“This is my little brother Ben. He’s a hippie,” I told Patrick, who owns the friendly cafe a block away from my house where I always feel bad about noticing movie stars, because they have so obviously come here to be safe in a homey little corner of Brooklyn where no one will recognize them. (However, someone once sent a sighting of ME at the Victory to the Gawker Stalker tip line, so this is a delusion on everybody’s part).
“Nice to meet you, Ben,” Patrick said, and told us a story about how he used to steal pot from hippies when he was 11. Then he gave us a free breakfast. I really like Patrick.
Ben rolled his eyes. He doesn’t especially like being called a hippie, but that’s what he is. Personally I would be a little bit flattered if someone called me a hippie, but I guess that’s one of the differences between being a (semi) adult person who has always had a job who, like, has some tattoos and will order her entree with brown rice instead of white if that’s an option and being an almost 22 year old male college sophomore with long, long Jesus hair who has spent time — like, years — living on actual communes.
Anyway, Ben and I took our tea and bagels and walked to the Flatbush Avenue Long Island railroad station, where we caught the train to Rockville Center to attend our grandfather’s funeral.
The funeral home was lame as fuck, not at all like Fisher and Sons. I found myself wondering whether a small cottage industry of Fisher and Sons-themed funeral homes has sprung up to tend to the deathtime needs of hardcore Six Feet Under fans, and whether it would be possible for me to have my funeral at one, and whether I would actually want to do that. I also mused about a lot of more appropriately somber things as I sat on some fake-fancy furniture with my family, facing away from the corner of the room with my grandfather’s coffin in it.
I really appreciate about Judaism that everyone gets buried in the same unvarnished wooden crate. It was jarring to actually see it, though. The funeral director came and made my Dad look in the coffin, which I guess is an important duty that someone has to do. This started a mini-trend of people looking in the coffin: My aunt and my brother both did. “He looks good, he looks good,” my aunt kept repeating. My brother said he wished he hadn’t looked.
I felt like I was being chicken, but I was not about to go look in the coffin.
I have seen the going-out-to-the-graveyard scene in a hundred movies and tv shows but this was my first time experiencing it, and those tv shows and movies have it right, pretty much. People in black stand in the wintry, windswept graveyard looking stoic while a priest or in this case a rabbi says a couple of things, and occasionally the people burst into tears. Again, Judaism has a good aspect: everyone shovels a ceremonial shovelful of dirt into the grave. The dirt makes a loud plopping sound as it hits the coffin. When you see a coffin lying in a grave as you shovel dirt on top of it, you cannot help but realize that the person in the coffin really is dead.
Afterwards, we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the couch in my grandparents’ apartment, eating cold cuts and rugelach. For the next few hours, old people and middle aged people were talking about movies they’ve seen recently, what their grandchildren are up to, doesn’t Medicare suck, what medications they’re on, and other old-people topics. I kind of wished that someone wanted to talk about like ‘death, man, what is up with that’ but a funeral isn’t really the appropriate venue for that kind of conversation.
However, the rest of the evening, which I spent with my little brother at my apartment, completely was the appropriate venue for that kind of conversation. We talked, not only about ‘death, what is up’ but also: ‘is the government spying on us at all times (yes)’, ‘capitalism is so so so so bad’, and also ‘consumerism, corporations, and global agribusiness are so so so so bad’. We talked about ‘basically we live in the Matrix’ and about the commune in Hawaii Ben’s hoping to start. It was equal parts bleak and fun and annoying. Along the way, we — or really Ben — made some soup out of the vegetal contents of my fridge. We ate it with a salad and some Irish soda bread.
Hippie Soup (tastes especially good if the only thing you’ve eaten all day is a bagel and some funeral meat)
One can black beans
One can whole tomatoes
a few cloves of minced garlic
a diced onion
Whatever vegetables are in your fridge. I had:
Half a head of Savoy cabbage
Saute the onion and garlic. Dice the potato but leave the skin on. Remember, you’re a hippie! Slice up the cabbage and the parsnip and add those too. Add the beans and the tomato, salt and pepper, and a bunch of water. Simmer until the veggies are soft.
Irish soda bread
2 cups of preferably bread flour but it’s not like I have bread flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk or failing that, milk or even (this worked!) soymilk with a splash of vinegar added
Preheat oven to 350. Sift together (or just whisk together) the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk or faux-buttermilk and knead on a well-floured surface for about a minute. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky. Shape into two mini-loaves and place them on a greased cookie sheet, scoring across the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 45 minutes. Try to let them cool before you eat them.
You’d think a hippie would use whole wheat flour but life is too short for that bullshit.