Columns

2012.11.07 Momma told me not to go

on . Posted in By The Way

By DAVID GREEN

Randy Newman wrote a song in the 1960s that he and others performed called "Momma told me [not to come]." It was about a boy who went to his first wild party and was shocked by what he saw. 

I thought about that song several times over the last few days. In this case it was about a boy who headed into hurricane ravaged New Jersey and New York City. When I told my mother we were still planning to go east to attend the wedding of Colleen's niece, my mother, in effect, told me not to go.

On Halloween night we finally decided to get going. We were busy packing during trick-or-treat time, so we dumped the candy into a tub with a sign reading "Help yourself. Don't be greedy." We did it out of necessity, but also as an experiment. The results of the study point to this conclusion: If you want to get rid of your candy really fast, do like we did.

We made it to Clarion, Pa., the first night and managed to book a room despite my confused phone conversation with the desk clerk. 

"Would you like a single or a double?"

"There are two of us. Do you have a queen size?"

"We have singles and doubles."

I claimed I couldn't hear her and passed the phone to the driver.

Since we were making good time on Thursday, Colleen decided we should visit a high school friend, Adrienne, who now lives in New Jersey and claimed she was only about 10 minutes off the expressway. She had water but no power and would be spending the night with another classmate, Barry, who at least had a small gas fireplace. 

Adrienne guided us in by phone, but she hadn't driven the route since the storm. It was so dark. There were a few dim lights from houses with generators, but no street lights. We kept winding around roads, going higher and higher and suddenly stopped because of brake lights ahead. A slight problem. There was a tree across most of the road and traffic had to go off to the side to clear it. 

A little while later we had to veer over into the other lane to avoid the low wires overhead. Then we drove with wires and broken poles just outside the window, close enough to touch. That's when I first heard Randy Newman singing: "Momma told me not come. That ain't no way to have fun, son."

We made it to Adrienne's house and toured it by lantern light. We followed her to Barry's house and toured it by flashlight. We received our instructions for driving back to the Interstate and completed the first two legs before we met barricades.

We turned around and started on Plan B, all the while wondering if we were really on the right road. There’s a curious thing about New Jersey: There's a road sign on every corner, but it's only for the side road. Once you're on a main road, you never see a sign for that one.

We stopped at a pizza place to check directions. Pizza places were the only thing open. A woman confirmed our route, chewing on a slice the entire time she spoke.

As we approached New York City, the lanes of traffic heading out of the city were filled with vehicles. On our in-bound side, there were times when we were the only car in sight. Yes, mother, I hear you. 

We crossed the George Washington Bridge into the Bronx and continued to the apartment of another school friend, Kay, who lives in Flushing. We slept on a pull-out sofa that required a lot of shifting to avoid the feel of metal spring against bone, and when Kay's pug ran under the bed making those weird pug noises, it was like wild animals were among us. I felt the pug's back moving along the bottom of the mattress. In the morning when I was still barefoot, the pug sneezed and showered my foot. Did you say something, momma?

I'm about out of space in this little 12-page mini-vacation issue. Let me just say that it was a wonderful trip. Sunday morning we drove past cars lined up for blocks in hopes of buying some gasoline. Despite our foray into deep New Jersey, we had enough fuel to make it back to the short gas lines of Pennsylvania with at least a gallon to spare.

It was good, momma. I'm glad I disobeyed you.

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