Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For Bending, For Standing & For Turning Our Backs Into the Wind

Congratulations to us! We, the good people of the State of Concrete Gardens, are the proud owners of an early summer heatwave. I learned while watching the local news on Channel 2 on Sunday night that any time there are three consecutive days with a 90+ temperature and a heat index to match it qualifies as a heatwave. Candidly, I suspect that the weather person on the Sunday newscast was making that up as she went along but really - who the hell cares? Whether Webster recognizes the definition or not, it has been ridiculously hot and humid in these parts the past few days. I am no meteorologist but it certainly has felt like a heatwave to me.

Yesterday morning, having made the trek out to Warren County to begin trial only to be foiled yet again by simple arithmetic (4 ready cases / 1 available judge = wasted time) I found myself heading East on Route 80 in the late morning. Having parked my car on the far side of the little square adjacent to the Warren County Courthouse, which is code for "parked to bake in the scorching sun", I had damn near turned into a human humidifier by the time I made it back to Skate. I know that Toyota's reputation for brakes is matched only by that of Continental Airlines for baggage handling but the folks at Toyota who put my car together certainly knew what they were doing vis-a-vis the air conditioning system. Skate has two settings on her A/C: frostbite and hypothermia. My teeth may chatter but you shall never hear me complain about Skate's extraordinary, walk-in freezer like skills.

As I was wheeling my way back towards the office yesterday morning, my mind -as it often does - wandered just a bit. I thought of times, other than for work purposes, when I carved an East/West path on Route 80. The first such time I could think of was a million years ago, before either Dave and Christine Joy or Margaret and I had gotten married and Dave, Andy McElroy and I killed a summer's day or three making the trip into Pennsylvania to the water rides at Dorney Park. My memory is that typically a day of water-sliding and rapids-riding followed hard on the heels of a night commiserating with Messrs. Daniels and Beam or their comrades in arms. Whether it was the afterglow of life's sweet elixir or simply the pure, unadulterated joy of three college-age guys acting about half of their age I know not. I suspect it was an unbeatable combination.

I remember the three of us making that trip several times over the course of a couple of summers. I remember us always driving - for whatever reason - in the first new used car I ever owned - the "always great for landing the ladies" Pontiac Phoenix. What my chariot lacked in flair, it made up for in unreliability. Happiness was any trip of longer than about an hour in that car in which it did not spontaneously shut itself off. I apparently had the only narcoleptic Pontiac Phoenix GM ever produced.

Years later, after I starting appearing to be a more reasonable facsimile of an adult, I had a new and different reason to make an annual pilgrimage on Route 80. As a Boy Scout, every year except for (I think) his final year in the troop, Rob's troop spent a week camping at a Boy Scout camp in Pennsylvania. I believe the name of the joint was Camp Firestone but there is a reasonable possibility that I have simply made that up. Typically, the excursion out to camp at the beginning of the week was an all hands on deck affair. Rob went annually with Dan (a/k/a his brother from another mother) and Margaret and I used to ride up to camp to drop Rob off with Dan's parents, Joe and Lucy. The six of us would stop for breakfast somewhere along the way before us four adults would deposit the two Scouts (both of whom earned the rank of Eagle by the way) at camp and hightail it back to New Jersey.

Everyone came along on the "drop-off" ride for it was made a bit later in the morning and neither Rob nor Dan smelled particularly daisy-fresh. Usually, a week's worth of living "one with nature" knocked that second one straight to hell. That fact, coupled with the fact that the "pick up" ride took place pretty early in the morning, inevitably turned it into a stag party. Joe and I would ride up together to pick up Dan and Rob.

I used to look forward to that Saturday morning all summer. Without fail, the two of them would regale Joe and I with any number of laugh-out-loud stories of the happenings at camp during the week that was. There is a McDonald's somewhere off of Route 80 in the western most part of New Jersey although for the life of me I cannot recall the specific exit. Every summer without exception Joe and I would stop at the McDonald's on the way home so that Rob and Dan could eat something that bears at least a resemblance to food. All the way home in the car, the two boys would tell stories and eat while Joe and I would listen, laugh and eat. Not to bad a way to pass the time in the car.

The nicest thing for me about not having a lot of substantive thoughts knocking around in the hat-rack I carry on my shoulders is that there is always a bit of room for the acknowledged silliness that helps me get through my day-to-day. I have not been to Dorney Park in a lifetime. I have every confidence that I shall not ever visit it again - presuming that it still is open for business. Rob and Dan graduated from being Scouts a number of years ago and by the time their run in the Troop had ended, the annual camping trip had been relocated - to upstate New York I think. All the kids who went met in the church parking lot and rode together on a chartered bus. The days of "pick up" day tell-alls and pit stops at Mickey D's were forever relegated to the rear-view mirror.

Then again, maybe not entirely. Gone for certain. Forgotten? Not a chance. Too much driving still to do.

-AK

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