Does two years in a row make a tradition? I’m gonna say yes. I went home last year after eight years gone . . . that’s eight years that I didn’t cross the Mason Dixon line and I considered never crossing it again, all because of my experience as an executor. If someone asks you to be their exectuor -- flat out refuse, don’t do it, no matter how much money they offer you (in my case it was practically no money at all), no matter how much you love that person, no matter if they tell you they have a good lawyer to assist you. Just walk away, and don’t look back. Because families, no matter how small or seemingly smart will fight over the bones and this will leave you, the executor, completely ravaged and disillusioned, so much so, that you will resolve to do things such as never cross the Mason Dixon line again to visit your hometown.
But eight years was long enough apparently, and friends called and offered me all sorts of tempting invitations involving beaches and pools and restaurants that served steamers with butter and I didn’t hesitate. I might have had one or two panic attacks on my way across Delaware bridge and under the Baltimore tunnel, but I pushed through and had one of the most amazing visits home I had ever had.
SO, why not do it again this year? I only had one panic attack, somewhere outside Dinwiddie, VA on I85 where the road is just one long corridor of white pine and scrub oak and beyond that are huge hay fields and its the last green stretch before you hit Petersburg and the tobacco laden air of Richmond and you are committed to the drive north--you’ve jettisoned home and now you’re all alone on the highway. So I stopped breathing properly for about thirty minutes and when this happens I just hope a deer doesn’t jump out in the road or some trucker doesn’t cut me off. But then I hit the 8 am crush of commuters in Richmond and voila, my lungs took over again and the Rolling Stones told me to shake my hips and get my ass to D.C. before lunch hour.
This year I only hit one traffic jam -- an hour long stop and go roll at the head of the Jersey Turnpike. And why? Because some old man decided to pull a robin’s egg blue double-wide that must have been 35 years old, stuffed with old clothes, with an equally ancient pickup truck that resembled the one my neighbors grow tomato plants in the back of, in fact, maybe it was my neighbor, but yes, this double-wide had old clothes coming out of every window and rust hole and the side door had swung open when the thing jackknifed and it revealed clothes packed into that trailer so tight that I marveled at how someone could have packed them in there without mechanical assistance -- it was like a rolling Goodwill dumpster. And then there was the poor woman who had been unfortunate enough to try to pass this Mess on Wheels right at the moment that he decided to light another Pall Mall and open another can of Old Milwaukee and he jack knifed her up against that lovely concrete median wall, her and her seemingly brand new pearlescent Porche SUV. So there she stood in her heels with her well maintained face melting into the hot pavement with a Jersey State Trooper and this old Man-Mess and I thought, God, has she got a story to tell the family tonight! And I could feel all the people in the cars around me saying, “THIS is why we’ve been going 3 mph for the last hour? Jeeezus!” And we all exchanged glances, cause you become friends with the people you’ve been stuck in traffic with for that long -- you read eachother’s bumper stickers and stick your tongue out at their kids who make faces at you and you wonder what the dog in the back is called and you think, god, he’s driven all the way from Oklahoma? Really? This morning?
But that’s the highway and then you put Dave Matthews on, real loud, and you fly across the Tappanzee Bridge and before you know it, your taking Exit 42 off the Merritt Parkway and you roll down the windows and a soft rain is falling and its cocktail hour in Westport and the temperature is a delightful 65 degrees and the air smells of salt water and this unidentifiable musky smell that you are going to smell all week and its so evocative of your childhood that it practically causes you to have a seizure, and you find yourself stopping and sticking your nose in various bushes while walking trying to find the source of the smell, but you can’t and you realize that passersby are eyeing you and you don’t care, cause you don’t live here anymore.