Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Rat's Mouth and the Jews

I made my way out in the warm sun for lunch at Naturalia Cafe.  I was excited to visit the vegetarian cafe not far from my apartment.  Colombians have wonderful vegetables, yet they simply don't really eat them.  It is much more meat and potatoes and arepas.  So I was excited to find this place.

I headed over with my ipad and Spanish grammar book to study off a bit of the afternoon.

The almuerzo del dia included soup, a plate and dessert, as well as juice for a modest 11k (less than $4).

I crushed pieces of rosemary toast into the carrot-almond (zanahoria-almendras) soup.  Pulverized the toast, really.  It tasted like something my grandfather would make, if he were a hippy vegetarian.

I sipped fresh pineapple-banana juice and surfed the web.

The plate came out, and it was beautiful.  Some kind of spiced chickpeas.  Roasted squash and zucchini in quinoa.  A delicious salad.  And there was a piece of some kind of flan for dessert.

 As I was eating, a large bee buzzed near a girl sitting nearby outside.  It kept buzzing close to her, and she got scared.  She ran into the restaurant, and eventually came back as she sat a bit closer to me.

She was a Colombian girl who had grown up in Florida.  She was a zoologist who was afraid of bees.

We got to talking as I ate.

She told me she was from Boca Raton.  Then she started complaining about the Jews.

The Jews are arrogant.  All they care about is power.

My eyes widened as she said this.  And she kept talking.  She kept talking about how awful the Jews were.

They are hostile and rude.  

I tried to not answer so I could go back to my meal in peace.  But she wouldn't shut up.

They only care about money.

I kept my mouth shut and stared at her, trying to keep my composure.  At some point, she looked at me long enough to realize that my face might be a bit Semitic.

Are you a Jew?

I am.

She tried to backtrack immediately.   I wasn't going to let her off that easy.

But I mean, I have no problem with you.  I am not racist.

I let her finish stammering, then I said to her: yes, what you said was just racist.

 You literally just said racist things to my face about the Jews, until you realized I was Jewish.

But, but...I meant Boca Raton, not all the Jews....

I slowly ate my flan and let her try to walk it back in awkwardness.

As I finished my flan, I said to her.  Can I give you some advice?

"You need a better filter.  You don't need to share with every stranger every thing that you think."

She tried to apologize more and I let her stammer on a bit further.  She kept trying to explain she wasn't racist.  I gave her a sideways glance and an incredulous smile.

I paid my check, leaving the cafe far sooner than I had planned.  As I left, I wished her buen provecho and said I hoped she had learned something.

Come mierda, I said under my breath as I turned and walked out.

And yet our story has an epilogue.  As I walked back in the afternoon sun, trying to fathom what I had just encountered, I crossed the busy Calle 44 into the shade of the banyan tree on Carrera 70.

As I walked down, I saw a Jew in a white Sephardic yarmulke sitting under the banyan tree.  He was sitting on the bench alone under the banyan tree, his tzitzit slowly fluttering in the wind.  He had payas coming down past his ears.

I looked him right in the eye.  I put my hand on my heart, and said to him:

Shabbat shalom.  Shabbat shalom.

4 comments:

Suzanne MagnificentP said...

Your experience certainly wasn't funny, Paul. It does represent views among many Floridians. In fact, if you key in "Florida Man," you'll get a Wikipedia post that is close to the mark.

Suzanne MagnificentP said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan Polatschek said...

Hi Paul, "The Rat's Mouth." I just got it. Anyway. you showed a lot of guts. I don't think I would have been so courageous so far from home. Peace! Jan

Paul Rockower said...

Florida man. Wow. Suzanne, ftw.

Thanks Jan. It was not something I could let go unanswered.