Monday, February 20, 2006

Robert Hollis Mayo III Celebrates Year 21 - Part 2

Circa 1985

It starts around 21 years ago, which would make me around 33-34, and Peggy and I are doing the regular Sunday dinner at her parent’s home on Waverly Street, and Peggy’s cousin’s wife, Beth, is bringing her new son, Rob too. Peg’s always had more like a brother and sister than cuz relationship to Bob. They grew up together; Bob was my best man and Beth Peg’s maid-of-honor – in fact they were our entire wedding party in our semi-elopement to the Virgin Islands. So, we’re both close to them, in other words.

We had gone to see Beth and Robbie in the hospital after his birth, and frankly I thought him the usual red-faced, monkey-like new-born. Nothing impressive. I’m happy for Bobby and Beth, of course, but it’s just a new addition to the family, as far as I’m concerned, not being much into babies. But I’m glad they’re coming to dinner.

Anyway, she brings him in, and in the course of the evening, puts him in my arms.

And I fall in love.

It’s been a long affair now. There was the baby who would make my heart soar as his face split into a wide grin when he would first spot me. There was the toddler, just barely walking, who would balance forward and lurch ahead as his feet tried to catch up to him. When he started walking better he would take my hand and we would walk up-and-down the street, him babbling nonsense syllables to me and me sagely nodding my head and occasionally remarking, “Now that’s interesting,” when there was a break in the flow.

I could fill a separate blog with stories on ball-playing, outings, school, hockey, football games, trying to teach him how to use a clutch and stick shift, graduations, but there’s way too many stories, 21 years worth of them. Let’s just have the record state that’s it’s been an interesting and fun two decades plus one, and I’m looking forward to the next.

Enter the Hummer with Hammer

Bethie called us last week and asked if we’d come to his 21st. Since, as far as we can remember, we have missed only one in the past 21 years, we said, “Yes,” after clearing it with Peg’s sis, Roberta, who was in town visiting family. Roberta tends to be game for anything, and even though by Saturday she was probably ready for some quiet time, went right along with us.

Peggy and I got to the Mayo’s around five, as requested by Beth, incidentally scaring the bejesus out of her when we showed up on her doorstep in funky old jeans and sweats. You could tell from the look on her face she was wondering a) whether she had forgotten to tell us we were going to a nice restaurant and b) whether she and Bob had anything we could wear. But Peggy reassured her we had brought along presentable outfits and would soon metamorphose into “Classy Peg & Fred.” Which we did, and were enjoying the 1st of ah, several cocktails of the evening, when this honkin’ big Humvee limo begins one of what would be several attempts to navigate the driveway. He tries to back up. No go. He drives away and tries from another angle. Nada. He tries coming in straight, even though that means he’ll have to back down the driveway. Zip.

The chauffer, who’s name is M.C. and who I’ll take to call “Hammer,” for all the predictable reasons, wisely gives up, parks at roadside, and walks up the driveway to get us. As we walk down to the stretch Hummer in the chilly New England evening, I remark, “I hope its hot tub is warmed up.” The thing is big enough to accommodate a tub, as well as several dancing girls, and the cast of Les Miz. But there’s just us, lots of snacks and carry-on booze inside of what could be a mini-Disco.

Fred Challenges the Gates of Hell (and Buys Booze)

We realize we’ve forgotten B&B for after-dinner drinking, quelle dommage, and instruct our driver and new-found friend, M.C. to find a liquor store. He does so in downtown Hopkinton, I hop out and walk into what seems to a Bukowski psychodrama scored by Tom Waits especially designed to freak Fred out. This is a tiny, little room, one cooler on the side, shelves of cheap booze on the other, an old clerk with boozy breath behind the counter and, in front of him a very, very drunk blonde in skin-tight jeans who I’m fairly certain is ah, a “soiled dove.” This, ah, lady, has spread out $125 on the counter and is picking out $5 and $10 scratch tickets. One by one. And scratching them as she purchases them. One by one.

“Let me have one of those,” she instructs the old geezer, who seems totally enthralled by her tawdry charms. “That’s what I won all this money on the last time.”

“Excuse me,” I interrupt. “I’m looking for B&B.” The clerk scowls at me. “Benedictine and Brandy?” I try, with the awful certainty that I’m as likely to find the gold-flake saki that Jill sent for New Year’s as I am to find B&B in this circle of Hell. “It’s a liqueur?”

The clerk blows stale beer breath in my face and waves vaguely at a wall flanked by wine cases. “If we have it, it maybe would be over there” and turns back to the ticket-scratching whore, gazing with desperate longing at her as she scratches at her ticket. And by God, there is exactly one large bottle of dusty B&B there that looks like its been on the shelf since ought-5, and I ain’t talking 2005, neither. I grab it, hustle to the counter, where the clerk and whore are in deep discussion about what ticket she should buy next and, since there’s least a hundred of her stake still on the counter, I politely say, “Excuse me, I have a limo waiting outside (bad mistake, Freddy, I think, as they both now seem to be thinking, “What does this snooty bastard want now?”). Would you mind if I could buy this now?”

“All you had to say was, “Get the fuck out of my way,’” the charming girl replies. The clerk, with a look of sheer hate on his face asks, “So how much is it?” I now am wearing a fixed grin that probably resembles a rictus of horror, and, even though I’m tempted to say, “$9.95,” just to see if he so desperately wants to get back to having the whore to himself that he’ll agree to anything I say, I figure if I can get out of this with honor and limbs intact I’m ahead of the game, so I tell him the right price.

I emerge from The Pit, triumphantly clutching the B&B, and tell M.C., “Take me far away from here, Hammer.”

Hammer takes us to our next stop, Bob’s daughter’s Meaghan’s, house where Mimi and Robbie await. Meaghan has been known in the family since Robbie started talking as “Mimi.” Robbie knows his parents are taking him out to dinner with family, but beyond that he’s clueless. His face widens into that familiar grin as he steps out the door. “You guys are ridiculous,” he says as he crawls into the Hummer, followed by his best bud, Nick, and Mimi. We probably are ridiculous, but he means it in a Good Sense. We barrel off to our last pickup, Robbie’s grandmother, Sadie and Roberta, and then we’re on the road again.

The Amazing Disappearing Mashed Potatoes

Many drinks later and one pee stop for the b’day boy (who, unawares that he was in for a long ride had been knocking down a few beers prior to our arrival), we were in Providence, R.I., and at The Capital Grille. We’re about a half-hour early, so its off to the very crowded bar. Peg has made Robbie his favorite birthday cake, a ridiculous, as Rob would say, chocolate thing, but we’ve left it in the limo, so I call M.C., Peg braves the extreme cold to retrieve it, and we sneak it past Rob and have it delivered to the kitchen for later use.

We’re finally seated at a very nice table and commence eating, which we do for approximately the next three hours. For appetizers, Bob orders two of these great cold shellfish platters, which includes a complete one-pound baby lobster(!!!), Gulf Coast jumbo shrimp and shucked oysters. Little is left intact save shells after we get done.

The Capital Grille is known for its steaks, as you may know, and that’s what we have. The menu is here, if you’re interested. We order about everything on it. We also got a few sides of veggies but, in a grievous error, only order one plate of mashed potatoes which, in an even more grievous error, is delivered to the boys’ side of the table. One scoop each and the plate is empty. I stare in amazement but Roberta, who has two grown boys of her own, simply calls the waiter over and orders more potatoes.

We toast Robbie, each other, the state of Rhode Island, the Capital Grille, and anything else that comes to mind. My table place is littered with wine glasses, as I had taken over the wine selection and the waiter feels that each time a new bottle is opened I must taste it and give my approval. I do, though by the fourth bottle he could be serving me canned heat for all my taste buds can tell.

We conquer our steaks, although it’s a close thing, and then the waiter brings in Peg’s cake, and we all get to embarrass Robbie with an off-key “Happy Birthday.”

All About Us

We call in the Hammer, load ourselves in the Hummer, and head North. When Robbie tries to load the CD player with ah, “less-boring” music, that is, less pre-80s, he’s told his 21st birthday celebration is now officially over, he’s on his own, and the rest of the night is All About Us. He cheerfully agrees and we drop him and Nick off at Rob’s house, which he and a group of college buddies are renting from Bob, where another party celebrating Robbie’s birthday is in full swing, even sans Robbie.

In reverse order we drop off Sadie and Roberta. Sadie asks that the Hummer’s impressive sound system be cranked up to full boogie so she can scare her neighbors, and M.C. complies. Roberta later says that Sadie was still bopping around the house long after Roberta had collapsed in bed. We let Mimi off at her house and head back to the Mayo ranch, where Peggy and I are wisely spending the night. By this time we’re in full boogie, with Beth and Peggy belting out “Bad Girls,” and Bob and I doing a knee-dance face-off on the limos floor. It’s probably a sight that would scare animals and small children, this bunch of out-of-control 50-somethings, but what the hell, we’re all family except for M.C. who’s probably seen much worse in his career, and we’re winding up 21 years of raising Robbie.

We roll in a bit after 1 in the morning, send the Hammer and His Hummer off into the night and head inside. Of course we must have a nightcap, and Bob just happens to have some Johnnie Walker Blue handy. So we sip, and Beth puts on some nice jazz, and we do our own version of “Dancing with the Stars,” waltzing around the living room.

We finally call it quits around 2:30. I don’t remember the last time I saw 2:30.

The next morning the Mayos take us for a brisk – brisk in more ways than one, Beth moves at a speed only equaled by one of those eccentric British women who stride the moors with their hounds at top speed, and its subzero outside – walk in the woods with Parker the dog, which gets all of our systems fired up again, we have breakfast, and Peg and I head back home.

And that was February 18-19th, in the Year of Our Lord, 2006, 21 years later.

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