This is the Ghetto's day. This is the yearly spectacle of Spaghetto in the Ghetto, and it is the first that we have been able to attend. We've known about it since we started day tripping years ago, we've been invited more than once, but we could never quite manage it. This year, our first year in our trailer, we will be present.
For weeks now, a small enclosed trailer has been backed into the space between our trailer and Carla's. This trailer is the repository for Spaghetto donations: spaghetti sauce for the meal, and vodka for the infamous Ghetto punch. We have already given over our jar and bottle, and they have joined the others in that trailer. Today is the day to bring them all out.
The jars fill an entire wheelbarrow. There is also case after case of beer to be carried out and dumped into buckets. I chip in for this work, and we have it done quickly.
Penny, a wise woman of the Ghetto, has advised me on how to handle myself. Spaghetto is a tremendous amount of work, she tells me, and my help will be appreciated. But I must not ask if I can help, because I will be told no. She explains that there is an element of stubborn pride among the men folk, and while most of them have known me for years, I'm still a new comer to the Ghetto, and must show proper respect for the vast undertaking. The proper method is to ask nothing, but just be watchful for opportunities. It's a man thing, she says, I'm sure you understand. No, not entirely, but I will take her advice seriously.
As the jars are carried out to the field, I have an immediate opportunity to put it into practise. The jars need to be opened, and this task seems to have fallen to the women, but many of the jar lids are too tight for them. I can certainly help there, and I do. The experienced men tend to building the fires, and soaping the outside of the pots. Apparently this makes them easier to clean later, Penny shares with me. I open more jars.
A tent has been erected, and there is now a brigade of men forming to help carry tables under it. There are a few official Ghetto tables, but we also take tables from people's decks. There will be a lot of people here today, and we will need the tables, so I suggest also using the table from my deck.
This is a mistake. I realize it immediately, and I see Penny frown at me from a few yards away. No, they don't think they need any more tables. I wince at my stupidity. Of course they need all the tables they can get, but I am not supposed to decide that. I'm a newbie. Helpful, friendly, yes. But a newbie. It's not my call.
Chagrined, I wander over and help Penny stir some small pots of special sauce. There is a large iron pot that most of the sauce will go in, but the stirring of that is a job for the old timers, not for a new comer. These small pots are for sauce without meat, and a highly spiced version. It is OK if I spend some time stirring these while Penny attends to cooking some chicken wings.
Someone says they need a cooler to store spaghetti in. No one else offers, so I say I'll go get ours. No objection is made, so I go to our trailer, dig out our cooler, and bring it over to the fires. For the rest of the day, pre-cooked spaghetti will be tossed into it on it's way to final cooking. Gosh, I've been able to contribute something. I laugh at myself.
I see an opportunity now, and grab another Ghetto new comer. "Help me get my deck table over here", I ask him. The two of us do that. Penny smiles. That's the way to do it.
The cooking of spaghetti while nude is an interesting thought, especially when you consider that this is done over large, open fires in the open air. A stray breeze can singe hair or worse. The sauce is being stirred with a large oar, but you can't get far enough away from the pots to be totally safe. Some of the men wear shorts or aprons, but some of them are just plain crazy. None would condescend to wear a shirt, of course. Every time one of them burns his chest, you can see the women raise their eyebrows. I am surprised that the men *have* eyebrows.
On Carla's deck, Ghetto punch is being made. The main ingredients seem to be vodka and ice cream. We workers are invited to sample from the first batch. It's good. Too good.
The next few hours are a buzz, assisted, no doubt, by generous helpings of Ghetto punch. I remember driving someone up to the club house to get more ice. I drove nude, and I don't think I had ever done so before. We carried, we stirred, we tasted. Linda came out and decided that the Veggie sauce was in dire need of carrots, so she went back to cut up some. When she returned, she brought back carrots and some other veggies she found. Other people did the same, and there was little you could mention in the way of herb or vegetable that did not find it's way into that sauce.
And then the people came. Long, long lines. Happy, joking, laughing people. Beer tops popped, Ghetto punch flowed, and the lines moved slowly past the spaghetti pots. The weather had cooperated, the sky was clear. Linda and I ate our fill, and so did every one else. Cameras, normally sharply proscribed, made an appearance. No one seemed to care: this was Spaghetto, and it would seem unfair to tell someone they could not document this day.
For some reason, someone started tearing up a blue sweatshirt into strips and tying the strips around various portions of people's anatomy. Men, of course, offer a natural place to tie a strip of cloth. It is more difficult with women, and there were gales of laughter as ties slipped off nipples, only to be dived at by men who would gallantly offer to reattach them. Soon, there were blue ties everywhere, and more sweatshirts had to be sacrificed to fill the demand.
And the Ghetto punch flowed.
I don't know how much I ate. Enough to hurt, I know that. And undoubtedly, I drank more Ghetto punch than I should have. The mounds of spaghetti piled in my stomach probably slowed it down some, but I slept very well that night.
It lasted forever, but eventually only we ghetto residents were left. I don't know how we cleaned up. I know that our deck table didn't get returned until the next day, and we thought our cooler was gone forever, but somehow, the field was returned to it's normal state.
Spaghetto in the Ghetto. Once a year is enough.