Monday, December 01, 2008


Years ago, our family did something a little different from the usual: We took a vacation in Pennsylvania instead of Florida.

I should say “in addition to” rather than “instead of.” We did not forgo our annual trip to Florida to visit the Maternal Grand-’Rents; rather, we took a week-long trip to the Poconos with Aunt Zelda, Uncle Gerry (the Bro d’Eli Hizzownself), and our cousins.

It was August 1963, just a couple of months before my eleventh birthday. I remember the year only because I remember the cover of the Mad magazine I bought to read on the journey from Long Island.

That journey took, seemingly, forever. I recall sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike - in Secaucus, no less - as a violent thunderstorm played itself out over the spires of Manhattan to our east. We could see lightning strike the mast of the Empire State Building. Awesome!

Thanks to the storm-snarled traffic, a trip that should have taken two-and-a-half hours ended up taking closer to five. I’m sure the Old Man was fit to be tied by the time we arrived at the bungalow colony in Minisink Hills - hard by East Stroudsburg, at the edge of Pennsylvania Dutch country - that was to be our home for the next week.

We settled in for the night. The following morning, I made two discoveries: one good, the other not-so-good.

Not-so-good: The ’Rents had no intention of hanging out with us, having planned instead to deposit us in the bungalow colony’s convenient day camp. Their agenda was golf and tennis, and we kids were in the way. Today, I can sympathize...but back then, I was furious. I pitched a fit and refused to be encamped along with my brother and cousins. Miraculously, the parental units acquiesced. To this day, I think they were secretly hoping I’d drown myself in the swimming pool. A funeral would have been an inconvenience, sure, but at least they wouldn’t have me pestering them 24-7 to take me along on their golf outings at the nearby Tamiment resort.

Good: The Poconos were home to the richest, most addictive chocolate milk in the world. It was chocolate right out of the carton (no pain-in-the-ass mixing in Bosco or Fox’s U-Bet syrup), and it had the consistency of whipping cream.

In hindsight, it probably was whipping cream. Whipping cream with chocolate. You really had to cut it with milk (whole milk, of course - that 2% crap hadn’t been invented yet) to make it drinkable, so rich it was. I’m still carrying a few pounds around on my ass as souvenirs of that summer.

Years later, the Missus and I lived just a few miles on the other side of the Delaware Water Gap, in Hackettstown, New Jersey. It was a short drive to East Stroudsburg and Minisink Hills, but I never felt the burning desire to explore those places again. Some memories, I guess, are not to be messed with.

Sure do miss that chocolate milk, though.

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