5:51am Eastern time. My sister Ally’s house. Pebble Hill Drive, Northport, New York.
I don’t know what dogs dream about, but I’m guessing that whatever it is, it has something to do with sex. So I fall asleep at my sister’s house (as predicted) about 9pm Eastern time last night. That’s after a cross-country journey and then several kids climbing on my back for a few hours. And I happen to fall asleep in the living room where everyone’s coming and going and not necessarily watching TV but just comfortable that it’s on and it’s loud.
After a while, evidently – I really don’t know because I have fallen into an exhaustion slumber that no doubt includes copious snoring – I hear some moaning. My first thought is it's me. Nah. And then... Alexis. Is Alexis here?
No. Alexis is not here. She stayed back in Indiana to take a deposition and prepare for a hearing. My second and third thoughts are not nearly as cozy as thinking of me and/or my wife moaning in the middle of the night. First, are my sister and brother-in-law going at it two floors up? It’s five in the morning. You never know. When there’s kids around all the time, you gotta steal the moment sometime.
Nope. Not them. Then I have the most horrific of thoughts. My daughter and her boyfriend are in this huge house somewhere. What follows is an image of me throwing pants and a winter coat from the front porch at some hotshot East Coast kid who now has to walk back 50 miles to Queens.
Nope. Not that either. Then I realize that I’m sleeping about three feet from Libby the Dog. She’s some sort of white Husky with a little retriever in her. At some point around 9:15pm Eastern time last night she came up to me lying on the floor behind the couch next to her doggie bed... and SHE LICKED MY FACE.
Are you kidding me? Now I like dogs as much as the next guy, or probably even more so. We have two dogs – Abby and Henry – and they’re part of the family just like my GoPro cameras and Neil Young albums. At one point or another, both Abby and Henry licked my face while I was sleeping. Dogs know. And they won’t do it again. A quick, guttural scream and swipe with the hand solves that.
So I snarl at Libby and fall back asleep on the hardwood floor for about seven hours. Then, like my Polish aunts – whom I know are all awake, worrying, a thousand miles away – I wake up and my mind starts racing. Zoom zoom zoom from thought to thought. Bank account transactions to a smell in the airport that I just couldn’t place. A cross between Indian curry and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo.
I also remember some of the good stuff of the trip to Long Island. After the radio show, I pick up 8-year-old nephew Jack at his house and his mom and dad are there, pacing. You can tell they’re nervous. My sister Jennifer’s nervous because Jack is her East, her West, her north and south. My normally staid, reserved, hardass sister, in her mind, has made a mistake. She’s allowed her perfectly healthy and normal 8-year-old son to travel halfway across the country with her urchin brother.
What was I thinking? Who lets their 8-year-old child just go like that? What kind of mother am I?
Now you’re probably wondering how I know what the perfectly private thoughts of my sister are. First of all, I’ve known her all my life, and she’s kind of a freak when it comes to things like allowing the kids to go trick-or-treating by themselves or, when they were babies, staying up all night just to make sure they’re still breathing. I, on the other hand, have lived a reckless life. It shows during scopes of my stomach and, once in a while, when I run into a high school teacher who informs me that the hangers on in the teachers lounge never really thought I’d amount to much.
But that’s neither here nor there. As my sister’s giving Jack the last desperate hug in the front yard, my brother-in-law Mark comes over to the car.
“Your sister had a doozy Tuesday night.”
“Up all night pacing – who lets their kid just go like that? What kind of mother am I? What if my brother just loses Jack? He lost in own kids many a time… What am I thinking?”
Eventually, Mark and I were able to pull little Jack from my sister’s arms and away Jack and I went to one a them silver birds in the sky to the Big Apple.
It went pretty much as planned. I had told Jack earlier in the week – “Now listen. Uncle Jim wakes up at four in the morning, so I’m gonna take a nap on the plane and you’re gonna have to deal with that.”
“Can I wake you if something happens?”
“Yes, you can wake me if something happens.”
I told my brother-in-law of this conversation, and he pretty much had the same reaction I did. “Like what, Jack? Are you gonna wake Uncle Jim if the plane crashes?”
That’s one scenario that brother-in-law Mark joked about. But never in my wildest dreams would I have come up with another scenario in which little Jack would wake me.
We’re 28,957 miles above Scranton, Pennsylvania – I know this because on the new American Airlines 737 there’s a screen on the seat in front of you that shows you your altitude, speed and outside temperature – and I’m in and out of an airplane nap. Which isn’t like a nap on your couch in front of a Bears game. It’s more like a nap in the doctor’s office. Where do you lean your neck? What about your feet? What if I snore? Tell that person three rows up to get a Kleenex, for crissake. Jack tugs at my sweatshirt sleeve.
“Uncle Jim, did you fart?”
I wipe my eyes, check the altitude of the plane, and tell him. “No. Did you?”
He looks at me as if he doesn’t believe me. In the past, like all humans, I have produced odors. Then he says,
“Musta been that fatass.”
And he points the husky fella across the aisle, who, like me, is attempting a fake airplane nap.
Now I know what you’re thinking – that was entirel incorrect on Jack’s part to refer to someone’s girth in a negative manner, and that it’s a reflection on the innate prejudices in me and the rest of my family. True, it was an insensitive comment. But for the most part, my sister’s married family – the Foreits - and my family and all the family that I know if, we pretty much accept people the way they are. Our choice of mates pretty much shows that as evidence. We all started out German, Dutch and Polish Christians, and we wind up intertwining with blacks, Mexicans, Asians, Jewish people, skinny people, fat people, rural people (hillbillies) and city people (citybillies). There’s just not a lot of classifying. As a whole, we pretty much have enough of our own problems to worry about to take the time to verbally persecute someone for being fat or Jewish or a Packers fan.
Okay. Being a Packers fan is fair game. If you’re a Packers fan in any of our families and you show up for a wedding – and you’re wearing a Packers tie – you may be asked to wait in the vestibule until the ceremony’s over.
You know what else is fair game?
Farting on an airplane. So when Jack pointed to the rather hefty man across the aisle – whom I had had a pleasant conversation with as the plane boarded – and chastised him for this full-blown, nasty ass fart that had Jack, me and the woman in the aisle in front of us pulling our shirts to our noses… and hypothesized that it was him as the source of the noxious odor – well it was fair game to whisper to me and call him a fatass.
And just a little bit funny. I’ve got no room to talk. I haven’t seen my junk in the shower for decades. Hair grows out of my ears and down my back like summer crabgrass. I have chronically bad breath because I’m married to a Mexican and everything she cooks has onions and garlic in it. And there’s more pock marks on my face than Carter’s has pills.
But at least I didn’t blow a big, nasty fart on flight 347 from Ohare to LaGuardia. That’s the kind of thing you think about when you wake up in the middle of the night at your sister’s house in Long Island sleeping three feet from a dog having sex dreams.