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Second Honeymoon on Dune Road
 

Second Honeymoon on Dune Road

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    Second Honeymoon on Dune Road Second Honeymoon on Dune Road Document Transcript

    • Second Honeymoon On Dune Road By Philip Wohl
    • ONE The last ten years went by as fast as a bar cart at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving outing. Come to think of it, it was just yesterday that I said, “I do” and was headed out to the honeymoon. Too bad all the flights to the islands were called off because of a string of hurricanes. All of that planning went down the tubes, but the subsequent improvisation turned a vacation disaster into one of the most memorable weeks of our life. My name is Brady Hart and my wife‟s name is Summer. Our marriage was truly the culmination of a fiery love affair – there was no shotgun pointed at my neck and my feet were anything but cold when I stepped up to the plate. We were married at a beautiful hotel in Long Island, New York, which is the home of inflated self-worth and huge doughy bagels. I was fixed on the Weather Channel a few weeks before the wedding. The weather in New York was expected to be as beautiful as the sight of a hot fudge sundae, but the same could not be said about the storms brewing in Mexico. We picked a mid-April wedding 1
    • date because hurricane season is usually hits around the fall in Mexico. But, due to a strange series of weather anomalies, the pattern had shifted into full swing and was targeting our honeymoon week as its launching pad. If we would have known at the time that we weren‟t alone in our honeymoon disaster, then the abrupt alternative vacation planning would have been much more enjoyable. Being faced with such a limited time frame to book a decent trip we decided to hop in our Toyota 4Runner and drive out east. Since the off-season in the Hamptons goes from about October to mid-May, we decided to stay at a first-class resort and save a bundle off the usual in-season rates. The Hamptons wasn‟t Cancun by any stretch of the imagination - if you‟ve ever been in Southampton in the off-season, just imagine going to Disneyland and the park is closed -- the rides are all dark and the parking lot is empty. At least that was my initial impression of the “playground of the wealthy”. We checked into the Dune Road Resort and headed to our Honeymoon Suite, complete with complementary champagne, fresh strawberries, and an abundant chocolates. We were about to get out 2
    • of our clothes and take a bath when I clicked through the stations on the television and saw a listing of “Dunes Events” at the resort. These kinds of hotel announcements are generally useless but I decided to waste a little eyesight and see what was happening in our honeymoon ghost town. Come join us on our private beach for a bonfire and clam bake at 6:00 p.m. Smores for dessert. I looked at Summer and said, “It‟s 5:00. We have enough time for some bath bubbles and then we‟ll head to the beach.” I chased her into the bathroom and then marital mayhem ensued. Although I‟m not really a clam fan, unless they are baked and heavily breaded, the lure of the beach was just too strong to resist. Once we put on a few layers of clothes and walked outside, the sight of steaks grilling over an open flame brought a smile to my face. I was also surprised to see a group of people standing and talking near the fire. 3
    • It was the kind of spring day that baseball players dream about -- 60 degrees, a calm breeze, and not a cloud to be found in the sky. Any raw hint of winter was long gone and much of the Atlantic Ocean‟s chill was being redirected by the abundance of huge dunes that blanketed the beachscape like tan ski slopes. A woman named Julie greeted us – we only knew her name because she wore a sizeable nametag on her left breast pocket – her name was memorable because she looked a lot like Julie McCoy from the Love Boat. She led us over to a group of six people standing by the large barbeque pit that had been dug in the sand. There were a group of men in the distance that were stacking wood together for the bonfire, which was scheduled to take place at nightfall. “Honeymooners, this is Brady and Summer Hart,” Julie said to the group after we walked over to them. I said, “Honeymooners? This must be the other side of Mexico!” The people laughed and then the introductions began. 4
    • TWO The couples appeared to be in our age range, about 30 year old, and we were all glad to have the company during our misfortune. The first hands I shook were that of Zack and Mindy Kramer of Bellmore, New York. I didn‟t even have to ask Zack what he did for a living because the born salesman exuded pitch. Mindy was a five- foot sparkplug that obviously gave the strongly built, 5‟11” Zack a run for his money. Next on the greeting line were Alan and Amy Noble. Alan wore a pair of glasses that reeked of responsibility, so I initially assumed that his head was full of numbers, all kind of numbers. On the other hand, Amy Noble head was obviously full of hair. Her quaff was propelled so high that she probably carried an emergency air pump in her purse. The third couple on the beach was none other than Wayne and Kathy Aaronson. Wayne was a dead ringer for Harpo Marx and Kathy had dirty blonde hair and was as thin as a piece of paper. He had an infectious smile that she was obviously infected by. 5
    • I had initially viewed our honeymoon as a quiet week away from all of the action, but meeting the three couples had me feeling anything but remote. The food was incredible and we all ate until the buttons of our pants threatened to make a pop for it. To add insult to obesity, Julie brought out a full tray of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate so we could make smores. A few more bites and the paramedics would have been called in to do a little stomach pumping. We all took a long walk on the shore after dinner and the surf seemed to have magical powers. Watching the powerful motion of the tide and the crashing waves gave us a much different perspective then passing each other in the middle of a mall. All of the defenses people usually put up were melting away like an ice cube dropped in hot tea. Summer and I are usually very upbeat, outgoing people, but I tend to wilt like an dry flower when people seem unapproachable. My beautiful, bodacious, blond-haired, blue-eyed wife tends to try to talk to strangers even if their vibes are saying, “Stay away from me.” When people fail to make eye contact with me, which are most people, 6
    • I take the hint and keep walking. Summer can find the good in just about anyone because she is the most special person on the planet. Life beats down on people as if they were a rock eroded by water and the elements over time. I suppose that‟s why people go on vacations to take a week or two to rediscover the person they left behind. The guys seemed to band together while we were walking and the ladies were happy to walk a little slower and measure each other up. Guys are funny when they talk amongst themselves; women think we might talk about current events, or things that happen at work, but nothing can be farther from the truth. When we play golf or go on vacation, the conversation generally focuses on some of the greatest accomplishments of our life. Vacation translates into leisure, and leisure translates into stretching the truth a little more each time the tall tale is told. Zack Kramer showed us all what he was made of when he took the lead and started to flex his machismo. He was wearing a tight, cotton-ribbed long sleeve shirt, a pair of jeans, and some open- toed sandals. The guy was a walking advertisement for the “I‟m a 7
    • married guy but I‟m still available” Club of America. He went into this story about his Kleinelor party and the rest of us probably thought back to our Kleinelor parties. Let me start by saying that I think Kleinelor parties, at least the wild one‟s, are probably one of the biggest oxymoron‟s known to man. You‟re making probably the biggest commitment of your life and you let a disease-carrying skank rub her giblets against you. What‟s even worse is that most guys like it – sort of goes against the whole “she‟s the only woman for me” focus. Guys that see it as their last chance to be with another woman, probably find their way to another woman during the course of marriage. I liked Zack, but his story about his Kleinelor party threw us all off at first. These parties always start with going to eat a good meal, usually at a steakhouse, and you know the guys always find their way up to a hotel room. Where else would a bunch of sweaty, Playboy magazine-raised, sexually underutilized guys go to watch women shove things into every orifice of their bodies? Walking behind the guys were a bunch of new brides talking about their dresses, and the cake, and the bridal party - all the while 8
    • avoiding any conversation about their spouse‟s Kleinelor romp. Summer didn‟t even have to say anything to me, like so many women have to warn their men to “be careful.” This mild alert should never have to come out of a woman‟s mouth – it‟s like telling an alcoholic to not drink when they go in a bar. My Kleinelor party mirrored the first half of Zack‟s event, but a few friends took me to Madison Square Garden to watch the Knicks play the Miami Heat. That was my idea of stripping life down to its most essential elements: a good steak and fiercely contested basketball game. The Knicks even won the game and we all went home completely satisfied and guilt-free, although I didn‟t feel that great from the Carvel sundae I consumed in the second half. Shoot me – I eat when I get nervous, and the Knicks always make me nervous. While some of the other woman had a “tea” for their Kleinelorette party, Summer bucked the trend by taking a few of her friends into Manhattan for some shopping and a little dinner. Her favorite restaurant in the city is a legendary Chinese place called Bill Hong‟s. The food and service is always incredible, and Summer has a 9
    • friend who has been the manager there for years. I think she enjoyed spending time with such a wonderful person more than the free egg rolls and other dishes Mai always threw her way. Zack was knee-deep in his story about “the two strippers in the hotel room” when we saw a huge flame appear in the distance. Since we didn‟t see Moses or any bushes around for miles, we assumed that the blaze must have been the aforementioned bonfire. Alan Noble was walking next to me and he said, “Saved by the fire.” The bonfire was one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen. The sheer power of the flames flickering against the large sand dunes was another calming influence. The only thing that was missing was Zack whipping out an acoustic guitar and singing “Time In A Bottle”. Believe me, if there was a guitar within a three-mile radius he would have been plucking his way to universal admiration. . 10
    • THREE It‟s probably important for me to further describe the other couples we met before I detail the accounts of the honeymoon. Since I was just talking about the wonderful world of Zack Kramer, then that‟s a great place to start. Zack and Mindy Kramer are life-long residents of the quaint town of Bellmore, Long Island. Bellmore is a spot where people live the wanna-be life. We all know people like this – they buy expensive cars and clothing and live in houses way beyond their means just to prove to everyone that they are important. That‟s a lot of work to get noticed and “keep up with the Jones‟s”. The Kramer‟s met when Mindy‟s last name was Orenstein and she was an aerobics instructor working in a health club. At the same club, Zack could often be seen parading around in a tank top and a skimpy pair of spandex shorts. Frankly, if I wore spandex my “central situation” would lack the necessary support to maintain any sense of decency. 11
    • Zack is one of the guys that would work exclusively on free weights with the other muscle-heads. There was enough testosterone in that small area to pump up even the largest Gay Pride Parade. Those free weights guys log a lot of mirror time and are probably some of the worst offenders of repeatedly “checking their packages”. Why do guys have to constantly monitor their equipment? Do they expect it to fall off at some point, or do they just need the constant contact with the center of the universe? I‟m sure it will be the subject of a Discovery Channel special one day. “Today we will discover why men have to touch their packages more than they call their mothers.” Mindy and Zack passed each other in the halls of the health club dozens of times but neither one would make the first move. It must have been against the “rules of the jungle” in that venue. Zack didn‟t ask girls out in those days, he just took them by the force of his bulging biceps. In his warped mind, the power of his waves of muscles was too much for any woman to resist. That‟s what I loved about Zack in those days; his single- minded pursuit is out there for all to see. He didn‟t pretend to be modest or selfless – it just goes to prove that as long as you know the 12
    • make-up of a person, you should never be disappointed with the results. Mindy, on the other hand, was a ruthless, no holds barred attorney that is a quite giving person. She fought for her clients with the same effort and attention she gave to her friends and family. I‟ve never seen a person with more energy and willingness to battle for what she believed in. It was sort of funny how Mindy and Zack finally got together – it was late one Friday night and Zach had just concluded his power workout and Mindy finished instructing her last aerobics class of the day. They were coming from opposite directions – Zack down the stairs and Mindy from around the downstairs corner – both were headed to the locker rooms, which were located adjacent to each other on the bottom floor. In true Zack and Mindy fashion, neither one of them would yield so they wound up crashing into each other like two rams locking horns. Zack bore the brunt of the crash and suffered a bloody nose, while Mindy had a small scratch on her left forearm. He had lowered 13
    • his head for a minute and she smacked his nose pretty hard with her head. “You got a pretty hard head there, aerobics lady” Zack said as he took off his t-shirt to dab his nose. She looked at his body and replied, ”A little less work on those muscles and maybe you could see over them.” He offered to buy her a drink and she said something about not drinking with strangers. “How can you say we are strangers? I‟ve been on dates with less contact!” he exclaimed. She wouldn‟t give in and they both went to their respective locker rooms. After a couple of hot showers and some significant primping, they both emerged from the locker room at the same time. Mindy said, “What, did you watch me take a shower, too?” Zack replied without even blinking, “No, someone else was already looking through the hole in the wall when I got there.” They went their separate ways and drove out of the health club parking lot. Twenty minutes later they were front-to-back at the local TGIFridays. Mindy was at the bar getting a drink and Zack was powering down some mineral water. He stood behind her and 14
    • said, “If you turn around real fast you could smash into me and give me another bloody nose.” She replied without even turning around, “Maybe you wouldn‟t bleed so much if you cut down on some of those muscle supplements.” He moved even closer to her until their two bodies were connected. “Maybe if I move closer to you, I can keep the damage to a minimum,” he whispered in her left ear She turned slightly and replied, “Unless you want to lose that low voice I would suggest moving out of striking distance of my three-inch heals.” He shot back, “Are you always this hostile to every good looking guy you meet?” “No, just the one‟s who think their god‟s gift” she said. She turned and faced him and apparently, that‟s when “the magic” happened. Of course, even though the were kissing a few seconds later Zack couldn‟t help but angle his body away from those heels and the potentially harmful impact they could have on his sex life. 15
    • FOUR Alan and Amy Noble‟s concept of love is a long ride from the storybooks. Their relationship was based on control, and control was obviously the fuel that filled up their tanks. Some people like to let go and allow life to progress at a natural pace and let destiny take its course. The Noble‟s left very few things up to chance, including meeting each other and forming a relationship. Unlike the Kramer‟s, Alan Noble and Amy Klein joined health clubs because they received special discount post cards in the mail, not because they were extremely body and fitness conscious. Besides, Amy never worked out too hard because she refused to take a shower in the health club‟s locker room. Someone once asked her why she had to shower at home and she replied, “Have you ever tried to use that weak hair dryer?” From the looks of Amy‟s hair, a wind machine used on movie sets would be a decent match for her elevated nest. She is a fairly attractive woman that happens to be fixated on her hair, but that worked to her advantage when Alan spotted her one night at a 16
    • single‟s event. Instead of walking up to her and making disposable conversation, Alan decided to request a formal introduction. Formal introductions were part of this Melville, New York singles club – instead of meandering around and never getting to meet the person of your dreams, the Meet Your Match organization let its clients submit a request to receive a formal introduction (at no extra cost). Amy was pulled aside at the party and shown a picture of Alan that the organizers had in a bound book. The Meet Your Match people were quite organized and had experienced a 75% success rate on formal introductions. Of course, this number was slightly padded because at least one-third of every proposed introduction was turned down at the picture-viewing phase. I‟d like to say that it was love at first sight for Alan and Amy, but she saw enough in that initial glimpse to let him proceed further. He wore a decent suit, had a conservative tie and watch, and wore extremely sensible shoes. Amy was on the prowl for a husband and no ordinary David would do. Her incredible hair and sparkling green eyes mesmerized Alan. He was also looking to get married and the wait to find Mrs. Noble had been fairly painful. 17
    • It seems that when men and women step up to the age when society thinks they should get married, the pressure to tie the knot gets turned up a few notches. Alan was always known as the “safe guy” or the “nice guy”, but woman in the their high teens and early 20‟s want adventure not tax tips. Alan had progressed from his roots of dating boredom to being a hot commodity on the marriage circuit. Average guys with solid jobs were now the hot commodities, putting hunky guys with tepid prospects at a competitive disadvantage. Amy was looking for a conservative person that would let her wear the pants around the house – what she found was a loving guy who would let her wear any pair of trousers she could find. The formal introduction process was quite simple – once the request to meet was accepted, the people involved would be separately escorted to a private table and the meeting would take place. With the loud music of the party in the distance, couples would have a chance to get to know each other at their own pace. Through trial and error the Meet Your Match organization had refined the meeting 18
    • technique and always had someone stationed nearby in case the match went awry. No such intervention was needed on the night that Amy and Alan were introduced. Alan walked up to the table where Amy was seated and said, “Hi, my name is Alan Noble.” He reached out with his right hand and took her right hand into a gentle shake. “Amy Klein” she replied as she checked out Alan like a butcher surveying a cut of meat. Amy was never an impulse buyer – when she went shopping her well thought out list was usually followed to the letter. I wish I could say the same thing for Summer and my shopping habits – we always have a few things we are looking for in a store but wind up with a basket full of impulse items. Amy knew exactly what she was looking for in a husband and the “jury was still out” when they first met. The grilling began the minute Alan sat in his chair. The questions weren‟t that difficult but the answers had to be phrased in a way that left the door open to hope. “Where do you work?” was followed by “What‟s your title?” He calmly looked into Amy‟s eyes 19
    • and said, “ I‟ve worked at Disney for two years and my title is Financial Analyst.” He then waited a few seconds and sarcastically anticipated her next question, “Not that that it matters, of course, but I‟m on the management track.” Amy smiled as Alan sat back slightly in his chair and started asking a few fluffy question of his own. Amy was satisfied with the answers she had received but I‟m not sure how Alan knew he was on the “management track.” The son-of-a-bitch was on target, though, I‟ll hand it to him. He became a manager of Disney corporate within five years and ran the New York office by year seven. As for Alan and Amy, their initial business meeting went so well that they were married 1.4 years after the day they became engaged. This number was especially significant given that 1.4 years was the national average between a couple‟s engagement and their wedding day. You can tell that everything is usually “by the book” for Alan and Amy Noble. 20
    • FIVE It was a slow and sometimes painful journey for Wayne and Kathy Aaronson. Kathy Lamb was the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher that managed to escape from Atlanta, Georgia to the Yankee north of New York. Wayne was born and raised in Roslyn, Long Island, in a Jewish Conservative household. Kathy worked for Home Depot and was transferred up north to implement and train personnel on many of the point-of-purchase systems in the tri-state area. She had arrived in New York for the first time about a month before she first met Wayne. On that Friday night, they both strolled down to the South Street Seaport to blow off some steam with co-workers. Once Wayne had a few beers in him, he was able to make the transition from investment banker to calm, clear-minded guy. Kathy was fairly new to the area and was enjoying the relaxed atmosphere adjacent to the Hudson River. New York City had swallowed her up and was in the process of spitting her out before that trip to the Seaport. 21
    • Wayne is a tall guy, about 6‟3”, and Kathy was clearly visible in a crowd at 5‟10”. He reached for his beer on the large rectangular- shaped bar and then looked across the room and seemed to be frozen solid. His friend Mike said, “What‟s up with you?” and then Wayne responded, “I‟ll see you later.” Kathy had picked up her head about the same time as Wayne and their eyes locked like a lion and a lioness in an open field. There would be no clichés used on that night – “Can I buy you a drink” and “Do we know each other” were lines that might have been used on the other side of the social rainbow, but not in the line between these two souls. “My name is Wayne” was the way he slid into her life. She replied with simply, “Kathy” as they shook hands. Providing last names would have been a futile exercise and it probably wouldn‟t have been able to impede love. Of course, if Wayne had said, “My name is Wayne Aaronson” and she had answered, “Kathy McNulty” then the table would have had all of the place settings instead of an empty tablecloth. 22
    • I often wonder why it‟s so difficult for families to except that one of their own has fallen in love. Many of the dysfunctional groups I have seen, view this natural life progression as a slight against the people that raised them. What should be seen as a joyous pairing is often viewed as clouded judgment and an event that is taking place too soon. For some reason, the coupling of people from different backgrounds seems to really draw a mountain of heat. I guess it‟s another excuse to voice displeasure as family loses control. Wayne got tired real fast of hearing his mother say, “She‟s not Jewish” and “Why do you have to get serious with a shicksa?” All he knew was that Kathy was the love his life and he could not live a day without her. The fact that she was Baptist had absolutely no bearing for Wayne – he might have spent five years in Hebrew School but that was a long time ago and his beliefs had softened over time. Kathy received a few “Jew bastards” and “You‟re not marrying a hebe” from her dad, but she had already climbed in the same boat as Wayne. Religion was no longer a focal point of her life and she was letting love lead the way. 23
    • SIX In order to get a full view of our Dune Road Honeymoon crew, it‟s probably helpful for you to hear about how Summer and I met. There was nothing ordinary about the way my love came to me that one gorgeous spring afternoon. I had spent year‟s aimlessly taking laps in bars, unable to relax and focus. Low light, loud music, and alcohol are a sure-fire recipe for living alone. I could never seem to get into a good talking rhythm in a bar, unless it was two or three o‟clock in the morning and I had deposited a few six packs of beer in my veins. It also became discouraging and terribly embarrassing when my mom got involved in my social life. It was one thing when she left her bright red lipstick on my cheek when I went to the senior prom, but it was another to be involved in the wife selection process. I think every man and woman needs to find each other and try to make a completely subjective evaluation. If anyone tells you that their objective about love then they must not be in love. 24
    • Those blind dates and lame set-ups had me thinking real fast that I should go it alone. My options appeared to be either: (a) live in my parents‟ house forever, or (b) find a credible dating service. With the sobering image of being frozen in time as a teenager, I decided to browse the Internet and find a way to get out of the dating hole. The site that made the most sense to me was soulmatch.com, because it stringently screened its applicants. I wasn‟t looking for a casual dating experience and neither were most of the people on this site. Some people were a bit too serious, like Pricilla, who said that her ideal man “earns over $100,000 and doesn‟t have much of a family.” She obviously enjoyed shopping and keeping all of that cash for herself. My profile was a little tamer but I was still focused on the ultimate prize: a life and a wife. To say that people don‟t play games on soulmatch.com would be like saying that Donald Trump has a big ego. The mood on my first two dates was so serious that I felt as if I was on a job interview, not a date Date number one was a tall drink of water named Kelly Mathers. The first thing you have to know about me is that I don‟t 25
    • like woman that are extremely tall. By “extremely tall‟ I mean over six feet in length. At 6”6”, I‟m not vertically challenged but I don‟t feel like a tall person – unless I squeeze myself into the back seat of a car or spend any time in the coach section of a airplane. Kelly was about 6‟1” and had a pleasant face for a woman of such lofty height. I was 29 years old at the time and she was 27, and it seemed that she was not focused on the romantic side of the dating equation. She asked me questions like, “Where did you go to college?” and “What was your GPA?” before she warmed up to “Where do you work?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” My answers were so bland that I never would have been asked back for a second job interview. I consider myself more a conversationalist than a person focused on covering my list of questions in order to receive meaningless answers. I don‟t know where I‟ll be in five years and what I‟ll be doing – come to think of it, I‟m not even sure half of the time what I‟ll be doing the next week. Things seem to change so fast in life whether you want them to or not. What I did realize in my 26
    • date with Kelly was that she wouldn‟t be in that future – one date was more than enough to seal her fate. The next date was with Belinda Marx, a woman that had an incredibly high opinion of herself. Most people have some idea of their self worth, but Belinda seemed to be carrying a helium tank in her back pocket in case her ego deflated. Our first date was a complete reversal of my first date with Kathy. I was the one asking the questions until she used the classic, “Let‟s talk about you. What do you think of me?” line. I honestly didn‟t know what to make of Belinda. She was an attractive woman but I couldn‟t get past the air of superiority. She lived in New Jersey but worked in midtown Manhattan at a public relations firm. We decided to meet for dinner one night and I let her choose the restaurant – mistake number one. Never let a user and abuser pick the restaurant, or even your nose! After she made a reservation at Tavern On the Green in Central Park I realized that it had been a while since I had been to the over-hyped, yet picturesque eatery. 27
    • It was early spring and all of the rollerbladers, joggers, and bike riders were out in force. There something about Central Park and oxygen suppressed people that make the venue so spectacular. I expected to meet Belinda outside of the restaurant, but after waiting ten minutes past our 6:30 meeting time I decided to venture inside. I checked with the front desk about our reservation and Jean Claude said, “The other half of your party has already been seated.” I though to myself, “Oh, that‟s a nice start.” Belinda was already diving into a trough of shrimp cocktail by the time I reached the table. Jean Claude looked straight ahead and said, “This is your table, sir. Should I keep the cab running?” I slipped him five bucks and replied “I think I‟ll eat first, so give me about an hour.” I don‟t think I‟ve ever been as close to walking out of a restaurant before I even sat down. There have been times when I looked at the menu and kept walking, but never have I approached a table and been so repulsed by what I was seeing. Belinda flipped a shrimp into her mouth like she was a pelican standing on a huge rock. She must have been real hungry because the waiter delivered a Caesar salad shortly after they took away the shrimp. 28
    • It was awkward when I tried to start the conversation – for a moment there I felt like a double-Dutch jumper measuring the swinging rope – watching Belinda shovel food in and winding her fork up and down became a bit mesmerizing. I finally jumped in by saying, “You look like you‟re enjoying that food?” She replied with a affirmative response grunted like she lived in a cave. After that Tavern On the Green fiasco, I decided to be a little more selective with my dating choices. Although there was no place for “Eating Habits” on the extensive questionnaire, I needed a little more luck with my gut feelings. My last date before meeting Summer was with a girl that said she modeled underwear. Maybe I was horny, or maybe I had a genuine interest in ladies undergarments – you be the judge. When I met Linda at a posh Soho eatery, she must have been testing the limits of the “Fabulous Meter” with the local patrons. Either her ass cheeks had been bronzed and displayed near the front counter, or she just knew a lot of people in the restaurant. She was wearing this unidentifiable fabric coat with a feathery boa around her neck. Linda Perkins was probably trying to impress me with all of 29
    • the idol worship but I merely felt left out of the date. She introduced me to a few people and it was probably the longest walk from a front door to a table that I had ever experienced in a restaurant. I‟m not a “beautiful person” scene kind of guy, and I was immediately having trouble imagining us being a couple. When I think about marriage and spending my life with one person, the best friends and lovers vision always dominates. The casual lunch conversation I had with Linda could have happened with anybody, let alone an underwear model. Nothing she said struck me as unique or touching and, in turn, I was lulled into a genuine sense of boredom. Linda ended the date by giving me a Hollywood hug and a kiss on the cheek. I think it was her way of trying to save the date and get me to call her again. Two days later I picked up the phone and dialed Linda‟s number to tell her “Thank you, but no thank you.” The struggle that ensued surprised me at first, but after ten minutes of “I don‟t understand” and “Give me another chance” I hung up the phone and started running. Linda was obviously a good-looking woman that got rejected about as often as it snows in Hawaii. I was on a mission and was a little short with my willingness to give people a 30
    • second chance. In my book, it either was or it wasn‟t, and Linda definitely wasn‟t getting a second date. The three dates definitely provided me with some input on where I was in the dating world. It was still up in the air if I was any closer to meeting my soul match then when I started. The one thing I was supremely confident in was that I would know her when I saw her. Being a fairy tale enthusiast, I believed that dreams do come true if you believe. I decided to alter my approach slightly for my next round of soulmatch.com searches. It seemed that native New Yorkers were rubbing me the wrong way, so I decided to expand my search to women that were born elsewhere but lived in New York. I had always been a fan of the Midwest and its healthy outlook on life, so I decided to focus on substance, not style. It was a cool, early spring night when Summer‟s picture flashed across my laptop screen. I must admit that I was a bit thrown by her name at first, but the sight of that blonde hair and those blue eyes made me fall in love all over again with my now favorite season. 31
    • Summer and I talked a few times before our scheduled Saturday afternoon date. The minute I heard her silky voice I was a goner – we talked for about four hours each time I picked up the phone and dialed her number – if you ask me now what we talked about, I don‟t have the slightest clue, but it really didn‟t matter. Hanging up the phone was nearly impossible; in fact, I called her back both times to say goodnight again once I reluctantly hung up after midnight. I felt totally at ease when I met Summer at her apartment on the upper West Side in New York City. She always saw the good in everyone and even lived in an area, 105th Street and Broadway that many people said was “evolving”. My eyes saw an area that must have been in the early stages of that evolution because I instantly wanted to rescue her. I took the elevator up to the seventh floor and walked right to apartment 7D. The door was open slightly but I still knocked and then said, “Hello? It‟s Brady.” She responded from another room, “Come on in. I‟ll be ready in a minute.” I walked around the large 32
    • studio apartment and smiled as I saw a few pictures of Summer and her family. Ten minutes later I was starting to get a bit edgy but still very excited to see Summer in the flesh. “Are you coming out today?” I asked her. The good vibes were bouncing around the apartment like a super ball launched against the floor. When she stepped out of the bathroom my life seemed to make sense – gaps between past lives were fused and we were together once again. From that moment on I could only imagine Summer in my life and being my life. Her face lit up like a rising sun as our eyes met before we hugged and kissed. I had so many discussions with women in the past about knowing when you met “the one”. No one really understood what I was talking about but I never doubted the goose bump sensation of true love. If you have to think about love, or grow to love someone, I‟m sorry to say that you‟re not in love. You might be in lust or in really good like, but true love never wanes in intensity. It was ironic that I showed up at Summer‟s doorstep that day with absolutely no plans for the day – once we met, it didn‟t really matter what we did as long as we were together. We walked through 33
    • Central Park and I smiled as we passed Tavern On the Green. Then we strolled through a bunch of street fairs before we stopped to get some dinner. Since we had been noshing all day, we both were hungry enough to eat Chinese food but too full to eat a heavy Italian meal. We were going to do take out but we happened to bump into Bill Hong‟s, Summer‟s favorite Chinese joint. The fact that we were nowhere near either one of our apartments led me to believe that she wanted to eat there all along. We ate like Chinese royalty largely due to Summer‟s new acquaintance, Mai, who kept the food coming for hours. We must have lost track of time because we had spent three hours in the restaurant talking and munching. We walked out of Bill Hong‟s, inhaled some polluted air, and hopped in a cab headed to the West Side. We stopped at Summer‟s apartment and she grabbed a few things in her apartment, before getting back in the cab and driving down to my apartment on 76 th and Columbus Avenue. There weren‟t any long conversations about the game plan after dinner – we both knew that it took so long for us to find each other and we would never be apart again. 34
    • SEVEN The Dune Road honeymoon lasted seven days and eight nights and tested the limits of all of our abilities to withstand extreme pleasure. I think we all learned that too much of a good thing goes against all conventional wisdom, and is a good thing. Aside from hearing Zack‟s stories about “banging the cocktail waitress” our honeymoons were intertwined in wedded bliss. Of course, Zack‟s idea of wedded bliss involved giving it to the cocktail waitress to reinforce his fragile manhood. One of the most memorable afternoons we spent together was afloat on the ocean, whale watching. Seeing these incredible beings powerfully cruise by was definitely a life-changing experience – the sheer fright and excitement of seeing a living thing of that size was exhilarating. We made trips together to the Tanger Outlet in Riverhead and spent a day sifting through the dense fog of Montauk, which is at the very end of Long Island. In some cities like San Diego, the morning fog eventually gives way to abundant sunshine. The fog in Montauk, however, is a completely different level of floating “pea soup”. You 35
    • have to drive about 20 miles per hour no matter where you go – by the time the late afternoon hit the fog had dissipated and we were able to take in some of the breathtaking water views. The week we spent together was more about relaxing and enjoying each other rather than getting to know the mundane details of our lives. There‟s something about being near the ocean that really takes the edge off – these were the years before couples became entrenched in the community and were re-set into separate clicks like they were back in high school. That‟s the incredible thing about getting married and having kids – people seem to regress back into their prior habits even though their collective wisdom should kick in at some point. The struggle to figure out life seems to overwhelm couples when they first get married. A career in flux is paralleled by an independent life that becomes joined with another person. These two people venture out on the journey of their lives and hopefully rely on each other for support and understanding, not judging and scorn. When Zack stopped talking long enough to eat some food, I had some good long talks with Wayne Aaronson. Summer and I 36
    • usually gravitate to people that need to talk and she was walking and talking with Kathy Aaronson about the same time I was with her husband. They were fresh off a weekend with all of their parents in one spot – in fact, we all needed some time to recover from the “too many parents in a small space” syndrome. Most couples have minimal interaction between the parents during their wedding interlude. The most dominant parents are usually the one‟s that kick in the most cash. If couples are lucky enough to throw their own wedding, much of the jockeying seems to be alleviated. But how many of us can afford to pay for our own weddings? I see a few scattered hands raised but the majority of us must rely on our parents to set the stage. This dependence hurls us into a regression that puts our parents back behind the wheel of our lives. Wayne had a traditional family that was pretty set on doing things the “conventional” way. Young Jewish kids are constantly prodded about the dangers of inter-faith marriage – like non-Jews have some serious Kooties, or transmit horrible diseases. If marrying someone from another faith was so serious why isn‟t there a Kootie 37
    • shot station at your local church, mosque, or temple? Index and middle fingers of both hands overlapped, forming a slot for another person‟s index finger to be cleansed from the dreaded Kooties epidemic. The whole thing makes no sense. I felt for Wayne and his struggle for personal independence. It wasn‟t so long ago that I had a thing for Irish and German girls and my parents were reading me the riot act. After devouring a bunch of books on the Holocaust in college, I decided that I wouldn‟t be the one to break the chain. So many people had struggled for me to be able to live a relatively peaceful existence that I concluded that I would marry someone within the faith. I did a lot of thinking about interfaith marriage, primarily because I was finding it so difficult to find a laid back Jewish woman free from a multitude of hang-ups. I also enjoyed with being with non-Jewish families because their relationships seemed to be a lot less complicated and twisted. The rose-colored glasses I was wearing certainly obscured my view of reality – I think I was just happy to be out of my tension-filled parents house and watch other people interact for a change. 38
    • Of the three other couples we met on our honeymoon, it would be easy for Summer and I to say that we had the most in common with Kathy and Wayne. They were obviously the most free-spirited of the bunch without going over the adulterous lines that Zack loved to cross. We were the two couples that seemed to fall in love at first sight – the pain of being without our other half forged a Crazy Glue - like bond between us. Wayne still had some guilt about marrying Kathy when he said, “I would do it all over again in a minute, but I wish the circus hadn‟t come to town.” Not only were Wayne‟s parents, Sidney and Barbara Aaronson, objecting to the wedding, but Reverend Calvin Lamb and his wife Mary also had their reservations. The mix of ethnicities produced a melting pot of different tastes and beliefs. Central to quieting all of this controversy should have been Wayne and Kathy‟s lover for each other. When you break it all down, true love is the defining leveler for any relationship. By “leveler”, I mean that it can boost a struggling couple up or drag a marginal couple down. 39
    • Wayne and Kathy‟s love for each other was not just steadfast it was obvious. That is why the initial connection between the four of us was so special – we all had felt true love and knew how to share it with people on the same level. We met up on the beach one afternoon, sat in the sand and talked about Wayne and Kathy‟s recent troubles. “My mom really hasn‟t stopped bugging me since the day I met Kathy” Wayne said in a frustrated tone. Kathy chimed in, “She hasn‟t been that great to me, either. Remember that time we went over your parents house for a barbeque, and she pulled me aside and asked me if I had ever seen a kosher hot dog? I was this close to saying, „Yeah, your son has a really nice one!‟” Summer stopped laughing and said, “Brady‟s mom has no borders. I went shopping with her once and she draped some clothes over the fitting room stall and then walked inside the dressing room when I was half naked.” “Did she look?” Kathy asked. 40
    • “C‟mon, do you think she‟d barge her way into a dressing room and not look at the goods?” “She took my temperature with a rectal thermometer until I was 12,” I said. “That‟s just wrong!” Wayne added. “I thought it was normal until I went down to the nurse‟s office one day to hand in a medical form. She had a thermometer in her hand and this eighth grade girl I knew was sitting in front of her. I was all ready to turn my back to give them privacy when she shook the thermometer quickly and stuck it in Wendy Crosby‟s mouth. My ass was both outraged and relived at the same time” I said. Wayne asked, “What happened the next time you weren‟t feeling well?” I replied, “My mom really doesn‟t wait for me not to feel well. She would ask me almost daily how I was feeling, like it was some Jewish mothering and smothering right of passage. She came at me with the thermometer and the jar of Vaseline and said I was fine and ran out of the house. I think a part of her died that day.” “The anal part?” Wayne joked. 41
    • “That must have been a real pain in the butt!” Kathy added. Summer piled on, “She‟s still always up your ass.” I leaned backward into the sand and looked up at the sky. Yes my mom has always been up my ass – that‟s probably why I have been able to keep it clean. I shot back at Summer, “I thought I saw your mother in the lobby earlier.” She was serious at first, “ Really? Brady, I‟m gonna‟ have to take your temperature if you don‟t behave!” “O.K.! O.K.! Got the message,” I quickly replied. “My mom used to rub my chest with Vapo-rub” Wayne announced. Kathy jumped in, “Hopefully, that was before we met.” “Yeah, a few years before,” Wayne replied. I sat up and looked at Wayne and then the girls, “What the hell is wrong with us. I may have permanent turtle action here!” “Damn, I just got that thing to come out of its shell!” Summer interjected. 42
    • EIGHT The great thing about the honeymoon week was that the eight of us could mix and match into so many different combinations. Aside from the normal guy talk and activities, I also played tennis with Mindy Kramer and talked finance with Amy Noble, who was a Certified Financial Planner and I analyze stocks. The tennis game with Mindy Kramer was interesting, to say the least. She was a strong player and had a real good idea about the game and where to place her shots. After she kicked my butt we sat on the grass and drank some Gatorade while talking about life, lechery, and the pursuit of fidelity. “You and Summer look good together,” Mindy said to start the conversation. “Yeah, she‟s amazing. Zack‟s a good guy, too,” I replied awkwardly. She asked, “What do you really think about Zack?” 43
    • “What do you mean?” I innocently replied trying to buy myself some time. “C‟mon Brady! You know what I‟m asking you. Do you think Zack can go straight?” I took a deep breath and replied, “I think Zack is a great guy! He‟s Zack and nothing anyone can do will ever change that. Your marriage will probably hinge on your ability to do your own thing.” “I bet you and Summer are never apart” she said. I took another deep breath, “Yeah, it pains me to be away from her.” “Even now?” “No, not until you mentioned it” I said as we got up and headed back to the resort. I knew that it would be difficult for Zack to “keep it in his pants”, but how do you say that to someone that just married him. For god‟s sake, the guy was having conjugal visits with the cocktail waitress on his honeymoon. Being a salesman, Zack would have many opportunities to be both out of town and out of reach. Mindy knew who Zack was when she first met him, but she couldn‟t avoid 44
    • the animal magnetism that existed between them. Where there is fire there is usually smoke that blinds any clear thoughts or vision. Life is interesting because people are all so different. Without a general standard of predictability, many of us wade through life with little more than the shirts on our backs. Living in New York does nothing to discourage people‟s curious and unpredictable nature – it‟s like living in a fish tank in the middle of Times Square. Your life is everyone‟s business in the Big Apple, but is the mundane details worth the trouble? Amy Noble thought so… Amy is your average, Long Island walking database. If you‟re lacking knowledge on a person, place, or thing Amy is an instant source of information. I was always amazed that Summer and I found the Dune Road Resort and picked it out over a dozen other hotels in the area. This entire selection process took us about an hour to complete – it took Amy Noble about eight hours to come to the same conclusion. The quickest decision Amy ever made was making sure that she secured Alan and threw away his dating key. By the end of their first date Amy had surmised that Alan was a suitable choice for marriage. 45
    • She even made him promise to call him the next morning at nine o‟clock for fear of waiting for the dreaded call back. True to Alan‟s pinpoint nature, Amy‟s phone range exactly as her digital clock flipped over to 9:00. She smiled after she thanked Alan for calling and again made him promise to call him that night. He liked her from the start, so he went along with her hook. I‟ll never forget the first time I sat down with the Noble‟s after the initial bonfire. It was mid-afternoon and our group had scattered between facials, biking, trail runs, and bonking the chambermaid. I found myself alone as Summer ventured out to the resort‟s spa – it was me and the Noble‟s sharing a snack on the terrace overlooking the beach. Let me preface my next remarks by saying that I have enjoyed cheese most of my life, although it seems to get harder and harder to digest it as I get older. There were only a few things on the resort‟s snack menu, so we opted for French fries and chicken fingers. Just as the waitress was about to walk away, Alan said, “Could you please put cheese on both of the orders.” 46
    • The waitress stared at Alan and said, “So, that‟s Cheese Fries and Cheese Fingers?” before he Alan could confirm the order, I interjected in true “Harry Met Sally” fashion, “Could you put the cheese on the side of the chicken fingers, please?” Melting cheese on food seemed such a foreign task to me at the time – aside from the occasional cheeseburger and grilled cheese sandwich, I had never ventured into melting cheese on any other foods aside from nachos. Jews have a long history of epic struggles against tyranny and lactose intolerance. I love most milk products and was pleasantly surprised when the waitress came back a minute later with our delicious looking snacks. I saw fireworks when the intense flavor of the cheddar cheese exploded in my mouth. The salty taste of the French fries complemented the sharp cheddar in such a way that I never knew existed. I have mixed a lot of things in my life, including different cereals and ice creams, but these Cheddar Fries were truly a treat to savor. Watching Amy Noble, the neatest person I know, diving into that gushing pile of food made me realize that everyone has a “release” side. She was always in control and rarely drank alcohol – 47
    • her vice must have been messy food that her pristine mother never let her eat. Sloppy Joe‟s, melting ice cream sundaes, greasy pizza, meatball heroes, and watermelon were just a few of Amy‟s favorite messy foods. Although she still couldn‟t eat any of these foods around her mother, for fear of “the stare”, she managed to eat her share away from the watchful eye of Gladys Klein. With dinner just a few hours away, the three of us decided to walk off some of that heavy, melted cheese on the beach. Amy and Alan didn‟t seem to be the beachy type – y‟know sand can be so intrusive and messy – but they walked barefoot with me along the shore anyway. I started the conversation knowing full well that I was the spark in this trio. All of the couples knew the basic information about each other, but it was time for me to rock the boat a little bit. “You guys have brothers and sisters? Alan jumped in, “Yeah, I have a little sister.” Amy reluctantly responded, “One brother and one sister.” It seemed like I was conducting a job interview and I knew the depth of the responses would be as shallow as a kiddy pool. 48
    • “How about you, Brady?” I said sarcastically to myself. I literally answered my own question, “Well Brady, nice of you to ask. I have an older brother and a younger sister.” Alan laughed but Amy seemed to be preoccupied, so I went for the more interesting mark. “Everything Ok, Amy?” I asked. Amy went off, “Yeah, I‟m still pissed off that my sister Gail decided to be such a bitch at our wedding. She‟ s such a jealous little „c-word‟. She even made a pass at Alan at our rehearsal dinner.” “No she didn‟t! Alan responded. “She nearly had her hand down the front of your pants!” Amy said in a bothered tone of voice. “I spilled wine on my lap and she gave me her napkin!” Alan replied. “How old is your sister?” I cut in the marital bliss to eases the tension. “She‟s 25 going on 35” Amy shot back. “I thought my family was bad?” I said 49
    • Amy jumped on the opportunity to steer the conversation away from her, “Why, what happened?” “Are you guys ready for this? I stopped walking and faced them both. They both nodded “yes” like two kindergarten kids waiting to listen to a story. “It all started when Summer and I got engaged. To say that my parents were upset when they heard the news would have been an understatement. My room at their house still had the signature brown paneling covering the walls – I think they were holding out hope that I would move back in one day.” “My room still has blue shag carpeting,” Alan said. “And you love that carpeting so much that you would have put it in our apartment” Amy replied. “My parents would have brought a date for me to my own wedding” I said being truthful but trying to keep the mood light. A fascinated look came over Amy‟s face as she asked me “Is it that they don‟t like Summer?” 50
    • I pondered that question for a minute and then replied, “I‟ve never gone out with a girl that they have liked – unless you consider that they worshipped them all when they were gone.” “Ok! So they want you all to themselves!” Amy summed it up. She then looked at Alan, “Just like your mother!” Alan turned to me and started to explain, “My mom was a little hard on Amy when we first met.” “A little hard? She made me clean the inside of a chicken and grate six potatoes about five minutes after I met her.” “Sort of like a Jewish obstacle course” I said trying to lighten the mood. “It was more like a half an hour” Alan said. Amy shot him a look that said, “One more word and you‟ll be sleeping on the beach.” There was one general theme I took away from that first week with my new friends - everyone had their issues. Life in its simplest form is an attempt to deal with and avoid potential impediments. Some families take dysfunction to lofty heights while other break apart like Oreos mixed in a blender. 51
    • Despite our differences we all became fast friends because of our travel circumstances. Being stranded on Dune Road wasn‟t so bad after all – it wasn‟t Hawaii, or the Bahamas, but it was a calming paradise right in our backyard. It‟s been a whole decade since our honeymoon escapade and we have stayed in touch throughout the majority of those 10 years. Here‟s a view of what we‟ve been up to in the last decade. 52
    • NINE Perhaps the best place to start would be immediately after we left the Dune Road Resort. It was hard for everyone to say goodbye – have you ever been at work and some genius comes up to you and asks, “So, how was your vacation?” What am I supposed to say in response? “I missed working every moment and waking up when it‟s dark!” Of course I had a good time away from the office – there really isn‟t much pressure associated with drinking a cold beer by the pool and deciding between surf or turf for dinner. The only couple that had a house waiting for them was Alan and Amy Noble. The rest of us lived in various apartments and town houses, scattered between New York City and Long Island. Planning was a staple in both the Noble and Klein households and tradition called for newly married couples to move into a new house once they returned from the honeymoon. It was family structure in its highest form. Summer and I went back to our apartment on 76th and Columbus and it wasn‟t long before we started missing the roaring 53
    • sound of the surf. After another year of wear and tear in the city and we were ready to spread our wings into the suburbs. I had commuted from Long Island into the city for a few years when I lived with my parents after college. When my kids go to college I‟m going to make it perfectly clear to them that the door only swings one way. You go to college to learn how to fend for yourself – coming home and sponging off your parents does more damage than good. The housing choice came down to cramped, overpriced quarters on the west end of the island, versus vast, affordable spaces further out east. I‟m a big guy and I need my space, so we opted for the less developed area of Long Island. Of course, my commute went from a leisurely 25 minutes to nearly two hours. The Long Island Rail Road is what you make of it – I always appreciated the time that I was able to relax and read, write, or just flat out pass out for an hour. I‟ll never forget the day we decided to move out of Manhattan. We were walking out of the Beacon Theatre on 74th and Broadway after grooving through a Chaka Khan concert. There is always a decent amount of people walking through the city streets at night, but some of the side streets can be a little dark and creepy. 54
    • We were in the middle of a block adorned with Brownstones when this guy came out of the area where most people put their garbage and stood right in front of us. I didn‟t really know what to expect at that point – would he pull a gun or a knife, or would he simply just soil himself? The rather large white man that impeded our path had a dirty face with a scruffy beard, and he wore a battered Yankees hat. The homeless man‟s skin was worn by the elements and so were his clothes. If you‟ve ever been in New York City, especially the Upper West Side, you‟ll know that the sidewalks are fairly narrow. In comparison to Fifth Avenue, where the sidewalks are as wide as people‟s dreams, the walkways on the West Side can accommodate one or two people at a time. Impediments like tree planters, fire hydrants and the myriad of street signs tend to block the flow of progress. The man, let‟s call him “Jimmy”, had a scowl on his face the minute we locked eyes. At first I was nervous about being confronted, but once the adrenaline kicked in I was ready to rumble 55
    • at any time. Summer clutched onto my arm, although I later told her that she probably could have kicked Jimmy‟s ass if she had to. Jimmy‟s bloodshot eyes were locked with my eyes for at least five seconds – it seemed like five minutes at the time, though. Jimmy then slowly reached into his inside left coat pocket and pulled out an object that I couldn‟t see right away. Once he moved the object near his chest, the dim light from the street lamp revealed something that looked like a switchblade. I thought to myself, “That‟s not good.” Just as I was deciding whether we should run or I should knock him out, Jimmy flicked open the switchblade and then used the comb to reinforce his slicked back hair. He looked at Summer and said, “Hey, I‟m The Fonz!” as he stuck his right thumb out. He then put his comb back in his pocket and simply walked away from us. It took us a few minutes to process everything that happened. One minute we were going to be accosted by a homeless man and the next we seemed to be in the presence of Arthur Fonzerlli from the TV show “Happy Days”. Although I always loved Henry Winkler‟s portrayal of “The Fonz”, I couldn‟t help but thing that there was an appropriate time and place for everything. 56
    • I turned to Summer and said, “What the hell was that?” She replied, “I‟m not sure. What planet are we on?” We started walking toward our apartment, holding hands and staring straight into the blur of headlights. “We gotta‟ get out of this jungle” Summer turned and said. I replied, “Yeah, and “The Fonz” looks a lot different in person.” 57
    • TEN Zack Kramer did a lot of traveling in the months following the honeymoon. The Kramer‟s lived in a small apartment in the town of Great Neck, Long Island. The commute from Great Neck into Manhattan was only about 35 minutes, but Zack tended to use the commuting time to his advantage. Being a salesman enabled him to make his own hours and work when he had to. This both troubled Mindy and gave her the freedom to thrive in her job as a prosecuting attorney with the Nassau County District Attorney‟s Office. Amy was as tough as a bulldog and everyone in her office knew it. At 30 years old, she had become the “go-to guy” when a tough case came through. Zack, on the other hand, was on the road more than he was in the office. You would have thought for all of his time on the road that he would always be the top salesman in his company. His expense accounts were usually quite large and his sales were mostly near the bottom of the top third. This balance between expenses and sales caused Zack to switch jobs every few years. He would show companies his best face 58
    • in the first few months and lead in sales production. Just about the time the corporate honchos loosened their belt and gave Zack a bigger expense account, he switched into high expense, mediocre production mode. Lavish dinners with women instead of clients got Zack in hot water at work and wedged some distance between he and his wife. Mindy was so driven at work that she had little time to think of Zack and his traveling show. It wasn‟t long before she was getting offers from some of the major law firms in the area and, after resisting the urge to practice private law for six months, she eventually signed on with the firm of Portman & Barrow for a six- figure salary plus bonuses. She had become the breadwinner of the family and Zack wanted nothing to do with it. It was a few months before Zack even knew that she had accepted the job. He was home for a change and noticed that she was wearing a new pinstripe suit. He commented, “Since when are you dressing like a corporate attorney?” She replied, “Since I became one two months ago.” Summer and I went out with Zack and Amy one night about two years after we met on the honeymoon. I could feel a weird vibe 59
    • the minute we met them at the restaurant. It was obvious from the angry look in both of their eyes that they had been fighting. The smell of smoke was fresh in the air and we had a duty to become fire fighters for a night. I knew the night would be difficult a few days before we even met. Even agreeing on a place to eat had become a major deal. I heard “seafood, Italian, Steakhouse, and Thai” before we somehow settled on Chinese. Maybe the Kramer‟s figured their arguments would not be understood as well by people that primarily spoke another language? On the other hand, the universal language of anger is a lot easier to understand than the universal language of love. During that night at Dragon Palace, it was easy to see between the Pork Fried Rice, Egg Rolls, and Wonton Soup that all was not copasetic in the Kramer household. Mindy talked about buying a house and Zack appeared to be completely emasculated by the whole process. He was not a modern man capable of letting his wife “bring home the majority of the bacon”. We tried to calm the fire between the Kramer‟s but were about as unsuccessful as feeling full an hour after a Chinese meal. Mindy 60
    • started house shopping shortly after our night out and it wasn‟t long before she found one that she liked. The house was in Merrick, New York, which was the adjacent better-looking cousin to Bellmore. Zack said that he wanted to live in Bellmore but Mindy had an itch to climb a little. “What‟s the matter, Bellmore‟s not good enough for you anymore? Zack asked Mindy. She replied, “Would you stop feeling sorry for yourself! We‟re moving to Merrick whether you like it or not!” Zack didn‟t like it… he even waited to the last second to move into the new house. She hired a mover and lived in the new house while Zack stayed in their townhouse an extra week until the end of the month. He then traveled for another week before finally entering the new house. Mindy barely noticed that he wasn‟t there – their marriage had hit the skids. 61
    • ELEVEN The tug of war never seemed to fade for Kathy and Wayne Aaronson. After they were married the pressure to move down south and the opposing pull to live in Huntington, Long Island, was strong. Neither side would loosen its grip nor both families had dug themselves a firm spot in the sand. They came out to visit us in the new house one weekend and were amazed at both the size of our house and the acre of land that surrounded it. The neighborhood was growing and the new schools were being built to accommodate the population explosion. Setauket, New York was a laid back, seaside town in Suffolk County. In addition to having a college in the area, the University of Stoneybrook, the area was home to the diverse Three Village system. Stoneybrook, Setauket, and Hauppauge had pooled resources to offer upgraded amenities to its residents. Summer and I loved living in Setauket and were glad to show Karen and Wayne around. They were so impressed with the area that they wound up putting a deposit on a new house in our Village 62
    • Shores subdivision. It appeared that the thought of the Aaronson‟s living anywhere near family made both of their stomach‟s churn into a cyclone. They didn‟t want to live alone so they barely hesitated when they came to see us – we had always supported Wayne and Kathy and our relationship always was strong. They moved into a house four doors down from us six months later and we were rarely ever apart after that. 63
    • TWELVE There were many times during the last 10 years that the guys came to me with life questions. When I looked into the mirror I didn‟t see a conventional wise man with a long, gray beard – what I did see was a person who was willing to listen and try to help his friends in need. Summer was also called upon by Mindy, Amy, and Kathy to sort out many marital traffic jams. Life in suburbia can be really tough, especially when the boredom of your mundane existence takes over. Most people won‟t admit when they are in over their heads either financially or socially. We were all sold the tale of buying the house with the white picket fence, spitting out a couple of kids, and living happily ever after. I never really had the slightest idea what “cheating” was all about. All right, let me clear the air a minute – yes, I have transgressed and peaked at a neighbors paper during a test, and I have been known to bring in the tightly written cheat sheet that I slid under my test paper – but cheating on a woman was a somewhat new 64
    • topic for me. I once overlapped two girls in college – one was on the way in and the other was on the way out – but the feeling of nausea seeing them walking together one morning was too much for me to stomach. Being sneaky and dishonest either will take its toll on a couple, or they will grow so far apart that living in the same house is merely an exercise in logistics. I loved talking to Zack Kramer not because he told juicy stories, but because I knew there had to be a caring human being underneath all of that adultery. He seemed more concerned with running away than staying put and dealing with his life, but I knew there had to be more than what was being seen or heard. Zack always wanted to meet me at a bar to talk but I would always push him off that idea and toward quieter locations. I felt that nothing would ever be gained if he and I went to a bar – smoke, alcohol, women – these were the things that got him into trouble in the first place. Zack knew what he was doing when he guided me to the Bellmore Bowl. Bowling alleys seem innocent at first glance, but under further investigation it becomes apparent that a bowling alley 65
    • is a bar with balls, pins, and blowing hand air. Come to think of it, bars also have plenty of balls hanging around pins of all lengths and shapes. There was definitely a technique to picking up women in a bowling alley. I‟m sure that I would have figured it out after a few weeks of foot fungus and burnt hamburgers, but Zack gave me the two-hour crash course. The man is a walking infomercial; there is no denying that! I met Zack outside the Bellmore Bowl, just off beautiful Bellmore Avenue. If you‟ve never been down Bellmore Avenue it‟s about as forgettable as your locker combination. For all of you out there that right your locker combination on a piece of paper, it really defeats the purpose of keeping it private when other people can get to it. Bellmore Avenue is lined with low-rise stores as far as the stigmatism can see – the transition from predominantly mom and pop stores to retail chain stores is also in full swing. Zack could have met me inside but he looked like he wanted to be spotted while meeting me in front of the alley. With so many yentas in Bellmore, they would be more than happy to talk about the 66
    • suspicious meetings of Zack Kramer. He stayed away from Bellmore women, preferring to prey on the innocence and loneliness of women in other towns and states. Although he suspected that Mindy knew what he was up to – hell, half of the free-speaking world knew what he was up to – he wasn‟t going to flaunt it in her face. The road was his world and he was comfortable with leading a separate life away from Long Island. We walked toward the front desk and a large man with a moustache, who looked like a walrus with legs, started walking toward us. Just as he was getting ready to talk a woman cut him off and said, “I got this one, Doug.” “Can I help you gentlemen?” the shapely forty-something woman said as she picked up the shoe spray in her right hand. I muttered under my breath, “There goes the ozone layer.” Zack chuckled as he said in his best sales voice, “We‟ll have two of your finest lanes and a couple of pairs of shoes.” She smiled and leaned over the counter exposing her overmatched bra. She looked Zack over and said, “You look like a size 10 ½.” Zack shot back, “Eleven.” “Well, you must be packing a little extra down there” she said as she 67
    • looked at his crotch. She threw a size 13 pair of shoes on the counter and barely acknowledged my existence. She got my size right without looking at me with those prying eyes – her accent smelled of “off the beaten path” with a slight Southern, white trash drawl. Zack was shameless when it came to flirting. I remember he asked one of the waitresses on the honeymoon, “What‟s your cup size?” When she shyly giggled he said, “I bet you I could guess by putting my hand around your right breast. I won‟t even touch you – I‟ll give you a 40% tip if I‟m wrong.” She came back with his drink and leaned over, offering her right breast for further evaluation. This action came on a night when the women and the men split up to eat separate meals. Zack smiled at us as he rubbed his hands together and cupped his left hand around her ample right breast. I took a big gulp of my beer as Zack finished air-caressing – he looked up at her and wagged his right index finger, telling her he wanted to whisper his findings in her ear. He whispered and she blushed and clumsily walked away from the table. Wayne looked at Zack and said, “What do you say?” Zack got up from his chair and replied, “I‟ll tell you when I come back from 68
    • the bathroom.” I looked at Alan Noble and said, “I didn‟t even try that crap when I was single!” Alan replied, “If I tried that now, Amy would cut my balls off.” We all grimaced as Wayne added, “Kathy‟s pretty handy with an axe. She chopped some wood once when we went skiing upstate.” Zack came back from the bathroom about ten minutes later. He was buttoning a few of the middle buttons on his shirt as he walked back to our table. “What the hell did you say to that girl? Wayne asked Zack. “It wasn‟t so much what I said to her as what I did to her” Zack said with a sly smile. “Yeah, but I have to know what you said to her to get her in the bathroom?” Wayne pressed on. Just then the smiling waitress returned to the table with a round of drinks and a few appetizers. “This round‟s on me boys” she said. As she walked away I could see part of her black skirt was tucked into her black stockings. We all looked over at Zack and he said, “34C. Meet me in the bathroom.” The action at the bowling alley seemed to be pretty tame and lame until Zack pushed the button in the image of a waitress. I expected this manly woman to come from behind the counter sporting 69
    • a moustache and a perm. Instead, a woman in a miniskirt came out from inside of the bar/lounge. Just about every older bowling alley has one of these dimly lit rooms next to the snack bar. Why you need a lounge in a place where you play a sport is beyond me. It‟s not as if lounges are prevalent around other sporting events – baseball and football fields and basketball and tennis courts have all survived these years without locating a bar nearby. There must be something about bowling that elicits its participants to drink alcohol and eat really bad food. A low-cut shirt-wearing waitress with the nametag “Connie” strolled over to our lane. She pulled a pencil out of her ample bleach- blonde hair and said, “Can I get you anything, gentlemen?” Connie had this horse voice like she screamed at her eight kids and smoked cigarettes until her lungs collapsed at the end of the day. I looked at Zack fully knowing that he intended to start the conversation. What the hell was I going to say anyway? “Yeah, hi Connie. Can you please get me a Coke and a burger?” Zack always knew his audience and never failed to elicit the appropriate response. He looks the waitress over and says, “So Connie. Does it taste as 70
    • good as it looks?” I was just about to say, “Dude, what the hell are you talking about?” but Connie beat me to the punch, “Oh honey, this here will keep you coming back for seconds.” I sat there thinking that my spaceship must have left me off in the wrong galaxy. Do people really talk like this in the real world, because I have seen a few movies and cheesy television programs where people converse this way. She brushed against Zack and left without taking our order. We started to bowl and I asked myself an important question: “Why am I using a ball and shoes that everyone and their smelly cousin have used?” It‟s pretty disgusting when you think about it – the sharing of equipment, especially more personal equipment is usually saved only for school districts and their tight budgets. Adults that are serious about bowling get their own shoes and ball – the rest of us are resigned to swim in a sea of fungal discontent. Enough of my germ warfare… Connie came back a few minutes later with a few beers and a plate of nachos. Once again, Zack had gotten us free food and drinks on the house. I think Connie was hoping that Zack would be on her at some point that evening; he 71
    • obliged between the first and second games. He had obviously spent a great deal of time in the bowling alley because he easily beat me 187 to 143. I then got to play a game by myself while Zack was playing with Connie in the office behind the lounge. I rolled a satisfying 168 while Zack rolled Connie to and from her back. Come to think of it, I can‟t remember a time when Zack didn‟t sleep with someone every time we went out. The guy was a master at having sex in public places – I never understood this because I need room to take care of my business. I‟m not claustrophobic but tight spaces really don‟t mesh well with my large frame. Zack must have been some kind of contortionist having relations with a bunch of gymnasts because they all seemed satisfied. It was obviously a rocking 15 minutes for Connie because she brought us hamburger platters a few minutes after Zack returned to the lane. We sat there eating and I asked Zack, “How do you do it?” He looked at me with confident eyes and replied, “It‟s like taking matzah from a Egyptian.” What the hell was he talking about? Maybe Pharaoh‟s like Matzah? It‟s possible that their intestines are 72
    • flowing a bit too freely and they need to put an immediate cork in the system. That‟s what eating cardboard is all about! I knew Zack was trying to avoid my real question so I kept trying to reach him. “No, how can you do it to Mindy? And don‟t give me details of your sex life. Just talk to me about your relationship.” The shape of his face changed like he had been morphed into another person. Although it was disturbing to see the anguish in Zack‟s face, it was nonetheless refreshing to see him step off the stage for a change. “We barely talk” he said with his head lowered. “We live in the same house but we lead completely separate lives.” I asked for it and once I heard the words it was hard for me to respond. Zack took a sip of beer and then continued, “She does make a lot of money, though.” My eyebrows literally raised and I nodded, “There is that.” As a practical, unlicensed therapist, I have come across a lot of people with issues that seem to be way beyond their control. There are times when people are not ready to deal with the problems that confront them; at that point, trying to talk it out is basically 73
    • pointless. I wasn‟t sure at the time what Zack‟s deal was, but I was his friend and his lack of internal fortitude was not going to deter me. 74
    • THIRTEEN One early summer afternoon I decided to meet Alan Noble for a little golf and relaxation. Now, I have to paint a picture of Alan Noble so you can better understand his tight mind. Alan‟s about as relaxed as a guard dog – he tends to plan just about everything, and the things that he doesn‟t plan, his wife Amy makes sure he stays on task. Three to four hours of golf for Alan is like 7 years to a dog. Or is that one year to a dog is like a day of golf for Alan? The point is that leisure time to Alan Noble is balancing his checkbook or cleaning his garage. Leisure time to me is smacking a small white ball around and then getting back in a golf cart and driving around like a maniac. It always takes Alan at least five or six holes just to be present with me on the same golf course. We both worked in Manhattan and usually got a half day at least once a month on Friday‟s. However, the mad dash home seemed to impact Alan a lot more than it did me. I used my train time to slow down my roll and get into full weekend 75
    • mode. This meant leaving behind all of the crap and anxiety of the workweek. The cell phone Alan had attached to his belt made sure that he could take his work everywhere. When I left my office the work stayed on my desk and nobody usually bugged me when I was gone. Except for vacations, when something inevitably popped up, afternoon golf was usually an uninterrupted activity. Holes seven through nine were usually consumed by small talk about business. I‟m not usually a big talker about my work life but it seemed to be the only way to establish an initial connection with Alan. By the time we reached the back nine I could usually get a few curse words out of him and I eventually hit the mother load as we hit the snack bar at the 13th hole. “I loved that resort we stayed at on our honeymoon,” I said trying to get him to smile. “I got something to tell you once we get back to the cart,” he replied as he ducked into the bathroom. Since he got me a hot dog and a drink on the front nine, I reciprocated and bought him the same this time around. I‟m sure he 76
    • was disappointed at the lack of melted cheese at the stand, but he settled for a mustard packet instead. He settled into the passenger side of the golf cart and took a big bite out of his hot dog. We were waiting for the group in front of us to finish putting on the par three green, so we had a few minutes to shoot the breeze. “So what‟s the big news,” I said trying to jump-start the conversation. “Well, it‟s sort of related to the honeymoon” he replied. I was waiting to hear another “Did you know that Zack slept with” story, but I was pleasantly surprised to have the coin flipped on me for a change. “I never told any of you that Mindy and I went on a few dates when we were in our early twenties,” Alan stated. He continued as I stuffed my face with my hot dog, “She was a real spark plug back then.” I continued to wait for the impact of boredom to set in as I gulped down a little orange Gatorade. “I slept with her twice before we stopped seeing each other.” 77
    • I nearly chocked on the last section of my hot dog as it cleared the pipe down my throat. “Did you say that you slept with Mindy Kramer? I questioned him. “No I didn‟t sleep with Mindy Kramer. I slept with Mindy Orenstein.” He sarcastically corrected me. “You sly son-of-a-bitch! You look all conservative with those small wire-framed glasses, when there is a boiling volcano simmering just under the surface there” I said as I pointed to his chest. “How did you withhold information like that?” “She and I never really talked about it after that. Even when we saw each other on the honeymoon, it was like two old friends meeting again” Alan explained. The two guys finished putting on the green and we got up from the cart and prepared to hit our balls in the water that surrounded the green. Alan, feeling like an elephant swinging its gigantic balls, stepped up to the tee and whacked his ball on the edge of the green. I was thinking about anything but golf by that point and sliced the ball in the middle of the lake. I then put another ball down and hit it in almost the same spot. 78
    • I shook my head and turned back to Alan, “Does Amy know?” I hit the next ball in the sand in the back of the green and then picked up my tee and strolled back to the cart. “What do you think?” Alan asked me. “It probably wouldn‟t be received so well.” I said as I drove the cart toward our balls. Telling Amy Noble about something of this magnitude would be like lighting a torch in the middle of a fireworks factory. What would Alan gain by telling Amy that he slept with a friend of theirs years ago before they even met. It would take years of damage control for Alan to get himself out of the doghouse and back into his cage inside the house. I must admit that I never saw that coming. How would you ever think of pairing Mindy Kramer and Alan Noble together? She was a dynamic little ball of fire and he was a conservative, rule- keeping adult. In fable terms, he was the tortoise and she was the hare. Alan also told me that he decided not to see her anymore and that she was very upset with his decision. Maybe I had misjudged Alan Noble after seeing him guided around by his wife. Or maybe, just maybe, I had overestimated Mindy Kramer. After all, she put up 79
    • with all of Zack‟s shit and barely batted an eye as he continued to sleep around. Summer and I share just about everything. I didn‟t even have to promise Alan that I wouldn‟t blab about him; at least not beyond the confines of my house. He knew I would tell Summer and we would chew on the details of this torrid affair for some time to come. I walked through the garage that night and Summer greeted me in the kitchen. We kissed and hugged for a few minutes and then I said, “That was an interesting round of golf.” “How‟s Alan doing? Was he able to relax this time? Summer asked me. I looked at her, nodded my head yes, and started to smile, “Oh yeah, he really let loose about the 13th hole. You better sit down for this one.” She sat down at the kitchen table and I stood across from her on the other side of the table. “Alan dated Mindy Kramer before he met Amy.” “Sorry to burst your bubble big guy, but I already knew that,” Summer said. “Who told you”? I asked. 80
    • “Mindy told me one afternoon on the honeymoon.” Summer stated. I continued, “Did you know that they slept together a few times?” Summer‟s eyes opened wide and she exploded in laughter, “No way! She didn‟t tell me that!” “And this is the best part – he broke up with her!” I exclaimed. Summer nearly fell to the floor when I broke that news to her. As much time as we had spent with our honeymoon friends, there was still much to learn about all of them. It had only been a few years since we met and seemingly the best was yet to come. 81
    • FOURTEEN Wayne Aaronson is one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. His family was into dry cleaning and he had taken the business to the next level. Wayne‟s dad occasionally bought a rundown house, fixed it up, and then sold the property for a decent profit. I spent a lot of time with Wayne outside in our gardens when the weather was nice and inside doing projects when the white stuff blanketed the landscape. Since I had come from a family that was about as handy as a pet rock, the ability to do things with my hands was incredibly satisfying. Before I met Wayne, the only thing I did with my hands was break things. My hands did have a certain skill for pleasing women and I also have decent penmanship, but I would not have considered myself handy. People that aren‟t handy are just lazy – there‟s no two ways about that. It takes effort to get things done and most people would rather sit on a couch and eat potato chips than paint a room or cut the grass. I would rather sit on the couch and do nothing but the pull 82
    • is too strong to get things done. It‟s not a burden – it should be a labor of love or the final result will be impacted. I spent my life working hard but I wasn‟t focused. Meeting and hanging out with Wayne gave me a completely new outlook on things. While I always cut my own grass and planted every flower and shrub in my garden, the inside of my house was often neglected. It was a case of use something until you beat it into the ground; upkeep was never one of my strong suits. Summer and I went over to Wayne and Kathy‟s house for a barbeque one Sunday afternoon. Kathy‟s Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bruce were also invited because they were in for the weekend visiting his parents. Shirley was a 50 year-old mother of two that dressed like she was 16. Both of her kids were in college and she must have been having the female version of a mid-life crisis. Going over Kathy and Wayne‟s house was always so comfortable for me until that day. That woman didn‟t leave me alone from the time she stepped into the house until I abruptly excused myself before desert. Shirley would have been better off spending the 83
    • day with gal-pal Laverne than prodding me like I was a melon at the supermarket. Kathy introduced me to Aunt Shirley, who was wearing a pair of really short tennis skirt and a shirt with a center cutout that was obviously a few sizes too small. Her milk-producing breasts were on display and I was trying to avoid the gaze for fear of losing my appetite. She was on me like flypaper and I was feeling cheap and used. She made about 40 comments about how big and strong I was – that would have been all right by itself, but the accompanying touching and messaging was a serious invasion of space. She rubbed her breasts against my back as I was sitting in a chair, then she stood in front of me and leaned against me. I was waiting for her to hump my leg but the Aaronson‟s Jack Russell Terrier, Brandy, beat her to it. I kept asking Summer to help me but she found the whole thing rather amusing. I didn‟t want to say anything to Kathy and Wayne at the time because they were entertaining these people. After dinner I made up some lame excuse about not feeling well and Aunt 84
    • Shirley came over and tried to rub my tummy. I said a quick goodbye, grabbed Summer‟s hand and got the hell out of there. A few days later Wayne and I were hanging out and working in his garden and I said, “Dude, what the hell is up with Aunt Shirley?” “I saw that she was working you over pretty good,” Wayne stated. I looked at him with a puzzled “Why didn‟t you help me?” expression. “She did the same thing to me when I first met her, but she was much hotter then” Wayne announced. “What? Are you kidding me? Are you saying that you enjoyed that kind of handling?” I asked. “Her nipples were pointing right at me that day and Kathy and I were under pressure and fighting. She even grabbed my balls at one point!” “No fuckin‟ way!” I yelled, gesturing with my flailing arms. “That women grabbed your balls? What did you do?” Wayne smiled and replied, “I gave into it and enjoyed it.” 85
    • I ran around the backyard not knowing what to think. “We need more topsoil to plant these flowers in the hanging baskets. Let‟s go to „The Depot‟.” We got into his SUV and the disturbing conversation continued: “She really grabbed your balls?” I continued the questioning. “It was more like a massage than a grab” he replied. I opened the window to get a little air and the said, “What? You let that woman massage your balls?” “We were sitting at the dining room table eating dinner and she must have slipped off her shoe and…” “Whoa! We‟re getting to the too much information region!” I exclaimed. “Are you jealous?” I shook my head, “Get the fuck out „a here! I was jealous the other night of you when you were free from the clutch and grab tactics of Aunt Shirley!” 86
    • Wayne shot back, “Dude, what was I going to say? Aunt Shirley, please stop massaging my balls with your foot. Or, Kathy could you tell your aunt to remove her foot from my crotch.” “Why didn‟t you just excuse yourself from the table?” I innocently asked. Wayne pulled into a space in the Home Depot parking lot and put the car in park and turned off the engine. He looked over at me and pushed his sunglasses down so I could see his eyes. We got out of the car and silently walked away from the dirt to step in the store to get some soil. Wayne said he couldn‟t get up from the table because he couldn‟t fully extend his frame from the chair – if he had access to a serving tray or a large bowl he could have concealed his obvious excitement. But, the magic right foot of Aunt Shirley had pumped up his organ and left him paralyzed in his chair. We threw some bags of dirt into the cart and started walking to the checkout counter. As usual, there were lines of at least five or six people so I continued the dialogue. “That was the only time she did that, right?” 87
    • Wayne shook his head in disbelief that I even asked that question. “I was happy to see that she was swarming around you the other day. She really likes fresh meat.” “Fresh meat. That woman should be tagged and caged” I replied. “Dude, I think she and Uncle Bruce are swingers” Wayne said in a soft tone. The people around us on line were oblivious. I could have told someone their ass was on fire and watched them burn. These people were so focused on the job they were about to do that they had absolutely no attention span for even random conversations about swingers. “Swingers? What the hell are you talking about? I shot back. “What the hell is a swinger anyway?” “Y‟know, couples that sleep with other couples” Wayne explained. “Don‟t tell me that you and Kathy are swingers, too, because that would completely fuck up my day.” 88
    • Wayne quickly replied, “Nah. The closest I‟ve come is Aunt Shirley.” I felt a chill run down my spine at the thought of that woman again. We finally got up to the checkout girl and we paid and I rolled the cart toward Wayne‟s car. “Did you ever talk to Kathy about her aunt?” I had to ask. “Nah, what‟s there to talk about? It‟s so obvious that having a discussion about it would be a waste of time,” Wayne answered. “Well, warn me next time that woman crosses the state line and I‟ll go into hiding.” Wayne looked at me as he was opening the car doors and said, “I guess next time she‟ll be playing footsy with me again.” 89
    • FIFTEEN Summer also had her interesting meetings with the honeymoon girls. She drove up Island one morning to meet Mindy Kramer in Merrick. Mindy had secured a guest pass for Summer to work out at her health club. It was a rare day off for the women that her fellow lawyers called “The Closer”. If a case needed to be completed, or closed, then Mindy would be called in from the bullpen and she would put out the fire and win the case for the client. The only way to slow down Mindy Kramer was to speed her up. On the surface this seems like a contradiction in terms, but she was a tale of two women. On the one hand, you had this woman who was strong and independent in her professional life. You‟d be hard pressed to find another woman that was so comfortable and revered in the workplace. But on the other hand, she was an insecure wife that rarely was comfortable around her man and really didn‟t have Zack‟s respect. Mindy and Summer each climbed aboard stair machines and they were off to climbing and buttocks-firming hell. The only 90
    • conversation I would have had on one of those things would be to ask where the stop button was. Summer started the conversation off with some light and fluffy talk. “So, how is work?” “Work is great. I just won a big case and they rewarded me with a company car,” Mindy replied. “What kind of car?” Summer asked. “Well, it was a big case so they leased me a Mercedes,” a smirking Mindy said. “Wow! That‟s great! “ Summer said in a congratulatory tone. “Yeah, I just wish things were as smooth at home as they are at work,” Mindy confided. “You guys having problems?” Mindy nodded, “Yeah, our whole marriage has been one big problem after another. But the real problem is that we‟ve stop fighting.” “Why is that a problem?” Summer asked. “Because we‟ve pretty much stopped communicating all together,” Mindy stated. 91
    • “Oh, I‟m sorry to hear that. How long has that been going on?” Mindy hesitated for a few seconds and then said, “It‟s been a few months. Zack is on the road more than he is home and I work late hours during the week. He came back last weekend and I was barely home because I was working on that big case.” Summer kept walking with her head down because she didn‟t know what to say. What Mindy had on her mind wouldn‟t take a few words to sum up – she and Zack needed months of therapy just to open the lines of communication again. “I hear that you really went out with Alan Noble?” Summer said trying to raise the mood and change the subject. “Yes, but that‟s another sore subject,” Amy said looking irritated. “I‟m sorry, I didn‟t mean to bring you down. Was he someone that you really liked?” Summer said trying to dig out of the hole. “At the time I dated him, I thought he was the one,” Mindy gushed. 92
    • “Now, we‟re talking about the same Alan Noble that was on the honeymoon with his wife Amy?” Summer said. “You‟d be surprised. You gotta‟ watch out for those quiet one‟s,” Mindy said in a playful tone. Mindy continued, “I thought Alan was my match until I met Zack. I‟m just wondering now how I could have been so wrong?” Summer tried another angle, “Have you tried to talk to him?” “Every time I try to talk to him I yell. There‟s obviously a lot of resentment there. It seems the more successful I get at work the less I need Zack to validate me. I also think his macho, Mr. Man attitude takes a hit because I make a lot more money than him. It seems the more money I make the less money he brings home. I think his confidence is shot and I take a lot of blame for that. He made me so miserable with his lack of respect for me that I took pleasure in burying him deeper and deeper.” Summer‟s eyes widened and she took a deep breath from the stress. There was no answer that she could come up with that would justify a married couple treating each other so poorly. After all, she loved me as much as I loved her and we hated parting every morning 93
    • and going to work. A life without Summer would be a hole that I could never fill. When Summer and Mindy finished their workouts, they met up at the Smoothie Bar and sipped down a few healthy fruit drinks. Somehow the walking was a lot easier then the talking on this day. She could feel the pain in Mindy‟s heart and really didn‟t have a solution to fix it. Summer has focused most of her life on trying to fix people but she was stumped about the Mindy/Zack divide. “I think I‟m going to file for a separation,” Mindy said in a professional tone. “Are you sure?” Summer replied trying to be supportive. “Not that a legal document would make any difference. For all intents and purposes we‟ve been separated for a few years now. I might just wait because filing for a separation really won‟t change my life at all right now. If it becomes more difficult I‟m definitely going to show him the door.” “It‟s sad to hear you say that, but I‟m for whatever will make you happy,” Summer said. “Did he ever try to get you in the sack?” Mindy asked Summer. 94
    • “I‟m not sure that there is a woman on this planet that he hasn‟t made a pass at,” Summer said sarcastically. “So, what did you say to him?” Mindy questioned. Summer leaned closer to Mindy and whispered, “Zack, if you value your life I would refrain from talking to me like that again. Brady and I tell each other everything. I don‟t think you want to get the big guy mad. I once saw him break a two-by-four over his leg when he was real upset.” The girls laughed for the first time all day and Mindy had one more question, “Did you tell Brady about what Zack tried to do?” Summer‟s broad smile turned to a more serious look as she replied, “I didn‟t have to.” 95
    • SIXTEEN Lunch with Amy Noble always reminded Summer of her brief speed dating experience. Amy always gave you as much time as she had – at least as much time as she had in her highly scheduled day. Being a real estate agent should have given her the personal freedom to be a little more leisurely at times, but this wasn‟t her nature. She must have looked at her watch 40 or 50 times during the 48-minute lunch. Summer worked for a foundation that gave donated its time and money to worthy causes. It was up to Summer to find those companies or individuals that could turn the money into growing human capital. It was an early fall day, which meant that it was still warm enough to eat outside on the patio of J. Simpleton‟s Restaurant. Summer marveled at how Amy could talk that much and still fit a Caesar Salad down her throat. “Have you and Brady ever talked about having kids?” Amy asked Summer, who briefly gagged on her ice tea. 96
    • Summer cleared her throat and then responded, “Excuse me. Brady loves kids and so do I, but we were going to wait until we were a little more financially set before we bring a little person into the world.” Amy put her fork down to signify that she was done munching for a few minutes. She looked around like she was about to convey a national secret and said, “Alan and I have started trying.” Her smile seemed to light up the entire room as Summer had a wait a few seconds for the statement to sink in. “Oh, you‟re trying!” She then said under her breath, “That sounds like fun.” “There‟s a lot more to getting pregnant than just having sex” Amy stated like she had won a Nobel Prize for baby making research. Summer squinted in one of those looks of confusion only she could produce. She wanted to say, “Stop me if I‟m wrong, but I was taught about the birds and the bees and that was pretty much the way it happened.” What actually came out of her mouth was, “Enlighten me, oh Queen of Research.” 97
    • “I read this book called „The Pregnancy Book‟ and it talks about ovulation and temperature and even positions” Amy stated proudly. Summer‟s first thoughts again stayed in her head, “Does it talk about penis size, because my husband has that covered?” She really said, “What is it missionary for a girl and woman on top for a boy?” Amy blushed and replied, “I‟ll let you read the book when you‟re ready.” I was surprised to see that Amy Noble blushed at the hint of sex talk. I had never seen that woman back up from anything – it was good to know that I had some way to turn a conversation if the need arose. “So you‟re going to take the plunge into motherhood. What made you decide that?” Summer asked Amy. Amy stopped eating for a moment and simply replied, “It‟s time.” “It‟s time?” Summer questioned. “Yeah, don‟t you have a plan for your life?” Amy asked. 98
    • Just then Amy‟s cell phone rang and she said “Excuse me” and answered the phone, “Hello, Amy Noble speaking.” Summer said that she kept eating as Amy talked on her phone about showing a property for a good five minutes. The waiter came by the table and took Summer‟s clean plate and Amy motioned for him to take her half-full plate, too. “I‟m sorry, but that was a client that I have to meet later today. The phone always seems to ring at the most inopportune times,” Amy said to Summer after she ended the call. “Where were we?” Summer thought to herself, “Then turn the phone off like I do, so you won‟t be interrupted.” Then she addressed Amy, “I was asking you about it being time and you asked me if I had a plan for my life?” “Well do you?” Amy asked anew. “Yeah, my road map is a little less structured and a little more Brady-based,” Summer replied. Amy replied, “I don‟t base my plan on Alan or anyone else but my own personal clock. I saw myself getting married by 27 and I did 99
    • that; now I see myself having a baby by the time I was 30 so I‟m trying to do that.” “I never really thought of it that way before,” Summer reflected. “If you don‟t plan for things then they usually don‟t happen. At least they don‟t for me,” Amy said in a confident tone. Summer thought for a minute and then asked, “What if a plan doesn‟t materialize?” Amy‟s head cocked to the side and she replied, “What do you mean?” “What happens if you‟re plan doesn‟t come true? If you miscalculate the amount of time it takes for something to develop?” Summer continued her questioning. Amy shook her head from side to side, “Summer, that doesn‟t happen.” “Do you mean that has never happened?” Amy sat a little straighter, “No, that‟s not allowed.” Summer thought to herself, “That‟s not allowed? Allowed by whom?” She then said, “You are organized, Amy.” 100
    • Amy reached into her leather Coach purse for some lipstick, applied a fresh coat to her lips, and then said, “Nothing ever gets done unless you know what you want.” “I can‟t argue with that,” Summer said as they got up from the table and left the restaurant. Later that evening Summer recanted the lunch conversation and we had the following discussion: “We want to have kids, right?” Summer asked me. “Sure,” She continued, “When?” “When we‟re ready.” She asked, “When will that be?” “If you have to ask that question than I guess we‟re not ready.” Summer nodded her head in agreement and then stated, “So, maybe in a year or two?” “That sounds about right.” “Good. We should be ready by then,” Summer beamed. “Definitely.” 101
    • Summer concluded, “Sounds like a plan.” 102
    • SEVENTEEN Our relationship with the Wayne and Kathy Aaronson continued to sail along despite the Aunt Shirley fiasco. I had stopped having bad dreams about her following me and I couldn‟t get away, and the Aaronson‟s had become very up-front about all barbeque guests. Kathy and Summer used to go food shopping quite often together on the weekends. One Saturday afternoon they were strolling down the aisles when Kathy turned to Summer and said, “So, what are you guys doing this weekend?” Summer looked at Kathy, realizing she was a little fried from the long workweek. “Well, tonight we are going out to dinner and the movies with friends of ours down the street. There are a Hispanic couple named the Tito and Juanita Lopez.” Kathy continued to look at the labels and a few different cheeses and replied, “That sounds nice.” Summer pulled on Kathy‟s jacket and said, “Earth to Kathy, come in Kathy!” 103
    • “Oh, I‟m sorry. I‟m a little distracted today.” They stopped looking for a second and Kathy turned to Summer and continued, “My parents are coming in tomorrow and they are staying for a week.” “You didn‟t tell me about that!” Summer said sounding sarcastically hurt. Kathy continued to be serious, “I‟m sorry. They tend to preoccupy my thoughts.” “Gee, I haven‟t noticed” Summer stated. “Really?” Kathy replied with a straight face. “Do you want to skip going out tonight?” Summer questioned. “No, I hired a cleaning lady this week because my parents expect the house to be spotless. Summer smirked, “They still think that you do all the cooking and cleaning in the house even though you work full time?” “Yeah, you know those old Southern folks. They think that even though Wayne is Jewish, I should still take care of the house,” Kathy smirked back making sure that Summer knew she was kidding. 104
    • “So, how are you going to deal with them being in your house for a week? I mean, how are you going to do all of that cooking and cleaning?” Summer asked. Kathy started laughing, “That‟s the one good thing about having my mother stay with us for so long – when she‟s gone, the house is spotless and our stomachs are full.” “No! She doesn‟t do all of the cleaning and cooking at your house?” Summer exclaimed. Kathy held up her hands, “Anything I do is not as good as the way she wants it so I just give in to watching my mother on her hands and knees polishing my kitchen floor.” “You‟re bad!” Summer said as she wagged her finger at Kathy. “You guys want to see how bad? I‟m buying some ribs today so my dad can barbeque them tomorrow. The first time Wayne tried to cook ribs when they came over my dad yelled, “What does a Jew know about cooking ribs? Please, please, please, can you guys come over? “Are you trying to use us as a shield? Summer asked. 105
    • “I would do it for you,” Kathy looked at Summer with puppy- dog eyes. “Well all right. On one condition, “Summer stated. “What‟s that?” Kathy questioned. “Your mom doesn‟t engage in any inappropriate touching, does she? Summer asked. “None that I know of – but I tend to be avoid her like I‟m going to catch whatever domestic disturbance she has.” “O.K., we‟ll be there,” Summer said as they continued to stroll down the cheeses aisle. We all went out that night and the mood was as light as a piece of popped corn. I really love going to the movies with Summer… sitting next to her and diving into that tub of popcorn and all of its salty goodness. Summer always gets a cherry frozen drink and I get a cherry and Coke frozen drink. Wayne and Kathy even got into the frozen drink thing with Kathy going straight Coke and Wayne brain-freezing his way with cherry. We tried to keep the mood light because we were aware that entertaining Kathy‟s parents would be both stressful and tiring. It‟s 106
    • hard enough navigating through life without parents who have open agendas on commenting about your life. My opinion is that once you go out on your own and they‟re no longer your meal ticket, the power of the pendulum squarely shifts to your side. The days of parents being “disappointed,” or even thinking about forcing the issue have sailed along with your giving a shit what they think! We had a great time, as usual, at dinner and the movies with Wayne and Kathy. The four of us were really a complete set – I think we all knew from the first few moments we met that there was lasting chemistry there. It‟s rare to find people that you connect with as a couple – it always seems to be a nice wife and a crappy husband, or a solid guy and a bitch of a wife that screws it up. You always know when things are working out when you are able to “cross the streams” seamlessly. By “crossing the streams” I mean that women don‟t always have to talk to women – yes, it is possible for conversation between two couples to branch off into man and woman from each couple. This can be a tricky feat to carry out at times, especially if the seating arrangements inhibit across the table discussion. Women usually 107
    • have a habit of sitting next to each other and guys are usually stuck with each other, for better or worse. When a topic comes up that sparks the opposite sex from each couple, both sides of the equation must simultaneously take off in conversation. Leaving your wife hanging while talking to her friend is about as cool as a heat wave. Keep in mind that these cross-stream conversations usually don‟t last for more than five minutes, or until more food is served. 108
    • EIGHTEEN We showed up at Kathy and Wayne‟s house the next afternoon having fully shaken the effects of the Aunt Shirley barbeque. We felt that being able to view Kathy around her parents would be far more interesting than having a half dried up vagina rubbing her slimy effects all over me – I couldn‟t shower enough when I got home that Aunt Shirley night! I must have been wearing clothing that was able to mask my presence, because it appeared Minister Lamb‟s Jew Radar seemed to be missing me. He was patting me on the back and, at one point, he even asked me what my “hat size” was. Since this was the first time that I was being fitted for a KKK hood, I thought it was only appropriate to ask if the garment came in different colors. Kathy‟s father preached up a storm as he slowly sipped a wine cooler and cooked the ribs and hot dogs. I had heard that he could cook ribs for hours so I took the precaution of loading up on some hot dogs so we could munch on something while we waiting for him to complete his masterpiece. While I stood face to face with what 109
    • seemed like endless rows of hot dogs, the debate raged on in my head whether I should buy kosher or non-kosher hot dogs. Something told me that I should buy the one‟s blessed by a rabbi, but I opted for the less holy frankfurters - poor choice number one. While Mr. Lamb was brushing on some of his “holy marinade,” the rest of us dined on the hot dogs. He seemed like such an honorable man that his pointed desire toward perfection seemed go with the territory of being a Southern Baptist minister. New York was definitely not his favorite place in the world, but he seemed to put on a happy face for all of us. After another hour of constant monitoring, Calvin Lamb announced that the ribs were ready. I must admit, the first few bites were a tasting sensation, but something went horribly wrong as I made my approach for my second rib. The fire that seemed to be sparked from my tongue flashed through my throat and down toward my stomach. In an instant I realized that I should get my ass up from the chair and head toward the bathroom. I should have known there was something amiss in the air – Lamb had apparently pre-selected a few pieces for me from his 110
    • “private collection.” I excused myself and shuffled off to the bathroom. The bathroom off the kitchen was occupied so I booked downstairs and nearly crashed my head on a beam as I focused on the basement bathroom. Summer was concerned about my stomach so she headed inside a few minutes later to check up on me. She walked in with a few plates and said “”Yogi?” toward the bathroom trying to see if I was all right. Mr. Lamb emerged from bathroom off the kitchen and said, “I think I heard him go downstairs. Here, let me help you with those dishes.” Summer calls me Yogi because she thinks I‟m her big bear – ain‟t that the truth! I had lost about half of my body weight by the time Summer yelled downstairs, “Are you OK down there?” I took a deep breath and replied, “I‟ll be OK. If I‟m not back outside in an hour, call for back-up.” She walked back up the first two stairs and then turned around and closed the basement door to give me some wretched privacy. She was about to turn around but someone was behind her, pressing her against the door. The small hallway between the kitchen 111
    • and the front door all but obscured views from the patio, which was just off the kitchen. “It‟s God‟s way, child” Mr. Lamb said as he used his body to pin Summer and let his hands roam free on her body. A shocked and scared Summer said, “What are you doing, Mr. Lamb? Please let me go.” Lamb took one last ass and breast squeeze and said, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Summer‟s rage was building, “If you don‟t get off of me, my shoe is going to work in mysterious ways against your holy balls!” I didn‟t hear any talking as I walked up the stairs from my bought with immediate stomach flush. I opened the door and saw Summer standing in the kitchen looking a bit off and Mr. Lamb opening the screen door to get out to the patio. I looked on the counter and saw a bottle of hot sauce and then I looked at Summer and realized that I had been diverted. “Are you all right? What the hell just happened?” I said as I approached Summer. “She fell into my arms and said, “He held me against the door and felt me up,” Summer replied. 112
    • Summer was so mad that she wasn‟t in any frame of mind to cry. My draining bathroom escapade was now behind me – in more ways than one – and I was ready be as confrontational as the situation called for. Just then Kathy walked through the door and made eye contact with me and then Summer. I had never seen this troubled, upset look on Kathy‟s face before. We fully expected her to ask Summer what was wrong but she asked in a disturbed tone, “What just happened in here?” Summer replied, “You‟re dad just molested me.” I wasn‟t really sure what would happen next but I was 100% positive that the barbeque would be over and the tone of the day would take a steep turn south. Kathy looked even more disturbed as her face turned completely red. At first, I thought she was embarrassed but that was shattered when she yelled, “He said you threatened to kick him in the nuts! Why would you do that?” “Because he felt me up without my consent,” Summer stated in a still clam voice. 113
    • “Why would he do that? My dad is a Minister in a well- respected church,” Kathy proudly shot back. “So, what does that make me, the neighborhood tramp?” Summer said looking for a little respect. Kathy reloaded and fired back, “If the thong fits…” I could feel the heat coming off Summer‟s body as she yelled, “Fuck you, Kathy! Open your god damn eyes, already!” Kathy pointed toward the door and exclaimed, “Get out of my house!” Summer held my hand and dragged me toward the door and yelled, “Gladly, you stupid bitch!” We stormed out of the house and Kathy slammed the door behind her. It seemed like a long walk back to our house even though Summer was moving her feet like someone shady was following her. I couldn‟t help but think that Kathy could have handled the situation more effectively. I felt bad about the damage the misunderstanding inflicted on our relationship with the Aaronson‟s, but Summer‟s safety and well being were my only priority. 114
    • Much of the time that Kathy and Summer were waging war, Wayne and I were trying to find a way to communicate. Since our wives were guarding our e-mail like it was Fort Knox, the only chance we had would be to sneak out to Home Depot. Every time I told Summer that I was going to Home Depot she would escort me outside to make sure that Wayne‟s car was in his driveway. Once she looked down the block and saw his Toyota Camry in the driveway, I was given the go-ahead to do-it-myself. Kathy had gone out one day and Wayne flashed me the thumbs up from his backyard, telling me the coast was clear. I pulled out of the driveway and waved goodbye to Summer – then I pulled around the corner and located Wayne who was running toward the car. I stopped my 4Runner, Wayne jumped, and I took off. It seemed that we had our best talks in the Home Depot and this day‟s conversation would be no different. I looked over at Wayne in the car and said, “What‟s up?” “Nothing much. You tell me,” he responded. “We‟re in deep shit here,” I stated. “Yeah, it doesn‟t look too good.” 115
    • “What the hell is wrong with your wife?” I questioned. “My wife, what about your wife?” he shot back. I had driven about two blocks from our houses and quickly stopped the car. “Dude, you can‟t be serious!” I said. “As serious as a heart attack,” Wayne replied. I nodded my head toward the curb and said, “Later.” Wayne reluctantly stepped out of the car as I quickly drove away leaving a cloud of dust. As much as we both thought we could be level headed, it was impossible for each of us to be impartial. Besides, he and his wife were wrong because I know Summer; she never goes out of her way to make a scene or strike out at anyone. We are both finishers, not starters. 116
    • NINETEEN It was pretty awkward around our neighborhood for the first few months – trying to avoid Wayne and Kathy was both uncomfortable and emotional. They had been our best friends for a few years, and an unfortunate event that we had no control over sent our relationship to the scrap heap. I was wondering why Kathy so easily went against her best friend. Of course I didn‟t share my wonderment with my wife for fear that my life would be in jeopardy. We have this exalted view of our parents that really never seems to change. People seem to come and go in our lives but family rarely ever fades. Kathy had put her father, the preacher, on a pedestal reserved only for the highest of beings. The thought of her father touching another woman besides her mother sent Kathy into instant defense mode. Mr. Lamb had never given his daughter a reason to doubt him – at least none that she had was aware of. About nine months after the incident with Summer, the Lambs came in to Long Island to visit again. Kathy had virtually erased the previous incident from her mind as was in complete denial over her 117
    • father‟s alleged indiscretion. She was so far gone that she invited Zack and Mindy Kramer over but they were busy. Good thing for Mr. Lamb because Zack wouldn‟t have been as passive as I was – he definitely would have had his fists flying if he found out about anyone touching his wife. Should I have roughed up Mr. Lamb? It really isn‟t my nature to fight but I felt like a real pussy for not having retaliated. It made me feel slightly better when Summer said to me that weekend, “I‟m glad you didn‟t kick Mr. Lamb‟s ass. Kathy will suffer enough.” Your business is definitely not your own when you live in the suburbs. We saw the Lamb‟s arrive and we tried to keep a low profile the entire weekend. Too bad I‟m a pretty big guy and it‟s usually a real struggle for me to stay out of sight… Alan and Amy Noble turned down Kathy‟s request to join them at the barbeque because they had plans. There really wasn‟t a spare second of the day that Amy Noble didn‟t program. They were headed to New Jersey to visit Alan‟s parents and tell them that Amy was pregnant. The news hadn‟t yet filtered to the honeymoon couples but that was definitely on the short-term horizon. 118
    • By the end of that week Kathy was frantically calling anyone that she thought might come over. By the time she called her work friend, Maria Bellamo, she was ready to offer cash and a free bottle of champagne. It had been six months since the two women had spoken after Maria quit her job at Home Depot for a similar one at Lowe‟s. Maria was not only available but she wanted to bring her boyfriend, Carlo Bruzzi. Kathy was desperate so she was happy that there would be a significant buffer between she and her parents. It was odd but she was less concerned with her father‟s behavior than her mother‟s. Genie Lamb had a way of getting under your skin, like dirt from the garden, while smiling all the while. Carlo and Maria entered the Aaronson household holding few pounds of sausage and a case of Heineken. I must say, Mr. Lamb was an impressive figure, standing at 6‟3” and having very chiseled features. Although he had pressed Summer against the door, she could have broken free if he hadn‟t backed up. Summer is 5‟8” and she kicks my ass when she gets angry. Maria Bellamo was probably more similarly built to Mindy Kramer than Summer – she was a petite 5‟2” 119
    • girl that was much softer and more understated than Mindy Kramer. She probably could have used a little Mindy-like rage on that afternoon. Once again Mr. Lamb tried the hot sauce trick but Carlo had a cast-iron stomach and he loved the “spicy ribs.” Lamb then went to Plan B, follow the innocent dove into the bathroom. He excused himself from the table about ten minutes after he served the ribs saying, “I‟ll be right back. I have to make a few calls.” His chiseled features turned into the shadowy countenance of a stalker as Kathy and then Wayne walked into the house to get more soda. A few minutes later he could hear Maria say, “I‟ll be right back, I just have to got to the bathroom.” Lamb was going to hide in the dark bathroom and then pounce calmly on his subject, but his wife slid into the house to get more mustard. She called outside to Kathy, “Is it in the cabinet next to the refrigerator?” Kathy yelled back, “No it‟s on the left side of the pantry next to the soda.” Mrs. Lamb went to the pantry and then proclaimed, “Got it!” 120
    • By the time his wife slid open the screen door and went back outside, Maria had already entered the bathroom and locked the door. A few minutes later Maria opened the bathroom, turned off the light and turned her back to close the door. In an instant, Lamb pressed the much smaller Maria against the bathroom door. He said, “Don‟t worry child, it‟s God‟s way.” Maria was confused and she thought that it was her boyfriend Carlo at first. Carlo was a big 6‟4” and he worked out religiously at the gym. Mr. Lamb started to caress Maria‟s ample butt and she was ready to reach for his package when lamb so, “It‟s the Lord‟s way, my dear.” She instantly got scared after she inhaled and didn‟t smell the familiar scent of Carlo‟s heavy cologne. “Please get off me, Kathy‟s father,” Maria said in a frightened tone. She started crying as Lamb reached around and started stroking her breasts. Lamb kept Maria pinned against the door for the better part of a minute and continued to explore her exposed body. Maria kept saying, “Please stop” as she continued to sob. He must have been overwhelmed by his own erection because he never heard the patio door slide open. 121
    • “Daddy?” a startled Kathy Aaronson said as she stood in the doorway of the kitchen witnessing her father molesting her friend. Mr. Lamb stepped away from Maria and said, “I have to make one more call, dear. Nice to meet you, my child.” Lamb walked away, concealing his erection from his daughter, and he disappeared into the living room. A completely stunned Kathy walked over to Maria and hugged her sobbing friend. She yelled into the next room, “What did you do?” Mrs. Lamb, Wayne, and Carlo heard the commotion and quickly ran into the house. When Mrs. Lamb saw her daughter hugging her friend she made a beeline for her purse, pulled out her cigarettes and went back outside for a smoke. A lump quickly formed in Wayne‟s throat as Carlo walked closer to his teary girlfriend. Kathy passed Maria off to Carlo who hugged his girlfriend for a few minutes and then said, “What happened?” Maria took a few breaths and then slowly uttered, “Kathy‟s dad molested me.” Carlo took a step back as his Sicilian blood started to boil. “What? Did you fuckin‟ say he molested you?” 122
    • Maria nodded “yes,” which was like waving a red flag in Carlo‟s face. “Mother fucker! I‟m getting my gun!” Wayne had lived in the quite suburbs his whole life and had never heard the words “my” and “gun” used in the same sentence. Kathy started to cry but instinctively picked up the phone and dialed quickly. “Summer? It‟s Kathy! Please send Brady!” She slammed down the phone as Summer came into the den and yelled, “Wayne and Kathy need you!” I got up quickly as Summer yelled, “Go! Go!” It was a good thing that Carlo had a little trouble finding his concealed weapon. He had a tire iron in his hand and was headed for the door when I headed him off at the top of the driveway. He didn‟t see me coming until I said, “Bruiser! Where you goin‟?” It was a good thing that I knew Carlo Bruzzi from our days of playing basketball together at a summer camp on Long Island. “Bruiser” was the nickname I had pinned on him the first day of the camp. I could see that he heard me but was in a completely different zone. When I walked in front of him and put my hands on him, my head was a few short seconds away from getting smashed in with a tire iron. He still hadn‟t focused on the fact that I was talking to 123
    • him and I knew he was so infuriated that he wouldn‟t care about my well being if I stood in his way. “Bruiser! What the fuck are you doing?” I yelled trying to get his attention. By that time Summer had run over and was standing with Kathy, Wayne, and Maria near the doorway. Carlo picked up his head and looked into my eyes, “Brady Bunch! What the fuck are you doing over here?” I replied, “I can‟t let you go into that house.” It had taken my a few minutes to get the adrenaline pumping and I was now committed to holding my ground. Honestly, I felt like I had something to prove after letting Mr. Lamb get away with molesting my wife. “My friends live here and I know they would have my back,” I said as I looked over my shoulder at Wayne, Kathy, Maria, and Summer. I smiled and put my arm around “Bruiser” and led him down the driveway away from the house. Once I took the tire iron out of his huge hands I tossed back into the trunk of his Camaro. We kept walking down the block and I listened to his rantings. He said, “That mother fucker touched my girl! I‟m going to marry that girl and she‟s 124
    • going to be the mother of my kids, God willing!” The blood seemed to drain from Carlo‟s face as his anger quickly turned to concern then love. “He did the same thing to my wife last year,” I said as we stopped near my house to talk. “Matsu Christ!” Carlo muttered under his breath. No dude, he‟s not Jewish! He‟s a Southern Baptist Minister!” Carlo looked amazed as he crossed himself a few times and then kissed the gold cross dangling from a chain around his neck. He looked at me with a straight face and said, “It‟s a good thing I didn‟t kill him because I would have gone straight to hell.” “Bruiser” was never brightest of the bulbs in the box – we used to rely on him for protection, not skill. Maria walked into the street as Carlo met her halfway. He picked the diminutive Maria off the ground and cradled her in his arms as he continued to walk down the street. He kissed her face and whispered in her ear, “I‟ll never let anything happen to you again for the rest of your life.” She snuggled close to him and nodded her head in agreement. 125
    • I walked to my backyard deck to unwind and saw Wayne coming over out of the corner of my eye. He handed me a beer and sat down in the chair across from me at the table. “Good thing for your ass that I knew that guy,” I said looking out of the corner of my eye at Wayne and sipping the beer. “You know him?” Wayne responded. “Yeah, me and „Brusier‟ went to basketball camp together when we were in high school.” While it is true that guys have trouble expressing their feelings, Wayne gave reconciliation his best shot. “We should have believed you and Summer? I‟m sorry for all of the time we wasted.” I looked over at him and stuck at my hand, “Never again,” I said as we shook hands across the table. We drank for a few minutes and the Wayne sarcastically said, “When are you going to fix those gutters?” I smiled and replied, “I just couldn‟t get started.” Meanwhile, back at Wayne‟s house things were getting interesting. The police had arrived and Mr. Lamb was taken away in 126
    • handcuffs. They had received a call from an older woman who said that, “A girl had been molested.” “Bruiser” came over to my house with the case of beer and I ordered a few pepperoni and meatball pizzas. Wayne flipped me the remote and we watched the Yankees play the Red Sox. We yelled at the TV and talked about baseball and all that was right in the world. A few doors down Summer, Kathy, Maria, and Mr. Lamb were picking at the deserts and having a real heart-to-heart-to-heart- to-heart conversation. “Mom, be honest with me. Has dad ever done that at home?” Kathy asked. Mrs. Lamb powered down a drink and then looked at all of the girls, “What I say here, stays here. Agreed?” Summer, Kathy, and Maria all say, “Agreed.” “Ok, this is juicy so you better grab something sweet to eat just so you can keep your mouths busy.” The girls grabbed some cake and some fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies that Summer brought over. 127
    • Mrs. Lamb continued, “Kathy I know you‟ve always held your father in such high regard. Are you sure you want me to discuss this in front of your friends?” “He abused my two friends, and I didn‟t talk to Summer…” she starts to cry. Summer goes over to Kathy on her knees and gives her a big hug and whispers in her ear, “You know I still love you.” Kathy wipes her tears away with a napkin and says, “Please mom, keep talking.” “Your dad lost his ministry about a year ago” Kathy starts choking on a piece of cake and Maria pats her on the back as she takes a drink. “I‟m all right. It just went down the wrong pipe. Keep going, mom.” “It seems that your father always had an affinity for reaching out and touching his female parishioners. It seems he‟s been doing this kind of thing since he started preaching at age 22. That‟s a good 30 years of abuse.” Summer poured Mrs. Lamb a cup of decaf coffee and she took a sip. “Thank you, dear. I think you‟re dad got away with it for so long for the same reason I kept ignoring it: we all 128
    • thought it was god‟s way. Your father became such a dynamic and powerful preacher that women just wanted to be more closely connected with that kind of faith.” Mrs. Lamb looked down for a moment in reflection and then said, “ I think I was drawn to him the same way.” Mrs. Lamb took another sip of her coffee and picked up a cookie and took a bite. The girls were mesmerized and waited patiently for her next word. “When he lost his ministry, the town was in unison warning him that if it ever happened again, he would be asked to leave Georgia or they would prosecute him.” “Wow! So, he‟s really screwed.” Kathy said in amazement. “Mom, what are you going to do?” Maria looked at Summer and then at Mrs. Lamb, and asked, “Are you going to want us to testify against your husband?” “Yeah mom. What are you going to do about dad?” “Y‟know girls, I have had many years to think about this… “ A glowing smile stretched across Mrs. Lamb‟s face and then tears started streaming from her eyes and down her cheeks.” 129
    • Kathy had never seen her mother cry before; the girls all started crying and rushed over to Mrs. Lamb and hugged her. It took a few minutes but after everyone dried their eyes, Mrs. Lamb spoke, “Thanks girls for your love and support. My tears were mostly from joy, not sorrow. I‟ve had all of this pent-up anger and confusion inside of me for years and now I‟m letting it go.” She then looked at Kathy and said, “I‟m also going to be letting your father go.” The girls gasped and then Kathy went over and hugged her mother again, “I can‟t believe my parents are splitting up..” “We‟re not splitting up, dear. I‟m just moving on with my life.” Summer interjected, “So, what‟s your next move, Mrs. L?” “When we drove in here last time I noticed a new condo development being built about five miles down the road.” She looked at Summer, “I wanted to apologize to you for not saying anything…” Summer interjected, “No need to apologize, we‟re all family here.” Kathy turned to her mother and then Maria and said with a tear in her eye, “You see. That‟s why I love Summer so much!” She 130
    • crawls over to Summer and the two women hug. “I‟m so sorry that I didn‟t listen to you. I‟ve missed you so much,” Kathy whispered in Summer‟s ear. “Are you going to prosecute Mr. Lamb?” Maria asked Mrs. Lamb. She looks at all of the girls and says, “I think this is something we have to do together. We all need closure.” The next morning Summer and Maria met Kathy and Mrs. Lamb at Kathy‟s house. They all got into our 4Runner and made the trip to the First Precinct, which was located about two minutes from our house. The women had made plans the previous night to confront Mr. Lamb so they could all move on together. The policeman at the front desk said that they could only see him one at a time, but Mrs. Lamb stepped forward and explained the circumstances. A detective came forward and smirked, “You ladies can use our conference room.” Since it was a crucial time to either press or drop the charges, Mrs. Lamb was going to make sure to squeeze all of the leverage of the situation to get what she wanted: absolute freedom. 131
    • Lamb was sitting in a chair in hand cuffs across the table as the ladies walked into the room. Two-way glass was behind him and the officer told Mrs. Lamb that they would be watching the conversation closely. Mr. Lamb started to stand up as the women entered the room but Mrs. Lamb shot him down, “Sit down, Calvin!” Maria and Summer turned to Kathy and mouthed, “Calvin?” “We each have something to say to you,” Mrs. Lamb said in a straight, no-nonsense tone. She looked all the way to her right and nodded to Summer. “I‟ll make this brief. I hated the fact that you felt that it was your right to touch me. I hold no anger toward you because I know you will be judged when it‟s your time.” Summer sat back in her chair and looked to her left at Maria. “You abusive son-of-a-bitch! I hope you rot in hell and you become someone‟s little bitch!” Maria used the back of her hand and flicked her chin and then gave Mr. Lamb the finger. Kathy got up from her chair and spread her long 5‟10” frame; she pushed the chair in and stood with her feet together, much the 132
    • way she did every day at religious school growing up. She had trouble talking at first and it seemed that her eyes were burning a hole in the floor. Her mother messaged her back and said to her, “Speak from your heart, Kathleen.” Kathy took a deep breath, fixed her gaze on her father, and started to speak, “I‟ve always been your perfect little girl. I never would have done anything to embarrass you – I even felt bad for marrying Wayne all these years. If I would have known that you were acting like a philistine all of this time… it will be God‟s way to deal with and forgive Calvin Lamb in time, but I chose not to be as generous as our Lord. As much as it pains me, you are no longer my father…” She starts to cry, “Mom is the only parent that matters to me. I‟m done with the lies and the silent abuse.” Mrs. Lamb addresses the girls, “Would you girls mind waiting over there while I finish my business here.” She points to the glass as the three ladies hold hands and leave the room. A policeman escorts them to a room adjacent to the conference room so they could view and hear the conversation. 133
    • Mrs. Lamb stood up with a serious look on her face. “I talk, you listen.” She pulls out a wad of folder papers from her purse. “I need you to sign these divorce papers right now. If you choose not to sign, then all of the girls that you have molested back to 1965 are prepared to testify against you. And, if you ever try to become a preacher anywhere else in the country, because you will no longer be allowed back in Georgia, then the police will be notified.” She nods at a policeman through the glass and he comes in the room and unlocks Mr. Lamb‟s cuffs. The man sneers at him and then leaves the room. Mrs. Lamb tosses the papers in front of him and he picks up a pen that was already on the table. “Beatrice!” Mrs. Lamb turns her back on her husband. “Betty,” he says in a softer tone.” He starts to get up and move toward her, but the door opens and the policeman says, “Sir, please remain in your seat. If you decide to leave your seat again, I will remove you from the room.” Mr. Lamb sat back down and continued talking, “Have the years we spent together meant nothing to you. I have loved you and slaved for you, and given you the best years of my life 134
    • unconditionally. I gave up my singing career because you said „that kind of music‟ wasn‟t proper.” “I never want to see you or hear from you again, Mrs. Lamb said coldly. She reached into her purse again, “Here‟s some money to keep you going for a while.” She smirked, “The rest is mine.” She threw another stack of paper on the table. “These are restraining orders for every girl and woman you‟ve ever abused, including me. If you break these orders you will never see the light of day again.” Mr. Lamb starts looking over the divorce papers. She continued, “I‟ve already taken the liberty of putting the house on the market. When it is sold, all proceeds will go to me. You have one week from the time they set you free to clear your stuff out of the house. To make sure that you stay in line, Sheriff Grayson and his deputies will be keeping an eye on you – they will also be escorting you out of town. “As you can see in the settlement, you will be allowed to keep you car, the ‟57 Chevy, and your clothes. All other assets will go to me, except for the tour bus that will be donated to the church.” “But I spent a lot of money on that bus!” Mr. Lamb objected. 135
    • Mrs. Lamb replied sarcastically, “The truth will set you free. The Lord works in mysterious ways. No more discussions – you have two minutes to sign the papers on the spots marked with the blue X. We have a notary and a judge witnessing this signing and he they will complete the process when you are done. If you don‟t want to sign the paper, I have been informed that you will be prosecuted in both Georgia and New York immediately.” Mrs. Lamb looked into the mirror and smiled. She then walked out of the room without looking back. Calvin Lamb sat for a moment and thought about his next move. He had always been able to talk his way out of just about any situation, but this was not „any situation‟.” There was a line of angry and upset women looking to take him down and he had to finally give into the rancid stench of defeat. He picked up the black Bic pen and signed one page after another until he completed the final signature. He nodded his head toward the glass signifying that he had completed the life-altering task. A notary came in and checked through the paperwork to make sure that Lamb had signed all of the documents. He then stamped 136
    • and signed all of the documents and left the room. A minute later a distinguished grey-haired woman walked in and was followed by Mrs. Lamb. “This court is in session. Mr. Calvin Lamb, my name is Judge Forrester. Mrs. Beatrice Lamb has filed for divorce on the grounds of „Irreconcilable Differences‟. Do you have any objections?” That could have been one of the most loaded questions of all time – Lamb‟s face turned to stone as he voiced his opinion. “Female judges? What‟s next, a female President?” The judge took off her glasses and stared at Mr. Lamb. “A simple „yes‟ or „no‟ answer will suffice, Mr. Lamb. You are in no position to question anyone‟s credentials but your own, sir. Make another comment and I will make sure that your stay in here will be extended. Do we understand each other?” “Yes, maam.” “Yes, who?” “Yes, Your Honor.” She continued, “Now, do you consent with the final resolution of the divorce settlement?” 137
    • “Yes, Your honor.” “The matter of Lamb versus Lamb is now closed. Mrs. Lamb will be granted a divorce from Mr. Lamb and the assets will be distributed per the final settlement. This court is adjourned.” Applause could be heard from the room behind the glass as Mrs. Lamb joined her daughter, Summer, and Maria in celebration. It was a long coupe of days and we all were happy to be moving on to bigger and better things. All of us except for Calvin Lamb, of course. 138
    • TWENTY Amy Noble‟s master baby plan was proceeding according to plan. She was three months pregnant and she told everyone that had ears of the impending news. Life couldn‟t have been better for the Noble‟s – Alan was moving up the corporate ladder at Disney and Amy was happily moving along in her pregnancy. The one truly horrifying thing about planning is the fear of the unknown. If Amy had her way, all unknowns would be removed and life would be as predictable as the Amish life in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Even Amish people have things that interrupt the normal flow of activities – as long as your dealing with life and death, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. Every time Amy started picking out colors for the baby‟s room, Alan told her to stop talking about it. He always became very nervous when people talked about future events like they had already taken place. It always made Alan feel uncomfortable when he had to look into the future – even when he was at work doing budgetary 139
    • functions; it worried him that he couldn‟t control the randomness of events that could cloud even the clearest issue. Alan was a mess – as Amy went through her bouts with morning sickness and extreme exhaustion, Alan walked the walk with her. He hated seeing his usually indestructible wife being taken down by baby-related ailments, although it was pretty nice at night to hear the pleasant sound of her snoring instead of talking. Amy had been going from her monthly check-ups and was progressing according to plan until one cloudy afternoon. Alan was approaching his Long Island Rail Road train and was headed to work when his cell phone vibrated in his suit. While the vibration gave him goose bumps he answered the phone on the second buzz. Just then the train was rolling into the station – the noise of the train was drowning out the noise coming from the other end of the line. He kept saying into the phone, “I can‟t hear you! Please wait until the train stops!” The train finally stopped and the doors opened; he took a few steps into the train until he heard, “Don‟t get on the train!” He heard the sound that signified that doors were 140
    • about to close and made a quick move toward the platform, narrowly beating the closing doors. Alan waited until the train pulled out so he could finally have a conversation. The platform was empty by the time he put the phone back to his hear. “Alan! Did you get on the train?” a hysterical Amy screamed into the phone. Alan adjusted the volume down and replied, “Amy? What‟s wrong?” “Everything‟s wrong. I woke up this morning and I immediately called the doctor. I don‟t feel right!” “Do you want me to come home or meet you at the doctor?” a now nervous Alan tried to say in a calming voice. “My appointment‟s in 15 minutes. Meet me at Dr. Handley‟s office. She said she‟ll take me right away.” Alan told Amy that he loved her and that everything would be all right, but he really didn‟t believe any of that fluff. His worst nightmares were about to come true and there was nothing he could do but watch things unfold. 141
    • Amy was waiting for Alan outside of the doctor‟s office and walked toward him in the parking lot after he parked his car. She started crying the split second their eyes locked: “It‟s the baby, I know it!” she exclaimed as he took her in his arms. He put his arms around her, almost carrying her inside of the office. Alan nodded at the receptionist and she said, “Come right in Mr. And Mrs. Noble.” Alan and Amy walked into examination room four and Dr. Handley came right in. Amy was sitting on the table and Alan was holding her hand. “Good morning. Amy get into a gown and we will see what‟s going on in there,” Dr. Handley said trying to be upbeat, yet professional. “You want me to stay in here,” a confused Alan asked Amy. She momentarily regained her senses and replied, “No. This is no place for a man.” He kissed and hugged his wife and walked outside into the brightly decorated waiting room. The television was blaring and the few women that were waiting were reading baby magazines. Alan stared at one pregnant woman that appeared to be ready to burst. He 142
    • normally would have asked her “How many months?” but he was in more of a reflective mood. He thought, “What must it take to get that far in a pregnancy?” The five-minute wait became ten minutes and then 15 minutes by the time the nurse led him into Dr, Handley‟s office. The nurse said, “Your wife and the doctor will be here in a minute. It felt like the first time Alan was ever in the principal‟s office, and he only saw the inside of that office once in his entire life. He had knocked a kid off the swing during second grade recess and the kid had to get ten stitches in his head. He had to wait a few minutes that day, too, and the wait seemed to be worse than the actual event. A safety reminder and a letter home was the worst of the deal and he only got a quick smack on the butt from his dad when he got home that day. Alan wished that this meeting would go as smoothly as his trip to the oval office of schools. Once he saw his wife‟s face, however, he knew that the clouds were in the sky that day for a reason. “I‟m sorry, Mr. Noble. Your wife had a miscarriage and we just had to make sure she was all right.” 143
    • Amy‟s eyes were already read from crying and she needed Alan to be strong. He called into work on his two-minute drive home and then followed Amy into their garage. The house was eerily quiet as Alan escorted Amy upstairs to their bedroom. He got out of his suit and into sweat pants and a tee shirt. Amy didn‟t even bother to change – she just crawled into bed and was sleeping within 30 seconds of her head nestling on the pillow. Alan sat in bed for a few minutes and then started sobbing. Within a few seconds his waterworks had dried up as mysteriously as they had appeared. He turned the television on and within a few minutes he was also sound asleep. For two people that rarely took a nap, the morning slumber came as result of being pounded with a huge loss. As much as Alan tried to reassure and comfort Amy, he was fighting an uphill battle. Amy‟s double devastation took her months to get over. It was bad enough that her plans had been destroyed, but taking her first child put her over the edge. The house was real quiet for a while – it even took a few months for the Noble‟s to start having sex again. Once Amy realized that her schedule was being 144
    • thrown off, the fire returned to her eyes and her lions. The doctor told Amy to wait a few months for her body to heal and “settle in.” By the end of the third month Amy was ready to get back on the horse again. Alan was a bit cautious at first but after a few sessions was happy to be getting any attention. When Amy got her period the first month she was upset at first but quickly became even more determined. She was on her way home one afternoon when she had sudden Victoria Secret flash. This job required some intensity to elicit only the best and strongest sperm that Alan had to offer. The one thing she knew about Alan was that he would swing as far as she let him – when Amy finished with him, it would feel like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Father‟s Day all in the same night. Alan clicked his garage door opener and pulled his car into the garage. It would be the first of many times that he would “pull into the garage” that night. He closed the garage door thinking that he could use a relaxing night because it had been a long week. That all changed the minute he saw Amy from behind cooking at the stove. 145
    • He almost passed out when he saw his tight-vested wife wearing a pair of four-inch pumps, and a crotch- less, fish-net body stocking. Amy looked over her shoulder with a look that would have killed the entire senior citizen population of Miami Beach, Florida. He dropped his briefcase on the floor and limped into the kitchen. Amy purred, “Are you ready to eat?” He came behind her and started kissing her neck and letting his hands become familiar with the night‟s meal. Amy reached down to see if her shopping excursion had done the trick, and by the stiffness of Alan‟s sail it appeared that The Cavalry was on the way. Stephen Isaac Noble, or SIN as his monogram suggested, was born a little over nine months later. Amy tiptoed through her pregnancy and was able to go the distance with no major problems. Her planned inactivity did cause her to have a little high blood pressure as a result of gaining 60 pounds. Within five months of the delivery, she lost all of the weight plus an additional five pounds for good measure. The entire honeymoon group found their way to the hospital to say hello to Stephen and congratulate the Noble‟s on their great 146
    • accomplishment. All of us were there except Zack Kramer, who was away on business as usual. 147
    • TWENTY Just thinking about Zack and Mindy‟s relationship sends my stomach turning and has me reaching for the bottle of Tums. I really couldn‟t understand for the longest time how they stayed together so long. Their answer always was, “We can stay married because we both do our own thing.” Funny thing, I always thought marriage was a blending of love, not a minor impediment to continue living the solo life. By the fourth and then fifth year of marriage, Zack and Mindy had little more than fumes left in the tank. Mindy stopped over our house one night looking for a little friendly intervention. We hadn‟t seen her for at least six months when she called and basically invited herself over for one of Summer‟s home-cooked meals. We were happy to hear from her and the first question Summer asked her was, “Do you want me to call Kathy and invite them over?” Mindy thought for a moment and then replied, “No, I think it would be better of it were just you guys.” 148
    • I came home from work and Summer and Mindy were talking in the kitchen and drinking some white wine. “You‟re not starting the party without me?” I said with a smile on my face, as I walked into the kitchen. I walked over to Summer and gave her a kiss and then leaned over to Amy and gave her a kiss and a big hug, “I don‟t know what‟s easier. Coming down to you or you coming up to me?” I said. “I‟m going to bring a ladder next time, big guy,” she responded. I sat down and Summer brought over a glass and she poured me some wine. I looked at the two women and said, “So, what‟s going on?” There was a 15” difference in our heights and about a 150- pound gap in our weights, but Mindy Kramer always struck fear in me. She was like that one teacher in school that raised her voice and nearly half the class soiled themselves. While most people had a small fire burning in their bellies, she always had a raging inferno going! Mindy was never one to mince words, “I‟ve been thinking about getting my own place.” 149
    • Her words must have been stuck in the cosmos between her mouth and our ears because neither Summer nor I responded right away. “Did you guys hear what I said?” Summer stepped in, “Yeah Min, just trying to process it.” “I‟m not going to say, where did this come from because we all know what‟s been going on, “ I added. “We have drifted so far apart that I think we should separate,” Mindy explained. “Have you guys ever been in counseling?” I asked. Mindy‟s face turned red, “Counseling? I mentioned it one time and Zack completely blew me off. His family doesn‟t deal with things directly; they think if you ignore something long enough, the problem will gradually go away.” Summer chimed in, “Yeah, that sounds like Brady‟s family.” The girls got a good laugh at my expense but I didn‟t sit still for long. “At least my family doesn‟t put carrots and sugar in potato pancakes.” 150
    • “I was on board with the carrots, but what‟s the deal with the sugar?” Mindy asked Summer. Summer smiled and replied, “My mom said it adds a little sweetness to each holiday.” Mindy said, “That‟s sweet” while I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “Well, how far along are you in the separation process?” I asked Mindy. She smirked, “You two know me. I don‟t just think about an idea without doing all of the research first.” “You already found an apartment, didn‟t you?” Summer asked. “Yeah, it‟s a really nice two bedroom right in the heart of Great Neck. I can walk a few blocks to my office every day.” “Wow, that sounds nice. So, are you going to use the extra bedroom for your office?” Summer chimed in. There are times when your in a conversation with women that they band together and leave you standing there with a thumb up your ass. I was confused because my friend Zack was going to be crushed, even though he slept with anything with a pulse and a 151
    • vagina. Zack knew all along where his cheating would lead him, but he seemed helpless to stop it. I stopped the premature apartment celebration, “When are you going to tell Zack?” Amy smirked like a naughty little girl and replied, “I left him a note on the kitchen table.” We both looked at Mindy in amazement and she stated, “Who knows when he‟s going to be home.” It was pretty hard to argue with that kind of thinking. Even though Mindy was calling it a “trial separation” the fact was that she and Zack had never really been together. Zack came home a few days after Mindy sprung the news on us and plunked a bag of Chinese food on the kitchen table. He spread out the different cartons and ate out of each of them with a fork. Throw in a large bottle of Coke and Zack had a real party going. He set a garbage can on a chair and used his arm to sweep everything on the table into the trash - everything but a piece of paper that stuck to his sticky arm. He was about to crumple it up and throw it out but something made him read it first. Zack unfolded the paper and read: 152
    • Zack, We‟ve been moving on separate paths for years. I‟m getting my own apartment so I can make our separation official. You can now parade all of the women that you want in and out of our house. Legally, this is a “trial separation”; however, I see little hope at reconciliation if you continue to sleep with other women. Good luck, Mindy Zack thought about keeping the letter in case he needed it for evidence down the road. Then he thought that Mindy was the legal expert and she probably wrote the letter with lasting impact in mind. Using the terms “parade all the women” and “sleep with other women” would only incriminate his wrong doing in any court battle. He read the letter again then abruptly crumpled it and flipped it in the garbage. 153
    • Zack‟s lifestyle was virtually unchanged for the first few months of the trial separation. Mindy was so busy that she barely noticed that he was paying the mortgage out of her account, much as he had done every month for the previous three years. She was making well over $100,000 per year and wasn‟t seeing much of a positive change in her bank account. When Mindy realized that she was paying both her rent and the mortgage to their house, she knew that things had to immediately change. The one major advantage Mindy had over Zack was that she knew what her rights were under the law. As far as she was concerned Zack was on his own – she was sick and tired of his mooching. On the other side of the marital blender, Zack was living the good life until he realized that he had been cut off. He went into Mindy‟s account to siphon off a little more “scratch” but was denied access. A few more frantic attempts and Zack realized that he was on his own. Zack‟s comfort level dipped with each subsequent month; the mortgage was killing him and he was not about to crawl to Mindy for the money. 154
    • Mindy and Zack‟s house had a cool split level floor plan and the couples backyard overlooked an inlet that dumped into the Atlantic Ocean. His pride and joy was his boat, which he nicknamed “The Adventurer”. After six months of scraping to make payments and maxing out his credit cards, Zack was faced with a grim decision: Sell his boat, reconcile with Mindy, divorce her, or sell the house. Zack started at the top with his decision; selling his boat would be a life decision that he was not willing to make. The boat gave him access to a world that he had loved since he first went fishing with his dad when he was five years old. Every year since then Zack has been on the water at the first hint of spring to the last breath of fall. Reconciling with Mindy would be as easy as for Zack as whistling after eating Saltines with peanut butter. Besides, Mindy wouldn‟t go for it unless Zack had made a complete 180-degree turnaround. The truth was that Zack wasn‟t ready to change at that point – he was so set in his ways that he couldn‟t really see beyond his own needs. 155
    • Since he was having trouble making the house payments, it appeared that agreeing to a divorce and selling the house were his only viable options. Besides, Zack was no lawyer but he figured that a 50/50 split of the assets would definitely fall in his favor. Since he brought limited income to the marriage, Mindy‟s salary would certainly provide him with the kind of windfall that he needed. Zack came to talk to me before he approached Mindy. I hadn‟t heard from Zack in about seven months, but he talked to me like we were buddies that spoke on the phone every day. I always had a soft spot for Zack but was wary not to turn my back on him – he was about as giving to other people as Scrooge. Zack protected his interests like his ego was Fort Knox. I reluctantly agreed to meet Zack at a Diner on Merrick Road in Bellmore. We sat down, the waitress dropped a couple of menus on the table and Zack was off: “Get me a cup of coffee, honey,” he said to the waitress. “Sure doll. You drinking?” the waitress said to me. 156
    • I scanned the menu and said, “Vanilla shake, please” knowing that my stomach would be churning within minutes and it would need the soothing touch of a vanilla milk shake. “So, I‟m thinking about getting a divorce,” Zack said with a straight face. Now, I‟m all for cutting through the bullshit and getting down to business but I would have preferred a little small talk on this day. I wasn‟t really sure how to respond to what I heard so I just waited for Zack to continue speaking. “Mindy and I have been separated now for six months and I don‟t see any reason to prologue the inevitable.” The waitress came over and set down Zack‟s coffee and said, “Cream and sugar?” Zack looked up at her and smiled, “That sounds great but what else do you have?” She gave him a look like she wanted to clear the table and get busy right then and there. The guy had no shame – this woman was probably in her mid-30‟s, had a few kids, and was married. It was obvious from her reaction that she hadn‟t received a proposal like that 157
    • for at least ten years; back then she was probably an upscale waitress at swanky strip club – if there is such a thing. She nearly delivered the entire vanilla shake to my lap, but I was watching her and I grabbed the sliding cup in time to be drinking instead of wearing the contents. She was so focused on Zack that she never even noticed her errant serve. He loved attention as much as a Golden Retrievers; in fact, I think he needed to be petted more than the most loyal dog. “When was the last time you two spoke?” I asked to keep the conversation going. “She called me a few days after she left me the note because she wanted to move a bunch of her stuff to her apartment,” Zack explained. What was that, about five and a half months ago?” I questioned. “Yeah, that‟s about right,” Zack countered. “So there‟s no chance of you two getting back together?” I asked. 158
    • Zack took his eyes off the waitresses skirt long enough to say, “Dude, let‟s be honest. We were apart more than we were together. This will just make the split official. Besides, I can make some serious coin by doing this.” There was no doubt in my mind before Zack used the words “serious” and “coin” together that he had an ulterior motive – he always had an ulterior motive. We ate a quick, greasy meal and went our separate ways. I was at a loss of what to say to Zack; I felt more of a kinship with Mindy and didn‟t want to betray her confidence. I wasn‟t taking sides because there wasn‟t much of Zack to support. The divorce had the potential to be messy but Mindy decided to end it quickly. She refused to let the pain of her failed marriage dig too deep in her heart. Zack asked for half all of the assets and a monthly allowance, since Mindy was the breadwinner in the family. Zack seemed unwilling to bend at one discussion at her lawyer‟s office until Mindy asked him to step outside. Zack‟s lawyer was a childhood friend of his, a typical pompous Merrick schmuck, that advised him not to leave the room alone. Zack turned and smiled at Bruce Weiss and said, “I got this.” 159
    • When Zack stepped outside into the vacant hallway, he expected Mindy to be the passive wife that waiting for him in vain most nights. What he got was the ruthless lawyer that left no room for errors in translation. “The only thing you‟re going to have when we‟re done is that dick in your hand and if I want that, I‟m going to take that, too. This is how it‟s going to work – I‟m going to talk and your going to listen and when I‟m done, you‟re going to thank me. Understood?” Zack was in shock as he nodded his head. Mindy continued, “Let me make this clear. You will never get another red cent from me. There will be no allowance and you will get a split of the assets from the time we separated six months ago. You will sell the house and we will split any remaining monies after realtor fees. If you choose to not sign off on my terms today than I will make your life a living hell. I will recollect all the money you took out of my banking account and make this process drag on for years until the legal fees leave you bankrupt. Finally, if you want to play hardball then I will not only make you sell that boat and take 160
    • half, I will also have your all of your tax returns audited until you die.” Mindy seemed to grow in size compared to a shriveled Zack who put his hand out and said “Thank you” as Mindy shook his hand. They walked back into the conference room and Mindy nodded to her lawyer, who presented the Divorce Agreement to Zack. His lawyer made a move like he wanted to see the document, but Zack waved him off. He quickly signed all of the papers and then Mindy signed and the divorce was made official that afternoon in front of a judge. Mindy made one last pass through the house, then Zack had a garage sale after selling the house. The assets were split and Zack took his worldly possessions, hitched his boat to his car, and moved to the marina. Mindy had moved from her rental apartment to a penthouse condo in Great Neck. She was now one of the high profile residents of the town and showed no sign of slowing down at the law firm in which she was now a partner. 161
    • TWENTY-ONE It was baby-making time on Lakeshore Drive in the Village Shores subdivision. Being close with Wayne and Kathy Aaronson made life so much more enjoyable, and it also gave us all a new perspective on the way life shifts at a moments notice. “So when are you guys going to start?” Wayne asked me as we sat on my deck. The women were inside preparing the meat for the barbeque and we had a few moments to talk about something other than sports for a change. I replied, “Why? Are you and Kathy getting the baby itch?” “Yeah. I figure that the action I‟ll get over the next month will offset all of the sleep I will lose when the baby is born.” “Summer and I were waiting for some divine intervention,” I said. Meanwhile the ladies were having a similar conversation in the kitchen. 162
    • “You and Wayne ever talk about having a baby?” Summer asked Kathy. “It‟s all we‟ve been talking about the past week. What about you and Brady?” Kathy asked. Summer opened a package of hamburger meat and started forming the patties, “I guess we were just waiting for the right time.” “Is there ever a „right‟ time?” Kathy questioned. The two ladies walked out to the deck with an armful of stuff and the guys helped them once they walked onto the deck. Summer and Kathy stood across from Wayne and I and it appeared for a few seconds of awkwardness that no one knew what to say. Summer smiled, clapped her hands, and exclaimed, “Looks like it‟s baby time!” From that moment on you could have played the 1970‟s porn music in both of our houses, because from the time Wayne and I stepped foot in our houses at night the bedrooms were rocking. The sex was pretty routine at first – I learned months later that Kathy and Summer had shared a book called “Position Yourself For Your 163
    • Baby” What kind of title is that? It‟s true – they say that different sexual positions give you a better chance at having a boy or a girl. When Kathy and Summer got their periods after the first month of trying, it was obvious that we were all trying too hard. Thinking about a baby does not go very well with hot sex, but it does mix with couples that have as much passion as a burro. Month two came and went in what seemed like a flash and Wayne and I were started to show a little ware and tare. It wasn‟t that we couldn‟t withstand the physical demands of the situation; it was a cause of the mental strain we were under. Stress tends to shut the reproductive light off real fast. We were in the middle of month three when Kathy and Summer decided to get out to clear their heads by doing a little shopping at the mall. They parked in front of Nordstrom‟s and walked through the incredible, but a bit stuffy store. The experience at Nordstrom‟s left the girls feeling like their mother‟s wearing flannel pajamas. It dawned on Summer and Kathy somewhere in between Cinnabon and Gap that they were going about trying to get pregnant 164
    • the wrong way. Sex for us was more spontaneous combustion than a scheduled event. The normalcy and purpose of the act put pressure on our “fornicating four” that we didn‟t need. They pulled up at Victoria‟s Secret, smirked just like Amy Noble did, and then went on the attack. Summer knew that I never needed a hand when it came to “producing wood”. She could tell that I was under stress the previous two months because my wood wasn‟t as stiff as usual. It would only take something sheer or see-through to get me going. Hell, all she had to do was change in front of me and I got excited. It was a stroke of genius from Summer and Kathy… although I thought the crotch less boxer shorts she left out for me were a bit over the top – although I did appreciate the open space when things got heated. Summer created a mood that could have pushed a eunuch to have an erection. Candles led me from the garage through the kitchen, to the hallway and up the stairs. I then was led into my room where a note instructed me to change out of my clothes and put on the airy boxer shorts. 165
    • What happened next change the course of my life forever – Summer came in the room wearing the most breathable of fabrics. It wasn‟t about high-heeled, fuck-me pumps for me – she walked in barefoot with a pair of sheer, thigh-high stockings, a pair of black see- through panties and a sheer black robe. The robe was open and the fabric extended near her wrists. Most of her chest was visible, except for the sheer fabric that covered her hard nipples. I‟m getting hard again just thinking about it. We went at it for at least an hour on the bed and the floor and then continued the extended session in the bubbly bathtub. I must say that the entire time we were going at it like wild animals in heat, I really didn‟t think about making a baby. We went at it like that all weekend as Summer continued to parade around in different outfits she bought from “The Secret”. We didn‟t see Kathy and Wayne until the end of the next week. The smoke had finally cleared and we were all hungry, so went out for some Chinese food. Wayne looked at me and we both smiled at each other; Summer and Kathy also blushed when they looked at each other. 166
    • “Wow! That was some week,” I said, looking to break the silence. Wayne chimed in and raised his water glass, “Here‟s to Victoria and her not so quiet secret.” We all clanked glasses and the women gave each other a high five. Kathy looked at the men and talked to Summer, “So, what are you doing tomorrow?” Summer replied, “Up for another trip to the mall?” Wayne and I nodded or heads and said together, “That‟s a great idea!” It was a month of activity that will never be matched again. We had so much sperm and eggs mixing that we could have started a fertility clinic. About three days after Summer was supposed to get her period, she instructed me to go to the drug store and buy a pregnancy test. While I was browsing through the isles to get to the pharmacy, I thought back to my days of buying condoms, or rubbers, and how it felt to be that obvious again. There are certain things you buy that leave nothing to the imagination of the cashier or the other people in line. 167
    • While I was trying to decide which test to buy, Wayne walked through the automatic doors in the front of the store. I didn‟t see him until I heard him ask the Pharmacist where the pregnancy tests were. I picked up my head and said, “Over here, Wayne!” The woman behind the counter didn‟t know how to react at first but then smiled and returned to filling bottles with prescriptions. I picked up the same test that I had in my hand and gave it to Wayne. “Here, this one‟s the most accurate and it‟s the easiest to read,” I said. We paid for the item, walked out of the store, banged fists and then drove home. I walked into the house and headed straight upstairs to the bedroom. “Here, I got you the test. Wayne also picked one up,” I said to Summer who was lying on the bed reading a magazine. I was anxious, “It says that all you have to do is pee and wait a five minutes for the results.” Summer was surprisingly and disturbingly calm, “Yeah, I just went to the bathroom. Give me a few minutes” At the time I didn‟t have a few minutes to wait, “You pee like every ten seconds.” 168
    • Summer waited a few minutes and then picked up the test and walked into the bathroom. To say that she is not very technically minded would be like saying that I was a bit tense. I gave her about a minute and then she said, “Can you help me read this thing?” I knew that she wasn‟t going to read the directions so I took the liberty of preparing myself when I was on line. The directions simply read: Urinate on the stick. If the bar in the middle of the stick turns pink within five minutes than you are likely pregnant. Wayne and I stood over those sticks like our lives depended on it. The outcome was crystal clear within the first minute as the line filled in the most beautiful shade of pink that I had ever seen. I think the girls were so nonchalant about the whole testing thing because their bodies were telling them everything they needed to know. A week later Summer and Kathy went to see their obstetricians and they were both told, “You‟re pregnant!” 169
    • TWENTY-TWO It was interesting to watch Amy Noble change her son‟s diaper until the little guy acted like a fountain and squirted past my ear and across the room. Being an observer had its perks, but being peed on was not one of them. There were certain advantages to not having kids: the most obvious, of course, is not having kids – couples never realize how truly free they are until they give it all up in the name of reproduction; kids are expensive – clothing, food, and accessories will put a real strain on that pay check – say goodbye to those little extras like ball games and expensive hair styling and say hello to TV and Supercuts. The Noble‟s had planned for their baby like most people “do the deed” and then fight to stay afloat. Alan feared debt like it was a giant shark swimming toward him. I really think that Amy had a schedule for everything, including when Alan could make love to her. I remember walking through their garage one day and seeing a 170
    • calendar with one date circled each month. I turned to Alan and said, “What‟s with the circled dates?” He shook his head and blushed, “You don‟t want to know about that. If I tell you about the circle I‟m going to have to kill you.” Alan never told me about “the circle” but I have a pretty good idea that Amy let‟s her big hair down long enough to make Alan happy. A threesome to Amy would be going shopping with her mother and her sister. Her idea of kinky would be to let Alan lay on his back while she rode the pony. I know he was dying to talk about his sex life with me, but the fear of his wife finding out far outweighed any remedial benefits he would get from talking about it. Lawrence Noble was a cute little guy that seemed to dominate just about every moment we had with the Noble‟s. No longer was work the dominant subject of discussion - we all talked about the “Baby rolling over” or going to Gymboree to socialize with other kids, or even Summer‟s pregnancy. Yeah, it was becoming about as boring as listening to a middle school math teacher. The real ironic touch to 171
    • the whole thing was that Summer and I were on our my way the “happy baby” years. One person that had sex often without baby-making results was Zack Kramer. He was officially single again and living full-time at the Bellmore Marina on his boat. Zack initially was slated to live on his boat at the Merrick Marina they had rules against people living on their boats. The first six months of living a-sea had Zack in fairly good spirits. He would wake up every morning, get his clothes together and drive down to the local health club, where he worked out and then took a shower. While he missed the various creature comforts of a home, such as running water and room to put his clothes, being on his boat always made him the Captain of his own adventure. Besides, he was usually away over half the month trying to peddle his company‟s wares, so the strain to eat, bathe, and entertain himself was a more gentle burden at first. Mindy Kramer would never allow anyone to talk about Zack once the divorce was finalized. She was hurting inside but kept moving forward like a Sherman tank – her job was now her life. 172
    • Mindy worked six days a week and took Sunday off to volunteer at a religious school in Merrick. She had been active in the community since she was 12 and continued to volunteer her time even though she lived 20 minutes away in Great Neck. Her mother and several people in Merrick had warned her that she had to deal with the divorce, or the pain would never go away. Mindy would always say, “Next topic,” or “What is there to discuss?“ or my favorite, “Fuck you! I‟m an important person!” Summer and I always knew which buttons to avoid on Mindy Kramer‟s hot panel. As much as we wanted to talk about Zack and their marriage, we knew there would come a time and day when the topic would again be open for discussion. In a surprise move, Mindy decided to keep her married name, “Kramer”, because that was how everyone knew her at her law firm and the Nassau County Court system. She also enjoyed not having people spell her last name – coming from the name Orenstein to Kramer was definitely an improvement name-wise. As the other Dune Road honeymoon couples were either nurturing baby‟s or preparing for arrivals, Zack and Mindy‟s had 173
    • made their necessary departures. As the months passed by, Zack and Mindy continued to move in opposite directions: Zack sliding down into a dark hole and Mindy striding effortlessly toward the sky. Zack went through his “Mindy money” faster than I can empty fresh-baked, chocolate chip cookies from the cookie jar. His commission-only salary at his seventh sales job in 10 years barely covered his bar bill and his travel schedule was sliced to the bone due to his lack of production. Then Zack went through a week that led him to past rock bottom and to a place he referred to as “Midnight.” It was a year-and-a-half since Zack and Mindy‟s divorce was made final. He had maxxed out all of his credit cards and had just been fired because he was last in sales for the third consecutive month. Just when he thought things couldn‟t get worse, Zack was asked to leave the marina because his damaged and worn boat had become an eyesore and he was starting to scare the other boaters with his bum-like appearance. Zack was given thirty days to remove his boat and himself from the premises and managed to stay in his boat 28 days without leaving the dock. Zack woke up one morning and thought he was 174
    • dreaming – but when he drove his boat to Babylon and then it sank faster then an Internet stock, he slowly climbed onto the dock with little more than the tattered clothes on his back. He sat on the deck watching “The Adventurer” on its last voyage to the murky bottom of the water. Life had crumbled and Zack was ill prepared for the consequences of his actions. He looked out onto the water and thought for a minute about tying a huge rock to his waste and ending it all... this way he would be in the one place that he loved. He even conjectured that no one would even notice that he was gone. His parents had moved down to Boca Raton, Florida, and he hadn‟t talked to them in a year - they wanted nothing to do with him. Zack was crying for the first time since he was six – that time he fell of his bike and got 20 stitches in his head. He got up from the dock and started walking; he walked for hours until he collapsed in the doorway of an old building. Zack once drove there on Halloween when he was a teenager and threw eggs at the doors and windows with his friends. No one seemed to come or go from the turn of the century structure. 175
    • Back at the Babylon Marina, workers used a machine to pull “The Adventurer” from the murky depths so they could make room for another boat. Once they disposed of the vessel at a nearby dump, the last trace of Zachary Bruce Kramer was erased. 176
    • TWENTY-THREE Zack‟s disappearance bothered me at first, especially when I drove by the marina and his boat was gone. I tried calling him repeatedly on his cell phone and eventually got a “This phone is no longer in service” message. Most of my attention at that time was on Summer, who was moving through the various stages of her pregnancy. The first three months she was like a hibernating bear snuggled under a pile of leaves. She looked so cute and peaceful sleeping almost every other waking hour. Pregnancy narcolepsy as I call it, can strike at any time in the first trimester. We would be in the middle of a conversation and she would fall fast asleep. Her body was changing and preparations were being made for the child‟s womb. I bought a pair of walkie-talkies one day so I could converse with Wayne when our wives passed out. Summer and Kathy‟s due dates were only days apart, which mad the likelihood of being at both births somewhat remote – but we all still had our fingers crossed. Spring was a perfect time to sleep through because the cool breezes 177
    • and rainy weekend afternoons made the flowers bloom, the birds chirp, and the boys restless. Wayne and I got out as much as our wives slept, and we even took more naps so we could be rested for the difficult months ahead. With mid-November due dates, the women would have to struggle and be protected during the summer. This meant cutting back our usual active summer schedule and taking vacations that were a few- hour car ride away. We did a lot of sitting at the Jersey shore that summer and even had a discussion about Zack and Mindy. “What do you think happened to Zack and Mindy?” Kathy asked Summer as we sat on the covered porch of our hotel room. Summer replied, “I think it was trouble when he was cheating on her during the honeymoon.” “That waitress was pretty happy, though,” Wayne interjected with a smirk on his face. The women stared him down as I waited a few seconds after that to add my two cents. Wayne wasn‟t as close with Zack as I was, primarily because he couldn‟t tolerate his bullshit. For some reason I was able to see through all of Zack‟s glitz, which revealed a 178
    • guy who was always a few weeks away from falling over the edge. Apparently, he had not only plummeted over the edge, he had also disappeared in the process. I said, “What the hell happened to Zack?” Kathy replied, “He constantly cheated on his wife and she cut him loose.” I clarified my point, “No, I mean there‟s no trace of the guy anywhere.” “When was the last time you saw him at his boat?” Wayne asked. “It was about a month ago. I remember the day because it was sunny out and Summer was awake and cooking dinner when I came home,” I stated. “Yeah, that was the day I came out of hibernation, “Summer said smiling as everyone laughed. “Is his boat still at the marina?” Kathy questioned. Wayne interjected, “No, Brady told me that it sank and there was no trace of Zack after that.” Kathy looked at Summer, ”Did you know about that?” 179
    • Summer shrugged and replied, “I think so. Haven‟t been awake much lately.” We all nodded and the conversation abruptly shifted to talk about the pregnancies. I felt a little guilty about not giving a better effort to find Zack, but most of my attention was focused on the home front. I knew wherever Zack was he was going through a shitload of thinking. I also realized that Zack had to hit the bottom and he had to process everything alone. There would be no barmaids to comfort his blues, no airline stewardess to stir his drink, and no wife to come home to when everything came crashing down around him. The last few days before Zack‟s boat sank into the water, he had run out of money and food. I think he must have started hallucinating from drinking the water that his boat was floating in. When his boat was going down, Zack got a final adrenaline lift when his mind was telling him to sit tight and go down with the ship like a good captain. Some external force lifted Zack out of his boat and made him walk three miles on an empty tank of internal gas. He passed out in 180
    • the doorway of a place that he tormented as a teenager. That‟s the thing about small-minded people – they usually ridicule what they don‟t understand. The one thing that would have shocked people who knew Zack was his appearance. His worn and torn clothes and his long hair and full beard gave him the look of a person completely down on his luck. The fact that Zack put himself in an unenviable position and caused all of that misfortune was all part of his life process. Zack lay in the doorway for 12 hours until the next morning at 4:00 a.m; the sun was still waiting to make an appearance and the glow of the moon glistened off the buttons of Zack‟s jean jacket. The front door opened and a man in a full brown robe nearly tripped over Zack as he walked out to sweep off the path. It had been years since the former Jeff Brooks had any contact with the outside world. He had been abandoned by his family after going through years of AA counseling; his drinking had ruined his life and sent him walking toward the Buddhist monastery in search of a dry place to sleep overnight. The door to the monastery was always 181
    • open and Brother Jeff thought about leaving quite often when he first entered the quiet realm of Zen. The tall and slender man gently dragged Zack‟s depleted body through the door and he left him in a vacant room with bare white walls and a bed. He then went back to his chores, which started with sweeping and ended with cleaning dishes. Every chore was done with purpose and care, because a job done right was done with pride and thoughtful skill. Brother Jeff went in to prop Zack up three times a day and feed him some food and make him drink water. The monastery was one of silence, so the chance of producing a loud sound and startling Zack from his slumber was remote. Outside noise was also filtered out by the sturdy construction of the virtually soundproof building. Three days after Zack had collapsed in the doorway his eyes reopened for the first time. All of the running and sneaking Zack had done throughout the years had finally taken its toll; in fact, it almost killed him. Zack woke up slowly and waited a few minutes until he had the strength to sit up. He slowly looked around and wondered, 182
    • “Where am I and how did I get here?” This had become a quite common question for the self-proclaimed playboy to ask himself on most mornings after drinking and carousing with no-name and blank faced women. Zack stood up and started walking slowly out of the small room and ventured out to find some action. He almost walked passed a candle-lit, windowless room but heard some humming so he stopped. There were ten men sitting and meditating in the large room and not one of them picked up their heads and acknowledged his presence. He kept walking until the light of the sun streaming through a window nearly blinded him. In the courtyard a group of men were moving fluently in t‟ai chi practice; once Zack was able to focus his eyes on the activity, the ease of motion and rolling movements reminded him of the ocean. While he still had no idea where he was, or if it was heaven or just a dream, the serenity of the place was comforting. Another man walked toward him and put his right index finger to his lip before Zack even thought about talking. He pointed at a spot down the long, narrow hallway and took the lead as Zack 183
    • followed. The man with the long white linen shirt and baggy black pants stopped at a room and motioned for Zack to sit on the floor across from a man deep in meditation. He sat in Indian pose for a few minutes and looked around the room as the single candle in the room flickered and created shadows around the room. The white man picked up his head, put his hands together and humbly bowed his head. He slowly opened his eyes and studied Zack for a few moments before talking. “Life is not always a bowl of cherries, my son.” Zack had wanted to talk and ask questions only moments before, but was now in listen only mode “The walls and doors of this place shall never limit your thought. You are free to go but as long as you are here your life will have purpose. Being in the moment and respecting all things – letting go of the past and future in order to live in the present – this is what we live by. I am Father Oliver and your name is?” Zack hesitated for a moment and then replied, “Zack.” “Brother Zack, I am only speaking to you out of necessity because this is the only communication you will understand. You will 184
    • learn to communicate without speaking because that is the way of our life, our purpose. Words only limit what we can say.” Brother Oliver once again placed his hands together, bowed his head, and said, “Namaste.” Zack copied this motion and replied, “Namaste.” Within a few days Zack had taken over the 4:00 am sweeping chores of Brother Jeff - since he was the last person to come through the doors, this made him the closest person to the outside world. Zack could have put the broom down and walked away at any time – this was part of his focus on the present and not letting outside forces influence his focused, single thoughts. After a week Zack started to feel out of place with his long hair and plentiful beard. He walked up to Brother Rick and motioned at his face and then the clean-shaven head and face of other man. Twenty minutes later Zack was clean-shaven and feeling smoother than a baby‟s bottom. When he first felt a breeze in the courtyard, the sensation it made running over his head seemed to cleanse his thoughts and clear the slate of his conflicted life. 185
    • The next six months went by and it felt like a single moment to Zack. It had taken him at least a month to be comfortable with his own thoughts and another month to be able to effectively meditate for more than 15 minutes. He still went outside every morning, even when the snow came, and swept the walk in front of the monastery. As time went on, Zack stopped noticing the cars and focused solely on the task at hand. Feelings of guilt, tension, anger, and confusion seemed to slide off his body and were replaced by love, respect, ease, and purpose. Possessions no longer mattered in Zack‟s world because the only thing he needed was a piece of mind. That, and the lip smacking cooking of Brother Edgar, who was an ex-chef and drug addict, was enough at the time to keep him centered and focused. 186
    • TWENTY-FOUR The last trimester of Kathy and Summer pregnancies became a real battle for the four of us. Of course the women were going through the lion‟s share of the struggle, but no matter how much our wives tried to be free the little person on the inside kept holding them captive. Various late-term pregnancy developments included: Pregnancy Alzheimer‟s – where the women had a tough time remembering anything, let alone their names; sleep deprivation – it seemed that the only comfortable spot for Summer was on her back, but she was always used to sleeping on her side or stomach; wild cravings – these would come up at any time in any place and would range from a hot fudge sundae on Sunday at 11:00 pm to a bacon and peanut butter sandwich at 3:00 am; and false labor – every sharp pain felt like labor to Summer from the middle of her 7th month to the middle of her 9th month. Once the calendar shifted to November my senses moved from a medium-guarded to a high-alert status. I‟m usually a pretty heavy 187
    • sleeper once I get going, but there was really no chance to count sheep or saw some wood with such an important event hanging over my head. Every time Summer grumbled or turned during the night I was there to see if it was time to go to the hospital. Kathy‟s due date was November 14th and Summer‟s was the 12th, but I found out real quick that the date was actually an estimate, not a “written in stone” engagement. It was 1:00 am on November 12th and Summer nudged me and said, “It‟s time!” Summer followed her instructions and called her doctor before we left the house. There must have been enough of a concern for the doctor to Ok the trip to the hospital – within minutes we were zooming out the door and parking at the hospital. I lugged Summer‟s bag full of clothes and she held my arm as I guided her uncomfortable self into through the emergency room and into the Maternity Ward. We waited in an examination room for about 15 minutes until a nurse came in and checked Summer out. By that time she was feeling a lot more comfortable – the nurse decided to take the 188
    • necessary precautions by scanning her belly with the ultrasound and checking her vital signs. The nurse took her stethoscope off her ears and said, “You just experienced Braxton Hicks contractions. These false labor signals are very common among first-time mothers.” Summer got dressed and we went home to the best night of sleep we had in months. That false alarm felt a lot like going to a toy store as a kid and coming home with nothing to show for it. We did get one piece of information that really helped Kathy and Summer out. The nurse said as we left the hospital, “You‟ll know when you‟re in labor.” Summer asked, “How?” “When you can‟t walk, talk, or move.” I felt like saying to the insensitive, yet accurate nurse, “Way too much information! The girl‟s nervous enough!” It was 6:14 am on November 15th… I remember the time because I instinctively looked at our bedroom digital clock when Summer groaned, “Time.” She couldn‟t walk, talk, and her movements were restricted to being hunched over in pain. 189
    • This time we got in the car and I called the doctor, who always seemed to be awake to take our call. From what I had seen, this time it was the real thing. The words, “Hurry!” and “Don‟t stop!” were the only things she could manage to get out on the ten-minute drive. I stopped in front of the Emergency Room door and the guard on duty said to leave the keys in the car and he would park the car for me. He gave me a ticket and we were off. The same nurse we saw a few nights earlier was finishing her shift and guided us into a birthing room. She looked at Summer and then said to me, “You see? Now she‟s ready.” Before she could hook Summer up to a machine, her water broke and made a mini-flood on the floor. The nurse said, “Don‟t worry, we‟ll clean that right up.” She put on a pair of gloves, picked up a mop and then cleaned up the mess. The Maternity Ward had undergone some renovations the year before we showed up – the rooms now were extra large and equipped to handle births and the subsequent night or two stay. It was like being in a nice hotel room with medical equipment. 190
    • Just about the time Summer started pushing, which was about three hours after we arrived, Kathy Aaronson was standing in the middle of her kitchen talking to Wayne on the phone. She said, “I wonder…” and then her water broke and flooded the floor. She continued, “I was going to say that I wonder if your water really breaks.” She got changed quickly and called the doctor – she then called her mother, who was taking a few days off from her job at Costco, and they were off to the hospital. Wayne arrived shortly after his wife and mother-in-law were situated in a room, and he saw the name “Hart” on the board ahead of “Aaronson”. After kissing his wife he said, “Did you talk to Summer today?” Kathy answered, “No, I haven‟t heard from her.” Wayne stated, “I think they‟re here now. I saw their last name on the board.” A few minutes later Dr. Shaw was called in to deliver our baby. She was a very nice woman that had a way of making Summer feel confident and relaxed, although it was a difficult task during childbirth. Summer and I attended birthing classes every week for a few months and had been pretty in-sync with our breathing. 191
    • When the doctor told Summer she should push, I got up close to her and attempted to initiate the breathing techniques we had learned. “Breath, Sum,” I said trying to be encouraging. Summer always had a way with words, especially when her temper was sparked, “Get that bullshit out of my face, Brady!” I quickly stepped aside and let Dr. Shaw take over. A few minutes later the doctor declared that, “The baby is coming!” Looking back it was easy to say that these are the moments we live for – I flashed back to the day I met Summer and how I could see this day the moment our eyes met. The miracle of birth wasn‟t lost on me – when I first saw my daughter, Sidney Ocean Hart, she looked at me with Summer‟s eyes. I hugged and kissed Summer and said to her, “She‟s beautiful, just like her mother.” I walked out in the hallway and looked up on the board and saw the name “Aaronson” just under our last name. A nurse was walking down the hallway and I asked her, “Is Kathy Aaronson here?” The nurse replied, “Yes, she‟s in the room right next door.” A few minutes later I heard the screams of mommy helping baby to enter the world. Best friends had delivered babies only 25 192
    • minutes apart – Nathaniel Edward Aaronson was a prefect blend of his parents and “Sid” instantly had a best friend and future husband. Kathy and Summer were so close that they asked to be roommates once they were both woman were cleaned up. They didn‟t want to be alone at night and there was plenty of space in the room to accommodate another bed. Sharing the event with our best friends even made the life-changing event that much more special. 193
    • CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE Zack‟s near-death experience taught him one very important lesson: You rarely ever get a second chance in life. At first he wasn‟t sure why he had been given this gift; after all, he had done little to really deserve it. Maybe his penance was putting others needs before his own. Brother Oliver had observed Zack from the moment he entered the monastery - his six months inside the hallowed walls were filled with inner peace and a sense of purpose that he had never experienced before. Hopping from job-to-job and woman-to-woman was a way of life that was no longer part of Zack‟s consciousness. Brother Oliver had Zack brought to the room where they first met; a single candle again created faint shadows against the wall as Zack sat across from Brother Oliver and they bowed at each other. “Your time here has given you a new sense of self,” Brother Oliver stated calmly. Zack bowed in agreement. 194
    • Oliver continued, “I think it‟s time for you to make contact with the outside world.” Zack looked confused but did not talk. “I know someone that works with troubled youths in the community. He‟ll be expecting you tomorrow.” Zack looked down to the ground and said, “Will I be able to come back?” “Your place is out there,” he motions to the front door. “You will know when it‟s time to start life anew.” Zack bowed to Brother Oliver and said, “Namaste.” The next morning Zack rose and completed his chores before heading outside. The spring air filled his lungs on the two-mile walk to the Babylon Community Center. There was so much about the world that he now appreciated, including the value he now placed on his and other lives. He met Stanley Robinson that morning and the two seemed to be kindred spirits, connected by some sort of divine intervention. You see, Brother Oliver was very familiar with the former Brother 195
    • Stanley… it had been a year since he had walked out of the doors of the monastery for the last time. Zack‟s trips to The Center became more frequent as the weeks passed. By the end of the summer, Stanley offered him a job as Assistant Program Director for $25,000 per year. For the first time in his life Zack saw the important work to be done, not the paycheck. Before the kids came flooding in every afternoon, Zack and Stanley would sit in a remote corner of The Center‟s gymnasium and meditate together for an hour. They placed a few scented candles around them and sat motionless while taking cleansing breaths. One day Stanley got up after 45 minutes and said to Zack, “I have an appointment.” Zack kept his eyes closed, slowly bowed his head in understanding, and then continued his reflective journey. One of Stanley‟s most difficult kids was in trouble with the law again – Darren Woodside had stolen some articles from a Sands Point home of a major Long Island businessman. Stanley had requested a meeting with the businessman‟s law firm before they went ahead and “threw the book” at him. 196
    • Zack had finished his meditation and was now using his gym corner to practice t‟ai chi.. His back was to the office as his movements flowed in unison with his breath. Stanley came out of the office and said to the lawyer, “My associate has done the majority of the work with Darren. Let me go over and get him…” “No, please don‟t bother him. He looks pretty deep in thought,” the lawyer said to Stanley. “Actually, we were taught to empty our minds of all thoughts when we meditate or practice t‟ai chi,” Stanley stated. “I‟ll have to learn that some time.” “I will send him in to the hearing next week with Darren,” Stanley said to the lawyer. The two parted ways as Zack continued to let be cleansed by his renewed chi energy. A week later Zack showed up with Darren Woodside at the Nassau County courthouse. Woodside had previously worn a big afro and goatee, but was now clean shaven like Zack. The two men sat in chairs next to each other meditating while they waited to enter a room where the hearing would take place. 197
    • Mindy came speeding by at her usual frantic pace and said to herself in a loud voice, “I have to learn how to do that.” She might have been talking to herself out loud but she wanted the two men to hear her. She took another few steps and then stopped in her tracks, almost making her heels spark against the hard, tiled floor. She walked back in front of the two meditating men and repeated herself, “I said, I have to learn how to do that.” The men brought their hands together and then bowed before responding. Zack, still with his eyes closed, responded, “It‟s harder to sit still in the beginning then clear your thoughts, my child.” Zack slowly opened his eyes and smiled at the sight of seeing Mindy. Mindy‟s mouth opened as she said, “Zack! It is you! Zack barely was able to stand up as Mindy nearly jumped into his arms. “I was so worried that something had happened to you.” He briefly hugged her and then backed up a bit. “That was you the other day in the gym doing t‟ai chi,” she stated. Zack nodded in agreement and then introduced his charge, “Mindy, this is Darren Woodside.” The hearing went very smoothly 198
    • after that – Woodside and Zack had to give Mindy and the wife of the client that was robbed t‟ai chi and meditation lessons three times a week in exchange for dropping any formal charges. Mindy had been taking it slow with Zack because she had been fooled before. Although she sensed a tremendous change in Zack, she was not willing to let her love for him influence her actions – at least not right away. She had focused all of her energy on her career since their break-up. In turn, Zack seemed apprehensive to venture beyond the friendly confines of his tight existence. Zack could tell that Mindy was falling back into love with him again, but he wasn‟t sure if that would lead him back to his destructive ways. One morning he went to see Brother Oliver, who seemed to always have the right thing to say. “Ah, Brother Zack. I hear you‟re doing great things over at the Community Center, Brother Oliver said as he greeted and then bowed toward Zack. Zack returned the bow and replied, “Brother Oliver, it‟s great to see you!” 199
    • “It‟s great to be seen Brother Zack. What can I do for you?” Brother Oliver asked. “Well, I have landed on some unchartered territory and I needed your help to figure out my next move,” Zack said in an apprehensive voice. The two men were walking through the monastery as Brother Oliver stopped and faced Zack, “Do you want my guidance or my approval? I heard you met your ex-wife at the courthouse.” Zack though for a moment and then replied, “I was so hurtful and unfair toward her. All she did was try to love me.” Brother Oliver asked, “Are you trying to right a wrong, or is your love still strong?” Zack barely hesitated, “Nothing is the same… We talk now… Our words have substance and meaning attached, not pain.” Brother Oliver processed the information and asked Zack, “Are you being foolish by looking ahead? Because the only thing you can truly impact is the present.” “I know that I can not return to that life completely,” Zack said pointing toward the street. 200
    • “Compromise is one of the greatest gifts we can give, my son,” Brother Oliver stated. While Zack missed the safeness of his monastery nest, he was happy being amongst the civilians and living at a slower, more meaningful pace. A few days later Mindy, Zack, and Darren Woodside were in the gym completed their t‟ai chi practice. They both bowed to Darren and he bowed and then said, “I have an admissions interview at a local college today.” Zack stuck out his right fist and Darren banged it with his left fist. “Keep walking the straight path and never look back. I am very proud of the man that you have become,” Zack said as he bowed and then hugged Darren. Darren wiped away a tear as he said, “Goodbye, Mrs. Kramer,” and walked away. Mindy said, “Good luck, Darren!” and then turned to Zack and said, “Mrs. Kramer? It‟s been a while since I have been called Mrs.” 201
    • Zack had so many things he wanted to say at once, and all of his thoughts seemed to reach his mouth at the same time, so he paused. Mindy filled the silence by saying, “Did I say something to offend you?” He waiting and then smiled, “You could never offend me, Mindy. Do you want to take a walk to the beach and get some ice cream?” She smiled back and replied, “It sounds like a plan.” 202
    • CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX Almost nine months to the day after Summer and Kathy gave birth, Amy Noble was back in the hospital spitting out the couple‟s second child. Ariel Brandy Noble only took Amy about an hour to deliver, which signaled to everyone that the little girl was ready to take on the world. In the months prior to Ariel‟s birth, word had spread through the Dune Road couples that Zack was back. Summer had relayed Mindy‟s words by telling me that, “This is not the same Zack we all knew and loathed.” As usual, I had to see it with my own eyes to believe it, so I set up a meeting with Zack at the Babylon Community Center. I‟m the type of person that always makes my own evaluation when it comes to people. Talk is extremely cheap when moral fiber is at stake – it usually works for me when I see someone, because actions always speak louder than words. I walked into the huge community center and saw a bald guy in the corner of the gym doing some karate or martial arts. My 203
    • options seemed limited after I walked around and tried to seek out other human contact, so I waited for the shiny-headed guy to finish. About 15 minutes later he bowed and then sat down and started meditating. I didn‟t have all day so I walked across the gym in the man‟s direction. “Excuse me, but do you know if Zack Kramer is around,” I said in my best irritated, New Yorker voice. He hesitated for a moment and then replied, “Has it been that long, Brother Brady?” My mind was doing its best not to spontaneously combust, so I walked quickly to see the face attached to the familiar voice. “Zack?” I said in complete astonishment. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Yes, Brady it is me. Please sit.” “I plopped to the floor and instantly hugged Zack and whispered, “It‟s good to see you, my friend.” Everything about Zack had changed from the last time I saw him. He looked so different without his hair and his eyes were much softer than I had remembered them to be. His attention was focused 204
    • squarely on me and even his manner of speaking was so much slower and gentler then before. “Death has a way of giving new life,” was one of the things he said that struck me between the eyes of profoundness. Another gem out of his mouth was, “Love is a gift that must be handled with care.” It was strange but by the end of our half-hour visit, I was talking much slower and wiser. When I got home Summer asked me how my visit with Zack went and I replied, “Time stands still when like minds meet.” She looked at me funny and I stated, “You‟d be amazed! He‟s like a different guy using Zack‟s body.” Summer replied, “Yeah, Mindy told me that he is a completely changed man.” “Are they going out again?” I asked. Summer replied, “They see each other a few times a week. I think she‟s got to ease him back into the fast lane again.” “The guy I just saw is not going to be mainstream any time soon. They‟re going to have to come up with a merge lane if they‟re going to be together again.” 205
    • About nine months later, Mindy and Zack were seeing each other nearly every day – she had fallen in love with this Zack a lot deeper than the first Zack she banged into at the health club. The Dune Road honeymoon was now about seven years behind them and was a distant memory along with their separation and subsequent divorce. “Do you ever think about us being together again?” Mindy asked Zack one night as they strolled the Jones Beach boardwalk eating ice cream cones. “It doesn‟t seem that we‟re apart much now,” he responded. Amy smirked at Zack and kept at it, “C‟mom Zack, you know what I mean.” They sat on a bench facing the ocean and watched the sun set. Zack sat and collected his thoughts for a moment and said, “You know I can‟t go back to that life, Mindy.” “Do you mean married life or all of the pressure?” Zack replied, “All of that pressure. You know my place in life is by your side, but I can‟t go back to corporate America and all of the strain of paying bills and mortgages.” 206
    • Mindy started crying and said as she rested her head on Zack‟s shoulder, “Compromise is the road toward enlightenment.” Zack‟s eyes widened and he stated, “Then we will find a way to never be apart again.” They spent weeks tossing ideas back and forth and the empty effort was becoming a bit frustrating. Mindy left the Community Center one day after another empty brainstorming session and decided to take a real long walk to clear out her head. She was walking for a few miles before she ran out of terra firma near the Babylon waterfront. “Zack, drive my car down to the vacant warehouse on the pier near the waterfront. My keys are in my purse in your desk,“ Mindy said while talking to Zack on her cell phone. Zack drove to the pier and got out of the car; Mindy was standing facing the water and was on her cell phone. “So the area is zoned for residential use. Thank you. We‟ll get back to you.” Zack looked around and the peacefulness of the area washed over his soul like a spring rain shower. 207
    • Amy put her phone in her pocket and looked at Zack, “Do you feel that?” “I never knew how peaceful it was over here,” Zack stated. Mindy said, “I was walking around trying to clear my head and everything became crystal clear to me once I walked into this area.” “I know, can see it, too,” Zack said as they hugged. Mindy went on to tell Zack that the company that previously used the warehouse transported all of its goods by boat; once they went out of business, no other companies saw the need to be so close to the waterfront so the building has been vacant for over a year. Mindy had heard for years that Babylon was talking about a pier revitalization project but nothing had ever come together. Besides, the warehouse, there was about three miles of undeveloped land sitting right on top of the water. Industry had once counted on the water to transport its goods, but the advent of UPS and FedEx had made transporting goods through the air a lot less expensive and time consuming than by boat. 208
    • “Zack, I have learned so much from our lives. I think it‟s time my life took on a greater meaning,” Mindy stated. “We should develop this pier,” Zack said. “It would create a lot of jobs and enhance the area,” Mindy replied. “I would only do it on one condition,” Zack announced. Mindy questioned, “What‟s that?” “That you marry me and we live here,” Zack said as he pointed to the vacant warehouse. Zack got down on both knees as Mindy started to shed tears of joy. “Mindy, would you do me the honor of marrying me?” Zack was also bawling as Mindy said, “I thought you‟d never ask. Yes, I‟d be honored to be your wife.” She fell into his arms as the rain started pouring from the sky. The showers lasted only a few minutes and then the sun cleared the clouds away and produced a rainbow that stretched clear across the sky. Zack looked at Mindy and said, “Well, I‟ll take that as a positive sign.” 209
    • Mindy replied, “I guess there really is gold at the end of the rainbow,” as she pointed to the rainbow that seemed to cover the entire pier. 210
    • TWENTY-SEVEN Once the news of Zack and Mindy‟s coupling got around, there was much joy from the Dune Road crew. Mindy left her job at the law firm where she was a partner, but managed to get the other three partners on board to develop a partnership on the redevelopment of the Babylon Pier. Zack and Mindy had a small wedding under a tent next their house/warehouse on the Pier. Only immediate family members and close friends were invited. Zack even had Brother Oliver from the monastery officiate the ceremony. The wedding took place at sunset and the white tent was lit on the inside by the glow of the sun and the hundred-or-so candles effectively placed on the inside perimeter. After the wedding, Zack and Mindy took all of us on a tour of their new house. At the time of their nuptials, the warehouse was still a warehouse, but it had been cleared of all of its debris and we were able to view a model of what the 5,000 feet of 35-foot-cieling space was going to look like. The entire dark iron exterior was going 211
    • to be replaced by tinted windows. Even the ceiling was going to be windows so all of the spectacular views would be uninterrupted. There were also various levels and rooms and plenty of area that was sectioned off for meditation and chi practice. The house flowed like the water right outside the door. Mindy and Zack planned to turn the concrete jungle from their property to the end of the pier into a green and flowery wonderland. The couple‟s plan for the Pier included a new Community Center and a combination of subsidized housing and housing available to the general public. Compromise was definitely the road toward enlightenment for Zack and Mindy. I can‟t speak for Kathy and Wayne, but Summer and I felt really happy when we returned from Zack and Mindy‟s wedding. To see their lives transform in front of our eyes was truly amazing. The coolest thing about the whole Pier development was that they let all of the honeymoon couples have a piece of it. We all invested about $50,000 in the $3 million project, giving us about a 5% vested stake. It was obvious that the Kramer‟s were sitting on a gold mine and the six of us did everything we could to scrape up the money. It took a 212
    • little more coaxing for Alan and Amy Noble to fork over the money, but when Amy saw a projection of the $20 million-plus expected proceeds, she quickly opened the vault. With the future looking so bright, Summer and I got busy on making kid number two. This time, however, neither Victoria nor her secret was needed to spice up the mood. We had enjoyed the first year and-a-half of Sidney‟s life and couldn‟t wait to bring another reflection of us into the world. By the time that we went over to Kathy and Wayne‟s house a few months later for a barbeque, we already knew that Summer was pregnant. We sat down on the deck and Wayne blurted out, “So you guys thinking about having another baby?” Summer looked at Kathy and the two women giggled, so I assumed that they had already talked about it inside. “Well, Wayne. It just so happens that Summer is pregnant,” I said with a smirk on my face. Wayne surprisingly looked at Kathy and she said, “Summer just told me.” 213
    • “I‟m always the last person to know everything,” Wayne said while pouting. “Don‟t feel bad, Wayne. Half the people in the doctor‟s office knew before I found out,” I said trying to pick up my friend. I could envision the screams of passion coming from the Aaronson house that night, as it was obvious that they were now on the second baby track, too. By the time Summer‟s belly had spread, Kathy Aaronson had proclaimed that she was also pregnant. The second pregnancy was pretty similar to the first time around, only this time, we pretty much knew what to expect. When the ninth month hit Summer knew that she had to hold out until the real pain of childbirth set in. My phone rang and I thought my wireless connection was bad; being that Summer was due any day, I stayed on the phone for a few more seconds than I usually would have. “Come now,” Summer grunted as she struggled to get the words out. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was picking up some flowers for the garden - I then raced home and Summer was back in 214
    • the Maternity Ward within minutes. It was a strange feeling being back there – two years had passed but it seemed like she was just there delivering Sidney. Two hours later, with “Sid” hanging out in the waiting room with Kathy, Wayne, and Nate, we strolled out into the hallway with Vaughn Alexander Hart. Four months later we were back in the hospital again to give our support to Kathy. This time Summer and I were looking after Vaughn, Nathaniel, and Sidney, and Wayne and Kathy proudly revealed Chelsea Olivia Aaronson. Both of our kids had potential mates in the event that they came up dry on the matrimony front when they were older. All of that baby making obviously inspired Amy Noble into having the couple‟s third baby. I‟m not saying directly that Amy was competitive - but she had a Lexus when everyone else had a Toyota – so going for number three when everyone else had two kids was not surprising. Two kids are plenty; that‟s one competition that Summer and I would be glad to lose. A few months after Amy Noble gave birth to Mark Adam Noble, we were all invited to see Zack and Mindy Kramer‟s finished 215
    • house. I really wasn‟t sure what to expect from the once abandoned warehouse, but I knew that anything that came from Zack and Mindy would take my breath away. Their relationship was like watching a fireworks display – the bangs from the explosives were deafening but the result was definitely a thing of beauty. I barely recognized the Babylon Pier area when we drove down with Kathy and Wayne to see their house that night. Summer turned to me as we were parking and said, “I think we‟re going to be rich.” We all responded in unison, “Yeah.” The previously vacant pier area was not dotted with a bunch of boats and a few restaurants that had opened up. The project was about 40% done and the buzz was becoming bee hive-like. The Aaronson‟s house was a good half-mile from the rest of the action on the pier, which gave them the kind of privacy and quiet that Zack needed to stay focused. When we got out of our car, we noticed that the Nobles were talking to Zack and Mindy near their front door, which had a cool nautical theme. The old, rusty iron outside had been replaced by 216
    • tinted, unbreakable glass that allowed the viewer to see outside but not in. We all exchanged kisses and hugs and Kathy asked Amy about the baby and she replied, “I‟ve been with him for two months straight. I got my mom over there tonight.” Mindy then took over: “We are so glad that our best friends can share this great experience with us. Zack and I know that our second chance was for a reason and we are making the most of the opportunity. I hope you enjoy the experience.” Then Zack chimed in, “Our home is your home.” It was the most effective use of space that any of us had ever seen. Minimalism and feng shui were on a grand scale with this natural palace. There was even a waterfall and stream running throughout the entire house that gave you a feeling of tranquility – that and the fact that every room had a great view to the outside through the glass made it truly a serene paradise. The thirty-five foot ceilings didn‟t seem as daunting once the glass was place on top of them; that way, the ceiling was just air on 217
    • the way to the sky. There were parts of the house that were two levels, while others, like the chi room and workout room took advantage of the seemingly infinite space. The house had a total of five bedrooms, with another room or two available to accommodate sleepers in a pinch. Natural light controlled the lighting system in the house; as it got darker outside, the interior lights would respond and naturally illuminate the space. The couple even had a few flower gardens placed around the stream and waterfalls. We all sat down at the couple‟s huge table and feasted on take-out Chinese food. Zack took at a pile of fortune cookies out at the end of the meal and walked around the table giving each of us a cookie. He walked around saying, “This one looks like Wayne,” or this is Summer‟s.” Each fortune read exactly the same message: “LOOK UNDER YOUR PLATE AND RECEIVE A BIG REWARD.” We all looked under our plates and discovered an envelope with our names on them. Before we opened them, Zack said, “We have all entered into this Babylon Pier project so we can do a good 218
    • thing for the community. We thank you and the community thanks you. This is only half of what you can expect.” I could sense that a check was inside of that envelope but had absolutely no idea what the amount would be. Seeing “ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS” written in huge type across the check with the name “BRADY AND SUMMER HART” at the top nearly left me speechless. We all flashed our checks at each other and a raucous celebration ensued. Practical Amy Noble turned to Alan and pointed at their check and said, “Bank and college fund.” We had all invested $50,000 and got $200,000 as a return. Once things calmed down, I turned to Zack and Amy and said, “Do you have any other deals in the works?” Amy looked at me with a smiling face and replied, “I‟ll give you a call next week.” I banged fists with Wayne and said, “We have to start getting out of the office more, don‟t you think?” He replied, “I‟m right behind you partner.” 219
    • CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT Just as we all were settling into a life of financial security and eternal happiness, we got word that Kathy‟s father had passed away. Yes, the man who groped as many women as he gave sermons to had taken his final breath on this earth. Kathy‟s mother had the body shipped from Kansas City, where her ex-husband was living, to their old church‟s burial ground in Atlanta. Kathy hadn‟t talked to her father for years before he had a massive heart attack a few months before he died. He knew the end was coming and wanted to make everything right before he died. “Hello,” Kathy said when she answered the phone. “Hello Kathy, it‟s your father.” “My father, who?” she said sarcastically. “I just wanted to say how sorry I am for causing you any distress.” Being unprepared for a conversation is akin to getting your pants pulled down in the middle of class. Words become stuck in your throat like there is a huge traffic jam between your brain and mouth. 220
    • Kathy has absolutely no idea what to say in response to her father‟s apology. She thought about it many times, but really never considered that she would hear from her father again. Living with someone you thought was wonderful for so many years and then finding out they were a complete fraud is devastating. Kathy had many talks with her mother, who lived within a short drive of our neighborhood. Most of their conversations centered around the present and the future, not the past, so Kathy was definitely ready to look ahead when her dad called out of the blue. Kathy paused and waited for her dad to do most of the talking so she could calmly respond. The ex-Minister continued talking, “I wouldn‟t blame you if you never wanted to talk to me again, but I wanted to hear your voice again before I passed on.” Kathy responded, “Passed on? Are you sick?‟ “I had a pretty massive heart attack last month and there have been some complications from the quadruple bypass surgery I had.” “I‟m sorry to hear that,” Kathy said in a low tone. 221
    • “Don‟t feel bad, Kate. It turns out your dad with the big heart is really someone with not much heart at all. You know, I‟m pretty disappointed too.” Kathy simply asked, “Why?” “That‟s one of those questions that may not have any answer,” Mr. Lamb said. “Maybe it was all that power, or it could have been the distant relationship I had with your mother. There are some days that I am even under the belief that I could have been abused as a child.” “Well, you have had a lot to chew on the past few years,” Kathy stated. “Yes, and I want you to know that I never meant to hurt you or any of your friends. I will love you even when I‟m gone from this world,” he said as Kathy started to cry. Kathy had no response other than, “I love you too, daddy. I just hope you go to a place where you can get a second chance.” Mr. Lamb hesitated for a moment as if he was getting choked up. “I‟m sure my spirit will go where it is meant to be.” 222
    • And just like that Kathy had cleaned the slate with her dying father. Although she hadn‟t forgiven him completely for his heinous indiscretions, she was able to put them aside to comfort the dying man. The funeral was short and sweet and everyone, including Summer and I, were able to have closure from an extremely confusing and angry period of our lives. We spent the weekend in Atlanta and had a great time frolicking all over the city with Mrs. Lamb as our tour guide. She was proud of where she came from and was also happy to bury much of the pain inside of her. We were sitting at dinner that last night we were there and Mrs. Lamb got all of our attention when she said: “I‟ve been dating a man from Setauket. He‟s an ex-fireman.” We had all been drinking a bit too much, probably because we didn‟t have the kids with us for a change. We split the little rug rats up between Alan and Amy Noble and Zack and Mindy Kramer, who were nice enough to help us out on such short notice. “How long have you two been dating?” I asked Mrs. Lamb. 223
    • Summer and Kathy shot me a look like I shouldn‟t be encouraging such behavior. The woman had been through a lot and I was just trying to create some conversation. Mrs. Lamb responded, “About six months.” Wayne was also in a defiant mood so he asked, “What does the lucky fella‟ look like?” Kathy gave him a look that might have been against the law in many “red” states. “He‟s about six foot one, short gray hair and the brightest blue eyes you‟ve ever seen.” Kathy‟s dinner took a u-turn at the small intestine and was threatening to shoot out from where it came from. She finally interjected, “Okay! Okay! We‟re getting into the too much information area!” Summer interjected, “Would you ever get married again?” Before Kathy had a chance to jump over the table and take out Summer, Mrs. Lamb answered, “No. I don‟t need to be married again.” 224
    • Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and Kathy joined the question party. “Did you ever think of divorcing dad before you did?” Mrs. Lamb reached for her Margarita and took a long, slow gulp. “I tried at least a half-a-dozen times to break free but he was always able to reel me back in. There were rumors about his lewd activities but no one would dare question a man of the clergy. I suppose I cared more about his reputation and how it would look than doing the absolute right thing.” I asked, “You really deserved a fresh start, Mrs. L. Let‟s toast to second chances.” We all raised our glasses and clinked them until all of the possible combinations were exhausted. Drinking has a way of dulling the senses the way that living a lie heightens your inhibitions. There was no greater truth in life than watching Mrs. Lamb living as free as a bird. She was now a manager at Costco and was keeping company with a man that truly cared about her. It was energizing to see someone so nice have life finally treat her so well. 225
    • CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE It was the nine-year anniversary of our honeymoon on Dune Road. We all decided to meet at one of the favorite restaurants on the Babylon Pier to celebrate the festive occasion. As our waiter came to the table to take our drink orders, Mindy Kramer conspicuously ordered a Virgin Daiquiri. We all looked at her, because we had never seen her pull up and go virgin in all of the years we knew her. She noticed we were staring and she stood up, although it was hard to tell because she was vertically challenged. “You guys never give me an inch, so I‟ll end the gripping suspense.” Tears streamed down her cheeks, “Zack and I are pregnant.” There wasn‟t a dry eye at the table as we exchanged hugs, kisses and congratulations. I hugged Zack and as we pulled apart I whispered, “It couldn‟t happen to two nicer people.” I then said out loud,” You really don‟t look pregnant.” 226
    • Wayne chimed in, “Yeah, how come you get to drink and she doesn‟t.” The drinks came and Zack raised his glass and proposed a toast: “Here‟s to six of the best friends a person could have. I don‟t know where we would be without all of your love and support.” As the glasses were clanking Zack added, “We should do this every year.” Mindy asked, “Yeah, why don‟t we have a big 10-year blowout?” I added, “Why don‟t we take a second honeymoon on Dune Road next spring?” By the boisterous reaction, the second honeymoon was certain to come off. Between the kids and all of our busy co-mingled real estate schedules, it would take months to plan a quiet week away together. Alan Noble, who was now a Vice president at Disney, was the only guy to keep his full-time job after our real estate boon. Zack relinquished his salary at the Babylon Community Center and still volunteered about 30 hours a week. The rest of us poor schmucks basically worked for and with Mindy. Gone was my two-hour commute to New York City – I was making three times as much 227
    • money working the same amount of hours and I actually enjoyed what I was doing. Mindy was the most responsive leader I had ever seen – she even put in a full day care center and gymnasium at the Babylon Pier so Summer, Kathy, Wayne, and I could work all without worrying about the kids. Although it was a decent drive from Setauket to Babylon every day, the commute really didn‟t bother us – that was, until, our oldest kids entered pre-school. Our two families, the Aaronsons and the Harts, needed a real estate development opportunity closer to home. We often strolled through the town of Setauket near the water but we had stumbled upon a discovery one night while eating ice cream. Wayne and I branched off with our littlest ones in their strollers - there was a half-mile of stretch of waterfront property that was vacant, complete with an old boathouse and an abandoned restaurant. Wayne looked at me and I looked at him and we knew that this project would be our real estate “baby”. My exodus from corporate America was quite liberating; in fact, I think it set all of us free. Only the Nobles didn‟t jump at the 228
    • chance of a lifetime, but Amy had a plan and deviating from that plan would probably have thrown the entire balance of the universe off. Don‟t get me wrong - being a real estate developer had its share of setbacks and frustrations, too. Between the overpriced and under exerted New York lawyers, the clogged up zoning and town boards, the delays after delays, you needed to patience of a middle school teacher. I felt so much more comfortable working with my wife and my friends. You always here about the saying that you shouldn‟t mix “business and pleasure.” But, if business is pleasure, then the conflict seems to just melt away. Wayne and I were on the job at the Setauket waterfront one slow afternoon when he said, “Can‟t say that I miss taking that fuckin‟ train into the city every day.” “Yeah, but I do miss the sweltering heat and the smell of urine in the subways,” I said sarcastically. “It was tough dealing with the homeless people every day,” Wayne said. 229
    • “You ever lived on the street?” I asked Wayne. He replied, “No, have you.” I looked around like I didn‟t want anyone to hear what I was saying, “Well, there was this four-month period before I met Summer that I was living in a box under the Hicksville train station.” Wayne gulped and said, “Really? How come you never told me about it.” I shook me head like I was ashamed, “If you had a skeleton like that in your closet would you let it out?” Wayne thought for a moment and then reluctantly spoke, “I guess not. How did you get out of it?” “Well after a few months I got tired of being Old Man Dan‟s bitch, so I beat the shit out of him and stole all of his money. Turn‟s out the old geezer really wasn‟t homeless – he just liked to have sex with homeless guys. The guy had a huge wad of hundreds in his pocket rolled up with a rubber band. Not really sure if the guy was dead, or not. I hit him pretty hard with that tire iron.” Wayne sat motionless for about 10 seconds, and it seemed that he was having as much trouble digesting my words as eating a tofu 230
    • burger. I put my hand on his arm and he jumped back. I said, “Are you all right, man?” “What? Am I all right?” he said screaming at me. “Dude, calm down,” I said trying to ease his meltdown. Just as Wayne was ready to get up and walk far, far away from me, I smiled and started laughing. Wayne looked back and yelled, “What the hell are you laughing about you homeless, homicidal, kleptomaniac, homosexual!” I stopped laughing and said, “Come on back you stupid, naïve bastard!” “What?” he yelled at me. “Are you calling me names?” Wayne had reached the boiling point and had to be reigned back in: “You are the dumbest fuck I have ever met! I would have told you if I was homeless!” Wayne didn‟t know whether to believe me or just be embarrassed about believing my whole story. “So, you were never homeless?” I shook my head and said, No.” 231
    • “And you never knocked an old guy out and stole all of his money?” Again, I shook my head and answered “Of course not.” I knew he had one more question to ask me and I was waiting to squeeze the last drops out of the gag. He hesitated and then asked, “How about the part where you were someone‟s bitch?” I thought for a moment and my facial expression conveyed some uncertainty. I was trying not to look at Wayne because I would surely break out into tear-streaming laughter if our eyes met. Wayne was about to talk, even though he was so repulsed that he felt a little pre-hurl forming in his throat. I looked up and started laughing. Wayne saw the mocking look on my face and started to chase me. “I‟m going to get you back one day!” he yelled as he chased me into a local restaurant. Since we were prominent members of the community, even though we were still little boys at heart, we had to keep our dignity. Twenty or thirty years earlier and Wayne would have had me in a headlock and I would have been getting my lying ass kicked. 232
    • “Hey, as long as we‟re here I‟ll buy you lunch, “I said slightly out of breath. Wayne took a deep breath and replied, “Just as long as you don‟t disappear under the table.” We laughed and walked to our table as I put my arm around my best male friend and patted him on the back. “Sorry, left the knee pads at home today.” 233
    • CHAPTER THIRTY It was a good thing that we started planning the second honeymoon a year in advance because the scheduling conflicts had to be untangled like a fork-full of spaghetti. It was relatively simple for Alan and Amy Noble to put in for vacation time, but the rest of us had projects that required constant monitoring. Wayne, Kathy, Summer, and I were finally making real progress on the Setauket waterfront development project. Finding the vacant property and purchasing it after rigorous negotiations was just a small percentage of the process. The real value was figuring out how the land would be best utilized – you have to study demographics in order to uncover who the customer is and what they really want. We had a real problem in the Three Village area with teenagers and college-age kids getting in trouble. The central issue was that they had no place to go and let off some steam besides the local movie multiplex and the mall. There are just so many times that you can do laps around the mall and get sick from the greasy movie popcorn. 234
    • Parents and kids need their space, but it appears that they also need to keep an eye on each other. With a half-a-mile of real estate and some waterfront property, we decided to build an indoor/outdoor complex to satisfy all of town‟s gaming needs. People spend entirely too much time at home, and families are always off in separate parts of the house. Our facility makes it possible for families to pile in the car and spend a few hours relaxing and letting off some steam. Kids have a choice of a skate park, bowling alley, game room that includes board games and the latest video games, miniature golf, and a batting cage. Adults can choose from bowling, video simulated golf, big screen viewing room, reading and audio room, Asian fitness and massage therapy. There are also common areas for beach volleyball, cookouts, and basketball. The best part of the project was that only Three Village residents and their guests are allowed access – a portion of the proceeds goes back to the town, which also gives us a nice tax break – Mindy knows all of those intricate tax law loopholes. Wayne and I particularly loved the video simulated golf – players brought their clubs and played in foursomes just like real golf 235
    • – we served beer and finger foods just like a bowling alley and players were guided through a round of 18 holes via a computer simulation projected on a big screen. We had such a huge demand for the game that we added three additional simulators and had people use a call-in service for tee-times. It would be common sense to think that the golf game was more popular in the winter than the summer, spring, and fall, but we had pretty steady traffic year-round. Golfers felt like they would rather hang out with their friends and practice on the simulator than be isolated and rushed at the driving range. Besides, the driving range barely simulated actual conditions – we were able to use a turf that felt and looked like real grass and the players responded favorably to it. We charged an annual fee of $150 for individuals, $250 for couples, and $350 for families to be a member of “Pastime”, plus pay- for-play fees associated with almost all of the activities. To be honest, these fees were not astronomical; we made the majority of our money on the concessions and membership fees. For instance, a round 236
    • of golf was $20 per person, but the snacks and alcoholic beverages averaged another $25 per person. About the time the second honeymoon came up, we were exploring the possibility of opening a few other locations around Long Island and eventually franchising “Pastime”. We had so many positive comments from guests of our town‟s residents that it seemed only natural to look at the expansion idea. We heard comments like: “When are you going to open one of these near my house?” and “How come nobody ever thought of this before?” My answers were “Possibly” and “We were feeling lucky.” 237
    • CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE The second honeymoon at the Dune Road Resort was slated to be a joyous ten-year anniversary celebration. So much had changed getting from Point A - being freshly married couples - to Point B and our vision that the fun had just begun. Since our children were now such a significant part of our lives, we all agreed that bringing them along to Dune Road would only enhance the experience. So, armed with a few well-trained babysitters and a large suitcase filled with coloring books, crayons, and toys, we all made the short journey out east. As with most vacations, the second honeymoon would be about rest and relaxation. We were such close friends that no activity or conversation was off limits. Other than wife or husband swapping, the eight of us were virtually interchangeable. Mindy Kramer and I loved to go to the beach with our baseball gloves and have a catch. We also got into many pressure-packed games of whiffle ball – man, that ball floats all over the place on the beach. 238
    • Summer and Wayne Aaronson shared a common obsession for resale shops. It seemed that wherever we went with the Aaronson‟s, the two of them would disappear into a dusty-smelling, bargain hunting, resale shop. Wayne‟s wife Kathy would spend hours on the beach with Alan Noble collecting shells. Then they would take their favorites and make crafts out of them – they made a shell lamp and a shell kitchen table, in addition to making more common items such as picture frames and flowerpots. Zack Kramer could be seen meditating with Amy Noble, who had turned to the inward reflection after having trouble sleeping - she had so much on her mind that the planning never seemed to stop – Zack was asked to step in and help from a groggy, sleep-deprived, Alan Noble who got nowhere trying to count shells. The Dune Road Resort consisted of 100 rooms on two floors facing the Atlantic Ocean. There was also a state-of the-art spa, which included an awesome workout facility, sauna, Jacuzzi, and massage therapy. All of us real estate barons were quite envious of the location and the well-manicured grounds – the impact of staying 239
    • at this 5-star resort must have resonated with all of us without even knowing it. Every day the kids were swimming in the pool, flying kites, and making sand castles on the beach. By the middle of the week, us “big people” stopped our worldly pursuits long enough to eat lunch. The beach group included Alan, Mindy, Kathy, and I – Alan and Kathy put their shell-searching down and Mindy had rocketed a two- run homer into the surf to abruptly put an end to our spirited whiffle ball game. Before we sat down for lunch in the resort‟s restaurant, which overlooked the beach, I called my beautiful wife to see what she was up to: “Chiello!” Summer said as she answered her cell phone. “Hello, love” I happily replied. She asked, “So what are you doing?” “Well, I just threw a hanging screwball to Mindy and she slammed it into the ocean,” I stated. “You are a screwball! What are you doing for lunch?” she said. 240
    • All I heard was the word “screw” and I replied, “A little afternoon delight today?” “Focus boy! But I‟ll meet you back at the room at two.” I got back on track, “Well. Mindy, Kathy, Alan, and I are about to sit down at the Beachcomber Restaurant in the hotel. What are you doing?” She responded, “Wayne and I have picked about every resale shop clean. We just saw Zack and Amy walking in town and we‟re deciding between The Main Street Café and Barringers for lunch.” I thought for a moment and replied, “The Café serves breakfast all day and Barringers has a great French Dip sandwich.” Summer chuckled, “I‟ll save my „dipping‟ for you.” In hindsight, it must have been fortuitous geography that split us into two neat groups that mind-blowing afternoon. My group of Mindy Kramer, Alan Noble, and Kathy Aaronson sat at a large round table on the patio of the resort‟s restaurant. The other group, which included Summer, Zack Kramer, Amy Noble, and Wayne Aaronson sat inside The Main Street Café in a large booth with green cushioned seats and a thick mahogany table top. 241
    • When you are friends with people for a significant chunk of time the conversation tends to flow like a mountain stream. The topics are usually light when groups of three or more people are talking; the real „heavy lifting‟ tends to usually occur when just a few opinions can be heard. The planets must have been perfectly aligned on that afternoon because the bombs were flying everywhere. Looking around our table, if any bombs were thrown they would probably come from either Mindy or Kathy. Alan was about as likely to throw a verbal bomb as he was to defy his wife… or so I thought. Summer‟s table was a bit more predictable, though, with Amy being the likely candidate for combustion. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with some nicely decorated French fries as part of my effort to slow down the aging process. Mindy went for the strip steak sandwich and fires, Alan opted for a cheeseburger and fries – yes, he requested cheese on his fries - and Kathy played it safe with a Caesar salad. In town, the food for the other quartet kept coming like a conveyor belt was moving through the middle of their table. “To breakfast or not to breakfast?” was the question of the day at The 242
    • Main Street Café. Summer got her usual order of chocolate chip pancakes and she washed it down with a hot chocolate topped with a dome of whipped cream. Zack ate healthy, as was the par for the course since his rebirth, with an egg white omelet with assorted vegetables. Amy couldn‟t get her Cobb salad to her mouth fast enough – there were lettuce, eggs, and avocados flying everywhere - her mouth looked like a buzz saw cutting wood. Wayne couldn‟t decide between breakfast and lunch so he hedged and got a bacon and cheese omelet with a side of fresh-cut fries. It appeared that moving would be the hardest part of the lunches once it ended, but the tide swiftly turned somewhere in between unbuttoning the jeans and splitting up the check. Wayne and I had a sort of silent agreement when it came to our wives; if either one of us were out with the other person‟s wife then we picked up the check. The gentlemanly gesture happened so infrequently but it never failed to materialize since we‟ve been friends. “I have something I need to discuss with you guys,” Alan Noble said with a concerned look on his face. I looked at Kathy and 243
    • she glanced at Mindy, and I said, “We might be full but I think we can still hear you,” trying to lighten the mood of his heavy stare. “I‟ve been struggling for years with a central issue in my life” Alan started by saying. I looked around and felt somewhat calmer knowing that we were the only people sitting in the outdoor portion of the restaurant. I wasn‟t sure at the time what he was going to say but I was certain that it would be out of the ordinary. Alan was very much a private person that tended to shy away from conversation in bigger crowds; a big crowd to Alan was more than two people. Professionally, he could speak in front of a room of employees without breaking a sweat, but his personal life obviously created a wide departure from this usual grace under pressure. Beads of sweat started to form on Alan‟s forehead, which was a surprising result in the face of beautiful, crisp 60-degree spring day. He continued, “I have always known that I was different than the other boys.” My mind instantly flashed back to the afternoon that we played golf and then showered in the locker room of his club. Not 244
    • that I looked at him when we were showering or when we were getting dressed, but I didn‟t notice anything different about Alan than the other „boys‟ in the locker room. “I hate to sound like Howard Stern but I had a two-year period in college where I only slept with guys,” Alan casually blurted out like he was giving the recipe to a chicken dish. If a match were lit at our table at that moment, I‟m sure that Mindy, Kathy, and I would have exploded into dust on the spot. “Alan with other men? Are you kidding me right now?” was what I thought. Before we had a chance to fully recover from the first shock, he kept the electricity flowing. “I thought that marrying Amy and then having a family would stop me from being gay.” I turned my head a bit in confusion and looked at the two women and squinted in disbelief. How could such a smart person be so stupid? Just then, my phone and then Kathy‟s and Mindy‟s phones rang almost simultaneously. With a few words from our spouses, the „other shoe‟ fell in equally dramatic fashion. We all said, “You better 245
    • get back here” and hung up the phones. Alan looked at us without a clue in the world and said, “What‟s going on?” I stepped in and responded, “We‟re gonna‟ have a big talk near the bonfire pit in about 15 minutes, so hold all of your questions until then.” In an incredible and disturbing coincidence, both Alan and Amy Noble decided to come out of the closet at the same time. It really made me wonder if they had discussed some sort of plan before headed out for the second honeymoon. I felt like running up to the room and letting my stomach collapse but I didn‟t want to embarrass Alan. Kathy, Mindy, and I escorted him to the beach and I plunked a huge umbrella down in the sand near the barbeque pit to give us some shade. A few minutes after we sat down our spouses arrived and we all sat down for what became the pow-wow of the century. I turned to Amy Noble, who was sitting next to her husband and said, “I heard you dropped some big news on your lunch buddies - but that isn‟t the only enlightenment we‟ve been graced with today.” I was trying to be as delicate as possible because neither Noble 246
    • outwardly knew of their spouse‟s statements. I looked at Alan and stated, “Isn‟t that right Big Al?” Alan seemed a lot more nervous than he did when he told us his big secret at lunch. “Yeah, that‟s right Brady.” Amy Noble turned to her husband and studied his face; it wasn‟t just fear that she had detected in his face all of those years. “Don‟t tell me you‟re gay!” she exclaimed, not realizing the impact it would have on the group. Wayne fell back into the sand and Zack let out an audible gasp. Summer didn‟t react because I had whispered the secret in her ear a few minutes before the big shock. We have no secrets between us and tend to repeat just about everything to each other. Alan was about to say, “Yeah, how did you know,” but he looked at his wife and finally understood her for the first time in over ten years. “You‟re a lesbian,” Alan gasped as he put his hand over his mouth. We were all, for use of a better term, aflutter over the activity. I must admit my first thought was that the Nobles would get a divorce, but that notion was quickly squelched by Amy: “There are a 247
    • few things we have to discuss now that we‟ve both stepped out of the closet. First of all, I didn‟t put all of this work into this man to divorce him. Secondly, we have to be the same parents to these kids that we‟ve been all these years. Lastly, if any of you take this secret out of this beach and blab it, I will hunt you down and make you wish you were never born.” Alan nodded his head in agreement and said, “That goes double for me.” We all swore that we wouldn‟t tell the Nobles „gay‟ secret and we sat on the beach and talked the situation out. “Have you ever looked at me while I was naked,” Wayne said to Alan. Alan, showing some personality for a change, winked at Wayne and responded, “Yes, and it looked delicious.” Wayne turned whiter than he already was and Kathy laughed so hard that the Diet Coke she was drinking filtered out of her nose. Once the laughter subsided Alan said, “Don‟t worry guys. I love you all but not in that way.” The normally quiet Zack asked, “What‟s you type?” 248
    • Alan looked at Amy and replied, “Amy with a penis.” Amy returned the thought and stated, “My type is Alan without the penis.” The women breathed a collective sigh of relief. “So, how are you two going to blend all of this in with your current lifestyle?” Mindy asked. Amy took charge as usual – “I was thinking that going on a retreat a few times a year would cover it until the kids are grown and out of the house.” Summer inquired, “You‟re not going to tell the kids are you?” “Yeah, when would be the right time to do that?” Kathy added. “That‟s a good question,” Amy said. “Probably when they‟re in college,” Zack interjected. I said, “Yeah, that‟s about the time I started losing most of my brain cells.” “Maybe they won‟t even notice,” Kathy stated. “So, that gives us another 10 years at least before we have to deal with this,” Alan said to Amy. 249
    • Amy replied, “ Does this mean that I don‟t have to give you mercy sex anymore once a month?” “I thought I was the one being merciful,” Alan said with a wry smirk. More than the secret that bound us to death, it was the genuine love and admiration we shared that kept us together. All of these personal goose bumps left us feeling that maybe we should do this honeymoon thing more often. For four couples, their second honeymoon on Dune Road signified a coming of age – a point in their lives that required a memorable pause. If life is a series of events brought together by fate, then my friends definitely prescribe to the words of the late, great Luther Vandross who sang, “I‟d rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else. I'd rather be beside you in a storm, than safe and warm by myself.” Gone but never forgotten. 250