Donna, my wise-cracking Jewish friend from Queens and I pulled into the parking lot of the Santa Cruz Veterans Hall to meet our group for the first annual Menorah Parade. There was a guy with a long fuzzy beard standing in front of the building. I rolled down the passenger window of Donna’s shiny red Camry as she pulled up to where he was standing.
“Are you the rabbi?” I muffled through my mask.
Donna leaned over and elbowed me in the ribs as she whispered, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you see all his tattoos? And he’s smoking a cigarette! Rabbi! Ha!”
I don’t think he heard me anyway ’cause he said, “There ain’t nobody here yet. You wanna come in for a drink while you wait?”
Now I heard the Brooklyn accent and images of my dad came flooding in. My eyes got big and I blurted, “Irish Catholic?”
He grinned, “Yeah, how’d you know?”
I could just see my dad sitting at the local bar in Canarsie drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon with his buddies after work at the construction site. Mr. Irish Catholic opened the door and I could see the old-school bar with two old-school guys sitting there one on each end—at least six feet apart, more like ten.
I said, “Tempting, but we have to meet our group to get ready for the parade…unless you can make me a quick rum and coke to go?”
The real rabbi showed up with his entourage as well as a spread of party treats—latkes and donuts. Whoo hoo! The young people strapped menorahs on top of our cars and a group of us ladies sang songs and danced the hora in the parking lot.
It started raining lightly and it got chilly as the sun went down so I grabbed a couple of hot latkes which were wrapped in tin foil, and put them in the pocket of my leather jacket to keep warm. And then the cop cars showed up. Donna hissed, “Here come the cops, get rid of that drink. Last thing I need is to get arrested for accompanying a parking lot drinker!”
Donna is an ex-cop now librarian and professional driver for Toyota and Subaru. When we get together we’re just two New York Jews with heavy New York accents and we laugh like hyenas at stuff that most people wouldn’t think was funny.
Turns out the cruisers were there to give us a police escort for the parade through the town. Okay, I chugged the drink just in case and I hid the empty glass in Donna’s car underneath the seat Cruzie, her cute little doggie, was occupying, dressed in his finest Chanukah sweater. We studied our route on the map and put the radio on the right channel for the Chanukah music for our parade. Even with the rain, we were a formidable group of about twenty cars.
As we drove through Capitola, I waved to the people who were sitting at the outdoor Starbucks or walking the sidewalks of the shopping mall. We went on the freeway for a couple of exits and boy, were we happy to have that police escort. Imagine the road rage as we crawled along at fifteen miles per hour with strap-on menorahs?
We ended up at the Capitola Mall parking lot where Rabbi Goldberg gave the blessing and lit the outdoor menorah. Afterward, we clapped along with the music, danced some more, and were swept up in the holiday spirit, even though we couldn’t see each other’s faces due to the masks—our eyes were smiling and our hearts were happy.
It’s the last night of Chanukah so now I switch hats and get ready to celebrate Christmas. Santa Cruz just officially went into lock-down mode, so I may have to save my plum pudding and do Christmas in July this year.