Second Honeymoon on Dune Road


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Second Honeymoon on Dune Road

  1. 1. Second Honeymoon On Dune Road By Philip Wohl
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. 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
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12. 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
  13. 13. 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
  14. 14. 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
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. 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
  20. 20. 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
  21. 21. 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
  22. 22. 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
  23. 23. 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
  24. 24. 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
  25. 25. 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
  26. 26. 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, 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 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
  27. 27. 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
  28. 28. 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
  29. 29. 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
  30. 30. 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
  31. 31. 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
  32. 32. 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 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
  33. 33. 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
  34. 34. 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
  35. 35. 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
  36. 36. 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
  37. 37. 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
  38. 38. 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
  39. 39. 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
  40. 40. 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
  41. 41. 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
  42. 42. “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
  43. 43. “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
  44. 44. 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
  45. 45. “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
  46. 46. 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
  47. 47. 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
  48. 48. 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
  49. 49. 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
  50. 50. “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
  51. 51. 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
  52. 52. 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
  53. 53. 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
  54. 54. 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
  55. 55. 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
  56. 56. 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
  57. 57. 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
  58. 58. 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
  59. 59. 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
  60. 60. 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
  61. 61. 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
  62. 62. 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
  63. 63. 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
  64. 64. 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
  65. 65. 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
  66. 66. 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
  67. 67. 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
  68. 68. 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
  69. 69. 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
  70. 70. 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
  71. 71. 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
  72. 72. 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
  73. 73. 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
  74. 74. 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
  75. 75. 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
  76. 76. 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
  77. 77. 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
  78. 78. 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
  79. 79. 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
  80. 80. 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
  81. 81. 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
  82. 82. “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
  83. 83. 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
  84. 84. 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
  85. 85. 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