12.17.2007

Of Little Germans, Lanky Hip-Hop Afficianados, and Marriage Proposals

I was walking by one of the many "holiday craft fairs" that dot the city at this time of year, and passed a booth that was selling various pastries and hot drinks. Correction. They were selling German pastries and German hot drinks. Underneath the name of the seller, was the logo: "There's a little German in everyone."

I almost spit out my coffee as the image of a small SS officer perched on my kidneys appeared in my mind. Do you think that's a good tag line for New York City? Multi-racial, multi-cultural, very Jewish New York City? Is that line helping them sell more treats? I don't know about you, but I don't think there's a little German in me! Now I'm picturing a tiny little Nazi perched on my diaphragm and I am not amused. (Okay, maybe I'm a tiny bit amused. But I am not happy. I want that little German out of me, pronto!) Am I missing something here? Am I being unnecessarily harsh or absurdly racist? Was my surprise off-base?

Regarding hip-hop, I was sitting on the A train, probably drinking my Starbucks coffee, certainly learning Mishlei [Proverbs] for Judy Tenzer, z"l's shloshim Tanach siyum, and a handsome young man came traipsing down the aisle, hawking his hip-hop CD. He stopped in front of each straphanger and asked, "Do you listen to hip-hop?" If she said, "Yes," he launched into his very short shpiel. He stopped in front of me, eyeing mostly my book, I think, and said, "You don't listen to hip-hop, do you?" That was a leading question if I ever heard one. I confirmed his suspicions and went back to my learning.

Another story: I was walking to work, through Central Park, and I walked over one of the many picturesque bridges in the park. I saw a woman standing with her hands covering her face, saying "Ohmigod, ohmigod...." I stopped and took a closer look. I don't often intercede on behalf of strangers, but am more likely to do so for women, and if she looked like she was crying, I would have asked her if she was okay. A closer look revealed, opposite her, a young man down on one knee with a sparkly diamond ring sitting an open black velvet ring box. He was proposing! And she was surprised! I don't think I've written about my feelings about diamond engagement rings here before, and it should probably be a separate post. All I'll say here is that I didn't realize until that moment how little I want to be proposed to in this way: in public, with an already-purchased-but-never-before-seen-diamond ring. I haven't thought about it all that much, because it's never (yet) been a live question for me, but I am glad I saw a stereotypically romantic proposal unfold before my eyes and realized how little I want to be proposed to in that way.

7 comments:

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

maybe there's a little Yekke in you ;-)

David said...

I'd look at "a little German in you" as being in the same vein as "a little Captain in you" (Capt. Morgan's Rum slogan). I've also heard people use a similar phrase with "Irish," so I don't think it's antagonistic at heart.

Remember, to someone selling German stuff, their audience having a little bit of German in them is a good thing...

ALG said...

Oh, I didn't think it was antagonistic at all, I just personally had a somewhat humorous--and startling--negative reaction to the particular choice of phrasing. I didn't know that *I* necessarily felt so much antagonism to people trying to sell German foodstuffs until I passed the booth.

And I hardly ever equate "German" and "Yekke," proudly being of pure Eastern European stock!

alg's dad said...

Regarding the guy proposing on bended knee in Central Park--he obviously had seen a lot of old movies and/or read a lot of novels from a certain period. Even in the movie version of "Gone with the Wind," made in 1939, Clark Gable treats the cliche as something to be made fun of. (I don't know if that's true in the book, or not.) Hopefully, this guy knows the woman well enough to have guessed correctly that she would appreciate it.

Imma and I felt the same way as you do about large diamond engagement rings, which would have been hard for me to afford then in any case, having recently invested most of my savings in two $1000 Israel bonds, which entitled us to hear a talk by Abba Eban at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco (just after the Yom Kippur War). So we shopped together for an opal, at a rock and mineral store in Berkeley, and found a jeweler who set it in a gold ring that he designed with our help. My mother had no engagement ring at all, what with it being the middle of World War II, and deciding to get married on rather short notice, and no one having any money. But your maternal grandmother, as you know, did have a nice sized diamond engagement ring. I guess that was expected in Omaha at that time.

Luiz said...

hey, don't take the phrase so badly. and from my point of view it is very nice the guy seemed not being afraid of being misunderstood...
Maybe he didn't even thought that people could relate it to the Nazis... cause maybe he didn't even remember or care about it... he's living in New York, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic city.
PS: I'm Brazilian (possibly with lot of littles whoever in me)

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

I think you need to rethink your little German. I quite agree that Nazis should not be sitting on your internal organs. Perhaps your little German is a pioneer farm mother from the Midwest who makes amazing prune kuchen and is even now cleaning out your liver and kidneys so that they sparkle.

I understand, though. I would have had a similar reaction.

Which is funny, since I actually do have a bit of ethnic German in the mix. (I hope MY little German is not too freaked out by my Litvak housekeeping.)

Anonymous said...

Funny, it wasn't until I was in school in Israel and had German students in my classes that I stopped associating Germany solely with the Nazis. -MLG.