Friday, April 15, 2011

Cape Cod: Friend for a Reason

Alone in my Cape Cod cottage, I toasted 2001 with a glass of wine raised to courage and success in this brand new year.  With four months of Cape exploration behind me, it was time to file away 2000, the year of life changes, and put my hand to a clean page.  I mulled over questions that plagued me.  What about a job? How would I reinvent myself? Would I ever find friends on Cape Cod?  All my friends were in Ohio, except one that I’d met in a new frontier.
Meet Aaron
Online chatting was a relatively new way to meet people of like mind. One day I met an extremely witty guy from across the US. Like me he was navigating the unknown territory of the separated or newly divorced. We shared the frustrations and sadness of living among the ruins of a demolished marriage. Through it all we laughed a lot and came to know each other well. He cheered me on from his California location when I made the decision to move to Cape Cod.

After I relocated, we began talking on the phone and the anonymous door of faceless conversation opened a bit more. Through the cold days of winter we kept each company via technology. Aaron suggested I start writing in earnest. He worked for a techie company and emailed me information that he needed written. He pushed me to give it a try. I worked on the assigned project with diligence and care. I wanted to make this happen and all I needed was to get this first step under my belt. I finished it and sent it through space to the west coast and then nervously awaited word of how my first attempt at professional writing fared.

A few hours later I received a response from Aaron. My writing wasn’t clean enough. It was too flowery for a professional, business piece of writing. In the email Aaron told me not to be discouraged, but I was. I closed the email, turned off the computer, and went to the ocean. I sat on the beach trying to understand why my writing wasn’t good enough. This was the first time I’d ever submitted my writing to anyone for approval. I’d journaled for years and written newsletters, but I’d never had to write to the expectations of anyone else. My bruised ego turned angry and for the next couple days, I ignored Aaron’s calls. I didn’t want to lose this new-found friend, so I finally emailed him. We talked about the piece and how I could improve it, but I was too hurt, too bull-headed, and fearful of rejection, so I told him he should write it himself. Instead of writing me off as a mixed-up lady with no common sense, Aaron understood, and we remained friends.

A Spring Visitor

The day was fast approaching…Aaron was flying into Providence for a visit. It was a warm spring day, gorgeous and wonderful. He got off the plane and with nervous trepidation I hugged him. I’d spent the time before his arrival fretting over his expectations, even though we discussed, at length, the importance of keeping it friendly with no romantic attachments. I tend to be shy when I first meet someone. Jumping into anything with two feet just isn’t my style. My preferred mode of operation is to stand back, access the person or situation, listen to my gut, and then proceed with caution. This way of acting and reacting has saved me much grief over the years. While I quietly drove back to the Cape, Aaron kept up a string of chatter about his kids, the flight, the New England scenery. He was and is witty beyond belief, blessed with a rakish sense of humor, a slinger of one-liners, and can charm the life out of a fruit fly. Once I warmed up to him, we had a marvelous time getting to know each other and we developed a genuine caring for each other. We laughed loudly, talked incessantly, and shared hopes and dreams. He stayed in my guest bedroom for a long weekend and then went back to California to sort through a tangle of thoughts. The one thing that was clear about Aaron, he longed to be back in his native New York. I don’t need to add this next bit, but I’m going to because it’s part of what made this special friendship so remarkable….we were platonic. There was never any romance between us, just a loving friendship that softened the hard edges of single life for two 40-somethings.

Aaron moved back to New York or rather just outside of the city in New Jersey. He was back in his element on the east coast, going into the city when he wanted to, and traveling up the coast to visit me.

Fourth of July

My daughter spent the summer od 2001 living with me, working and playing on the Cape. We had a few visitors and Aaron was one of them. He stayed with us the week of July fourth. What fun we had! As a passionate cook, Aaron played in my kitchen cooking up dinners. What a treat this was for me, always and forever the cook and chief bottle washer, I finally had the chance to sit idly by watching while someone else grilled and cooked.

Aaron was invited to a Fourth of July party by another friend who lived on the Cape. So off we went! It was one of those hot, sultry days of summer when the heat rises from pavement and thighs stick to seats. We found the house and knocked on the door. Cindy opened the door, obviously delighted to see Aaron giving him a big hug. She greeted me with a smile, “Come in, come in. I’ve got to finish up in the kitchen. I won’t be long.”

Aaron and I sat in the cathedral ceilinged living room looking about, appreciating the décor and style of the home. A couple children came through the room and ventured out the door. The house was quiet, except for the rattling of pots and dishes in the kitchen.

“I wonder where everyone is.” I questioned Aaron. “I thought the party was here, at her house.”

“I thought so too,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

“Would you like a wine spritzer?” Cindy called from the kitchen. “I’ll be done soon.”

I declined, but Aaron, hot and thirsty, asked for water. We sat in the room for what seemed like hours talking as if we were in a sanctuary, while she banged around in the kitchen. Whatever she was making did not need finishing touches, I have my doubts that it was even started.

Finally, Cindy entered the living room saying, “I’ll be ready in just a minute. I need to change.” She swept up the stairs and returned in a fresh pair of capris and a flowery, sleeveless top. She slipped on sandals and led us out the door sans carrying dish.

Aaron nudged me as we walked across the lawn mouthing, “Where’s the dish?” I shrugged in response, shaking my head with an awkward look on my face.

We stepped through an opening in the bushes that separated the houses. On the other side was a neatly kept Cape Cod. In the back of the house, the priest who owned the house, his mother, and Cindy’s sisters all gathered on the deck.

Cindy’s eyes sparkled with that undeniable, fawning look of I really like this man and hope he likes me enough to stay awhile as she made the introductions with a broad smile and then the afterthought, “Oh yes, this is Teresa, his friend.”

A couple more chairs were pulled out and we sat down. I scanned over the group of women situated around the deck. There was more bling on these women than on most of the rappers on MTV. One sister caught my attention with her skintight red jeans and white halter top barely supporting an ample bosom. Big hair, New Jersey style, framed her face and every once in a while, just for good measure, she’d shake her blonde flaxen locks like a model for a hair spray advertisement on TV. A storm of questions came hailing down on me as soon as it was known that I’d moved to the Cape from Ohio. Why the Cape? Why did you leave Ohio? Why did you get divorced? Did he cheat? After the final fully-loaded question, red-jeaned lady nodded in understanding, her gold earrings dangling from lobes caught the light setting off tiny, afternoon fireworks as she nodded in understanding awaiting my answer.

“No, he didn’t cheat on me and I didn’t cheat on him.”

Confusion bolted from one person to the next as I steeled myself for the obvious next question, then why are you divorced, but the question never came and I softly sighed in relief.

Twittering gossip about unknown parties prevailed between the women. Aaron leaned over whispering in my ear, “Good god what yentas.”

I’m a rural raised lassie where the most exotic person I knew was Dr. Patel, the town’s general practitioner who replaced the previous doctor who was killed in a car accident. The town where I grew up didn’t even have a Catholic church. How was I to know what a yenta was? We were white bread kids raised on green grass lawns, tree-lined streets, most of us with a mom at home, and the entire town in the same tax bracket, with only a handful of exceptions. I never had a reason to understand the culture of a diverse group and I’d never attended a party with a mix of one Catholic priest, his mother, a group of Jewish yenta, princesses, one joo boy, Aaron, and me…the only Protestant on the deck. Let me clarify that Aaron started calling me white girl at some point during his first visit. It was a fond pet name, so I adopted his name for himself, joo boy. We both found a lot of amusement in our very different lives and never under any circumstances implied disrespect to our respective heritages that we both embraced. He grew up in Brooklyn and me in a town smaller than his neighborhood. In any given 24 hours he might over hear languages from across the globe. In 40 years, the only language I regularly heard, outside of English, was pig Latin and bits of Spanish. I often teased Aaron that I would take him camping in northwest Ohio, if he didn’t stop picking on me. His response was usually something about wild animals like raccoon, skunks, and squirrels adding morbid thoughts of being done in by a forest creature.

The day became hotter as we sat on the deck. Finally, the good priest asked us if we cared for a drink. Cindy immediately jumped up to take our orders. Margarita? Daiquiri? Wine spritzer? What’s with the wine spritzers, I thought.

I chose a wine spritzer, of course, and Aaron did the same. Low on ice, the drinks came to us a bit warm, but at this point I was so thirsty it didn’t matter. I took a sip. A taste similar to what gasoline might taste like permeated my mouth. The taste was so bad it’s a wonder I didn’t spit it out in one forceful spray across the deck, instead I swallowed hard remembering my Midwestern manners.

Out of the corner of my eye I caught Aaron take a big gulp of his drink. He looked down at the glass, his mouth askew as if he’d just sucked on a tart lemon. He turned toward me mouthing, “I can’t drink this.” He pitched the liquid contents over the side of the deck hitting the shrubs.

I sat cradling the warming drink in my hands, trying to get every last bit of coolness from the glass and taking tiny nips.

“Don’t drink that,” Aaron whispered, “toss it over the deck. That stuff is nasty.”

I shook my head and eventually drained the glass. When asked if I cared for another, I politely declined the fuel injected cocktail. Aaron switched to a strawberry daiquiri.

The sun beat down on the deck as the afternoon wore on. Lunch time came and went without a sniff of food. The picnic table on the lawn remained free of free of checkered tablecloth, potato salad, baked beans, hamburgers or hot dogs; not even a bag of chips or pretzels was brought out to munch on. Where was the food? Aaron and I came to the party under the pretense that this was a July 4th picnic. He’d offered to bring a dish, but was told it wasn’t necessary. Now I knew why…there wasn’t going to be any picnic, but my stomach didn’t receive the notice and started growling as I waited for someone to light up that big gas grill covered in plastic.

As people began to move in and out of the house, Aaron found a moment when it was just the two of us on the deck. “I don’t think there’s going to be food at this party. Let’s leave.”

I had been ready to skedaddle as soon as I’d finished the misrepresentation of a wine spritzer. Between the heat, hunger, and the drink my stomach tumbled in protest, sometimes loudly. Alan and I thanked the host and Cindy for inviting us and we made our escape across the lawn, back through the hedge, and into the now boiling car.

As soon as I turned the key, the air conditioner went into high gear, and we hurried down the street toward food and a movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding at the Cape Cinema in Dennis. The drive was filled with laughter at the day, the characters involved, and the lack of food.

“Why did you drink that wine spritzer?” Aaron asked.

“I was brought up to be polite,” I answered.

“What’s polite about a really bad cocktail?”

We settled into our seats at the old theater and laughed more while happily nibbling buttered popcorn surrounded by blessed, cool air blowing from a magical machine.

Aaron and 9/11
M headed back to Ohio University for the fall quarter a week before September 11. On a blue sky morning in September I hopped in my car, the ocean calling me. I drove to the Coast Guard Beach, emptied of umbrellas, blankets spread in colorful patchwork patterns over the sand, and people. Alone on the beach I had time to journal and watch a fishing boat float between sky and sea.

The morning was so peaceful, a soft breeze wafted across the ocean whispering tales in my ear. The gentle waves kissed the shore making it hard to believe this was the National Seashore. Overhead, the blue sky set a brilliant backdrop to a glowing sun looking down on the lone lady on the beach. It was one of those moments in life when all seems right with the world. I took the leisurely route home along Route 28 meandering down the crooked road that led back to Centerville my favorite CD's playing.

As I pulled off my sweatshirt, I noticed the blinking light on the answer machine. I hit the button and listened to Aaron’s voice, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know I’m all right. My appointment was cancelled. The lines are really busy, so I may not be able to get through again today.”

Ok, I thought, wondering why he felt I should know that he didn’t go to his appointment in Manhattan. Next message, “Teresa, we’re worried sick about you. We’ve been trying to call and no one’s home. Did you go to New York, like you planned? Please call as soon as you get this.” The next several messages were from family members all wondering if I was in New York. The voices were full of worry and concern and I began to wonder just what was going on. Next message, “Teresa call me immediately, was a message from my oldest friend in Ohio. I dialed her number and she answered.

“Hi, what’s going on?” I asked. S urged me to turn on the TV, so I did while we were still on the phone. While I was basking in what I thought was a perfect moment, the world imploded, changing in the time it took for planes to smash into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Pennsylvania farmland. I was stunned watching in horror with the rest of the world.

I lived those frightening days post 9/11 alone wondering what might happen next. Fear and nervous frantic took over and I longed to get to Ohio and be with my children. I called both of them, the need to hear their voices overwhelming. We talked about the possibility of me making a trip home, but then decided it was best that I stay where I was. The world went quiet that day in a way I’d never experienced before. With no one else in the house, no planes flying overhead, and even cars staying put in driveways, my surroundings took on an unnerving surreal silence that at times became deafening with no one to talk to, no one to hug and hold as night fell. Unable to sleep, I spent the next couple nights on the sofa, the constant drone of the TV soothing me into an unquiet sleep.

Aaron, ever the concerned friend, called. The fear in my voice must have been palpable and he promised to come to the Cape as soon as he could. He took a bus to Hyannis and I picked him up. It’s strange how another person within four walls redecorates the room. Light returned in the form of my caring, fine friend, Aaron.

During his visit, we discussed all kinds of possibilities to supplement our bank accounts. Aaron had always wanted to write a treatment for a sitcom, so we started brainstorming. I’d never imagined doing such a thing, but why not give it a try? What did we have to lose?

The Wasbands

Aaron returned to New Jersey after a week, but came back to the Cape in October. We started working in earnest on the treatment for the Wasbands, an animated series about four divorced men living in the same apartment building. In case you’re wondering the word wasband blends the word was with husband creating a new name for a divorced man, wasband or was a husband.

Since neither of us were cartoonists, we needed a third partner. We researched artists online and found one that we both liked and thought would fit the needs of our blossoming concept. Enter a very talented artist and illustrator, Jack Pittman. Aaron explained via a phone conversation our concept and our plan to bring this idea together. Over the next week, we brainstormed. Characters were fleshed out on paper, possible scenes and storylines were developed and Jack began putting his vision to characters, while Aaron and I wrote the treatment. I have to give Jack Pittman huge kudos for this project because he worked totally on spec. He didn’t know us from Adam, but he trusted that we were going to take his artistic talents and not use them for own, but only as part of a three-way venture.

The three of us pulled the treatment to together in a professional bound booklet.  Aaron went back to New Jersey. He pitched the idea to the first rung in the ladder at FOX.  The treatment kept moving up the ladder and all three of us grew more excited at the possibility that this idea might become an animated sitcom on FOX.  Then one day Aaron received the news, the top dog at FOX nixed the project.  He didn’t like the idea of divorce. WHAT?  He also felt the demographics that FOX seeks were not there.  WHAT?  In a flash, The Wasbands went from wannabes to neverbeens. Aaron pitched The Wasbands to other networks, but each one turned down the idea.  One more pitch, a competition for possible new television shows, put us back into a hopeful position.  We ended up receiving an honorable mention.  As far as I know that particular reality show about how to get your idea on TV never made it to the air, either.  Aaron was through pitching The Wasbands.  I have the treatment as a fond memory of trying something new and adventurous; trying to grasp the elusive brass ring.
A Day in New York City

My plans to spend a few days in New York had been thwarted by 9/11.  So Aaron and I made plans to meet in Nyack and then he’d drive into the city.  Because I had only one day off work, we spent a whirlwind Saturday in New York City eating our way from Coney Island to Katz’s Deli.  He showed me the house in Brooklyn where he grew up and the country bumpkin in me was shocked to discover that city kids run down tree-lined sidewalks, too.  We ate cannolis in Little Italy and ventured into shops in Chinatown.  I had my first taste of brisket and an egg cream at Katz’s Deli. Hitting the high points with someone who knew the city so well was such a treat. I felt electrified by the energy of the diverse masses of people congregating on the streets.  The sounds, smells, sights, and tastes of New York City never fail to leave a mark on my soul.  Little did I know that would be one of the last times I ever saw Alan again, but what a memory to savor. 

A Waning Friendship

Aaron met someone wonderful and of course, I had to check out this fabulous woman. He brought her to the Cape for a fall weekend. She was perfect for him. They bantered, laughed, and loved so many of the same things. She was adorable and had a background similar to his. Yes, I believe Aaron met the love of his life.

Marriage has a way of dissolving male/female platonic friendships. The two were married in New York, blending their families into one. Over time I heard less and less from Aaron. First he stopped visiting. Then he stopped calling. Finally, even emailing ceased. He was busy with a new wife and a new life.

Aaron's Lessons

During a particularly rough patch in my life, after a loss of the heart, Aaron said to me, “People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” He was there for me in oh so many ways and I miss his friendship, but I now understand that quote. Alan came into my life for a reason. He was an integral part of my life on the Cape those first few years. We supported each other emotionally when things fell apart on either end. He was there when I needed a friend and had the means and wherewithal to explore, with me, the layers of who I am, where I was going, and where I wanted to be. I hope I did the same for him.

It’s true I believed he would be a lifetime friend, but the lessons he taught me are good ones that have stuck. Aaron taught me to not always have expectations, but to go with the flow and revel in an experience as it happens. I learned to grow a thicker skin and not take rejection to heart or as a personal affront because sometimes it’s not about the soul of who I am, it’s about my actions and what others need. He taught me that it’s ok to take small every day risks that lead to fun and laughter, that the world won’t end nor will anyone chide me because I walked into Eros, a risqué shop in Provincetown. Through these lessons this dear friend for a reason remains a part of me. I will never forget Aaron and wish him nothing, but all the joys in the world

The first photo is of a post card with a photograph taken by Alan Hoelzle. I searched for a website, but couldn’t find one.  Here is his flickr photostream
I feel the need to reiterate that Aaron’s pet name for me and mine for him were not meant to be derogatory in any way. I feared offending someone and considered leaving that bit out. If I have offended anyone, please accept my humble apology.

Aaron had an appointment at one of the buildings within the World Trade Center complex on 9/11. It was cancelled the day before. I knew about the appointment, but not that it was cancelled which is why I was somewhat flip when I heard the message from him. Also, I had planned to spend a few days in NYC the weekend after 9/11, but my family wasn’t sure of the dates hence the frantic calls.

I don’t think I ever expressed enough gratitude, to Jack Pittman for how much I appreciated his part in our attempt to bring Reuben, Carl, Terrence, and Vic to life.  It was amazing! If you have a moment please check out his website and blog.  If I ever need a caricature or cartoon drawn and fleshed out, I know exactly who to hire. 

I wrote a short article about Aaron taking me on a food-driven tour of NY called, A Day in New York City, that purchased.  If you’re interested, you can read it here.

Thanks to all who have been following my escpadaes on Cape Cod.  I so appreciate each of you!  I'll follow up this post with another next Friday.  Have a grand weekend!   



  1. Does the wasbands exist as something animated you could put on YouTube? Technology has moved on in the meantime.

  2. Wow, Diana! I never thought of that. Without Jack's cartooning expertise I couldn't do it alone. It was a concept that all three of us came up with, so unless all three of us got on board again,it couldn't be done. I do know that Jack is doing some animation these days, but not sure if it's something he'd want to do in the hopes that it might make a little money. I wonder how that works.

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. I have been enjoying each installment!

  4. I think you should think about publishing this story, I look forward to each installment!

  5. I am entrhalled by your adventures and love your writing style. I am so glad that you are writing for us on your blog.

    'Aaron' was awonderful period for you - allowing you to grow through his friendship. It's great that you have tried ideas and you should always continue to write. A writer I know (son of a friend) has always said that writers write and that that is what is important, not whether or not it is accepted and published. That has kept me going over the years as I know that it is a truth. I shall always write ... and I hope thast you will, too. I also hope that you make this adventure into a book, as any publisher worth their salt should see its potential.

    I shall be away so I shall have to look back to see what further adventuring you have done. Don't think that I have disappeared!!

  6. A reason, a season, or a lifetime . . .
    I will try to remember that.

    Again, another very interesting/enjoyable piece about your Cape Cod adventures.


Treasured comments from treasured friends...