Long Island (Old Bethpage), NY
Jul 26, 2008
|We left Connecticut on Saturday morning a bit apprehensive about what our drive around NYC and out to Long Island might bring. We expected lots of traffic, rude drivers, and confusing roadways. And we were not to be disappointed. The roads themselves were not in the best of shape and the traffic was backed up as soon as we approached White Plains. Our GPS was unaware of the height restrictions on NY roads and a sign soon informed us (thankfully) that trucks should use expressways and cars should use parkways. With that new found knowledge we quickly re-routed ourselves across the correct bridge to Long Island with little mishap other than stop and go traffic and very few people willing to give an inch to allow us to merge over when needed. But “might is right” and once we started over into a lane they were usually willing to cede the space to us (but unlike LA drivers who will give you plenty of room once they realize your intentions, a turn signal here was meaningless to New Yorkers).
Our campground was in Old Bethpage on Long Island, next to a landfill and down the street from a small strip mall with a melting pot of stores – an Irish bar, a Chinese restaurant, a Sushi place, an Italian pizza joint, and a salon advertising Japanese hair straightening. We, of course, had to try out the Italian pizza joint which served up a collection of non-traditional pizza types – meatball, chicken and marinara sauce, tomato and mozzarella, ziti, and so on. I did not see any cheese, pepperoni or mushroom here. And both the patrons and pizza makers were your typical Italian New Yorkers with those tough sounding accents that make you think of the Sopranos.
Later that day we drove further out on Long Island to visit with some of Mark’s friends from college – Bill and Abbie and their two children, Julia and Jake. The last time we had seen Bill and Abbie was at our wedding over 13 years ago and even then we were not able to spend much time with them. I had only just met them at the wedding and my only memory of Abbie was captured in a photo of her balancing a glass of beer on her head as she yelled out, “Redley, Rockin’ Robin” (that and her helping me get my camera back from a very drunk Mike).
As it is with most people that you have not seen in a long time, the first several hours were spent reminiscing about old times and funny stories, looking at well-aged photographs, and reacquainting each other with the adults we had become. It was hard to think of these two people that Mark had known only in college as now being old enough to have two children who were 14 and 12. When did that happen?
Bill’s parents who lived just down the street joined us and heard story after story of when Mark, Bill Abbie and their friends Mike and John had hung out in Gainesville together. I had heard these stories so often from Mark that I felt like I had been a part of their Gainesville gang. Stories about the numerous jokes played upon their roommate Ed, the “Sportsplex”, Mike’s poor driving habits, nickel beer night at the Park, the gun in the shoebox, “the dude”, “first I’m gonna flip the roast and then I’m gonna kill you”, and on and on. I could recite these stories as well as Mark could and I had to hold myself back from saying, “do you remember when…”. Oh wait, I wasn’t there.
Bill and Abbie had welcomed us into their home for that night and we quickly discovered that eating and drinking were a religion here in New York. They served us a fantastic dinner of flank stank, salmon, corn, asparagus, salad, rice and homemade sponge cake for dessert (it was Abbie’s birthday too!). Later in the evening some friends of Bill and Abbie dropped by and we all hung out exchanging stories about Bill, Mark and Abbie’s college days (Mark was able to substantiate many of the stories that Bill had told his friends over the years – there really was a nickel beer night!), our sabbatical, and this group’s recent trip to the Outer Banks together. Much beer (and wine and margaritas) was consumed as Mark and Bill tried to relive the days of “a case a man” (they got close).
The next morning we woke to the smell of bacon and the sound of rolling thunder. Bill had laid out a beautiful spread of bacon, eggs, bagels (finally, real bagels – I love NY), and fruit to start our morning. Their dog Sandy showed off her talent for retrieving the morning paper (a real plus on winter mornings). But, it seemed that our plans for a day at the beach were not to be as the rain came in waves throughout the morning and into the afternoon.
But the day would not be a total loss ‘cause like I said, eating and drinking is a religion for these New Yorkers. And, it was Sunday after all. So, about 3 pm we drove over to Kathy and William’s house with a case of beer, chips, veggies and dip. We arrived to find a Heinekin mini keg on ice, a case of beer in the cooler, and a fruity drink for us girls chilling. Kathy, who we quickly learned was an amazing cook, was busy frying up the most delicious coconut shrimp I have ever tasted, cooking turkey meatballs covered with a phenomenal glaze, whipping up homemade mac and cheese (which was actually for the kids, but it looked so good that Mark heaped it on his plate), and putting the finishing touches on the best chicken Caesar salad ever.
A few minutes after we arrived more friends, Scott and Rae, joined us and brought even more food to this impromptu rainy Sunday party – caprese salad and homemade stromboli (both sausage and pepperoni). WOW! When Mark and I entertain at home, which is not really that often, we are happy to serve up some chips and dip, cheese and crackers, and nuts to our friends. This was a smorgasbord of food that was unbelievable and all of it was four star quality and taste. We were overwhelmed by this group’s dedication to its gastronomical enjoyment. And it was certainly not just the adults who enjoyed their food. The children, in particular Julia, loved their food too. Julia had been grazing all day long – starting with breakfast, an ice cream sandwich, sodas, cheese and crackers, and onto the food laid before us here (but she is young and incredibly active, so her eating habits were what you would expect of a growing young woman).
This group of friends had formed a bond around their daughters’ soccer playing activities which provided a perfect back drop for all of them to hang out together, drink, eat, and enjoy the soccer games. All of them were really wonderful to us, welcoming us into the fold, regaling us with stories from their vacation in the Outer Banks (tin foil and butter, “you better take care of that or someone else will”, “he must be bringin’ it”, and “knock the bottom out of that”) and soccer road games, and teaching Mark how to play Guitar Hero on the Wii (it’s very hard!!!). By the end of the evening we felt like we had known everyone forever and they were all urging us to move to New York. We weren’t sure we were ready for that, but we were busily working on our application for a space in their Outer Bank’s rental house for next year (we surely could not compete on the same level with these people when it came to food preparation, but I would happily volunteer to clean all the dishes if it would increase our chances of entry into the party house).
After almost 30 hours of non-stop drinking, eating, talking and laughing we exhaustedly said our good-byes to everyone as Julia made one more trip to the refrigerator for the night. We had a wonderful time hanging out with Bill, Abbie, Julia, Jake and all of their wonderful friends. You know that you are good friends with someone when you have not seen them for over 13 years and yet it still feels like yesterday that you slammed your socks full of nickels down on the bar and ordered some beers. Case a man, baby!!!