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Memories of the Honeymoon that Almost Wasn’t

This week my wife and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. That means that it’s been 8 years since the debacle of the morning we left for our honeymoon.

As a side note, it’s been 8 years, and still none of my friends or family members can figure out why a woman of The Megger’s obvious quality would marry a schlub like me. I try to tell them that sometimes fortune shines upon the undeserving, but secretly I think it likely that The Megger is being punished for doing something awful in a past life.

But, back to the story at hand: It was the Monday morning after our Saturday wedding and it was 4:00am. My bride and I crawled out of bed and began to scurry about our apartment making the types of last-minute preparations you make when you are going to be away for two weeks.

What we didn’t realize is that while we were scurrying about, my best man – who had generously volunteered to drive us to the airport – was downstairs pressing the doorbell button. And pressing it. And pressing it. All told, he pressed that button, and knocked, for 15 minutes before we heard him. Try standing outside staring at someone’s door at 4am – the time goes by a lot slower than you might think (just make sure it’s someone who will vouch for you when the police show up). I still can’t believe we didn’t hear the doorbell – either it was broken, or our ears weren’t awake enough to pick up that frequency. It’s to my best man’s eternal credit that he didn’t just leave (for some reason, he didn’t have a cell phone with him).

Eventually, he drove us down the empty Turnpike to Logan Airport, where we happily unloaded our bags from his car and waved as he drove off (likely resolving never to drive us anywhere ever again).

We picked up our bags and carried them to the curbside check-in, where a kindly-looking man greeted us. We presented our tickets and IDs and announced that we were going on our honeymoon. To Hawaii. Despite the obscenely early hour, we were giddy. The skycap indulged us with a smile and punched our information into the computer. Then he frowned and repeated the process. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but you do not appear to be booked on any flights.”

My heart began to race. How could anything be wrong? Everything had been booked weeks in advance with our travel agent. We even had paper tickets for the flight. This had to be a mistake. What if we got stranded? Our ride just left and he didn’t have a cell phone with him. It was our honeymoon. Our married life was supposed to be a string of happiness and success and now everything was going to be ruined.

I may have panicked a little. My mouth began to work to form words that I did not have enough breath to speak, and my eyes began to roll back into my head. I am told there might have been a bit of foam on my chin.

Sensing danger, the skycap marched us inside and handed us over to a Mr. Reyes. Mr. Reyes did the “type very fast for an extended period of time” thing that all airline employees do before he confirmed for us that we were not booked on any flights. Our tickets, he told us, had been refunded to our travel agent back in April and were no longer valid.

The Megger rejected my suggestion that we take a cab to the travel agent’s home, burn it to the ground, and salt the earth where it had stood. Instead, she called the agency and calmly explained to the voicemail (after all, it was 5:45am) that there must have been some mistake because the tickets we paid for had been cashed in, and we didn’t have the cash. She asked the travel agent to call us back when she got in.

Meanwhile, at the ticket counter, Mr. Reyes told us that if we wanted to go to Hawaii today, there was a flight 2 hours later with available seats. We could purchase new tickets for the later flight for a total of $1200 (or $300 more than the tickets we had already purchased). Now, remember, these were 2003 dollars – back when $1200 could really buy you something. Somehow – and I’m really not sure how, as this was just after our wedding – we had enough room on our credit card to book the tickets (although this tightened our honeymoon budget a bit). Mr. Reyes insisted that we use his cell phone to confirm that our hotel reservations were still valid, and they were.

When we eventually got in touch with the travel agent (while waiting to change planes in St. Louis), she blamed the Hawaiian vacation company (that she had chosen to use) for cashing in the tickets. In an attempt to make up for it, she upgraded us at our first hotel to a room that had an amazing view of Waikiki Beach. She claimed that she had sent instructions to upgrade us at our second hotel, but there must have been some mistake (shocker) because we weren’t upgraded.

What we didn’t know at the time was that my cousin had used the same travel agent to book her honeymoon (my cousin was married 2 weeks before us), and the agent had done a similar thing to their plane tickets (this time to San Francisco, so I suspect the Hawaiian company wasn’t involved).

In the end, despite the initial bump in the road our honeymoon was wonderful (well, except for one ill-conceived trip to a Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant). We were eventually reimbursed – months later – for the more expensive tickets, although it took a number of phone calls and letters. Needless to say, we never used that travel agent again.

Back in the Day Tim 20 May 2011 1 Comment

Under Where?

Bobby Mazzone (not his real name) and I were great friends growing up. We would play Wiffle Ball in the back yard, Strat-O-Matic in his basement, Ping Pong, sleepovers – the works. It was a strange day when we weren’t together. He was just a normal childhood friend, until the day when our friendship took a surreal turn.

But, before I tell you that story, you need to know that my friend Bobby’s mom was a bit different. She was nice enough to me, but she was quite strict with Bobby and he was terrified of her. My first inkling that something might be strange with her was the first time Bobby asked her if he could stay overnight at my house. She called me and, with great concern and in a serious tone asked if there was a gas main running under the street by our house.

To me, though, the most striking example of Bobby’s fear was one time when a bunch of us were playing football in my backyard. Bobby attempted to tackle one of my other friends, and the guy, who was a bit bigger than Bobby, swung around to avoid being tackled. This motion spun Bobby through the air, where he seemed to freeze briefly until he crashed face-first into a wooden picnic table in my backyard (I can still picture the scene clearly in my mind. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen).

Bobby was ok, but he had decent-sized cut on his mouth and a couple of his teeth felt a bit loose. We were all concerned about his well-being and asked him if he wanted to go to the hospital for stitches, but all he was concerned about – practically to the point of tears – was how his mother would react to any potential damage to the braces on his teeth (there was none). He ran home in a panic. Odd.

So, you get the point. Bobby was afraid of his mother. Now back to the story.

It was a fall afternoon after school, and Bobby and I were alone in my house, listening to music and talking about some thing or another. Suddenly, he got quiet for a minute and looked at me, as if trying to figure something out. Then, jutting his chin at me a little, he asked, “Your sister still lives in the basement, right?” (Note: My sister is 11 years older than I am and at the time she was living with us prior to getting married)

“Yeah.”

“Do you mind if I go try on her underwear?”

I turned my head, attempting to get a better angle on the conversation. I wasn’t sure I understood him, or maybe he was joking, so I asked the first question that popped into my mind, “What?”

“Would you care if I went down there and tried on some of your sister’s underwear? I’ve just always been curious about what it would feel like. I think it would be sort of smooth and soft and I think I might like it.”

Now, in my life, when I have been faced with a strangely surreal situation, my first instinct has generally been to just go with it and see what happens. Plus, I was still at least fifty percent sure that he was pulling my leg and wanted to call his bluff. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sure, go right ahead.” (I haven’t asked her, but I am fairly sure this is not the answer my sister would have preferred).

“Ok,” he said, looking relieved, “you have to stay up here.”

“No problem.”

With that, he headed down into my basement and closed the basement door behind him. As soon as I heard him go down the stairs, I walked over and locked the basement door handle. I then walked over to our kitchen phone.

Now, back in the day, there used to be a number you would dial and get a high pitched tone. You would then hang up, and a moment later your phone would ring. I very quietly dialed this number (we had a rotary phone), heard the tone, and softly placed the received back on the hook. A moment later, the phone rang. I answered it on the second ring.

“HELLO?” (I spoke loudly so that Bobby was sure to hear me)

“NO, I’M SORRY MRS. MAZZONE, BOBBY CAN’T COME TO THE PHONE RIGHT NOW…”

There was a flurry of activity in my basement and then pounding feet sprinted up the stairs. Bobby encountered the locked door, tried it again hurriedly, and then began to pound on it.

“HE’S IN THE BASEMENT TRYING ON MY SISTER’S UNDERWEAR.”

A cry of anguish came from the basement steps, and the violence of the pounding increased. There might have also been some adult language, mixed with perhaps a bit of whimpering. I felt sorry for him, and for the door, so I unlocked the handle.

A blur darted past me toward the kitchen door. I tried to explain, “Bobbyitwasajokeitwasn’treallyyourmother” but he had dashed outside, down the steps, and was away.

I had a vision in my mind of him trying to explain this to his mother. That was more problem than I had ever intended from my little joke, so I had no choice. I crashed out the door and began to chase him.

Bobby was much faster than I when he wasn’t in a fully terrified sprint, so there was no chance of me actually catching him. Luckily he was, at that moment, just a bit slower than the speed of sound. He finally heard my shouts and stopped. I lumbered up to him and breathlessly explained the joke. And then he punched me, which I still don’t think was entirely fair.

Back in the Day Tim 06 May 2011 No Comments

The Floater

With the coming of the warmer weather, I have been thinking about how much I miss Steve Garvey. Since I’ve never actually met the real Steve Garvey (who was a first baseman for the Dodgers), that sentence might not make any sense, so allow me to explain.

When I was growing up, my brothers and I used to play a game in our back yard called Home Run Derby. Essentially, it was a game of Wiffle Ball, but with no base running and no fielding to speak of, just pitching and hitting. Hit a ball off the porch for a single, off the siding was a double, the gutter and windows were triples, and a blast onto the roof was a home run. If you swung the bat and the result was anything other than the ball landing on some part of the house on the fly, you were out.

My father was not the biggest fan of Home Run Derby. With Wiffle Balls constantly bouncing off of his house, he was convinced that we were going to break something, or ruin the roof. Also, there was the time a line drive struck my grandmother, who was sitting innocently on the deck during a party. It was nothing more serious than a bit of a startle and a spilled beverage. My grandmother was a good sport about it, but seeing his mother get plunked didn’t raise my father’s opinion of the game any. There were other incidents, as well (like the time he got hit by a ball that had flown through an open bathroom window) but in general, since nothing ever broke and it kept us from destroying the inside of his house, Dad mostly tolerated the Derby.

That was good, because we played a ton of it.

Each of my brothers had a specialty pitch, crafted for years before I showed up – my brother Mike had a rising fast ball (thrown at about 100mph) that would have you ducking out of the way as it swept through the strike zone. My brother Jim had “The Floater,” which would come dancing up to the strike zone, pause briefly, and then pull your pants down. My brother Bill had a variation of The Floater he called “The Blooper,” but in my memory The Blooper spent most of its time flying up onto the roof (Bill will likely not be pleased about this recollection). Me, I just threw as hard as I could and hoped for the best.

My best, playing against people at least 9 years older with their fancy pitches, was often not good enough. I lost and lost, but I loved to play so much that I would just keep on plugging. I remember one game in particular where my brother Jim and I were pretending to be major leaguers – I was the Red Sox and Jim was the Dodgers. I was actually leading, 3-2, in the 9th inning and I was desperate to win.

That desperation is a funny thing. My brothers were not people who would lay down for anyone, not even their little brother. I had to earn it. That might have been discouraging for some people, but it drove my competitive fire. I wanted to get better and better and keep playing until I could dominate and pay them back for all the years of losing – even at a game like backyard Wiffle Ball.

So, on this particular day, the sun was shining and it was hot, probably July or August. I was standing in my backyard with sweat rolling down my back and into my shorts. I was pretending to be Dennis Eckersley, with his high leg kick, and I was going for a complete game victory.

There were two outs when my brother announced that Bill Russell (the old Dodger shortstop), was batting. I reared back and threw a medium ball on the outside corner and Russell (who, after a long career of being right-handed, was suddenly batting in my brother’s lefty style) flicked it off the siding of the house for a double. The tying run was on base. This was before the World Series collapse in 1986, but I had already been trained to expect bad things for the Sox, even the Wiffle Sox, in the 9th inning.

I tried to reason with myself as Jim announced that Steve Garvey was batting. One out to go and anything – a foul tip, a ground ball, or even a swing and a miss – would mean victory. Sweet, precious victory could be mine. I smiled greedily at the thought of it. I took a deep breath as Jim waved at me with a couple of practice swings. His face was all concentration.

I kicked and threw as hard as I knew how. The tendons in my shoulder strained from the effort, and there was a soft grinding sound in my elbow. The ball tumbled over itself as it whistled unevenly toward my brother. The long plastic bat cut through the air, and in the next instant the ball was bouncing down the shingles of my father’s roof. Home run. Steve Garvey. Ballgame.

My brother wasn’t one to gloat. He patted me on the back, then shook my hand and said, “Good game.” As we walked back into the house, I snuck a look back at him, and noticed him smiling to himself. It was a wide, contagious smile, and it was clear that it came from a place of joy and was not at my expense.

I saw the smile again this past November. Jim was bed-ridden from the cancer that would soon take him from me, and he was quiet, as he often was then. I was sitting on his bed, trying to think of something to say. I looked at him, held his gaze for a moment, smiled, and said, “Damn that Steve Garvey.” He chuckled, and for just a split second we were in the backyard with only Wiffle Balls to worry about.

Back in the Day Tim 11 Mar 2010 7 Comments

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