Yesterday’s entry with the term “Jewish Food Stamps” raised some eyebrows. So I thought I would explain this expression. This means I blog about Robert, who coined the phrase.

Robert was my roommate back when I lived in Chicago. I forget how I met him – a friend of a friend I suppose. He offered to share lodgings and I accepted. We were never boyfriends although we were in a relationship. He was my chum. I think we roomed together for a few years. Each year the specific details of Robert fade away, leaving me only with vague but warm memories.

We differed and because of this we enjoyed each other’s company. Robert was Jewish and from the South. He was going to law school. We got along well. He would call me ‘a rotten goy”; I told him every year on Yom Kippur he needed a week, not a day, to atone for all his shenanigans.

I learned how to keep kosher. Soon after we moved in together, his mother asked me to keep kosher for Robert’s sake. I said I would if she would tell me how. I became a whiz at it – much to the chagrin of Robert. He would stagger home drunk and announce he was going to fry up some cheeseburgers to sober up. I reminded Robert that was icky treff and he would go into a tirade. All jolly good fun.

As stated, Robert liked using coupon books. Friday was our ‘date night’ to catch up on each other’s lives.  “Let’s see what the Jewish food stamps have for us tonight” he liked to say. Thanks to those coupons, we ate in a lot of new and adventuresome places – most of them lousy, but we always had a discount.

Through Robert I met Southern gay men, who seemed different than Yankee queers. (that’s a blog entry in itself). Thanks to them I was able to discern the different Southern accents. (By the way, his mother has a delightful Virginian accent. We keep in touch. Once she invited me for a visit on Labor Day, as the beach would be so “wide” at that time of year. I thought she met ‘low tide’; when in fact the beach was bright white.)

Robert’s out of town chums were into leather. Every Memorial Day a group would stay with us. The place resembled the dressing room of a beauty pageant with giggles and ‘does this make me look fat?” comments etc. A few routinely threw up from the excitement.

Robert had a facade. I could never tell if he was full of B.S.  Our mutual friends thought so. He was invested into the “Southern Gentleman.” and sometimes it felt like Miss Trixie Delight from “Paper Moon.”  It was never clear which law school he attended or if he was in school at all.  He often went out ‘prowling’ but where he was going or doing, well, the details were vague. Rumors were he was quite ‘one way’ in his sexual tastes, when he boosted how he was 100% the ‘other way”.  But he was always seemed genuine with me.

Robert is dead. He died of AIDS – or so I think. This was another area where he kept a front. A month after he moved back home, I tried to locate him to settle a utility bill. His parents told me he was dying.  I had seen him ‘fine and healthy’ only a few months ago.  I suspect ‘he knew’ for sometime would not disclose such. Nor would he talk to me on the phone.  So I was deprived of a farewell. In an ironically way, this left me not with memories of a dying man, but of the vibrant rascal, from our halicon days on Melrose St.

I still have his green towel used for ‘mopping up matters”.

And a book of expired Chicago based Jewish food stamps.

May he rest in peace.

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