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October 25, 2016: Herschel’s Backstory

Published onOct 25, 2016
October 25, 2016: Herschel’s Backstory

According to his mother Irene, Herschel Lubowitz Gold was born on October 25, 1947 at “a very nice hospital.” He spent the first ten years of his life in New Jersey, probably, before the family moved to the Upper East Side to help his uncle Gilly open a deli. It wasn’t Second Avenue or Sarge’s, but it was an okay deli. Maybe even decent on the best of days.

In high school, Herschel was mostly known for an incident involving gefilte fish jelly. It was junior year and he was sitting at lunch with his two friends Dave Kaufman and Jerry Schaevitz discussing the new BBYO president, that jerkoff Howard Steiner. The toothpick he was using to remove a large piece of fish from a freshly opened jar snapped, sending a glob of jelly flying. It landed just in front of Kelly Newman, the new homecoming queen. She was carrying a tray full of chicken nuggets and did not notice the jelly. She slipped, broke her collarbone, and sent chicken nuggets flying everywhere. One even stuck on the ceiling! Which is obviously impossible and didn’t happen. Do you believe everything you read on the internet?

After the incident, Herschel never ate gefilte fish again until that Saturday, when, struck by a particularly good harmony that an older girl he had never noticed before belted out to adon olam at the end of services, he forgot he had sworn off the fish and absent-mindedly ate two pieces — with horseradish, the good kind without beet juice — at the synagogue potluck. Can you guess what else was at the potluck? You’re right: mac and cheese with bread crumbs on top, sweet kugel that some idiot put under the broiler for too long — noodles aren’t meant to be that crunchy, Susan! — those yellow bagels you find at the corner store, and of course, Italian dressing soup with lettuce.

After high school, Herschel accidentally dodged the draft by drifting off in mid-sentence during his answer to the question, “how are you today, son?” He started to answer, but noticed he had a popcorn kernel stuck in his teeth that was really bothering him. So much that it might distract from his answers, which wouldn’t be good for the country. He thought he could get it out with a quick flick of the tongue, but it turns out it was really stuck in there. He spent about 30 seconds trying to remove it with his tongue while simultaneously smiling nervously at the draft board, which had at that point already concluded that he was not a fit for this man’s army.

During the war, he spent most of his time working at his uncle Gilly’s diner, where he still works today, making ‘during the war’ a pretty irrelevant part of this sentence. It’s still not a very good diner, but as Gilly always says, “it hasn’t gotten worse!” In fact, it’s gotten a lot worse by just about every objective measure.

In 1986, Herschel moved out of his mother’s apartment and into a small studio on the Upper East Side that he bought for $96,000 with his life’s savings and the Israeli bonds from his bar mitzvah. Little did he know that, while cleaning out leftover items from the apartment’s previous tenant, Herschel would make a discovery that would change his life…forever.

By Gabriel Stein on October 26, 2016.

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Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.

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