July 1983


Port-jefferson-mapWe are settled in Port Jefferson, a great north shore port town on the Sound, at the end of the line of the Long Island Railroad, about two hours from Manhattan. Our apartment is just a block from the train station, which is good because we are without a car again. There’s also a bus stop right in front of the house, so it is easy to get just about anywhere. We can even pick up a beach bus that goes to Smith’s Point at Fire Island on the ocean, less than an hour away. Lou takes the train to work at Hazeltine in Greenlawn. He got a job in manufacturing as a project planner. I hop on either the bus or the train to Stony Brook, where I’m taking summer courses at SUNY. I submitted an application to go full time starting in the fall; they actually refunded my money. Apparently, I didn’t need to apply or even take the SAT, because I have the two-year A.A.S. degree from a NY community college, they automatically take me into the state university. I have no idea what my major will be, because they don’t have any culinary or hotel management program like I wanted to study. For now, I’m just taking classes and will decide on a major later.

Our apartment is on the second floor of an older Greek couple’s house on the main road. There’s a movie theater right across the street; at night, I can look out my bedroom window and watch them put up the titles of the new movies on the marquee with a long stick, one letter at a time, the same way we changed the big signs outside the Ramada to welcome a convention or wedding group. It’s a noisy on the main drag, but very convenient. This place is furnished, so we had to get rid of most of our stuff. We gave our couch to my sister, who also lives on the island, and Lou’s mom put the bed into her backyard storage shed. The visit to his mother’s house was more than uncomfortable; the last time we had been there over a year ago, she kicked us out. This time, she invited us to stay over and sleep in her bedroom, while she took the couch. That seemed like a friendly gesture, but both her attitude and glares at me grew darker as we spent more time together. When we went to the bedroom to sleep at the end of the evening, I noticed that the rosary and cross that had been hanging from the headboard when we dropped our stuff in the room earlier were now gone, as if allowing me to sleep in their presence was sacrilege. It’s the little things that communicate just how much she doesn’t like me. I can’t imagine what it was like growing up in that household. I have a feeling it is always madness. Lou’s sister came home with a new pair of boots; she took the box out of the store bag and put it on the empty kitchen table, opened the lid and held up a boot to show me.  Her mother absolutely went crazy.  At first, I thought she just disapproved of the boot style, which was kind of sexy, with a high heel and high top. Then I learned that the actual, horrific offense was the fact that the boots, albeit in a box, were on the table. You would think that someone had dropped their pants and taken a shit at a place setting of fine china on a table nicely laid out with a full holiday dinner. She kept screaming about the shoes on the table, over and over again, and her daughter kept screaming back at her about how she hates her and can’t do anything right. I didn’t get it, they were new boots that had never been worn, and were not even touching the table itself. Apparently, her daughter knew very well that shoes on the table would bring extremely bad luck to the household, and carelessly disregarded that danger just to show off her damned new boots.  I filed that superstition away for future reference. I also noted that I need to know in advance exactly how many ravioli I intend to consume at dinner. I had no idea how to answer… how big are they?… what else will be served?… what will I have for lunch that day?… why the hell does it matter? When I make ravioli, I cook more than enough for everyone, serve it family style, and any leftovers go in the fridge to reheat. She, on the other hand, goes to a specialty market and buys hand made pasta, carefully counted and boxed, and then only cooks and serves you the amount you commit to eat. It was absolutely delicious, and, also for future reference, I was careful to watch how she made the sauce. My mistake, it was not sauce, it was gravy. While she cooked the ravioli and carefully removed them from the pot, she talked about how her father would be made sick and push away from the table angry whenever he was served a dish with broken pasta. Wow. My father was lucky to be fed a hot meal, and never complained about either the menu or the quality of the food. Luckily, we were moving into our own place about an hour away, and would have no need to stay at her house any time soon.

The only problem we had getting into our apartment that our landlord wanted two months’ rent up front, and we only had enough money for one. I don’t know why we hadn’t anticipated needing that much cash. I had to do the unthinkable, and ask my parents for a short-term loan. I knew we could pay them back in just a few weeks once Lou started getting paychecks. My dad was not thrilled about the idea, but they fronted us the money. He had me go to the bank with my mom and actually take out a passbook loan with payment coupons to make it official. It is already paid off, and I appreciate that they helped, despite the formality of the payment arrangement.

We had left Durham before Lou’s graduation from Duke so we could go to Nico and Mia’s wedding, which was a lot of fun, and a really beautiful ceremony. Lou didn’t seem to care that he missed graduation. It would have just been the two of us anyway. The MGB made the drive home from NC, but I’m sad to know that it is gone now. Before we left North Carolina, we switched license plates with some friends I knew through my job at Swensen’s. Their car had expired plates from “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia and they couldn’t go near there with those plates, and we didn’t want to go into New York with our expired bright yellow plates, so we traded plates with them; it worked.

While we were upstate visiting my family in Scotia, I took the MGB to go out with Kathy one night. Lou didn’t want me to go at all, but consented under the condition that I not go too far. We did drive about twenty minutes away to Latham; of course the car broke down, and I had to call for help. He came out with my parents to get us; if looks could kill I would be dead now. Anyway, it was going to cost a small fortune to fix the car, and we still couldn’t get the title from my sister’s ex-roommate. While on Long Island earlier that week, we had actually been to her apartment building and begged over the intercom for the title. I was begging, anyway. Lou’s version of begging was probably closer to threatening. In either case, she refused and sent us away, unseen. So we sold the car cheap for scrap without a title, and sadly watched it get towed away from my parent’s house. The real kick in the teeth came when the signed title was sent to my folks the week after we junked the car. Timing is everything.


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