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Hitting the Road to Check Out the Scene During Holiday Season

January 8, 2009 By:
Roy S. Gutterman, JE Feature
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In about 25 hours, I drove 184 miles, hit three events, then needed a day to recover.

After having the customary Chinese dinner with my parents on Christmas Eve, I hit the road. This year, rather than join the more than 600 people at the Pulse of Philly dance, I opted for the Matzahball in New York City.

The venue was a club housed in a former majestic bank building on the border of the old Bowery and Chinatown. The dance music was almost overpowering, and it took a while for the dance floor to fill up.

There were the usual suspects: groups of women dancing in small circles together, some couples, and the wallflowers planted up against the wall watching the whole thing.

No Big Surprises
As I navigated through the crowd, I bumped into one of the few single people I knew in the city, a young woman I met on my mission to Israel six months earlier. "Shelly," one of two people on the trip I spent a bit of time talking to, was with a couple of friends. We talked a bit over the music, had a drink and danced to a few songs. She and her friends were on their own mission this night, looking for some guys they expected to meet at the dance.

Running into Shelly was no surprise. I expected to find her there, and it was actually nice to have someone to talk with for a while. It's tough to break into a group of women who form a protective shell of their own at a loud dance like this.

I called it quits somewhere around 2 a.m. and headed home because I knew I had a lot on my plate for the following day.

There were two events on Christmas Day, and at one of them, I was one of the speakers. A JCC in northern New Jersey, which pretty much has the last remaining singles programmer in the north and central Jersey region, had scheduled a singles Chinese luncheon with a comedy performance.

The headliner was a professional comedian, and the second act was a recent college grad cutting his teeth as a comedian. But I turned out to be the opening act. Admittedly, I am not a comedian. Furthermore, I am readily aware that there are plenty of people out there who do not accept or acknowledge my brand of humor.

Nevertheless, I figured that I could fill 10 minutes on stage with my stories.

I had to be cautious, though, because this was the same venue where a hostile crowd literally booed a young rabbi off the stage at a similar singles program a couple of years earlier. I knew I was going into a potentially tough crowd.

The audience, though, which was supposed to include singles in their 20s and 30s, as well as 40s and up, was more 40s and up. In fact, it was probably mostly 50s and up.

I was wary how many of my stories about modern dating snafus would play with this group. Plus, my stuff really isn't too "jokey."

Surprisingly, though, I got plenty of laughs and was warmly embraced during the luncheon by many in the audience. More importantly, I was not booed off the stage. At the lunch, I sat between a lovely 80-year-old former piano teacher and a nice woman in her 60s. Though the divorced and widowed are not exactly my demographic, it was nice to chat with people who were simply looking for others to connect with.

After the luncheon, I hopped on the road for about an hour and a half to my second party of the day, a Chanukah party given by a 20s-40s singles group, in Central New Jersey. This group started as an offshoot of a local synagogue and, with the aide of a Web site, branched into a full-blown regional singles group. I knew one of the organizers and had met some of the 20 or so people at the potluck dinner party at other events over the years.

Hosted in a guy's apartment, the setting was intimate, facilitating conversations. There was a "Yankee" gift exchange, which I declined to participate in.

I decided, in advance, that I probably did not need another picture frame, a gift card or other item "re-gifted" into the pool.

Sure, there was no "connection," but it was a nice way to spend a day when there really was not that much to do.

I slept late on the 26th, however.

Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.


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