Saturday, September 22, 2012


Back in the summer of 2008 I was taking care of a Palm Beach mansion. It was deep off-season and hurricane season was coming on fast. One evening I went over to my friend's house close to the center on town. After dinner Lisa killed me at scrabble. She scored 33 points for xi, which is a Chinese measurement. All my words were composed of single-digit letters. After she claimed victory, I bid her good evening and drove the LandRover down S. County Road under a fading full moon. The palm trees bent under the force of a stiffening wind. The air was thick with humidity. All the windows were open. I hated AC.

Passing Joe's Crab Shack my phone lit up with an SMS from my Thai girlfriend. Our baby was going to be a boy. I phoned the phone to tell Andrew C about the news of my baby being a boy.


HIs salutation was cut short by a Christmas tree of lights exploding behind the LandRover. I pulled over to the curb and said to the British interior designer, "Let me get back to you. The cops want to talk with me."

I kept my hands on the steering whee and the young officer shone his flashlight in my face. I blinked for several seconds and then he shut off the light.

"Yes, officer." As far as I knew I hadn't done anything wrong.

"Your right-rear tail light is out." His Floridian accent was soft to my ears.

"Really?" I had only one beer at my friend's house, while we were playing scrabble, so I wasn't worried about a DWI.

"Yep, license and registration and insurance, please." He was polite for a cop, then again this was Palm Beach.

The license was in my wallet. The registration in the glove compartment. I couldn't find the insurance. Giving him the first two, I apologized, "Sorry, this isn't my car. I'm house-sitting on King's Road. The insurance is on the desk there." My job was to watch the house and walk their Airedale.

The officer asked the address and I gave him the street and number.

"You're taking care of that crazy dog?"

"Yes, officer."

"You know it's on the shot to kill list if it gets off the lease."

"Yes, officer." Pom Pom had attacked two dogs before I got there. She had been rescued from a shelter. I thought that her previous owner had run a crack den in Riviera Beach. "I keep her on a short lease."

"See that you do."

"I'm sorry about the light. Does this mean I'm getting a ticket?"

"No, if everything checks out, it's a simple verbal warning."

"Thanks, I was speaking with my friend. I must found out I'm having a baby boy."

"Congratulations. I'll be right with you."

Five minutes later he returned to the car and handed back my ID and papers.

"Get that fixed."

"I will as soon as the house owners wire the money, officer."

"That could be a long time." He knew his territory.

"I have a bike." It was cheaper than a Rover with gas at $4 a gallon.

"Good Luck with your baby boy." It was a nice thing to say.

"Thanks. Now all I have to do is think of a name.

"You'll think of something." He got into his cruiser and sped down the road toward the Southern Bridge.

I put the car in gear and called back Andrew.

"Did you get a ticket?"

"No, just a warning." I started the car and drove slowly down S. County Road with the crest of waves glowing white on the night's ocean. "He was actually nice."

"Not like New York cops." Andrew C had been living in the country the last ten years, but he explained that the previous month he had been invited to a dinner party at Paul Kasman on 10th Avenue in NYC.

"I was flying to London in the morning. I had a few glasses of wine, then stopped to drink water. After dinner I went outside to see that a tow truck was backing up to haul away my Audi. I got there before the clamps had been hooked to my car and I drove away to find a decent parking spot. It took more than ten minutes. Finally I crammed the car into a spot a block from the gallery and got out of the car. A light blinded me. It was an unmarked NYPD cop car and two cops ordered him to stay where he was."

"Never a good thing." Cops under Mayor Bloomberg had been become wretched revenue pirates.

"One got out of the cruiser and demanded if I had been drinking. I told him that had two drinks at a party around the corner." He explained with a Norfolk county stutter. "Then I said that I was flying to see my parents in the morning."

"They must have been impressed."

He said that he didn't about my travel plans and demanded that I take a Breathalyzer test. I thought that I was going to jail and wouldn't make my flight. I blew into the device and I passed. The cop was not happy, saying that I barely passed.

"Barely counts with atomic bombs."

"I locked the car and went back to the party. I didn't drink anything else. Coming out of the gallery I saw the cops waiting. I smiled and they said, "Bon Voyage."

"Nice." It turned off the main road to the driveway of the mansion. I could hear Pom Pom barking inside the house. She wanted her walk. "Thailand has four in the whole country. If you get caught for DWI the Thai police will make you drink water until you pass the test."

"If only New York cops were so accommodating."

"What a nice world it would be."

"Once more congratulations of your having a son."

"Yeah." I missed Mam and wanted to put my hand on her swelling belly. A ticket to Thailand cost $1100. I had $20 in my pocket. I hung the phone and opened the door. Pom Pom had the lease in her mouth. I snapped it onto her collar. We walked down the street. Ours was the only house with lights and let Pom Pom do her business on their lawns.

Actually I was lying before.

I had six beers at Lisa's house.

The cop must have smelled them, proving that Palm Beach is more Thailand than New York City and that's a good thing.

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