I meandered slowly out of the historic Hotel Bethlehem, not sure what I was doing or where I was going. It was the early evening hours and the air was still sticky and humid. I looked to my right and saw the sharp downward slant of the cobblestone street and then just past the outskirts of the small town, the upswing of rolling green hills and small mountain slopes. Norman Rockwell era shops and boutiques line Main St. and everything is just picture perfect and serene. I am reminded of how beautiful small town America can be and take a moment to thank the Jesus that I am healthy and alive.
Boy, it sure is pret-OH SHIT! A SHUTTLE BUS!! I say to myself and watch a small, white bus pull right up next to me, near the front of the hotel.
As I debate if I should actually go get on it, a family all wearing white T-shirts shuffle past me, chatting excitedly. Their T-shirts all say My Own Private… and there is a picture of the state of Idaho underneath the letters. (I think My Own Private Idaho is a movie where Keanu Reeves is gay for a farmer, but I am too lazy to Wikipidea this right now. )
Interesting I think and I board the Hotel Bethlehem shuttle bus, following them like a lemming.
I am the last to board and as I get on I say real loud, “WHERE ARE WE GOING?!”
They all scream back simultaneously, “The B-52s and Squeeze concert!”
“Really??!” I shout back , confused.
“Yes! At the Casino!!” they roar back and I instantly like them because they are laughing at me and smiling and seem like good people.
“Okay I’m going with you!”
“Do you have a ticket?” one of them asks.
“Ummm, no!” I said and the bus takes off. Too late now to go back!
So I ride with them. There are a total of 9 family members. There was the dad who was completely bald and wore tiny glasses and had polka dot pajama pants, the mom who looked like a typical 50 something year old mom, their three daughters ages 16-23, the two daughter’s boyfriends and the dad’s younger brother who was with his boyfriend.
As I looked at them all I could think was Modern Family. I am totally with the cast of Modern Family.
I talked with them all the way to The Sands Casino of Bethlehem, PA. I soon learn that the kids are all amazingly awesome, sincerely nice and musically talented. The fact that they all look like tiny hipsters from a college alt-rock band also makes me smile. Near the end of the trip, they give me an extra ticket that they had to check out the concert with them. Very cool.
I go into the casino and shortly split up from them as I don’t want to intrude on their family outing. I left them feeling somewhat sad because they were all so fun and energetic to be around.
I see the B-52s play a bit and then bounce out of the concert to go try my luck at blackjack. I win $60 and then go over and watch a Rat Pack cover band play some old classics in a somewhat quieter section of the casino. I am the youngest person by far because the bartender is in his 6os, the band is in their 70s, and the people dancing are all in their 80s and 90s. I make friends with a 90-year-old woman named Agnes and she informs me she has 22 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. Impressive.
After losing a bit at the slots and then deciding to call it a night, I head to the front of the hotel, wondering how I am going to get home. Suddenly, I spy the Hotel Bethlehem shuttle bus pulling away.
“WAAAIIIT!” I yell and catch the bus as it’s leaving.
“Hey! It’s you!” The same bus driver I had from earlier says. “Where’s the rest of your family?”
Turns out he was there to pick the family I was with earlier up from the casino but can’t find them. He wants to take just me back to the hotel because he can’t find them and this is the last shuttle run of the night, but I can’t have him leave them. They won’t be able to get back! So, I make him circle the lot a few times and lo and behold, I spot them and they all came running to the bus! He opens up the door and I jump out and say to them, “I found you guys! I found you guys! I was worried sick about you! Where have you been?!”
“Dave!” the family yells out and we all high-five and laugh. Then back to the hotel we go in fine spirits. Various members of the family sings Squeeze and B-52 songs on the ride home.
Now, here is where it gets good….
As we enter in the hotel and I’m talking to the dad about music and other things, we see and hear a lanky piano player in the lobby. It is an awesome art deco lobby, decorated in marble and fine, leather furniture. The piano is large and black and the guy playing it sounds good. Really good.
The dad grabs me arm and says, “Oh my god. Do you know who that is?”
I get a clear look at the bespectacled pianist and can’t place his face.
“That’s the piano player from Squeeze! And on the couch is the lead singer!” he says excitedly.
I look on the couch nearby and see a short, rather frumpy-looking older man sitting near the piano, smiling and watching his friend play.
The kids all come over and are just absolutely super-excited. We go over and introduce ourselves and they are the nicest dudes ever. So polite and down to earth and then proceed to play some songs on the piano. The best part is that the Squeeze guys tell the kids to belt out the requests they want the piano guy to play. At first I thought they were going to go the wrong way and yell out some terrible modern pop shit, but they actually yelled out, “Squeeze” (duh!) “Queen!” “Elton John!” “Bowie!” and then they had us all sing the songs!
The best part is that the kids could actually sing and knew the words, so that was great. After a few songs, the adults sat on the couch and we watched their kids have an absolute blast playing with the piano player.
I didn’t know these people but it didn’t matter because they were so welcoming and the atmosphere was filled with just pure, infectious joy. Other people came over and started dancing too and after about a half hour of our little private Squeeze concert, the two band members headed off to an after party.
“You’ve got a great family,” I tell the mom. “Your children are always going to remember this night.”
She laughs and says how we are all going to remember this night too and as I get up to leave and say good-bye to her and the rest of them, she looks at me and says earnestly, “Take your kids on vacation. That’s where some of their best memories will be.”
I will try to remember that.
And now I have a soft spot for Squeeze and Bethlehem, PA.