So, the story picks up again with John S., his wasted friend Rich and I watching Rich's idiotic ex-wife dancing on a lawn like a headless chicken in Dewey Beach, Delaware: Asshole of the Universe. Just watching that woman move, I could see the Dewey Beach partyville ethic expressed in her being: awkward, shameless, Wonder Bread and way too wasted for its own good.
Another thing occurred to me, especially with this lawn party. I was meeting an inordinate number of people from Washington DC and its surrounding suburbs in Virginia and Maryland. And these folks spooked me. Being from DC, they had a big-city attitude, mixed with that special sort of arrogance you get only from people who work in political or governmental jobs. If you’ve never seen the TV series West Wing – and if you’re one of those special people, I congratulate you on your superior taste – you can see all the characters have this sort of brusque, condescending tone about them that would be funny, I guess, if they stopped long enough to laugh, which they can’t, man, because they’re saving mankind with Martin Sheen, while walking through a dimly-lit hallway, and then a burst of sunlight, and then a dimly-lit hallway, and then a burst of sunlight, etc. Imagine these people drunk and trying in vain to relax, and you get another aspect of why Dewey Beach is so desperately fucked up. It’s crawling with these insincere DC vampires, who drive a long way to be just as uptight and annoying as they are in whatever foo-foo Georgetown watering hole they favor.
After about an hour of this torture, John suggested a drive over to Rehoboth Beach, where “all the fags and families go on weekends.” I had heard Rehoboth was a legendary “fag” beach, along the lines of Fire Island. And while I’m certain there are designated bars there and such where that fag vibe is overbearing, for the most part what I saw driving and walking around there for an hour felt like heaven compared to Dewey Beach, Delaware: Asshole of the Universe. There were gay couples all over the place, and families having dinner. And they weren’t drunk off their asses and roaming around in packs like eternal frat boys wandering a circle of hell. The worst that happened to us was a bunch of cute guys in a jeep stopped and blew their horn at us, but we played hard to get.
John tired of Rehoboth quickly, and we made the short trek back. Dewey Beach, Delaware: Asshole of the Universe is a town that normally has a population of about 300 that balloons to about 30,000 on summer weekends. And the town is geared towards servicing 300 people in terms of the highways and such. So every time you get in a car, you’re automatically in a traffic jam, and chances are good you’ll have a very hard time parking again. If you’ve rented a parking space, as many people do, someone will probably be parked in it, and it will take forever to get the local cops to ticket and/or get that car out of your space.
So, we got back around sundown, and at that point, I was exhausted, going on about three hours sleep in the past 24 hours. We grabbed a bite to eat at the local legendary burger place, where the owner treats everyone like an asshole, and the burgers are nothing to write home about. As darkness fell, we did what most people do all day there: the bar crawl. Once again, every place we went was jammed with shitty dance music blasting away at ear-splitting volume. By about 10:00, I told John, look, I got to go back to hell house and crash, I’ve had it.
I forgot to mention, but when we were back in the house in that wondrous afternoon time, I took that "alone" time to do my laundry – the only chance I had all weekend to do my normal laundry load. Nobody was around, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Well, as people started filtering back in, one of the harpies in the share with John flipped her lid when she found out I did one washer load of laundry. No reason why. Hadn’t broken any rules. She was just peeved that a house guest did something normal. I can’t recall exactly what I said to her, but there was a threat of physical violence, and she recognized it. Probably something like, “If you don’t stop bothering me for no good reason, I’m going to knock you the fuck out.” You’ll have to forgive me – I tend to grow more eloquent with anger. But at that point, I’d had it with the pig Delaware attitude. I was literally on the verge of attacking someone.
So, at 10:00, I take the chance and go back to the house. After I threatened that woman in the afternoon, for some odd reason, she became very nice and suggested that John and I should get space in one of the bedrooms on Saturday night, which would probably mean both of us on the floor while some rude, drunk skank slept on the bed. The house was empty when I got back. I went up to the room we were promised, closed the door, turned off the light, lie down on the bed and tried to sleep, which was impossible with the noise level of drunken parties and Skynyrd blaring from every house on the block. I managed to slip into a fitful half sleep.
I can’t recall what time it was. Probably around one or two in the morning. House still empty. When I heard banging come up the steps. A man and a woman’s voices. Drunk. Laughing. The door slammed open and the lights went on. I pretended I was asleep, but discretely peeked out through half-closed eye lids.
It was Connie and her boyfriend. Connie was a rotten cunt – there, I said it. Sorry to use the “c word” – if you’re offended, I apologize. But Connie was a rotten cunt – a walking black cloud of negativity, bad vibes and just an open sore of a human being. Every second I spent around this woman, it was like a scene from The Exorcist, where the room goes ice cold, then smells like sulphur, and some psychic force cries “Get out!” in backwards Latin. Understand that there was one nice woman in the house sharing with John, and it’s to my discredit that I can’t remember her name. The other handful were just awful people – how John got to know them, I can’t recall. How he ever trusted to them to the point where he agreed to a summer share with them, that’s a black mark on his character for the rest of his days.
“Who the fuck is that sleeping my bed?” she cried out.
I couldn’t believe it – this was like being in a profane version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Only it was Sane Man and the Multitude of Delaware Pricks in my case. Again, I’d pretty much had it. I snapped my eyes open, bolted out of the bed and got straight into Connie’s homely Italian face.
“I’m sleeping in your bed, asshole! What are you going to do about it? Kick me out? Have your faggot boyfriend kick my ass? Let’s go, bitch! I’ll fight both of you right now!”
To the boyfriend’s credit, he kept a cool head. Actually, he looked kind of scared, too. He knew Connie positioned herself as some sort of bad ass, and now she was being called out on it. Also understand, I can count on one hand the times where I got this nuts to the point of violence, two of them occurring that weekend. This is what sleep deprivation and being placed in a hostile environment will do to otherwise sane people.
“Oh. I’m sorry. We’ll get another room,” she murmured. I could see she was about to cry. Maybe it was that sort of thing where you had to violently confront these people to get them to understand just how far gone their manners were? I don’t know. Whatever it was, it worked. If I’d known this sooner, I would have smashed a beer bottle first thing Friday night and put it into Connie’s face -- like a new guy in prison kicking someone's ass so he doesn't become someone's bitch.
Connie and her man quietly shut the door. But that wasn’t the end of it. For about the next half hour, I could hear her sobbing and whining downstairs. I guess she was too freaked out to go to another room. The game plan was probably for those two to come back to an empty house and fuck, but I inadvertently rained on that parade. But since I went psycho on her, that took her out of her game, and all that was left to do was mutter recriminations and vague threats out of my presence. I could hear stuff like “I’m going to get that asshole kicked out” and such. To which I thought, oh, please try that, honey, please try. And you better hurry, because I’m out of here in a few hours, and if I ever see you again, it will be because I lived a wrong life and ended up with you sticking a pitchfork in my ass somewhere in hell.
So I floundered around in that weird sort of dream state for awhile. Eventually, probably around four in the morning, John got back. He was laughing his ass off. Apparently, he had run into Connie downstairs and got the lowdown on what had happened. He was in heaven, as he couldn’t stand her. No one could, but he was one of the few people in the house who was up front about it. We had that whole room to ourselves that night. And we sat around laughing our asses off like a pair of grave diggers sharing a bottle of whiskey. I just couldn’t believe what he had gotten himself into. And every now and then, I’d call out “That cunt, Connie!” in my loudest voice to let her know we were talking about her. John wasn’t worried about getting kicked out of the house, which he would have welcomed at that point, especially if he got his money back.
This went on until about 5:30 in the morning, at which time we decided it was in our best interests to sneak out, get some roadside breakfast about 30 miles up the road, then make a straight shot back to Wilmington so I could get an afternoon train back to New York. This is pretty much what happened. When we got downstairs, Connie and her sad boyfriend were sound asleep, as was everyone else. We ran into Butch in the driveway, and he shook our hands and was actually pretty pleasant. A nice way to leave. When we stopped at the roadside place, John did what he had to do: shook me down for $40, the fee all house guests had to pay. A nice little side business they had going to help them all get money back on their original investment. Let’s say a minimum of ten guests a weekend? That was $400, and I gather that most of these people, when you got right down to it, were doing these hellhole weekends for free – minus the cost of gas, food and, most importantly, drug and alcohol intake. But theoretically, they could all make back their nut in terms of the original four-figure sum they all laid down for the house in the spring.
This wasn’t the last time I’d see Dewey Beach. The next summer when I visited John, he was living in New Castle, Delaware: Not the Asshole of the Universe. And he had just leased a jeep and wanted to road trip. So we took the bridge outside of New Castle into New Jersey, drove straight across those wicked pine barrens and hit that stretch of primo Jersey shore resort towns south of Atlantic City. It was a sunny day, and we both got burned before investing in some sun-tan lotion in Avalon.
By the time we hit the Jersey-Delaware ferry in Cape May, I was red as a beet. I hadn’t looked in a mirror in a long time either. That ferry ride was wonderful – basically a nice long boat ride while you sun on a deck. When I came in off the deck, this teenage kid blurted out, “Look out! Here comes the Heat Miser!” He seemed to be talking about me, but I couldn’t tell. I mentioned it to John, and he started laughing his ass off. That’s when I saw myself in a window – burnt cherry red with my hair standing straight up from riding in a jeep for about three hours. The little bastard, he was right, and I couldn’t help laughing at myself.
But we got off the ferry in Lewes Beach, a much more sedate Delaware shore town where John eventually lived for a few years before moving back to Wilmington, and then down to Florida to be closer to his parents who had retired there a year or so earlier. Haven’t spoken to him in years over some silly falling out we had around one of our friend’s wedding, but he did send a nice card to my Mom when he learned my father had passed on. I know John and his dad are big fans of reading our home county Pennsylvania newspaper online for the obituary section.
But we spent that afternoon in Dewey Beach, and it was fine. I knew it was afternoon lull time from the previous year, when most people are just getting up, lazing around cramped houses with hangovers and awkward conversations with strangers. I could see that the right way to do Dewey Beach, Delaware: Asshole of the Universe, or any shore town, assuming you aren’t lucky or rich enough to have a house to yourself, is to simply drive there early on a Saturday morning, spend all day at the beach, then drive back Saturday night, foregoing any predictable drinking games at shitty, over-priced bars and missing the horrible Sunday night traffic jam. I strongly doubt I’ll ever lay eyes again on that godforsaken town, and not so sure I’ll ever pass through Delaware again. If I want to be treated like a worthless asshole, you better believe I can do it for free here in New York.