I don't know if you're a comments reader of this blog but I found this one to be quite disturbing. If you're out on the local roads this weekend, take extra caution and keep your eyes peeled for this young man. Just kidding Pete, take it easy out there. You've made it this far so take it easy. Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.
while I've still got 20 minutes left in the day...
Today is my buddy Lisa's birthday. I won't tell you old she is because it's impolite to talk about the ages of ladies for fear of offending them and dangling their agedness before them. I hear that's not a cool thing to do. If you think of it, give her a shout and just say, "Ryan says you're cool, so you must be! Here's to you on your big day and an iTunes gift certificate to you! I know it might seem random, but if Ryan says we should, well than we really should."
If you're stumbling over that directive, here's some evidence on why Lisa is a cool cat... I've known Lisa and her main man Drew for about four years or so. Their kids eventually came along and they introduced me to them as well. For a young family, they really seem to know what it's all about. They have this way of parenting that makes it look pretty easy and that it's not that scary. They emphasize the important stuff and keep their cool and their faith through the tough times. Lisa is probably one of my biggest blog influences because she's been at it for "so long" and her posts have this way of making you smile at the silly stuff Abbey and Josh do or tear up when she talks about needing a vacation or sharing a spiritual insight. So, that's just the tip iceberg on why you should hurry up and wish Lisa a happy birthday and send her itunes or at least start reading her blog instead of mine because she's got a lot more heart and soul and cute kids saying funnier stuff than I do.
He didn't let me pay on the count of me being born and all on this day. I wasn't up for arguing or wrestling or any of that. I know that my brother can easily best me when it comes to that kinda stuff. Growing up, we had one bathroom. Often when I'd have to go an use it, my brother would be in there, doing whatever it is that teenagers do in the bathrooom for extended periods of time. Combing his permed mullet, I think. I would bang on the door, hard, trying to get him to let me in because I had to go so bad and it was about to come out in my pants. He'd say something like, "Oh yeah, how bad do you have to go?" I'd tell him soooooo bad. He'd then open the door, sweep my legs out from under me so I was on my back and seeing stars from hitting my head on the floor and then he proceed to either step on my stomach or tickle me until he made the pee pee dribble out of me. If he could divine that I had to go number two he would grab my legs and kick me in the butt, thus giving me a reason to wait until later to use the facilities. All this to say, I thought it wise to allow him to pay for the meal.
I thanked him for the grub and gave him a hug. As I turned to get in my car he handed me an envelope with my name on it. He said it was my instructions for where I was going next and that I should call Janell when I get there.
We took to a booth in the smoking section near the bar. I asked Brent if he was drinking and he declined. I took that as a cue to get a Pepsi myself. He said it was a good idea because I've still got lots of driving ahead of me tonight. I instantly recalled a recent conversation I had with Janell about the proximity of Brent's house to Philly and how long I thought it would take to get between the two. This would explain the missing Philly NFT from our coffee table. So I'm going to Philly via South Jersey via Newark. Pretty convoluted way to go but who was I to complain about a birthday goose chase that Nellie was cooking up for me. But if that was the case, why were we almost at the Jersey shore? Maybe I was headed to our friend Julie's beach trailer in Sea Isle?
The fog of paranoia was starting to lift. I was still very disoriented, but I ceased to believe that my friends and family were killers, hiding around the corner and tailing me on the highway, waiting to end my life on the day it began 30 years ago. I just remembered Janell and how she really was as sweet as I've always thought her to be. Yes, reality was returning. I needed some time off the road and to be in the presence of my brother.
We ordered big-ass plates of appetizer samplers because we couldn't decide what we wanted to eat. I downed a couple Pepsis before our food arrived. We discussed the state of a house he inherited from our granny and his horror stories from his brief stint as a landlord. The conversation turned to work and the story of how he went from being a mechanic with many responsibilities at one glass house to another glass house with better money and less responsibilities. He seemed pleased at the change. Brent and I rarely sit down alone together and talk. I think I can count the number of times that it's happened in our lives together on both my paws. I was starting to see that Janell had directed me to spend time with Andrew and Brent--my brothers in different ways--on this special day.
Our food arrived and we dined on wings, catfish parts, ribs, chicken fingers and probably some other fried items I can't recall. With each bite, I gained a bit more clarity. Grease always helps me in that respect.
We continued our discussion on work and gnawed our grub until we decided our eyes were too big for our stomachs. I gave Brent my leftovers because I had the sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't be needing them where I was going.
"What are we doing here?" I asked. "Eating dinner, just like I told you." "Just us?" "Yep, I'm taking you out to dinner." "Wow, that's really cool." And with that I shrugged off my paranoia and we entered Famous Dave's. I'd end up keeping my confusion until about the middle of the next day.
I pulled into an empty parking spot at the gas station to wait while my brother's tank was being filled by the attendant. He took the opportunity to go inside and get more smokes.
I thought about going over and talking to him while he was waiting but irrational fears kept me in my car. The car trips of my day were so eventful that I barely had time to reflect on the whole "my life is half-over" headline. I don't know what I would have thought about that anyway if I had had the time. Probably something to the affect of, "Yep, I'm getting older alright." I didn't really feel up for an epiphany, but I had a lingering feeling that I might be short-changing myself for the lack of trying. My life has a handful of them and the truth is that you can't bring them on yourself or if you strain yourself, you're gonna hurt yourself. I took this classic advice that it was alright not to be at a bar alone raising a whiskey to my mortality.
Brent took off and I had to keep my foot down to keep up. The countryside we drove through didn't do anything to vaporize my irrational fear of being killed on my birthday. I started to keep track of the turns, thinking that he might be leading me on a wild goose chase and just trying to run my tank down until I ran out of gas. I don't know why he would have done something like this unless my suspicions were true. It seemed like we were going in a giant circle. I imagined that eventually we'd end up back at his house where Susan and Janell would have had enough time to set up and get the friends together to surprise the piss out of me. The thought of being surprised was too much to handle. I imagined myself surrounded by everyone I love and just breaking down with exhaustion, joy and stupidity. Joy because they were all there and willing to travel great distances by motor car just to celebrate my life. Stupidity because I almost had myself convinced that they were prepared to hang up their love for me and hang me. I felt like an ass for being so tardy and imagining that they could so easily dispatch me.
Brent sped up to pass a car and I had no choice but to follow. He really was in a hurry to get somewhere. Because I felt he was traveling in a circle I wondered if he was leading me to this little crab shack he introduced us to at the end of last summer. While we were there he mentioned how the owner, who he was sorta buddies with, would rent the place out for private parties and cook for everyone. It was an eclectic joint and I remember being impressed by the fact that U2's "Numb" was on the stereo along with Louis Armstrong, Bob Marley, and others. The place reminded me of "The Blue Danube," a clubhouse that some of my high-school buddies had set up in Evan Esh's barn. The place was great and it was the hot spot for all the teenaged bohemians. Janell and I had already begun talking about my hopes for my 30th back in the summer and I remember that we had had a conversation about renting out this place. I had convinced myself that this is where we were headed and that the barn was warmed with the chatter of my friends gathering around the speakers, listening to my favorite songs.
I started seeing signs for the shore points and Atlantic City. This meant that the bohemian rhapsody crab shack barn party was off. We were at a stop light and I had just begun to mourn the loss of my imagined party. The light turned green and Brent pulled a u-turn drove back about a quarter mile and pulled into a shopping center parking lot. I followed him to a Famous Dave's where he stopped his truck.
The figure exhaled and spoke with my brother's voice, "You're an hour late, let's go."
I gave him a quick hug and greeting him as my brother and said, "Oh, OK. We're not staying here?"
"Nope, we're going to dinner" he said as he was walking toward his truck.
"Well what about Lauren and Susan, are they coming?" I asked, trying to figure out what was afoot.
"Dude," he said, "they're asleep in bed. It's late."
"Sorry" I said, feeling like I should be more aware of my family's sleep patterns. I then asked him if he'd like to ride along with me and he said that we just have to go and that it would be best to drive separately and that I should do my best to keep up.
We got into our vehicles and I allowed him to pull out of his driveway. He pulled up beside me and told me that we needed to make a stop so he could get some gas.
Brent tore off like we really had somewhere to be a long time ago. I got the feeling that we were well past late. I felt a deep regret when I imagined all of my fiends hanging out somewhere in NJ, on a weeknight, and the guest of honor was nowhere in sight.