Red Socks



Neighborhood: Midwood, Sheepshead Bay

Ran into my neighbor Traubman, a regular Gary Shteyngart except much older, on the sidewalk outside our apartment building near Kings Highway, while headed to the B train to Manhattan and wondering how bad my sciatica would be that day.

“Where’ve you been, I’ve been thinking about you,” Traubman said. He was wearing shorts, scratching his social-security belly.

“Why have you been thinking about me?”

“Because you’re still a good-looking woman. So where’ve you been?”

“You don’t want to know. You’ll hate me,” I answered, which of course got him really interested, so I had to plow ahead and tell him I’d been at the Kopkind Colony in Vermont — Alexander Cockburn’s old stomping ground before he died last year — “mentoring leftist youth at a summer camp,” as I put it.

“I have good story for you,” Traubman said. He launched in:

“My father knew man in Italy in 1950s, this guy had a socks factory. All socks workers went on strike, said they want to be communists. Went on strike for weeks!”

Our elderly Uzbek neighbor appeared next to Traubman in the hot, stinking South Brooklyn sun, listening in and chuckling, though I didn’t think he knew any English.

“Do you understand?” I asked him in Russian.

“He understands everything,” Traubman said, also in Russian, as the Uzbek kept laughing–then Traubman switched back to English.

“So socks factory owner, he buys tickets for all his workers, tickets to Soviet Union, boat tickets, sends all workers there, workers come back, stop strike, never strike again.”

“How many workers did he send?” I asked. “I mean, for the same money for all these people’s travel, couldn’t he have just raised their wages?”

Traubman glared. Glared some more. Assured me socks guy spent less on tickets than on wages. He scratched his belly again; the Uzbek laughed. Looked me up and down. Both. I left to catch the B.

Debbie Nathan is a long time contributor to Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, and author of New York Times bestseller, Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.

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