Author Archives: Max Retik

Joke – “Directions for grandson”

Informant is my mother who was raised in a jewish family and in turn raised a jewish family herself. She belongs to a congregation and tries to instill jewish values on her children. She insists but cannot prove that this is a jewish joke:


A grandmother is giving directions to her adult grandson who is coming to visit.

“First, come to the front door of the apartment” she says,

“I’m in apartment 201. There’s a big panel at the front, press 201 with your elbow and I’ll buzz you in. Come inside the elevator and with your elbow, press the 2nd floor button.” She tells him, “When you get off, my door is there. Hit my doorbell with your elbow and i’ll let you in. OK?”

Her grandson says “Ok Grandma, but why am I hitting these buttons with my elbow?”

She says back “What…. you’re coming empty handed?!”


I think it’s interesting that she considers it a jewish joke, because I agree. The loving-but-demanding grandmother character reminds me of my own outspoken relatives. This is not the first time I have heard this joke from her, but it is a family favorite and we repeat it amongst ourselves in the family. As my mother puts it, “In a jewish family, you never show up empty handed. You just don’t.”

Pointy Thing Joke

Informant is USC sophomore in the film program.

The subject is the “Pointy Thing” meme which has circulated through the USC student body this year. I ask informant to pull up his Facebook account and log into a group with about 15,000 members where students make and share memes with each other, usually about the school or the different majors.

Scrolling through a number of posts liked between 500 and 3,000 times, he arrives at one which depicts a man in a white T-shirt with one arm in the air. The president of the University is photoshopped in place the face, and “Pointy Things” are raining down across the image*.

“Pointy Things… they’re legendary. What can I say?” he tells me. “They just got put up this semester. They’re these pointy obstacles by all the USC gates. And they’re a waste of money because they don’t have a purpose, but we all got together to make fun of how ridiculous it is.”

The image has about 5K reactions in the Facebook group. I think it’s cool how all these USC students can come together in a group to make jokes with one another about the school they share. In a way, it’s kind of unifying.

“Yeah, they went all out. Pointy things in the Matrix was done, somebody 3D printed a pointy thing. Beating a dead horse at this point but people will like it if you make it” he tells me.

*The image was based on the popular Salt Bae meme, in which Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe is seen sprinkling salt in a fancy manner.

Kill, Kiss, Marry

Informant is my 11 year old sister who goes to middle school in NJ. This game is called “Kill, Kiss, Marry” which is a familiar concept if not more PG than the “Kill, F**k, Marry” that I usually hear it called. But she’s 11, so I’ll gladly take “Kiss.”

“You probably know this game already. What you do is take three people and ask your friends to rank them in order of who they would want to Kill, Kiss, or get married to. Even if you like all three you have to kill one, so that makes it hard……….. also, it’s best to play it to make your friends awkward. So if the three people are in the room or if you know they like one of them, that’s a good time to play.”

I asked her if it was customary to give reasons for the ordering. “You can if you want, but you don’t have to,” she told me.

It’s interesting that this kind of game exists on the adult and kid levels. I wonder where she heard it from originally. I think at their age, these kids play the game as a way to rank their friends or make each other uncomfortable— not because they actually want to kill, kiss, or marry one another.

Ukrainian Driving Joke

Informant is a 19 year old college student who grew up to the age of 11 in a small village outside Kiev, Ukraine. He speaks in a mild Ukranian accent and currently attends Rutgers University. This is a joke he tells which according to him “only makes sense if you grew up in Ukraine.”

“In other countries, the sober driver goes in a straight line and when you drive drunk you swerve. In Ukraine, the drunk man goes straight and the sober man swerves!….. Get it? Because of all the potholes.”

Although I didn’t get the joke at first, I do like it. I assume the joke is a bit of an exaggeration, but already I have some idea about the quality of infrastructure in his birth town. Informant says he got the joke from his dad, who is sitting in the other room and does not speak English. Although my informant was not very old when he left Ukraine, he says he was old enough to remember “sights and sounds” from when he was younger.

Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Informant is grandmother, currently living in Florida having lived most of her life in New Jersey. The following is a family recipe for Matzo Ball Soup which is a traditionally jewish dish served at Passover.


Ingredients (taken down from a handwritten note in the recipe book):

4 large eggs

•¼ cup “schmaltz” rendered chicken fat or coconut oil

•¼ cup chicken stock

•1 cup matzo meal

•¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

•1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

•2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

•1 teaspoon Allspice


Directions (spoken to me in the kitchen as she prepares to make the soup):

“In a big bowl, put the eggs, schmaltz, chicken stock, matzo, nutmeg, ginger and parsley. Put in 1 teaspoon salt and Allspice. Mix a little with a spoon, and cover. And refrigerate until chilled. I do it overnight.”

“Put the matzo balls in a pan like this (she holds up a medium sized, deep pan) with salted water and boil. With wet hands— they have to be wet— take some of the mix and mold it into the size of a golfball. Put them in boiling water and leave it for about 40 minutes. Then you put them in the soup, that’s it!”