When we were growing up, Tina and I made lists of things, that for other people might have been meaningless, but for us they were at least a days worth of entertainment. It started at Charles Drug. Tina's father owned a drug store and we would spend days making lists about the customers. We made lists of their shoes, their clothes, their purchases, the way they paid. We pretended to be detectives looking for thieves, or we pretended to be soldiers looking for an enemy, or we pretended to be sales people looking for products. It didn’t matter, the lists were the thing.
As we got older we made other lists. When we were in elementary school we made lists of the items we lifted (some would say shoplifted) and sold at a profit. Like we would help ourselves to the koolaide at the A&P and then open a koolaide stand outside the A&P. It really wasn’t about the product it was about completing the list. In high school we made lists of the 45’s we wanted to own or those which were our favorites. We made lists of the people we liked and we made lists of our enemies. We made lists of all the lists we had made. We loved the lists.
Then when we matured our lists became much more sophisticated. Most of the grown-up lists involved possibilities. For example, when we were driving from New Orleans to Madison Wisconsin Tina’s mom suggested we might find a firkin in an antique store during the trip. Neither of us had any idea what a firkin was but we thought it would be fun to make a list of all firkin possibilities and then try to find them. While our discoveries did have leanings toward the obscene they were certainly not short of humor. You’ll have to look it up—but first make a list of what you think it is.
A few years later when I was living in DC, I found two little mice dead in the kitchen sink. It looked as if they had drowned in some water that was left in the sink. Of course I called Tina to see what she thought. And she thought that they had probably been star-crossed lovers. They had ended their misery in a Romeo and Juliet like suicide. I thought they were aspiring acrobats and some terrible accident had occurred while walking along the faucet. The conversation degenerated into a list of all the ways and reasons the mice could have died. We called one another for months following the mouse discovery to continue the speculation.
My next favorite list has been in formation for quite some time. We call it the “goyim nachas” list. And we always mean it in the nicest possible way. The items on the list are things that Jews would never do or eat or suffer. A well known example of this is paying retail but that’s a little too ordinary for us. One of my favorites, courtesy of Jordan Burnett, is; to decorate a cake with things you cannot eat. Or naming your children with more than one first name like Bonnie-Jeanette, or Billy-John-Bob. You will never find a Sherman-Mordechai or a Tessie-Yetta. Although that could be another list. The "nachas" list includes foods you would never serve at a party (cream cheese and anything on white bread tips or white bread tips). Things Jews won’t utter. (No thanks I don’t want anymore or I’ll just wait my turn.) Things Jews don’t wear. (certain hats – use your imagination) As I said, we’ve been doing this list for years You get the point and you don’t have to be Jewish to add to the list. So feel free.
Over the years we have started hundreds of lists and the good news is that they are never finished. Our latest list is one we’ve only recently started. Tina called to say there was an article in the Milwaukee paper with a list of things you couldn’t bring into the “Summerfest” concert series. There were things like knives guns, liquor, weapons of mass destruction. She thought we should continue the list with our own twist so here’s what is on it so far: cartilage, latkes, shoulder pads, patten leather, dandruff, cuticles, pens with anykind of hair, a dictionary, clip on earrings, a clown costume, and smelly luncheon meats. This one is in the formulative stages and may be time sensitive, so we know how much time there is to play with the direction.
The list game developed out of a need to find our own amusement. As kids we didn’t watch much TV. As teenagers and adults we looked for a way to stay connected while living in different cities. When we start a list we never have to say anything more than “OK I’ve got one” and we both know what that means. Over the years our children started to participate and while other people leave their kids money or a business we are hoping that one of our legacies for them will be the ability and desire to create an amusing list. We’re just sayin…