight 363 (ironically, this was the flight I had originally been scheduled for) which was now taking off at 9:35 as opposed to 7:35 PM. While waiting in line to be reticketed, I called Lightman, asked him what night of Sefirah we had counted the night before, and counted Sefirah.
Once on flight 363, we finally took off, and I got to Chicago in one piece. By the time we reached Chicago it was 10:55 PM local time and I was exhausted.
My father, wearing his Yom Tov Suit (since he had just attended a fancy dinner) was there to greet me, which meant I shrieked so high that I probably caused Avi's ear to fall off, and thus we were able to return home. Home at last!
And thus Olly has created another triumphant period of marvelous adventures before it is time for cheesecake and ice cream. Huzzah!