It’s going to be difficult to blog about my experiences in Sunderland without sounding like a stereotypical ‘Jewish American Princess’. However, I am one, and I know it. But I prefer to think that I’m not that shallow and supercilious.
CheeseBoy had been winding me up for months, humming the opening bars to ‘Dueling Banjos’ every time our upcoming trip got mentioned. I’m not sure what I expected; two-headed cows and people who are very close blood relatives, I expect.
Relating things to my own milieu, casual references to ‘South Hylton’ translated, in my mind, to staying in the Hilton South… as opposed to the Hilton North, which would obviously be at the other end of the city. I’m more of a Leading Hotels of the World kind of girl, but I figured I’d cope. There are decent Hiltons… I stayed in one once in the airport in Zurich, I think, when I had a misconnection.
Uh. Nope. We stayed at BooBoo’s sister Amanda’s house. So there were six of us sharing a space roughly the size of the den in my house in King of Prussia. With one bathroom. With a tub, but no shower. I haven’t shared a bathroom with anybody since I was about ten. For purposes of illustration not comparison, when I stayed at Georgia and Ron’s in Ohio, I had one wing of their McMansion to myself (their grandson, Roy, had the other guest wing), which included a bedroom, a sitting room and bathroom with a tub, a separate shower, and a Jacuzzi.
See. I sound like a bitch already. I’m simply trying to illustrate that I was out of my comfort zone.
Amanda is brilliant. I think she looks a lot like Boo, although she was obviously missing in action when the Boob Fairy was dispensing her bounty.
Everybody there, all of BooBoo’s friends, were friendly and welcoming, and very hospitable. Yes, I did have a great deal of trouble with their accent. I tweaked Boo a tiny bit (she’s so easy) by saying very earnestly “Wow! Everybody here must have grown up reading Catherine Cookson novels.” “What do you mean” she asked. “Well they all talk the same as her books.” She looked confused (for a change).
Of course that ‘Smith Barney’ thing went on constantly, wherever we were. I spoke, and the room, or store, or pub went completely silent, until somebody asked “American are you?” We got our hair done for the party and the hairdresser, after she asked “American are you?”, actually said “Wait until I tell my brother I blew dry an American’s hair today!” (Does it grow in a different direction?) I was happy for her. Really. I was going to give her my autograph for a memento, scribbling ‘Jean Cohen, American and (occasionally) Italian’.
But the best was the guy who asked where I was from. I am starting to really, really hate that fucking question. “American are you? Where are you from?” Me: “Mumble…mumble.” Him: “Where?” Then “Okay. Philadelphia.” “Where they make the cream cheese!” Me (slightly deranged): “No! No! No! The bloody cheese isn’t made in Philadelphia! People in Philadelphia would rather starve than put fucking cream cheese on their bagels.
(Note to self: stop using that goddamned stuff on your bagels; start a bloody boycott.)
“I’m not talking about this again” I sighed. “You know who Rocky is? He’s from Philadelphia. I’ll talk about Rocky. What’s a ‘bagel’? It’s a … it’s a … tea cake. Okay?”
That was absolutely true; as is the rest of this Close Encounter.
“Rocky?” he said excitedly, “I love Rocky. How’s he doing? Is he still fighting or did he retire?” “Sylvester Stallone, you mean” I corrected. “The actor who played Rocky. Yeah, he’s still acting, I think.” (I wouldn’t have a clue; you couldn’t pay me enough to sit through one of his movies.)
“No” said Clueless Northerner, “Rocky.”
“Um… Rocky is just a character in a movie. He’s not, like, a real person.”
“Are you sure? I saw his statue on telly and those steps he runs up.”
Some days I wish Grandpop had gotten off the boat at Ellis Island and got on the train for anywhere besides Philadelphia.
BooBoo’s party was fantastic, as you will see by the pictures. Oz Ed did giant enlargements of mini-Karen and we hung them all over the room. And lots and lots of balloons. And banners. She had quite a crowd; about 120 people.
Of course, El Cheese-o thrilled the crowd with his proposal. Amanda and I both knew about it weeks ago. We tried desperately to talk him out of doing it at the party. Boo is shy; she hates to be the center of attention. But he couldn’t be dissuaded.
When Boo went up on stage to thank everyone for coming– she said “And especially Jeano, who came all the way from London”. I said to Amanda “I don’t live in London.” “They never heard of Weybridge” she replied. “But they’ve heard of London.”
Sorry… got off course again. Anyway, while Boo was delivering her twenty five words or less prepared speech, Lou sneaked on stage, knelt down and asked “Karen, will you marry me?”
Her response, captured perfectly on the DJ’s mike: “Oh fuck, Lou!”
“Was that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’” Lou carried on, proffering the box with the ring (diamond, natch).
Of course it was a yes, and the DJ segued into ‘Chapel of Love’ for the newly engaged lovebirds. They were disgustingly kissy face & huggy bear for the rest of the weekend.