It was nice to spend a few days in New Jersey. Even though we haven’t been away long, Mabel and I have grown used to a pack up-drive-set up-do it all over again schedule. It was the weekend so house projects were on the schedule for My Uncle and cousin, I had a pass from working and spread out on the screen porch to see how much writing I could get done. It takes time to put thought to paper and I hate being behind, someday I will get caught up. My Aunt and Maddie took me for a tour of their town. Moorestown is nice; a vibrant main street and perfectly kept old homes, a real community. I just wish they still had the cinnamon rolls from the Peter Pan Bakery, now a vacant storefront with a big “Available” sign in the window. We stopped for an egg sandwich at a bagel place where I asked the young girl behind the counter if the sausage was “free range” and she paused, giving me a look of confusion before I said I was just joking. I sensed her relief in not having to find an answer for what is probably the stupidest question of the day. At checkout, I used my second standard joke telling the man we hope the credit card works since it was found in the parking lot. Those are my two go-to lines and Sheri has grown tired of me using them; enough to say I need to stop. But New Jersey is a whole new audience and I figure I can get some more mileage out of these two rather funny jokes before they need permanent retirement.
The pool! It felt great on what was so hot of a day and I enjoyed using it for the afternoon. I found that my winter bulk is good for cannon balls and we had fun making big waves. That night found us involved in a heated game of bean bags or corn hole depending on where in the country you reside. My game was off, I think the bags were weighted differently, and we lost. I hate losing but it did get us inside to devour an authentic New Jersey Pizza pie. Some karaoke wound Madeline up before bed time and we exited, leaving Jen with an energetic 6-year-old to try and calm down.
Sunday found us at Target where I stocked up on supplies for the next few days. I am using a cooler so traveling light, except for the ice and resulting water left from the melt. We hung out until 2:30 or so when I packed up and pulled out heading for Eastern Long Island after a stop in Brooklyn to see Sheri’s cousins. This was the part of the trip I was most nervous over, getting through NYC with a trailer without making any mistakes. I am not allowed in the tunnels and must watch the roads I use. Add to it driving though Brooklyn and I will admit to a heavy case of nerves. Rarely did we go into the City when I grew up in Sag Harbor. There where school trips but few forays into Manhattan just to have fun. We lost my Mom in Manhattan for a few hours when my sister and I were young. I can remember my Dad getting frantic because she wasn’t at the designated meeting spot, this was before cell phones. A time when Arcades and quarters were needed to play video games. The only other time I can remember is taking a taxi from the Met to purchase fake ID’s and my only visit to a peep show. This was pre-Giuliani 42nd street. The City was a dark and evil place that would eat a hayseed like me alive then and now.
But I told Dane and Mitch I was coming so no chickening out. I had to travel over the Goethals and Verrazano Bridges anyway as I used HWY 278 to get to HWY 495 (The LIE) and couldn’t just pass by. Sheri had promised them big hugs and I am sure they were waiting for my arrival to make good on her promise. I had the address locked into Google maps and I turned off just before having to pass through a tunnel. The signs showing the tunnel entrance into Manhattan caused some anxiety but I trusted Google, don’t we all, and was soon sitting in front of Mitchell’s house/apartment. I had made it. We found parking, it took some time, on the street behind his place and walked back. Mabel’s first time in the Big City! He and his girlfriend Mari have a cool place, the wood floors are amazing, the style says sophistication and the patio outback provided the venue for Mitch’s grilling. Dane popped over and we caught up on everyone’ happenings. Two types of desserts, were offered; homemade ice cream rolls and a key lime pie ice cream pop. I declined stuffed from the burgers, besides I want to maintain my beach bod for the Hamptons. They provided directions that took me down Broadway and back to HWY 278. I followed them in spirit, white knuckles on the steering wheel, as I passed by people and stores and a different type of life than I could imagine. The City would eat a hayseed like me alive and I respect the determination required to live there. To commemorate my trip, I am going to get the red Bed Stuy Athletic T-shirt worn by the Beastie Boys. I think I deserve it.
Heading East! The sign that said Eastern LI was comforting. Mabel and God as my copilots (thanks for the cross Pat Regan, I kept it close on this part of the journey) had guided me through the hardest part of the journey and I was heading home, to my New York home. It did dawn on me that we still had a long drive ahead of us but at least we were heading the right direction and had to turn only at exit 70. No tolls, light traffic, and if I ventured too far North or South I would be in the water, so I felt we were safe. Gas was needed and we pulled off around exit 49, found a Sunoco station that turned out to be full serve and paid $2.89 for gas. It left me wondering what the Hamptons prices would look like. Mabel needed exercise and we found the Sbarro Corporate Offices just to the right of the on ramp. It provided easy in and out with a grassy strip for Mabel to explore. I was talking to Sheri when Mabel saw something of interest and was gone before I knew what had happened. I took off after her and she finally came back only to take off again, this time out of site. I could hear her tags jingling in the dark but it was an unnerving feeling to not know where she was. I put Mabel back in the car, no more distractions, and we continued East.
Familiarity contrasted with the changes I saw after passing into Southampton and my mind raced to remember what used to be. October 2015 was my last visit and that was a quick one for my 30-year high school reunion. The diner was still there, not sure if it was open at this hour though. As I came into Watermill, this is no lie, Motley Crue’s Home Sweet Home came on the radio. I took it as a sign that I had made it and can now get a little comfortable. Mabel slept through my singing, no doubt tired from all the running at Sbarro.
Sag Harbor was quiet and I used Google to find where I was staying. Imagine having to use Google in your hometown, you know things have changed when you need to use it to find a childhood friend. Kevin and Missy were letting me park the camper in their driveway for a little bit of neighborhood camping and I was happy to have the spot. I placed a call out to my friends through Facebook and they offered first. It was nice to have so many offers and I felt bad turning people down but home towns are like that; people helping people. Google said to turn right but I remember them living left. Google had gotten me this far, might as well trust it with this so I turned Arabella right. Their road was dark and I couldn’t tell which house was theirs so I took a chance. Pulling around the corner, the clock reading 12:30, I decided that Mabel and I would crawl into the camper and try to get some sleep. Another first, parking in a neighborhood to sleep in a teardrop camper that shows out of state plates in what is one of the most exclusive parts of the country. Thank goodness for that cross Pat Regan.
Today’s gratitude is making it through NYC with no issues.