It was late on a Friday night in May of '03, just weeks after the U.S. had invaded Iraq. I was on my way from Manhattan out to the Hamptons -- all of them -- in a jitney with a band of (erstwhile frat) brothers.
We were having a great time insulting one another when we heard a loud pop. At first, I thought it was a thunderclap, but I looked up and the sky was clear. Next thing we we knew, we were thrown far off the road and found ourselves mired in the sandy mass some call Jones Beach. When I noticed that the sign that said "West End 2" was upside down, I knew something was wrong, very wrong.
Turned out we were walloped by an RPG. For those of you who may not know, that's a rocket-propelled grenade. There was nothing but sand and water as far as the eye could see. Our iPods, iPhones, iPads, iWatches, Kindle Fires and Nooks had been burned to a crisp.
Robbed of our ability to have fun or communicate with the outside world, we spent two long days and nights on that lonely stretch of sand, eating whatever hot dogs, burgers, and fries we could scare up at the concession stand and washing them down with brewskies and Cokes that tasted as though they'd been canned or bottled weeks before.
I must have told this story five hundred times since then -- to friends, therapists, and lawyers; in blogs, on Facebook and Twitter. Over the years, I've added details that emerged during a series of excruciating therapy sessions. Like the time I had to go to the bathroom really bad and the stalls were so far away, I peed in the water. Or the time I was riding a three-foot high wave, landed flat on my face, and had to take several deep breaths before normal breathing was restored.
Here's the kicker: By the time I got home on Sunday -- we were rescued by a surfer dude we ran into at the hot dog stand -- I'd missed the "Ebb Tide" episode of The Wire. That's the one where McNulty finds a body floating in the water. Which reminds me of another story...Anyhow, this was before On Demand, so you can imagine how painful that was.
Now, all of a sudden, just because I told my story on a TV show, a few of my "buddies" are saying that our jitney wasn't shot down at all, that I'm making the whole thing up. I got my old roomie to back me up, but then he said he was making the backing up up.
They're saying that the popping sound was the sound of a flat tire. They're saying that the Jitney driver called Triple-A from his iPhone and that we were back on the road in less than an hour. No Jones Beach, no old Cokes, no surfing the waves.
Now that I think about it, I have to admit that my brothers are correct. I'm not sure how my mind put the flat tire story -- what really happened -- together with the RPG/Jones Beach story. I know I didn't do it -- my mind did. I would never do a thing like that.