Dave Barry, a very funny Florida writer likes to say “I am not making this
up,” when he’s setting up his outrageously hilarious stories. I’m not making this
up either. I’ve been in New Orleans this week, seeking relief from the whacky
doings of the millionaires and bigwigs who pass for the movers and shakers of
Atlantic City these days; guys like Donald Trump, Glen Straub, and Chris Christie. Seems like every day brings us a story of another fiasco, whether it’s fights over the Revel power plant, restrictive covenants, or the race between the slow-growing mold in abandoned casinos and the emerging lawsuits between the wannabe tycoons hoping to own them. Casinos bring the whackoes out of the woodwork everywhere. Not playing in them, you understand. Owning them.
The writer hasn’t been born who can write about a wedding without
mentioning how beautiful was the bride. Certainly this writer doesn’t intend to
try. I’m convinced there never has been nor ever will be a bride who wasn’t
beautiful. But the one who came smiling back down the aisle on my grandson’s arm this past Saturday was downright stunning. So was the one who came down the aisle with his brother a short two years ago and joined this wedding happily pregnant and with her proud husband serving as a groomsman. Of six grandsons, two are now married and the other four showed up with a collection of girls so pretty the supply of beautiful future brides seems inexhaustible.
“So he’s gay,” Aunt Tess snorted. “So what?”
At her age it’s hard to keep up with the younger set out on the fringes of
the family. But since she’d moved to the Assisted Living near his hometown of
Cape May she had gradually gotten to know Jay. He might be a Democrat, a
liberal, and his sexual magnets might run east-west instead of north-south, but he was family, and that was good enough for Aunt Tess. Family loyalty trumps almost everything in Tess’s book.
It caught my eye like something you see in a flash of summer lightning on
a dark night; an interesting object but gone almost before you see its outline. In
this case it was a little-noticed headline about an obscure legal trick called a
“restrictive covenant.” Chris Brown, the Republican Assemblyman representing
Atlantic County and an Atlantic City caught in the shipwreck of the local casino closings, had issued a criticism of how the casinos are using restrictive covenants to stifle Atlantic City’s development.
“Come take us out to lunch,” she said. “Becky’s upset. She needs a break
from the news.”
Such a call from Aunt Tess is the local equivalent of a command performance at Buckingham Palace. You dare not refuse, lest you be stricken off the list forever.
“What’s got her upset?” I asked.
“Sam” is short for Samantha, as in Samantha Wolf, this year’s groundbreaking
President of the Altantic County Bar Association. She’s a great improvement over the days when I first came to the Bar. Meetings then involved an afternoon session followed by dinner at a good restaurant, drinking and cigar smoking by an all male crowd of lawyers and substandard judges telling off-color jokes and stories, and the occasional hushed-up drunk driving charges for those unfortunates caught on their way home afterwards.
We mellow out when the flakes are light and fluffy, coating our trees and
lawns with the glistening white beauty of a Christmas card. Later on, when the
snowplows have growled their way along our streets and the big parking lots
shoving the snow into frozen, dirt-crusted piles half as high as a streetlight post
we grow somewhat less tolerant. I’m talking about those piles that litter the parking lots like rusting hulks in an abandoned shipyard. When at last they begin to shrink, it’s all well and good to welcome the return of dry streets and clear lawns. But that’s not enough to free our travel dreams from winter’s surly grip. For that, we need serious snowmelt.
“We were lucky,” she said. “We were teenagers when fighting the bad
guys was the right thing to do.” Determined to fight the Nazi’s like her nine
older brothers, Aunt Tess had lied about her age to get into the Woman’s Army
Corps when she was 16. She never saw combat, unless you count the time years
later when she was elected Secretary of her Teamsters Local. But she has a warrior’s heart. The fighting blood of the Irish runs strong in her veins.
Ray was another 18 year-old lifeguard with me on the beach in Brigantine
that summer. Came one of those perfect late August days when you could throw
on your coveted Beach Patrol jacket in case the girls hadn’t noticed you were a
lifeguard, or let your tanksuit top down to improve your tan.
The television weather hucksters can talk all they want about the heavy
snow that brings down power lines, and the huge drifts that close highways and
crush the roofs of houses and the black ice that makes our neighborhood driving
so tricky. But the deadliest snow of all is the snow that covers the boats in our side yards and kills the dreams of impatient fishermen from Cape May Point to the Brigantine Inlet and all the way up the Jersey coast. Doesn’t matter if it’s one inch or twelve, the brutal fact is that it’s there at all.