The Cheesecake Story

I spent a night and a day at the Marriott hotel in Uniondale L.I. (I think that’s where it was) for my father’s 85th birthday.

I took my camera with me, but didn’t feel like taking any pictures because I always get in trouble by not giving the pictures back to everyone, so I left it in the bag.  And frankly, looking out the window of the Marriott at the parking lot, didn’t see anything that seemed worth shooting (though years ago I would have).

At any rate, one of my sisters brought a selection of cheese cake from a fine Brooklyn bakery, and at the end of a so-so dinner (I said it was fine, but it was so-so) the cheese-cake platter was put out and this was something great.  Let’s see, there was plain cheese-cake, chocolate cheese cake, cherry cheese cake, marble cheese cake, crumbs on top cheese cake, and cheese cake with whipped cream and sprinkles on top.  Two creamy wedges of each.

Much more than we could eat at one sitting.

So when we had had our fill, there was still about six perfect wedges left, and after my father had made his  usual speech about how there are poor people in the world and how we all have a duty to help them and how lucky we all are to not be wanting  – he suggested that we give what was left to the table of people next to us (who also didn’t seem to be in want of anything but cheesecake).

I chirped in that that was not a good idea.  If no one at our table wanted the cheese cake, I would take it and put in my fridge and eat one of them a day when I got home.

This was heresy.   I was accused of selfishness.  I was attacked for only thinking of myself and my own desire for cheese cake.

But I argued that we didn’t know anything about those people.  They could be Republicans for all we knew.  No go.  They were strangers in need of cheesecake.

I sometimes think they don’t realize that I don’t inhabit their safe middle class world.  I don’t go out and buy cheese cake like that for myself very often, and probably was the poorest person at the family table.   I’ve noticed, that in this do-gooder world, it’s always the other that is the recipient of charity.  I know cases where millionaires neglect their own relatives to give away oodles of money to people they’ve never seen.  I put up a mighty fight for the cheese cake until I saw it was a losing battle.

My father was selected to bring the cheesecake to the other table and offered it to them and they gladly accepted it.  Later, when the meal ended, about ten of them approached my father with congratulations on his birthday and many thanks for the cheese cake offering.

Everyone looked over at me, and said – you see.  That’s appreciation.  That’s what can happen if you feed strangers.  (Yeah, a bunch of poor people staying at the Uniondale Mariott).  But they were all aglow with their good deed.

In the morning we ate at the buffet.  I wasn’t hungry and only had two mini-bagels with butter but was charged $17.95.  (True, my father picked up the tab for breakfast, but I called the waitress over to ask about the charge, and was told I had used the buffet and that was the price).  Sad but true.  They got me.

My room, btw – was $178 for one night.  It was a beautiful room with a beautiful view of the parking lot.  A nice clean double-bed.  ($19 a day if you want to plug in to their broadband connection).

I went back to my room and looked around to see what I could pillage.  A couple of sheets, all the perfumeries I could find, and a few pens.  I was in a black mood.  I was thinking of some millionaires I know who contribute to every charity under the sun – but I know their children – and some of them are in dire need.  (No, I’m not talking about myself here, but of other relatives).

On the ride back, I was talking about it with my sister and was reminded that I was always ungenerous about my food.  As a kid, it was a big treat to go out to the local deli and I would return to the house with a sandwich – and secrete it in my room.  If I didn’t do this, then everyone in the family wanted a piece of it.

My sister told me that this tendency has only gotten worse lately.   And that’s true.  It’s easy to share when you have much.

I came back with a bad feeling.  Have I really become a selfish person, now that my money is low.  Was I that way when I had money?  (No.  I bought tons of very expensive gifts for people in those days and gave money to everyone that asked for it on the street).  But the holes in my security net are getting larger.

A few weeks ago – out we went for a pizza dinner at a good restaurant.  When the meal was over – I asked the waiter to put the few slices in a doggie bag.  I was asked if I was really going to eat that pizza the next day.  Absolutely, I said.  And into the microwave the following day.  Delicious.

I know that people read this blog and the grass looks green over here.  Living your dream and all that.  True.  Very true.  But take my word for it – there’s a price to be paid for freedom.  And it isn’t always pretty.

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Dave

My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a photographer and programmer working in New York City.

12 thoughts on “The Cheesecake Story”

  1. Dave, that last statement is so true! People often say to me, “I wish I had the freedom you have.” To which I reply, “I’ll trade you paychecks.” They usually look dumbfounded.

    We are self-employed. Artists and photographers. My definition of this self employment is this: The highs are incredibly high. The lows are incredibly low. And, sometimes they are five minutes apart.

    Peace.

    Brent

  2. Dave, don’t be so hard on yourself. You are doing what you like. All the stuff going on about the economy should be causing some of those Wall Street pigs to re-think what they were doing on there own. No suprise it has not yet sunk in. Taxes on those bonuses and forced restructuring of the financial system will eventually do that.
    Everyday I read this stuff and I get more annoyed and mad. My clients are pissed off at the economy and now take it out on me. Getting paid has become a real tough exercise. They are just holding onto the money. More of them choose to do it themselves and call me when it goes bad. Then they can’t understand why I can’t use my magic tricks and fix it all.
    A lot of re-thinking has to take place in this country. The selfish “me” attitude has to end.

  3. Dave, for what it’s worth I made my living as a freelance game designer from 1990 until 2001. I know a little of what you speak. I’m in awe of your work, but not of the thin financial ice you walk on to do it. I don’t know how a photographer makes a living doing what you do, because as you have said more than once, if you ever took a photograph you didn’t want to take you’d feel like you sold out (I think I’m quoting you reasonably accurately). This was another one of those blog entires that keeps me coming back day in and day out.

  4. Freedom does not have to have anything to do with monetary success, or of selfishness, or even of art for that matter. Many of history’s greatest photographs (or photographers) were never full-time professionals, even, and had other main sources of income.

    Brent’s commiseration is a bit curious, since when I clicked on his name-link the first posts in his blog showed off his motorcycle and private plane. Yes, the artist’s life is a tough road to travel … unless one flies over it, I suppose. 😉

  5. Parable of the Last Portion

    Jesus and the twelve apostles had just finished their last supper entrees, when the waitress came in with fourteen portions of cheesecake for dessert. She placed one portion in front of everyone and so had one left over.

    “To whom shall go this one last piece?” the waitress asked.

    No one dared respond, although they all wanted it very much. Finally, Jesus broke the silence:

    “Put it in a doggy bag for me.”

    The apostles were aghast. But again, no one dared say anything about this apparent lack of charity on the part of their Savior. Finally, Judas spoke up:

    “Should not we divideth the last portion amoungst us, my Lord?”

    Jesus thought for a moment, called over the waitress and whispered in her ear:

    “Separate checks please.”

  6. The motorcycle is mine. The yellow airplane is not. The red and white Citabria is a plane I owned 30 years ago. I have not been flying for many years. Can’t afford it. I use the motorcycle as a mode of transportation to gather stories and photos. The motorcycle is my freedom.

  7. hey Dave-
    This past November, in DC for the presidential election, dining out to with a newspaper friend and some DC people. I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, drank water. Some of our company ate the good stuff, bought drinks. When I contributed my twelve dollars for dinner I was berated for being a cheap bastard by one of the party-types.
    I’ve experienced variations of this abuse for 35 years.
    Bill

  8. Parable of the Last Photo

    Jesus had a feeling this was going to be his last supper, so he wanted to make sure it was documented for posterity.

    While everyone was finishing up their cheesecake, he got on his cell and called Leo the Photographer:

    “Leo, could you come by and take a few shots of us celebrating? Sorry for the short notice, I’m flying out of town tomorrow.”

    So Leo shows up ten minutes later with his Canon 50D. He knows this is going to be an important picture, but he can’t figure out a good angle to get all 13 guys in the shot.

    Finally, Leo shouts out:

    “Okay guys, if you wanna be in the picture, everybody on one side of the table.”

  9. It’s tough pursuing your dreams and “freedom”, (or an illusion of it).

    I know what you mean Dave, concerning people (friends, relatives, etc) often not taking care of their own, but feeling like they would rather “give” to strangers. My father was like that, even though he was by any standards, a wonderful , thoughtful, generous man.
    It has to do with I think “familiarity breeding something ….” Not necessarily “contempt”, but something else, what, I’m not sure. Or perhaps their POV is skewed by thinking people close to them can’t have any serious needs.

    This morning on a similiar note, an Interesting read here on this subject.

    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/03/a-life-in-art.html#more

    Carpe Diem.
    Ciao

  10. It has to do with being able to idealize the strangers into being worthy of your charity. Surely you don’t want to admit that your own children haven’t “made it.” That reflects badly on you.

    Plus you know them. What sort of return will you get when you give to your own relatives? You’ll get a better return on investment from strangers.

  11. Relatives always have their own agenda. Because they are not strangers you have to put up with what can otherwise be ignored.

  12. Bill, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a restaurant where someone will say – well, what shall we have for an appetizer? Everyone want appetizers?

    No! Please, I think. No appetizers. Just order the the main dish. I know how this is going to go.

    All I can say Bill is – Ditto.

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