Comedienne and lifelong NJ Italian woman Eileen Budd is back with another writeup for the Hudson Reporter community newspapers, based here in Hoboken. Comment below!
Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jinglin’
The Gorgas finish up their visit at the Guidices' house for Christmas Eve and have to leave to go to the Wakiles'. Teresa thinks her cousin Kathy is evil for inviting her brother Joe and sister-in-law Melissa over, cutting short the time they have to spend with the kids and parents. Senior Gorga says they have to get together for dinner and Melissa says, “Come and we’ll make schadol.” That’s escarole for all you non-Italians. Schadol is one of the cheapest things you can make and it’s usually served with beans so it’s not exactly a recipe from The Cordon Bleu Culinary School. It’s something you serve when you don’t care if everyone at the table gets gas so bad that they have to excuse themselves to go get a little fresh air even in the frigid nights of winter. It also costs about 49 cents to feed 25 people. I’m not saying that Melissa’s offer to Senior Gorga was disingenuous, but he did say that he came for dinner 3 times at her house and she wasn’t home. Guess she must’ve been shopping for some fur-trimmed napkins and coordinating placemats.
At Caroline’s, everyone shows up dressed to the hilt except Caroline, who looks like one hot mess. She’s been cooking all day and her feet hurt. While Uncle Louie is making a heartfelt toast, Chris Manzo is busy texting away, probably inquiring about how late Bahama Mama’s in Hoboken is open on Christmas Eve. Albert Sr. comes home late to join the festivities and the Manzos' dog is sniffing some poor sleeping child’s butt on the couch. One of the Manzo boys goes outside to jingle some bells pretending to be Santa for the kids, but Jacqueline’s son is too smart and realizes it’s just someone shaking some bells underneath the deck. You can’t put one over on little Christopher Laurita. The kid may only be 11 but the kid plays video games in a suit and tie so don’t try to pull the cashmere over his eyes.
Melissa and Joe Gorga make it to the Wakiles' only to be greeted with a bounty of food including a giant fish with an open mouth arranged serpentine-like on a platter the size of Bally’s Casino. The fish is bigger than 1-year-old baby Gorga. Rich gives Joe Gorga the head of the fish as a present, which I believe is how the Lebanese convey sexual attraction to the recipient – or maybe it just means, “Merry Christmas.” At any rate, it’s a good thing that Kathy made so much food because Melissa claims that “we picked” at Teresa’s. This is the thing about Italians. They can eat an entire seven-course meal that would normally feed children in Ethiopia for a year and say they just “picked” before they sit down to a “regular” meal of soup, pasta, fish, meats, salads, cold cuts, nuts, fruit, bread, pies, pastry, cookies, and a little espresso with Sambuca to help with digestion.
Melissa feels more comfortable at the Wakiles', like she can let her hair down, because basically she can just walk all over Kathy. Pretty much anyone can walk all over Kathy. She’s like if you took one of those paintings on velvet of the big-eyed children and put it on the floor and used it as a doormat.
Meanwhile, little does Teresa know that Caroline is planning on inviting the Gorgas to her New Year’s Eve party. (Caroline says she can’t get enough of Joe Gorga.) Caroline is thinking of inviting the Wakiles as well – or, as Caroline’s brother refers to them, “Whatever their name is.” Why are all these people so enamored of Joe Gorga? He’s revered more than David Hasselhoff is by the Germans.
What did Santa bring?
Well, Caroline and Albert gave their kids infinity bracelets so that, as Caroline says, “Whenever you want to call your sister a bitch or your brother an a-hole, look at the bracelet.” I guess that will then remind them of what a bitch or a-hole their sibling actually is. Albert gives Caroline her gift separately as they are driving along the next day. He stops by an underpass by Route 80, gets out of the car, and bends down on one knee to give his wife her original wedding ring that he had resized since she was only 92 lbs. when they first got married and she “outgrew” it. That Albert is still crazy in love with his wife. Either that, or he knows that pretty soon, he’s gonna be a 100 and will need someone to wipe the drool off his face.
At the Laurita household, 1-year-old Nicholas gets a choo-choo and 11-year-old Christopher gets a Vespa – or maybe it was just a fancy bike – it’s hard to tell with those rich people. Ashley, who doesn’t want to be videotaped opening up her presents because “it’s for kids,” decided not to get her parents any presents because she already spent a lot on her car. Gee whiz, Ashley – couldn’t you at least have unraveled one of your hats and made them a lanyard key chain like the kids do at summer camp? Or, maybe you could have gotten them a pine air freshener that you could have taken back from them and put in your car.
At the Wakiles', the kids get some nifty gifts, then make us cry by giving their mother a laptop for her new catering business that they bought by pooling their allowances. Those kids are much too caring and normal for this show. I bet you they’re not even Rich and Kathy’s kids but just some child actors playing a scripted part.
Rich complains, “What does Daddy get? Daddy gets all the bills.” But not so. Kathy gets him a ring to replace the thousands of wedding bands that Rich has conveniently managed to “lose” over the years. Rich justifies not wearing a wedding band by saying that women are attracted to men with wedding bands signifying that he’s a keeper. Gee, we wouldn’t want all the women at the Lebanese falafel house throwing themselves at you, now would we, Rich? After all, your baba ghanoush is reserved for Kathy. (I did like the fact that the Manzo kids said Rich looked like Jeff Goldblum even though I’ve forgotten what he looks like since no one’s seen him since Jurassic Park.)
The Gorga kids hit the jackpot with a drum set, a real standing old-time popcorn machine like at the movies, and a zillion other things. Sure, Melissa admits it was over the top, but it’s because “it’s for Jesus’ birthday.” And how exactly is Jesus benefiting from these birthday gifts? I don’t think Jesus is going to make much use of that popcorn machine, since the last movie he probably saw was Jurassic Park. And what did Melissa get? Well, some streetwalker designer shoes, a piece of Louis Vuitton luggage, and a gold Rolex for starters. And, of course, an essential every girl needs – a white ermine fur sleeping mask. What an honor for that animal to have given up its underbelly so that Melissa could catch her 40 winks. Now, here’s a question for all the dry cleaners in Jersey to think about. How much do you charge to dry clean a fur sleep mask? What about storage costs for the summer? Or, maybe Melissa can just wrap it in emu feathers and store it in her new piece of Louis Vuitton luggage.
And we’re not finished yet, folks. Joe Gorga finishes off the surprise by taking his wife downstairs to show her her very own recording studio. “These are the mixy things,” he knowledgeably points out to his wife but she’s more focused on the fact that she didn’t get a microphone with more bling. “I wanted crystals on the microphone.” Yes, Melissa – I’m sure that’s what Jesus wanted for his birthday present too - especially for Karaoke night in heaven. (C'mon, how can you sing along to "All the Single Ladies" without a little bling on your microphone?)
Joe proudly states that he put a lot of time and money into the studio so he could lock in his wife. He’s no dummy, that Joe, except when it comes to getting a little something-something. “Where’s my gift?” he asks Melissa, thinking he’s going to get a little appreciation shown. But Melissa shuts him down. “Not today. It’s Jesus’ birthday.” Hey, if I had a horn dog like Joe h--ping my leg every second, I’d use Jesus’ birthday as an excuse too.
And that brings us to the Guidice Christmas gift exchange. Juicy Joe is too tired to get out of bed and T. tells the girls they have to wait to open gifts until their father wakes up. “That’ll take forever,” Gia protests. But the Zeppole arouses himself long enough to go downstairs (shirtless) while the girls open their gifts. T. gives Joe a cross and he gives her gloves and a dress. “No diamonds this year, huh?” T. asks. “I don’t need diamonds.” Yeah, considering you’re filing bankruptcy, it might be good not to stock up on the diamonds this year. The Zeppole takes videos of the girls half-heartedly holding the camera while he’s lying on the couch. Then Gia goes in the bathroom and pukes (I would too, Gia, if I saw a giant shirtless Zeppole lying on my living room couch). T. wants to take a picture of her and tells her to smile. “Really? After I throw up?” she asks her mother. “Well,” T. answers,“You look pretty now.” As T. complains to Joe that her brother should have spent more time with them on Christmas Eve, he responds, “He’s got that witch of a wife over there.” “Don’t say that,” T. counters (even though she’d be the first to call Melissa a witch.) ”I’m tired. I’m going back to bed,” the Zeppole answers. After all, he’s had a hard morning waking up, putting on his pants, and walking all the way down to the living room on Christmas morning.
The episode winds down with the Manzos going to a concert of Alexa Ray Joel (Billy Joel’s daughter). Caroline wants her son Albie to hook up with Alexa Ray because they are both the same age and are “both children of privilege.” That’s nice. So much for that adage that it’s just as easy to fall in love with a poor man as a rich man. But Albie says that when his mother likes a girl it’s like the kiss of death. “If she can’t make sauce, it’s all for nothing.” Somehow, I get the feeling that Christie Brinkley never had the time to hand down the family’s secret gravy recipe to her daughter Alexa Ray. Oh well, there goes that romance.
Next episode: Melissa tells Teresa she’s going to make an album. T.’s response? “Nowadays, anybody can be a singer.” That’s true. Just look at Ashlee Simpson.
Eileen Budd can be reached at email@example.com or leave a comment here. Check out her latest prose piece at asininepoetry.com.