“Yo, Tony! We’re in New York!” John hollered from the front seat to the back.
Gerri called, “Tony, you said to wake you up when we got to New York and we’re in New York. Wakey, wakey time!”
Tony poked his head up, sighed, found and cleaned his eyeglasses before returning them to his face and looked out the windshield to get his bearings. “Yeah, there’s a rest stop coming up on the left. It’s probably our last good place to use the bathroom until we get to Jean’s; that’ll be like two hours. Otherwise head toward the Tappan Zee Bridge.”
John, tired of the eight track tapes, ejected Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” and turned on the radio. WNYC, the New York City PBS station, was coming in clearly; a talk show droned in the background. “You’ll want to get over to the right after we cross the bridge and head north on the Saw Mill Parkway. It can be kinda’ tricky getting on so be careful that we head north, not south into the city.”
“Don’t I have to pay a toll first?”
“No, apparently they let you into New York city for free but you gotta’ pay to get out. Sounds like a joke, but it’s not. You’ll want to be careful once we’re on the parkway because it’s real curvy. That’ll pop us out on 684 and we’ll get to within about ten miles of Jean’s parents’ house.”
“Should we stop and say hello?” Gerri asked.
“No,” John and Tony said together. Tony added, “We should head to Hartford before the city traffic starts to pick up. And we should buy beer before we get to Jean’s. Did you know that you can’t buy carry-out booze in Connecticut after eight O’clock? Not that that’ll affect us this time.”
“What kind of beer does Jean like?” Gerri asked.
“Any light beer except Bud Light,” Tony said immediately. “Coors Light, Miller Light, even regular Budweiser, but not Bud Light. We both think it tastes like they just added water to it.”
“Crap,” John laughed, “they all taste the same!”
“No they don’t! I can definitely taste the difference between those beers,” replied Tony. “We’ll buy one six pack of each and you guys can drink the Bud Light and we can share the other but before we do I want to pour two samples of each beer in glasses and I’ll match them up; glass for glass, beer for beer.”
“Yeah, but you can’t tell me what they are!” John challenged.
“I bet I can. We’ll find out once we get to Jean’s place,” and with that they were on their way up the Saw Mill.
They caught a red light in front of The Readers Digest complex and John said, “Jesus, more damn red lights! Do you ever drive on an interstate!?”
“This is the fastest way to get there so just keep your pants on!” Tony snarled back as the light turned from red to green. “There’s like one more light and then we won’t have any more till we get off of 84 right by Jean’s house. I just hope we’re early enough so that we don’t get bogged down going through Danbury.”
They were early enough to miss the evening rush in Danbury and a bit over an hour later Tony said, “Sign says Trout Brook is the next exit. And be careful, it’s a left exit. We’ll take Trout Brook north like half a mile to Farmington Ave and then we’re practically on Robins Road. It’ll be a right. ”
John drove around to the parking lot in the back of the building and they piled out and headed to Jean’s condo as Tony said, “It’s a little after four and she said she’d be home around three thirty so we should be good.”
Jean answered the door wearing stone washed denim jeans that accented her nearly perfect athlete’s figure topped with a cream colored cotton turtleneck which she had covered with a loose fitting fisherman’s sweater of undyed white wool. She had picked up the sweater back in 1979 while visiting Ireland when she was a foreign exchange student in Leeds, England and she not only held an emotional attachment for it, it also made her look like something from an Irish travel poster. In stocking feet Jean just missed looking the Kneel brothers in the eyes as her long, lean form stretched just beyond the six foot mark. Her face bore no trace of make-up and her shoulder length, chestnut brown hair was pulled back in a simple, loose pony tail that allowed her beautiful green eyes and high aristocratic cheekbones to stand out in royal beauty.
She gave Tony a huge smile, a kiss that was neither long nor short with the equivalent hug and then quickly pecked John’s cheek while extending her hand to Gerri saying, “Hi! I’m Jean, you must be Gerri?”
Gerri looked up at Jean’s towering form and said, “Hi.” Jean’s presence seemed to intimidate Gerri as it did so many men and women when first meeting her. Gerri had put on a full face of make-up and jewelry for her drive north with John and his brother and here she was being greeted by a beauty of Amazonian proportions: It was enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable, let alone a young woman who was insecure to begin with.
John held up a six pack of Coors Light and said, “We brought beer! And there’s more in the car.”
“Great! And I have a new bar I want us to try called Hole in the Wall, they pour glassless shots right into your mouth!”
“Ohh, that sounds gross,” Gerri responded.
“No, it’s great fun! My little sister Ellen was over last weekend and we had a blast!”
“Hell of a name for a bar. Julie still at work?” Tony inquired.
“No, she figured it would be easier if she stayed over at Greg’s for the weekend so we weren’t so crowded. That way you guys can sleep in her room. Unless you two don’t want to share a room, then John could sleep on the couch; it’s a hide a bed and we have an extra foam mattress we put on it so it really isn’t half bad.”
John put on a mask of contemplation and asked in a mock-serious tone, “Gosh, Gerri. I hadn’t thought about it. Do you want me to sleep in your bed or would you rather I sleep on the couch?”
Gerri stuck out her tongue and quickly answered, “Well, before you asked I figured we’d be sleeping together but now I think maybe you should sleep alone!”
Tony changed the subject saying, “Hey, let’s crack some beers and then Jean should call Marla. Gerri forgot her ski pants and I figured Marla would probably have a pair she could borrow? John, grab eight glasses for my beer tasting test!”
“Since when do we need glasses to drink beer?” Jean asked.
“No, only his little girlyness needs glasses for his beer,” John said with a big smirk.
“Ha, ha, very funny. John said that Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Light all taste the same and I bet him I could take samples of each and say which is which.”
Jean looked at John as if he were a simpleton. “All alike? You have got to be kidding. I’ll take that bet.”
“Great, if you two can match the beers and tell us what’s what then I’ll buy the first round tonight, but if you can’t then Tony has to buy the first round.”
“What if I get it right and Jean doesn’t?”
“Don’t worry about it. If either of us gets it wrong then I’ll buy the first round, but I guarantee the first round is going to be on John,” Jean assured.
John laughed and said, “You’re on!”
Gerri pleaded, “Can you please find out if your sister has extra skiii pants first?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m sure she does. Let me just call and make sure they’re home and then we can scoot over there before it gets too late. That’s kind of a hairy hill to get up and down and I’d rather do at least one of the trips before it’s pitch black out.”
Gerri, John and Tony went out to the car and retrieved bags while Jean called her sister. They got eight glasses out and John marked the bottoms of two with the letter A, two with B, and so on. “When Jean’s done with her sister we can see how skilful you two are!”
“Great. Let me show you the place.” Tony said, taking them upstairs to their room and showing them where the bathroom was.
Gerri whispered, “This is kind of an old place, isn’t it?” Then added as they walked back down stairs, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real radiator in a house before.”
“Yeah,” answered Tony, I think it’s from like 1900, but I think it’s kinda’ cool. Except when the kitchen light fixture fills up with water.”
“What!?” Gerri screeched.
“Oh, I was visiting here last month and the kitchen light fixture fricking filled up with water. See how it looks like an inverted fish bowl? Well, I walked in and it was full of water! Jean was at work and I called her there and she called the property manager. He came over and asked me how I had flooded the bathroom upstairs. I told him I hadn’t and he gave me the old, ‘What a bunch of bull-shit’ looks. Turns out the guy next to us was taking like an hour long love shower with his honey and the two bathrooms share a common drain pipe. That much water for that length of time backed up the pipe and the water took the path of least resistance, which was into Jean’s light fixture. The ass-hole property manager didn’t even apologize, he just said, “Well, I’ve never seen that before.” Prick.
John laughed and said, “I think it is way cool that Jean and her roommate bought this though. Not very many people own a home before they hit 25.”
Jean looked up from Hanging up the phone and said, “Or at least own a mortgage! Marla said we can come right over and that she has ski pants that you can borrow.”
“Oh, great! I feel so much better!”
“Then let’s get the over there!” declared Gerri.
“Beer!” was Tony’s quick response, and with that they trouped back into the kitchen.
“Okay, you two wait in the dining room while I poor the four beers in the eight glasses. Gerri, write down which letter goes with which beer and then we’ll have our connoisseurs match the beers with one another and the right name.”
Tony looked at Gerri and said, “And make sure he doesn’t cheat! No ringers! Each brand of beers goes into two glasses and we match those up and tell you which is which.”
“My own brother thinks I’m going to cheat him!”
Jean laughed and said, “It looks like he knows you too well.”
“I am stung to the quick. Alright, despite your hurtful words I will not cheat. I’ll write down what beer goes with each letter and see if you can match them up, fair and square.”
Tony went first and took a small sip of each beer, tasting each beer a little bit at a time. After he had tasted each of them at least twice he had each glass paired with another. “I know I have the beers paired together, but now I have to say which is which.” Pointing to one pair he said, “That lousy watery stuff is Bud Light,” and paused for a response.
John laughed, “I’m not going to answer till you’re finished. Besides, until we look on the bottom of the glasses I don’t know which is which.”
“Fair enough,” Tony said smiling. He segregated another pair of glasses and said, “These two are Bud, which leaves us with Coors Light and Miller Light.” Setting aside another pair he said, “These are Coors, and those are Miller.”
John asked, “You’re sure? Do you want to taste them again?”
“I’m sure. Now let’s see if I’m right.”
Gerri lifted the glasses and compared the letters on the bottom of each. “Well, you got them all paired together but let me check our notes to see if you figured out which was which.”
John and Gerri looked at the notes and John said, “Well, professor, you did pretty well; but you only scored an eight out of eight and you said you could get a 100% percent.”
“Hilarious,” Tony replied tersely. “Jean’s turn.”
Tony and Jean turned their backs while John and Gerri rearranged the glasses. Jean sipped each beer once, put it with a partner and said, “Finished.”
The three guests looked at one another and Tony asked, “You’re only going to taste them one time?”
“Yep. That’s all I need.”
John looked at the bottom of the glasses and then at his notes. “Well, Gerri, it looks like the first round is on me tonight,” and with that they finished the four open beers.