Andrew wanted concrete answers. But because there were no fights or arguments, all that was left was their subtle, ever-growing wedge of philosophical differences. Once he understood that it's a natural and healthy growth process to have new people in your life, a wider range of interests and be exposed to diverse viewpoints, that he realized, old friendships are special...on a lesser level...but will always remain with him. All I can say is...been there, done that...over and over.
Yes, the immediacy of the emotional baggage is still unsettling, but that's because nobody expects the idea of old friendships withering and dying, to happen to them.
In February 1973, I was in Brooklyn College...one month. I was clinging to the past with two hands and reaching into the future with another. In times like that we realize that we just ran out of hands, so you have to let go of something or you'll lose everything.
My rock solid (one year older) friends were LMART and MOBY. In their travels, they became friendly with BS. BS, the same age as my friends, was okay but in a short time, it was obvious that he and I would never be close. I liked his spontaneity so much that when he would shout out, "Road trip!" I was the first person to say, "Yeah let's go..." even before I knew where. But ultimately, his wild ways were too advanced for me.
In the beginning, those mystery rides were confined to oddball eateries all over New York's five boroughs, marathon chats on the beach till sunrise or joy rides on the Staten Island ferry. Soon, expanded excursions turned out to be excuses to visit racetracks, (Roosevelt, Yonkers and Monticello). I was still seventeen, broke and pure of both mind and spirit. So once we arrived at these dens of inequity, I was forced to map out an uncomfortable strategy, to conserve my twelve or so dollars as the others started betting and drinking.
LMART and MOBY were enamored by BS and saw him as a conduit to adulthood. I saw his influence changing my BFF's and causing the rift between us to grow. Then several days before the big George Washington Birthday weekend, while I was considering dumping my buddies, BS made a huge announcement, "Our next road trip will be epic!" I had gotten use to him blowing nonsense out of proportion, so I adjusted and desensitized myself to BS's BS...but in his short description that followed, I was suckered in...willingly!
You know what they say about, the best LAID plans...
BS, over the last few weeks, had repeatedly bragged about his sexual encounters with a dishwasher during his New Year's Eve trip to Hotel Gilbert, in South Fallsburg New York.
|SUMMER - 1959 AT THE IRVINGTON. YES, YOU CAN TELL BY THE KNOBBY KNEES, THAT'S ME. PROBABLY THAT SAME DAY OR THE NEXT, I SNUCK AWAY FROM MY FOLKS AFTER THE POOL WAS CLOSED. I WANTED TO PLAY WITH AN INFLATABLE SEAL IN THE POOL...AND FELL IN. LUCKILY, A PASSERBY, SAW IT HAPPEN AND FISHED ME OUT...|
|MAY 1973 - MY SECOND SOJOURN UP TO RUBIN'S. MOM WAS MY NAVIGATOR AND WE NEVER GOT CAUGHT IN THE SPEED TRAPS IN TUXEDO NEW YORK OR THE EQUALLY DIABOLICAL, SLOATSBURG.|
BS told us, we were going to the Gilbert. He said that his dishwasher chick had three girlfriends who also worked late and were starved for entertainment. That meant, all we had to do was, bring a fifth of scotch, some wine and beer...and we would be both literally and figuratively, in!
By 6:00PM, on the night of our departure, the weather had turned hellaciously cold. Rosie-cheeked BS and LMART arrived at MOBY's house shortly after me. They were still shivering when I realized they had brought nothing but a toothbrush in their back pocket. Then they had the audacity to mock me because I had thrown a change of clothes and a copy of the NEW YORK POST into a Waldbaum's brown paper bag. Then we laughed at MOBY when he came downstairs with a heavy, oversized valise.
|BS's BRAND NEW CHEVY CAPRICE WAS IN THE SHOP SO MOBY'S CAR, A BEAT-UP, 1964 OLDSMOBILE F-85 DELUXE WAS PRESSED INTO SERVICE.|
We were all seated in MOBY's frigid, nine-year old clunker when he reminded us that his car only starts in neutral. Then a few blocks from the Belt Parkway entrance, while looking for a parking spot at Canarsie Liquors he added, "Oh yeah, if we get a flat we're screwed, my jack is frozen to the wall of my trunk."
So, if you believe in omens...
We stopped to eat at the traditional halfway point to the Catskills, the Red Apple. Unfortunately, we wished we never left the warmth of the car. Our northern exposure brought fierce winds that almost snapped my car door off its hinges and the temperature dropped under ten.
The Red Apple's cashier said, "It might get down to zero overnight and the back roads will still be slick from last week's snowstorm." Against a strong gale, we trudged like Eskimos, back to MOBY's Olds. Inside, he blasted the heater as LMART complained about not having gloves and my ears felt like they would shatter and fall off. Plus, as bundled up as BS and MOBY were, they felt just as frost-bitten.
We got to the hotel an hour before the girls were to get off work. We got feeling back in all our extremities as we lounged around the lobby and loudly joked about our Arctic experience. The Gilbert had seriously declined as a respected resort but because we were dressed like slobs, it didn't take long for someone to realize that we didn't belong.
A side door behind the front desk opened. A burly old-timer (about fifty) in a wrinkled suit came out and approached. He smiled and in a local yokel accent asked, "What room are you fellas staying in?" We ignored his phoniness and the stench of booze and tobacco as BS said, "We're waiting for some friends." "Oh," the man said, "what room are they staying in?" BS said, "Our friends work here." The man shrugged, "Okay. No problem, but you have to wait outside." MOBY said, "Outside?" The man flashed a badge from inside his lapel and said, "Yeah, I'm the house dick, (House dick? I thought that was only in movies). When we didn't snap to attention he added, "And if you trespassers come back in, I'll have you arrested."
BS had MOBY drive around back to the kitchen. The girls would be out in ten minutes and then it would be party time. Twenty minutes later, after nobody had come out, BS decided to investigate. I was quietly doubting the whole set up when he came out with his arm around the waist of a giggly cutie. She told us in a heavy Irish brogue, "Sorry, the heating pipes in our trailers burst and my friends had to make other arrangements..." She saw the look of disbelief on our faces and said, "Follow me." Behind some barracks-like hotel rooms were rows of staff trailers. She brushed aside some icicles hanging over the entrance and unlocked her door. She said, "Being in there is like being out here." She motioned us in and showed us that frost had formed on the counter tops and the toilet water was frozen solid.
Back at the car, BS took the Dewar's, one bottle of wine and a six-pack of Rheingold. He said, "See you tomorrow." We were still in shock five minutes after the horny couple disappeared inside.
MOBY wanted to find a motel but LMART and I were delusional. We thought, we needed to conserve our money so we would have a shot with the girls the next night. So by a vote of two-to-one the descesion in our ranks was quelled.
We stupidly drove for an hour through the icy, empty countryside hoping for some inspiration...that never came. Even if we had decided on a motel, most were closed for the season and the few that were open had no vacancies, due to the holiday.
Our bickering escalated. LMART commented, "If we properly invested our time, we could have been almost home by now... and could have still come back tomorrow." On the far side of Ellenville, our teeth-chattering whining was still worsening until we skidded sideways off the road, inches from a fallen tree and into a ditch. Before getting out to check for damage, we looked at each other in astonishment. Nobody said anything but I'm sure we were all thinking; we're freezing our asses off, laying our lives on the line while BS is snug as a bug in a rug and getting laid.
Luckily, we all survived and after a couple of minutes of pushing, we got the car back on level ground. I told MOBY, "Some day, we'll look back on all this and laugh." He rolled his eyes as he cautiously accelerated back onto the road.
Our next stop was the hotel parking lot. The three of us took turns cursing BS as we tried to sleep in the car. MOBY cried, "We could actually freeze to death." I suggested stuffing my newspaper under our coats...but I guess that only works in the movies. We were trembling with our eyes closed for about an hour when MOBY had a great idea, "Let's go to the Ellenville police station. We'll tell them our situation..." LMART interrupted, "And we'll tell them we won't need anything...just a place to lie down for a few hours." And I added, "It's four degrees, how could they possibly say no." We went...and of course they did say, "No!"
Back behind the Gilbert, near the steps that led to the kitchen LMART said, "I can't feel my fingers." Then one at a time, men (some dressed in white, presumably cooks and others in street clothes), parked or were dropped off. The first hint of dawn was nowhere to be seen when I said, "Let's follow those guys up there and find a place to hide." LMART moaned, "My hands really hurt." MOBY said, "But if we get caught, we'll get thrown in real jail." I said, "Screw that, LMART is hurting...hell, we're all hurting."
We got behind a chef and went up into the kitchen. In the bustle of activity, nobody questioned us as we walked through to the dining room and into the quiet, empty lounge (the photo above). In the corridor, I saw a door labeled "CASINO" and led my friends in. In the semi-darkness there was a sea of card tables in the center of the room and sofas lining the walls. In a hidden alcove, we each dropped dead on couches and crashed.
A little after 7:00AM, I was awakened by a couple of biddies. They came in, turned on the lights and played canasta. Soon the others woke up. We yawned and stretched before stumbling towards the door. The women paid us no mind as we left the card room and entered the lounge. We plopped down on a sofa that overlooked the dining room and tried to form a plan. LMART said, "The smells are making me hungry." MOBY said, "What I wouldn't do for some bacon and eggs..." When LMART and I gave him the stink-eye he added, "What?" Then the *second best miracle I could have imagined...happened.
A hotel guest (DORF), the mom of an old friend from my neighborhood recognized me. I explained our predicament and she zoomed to the buffet line. Her motherly instincts took over and she smeared cream cheese on bagels, added lox, tomato and onion. DORF wrapped them in napkins, dropped the cache into her big, faux-rattan handbag and smuggled them out to us.
*The only way this miracle could have been better would have been if the dishwasher chicks were bringing our breakfast.
DORF went back in and brought us seconds and a carafe of coffee. We thanked her and she left. Then a giggly female, in an Irish brogue announced over the PA system, "MOBY, please report to your car."
BS and the girl were at the backdoor of the kitchen when we got to the car. BS kissed her hard and squeezed her bottom before bounding down the steps. He had that freshly laid look on his face as he proclaimed, "We can go home now!"
We wanted to stay and take a shot with the other girls the next night. But BS said, "They slept with busboys, in regular rooms...they aren't going to give that up." MOBY said, "Well, tell them to let us use their shower..." BS said, "You're out of your mind...let's go."
On my depressing ride home both LMART and MOBY listened with admiration to every word BS said. He even cut them off every time they tried to tell him what we went through. I believed his triumph but saw him only as a self-absorbed braggart. I never hung-out with BS or LMART again. But they stood the test of time and are still tight friends and business partners today.
I saw a lot less of MOBYand within two years, our friendship had dissolved too. Over the years, at mutual friend's functions I bumped into him three times. Our conversations were short and he never wanted to rehash the Gilbert Hotel story even when I said, "Remember when I said...someday we'll laugh about that night?" Even with social media, we never pursued rekindling a computer relationship.
In October 1978, I drove past DORF's house and saw my old friend, (her son), MIKF. I stopped because MIKF and I hadn't seen each other in eight years. We had been bosom buddies in junior high but due to philosophical differences when we reached high school, we split. I told MIKF the circumstances of his mom rescuing me and my friend's at the Gilbert. He didn't seem to care. Then his younger brother GLEF came out and MIKF went inside. GLEF and I were on the same wave length but we never became friends because I was moving to Nevada.
I still have a warm spot in my heart for my old friends but we all must evolve. That was proven when I went back to Las Vegas three years ago and introduced my family to "CIRO the HERO." Nobody was ever more in tune with me than Ciro...but the twenty-five year gap took its toll. I was never so embarrassed to say that someone was once my friend. But at least I got to illustrate to my son Andrew how people, our interests and viewpoints change because I feel justified, to now refer to my ex-friend as, "CIRO the ZERO." But that's another story.