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June 7, 2012

From Fly Creek: ‘Be a Mensch!’


---- — I’ll bet you’ll remember the TV ad, and the man singing the song, too. Scrawny, homely, he was standing under running water, half draped by the shower curtain, warbling away in a shaky voice that evoked the late Slim Pickins.

As he sang, head tilted up, his sharp face was suffused with happiness and excitement.

Maybe he was getting ready to go out to meet a girl, or at least troll for one. Whatever his goal, he knew he was equipped for it to embarrassing perfection.

“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way!” the scrawny man burbled, terribly off key. And —shame on us — we reveled in thinking, “You poor dweeb, if you only knew!”

Well, friends, let me tell you that it is hard to be humble if you’re totally perfect, and I’m sure others besides me who are so burdened feel just that way. (I can’t say for sure since I’ve never met any others.) But that problem is shared to a degree by all Fly Creekers. There’s just so much good about us!

Of course, our hamlet is on the National Historic Register, and we have individual buildings so designated, too.

We have our own Philharmonic, nationally known through “Prairie Home Companion.”

And we have superb eateries; dozens of painters; sculptors, one of whom has done commissioned pieces worldwide; musicians; and (ahem) writers. And a Class-A fire department with ambulance service and splendid equipment.

It’s that very fire department that’s given us the latest confirmation of our rich combination of the sophisticated with the country casual. The company’s been recruiting for more volunteers and has promoted the need on their Route 28 signboard: “BE A MENSCH! JOIN UP!” Well, aren’t you bowled over? Way out here in the supposedly unlettered countryside, a Yiddish word on a signboard—a word presumably understood at once by Fly Creekers. It means a good, decent, generous-hearted man or woman, and Fly Creek is full of such people! We’re a hamlet of mensches.

All right, we have a few kvetchers (chronic whiners) and shlemiels (clumsy oafs), even a few meshugeners (real nut cases). And two, maybe three shlimazels, guys who walk around under a black cloud like Joe Btfsplk; who not only have bad luck, usually self-inflicted, but spread it around, too.

But out of the roughly 350 of us, Fly Creekers, men and women, are mensches by a huge majority. You have a piano that needs moving? A mensch will help you schlep it. A sudden glitch in your schedule and you’ve no one to watch the kids? Be sure that some generous Fly Creek buba will volunteer. She’s not going to say, “Fey!” to your request, but will jump right in. And she won’t be a yakne and stick her shnoz into your family’s business, either.

OK, we’re mostly goyim in the hamlet, but we’re anything but klutzes. We’re ready to help without getting schmaltzy about it.

And if you want to see shmoozers, check out the general store in the morning, when the crowd’s inside, drinking coffee and noshing on doughnuts. Just listen to them. Every one of those genial old geezers has his own shtick.

But it’s in times of real tsuris that the full Fly Creek character appears. Disasters don’t make us fermisht, make us babble, “Oy, gevalt!” Not so. Flooding, fallen trees, fires, car crashes will have mensches of both sexes marshaling themselves to help.

That’s because, whatever our small disputes, we’re mishpokhe. Family.

So, you strong young boychicks, you potential fire recruits, don’t just sit around on your tuches. Be a mensch. Join up!