Friday, March 16, 2007

PART 1 of 4

So the weekend of reckoning was at hand. I called Dominique on Thursday afternoon from my office in the City. The previous day we had gotten a seal of approval from the local planning board in Ghent to start a winery. We had planned to leave Thursday night. The truck had been giving some problems, with fits and starts. It was not fixed. The local folks who fix our cars could not find anything wrong with it. And they were usually pretty reliable.

"Don't holler, but I don't want to go up tonight," Dominique said, with exhaustion in her voice.

"We agreed to go up tonight. I don't want to fight Friday morning rush hour traffic. We already discussed this," I said trying to keep the hint of anger down in my voice.

"I really don’t feel well. I must have the flu or something, but I really don’t feel well. Why don’t we just stay home tonight and we’ll wake up early on Friday and go up.”

“I just really don't feel well," she said again. I did not respond positively, and fought on, but to no avail. She practically cried right there on the phone, and I finally gave in. As I hung up the phone I had bad feeling. This already was not going well. Going up on Friday, for three days of drilling, planting, and setting up an irrigation system was a mistake. And I knew it. I knew it in my bones.

Another thing I knew was that it was my wife's birthday. I knew she was a little down in the dumps. She was hurt that the boys had woken up and not wished her happy birthday that a.m. I asked to speak to one of them and told him to call over the other one, and instructed them to sing her Happy Birthday. It mollified her some, but she was sad nonetheless.

At work, that Thursday, I counted the hours until the clock struck five o'clock, I was so anxious. I raced home and saw my wife. She indeed looked like hell. I wish I could tell you I was a wonderful husband, but I was too anxious, and I pressed my wife for some compromise, but to no avail...we were going up on Friday morning.

"We'll wake up early tomorrow. I'll set the alarm for 4:45, and you and Dawson can go up first...but I cannot go tonight. The answer is no." I relented, and went to bed angry and anxious. But I have to admit now I was very tired. Exhausted. The worrying, the anxiety, my job, all added to my level of stress.

Making sure the vines were there, the irrigation, the augers. There was a wealth of things to keep one up at night. I must have touched the alarm clock at least a half dozen times, making sure, double sure, triple sure, the right time was set, each time setting it slightly earlier and earlier, subtracting another five minutes here, or another five minutes there, insuring we would get there in plenty of time. Wake up was eventually set for 4:30 a.m. My eyes were bleary with lack of sleep. As I finally turned out the light, I realized the wisdom of my wife's decision. I would have been too tired to drive up that night, but I could not admit that to her then. I was so tired, I was out before my head hit he proverbial pillow.

I woke up to the sound of our three dogs, who were rustling in our bedroom, moaning and groaning, and turning around three times before they settled back into their beds. I rolled over, and peeked from my heavenly slumber. It was going to be a lovely morning. The sun was already up, and the sky looked beautiful from our bedroom window.

Sun!!! I glanced at the alarm clock. It was 6:30 a.m. We had over slept. In checking and rechecking the clock I had accidentally turned off the alarm. All I could see in my head was rush hour traffic.

"Dominique! We're late. Get up! Get up!" I raced around the room, finding my clothes, trying to put them on and walk at the same time.

"What happened? What time is it?"

"It's 6:30. I must have screwed up the clock." I admitted. "I told you we should have left last night. I told you."

A bit of shouting back and forth ensued as we each fumbled for our clothes. The dogs were suddenly excited and all were pacing around our room, while each of us bumped into one another trying to ready themselves for the gauntlet ahead.

"OK, you go first. Dylan and I will follow. You'll be fine. We have time," she said with a mixture of assuredness and hostility. I answered with a string of obscenities. She woke our son Dawson up, and clothed him as he was still trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Eight years old, he already weighs almost 100 pounds and is a man child. If not taller than all the boys in his class, he is easily the biggest. His forearms and thighs are tree trunks, and has athletic prowess to spare. His major interests include fire trucks, trucks in general, police cars and policemen. We can divine little else of Dawson's other interests, as these are obsessions with him, and there is room for little else in our conversations, no matter how you might try to derail his one track mind. Lately baseball is making an impression on him, and a bat and glove are his new constant companions that sometimes replace his police badge and handcuffs, and whatever his is using to substitute for a gun.

However, the one thing I can honestly say about Dawson is, with his round cheeks, big brown eyes, and thick limbs, is that he loves to help. In the kitchen, if needs be, but preferably where tools are concerned. He loves tools of almost any kind, but is seemingly convinced that all are to be used like a hammer, no matter their real use, save a saw, which it seems, he knows how to use well. One Christmas, my step-father gave him a set of real tools from Home Depot. The next thing I know I walk through the dining room where Dawson, a 1st grader, standing between two Chippendale chairs, has lined up his saw, teeth set on the wood, on our 10-foot long Mahogany dinning room table. I shrieked so loud he dropped the saw in sheer panic long before he even thought to look up.

Dawson helped me the weekend before buy an inexpensive mattress from the back of some old warehouse, so we could have a queen size bed in one of our guestrooms. My brother Eugene and his girlfriend were helping us out, and I wanted to make sure they have a nice bed so they'd be encouraged to stay as long as possible to help. And it's only right since they were sacrificing their entire three day weekend to help us plant grapes. We drove down to the warehouse neighborhood of a place four towns away. It was kind of eerie. But Dawson and I persevered. We went down in the pick-up, which he sees as his domain (and by which his brother is most decidedly unimpressed), and helped me and the other man load the huge queen-size mattress on the back of the truck. The box spring went in first, followed by the mattress. We did not bother to secure as it was big and heavy in the extra long bed of our truck.

Now here I was, cursing a blue streak, wondering where my wife and son were, as I watched the time slip by on the face of my watch, and counted in my head the increasing number of cars that would soon be piling up on the Garden State Parkway, the first highway I would have to traverse before reaching the New York State Thruway. With the extra minutes, as I cursed under my breath, I got out two bungee cords and stretched them across the mattress, to make sure nothing would happen to them on the ride up. As I did, my mind raced. We still needed gas and coffee and breakfast. We wouldn't get there at least until lunch time I was sure of it at that minute.

Dominique appeared on our porch with Dawson, half asleep, lumbering behind her.
"Come on, come on, let's go. It's nothing but rush hour out there. I mind as well leave tomorrow at this point. I told you we should have gone up last night."

"Calm down," she barked. "And be nice to him," she nodded in my son's direction. "Drive carefully. You have plenty of time," she spit.

"They'll be a congressional election before we get up there at this pace. Let's move it!" I barked back.

Dawson climbed into the cab of the truck, and Dominique kissed him goodbye. "Good luck guys," she said sweetly.

"Bye!" I said, and yanked the truck into gear. In anger, without even looking, I backed the truck out into the middle of our street, gunned the loud engine, and rumbled forward. I was now 6:45 a.m. By my calculations, a run that would normally take 2 1/2 hours I was now sure would take us at least until mid-day. My mind raced. What would I do, who should I call, to make sure nothing was held back or missed in my absence?

I raced down to the end of our road, and gunned the loud engine once again, and shot off onto Route 9 like a bullet out of a gun. Needless to say, I was driving angry. The first stop was for gas. I pulled up to the pump and asked the attendant to fill it up. And in the same moment to try and kill some time, I asked Dawson what he wanted for breakfast. We went inside the convenience store for some coffee, water, and some breakfast snacks. I got a large coffee and some Tastykakes, and Dawson got a large container of Yoo-hoo and some Hostess mini muffins. As I paid for our breakfast and ambled back to the truck some of the fun of our upcoming adventure began to seep in and Dawson and I began to chat quite animatedly, me about the vineyard, and Dawson asking questions about what trucks and what tools might be involved.

I paid the attendant cheerfully, and opened the door to my truck.

"That your mattress" another patron asked me.

"Yeah," I said warily.
"You got one or two?" he asked. I was confused by his question, but went along with the gag for the sake of hearing him out.
"Two," I said.
"You sure about that?" he asked. I looked at the back of my truck, and the top part, the mattress, was missing. I looked back at him in an instant of terror.
"It's out on Route 9, about 1/2 a mile back. Was sitting there. Queen-size."
"Did I cause an accident?" I asked, terrified.
"Naw. It's sitting off to the side like it’s there for giveaway," he shrugged. Panic struck a second time. Dawson and I looked at each other, I gunned the engine yet again, and raced all the back way home, to the road I had just been on, so I could retrace my steps and find my mattress. I got there, and followed the road, exactly like I had ridden it a 1,000 times before. We drove as slowly as we could in mounting rush hour traffic, but no sign of the mattress could be found. We went back again and again. No mattress. I was dumbfounded.

"How can this be? It was five minutes! Who in the hell stops and picks up a mattress in their way to work? How is this possible?" I asked, cursing up yet another storm. Things could not get worse. Here I was, wasting another 15 minutes, circling the roads around our house, hoping to find my lost queen-size mattress, like someone had taken my bike when I was a kid.

“Things could not get worse," I told myself with utter contempt and resignation. I had no idea how much worse they could get, but I was soon to find out

As I circled the area for the third time, the truck suddenly died on Route 9 in New Jersey. Route 9 is a heavily traveled commuter road at that time of day. I tried and tried to restart the truck It would not restart. I stomped my feet and started screaming, letting loose another stream of profanity. I looked over and Dawson's eyes were as big as saucers and I was immediately embarrassed.

"Gimme the phone," I said. I called Dominique and asked her to come and get me. Maybe she could jump start the truck. Sure enough after fifteen minutes the truck restarted. I drove it around, passing the spot where the bed had fallen. I could not help but look again. I did not see the mattress. I drove the truck around the corner and took it to the mechanic that had not fixed it the first time. I left it in his parking lot, with the box spring still sticking out of the truck bed. I tugged Dawson out of the truck, and we got in the station wagon that Dominique was driving and we raced back to our house. I mumbled the entire way. I told Dawson to get into our sedan, as I ran in the house to get the keys. Dominique tried to calm me down, but my mind was lost already.

I got in the car, started it, and looked at the clock in the car. It was now 7:30 a.m.
It took forever to get up route 9. I aged two years sitting in the car, as we went into stop and go traffic. Then we parked on the New Jersey State Parkway for a while. The only relief I got was on the New York State Thruway...were I tried to make up for lost time on the empty road. However, the time I made up was lost when I got a ticket for speed at 80 mph.

"I'm telling mommmmmmy." said Dawson, laughing.

We finally pulled up to the farm at 11am.

End Part 1


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