Monday, October 31, 2016
There is almost no place like home
Last week I did something I hadn't done in a good eight years, I went home.
Some of you may recognize the little hamlet as it was recently showcased on national TV. That cute little 12 year old girl who plays the ukulele and sings like a beatnik Ella Fitzgerald, is also from Suffern.
It's odd to think of this place as my home when in reality I lived there less than ten years -- from when I was 12 until I was 22. But of all the years of one's life, these perhaps are the most formative.
To the dismay of their wives, I spent most of my time in Suffern with my high school buddies. The drinking, the cavorting, and the storytelling resumed as if we were on a camping trip and the 8 year gap was simply me stepping away to the bushes to take a leak.
My neck and cheekbones are still in agony from all the laughter and I find myself chomping on Tylenols as if they were chicklets.
Despite our better judgment, we went to our high school reunion. Which one, you ask? The number doesn't matter. I'm 44, you do the math.
The turnout was light, but it was more than fascinating to talk with people who I knew in a different life. Jocks. Stoners. Band Nerds. Each one had their own surprising tale to tell. And, had I not become instant friends with the bartender and his industrial-sized bottle of Maker's Mark, I might even be able to remember some of them.
Also, apologies to any classmates (who generally don't read this) if I cornered you and pimped my latest book. That was the bourbon talking. As my California friends will attest, I'm very shy about self promotion.
On a less jovial note, my hometown visit also included some obligatory trips to the cemetery, to pay respects to our friend Jim, who we lost way too early.
And to see the final resting place of my parents. The sight of their matching side-by-side tombstones stopped me in my tracks and immediately opened the floodgates. It also sent me scurrying throughout the nearby woods for tombstone-appropriate pebbles and rocks -- those of you who are MOT or friends of MOT will understand.
But perhaps what I miss most about Rockland County/Northern New Jersey are the diners. There is something about sitting in a booth, thumbing through a 38 page menu and being served by a salty waitress named Donna or Karen, that just cannot be beat. We found ourselves at the Stateline Diner so often, that on the third visit my buddy Jamie - one of the funniest people on the planet -- remarked to the hostess,
"Look at us, we're like homing pigeons."
It all felt good.
And if you'll excuse the tired cliche, going home was like wrapping yourself in a warm, comfortable, cozy blanket.
But coming back to California (not Cali, Suffern people, no one says Cali) to my other home was also good. Here, I don't need a blanket.
And if the Santa Ana winds kick in, I have my brand new air conditioning.