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: