The Longest Day
5:30 AM, June 23, 2002.
The first full day of Summer.
The longest day of the year.
The last memory I had of the alcohol soaked evening before was the sound of Jabe and Marcus cackling incessantly in between tokes while lounging on the deck. That was only three hours earlier. The morning was foggy, as most mornings are during early summer on Cape Cod. The fog is especially thick in Chatham where we were renting a house for two weeks for our clients with mental retardation. I have been organizing vacations for my clients for years. These trips are usually the highlight of the year for these clients whose usual day consists of: waking up, being shipped off to a day program to seal envelopes or break sticks under the guise of having a meaningful "job", come home, eat dinner, go to bed. The staff also look forward to these trips. Staff usually make slightly more than the person who mans the counter at Drunkin Donuts with 100 times the responsibility. With most of my staff being poor this is usually the only chance they have to spend a week in a house on the Cape.
Lying in bed listening to the sound alternate between the lapping of the waves and the pounding in my head I had a decision to make. I could lie there and hope to fall back asleep, knowing that we had a full day ahead sightseeing in Provincetown and going to a reggae show at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet. I could also go down to my car, drive five minutes to Chatham Seaside Links and walk nine holes in hopes of sweating out some toxins and clearing up the fogginess. I teed off around 6AM.
The Seaside links is a small, hilly golf course a couple hundred yards from Chatham Harbor. I couldn't see the water through the soupiness. First hole. I striped my ball down the middle of the short par four. I found my ball two feet from the green. I chipped my ball to six inches then tapped in for a birdie. As I bent over to retrieve my ball from the hole I violently heaved. I turned around instinctively to see if anyone saw my dry heaving, but there was nothing to see, it was covered in the soup. The next eight holes were a blur. I dragged myself to the car and lamented my decision not to lay in bed.
I returned to the house at 7:30 AM, no one was up yet. I had expected Tim, one of the staff who was not completely wasted the night before, being the designated sober person, to be up getting breakfast ready. I threw a couple pound of bacon on the griddle and made a pot of coffee. Like ghouls from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, staff and clients alike were drawn from their crypts by the smells emanating from the kitchen. Everyone ate breakfast on the deck, replaying the previous evenings events.
All were in agreement that the highlight of the evening was when Tim ( who is a cross between Barry White and Urkel) smooth-talked the hottest girl in the bar to dance with each of our clients. Dancing with the girl was the highlight of the evening for the clients. The highlight of the evening for the staff was confronting some young posers, primped and tanned, who were making some off color jokes loud enough for us to hear at the expense of our "men". "I can't believe you are jealous of some retarded guys" I said to one of the youngsters as I stepped directly into his line of sight. Marcus added "Yo Sully, that guy couldn't even talk to that girl never mind touch her" as the hottie was spinning one of our guys around, swing dance style. The kid took an abbreviated step toward me, but must've thought twice after sizing up the situation. He had six plus of his buddies with him. I had me, Marcus, a hostile black man in an all white bar. Jabe who, when not working for me, was a bouncer who actually looked forward to tossing drunks out onto their heads. Sammy, a thick necked, mild mannered Puerto Rican who can bench 300 lbs and Tim who still had a menacing stare from his days as a pimp in Springfield back in the eighties. As I stepped in to give the young man a firm "talking to" a girl that was with their group started yelling at the youngster. "You aah such a fukin' losah...those retah ded guys aah wicked cute". By this time the bouncers had taken notice of the scene. Having worked the door myself I commiserated with the big man on how tough it was dealing with drunks and explained the situation. He had a "talking to" with the youngster. He and his crew left, embarrassed and defeated. After breakfast everyone went back to bed to rest up for the day.
The next few hours were a blur. I tried to sleep down at the beach, but the sound of kids playing and seagulls squawking awoke me each time I started to fade. At 12:30 PM we loaded up and headed 30 minutes north to Provincetown. Sammy was driving the van along with Tim and our "men". Me, Jabe and Marcus followed in my Bonneville. Tim and Sammy were the designated sober people today as they would be driving with the clients. We cracked open some beers in my car. Jabe took a percocet I had hanging around since my wife had surgery weeks earlier. Within ten minutes he asked if the car was upsidedown.
The afternoon in Provencetown was spectacular. The fog had burned off by 2 PM and the sky had a hazy blue hue. We ate, shopped and people watched. Me, Jabe and Marcus went to a bar on the water down by MacMillian Wharf . The rest went to get Ice Cream. We left the bar after a couple of Bud Lights. On the way out of the place a dude walking in looked me up and down and said "mmm, hmmm, yummy". Gay or not, its nice to be appreciated. I gave him a high five and caught up with Jabe and Marcus who were moving quickly toward the town center.
We arrived at "The Beachcomber" around 5 PM. The "comah" is located on a sandy bluff about 75 feet above Cahoon Hollow beach overlooking the Altantic Ocean. The haze and heat we endured while exploring P-town had been replaced by crisp, cooler air fueled by a slight on-shore breeze. By this time Tim had joined me, Marcus and Jabe as "off the clock" leaving Sammy in charge of the men. Sammy and the men headed inside the club while the rest of us hiked down the steep path to the beach. Down by the water Marcus pulled out a "J" and after numerous attempts trying to light it in the breeze got it sparked. We sat in a semi-circle looking out at the water and decided that we were currently in the best location on the planet. With a new found spring in our step we glided back up the path toward the sound of the reggae music.
"Yellowman", a Jamaican reggae star known for having yellow hair, light skin and half his face missing from cancer, was starting his first set. We entered through the outdoor bar section of the club and could see the yellow one swaying to the ska beat on stage while the audience was bouncing in rhythm. Marcus and I headed into the sea of bodies moving and grinding while Jabe and Tim opted for the cool breeze and openness of the outdoor bar. The smell of sweat, booze and ganja was an intoxicating mix; I was lost in the hypnotic beat. As I exited the dance hall to the outdoor bar I could see the beginnings of the full moon peak above the horizon. I gathered the whole group and we went to the edge of the bluff to watch the moon rise. Once the moon escaped from the horizon it appeared to sit on top of the water, floating in the waves. A tanker heading out to sea appeared below the moon as it headed up into the darkening evening skies. We all went back to the club where Yellowman was intensely thrashing about the stage as if he were having a seizure. The crowd pulsed as he wailed on.
The show ended about 10PM. Sammy gathered the men and headed back to the beach house. The rest of us lingered at the outdoor bar opting for fruity, girly drinks with enough suger to temporarily neutralize the sedative effect of the day's drinking. Now that the show was over the outdoor bar became crowded. Bodies pressed against one another, some cute and inviting, others just sweaty and drunk. We maintained a semi-circle at one end of the bar looking out over a dune. The moon had risen just over the dune and the wispy dune grass was silhouetted against the luminous sphere. We again decided that this was the best location on earth.
At 10:45 we decided to head back to the beach house. At the Orleans rotary I decided that instead of heading south off the rotary toward Chatham we would head 25 minutes west toward Hyannis. There would still be some action there, even on a Sunday night. The bars in Hyannis weren't as promising as I had anticipated. We drove down Main Street, slowly, assessing the possibilities. After cruising Main Street twice we decided to head to a bar in neighboring Yarmouth that would not have the excitement we were looking for, but would be a place we could get a final drink before heading back to the beach house. It was now midnight and we had not had a drink, except for sharing two beers we had stashed in the car, since leaving the "Comah".
We entered "Molly's" and immediately bellied up to the bar. Ben was there again. Ben had probably tended bar there every day since the place opened. He spoke in a thick nasally Irish accent having had his nose broken a number of times as semi-successful prize fighter in his youth. His claim-to-fame was fighting on a Hagler under card. "What'll it be fellers" lilted the brawler. The black guys drank Johnnie Walker. The white irish-american guys had a Guinness. The bar was empty except for a table with two guys and two girls. Jabe struck up a conversation with one of the girls. She was cute. She had smooth, milky skin dotted with a few freckles. Her strawberry-blonde hair was the perfect complement to her complexion. I detected a mild brouge.
At first there was lighthearted banter flowing between Jabe and the girl. At some point while the rest of us talked amoungst ourselves at the bar their conversation turned . She, not being as drunk as we, mistook Jabe's sarcasm for arrogance and rebuffed his advances. Jabe had his ego bruised and all it took was a sideways look from one of the guys to set him off. "What are you looking at" he barked at the guy. "Not much" said the guy. I immediately headed toward the car knowing what was to come next. As I pulled the car around Marcus ran up to my drivers side window "Sull, pop the trunk. You got a crow bar or a golf club in there?". "Get in" I bellowed like a father who is disgusted by his sons childish behavior. Tim appeared on the passenger side door and got in. We pulled up to the front door just in time to see Jabe face to face with the guy. Jabe was barking at him, then suddenly spit his gum in the guys face and walked away. A sense of relief washed over me as he poured himself into the backseat of my Bonneville. "I'm too old for this shit guys" I said as we took a right out of the parking lot for our 20 minute ride down Route 28 toward Chatham.
The ride back to Chatham was dead quiet. Marcus and Jabe were passed out in the back seat, while Tim and I stared at the road ahead. We returned to the beach house at about 1:30 AM. Tim disappeared into his room in the basement. Jabe and Marcus headed out to the deck to smoke and recap the days events. I settled down into my bed. From the deck floated the pungent smell of smoke and the sounds of hushed laughter.