By Jonathan: Kahane‘That’s amore’ and other slices of life

  • Tip of a Pen Mike Watson Images

Published: 10/20/2020 4:03:57 PM

For the past nine months or so, I, like many of you, have spent more time and energy than in the past reading and thinking about the news reported in the Gazette. Much of that effort has focused on what the columnists and repeat letter writers on the opinion pages have to say about the pressing issues of the day.

During my daily walk, it occurred to me that I have gotten to the point where I can almost lip sync what they will propose — regardless of the topic. Of course, I then worried that many of you out there who have read my columns might feel the same way about me: “Oh, no. Not him again.” After all, both of my children, who are now successfully launched adults, are still saying that to me. I do believe that most of us work diligently to produce meaningful copy before ultimately submitting it for publication, yet the criticism, I believe, probably has merit.

It was this thought that motivated me to write something different — something unexpected — to provide a break from the norm. The contrast might prove to be beneficial stimulation to readers, and to me for that matter.

I thought I would share with you a few of the funniest moments that have occurred in my life. The idea would be that it might provide some relief to all of us from the tedious monotony of having to constantly deal with the overwhelmingly disastrous information we are subjected to daily. The point is that even if you don’t laugh at my examples, it might spur you to remember your own and laugh once again at them.

The first problem I encountered when embarking on this project was that the most hilarious episodes are unfortunately not suitable to share on this platform. It’s a shame. At the same time I wished to avoid “I guess you had to be there” examples. I have done my best to present those which have left me helplessly and uncontrollably laughing while rolling on the floor. Some readers might think that this is a tragic waste of important newspaper space. I, and I hope others, might believe that this is one of the more important columns that has appeared on these pages in a long time.

High school is an arena which can be counted upon to produce “high” humor. In fact it’s difficult for me to choose which of the myriad incidents I should include here.

In my school (which shall remain nameless), students were assigned to classes based on performance. In French, I was placed, and correctly so I might add, in what could accurately be categorized as the “Hopeless Group.” Every year, the same gang met on the first day of class for what promised to be yet another exercise in futility. The good thing was that we knew it, and the teachers knew it. But senior year a cataclysmic event of biblical proportion took place. A new French teacher was hired and assigned to our class. “There came a pharaoh who knew not Joseph.” Dr. Jo came to class everyday in a black double-breasted suit, a black tie, black shoes, black socks and a black mood. He bore a strong resemblance to Count Dracula and never so much as flashed even the semblance of a smile. We were terrified.

It didn’t take us long to spot a weak link, however. We had assigned seats, and to check our homework, The Count would ask us to answer the questions from our workbook in order. That meant that you knew what question you had to answer the night before and only had to do that one.

One day, three weeks into the term, things were going as planned when he asked Morris Propp, “Propp, what did you get for number 7?” Please note that Monsieur Propp knew he had number 7 the night before. Morris deliberately looked at his workbook and replied, “I didn’t do that one, sir.” We all froze. What would be the consequences to Propp — to all of us? Dr. Jo then asked, “Propp, what did you get for number 8?” Morris ceremoniously looked down at his book and replied, “I didn’t do that one either, sir.” Surely we were all going to die. The Count then queried, “Propp, how long did you spend on your homework last night?” Without the slightest hesitation, Propp stared at Dr. Jo and said, “Nine hours, sir.” A hint of a smile appeared on The Count’s lips, and we knew we had won. I fell off my chair laughing, and as you all know, Propp became a legend in the annals of French education around the world.

A short corollary to the above tale occurred many years ago when one of my sons was in an honors French class at his high school. The teacher expected a lot from her group and usually got it. At dinner one night, I related the above story to my family and lamented that nothing like that happens anymore. My French scholar responded with this anecdote. One day one of his classmates came in a bit late, which did not go over well. The teacher asked for his homework, and he said he didn’t do it. She replied, “You have two choices. You can either go to see the headmaster, or you can go in the hall and do your homework.” He thought for a while and said, “What was the first choice again?”

The final story is short but perhaps the best of them all. This gem occurred during my freshman year at college. A genius friend of mine (he graduated summa cum laude) would often throw away one or two questions on exams since he knew he would ace all the others. In Sociology 101, we were learning about customs, folkways and mores (pronounced “more rays” for those of you lucky enough to have been able to avoid this course). To the question, “What is a more?” he wrote, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

I fully recognize that due to the severe stress fractures which are crippling our country, this digression must necessarily be brief. Yet I feel that even a fleeting diversion can be helpful in allowing us to see problems more clearly and, more importantly, to come up with some answers. Even if you didn’t find the above examples amusing, I will consider this effort worthwhile if it stimulated you to recall the humorous anecdotes in your life and if it helped to bring respite to all the tedium and stress we have been subjected to recently.

À bientôt.

Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton.

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