Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kosher Butchers: an excerpt

"Kosher Butchers" is an excerpt of my novel about Sri Lanka, "The Longest Tweet." In this area I touch on olfactory memory and start to weave the links between home and holocaust. Specifically in this novel I look at the events of 1938 (Kristallnacht) in juxtaposition with the events in Sri Lanka of 1983, the so-called "Black July" pogroms against Tamil citizens here. Duplicity, fear, violence. These are some of my less than savory themes. But here I am in Sri Lanka, a firsthand witness to this. 


An imagined and distant aroma from the far past. The "Roumanian" butcher on Clark Street in Chicago. Roumanian. A rumor? Had the best pastrami. The salted beef smell. The slightly sliding smell. The smell when you opened the glass door. The tableaux of the glass wall and behind, the Romanian butchers. The Romanian butchers looked fierce. For a shorter time there was another butcher on Devon Avenue, "Hungarian." Hungarian was saltier the place darker the men fiercer. Why would anyone ever name their kosher butchers' after these countries of butchery? Why ever invoke these names again I thought, the fan whirring in a dark solid room in Batticaloa. 

Why not a simple name like Ashkenaz, exotic, seeming eastern though meaning, literally, "west." On the eastern part of Pratt Street in Chicago. Because Ashkenaz didn't stay. After what seemed like a long time it was there. Or maybe not so long. Twenty years? That's a short time. Delis stopped being places where people wanted to eat. They were greasy. They were caloric. They were plebeian. They were ethnic. Not the right kind of ethnic. But you could buy platters from Roumanian or Hungarian I suppose. You could have your platter for a funeral or graduation or something. You could invite family and friends and maybe neighbors. You could use plastic cups. You could throw away the aluminum serving trays with their clear plastic covers. You could stuff the garbage with large multi-ply paper napkins. Is this tweet material? Maybe this is more tweetable in Sri Lanka or other countries where people are curious about how we live in America. 

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