Friday, February 6, 2009

Fear & Loathing at the Jersey Shore

I’ve had numerous adventures down the shore that have reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” However, in my versions the hallucinogenic drugs are replaced by Red Bull & Vodkas and the Hell’s Angel’s are replaced by Guidos. The events of last Sunday, February 1st 2009 stand out as one of the most memorable trips down the shore in a long time because they included the following: a funeral, the Super Bowl, two vomiting 20-something females, 3 hours in a car and one of the most ASSinine (if that spelling piques your curiosity, just keep reading) conversations I’ve ever had.   

I got a call from my mother on Thursday morning informing me that my Great Grandmother had passed away, while any kind of death hits a family hard, the fact that she made it to 94 and had been pretty sick the last couple of years definitely softened the blow.  My mom also let me know that the wake was going to be on Sunday afternoon and my parents would be flying back from Florida that morning and make it to the viewing as soon as possible.  Upon hearing this news my cousin Lisa Nicodemus and my friend Amber De Leggas decided they wanted to make the trip with me for support and to show respect to my family.  I let it be known right away that they did not have to do this and even though I appreciated the gesture, the fact that they were going to a Cheech & Chong show the night before made me think they should just spend Sunday quietly recuperating and getting ready for the big game, however they would hear nothing of the sort and demanded I take them with me...while this turned out to be a comical story, I actually really appreciate the way they both went out of their way to support my family.  

Saturday afternoon Lisa and Amber left NJ to see Cheech & Chong at NYC’s famous Radio City Music Hall, I did not go to the show for the following reasons:

1. I was not invited.

2. I don’t really like stoner humor, with the exception of “How High” and a few parts of “Grandma’s Boy.”

3. I was not sure exactly what a Cheech & Chong “Concert” would entail and I didn’t want to pay for a ticket and give up a rare Saturday afternoon away from work to watch two sixty year old guys read lines from “Up In Smoke.”  I am still not sure what their act is like and even though Lisa and Amber attended the show, neither are they.  

I have known Amber for about 5 years and Lisa her entire life and I know they like to have a good time, so I told them I was leaving for Toms River at noon with or without them and they had to be ready to go on time.  I made this statement knowing full well it was an idle threat and neither of them would be ready at 12 o’clock, but I figured if I said “noon” they would be ready to go by about 1 and we would still have plenty of time to get to the viewing.

I got to Lisa’s house at exactly 12:00 p.m. to find Lisa in pajamas and Amber nowhere to be found, I thought this to be par for the course and was not flustered...yet.  At about 12:30 Lisa was starting to look like she was ready to leave and Amber had finally shown up and things were looking good.  After they cleaned up Lisa’s parent’s house from the night before we were all in my car and heading out of Belleville at about 12:45.  Because I refused to speak to either one of them while at my aunt’s house out of fear of losing precious seconds in the battle to get them ready to leave, we had a lot to catch up on once the road trip started.  I am not sure exactly what they did the night before, but the conversation sounded a lot like this:

 “ the 3rd service....uuugggghhh....oh sh*t!...that bouncer was a d*ck.....sick....gonna throw up....bought so many drinks...nutso....what goes on?.....aaaaaaggggghhhhh.” 

Throughout all these half explanations and guttural sounds there was no mention of Cheech or Chong, so I am still unaware of what they do in concert.  About a half hour into the hour-long ride, they both started asking if I could pull over so they could vomit on the side of the Parkway, which put me in bit of a Catch-22, I did not want to waste time and risk injury to one of them or damage to my car by pulling over to the shoulder of the Garden State Parkway, but I also didn’t want to have anybody ralph in my new car.  Eventually, I decided I would deliver a fire & brimstone speech about how we are tough people that don’t throw up in cars and no matter how stupid we get the night before we always soldier on and handle our business. Surprisingly, this speech actually worked and nobody brought up stopping the car until we got off at Exit 82 about forty-five minutes later.  

When we got off the Parkway at Route 37 East everybody agreed we had to find some food before we went to the funeral home and hunkered down for a good 2 hours of grieving and making small talk with rarely seen relatives.  Our first option was Capone's in down town Toms River, however when we got there I was reminded that non only is Capone’s closed on Sunday, all of Historic Down Town Toms River shuts down on the weekends...I have lived there most of my life and this peculiar fact about “The River City” still befuddles me.  Anyway, we turned around and drove back to Palumbo's for some pizza before the wake, when we got there we all ordered slices and drinks and then sat down.  Exactly what happened next is a little bit of a blur, but it definitely involved Amber throwing up in the women’s room, Lisa throwing up in the men’s room and my cousin Angelina walking in and saying “I feel sick from last night” and immediately bum-rushing the bathrooms, only to find out they were both occupied by other people puking.  This was incredible, I had more friends and family that needed to void themselves at one time than this tiny mom & pop pizzeria could accommodate and instead of trying to help anybody I just sat at the table with 5 slices and 5 Snapples, looking like the biggest slob in the world and enjoying my chicken parm slice.  Within 15 minutes the entire episode was over we were on the road again en route to the wake.  

We arrived at the funeral home at just about 2:30 and after paying respects to my Great Grandmother I had to start the arduous task of making small talk with aunts, uncles and cousins. Most of the people I talked to were doing pretty good and had stories about buying houses, their kids going to high school and Super Bowl predictions, and then inevitably we made plans to hang out in the summer that may or may not actually come to fruition.  Everybody was cool, except my cousin Phil.  I have seen Phil three times in the last 12 years and we have discussed his hemorrhoids every single time!  I have no idea how he can seamlessly integrate anal fissures into any conversation, but it is truly a thing to behold, the highlights of the last three times we spoke are as follows:

July 1997 (My Cousin Carl’s Wedding)

Phil: Hey, man! What’s up cuz? You still lifting?

Me: As much as possible, it’s tough being away at school and everything.

Phil: I can’t squat anymore because I have terrible hemorrhoids.

Me: That’s tough man, good luck with that.

June 2004 (Random Siting on Seaside Heights Boardwalk)

Me: What’s up man, what is that a sausage sandwich?

Phil: Nah man, I gotta eat bland I got the worst effin hemorrhoids,you can’t imagine.

Me: That’s tough man, good luck with that.

February 2009 (Great Grandmother's Wake)

Me: Phil, how are you doing?

Phil: Aw man, it sucks to get old.  I just turned 41 and I had hemorrhoid surgery last month.

Me: That’s tough man, good luck with that. 

Anyway, it was cool to see everybody again and I think Grandma would have been happy with the services, so overall it was a pretty good afternoon, given the unfortunate circumstances.  And I have to give Amber and Lisa a lot of credit, if I hadn’t known they spent the better part of an hour vomiting uncontrollably, I never would have been able to tell they were all banged up from the night before. 

As soon as the wake was over we were back in my car and headed up the Parkway to attend a Super Bowl party at the bar/restaurant where lisa works.  We stopped at her house for a second and changed into casual clothes (Doc Marten’s, Cut & Sew Denim and a Joe Namath case you were wondering) and hit the party. Upon arrival we quickly established ourselves as the worst bar customers ever: I made about 3 trips to the free buffet, nobody ordered anything but water, we brought a child (somehow Lisa’s brother Young Blowout showed up), eventually we made trips to Lil’ Burgers and Applegate’s Ice Cream and brought our own food and desserts into the bar and I found out later that some of our friends actually ordered several Mind Erasers and left without paying for them...yep another banner night for me and my peoples.  While discussing the prospect of actually bringing outside food into the restaurant (I am not an expert restauranteur, but I am reasonably sure this is frowned upon), Amber asked me if I liked “Lil’ Burgers” to which I replied “I buy food in extreme bulk and I don’t eat meat, if it was called ‘Enormous Fish Sandwiches’ I might be interested, but come on, I thought you knew me better than that!” At the end of the night we were all eating delicious ice cream in the bar and I was reminded of my surprise birthday party the previous summer when I was given a picto-cake with a photo of me dancing sans shirt.  I am not sure if there is a direct correlation, but I can honestly say I have never had a bad time eating dessert in a bar.  

I called it a night at the end of the 3rd quarter so I could make it home for The Office, which I thoroughly enjoyed (see previous post), and at the conclusion of the game I was pleasantly surprised by the Lombardi Trophy being presented by none other than “Broadway” Joe Namath. I’m not sure whether Joe was drunk or not (although he did look like he was feeling pretty good about himself) but I think the NFL  made a wise decision by not allowing him to speak, however the decision to have a 70 year-old man walk through the exuberantly celebrating Pittsburgh Steelers carrying a fifty-pound trophy was questionable at best.  

It’s hard to imagine any other sporting event will provide me with this much fun and excitement this year, but check back after March Madness and hopefully I’ll have even more outlandish hi-jinx to write about.  

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