The Great Jewish Dilemma

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In his first story for TheBlot, Gary Buslik ponders the great Jewish dilemma — and art fairs — while sitting at a dingy poker table the CDC should study.
In his first story for TheBlot, Gary Buslik ponders the great Jewish dilemma — and art fairs — while sitting at a dingy poker table the CDC should study.

Here is another way wives are insane. They will swear that they are such “best friends” with you that you can tell them anything you would tell your male friends — anything — and that, because she, your wife, is your “BFF,” she promises to be totally supportive and never get upset at what you say, “no matter what.” But just try telling her about the great Danish porn movies you watch while playing poker with the guys and see what happens.

I’ve played cards with the same eight subhumans since our undergraduate days, on the same poker table that we played on in Bob Weintraub’s parents’ basement. I’m not sure how long you can use a particular poker table without cleaning it, but my guess is Bobby holds a record that will never be broken. When we slam down our losing hands, a dust cloud mushrooms over Illinois. When I say “mushrooms,” I don’t mean mushroom-shaped, but, literally, mushrooms. There are spoors growing in that green felt that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Madame Curie Institute would love to get under their scopes.

We used to go out to some local restaurant or other before our game, but after Steve happened to mention to his “best-friend” wife about the porn, the girls got together and decided we had to be home early in order to take them to art fairs at dawn. When we pointed out that the guys get together only once a month for cards and that, incidentally, we hate art, the women punished us by voting for Barack Obama. The other problem being that when we didn’t join them at art fairs, our “BFFs” went themselves and purchased clown paintings by John Wayne Gacy, one of which now hangs above Steve’s dining room table. Or, in another instance, Joel’s wife, buying for $3,000 what the vendor swore is the original van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” but whose authenticity Joel right off the bat doubted because they’re petunias. Or, in yet another instance, Arthur’s wife purchasing certified-authentic, 15th-century B.C. photo-booth snapshots of Moses. She assumed they’re genuine because there are only three photos, not the usual four; the bottom one, according to the seller, having been cut off and used as a passport photo during the Exodus.

So now we go with them to the art fairs.

In order to get home from poker before dawn and avoid being the proud owners of $10,000 lithographs of Thomas Kinkade’s “Paintings of Light,” which, if you know anything about aesthetics, is to fine art what Chiclets is to food, we had to start our games earlier and, necessarily, scuttle our customary pre-game restaurant tradition. For each game, we now bring in a tray from Max & Mandy’s Deli, which we take turns picking up, except for Steve because he likes to stop at Walgreens for peanut butter cups, which he eats along the way and has hyperglycemic brain rush and crashes into light poles.

As it turns out, we actually prefer the deli-tray alternative because, besides the painting-of-light issue, we no longer have to watch 6-year-old, diamond-tiara-wearing Jewish girls snapping their fingers for Mexican busboys to remove their wine glasses and 7-year-old, suspender-wearing prelaw Jewish boys yelling for waitresses to hurry with the carrot cake or their fathers will sue their flabby tuchases to the moon.

So, for the last couple years, we’ve been pre-ordering, picking up (except for Steve) and taking back to Bobby’s house spectacular, magnificent, themselves-works-of-art lazy Susans of fabulous, fantastic cold cuts and gastronomical Jew-food accoutrements — key syllable being “gas” — content in the knowledge that we will soon be dying of coronary occlusions and therefore will no longer have to go to art fairs.

Read more: Don’t Kvetch, These Sex Toys are Kosher!

All of this disgusting, fat-impregnated, artery-clogging, stupor-inducing Semitic death food is custom-assembled for our poker group, artistically arranged in a triple-tiered roulette wheel of Jewish self-hate. What they ought to do is have a battery-operated tune-generator, like in those greeting cards, so that every time you turn the lazy Susan, it plays “Taps.” It’s no accident that this is the cuisine of choice during Jewish wakes. It is emblematic of our subconscious ethnic desire to commit guilt-induced suicide with our mouths full, which is the reason Jews do not have open-casket funerals. If we did, visitors would slip past the coffin and whisper to the bereaved, “Uncle Louis looks exactly like he did in life — a fat pig” — which, of course, wouldn’t be kosher.

So here are my poker buddies and I, old college cretins, spinning the lazy Susan like a Vegas croupier, piling our pumpernickel with layer after layer of imminent extinction, chatting up what we want our obits to say, with the other guys asking me to smooth out the punctuation and syntax and betting on the specific order in which we will croak. Ben, our resident lawyer, bet 500 bucks that he would be the first, and we all took the bet. When we pointed out that if he does die first he won’t be alive to collect his winnings, he told us just to pay his wife, so obviously his brain is as fat as the rest of him.

Which brings me to the Great Jewish Dilemma. Because Ben is so fat he can’t even reach the lazy Susan, he offered to pay me to not only fetch the food for him but describe what he’s eating — the problem being that he offered me only a measly white ($1) chip for each spin-and-grab. A red, $5 chip, of course, would have been no dilemma. But a buck?

Because Ben gives me free legal advice concerning what I can and can’t do to my ex-wife without going to prison and also because I’m the only one in the group who can stand sitting next to him, he diabolically painted me into a Jewish-deli/ex-wife corner. What to do? What to do? Free legal advice versus white chips. What to do?

Not to be out-diabloed, what I do is I tell him it’s roast beef he’s eating when, in fact, it’s salami and pastrami when it’s corned beef. My other poker buddy Dave wants the roast beef and pastrami for himself, for which he later slips me 5 bucks per. Ben’s taste buds have been dead from overdose for years anyhow, so win-win-win.

BTW, here’s the other Great Jewish Dilemma: whether or not to tell your business partner about a sudden influx of cash.


In the fourth grade, Gary Buslik was voted the kid most likely to get the shit beat out of him. His short stories, essays and travel articles appear often in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies. He is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine and the author of the award-winning books “A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean” and “Akhmed and the Atomic Matzo Balls.”

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