Pam-a-LAM-a-Ding Dong

Buca Di Beppo - LAMLV

Over the years, I’ve been to a number of benefit dances for the purpose of raising money to finance research to fight the deadly women’s lung disease known as LAM.  There are four of us who usually party together at these functions.  Marianne, Geralyn, Maria, and I have partied in a wide assortment of places for a wide variety of causes, but the “LAM Dances” are always special to us.  The disease killed young women we know.

One special couple we met at the LAM Dances were Maureen and Richie.  Maureen’s sister Dawn died of LAM.  Her other sister Pam Matteson is a famous comedienne and impressionist, and she performed at the very first LAM benefit.  When we read on Facebook that Pam is now fighting brain cancer and her fellow comedians were having a benefit show to help her with the medical bills, we thought we should be there.  When we heard it was in Las Vegas, we were sure.

I had never been to Las Vegas before.  The ladies had, and we were all eagerly looking forward to the trip.  When we told our mutual friend Sabrina, who lives in Chicago, that we had to change planes there, she decided that she would go too.

The main purpose of the trip was to be there for Pam and Maureen, but that didn’t stop us from having a great time while we were there.  It added to it.  We met Maureen, her husband Richie, and her Brother-in-law Brian the night before the benefit.  We went to the Buca de something Restaurant and feasted in the Pope room.  There was a big bust of the new Pope as the centerpiece of the table and the walls were covered with Vatican memorabilia and photographs.  As an Agnostic I felt a little uncomfortable surrounded by all these religious articles, until the wine started flowing.  We had wine, pasta, more wine, chicken, more wine, spaghetti and meatballs, more wine, some more food, and more wine.  I think we even had wine with dessert.  Then we went to watch the fountain show at the Bellagio and we were almost drunk enough to go for a swim in the fountain.  Actually, we were drunk enough, it was just too cold for skinny dipping.  Fortunately, we were getting around town by taxi, so nobody had to remain sober.

The next night at the benefit was amazing.  The Coasters opened the show singing Charlie Brown and a few other hits.  They were followed by a string of comedians who all knew Pam, as they had performed at many of the same clubs.  Rich Little was there doing his imitations.  Gallagher was there, and fortunately he didn’t smash any watermelons, because we were all sitting near the stage at Pam’s table.  Bud Freeman flew in from Los Angeles to be there.  Pia Zadora was there, and knowing her she probably paid to perform.  She was followed by about a dozen Vegas comics.

On the long flight to Vegas, I told the group about a time when I was taking ballroom dance classes and my partner was late.  There was a Chinese woman in the class whose partner was also missing.  So, when the class began, I went over and asked her if she would like to dance.  She shook her head no and, in a thick Chinese accent, said, “Maybe rater.”

So, the show was going on and at one point the performer was getting people from the audience to come on stage and be part of the act.  He approached a Chinese woman and she declined the invitation.  In unison, we all yelled out, “Maybe rater.”

The rest of the weekend was spent doing the usual Vegas things, drinking, gambling, dancing in the street, but Vegas law prohibits me from giving out the details.  “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”  It’s the law.

The flight back to New York started out okay.  We left on time and had a smooth flight to Houston.  Then they announced that our flight to New York was delayed.  We sat in the terminal for about 6 hours.  The crowd was starting to resemble the pitchfork group who stormed Dr. Frankenstein’s castle, and I quoted the movie.  “A riot is an ugly thing….but I think it is just about time we had one.”  I could see the supervisor talking to the clerk at the desk, as the mob closed in around them.  “Houston, we have a problem.”

They started handing out $200 vouchers to anyone who complained, so everyone complained.  Then the plane finally arrived and they switched the gate to disperse the crowd.  They gave away free booze on the plane, but there was so much turbulence that the flight attendants could hardly get down the aisle to distribute the drinks.

When we finally landed in New York at 3 a.m. our luggage was wet from sitting on the tarmac in the rain at Houston.  We were too tired to complain, but the next morning Geralyn called the airline and got us each another $150 in vouchers, thus covering almost the entire cost of the round trip air fare.  Viva Las Vegas!

Get well soon Pam, because we’re all looking forward to returning to Vegas to see you doing your incredible imitation of Cher.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Baby You Can Drive My Getaway Truck


I’ve now been in my Lancaster apartment for almost a month, and little by little I furnished it.  All I was missing was my stuff.  That was all in two storage lockers back in New Hyde Park, NY.  My brother made a trip here and loaded up his car with some of my stuff, but there was still a mountain of it undisturbed.

It became quite obvious that moving it one carload at a time would take about 200 years.  So, I called Allied Van Lines and they gave me a quote of $2200, their absolute rock-bottom minimum.  $600 for the truck and $100 per hour for two men for 8 hours.  I estimate that the total value of all my stuff was less than $2,200, maybe about $2,000 less, so that did not seem like a good plan.


I called U-Haul and found that I could rent a truck in New York and return it in Lancaster for about $300.  That seemed like a much better plan.  The only problem is that I don’t have a driver’s license.  I have a New York State Non-Driver’s License solely for ID purposes.  At the request of everyone who had ever ridden in a car I was driving, I stopped renewing my Driver’s License back when Jimmy Carter was the President.  It is a move I have never regretted, until now.


I needed somebody to drive the truck, and most of the people I’ve met in town are barmaids, who would only go to New York, load a truck, and drive it to Lancaster if I held a gun to their head, and even then they might not do it.  Besides, the last time I had a gun was when I was in Boot Camp and they were trying to teach me how to defend the country.  So, that was out of the question.


The only other person I know in town is Joe Becker, the guy who sold me most of the second-hand furniture that I now possess.  They deliver for free, and I noticed he had a lot of different guys working for him.  I asked him if any of his employees would like to earn a few bucks by driving a U-Haul from New York to Lancaster.  He told me he didn’t have any guys working for him.


“Who are those guys who help you make deliveries?” I asked him.


He told me that whenever he needed help he called the men’s shelter in town and there was always somebody who would deliver a couch, a bed, or any other piece of furniture for a pack of cigarettes.


I asked him to call the shelter for me and see if there was anyone willing to take the trip with me for a carton of cigarettes.


Duane volunteered, but he wanted cash.  He didn’t need cigarettes, because he rolled his own.  I thought that meant he smoked pot, but he explained that he gets a pouch of tobacco and 200 rolling papers for $7.00.  Wow, the head shops sell packs of 25 rolling papers for $2.00, and that doesn’t even include anything to put inside the papers.  Far out.


I asked Duane how much he wanted to do the job.  Duane wanted $100.  Not per hour.  $100 for the entire job.


I hired him so quickly, I almost forgot to ask him if he had a license.


So, on Saturday, Duane and I took the Amtrak train to New York.  He’s originally from Philadelphia.  He’s 42 years old, but when the train went past his old neighborhood, he looked out the window like a kid in a candy store.


From Penn Station we took the LIRR to Jamaica and then hopped in a cab to go to the U-haul place.  Paperwork completed we headed for my storage sheds.  I had a 10 by 5 shed and a 5 by 5 shed.  It took us 3 hours to empty the contents of the big shed.  By that time the truck was filled to capacity.  So, we left the smaller shed for another day, got some chicken to go at KFC and headed for Lancaster.


We got on the Cross Island Expressway and the sign said “No Commercial Vehicles.”  We weren’t sure if our U-Haul was a commercial vehicle but we decided to get on.  It was bumper to bumper.  We crept forward for the next hour and only managed to cover a few miles.  We made it to the Belt Parkway.  We had a great view of the traffic jam ahead because we were in a truck and the only other vehicles on the road were cars.


Around this time, we figured that we might be in a commercial vehicle.  Since traffic wasn’t moving anyway, we decided to get off the parkway and take the service road.  Once there, we pulled up alongside a tow truck and asked his opinion.  “Is this a commercial vehicle?”


“Oh yeah,” he responded.


So, we weren’t supposed to be on the Parkway, but that’s how Mapquest had routed our journey.  We asked the tow truck driver how we could get this commercial vehicle to the Verrazano Bridge.


He told us that we had to take Linden Blvd, all the way across Brooklyn to the BQE and that would take us to the Verrazano.  He even led us to Linden Blvd.


Do you have any idea what it’s like driving a fully loaded truck all the way across Brooklyn on Linden Blvd.?   Neither do I, because before we knew it we weren’t on Linden Blvd. anymore.  We must have zigged when we should have zagged, and we took a tour of Brooklyn that lasted two hours.  Finally, when we asked another motorist for directions to the Verrazano Bridge, she took pity on us and led us to it.


So, we took the Verrazano to the Outerbridge Crossing and were headed to the New Jersey Turnpike.  The top row of a sign said, “NJ Turnpike.”  The bottom row probably said “Right Lane Only,” but it was obscured by bushes.  We missed the turn, and just barely missed the car in the next lane when we tried desperately, but unsuccessfully, to get over to the right.


It was nearly 10 p.m., we were lost again and headed away from the New Jersey Turnpike.  I started humming a song by Bruce Springsteen.  You know it.  It’s the one with the line, “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.”  Duane didn’t see the humor, and it looked like he wanted to drive off a cliff.


“This hasn’t gone as planned,” I said to him.  “So, I think it is only fair that I double what I said I’d pay you.  I throw in a pack of real cigarettes, too.”


I think he would have preferred a cliff to the pay raise, but by then he had managed to get us back to the Turnpike, so he was happy again.  “You don’t have to do that,” he said.


“Oh, no.  I insist.”

We got to the Pennsylvania Turnpike without any problem, and we managed to get to Lancaster without any more problems.  Well, we had one problem.  By this time the shelter was closed and Duane wouldn’t be able to get in.


“Why don’t you stay at my place, and we’ll unload the truck in the morning?


That worked for him.  We got to my place, opened up a box of vintage wine and before too long, we were both able to look back on the day and find it funny.  We stayed up until 4 in the morning laughing about our tour of New York and Long Island.


The next morning, neither of us felt like unloading the truck, so we went down to the shelter with a few packs of cigarettes and quickly found plenty of guys willing to unload the truck for us.


So now I have most of my stuff, a story for my web page, and a new friend in town.  All’s well that ends well.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,