On Saturday nights the parents dressed a little better than usual, and after dinner they migrated towards the casino where they preformed God only knew kinds of pagan rituals that were guarded like holy state secrets from us, the kinder. There was a certain mystery and romance to seeing our parents act silly, and laugh at foolish, inane jokes, while sloppily imbibing rye and scotch and gin (who drank vodka and tequila in those days?), and munching potato chips and pretzels from those little plastic bowls that were lined with napkins and ritually refilled from huge metal tins. From a distance, through the warm, sweet Catskill summer nights, the sounds of their merriment were cloaked in velvet.
We could distinguish the band–usually a three or four piece combo, a collection of NYC school teachers who, on the vacation, imagined themselves magically transformed into Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans or John Coltrane. Every summer there was a stripper, and the next day there were hushed stories around the pool about which father had been foolish enough to manhandle the talent while under the influence. Each year there was a mentalist, or hypnotist, whose appearance and resulting histrionics, were fodder to embarrass at least a half dozen parents, and then, each year, there was a mock marriage–this the best of the weekends–when our parents entertained themselves by role reversal, dressing the biggest, crudest man as the bride, and the smallest, meekest woman as the groom, and La Cage A Follesing it up all the way to the breaking of the glass.
I think of those nights our parents shared in those small little colonies dotted all about Sullivan and Ulster counties, in the 1940s and 50s and 60s, when they fled the city for little shacks in ther country, with no air conditioning, no tv, one colony phone, and little else but their desire to enjoy. And I look at our lives now–fancy cars, the Hamptons, back yard pools, and damned if I’m still not jealous.
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