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Bergen County Blogs


This Saturday, Johnny “Meatballs” DeCarlo will be serving up complimentary samples of his famous meatballs at the Fort Lee Film Commission’s screening of the film “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” at the outdoor stage of the Fort Lee Community Center (1355 Inwood Terrace, Fort Lee, NJ). The Johnny Meatballs stand wil...l be set up around six leading into the Party Dolls live music session which runs from 7 PM to 8:30 PM which will be followed by Johnny introducing the film at sunset! Bring the family, it’s going to be raining meatballs all night!
Free to all!!!! Call the Fort Lee Film Commission at (201) 693-2763 for further info or visit www.fortleefilm.org. Please bring lawn chairs and / or blankets as seating is limited




It aint easy being an Italian Chick! PEOPLE HAVE SO MANY EXPECTATIONS OF YOU….


People really don’t understand the complexity of what it all really means.


Now if you were an Italian Dude it was way easy for you.. But da Chicks in da family. Ooohhhh  Fahhhhhhhhhhhh..


It meant:

·    Never having Boys as friends until you were old enough to date? And even then it was drama.

·    Leaving the house without makeup on and then putting it on at your friend’s house.

·    Always having to meet some Italian guy that just got to the states and you got the “look over” to see if there might be a match. Ewwwwwww

·    That on a Sunday you always had to be home for dinner.

·    Smiling at your long lost Aunt that did not speak a word of English as she gushed all ova you.

·    Getting pissed that your Brother could do what ever he wanted.

·    You never really lied you just maneuvered your conversation.

·    You ratted your Sister’s out so that the heat was off of you.

·    Two sets of clothes, one to leave the house and the other in a bag so you could get dressed at your friends. You had to do that so not to hear your Dad say. “Aye, ma where u thinka you go wit dat on? Ahhhhhhhhhh!

·    Denying any thing you were accused of – hey we don’t fold unda questioning.

·    When you were a kid your big night out was the Feast.

·    Looking at your hot cousin and sayin, I could do him! Then making the sign of the cross.

·    You were the tough gurl in Catholic school.

·    Never asking what Uncle Jack did for a living.

·    Going in the confession box and giving a dissertation and you would always end it with and Oh yea Father, I lied too.. This way when you lied about your sins you were covered in the end.

·    Eating way too much and then asking for Brioschi just so you could make room for more.

·    Brioschi was like the Italian version of pop rocks. I would just take the bottle and drop pieces on my tongue and watch it explode.


Then something happened, something odd and strange? You saw photo’s of where your family came from and finally met your Grand Mother from Italy. Then the switch-hit.




·      This sense of pride and wonder of a country you never saw.

·      This desire to explore the culture.

·      Hearing your first Opera.

·      Learning to speak the language.

·      You finally understood why Rome wasn’t built in a day.

·      Receiving packages from Italy with the most amazing cheese and tuna and CANDY.

·      Roots

·      Values

·      Understanding why you had all this passion.

·      Not getting pissed when you Dad played Italian music on Sunday. And really loving a folk singer named Carlo Butti.

·      You were different.

·      Tradition and family.

·      Drama.

·      Love.

·      That we are all not Gangsters.

·      We understand that not all depictions of the Italian culture are not all negative, except for The Jersey Shore J

·      When you watch the Godfather, Goodfella’s or any other movie, Get a sense of humor and don’t take it so damn personal.

·      Give up – you will never make meatballs like your Mom.


And finally – I WILL CONFESS and say, even though you have respect for you culture and heritage you will still find yourself saying, “ NOW GO HOME AND GET YOUR SHINE BOX!”





I don’t know about you, but I’ve reached that part of the summer where I’m completely feast-ed, street-fair-ed, and carnival-ed out. I don’t think I can toss another

dented ping-pong ball into another table-full of fish bowls, or pop another balloon with a dart, or whack another mole. I can’t bury another fish at sea, fix another broken sword, or find a place for yet another dollar store stuffed animal that cost me $50 to win. Nor can I stomach the smell of cotton candy, candy apples, zeppoles, popcorn, or funnel cakes. In other words, I’m done. And so is my husband, but for entirely different reasons. You see, SpongeBob kicked Jim’s ***. Well, not really SpongeBob, but SpongeBob was the reason that a tattooed Carny went after my husband.


Like many young boys, my son Jack absorbs episodes of SpongeBob as if his brain was, well, a square porous sponge. Jack repeats anything SpongeBob says that he finds remotely funny, even if he doesn’t quite understand the adult implications of the meaning. There’s a particular episode that my son likes where SpongeBob shouts out, "Let's take it down Carny-style" (at least that's how he repeats it) referring to carnival workers. The phrase sounds awfully funny coming out of the mouth of a seven year old--until that seven-year old uses the phrase in front of a carnival worker, as he did one night at a carnival while we were waiting to get onto the bumper car ride.

Seven-year old boys fall into that peculiar category of being too small to ride the big carnival rides and too big (and embarrassed) to ride the small kiddie rides. When Jack saw the Bumper Cars, he begged his father to go on with him. I was game for a challenge, so my daughter and I decided to go on the ride as well. We got on the end of a very long line, our tail of pink tickets trailing the ground behind us.


I noticed that the nearer we came to the front of the line the more Jim began to show signs of panic, but I remained silent. When we finally reached the front of the line he announced, "I don't think I can fit in the bumper cars." In his defense, he's 6'4 and very big, but he couldn't have said something when we were number 40 in line and not when we were next to board? My son said, "No problem, I'll ride by myself," but the ride operator (Carny) informed him that he was too short to ride alone. My son, being very height-sensitive given the Amazonian size of his father, blurted out, "Let's take this down Carny-style."

Now, the tattoos on the ride operator's arms gave no indication that he was a fan of SpongeBob and recognized that this seven-year old was just repeating a line from a cartoon. I nearly fainted from fear waiting for the weight of the reaction I could feel he was contemplating. My husband, unable to hear anything over the blasting heavy metal music blaring from the five-foot speakers just stood there and smiled, giving the impression that he was pleased with what my son had just said. The ride operator (Carny) shouted at my husband, "You think that's funny?" What sucks more than my husband’s hearing is his ability to read lips, so he nodded like someone on a weekend pass from an institution, if you know what I mean. I quickly tried to salvage the situation by screaming thinly-veiled obscenities (like a true mother of a "Carny") at Jack, while profusely apologizing. I then told the "Carny" that my husband was deaf.

Unhappily accepting that information, he let us on the ride. Like Annie Sullivan, I pushed Jim through the gate and into a car with Jack, and then got into a car with my daughter. Jim's knees were literally resting on his chin and the safety bar looked like it was perforating his stomach every time I rammed my car into Jim's. Every bump caused his knees to ram into his face. I could almost feel his pain. This did not go unnoticed by my "Carny" friend, and that's why he let the ride go on for almost 20 minutes. Let's just say, he took Jim down Carny style.




This summer has taken such pathetic twists and turns that I deserve to beat myself up and steal my own lunch money. First, my mother’s cable box died the Fourth of July weekend. This wasn’t the first time this has happened. Last time the repair man said that she got a bad box, adding that there’s no such thing as a new cable box because all of Time Warner cable boxes are refurbished. I’m so glad we’re paying top dollar for a monopoly that provides equipment that requires a coin-toss to determine functionality. Customer Service informed my mother she had to wait five days for an appointment. (Oh, and by the way, on the fifth day they casually forgot!)
I’d like to “out” the cable of every Time Warner executive’s mother and then lock them together into a room for six days. I’m deducting one month from my cable bill for each cable-less day so that I can pay for the therapy that my brother and I need after having to deal with a Lifetime Movie Network-less Italian mother for SIX DAYS! GO FIOS YOURSELF TIME WARNER!
With that stench lingering in the air, my son asked if some of his friends could come over last night. I’m going on record to say that when eight-year olds gather they morph into an uncontrollable mob of midgets. Fast forward to the third time someone left the door open and Bad Dog escaped. Threats were issued that caused the children to dissipate in search of the dog. From a distance I heard the miniature mob victoriously declaring that they had captured the dog followed by my husband’s proclamation, “Ann! The kids got sprayed by a skunk!”
After a half hour of separating each child from the pack and nasally examining them like bomb-sniffing K-9’s we determined they weren’t sprayed. However, Bad Dog was. Immediately, I became a trained Shakespearean actor practicing vocal exercises and enthralling my audience with a series of perfectly pitched scales of nuclear F-Bombs.
Before undertaking the de-skunking task, Jim & I decided to change. I commandeered a pair of size 6x leggings from my daughter’s “old clothes pile.” Jim put on a pair of old sweats that had a huge hole in a spot no hole, huge or otherwise, should be.
“What?” he said as I stared at him from across the expanse of our bed.
“You’re wearing them?”
“I’m sorry. My de-skunking tux is at the cleaners!”
“How convenient for you to start an argument when we have guests!” I countered.
“Think of the column you’ll get out of this.”
“Don’t talk to me about a column. There’s nothing funny about this!” I seethed battle-ready.
This is where you need a recorder (or, maybe not) because the conversation went from disbelief that we had to de-skunk the dog to me questioning our entire marriage. There’s nothing more exhilarating to a woman than putting wings on a bad situation and flying to the Island of Insanity. It’s liberating!
          Outside we trudged, snarling. Jim confidently sporting his torn sweats and me walking like Morticia Adams in my size 6x shorts. While his left hand held the unsightly tear of his crotch together, my right hand was tugging at the waistband that seemed to have disappeared into the remote folds of my skin.  Our friend, Matt, expertly snapped my petite yellow rubber dishwashing gloves onto Jim’s massive hands. Jim winced as the rubber ripped the hair from his arms, but avoided crying out in pain lest he shatter his appearance of manliness in front of the assembled crowd of eight-year olds and a stinky dog.
          Bad Dog, feeling sorry for us, actually complied as Jim massaged a mixture of Arm & Hammer, hydrogen peroxide, and Dawn dishwashing detergent into her skunked fur as expertly as an anti-BP environmentalist cleansing the oil-stained animals down at the Gulf. As I knelt holding the dog, face-to-face with the tear in Jim’s sweats, I thought, “If I quickly lunge and bite him, he’ll think it’s the dog.” But there were too many witnesses, so I refrained and decided to save my biting for sarcasm and not genitalia.
          When Bad Dog was successfully de-skunked, the children left probably more emotionally scarred then when they arrived. But hey, that’s life with the Piccirillo’s.




Rock’n’roll shaped my opinion of life and death. As a teenager, I adopted the mantra of my generation, “I hope I die before I get old,” never imagining back then that Roger Daltrey would be belting that tune out in his 60’s. I used to awake every morning to Roger’s taut naked chest suspended above me on my bedroom wall never thinking that someday it would be covered by layers of shirts and vests in an effort to conceal his AARP man boobs. I mean, WHO would have thought back in 1975 that someday Pete Townsend’s bursitis would get in the way of his windmill? And now Ringo turned 70? Loathe though I am to admit it, my rolling stone is gathering moss where no moss should ever grow.
The truth is that unless I live into my 80’s, my life is already half over. I’m not opposed to living that long, but only if I’m crazy as a loon because I don’t think I can handle the betrayal of my body. I don’t want to be aware that my body can’t perform the simple tasks that my mind tells it too, like putting on pants or shaking a martini without dislocating my shoulder. Also, I don’t want to shock people just by the fact that I’m still alive. I recently had a conversation with a very vibrant 90 year old woman who told me that you don’t know what freedom is until you’re 90. “The very fact that I’m still alive shocks the hell out of people. I can drop my shorts and it wouldn’t be as shocking as the fact that I’m 90 and still have my wits!”
My wishes are simple, so let me go on record so there’s no confusion about my send off. Now, I love going to parties. I love celebrating the milestones of my friends—birthdays, marriages, divorces, but I’ve never been comfortable having the attention put upon me. That changes when I die. I want the biggest, brassiest party to make up for all the ones I said I never wanted. I want Jamie, the bartender from In Napoli, to just set up shop on the hood of my coffin. Remember: Open bar, closed casket. I can’t bear to hear, “God she looks awful,” without replying, “Of course I do. I’m DEAD! Jamie, a Makers Mark, toots-sweet!”
          Let me be perfectly clear, if anyone buries me wearing pantyhose I will haunt them for the rest of their natural life, and then hunt them down in the hereafter. That goes for underwear too. I don’t want to spend eternity with a wedgie. Since we’re on the subject, sans bra as well. It’s always Saturday morning in my heaven.
          I know that this will shock those of you who know my insane shoe addiction, but bury me shoe-less. Socks are just fine. However, place a few pairs of my beloved platforms inside the casket just in case there’s Dancing with the Starsand Jesus needs a partner.   
          Now this is very important. I want to be buried with my beloved dog, Burkey, a.k.a. Bad Dog. If she has pre-deceased me unearth her and put her in the casket with me. If she’s living, smother her. Trust me, if she’s left with my husband to care for her she’ll put her head in the oven anyway.
          Even though I’ve moved from the parish, I’d like to have my funeral mass celebrated at Holy Trinity Church in Fort Lee. I began my sacraments there, it would be smoother administratively to end them there. I don’t want St. Peter saying, “Well, we received St. John’s paperwork, but we’re waiting for Holy Trinity’s. Have a seat with the Atheists.”  Also, while everyone is mourning me, I can run across the street to the 7-11 and get some scratch-off’s, a coffee, and a buttered roll. 
          I’m formally requesting that the Fort Lee Police escort my funeral procession. Not only because I know Chief Ripoli, but I fear that if I’m escorted by the Leonia Police my coffin will be littered with tickets and I don’t want my entrance into eternity delayed by having to go to purgatory to pay all those surcharges.
          Lastly, if I should die before I get old, somebody take out the recycling. My husband never remembers.



In celebration of Season 4 of Madmen, I've put together a compilation of popular cocktails from the 1960's with pictures, ingredients and directions. I intend to try every one before the summer's over. Anyone care to join in the experiment? Click here to check it out.





“I wish I would have written them down so I’d never forget,” said my cousin Carol who, as the oldest of my 40 Viola cousins spent every weekend sitting with her brother Charlie whose stories made her laugh even as he lay dying.
          We can reconcile the death of a parent with the gentle understanding that nature is following its predetermined course, but losing a brother or sister is never easily justified. There’s an implicit pact that you helped each other survive the worst moments of childhood and celebrate the best. The dissolution of that bond severs that part of you that you spent years using, drinking, or in therapy trying to escape, but whose memories bring strange comfort in the lonely recesses of night.
          Charlie’s voice has been removed from the choir of our family. Gone with that voice is the laughter, the memories, the connection with a part of our collective past that only he could bring to life with such clarity that I often had to remind myself that it was his memory, not mine.
Growing up in Fort Lee surrounded by 40 cousins blurred the lines between cousins, brothers and sisters. We all took care of each other; we all had a role. Charlie assumed the role of comedian. From the depths of my memory I can’t remember a time when he did not make all of us laugh, mostly at the most inopportune times—wakes, funerals, when our uncles were screaming punishments at us. Even the mistakes he made were hilarious.   
Charlie had the distinct pleasure of working in the film industry with my grandmother. Now, my four-foot nothing grandmother was a force to be reckoned with. Any woman widowed at 37 with 10 children is a woman who takes crap from nobody, most especially from her sarcastic teen-aged grandchild. Every day a car came to pick them up and everyday he collected more stories about Grandma. It’s because of Charlie that memories of my grandmother are preserved for me.
Charlie also raised the bar for the Viola family and brought us into high society. One summer in the early 70’s, four or five cousins were getting married. The altar boys in the family made a fortune serving the wedding masses! Up until Charlie’s wedding (“Charles” to my aunts and uncles), the VFW served as our reception hall. Charlie broke tradition when he married the only daughter of a well-to-do local family. His reception was at The Manor, in West Orange. Well, my aunts were in a tizzy for months buying new dresses and getting their wigs coiffed in preparation for the big day. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last, but the memory of my family “moving on up” like the Jefferson’s did.          
          As I sat in the old Madonna Church on the hill listening to Father Carey’s sermon, staring at a portrait of Charlie smiling to the point of smirking, I couldn’t help but cry. Cry for the loss of laughter, cry for the fact that our once vibrant family has thinned, cry for the mortality of all of us crowded into the pews of a church that our family has been baptized, confirmed, and married in for 100 years.
My hand searched my pocketbook for a tissue. Finally, I came across a stiffened crumpled tissue and pressed it against my eyes. Suddenly, it felt like my eyes were on fire and it was all I could do to suppress screaming in pain. At the same time a beautiful fragrance filled the pew making me think for a moment that it was Charlie’s spirit seated beside me. Then it occurred to me. That scent was awfully familiar. I strained to look at the tissue and realized through my watery blur that it wasn’t a tissue I had wiped my eyes with, but a used dryer sheet. Clearly, my tears re-activated the fresh Downy scent.
It seemed an appropriate thing to have happen at Charlie’s funeral and I could hear him saying in his lower-Main Street, Huntz Hall-tinged accent, “Whata you a freakin’ idiot?” Through the tears, I laughed. It reassured me that even though his life on this earth has ended, the legacy of his laughter will forever live on and the stories that he told so well will fill the empty spaces of all my yesterdays.  




Shadows sink from the awning of the outstretched arms of the tremendous oak tree and dance at my feet as I sit in my deck chair, gin and tonic in hand, thinking and remembering. On this July afternoon, it’s those priceless summers of the ‘70’s. For you, it may be the summer of the 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, or 30’s. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that every summer of our youth called us forth to fill its empty days with possibility. In the end, we’re left with a string of bloated golden moments hemorrhaging meaning and memory.

The recognizable scent of Coppertone makes me want to do the Jersey Jig and shake the sand from my swimsuit; air perfumed by sausage and peppers summons crowds on Lower Main Street in Fort Lee feasting at the Feast of Saint Rocco. The other day I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen when the sight of her dust mop leaning against the wall conjured summer days long gone. Her threatening screams, “Did your brother take the handle of my dust mop for a stickball game?” echoed in my head.

Then the other day I was in Modell’s with my son roaming the aisles when I came upon a box with a big sign that read, “Stickball Bats.” I started to laugh thinking, “Really? They’re selling mop handles?” Then I saw the price tag and gulped. $25 for a mop handle?  Yes, $25 for a mop handle. If our moms had any foresight, they would be millionairesses now and could afford to hire someone to mop their floors.

          We never know what event can trigger memory, but for the tanned Jersey boys of summer’s past, now burdened by responsibilities they never anticipated, it’s got to be stickball. Stickball was, perhaps, the greatest of any unorganized sport. You didn’t have to try out for it, you didn’t have to wait for field time, and you didn’t have to buy any special equipment—all you needed was a mom with a mop, tape for the handle, and a pink Spaulding Hi-Bounce rubber ball from Feiler’s or County Discount. Stickball was a pick-up game that could be played pretty much anywhere.

That distinctive hollow pop of the pink rubber ball perfectly connecting with the wood of someone’s mother’s pilfered mop or broom handle; a fusion of excited voices caught midway between youth and manhood; the scraping of black converse high-tops upon the sun soaked gravel; the crack of the bat splitting the ball in half—one part dropping dead to the ground, the other hurling through the air like a spastic spaceship.

The boys from Fort Lee, Englewood Cliffs, Cliffside Park, Palisades Park, Leonia, Edgewater, Fairview, North Bergen, West New York and all towns in-between all had one thing in common (other than their paper routes)--stickball. For Jersey boys, all you needed was a wall to draw a batting box on, or a chain-link fence to string out a box, and a Spaulding. In Fort Lee there was the handball wall of Sixth Street Park, the handball wall of Holy Trinity’s field (anyone in Coytesville remember that?); the south facing red-brick wall of Madonna’s CYO Hall; Westview Park’s chain-linked fence.

In the summer of 1978, my best friend, Mary Lutz, created what was to become the great batting box mystery of Westview Park. For 32 years it’s been a cold case. Until now. In retaliation for her Frisbee interrupting Bobby Peterkin’s perfect pitch, one of the boys indiscriminately tossed it onto the roof of an elderly gentleman’s house. As cranky as he could be, he told Mary that her lousy Frisbee could rot on his shingled roof before he retrieved it for one of us hoodlums. In an act of pure vengeance, beneath the cover of night with only me by her side, Mary withdrew her pocket knife from the pocket of her Levi cut-offs and severed the ties of John Pagano’s meticulously twined batting box. The wrath of all the neighborhood boys greeted us the next day. These pious, genuflecting altar boys promised that the perpetrators of such a heinous crime would be shown no mercy. No suspects were ever charged.

So here’s to all those Jersey boys of summers past and their stickball games, especially the boys from Westview Park who waited 32 years for their case to be solved. Ah, memory…



No matter how many Fourth of July’s I celebrate, my mind is always drawn back to our nation’s Bicentennial. July 4, 1976. While Americans celebrated 200 years of freedom, my mouth was adapting to the installation of barbed-wire on my teeth. Yes, that adolescent rite-of-passage braces. To add insult to injury, my orthodontist, Dr. George Diament, gave all of his silver-mouthed patients tee-shirts with the iconic 1970’s Smiley Face wearing braces. The braces-wearing Smiley Face shouted, “BRACES ARE BEAUTIFUL!” The unwritten subtext was, “But I’m Not!”

Only God knows why I was compelled to wear that shirt on July 4th, 1976 as my family trekked down the one thousand crudely carved bluestone steps of the Palisades (hauling coolers of salami sandwiches, Lays Potato Chips, little neck Rolling Rock ale, a cylindrical blue plastic thermos of gin and tonics, and cans of ShopRite grape soda) to join the rest of old Fort Lee and Edgewater down at the base of the Hudson River at Bunty’s Dock to watch the regatta of ships afloat in “Operation Sail.”  Looking at photographs from that day, the shirt truly enhanced my je ne sais quoi? Geekiness. I mean, really, what was I thinking? “Braces are Beautiful” was an oxymoron to the moron (moi) wearing the shirt.

          Middle School is traumatic enough, so it makes no sense to slap your smile with braces at that precise moment when your inner-dork decides to become an outie. And it wasn’t just the braces that you had to contend with, but the goody bag of accessories that came with it. The rubberbands, the ball of wax, the hooked toothpick, the headgear. Hands down, the worst part for me was the “headgear.” Remember that pinkish-beige neck strap-on that was the height of fashion circa-anytime 1970’s? It connected an external vise-like semi-circular wire to your braces, the purpose of which was to use the sheer force of excruciating pain to shift your entire jaw into the next room.  

On the cutting edge of orthodontistry, Dr. Diament took the headgear to a new level. His headgear not only included the snazzy neck brace, but a plastic skull cap. Together, the neck brace and the skull cap cleaved themselves to the parenthetical wire protruding from your grossly deformed mouth. While the neck brace yanked your molars into the back of your skull, the mental-patient helmet wrenched your misaligned eyeteeth (and your eyebrows) down to your toes. To take one look at me was to think that one of my ancestors mated with a rabid Schnauzer.  

Added to this wretched scene were rubberbands. Those mini Campbell-soup-like rings-o’s housed in a small mustard-colored mailing envelope you kept in your pocket. Not only couldn’t you open your mouth, but how many of you got shot in the eye with one of them when your friend yawned? Talk about bringing weapons to school! I can still feel the breaking sting of the rubberband against my gums before it ricocheted directly into Mary Lutz’s face. She never complained because her rubberbands snapped me more than a few times.

The braces shredded the inside of my cheeks tingeing everything I ate with the taste of blood. Every time I smiled my cheeks got impaled on the wire! (I can still feel the scars.) The only relief came from covering the wires with wax which inevitably led to bartering with the person who sat in front of you in class for a piece of their wax because you either used yours all up or, more likely, left it home. Depending on your desperation, these transactions could be shadowy and costly. I think I promised my first-born to George Frangos. (By the way George, I’m ready to make good on that delivery!)

Now, my husband and his brother and sister never wore braces. (Ah, the aristocrats of Abbott Boulevard!) Not because their teeth were necessarily straight. I’m certain it’s because their mother loved her children too much to put them through that physical pain and psychological degradation. My husband possesses an uncannily undisturbed sense of confidence that I attribute to his not having had to suffer through the social suicide of braces and headgear. Me, and all my braced head-gear-wearing compatriots, are still trying to unearth the remains of our dignity buried by braces somewhere back in the ‘70’s. Alcohol helps.  


Drink Like A Protestant, Party Like A Jew

“Dear God, the stripper’s here,” a perfectly clipped Yankee accent announced as I walked into the lusciously landscaped New England backyard. Anxious to get a look at her myself, I whipped my head around, only to see my shadow. “Good grief; they’re talking about me!”      

It was August of 1993 and I was invited by Kate to a “lawn party” at her parent’s Connecticut home. Having never been to a “lawn party” (or Connecticut) my curiosity was piqued. Was it like a bridal shower? Should I bring something for the lawn? Weed killer? Rose Spray? Perhaps something organic like fox urine to repel those pesky little chipmunks and groundhogs? I decided to cover my bases and brought a chilled bottle of Chardonnay and a plant. 

          Kate hailed from a family of Protestants who booked passage on the Mayflower (they really did!) and followed the social register like my family followed the New York Yankees. Ignoring the stripper remark, I followed the white-pebbled path to the cool plush carpet of green grass. Consciously, my toes death-gripped the thong of my platform flip-flops in an effort to avoid kicking-up too many pebbles. I suppressed the urge to yank on my shorts that were dangerously defying gravity with every step I took.

I never attended a party where the congregation made no noise. It was like someone pressed the “mute” button. You could hear my family’s dinner-table conversation three blocks away. As foreign as the silence was the fact that there was not one strand of frizz, everyone appeared cool, and without exception, every hand held a perfectly leveled martini glass.  

Kate introduced me to her parents, Thurston Howell the Third and Lovey, who greeted me like I was an exotic…dancer. With eyes cast critically down, Lovey informed me, “Dear, no need to bring your own wine. We have a fully stocked bar.” Apparently, people in this social sect do not bring “gifts” to parties—they send monogrammed thank you notes afterwards. In my family, you bring a little something and leave with a lot of generic foil balls.

I left the Chardonnay to sweat on the butcher-block countertop, dumped the plant on the table, and made my way outside to the bar. I asked for a beer. Amused, the bartender stepped aside exposing the shelves of liquor. There were so many 750ml bottles of Beefeater Gin that it looked like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Apparently, only Beefeater martinis were being served. I suppose the label’s Beefeater Yeoman was reminiscent of the motherland from whose shores their ancestors sailed. Also, except for triangular cucumber and butter sandwiches, there was absolutely no food. The Pastor, ordering his third martini, informed me that the congregation suppers at the club on Saturdays, and cucumber sandwiches are light hors d’ouevres. Personally, a tray of ziti would have been the perfect hors d’oeuvre, but that’s Jersey talking.  

Halfway through the martini I felt a radiating loss of sensation in my pelvic region which is the supporting beam of the body. When it goes, it’s like a wrecking ball to the central nervous system and takes everything with it. My body became an amoeba that’s been sliced in half; each half uncontrollably slithering in different directions. I tried to sit on the cushioned patio chair, but, to Lovey’s consternation, I kept sliding off. The Cool Connecticut Yankees were confidently drinking their fifth or sixth martini, eyeballing me like some outlandish curiosity. Clearly, there’s an inherited talent to drinking martinis in the blazing August sun without physically dissolving. A talent this Jersey Girl did not possess.

I measured this experience against the previous week’s where I attended my friend’s mother’s bat mitzvah. There was so much food that I felt like I was a member of a wandering tribe on the buffet line. Everyone mingled, danced, ate, drank, and ate more! I fished someone’s grandmother’s teeth out of the toilet bowl after she switched from white wine to red. By the end of the night I was a member of the family. They even sent me home with an enormous tray of food and an invitation to Bubbie’s 80th!

These two seminal experiences taught me that the secret to having a great time is to drink like a Protestant, but party like a Jew.