Tuesday, February 13, 2007

G is for the Group

In the early ’90s, down in metro DC, we had a good thing going for awhile, this gang of eight who got together for great food, wine, and company.

We once planned a winter weekend retreat together, renting a house down in Chincoteague/Assateague. Of course, a blizzard hit the day we were to leave. We tried to call and cancel, but were told we’d get no money back. The majority of folk decided we should brave it.

Six of us—Wayne, Sue, Craig, Ramberto, Tim, yours truly—piled into a van to head south in the major snowstorm. Bill and Susan promised they’d come the next day.

It was insane. A trip that in good conditions took maybe 3½ hours took about 8. We shouldn’t have been out there. Someone, who shall remain nameless, pulled out a couple of joints to ease the tension in the back of the van. This did not ease the tension of the firstborn square chick up front (the youngest person in the car) who felt that illegal substances are better left in stationary places like houses, not in moving vehicles during blizzards when at any point One Could Be In An Accident. Nobody really gave a shit what square chick thought, though, especially after a little dope. I believe it was at this point that someone brought up the topic of pod people, which would become some sort of weird theme for the weekend. It escapes me a bit. Craig could tell you.

It was so dark when we arrived, we had dinner at the only possible place to do so, after which we navigated the back roads via something akin to braille and attempted to enter the wrong (luckily empty) house with the key we were given. The directions Rental Woman had given us weren’t so great.

The next house we tried was the right one.

We were exhausted. But the next morning . . .

It’s the first and only time I’ve been to the ocean in the snow. I took a long walk through the corridor that was the beach, waves on one side, snow drifts on the other. It felt miraculous. There were snowball fights. On the beach.

We played hard that weekend. Bill and Susan joined us. That night, in another exhausted heap, I was introduced to Cleo Laine’s That Old Feeling, the most mellow collection of standards I’ve ever heard, the slowness of which seemed to slow everything else down, capturing us in this thick, syrupy dream.

Eventually, the group met its end as five of its members left DC: Wayne and Sue to Arizona, Craig to Florida, Tim and I to Vermont. I often wish we could plan a retreat somewhere again, a reunion. I know it wouldn’t be the same, but it wouldn’t have to be. Would it?


Sewa Yoleme said...


First, I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that you didn't reveal our group nickname, or why we called ourselves that.

Second, the Pod People incident started as we were crossing the narrow spit of land that led to the island. All was dark around us, one false move and we'd leave the snowy road and plunge into the water, and the only sign of life was this tiny cluster of lights about two miles away in Assateague. I suddenly realized that it would be the perfect sci-fi scenario: aliens could replace the population of the entire town and, isolated as it was, no one would be the wiser until it was too late.

From that moment on, we knew that everyone we met was a pod person. When Sue went into the rental office to pick up the house key, we wouldn't let her in the van until she could assure us that she was in fact the real Sue and not some alien replacement. (She almost failed the test.) The patrons at the sparsely populated restaurant were oddly quiet and stand-offish, confirming that they, too, were pod people. Our riotous laugher probably didn't help matters much.

The capper was when the beachcombers the next day ran across some strange sea-creature pods, clear evidence of alien invasion (I've since learned that they are egg cases of the skate, itself an alien-looking being).

In fact, now that I think of it, I believe you gave me your skate pods as my Big Trip farewell gift at the Talking Stick ceremony....

Indigo Bunting said...

SY: Fun to have you fill in some of the other details.

As to the group nickname, you'll be shocked, SHOCKED to find out that I actually never really liked it and found it a tad contrived.

Thank you for filling in various pod people details, some of which were still with me, but better you tell it. Also, for the record, Tim and I knew what skate cases were, but they do look alien and it was fun to play along.

And yes, you may be right, I seem to remember the skate egg case entering into your farewell ceremony. Hmmm. There's something in the air.

Mali said...

I love the Pod People ... and now desperately want to know the group nickname!

It sounded a fantastic weekend - the trick to a reunion is not to try to recreate, but simply get together again somewhere else and create new memories.

mm said...

You would have hated me - I would have been the uptight square chick.

I also desperately want to know the group nickname

Indigo Bunting said...

mm: I am the uptight square chick. I would have loved you! I mean really, if people want to smoke, that's fine with me, but please don't get me arrested in the process.

mm said...

Okay IB. My neighbour and I both forgot to get stoned when we were younger, and so we now have a date for sometime - about a decade from now when her youngest is all grown up - to get high in her hot-tub.

You can come if you like. Tim can come too, but it's lady's night so he can help the other boys procure our stash, then go play cards inside and keep the fuzz* away from us.

*that's street slang for cops.

Indigo Bunting said...

mm: Did someone say hot tub? I'm there. Especially with folks on fuzz lookout. (Yes, I laughed.)

Bridgett said...

You know, all the illegal substances and pod people aside, that is a beautiful story.

Deloney said...

That was such a great read.

JHK said...

I like the thick syrupy dream of the music. A good read!

I took a trip to the Jersey shore once in January with a friend. Our ears were so cold from the wind that when we finally got inside they immediately glowed red and burned. Ow.

But we had pancakes for breakfast, at least.