Gus’s car wash. Was my out. Southampton. Was my out. Hunga-Hunga.
Jesse was not happy in the 98 degree weather. Slaving over every car dusting, polishing, cleaning tires, and spraying down windows. Mind you he was 8. Parents divorced. And working at his dad’s car wash. I was able to put all my energy into rich cars. Drying down their hoods, tops, tires, and car doors. That was my job. And I was damn proud. Smiled even.
We met this women once. White hair. Black on black in the middle of summer with these artsy bi-focals. And she went over to us directly. Usually they just drove away without any giving. But this curious women, came right over to us and handed me a dollar. She said “You get a dollar because you are nice and you are polite.” Then she turned to my cousin Jesse and said, “You get 50 cents. Because you aren’t as nice. And you aren’t as polite”.
I remember looking at Jesse so happy at my dollar and that he got only 50 cents. He turned to me and said At the end of the day it don’t matter. 50/50 split.
The other guy that stood out was this freak of nature balding and timid shaking at the wheel. He refused to get out of the car and remained seated at the drivers seat not wanting to get out. When we went over to him to tell him he had to get out of the car before the machines went through. He frantically shaked his hands on the steering wheel and in a pretty much a micheal jackson voice as that is the only voice that came close to this guy’s voice said “Im in a car. I’m staying..I’m, I’m not getting out. I am not getting out.
I knew him as the freakish guy every Wednesday who was allowed to go under all the machines when no one else was allowed.
When I got older I learned his name was Truman Capote The man who was allowed to break all the rules. When no one else was.
Needless to say, as rich as they were. I can count on one hand how many tips we got.
Gus made sure though. He always did.
He was asked a few times after his business got successful and being the only car wash in all of the Hamptons at the time, to go for lobster. Drinks. Country Club. A polo match even.
He’d shrug and say. I’m heading on my boat with the kids, my brothers, and the Collie.
Sometimes we got on the boat. But sometimes, we’d end up at the Road House. Be handed a 10 dollar roll of quarters to play the crane with Jess. While he drank beer with his brothers. Then, We’d saddle up to the bar and have a juicy burger. Man, I loved that.
Aunt Emily outgrew her sinage and wound up moving back to Canada to teach print screening. She wasn’t a fan of America during Vietnam. SHe left at the time Gus was drafted. I’d like to think she’s the Amaganssett of the Hamptons. Just sayin….
But here’s where I remember the most. Gus laying a rope on a swimming hole in Southampton for all of us to glide on and drop into the water. Its not there anymore. Some kid died years later and they lay the rope and the boy to rest.
Gus taking us in his bronco truck. Swinging that same rope from his bronco to our sleds in winter. Then, gliding on the icy patches of south Hampton woods and death man trap. Until my foot got tangled up in it and I was gliding on my ass. Some kid called out. Thank God. And I still got my foot.
Gus filling up that same Bronco truck with gallons of water from the car wash and us swimming and sitting in it as kids while he glided around Southampton. And we got stuck in the one lane Jane as I called it in, in East Hampton. We were swimming. In a back of a truck and never needed a potty.
And then, here’s what I also remember.
sitting on a hill right below the duck pond and the wind mill on my 8th summer. Holding onto to Gus’s dog Collie. Who also happened to be a Collie.