Friday, August 28, 2009

First Family Reunion

I missed the hurricane that shut down the beach last weekend, though I drove through a blinding thunderstorm on I-80 in Pennsylvania, on my way to the family reunion in Cleveland. I had seen the sky all black up ahead, but still it came as a surprise to be in that blackness. I pulled over and waited out the storm, with my flashers on. When it calmed down enough to see the lights of a truck ahead of me, I ventured back onto the road. What a dilemma: on the one hand, if you can keep up with the truck, you have a guide; on the other hand, the truck is going awfully fast.

At a gas station, I called my friend the Catwoman in Rockaway, who said that that line of thunderstorms was purple on the radar. It hadn’t reached New York yet. The rest of my trip was calmer. The climax, as I rolled through the wilds of Pennsylvania, was passing a Tootsie Roll truck while listening to Prokofiev. It was a semi, painted to look like a Tootsie Roll—not exactly the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, but with a bombastic Russian accompaniment it was monumental.

As for the family reunion, either it was the only serious family reunion to take place during my lifetime or my branch of the family was never invited to any of the other reunions. (Or—and this is entirely possible—our parents were too antisocial to attend.) There are a lot of mysteries in the family: Why did Grandma’s family leave Canada when she was a small girl? How did our grandfather’s family lose the farm in Parma, a prosperous suburb of Cleveland, full of subdivisions that used to be farms? Why aren't we rich? What exactly is the relationship between the fabulous Baby Dee (my sibling) and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (our father's cousin's son)? I think they’re third cousins. Anyway, here they are:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Found and Lost

I was walking along the boardwalk on a Sunday afternoon with my friend Cynthony when I spotted a tiny ziploc baggy with about a joint’s worth of marijuana in it. I bent down and picked it up, and as I put it in my pocket I thought, “I’m being framed” (no doubt because the first thing I saw when I looked up was a police car—not that I’m paranoid or anything). But nothing happened—I was not handcuffed and carted off to jail—and in fact I succeeded in getting to the hardware store before it closed, to buy boric acid (for use in my war against ants), and then I took Cynthony to the Wharf, my favorite place in the world, where we sat out on the deck overlooking Jamaica Bay.

We ordered drinks and appetizers, and then the skies opened and it began to pour down rain. We had a roof over our heads: what could we do but order another round? At one point, I escorted the waitress to the door holding my umbrella over her. But finally the rain was coming down so hard that the head waitress wouldn’t let her staff out on the deck anymore. Just when it looked as if we would be cut off, a bus girl offered to convey our order to the bar. When it was ready, she hollered to us from the door to come and pick it up.

Finally, the rain died down, and we decided to hit the boardwalk. I had my money—a five-dollar bill and three singles—in my right-hand pocket, and my keys and the little baggie in my left. In a gesture of drunken largesse, I decided to give the bus girl a big tip—after all, she had risked getting struck by lightning to bus our table and take our order, and she wasn’t even our waitress. I separated out the five-dollar bill, folded it, and kept my hand on it, in my left-hand pocket, so that when I found the girl, on our way out, I could give it to her and thank her personally.

We get home, I reach in my pocket, and . . . no tiny postage-stamp-size plastic ziploc bag of marijuana. Easy come, easy go, I think. I don’t say anything to Cynthony—I don’t want her to know what a ditz I am. I act like I forgot we had any plans for our little windfall. But it’s driving me crazy—it has to be somewhere. I search my pockets over and over, and look in all kinds of places where I might have systematically, if absent-mindedly, emptied their contents—a purse flap, the desktop, my knapsack. Can it have fallen out of my pocket when I used the ladies’ room at the Wharf? Did I accidentally hand it to the bus girl, wrapped in the five-dollar bill? I picture an aerial shot of the bungalow, as if this were a movie: the camera pans from bedroom to kitchen to living room and zooms in on the tiny, plasticated thatch of dry grass lying innocently . . . where?

A week later, I’m sitting around with another friend, whom I’ve told this story, and my neighbor T. calls out from across the walk, “Ladies, would you like some pot?” We’re not sure we heard her right, but, just in case, we fall all over ourselves to get out the door and over to the fence. “What?” I say. “Marijuana,” T. says. "My husband found a dime bag out on the sidewalk and left it on the deck table. 'What’s this?’ I said. He said, ‘I found it.’”

“I wonder if it’s the one I lost,” I say, and tell her how I found a little baggie on the boardwalk and got paranoid and then lost it and thought I gave it to the bus girl at the Wharf wrapped in a five-dollar bill. She shows it to me. “That’s it, all right,” I say. We all giggle maniacally. Now at last I can compose the last shot in the movie: I am carrying my keys on a long yellow lanyard that I draw out of my pocket as we approach the door, flipping the little baggie out onto the walk.

So that’s what a dime bag is.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summertime ...

... and the livin' is easy.