We decided to do it.
We were fresh off the high of the Dîner en Blanc (pronounced DEE-nay un Blunh …. NO. CEE. SOUND AT THE END) in Manhattan, this year being my 3rd. Coming out of that experience which is always grueling in the schlep to get there but once there, nothing but a good time – we got notice that an inaugural DEB was being planned in Long Island. My initial impulse was not to go for a number of reasons – the biggest of which was that I’d have to take an additional day off of work. But my beautiful Isis suggested we use this as my birthday celebration since the day it took place was still properly in my birthday week. So we pulled together whoever was willing to partake in the planning and we started to get things underway.
Little by little the pieces came together and everyone was ready for the main event. Since the dress and shoes I’d ordered for DEB NYC came the day of DEB NYC while I was en route to Lincoln Center – it meant I had an outfit. Picnic basket, folding chairs, table-in-a-bag, and other furniture were already purchased for years – just a matter of getting it out to the location and coordinating with everyone else which our WhatsApp group helped to facilitate.
The Day of – I made it onto the road to meet up with Icy a little later than I’d liked and got caught in a bit of Friday / Holiday Weekend / Get-Me-Out-Of-The-City-and-Back-to-the-Burbs traffic, but still managed to make it her by about 4:45. The time for meet up at the buses was 4:45 for a 5:00 departure. We figured worst case scenario, Kimmy, Lisa, Sherley and Joelle could tell us where the final destination was (just like for DEB NYC) and we’d drive out there to meet them.
Luckily – there was no need. We got to the meet up (Lynbrook Audi), found parking on a back street, packed up our trolley and headed to the line. It was going pretty smoothly. I’d never done a DEB where they didn’t make you snake through the train system and find your way there. This felt extremely posh to load up your frick and frack onto the bus then board an air-conditioned coach to be whisked off to our secret location. I instantly felt like the other cities had it better. The night was young.
We boarded our coach (one of three) at 5:15. Settled in and waited for the buses to leave. 5:45… we still hadn’t left. Hangriness set in for a majority of us. I know for me definitely because our DEB dinner would have been breakfast for me. But my intermittent fasting has trained me to go without. Around 6:15, we felt the transmission kick into gear and begin to pull off. Happy that we were in motion, the motion was… slow. At one point, Icy said, “I’ve never driven down this road so slowly”. Which instantly spurred a guffaw from me. The slowness struggle was real. We were taking the slow scenic route. We watched the light evaporate to the west while we rode slow through the night. DEB is not supposed to take place “at night”. By the time the sun is setting, you’re supposed to be set up… and twirling your napkin so that when you’re seated to eat, there’s still a little light. Understood that we’re later in the year and the sun sets earlier. But setting up in the dark: No bueno.
At one point… our bus started going …… REALLY…… SLOWLY. There wasn’t traffic to blame for it. There was no one ahead of us. We were cruising at like 15 – 20 MPH down another long road with shrubbery on each side. Every now and again… it felt like they were trying to shift gears and it would jook the whole cabin in a way that was really distasteful. After about 3 jooks I verbalized my disdain “Okay that’s enough now!” Oh shit… the transmission is going out. We’re in bubblefuck… and this bus is about to shut down on us. Random shoutings from the bus occupants: “Are we lost?” “Is the bus breaking down?” “Are you driving us to the Sunken Place?” “What the fuck is going on?” “Do you know where we’re going?” All gone with no response. We were a captive audience on a bus where the mystery and intrigue normally associated with DEB now became nervousness, anxiety, and fear about what was going to happen to us. After about 20 minutes of rolling slow, we felt the bus start to move a bit faster and get up to a regular pace. We turned off the main road across from LIU CWPost thinking that this was the final stretch of our destination. We drove down a narrow path that led to a small mansion, but there was no trace of there being anyone else. Suddenly our challenged bus begins to use the circular driveway to bust a “U”. Because of the angle, I was able to look out my window to see what’s behind us and see that the other buses that were trailing us from our departure point were still with us. That gave me a bit of relief. At least we weren’t alone. After many breaks in the K, we made it back out to the main road and he proceeded back down the road as if we were going back to where we came from.
We were all tired, starving, FREEZING, uninformed and disenfranchised. What had we gotten our selves into?? We began reminiscing fondly of the rigors of traipsing through the subway system with our 50lb trolley loads in comparison to “this shit”. Just then, the bus was making a turn again, onto another small winding road. Caught up in a bit of traffic from what seemed to be people who had taken it upon themselves to drive to this location and unload, we finally pulled in and began the process of offloading. In a similar fashion to the levels of communications we experienced heading down, we weren’t told anything about our return. Not to remember a bus number. Not that we had to return to THIS bus in particular. All occupants of the bus were quite contented with just getting the fuck off and claiming their goods so we could get up the hill. Our group got our stuff together and began our journey up the wet grass hill to what looked like a mansion where everyone else was set up. Still hungry, still tired, still not understanding what happened and why we’re here so late, we heard a commotion coming up from the mansion. They were doing the napkin twirl. MY. FAVORITE. PART. OF. ANY. DEB. EXPERIENCE. And here we were still schlepping up the hill. I screamed. “WE’RE NOT EVEN SET UP YET!!!!!!” But it was happening. Without us.
We got to our position and started setting up. After a little trouble with the tables, we finally fell in line with our row and began setting our table. Because 66% of us were old hacks at this, we knew that DEB needs LIGHT. Because after a while wherever you are – there’s darkness, so you have to illuminate. To that end, our table was the most LIT (literally and figuratively) in our area. We got a lot of compliments on our table being the prettiest. Folks came over and took pictures.
We laid out our feast, poured our first round of drinks. As we were preparing to sit to eat, a table further off in the corner – obviously a part of the “late comers” – decided to do their own napkin twirl. To which all the latecomers gladly participated.
We sat down next to a lovely couple and started to feast. Folks were milling about… a great many people that we knew. Sorors, other Greeks, co-workers, colleagues, etc. There wasn’t a dull moment. Conversations were flowing; selfies were abundant. We laughed and chatted and Marco Poloed and FB Live’d and everything that folks do when they dine together. It was such a good time that I became totally unaware of the fact that we were sitting on a big wet lawn and little things were crawling about and occasionally biting. After a while I felt nothing – which is a BIG DEAL to those that know me. A little ways into the night we discovered that we were on the “back” half of the mansion. There was a whole FRONT of the mansion that had party goers as well. A number of folks made their way over there ( namely because that was the side that housed the entrance to the bathroom). A few of us stayed by our table and continued our party and received our walk-by guests. Eventually, one of the hostesses stopped by our table making her rounds and stated, “I see you all have crashed my little party. Look at this table!” Other curt pleasantries were exchanged and she walked away. It left a bad taste in our mouths. “If we are crashers, then we should get our money back.” We quickly got past it and kept the party going. It was time to sing Happy Birthday… to me 😀
We walked around to the other side of the mansion as the dj was getting fired up and encountered a bunch of other people on the way and on the dance floor. We got there and the other side of the mansion was really… well lit… LOL. Didn’t realize how dark it was on our side till I saw it myself. I tried not to dwell on it and focused on the music to keep our spirits high. The DJ was doing his THING! We danced and partied and line danced (wobble and what not) for as long as we could. Which actually ended up being about 15 minutes. A favorite Beyonce song was about to come on. The intro to the song was playing and folks were getting hyped and ready for the beat to drop. Just as it was about to, one of the hostesses came on the microphone. The audience started to boo her – namely for her timing on this announcement. She thanked everyone for coming out for the inaugural DEB LI and then advised us that it was time to pack up, buses were leaving and we had to be off the property in a short amount of time.
Hampered by the weight of food and the dizziness of the spirits, we all made our way back to our dining locations where we began breaking our set up down as quickly as we could. Throwing away garbage, dismantling lights, folding up chairs and tables as fast as possible. Packing up our trolleys and making our way down the hill. Our group gets to the bottom of the hill to be told that “our” bus (the bus that we originally traveled down in) had left without us. Security informed us to get on the next bus going to Lynbrook. While we were annoyed, we waited for the next bus to pull up. We loaded our items onto the bus undercarriage then boarded the bus. Saw a lot of familiar faces and greeted them warmly then took some empty seats at the back of the bus. We were sitting there for a few minutes and the bus started to make its way down the driveway when a petite, chocolate skinned older lady stormed to the back of the bus and started to fuss with a woman who was in a seat behind us. Claiming that it was HER seat and she needed to vacate it and get off the bus. The banter went back and forth for a minute when one of the table leaders screamed from the front of the bus “If you weren’t on this bus coming down here, you need to get off the bus NOW!!” There were some shouts in agreement while the ruckus behind us still took place. Icy had had enough. She stood up and advocated for the woman behind us. “What you’re not going to do is come back here and threaten people about their seats. Y’all acting like you have no sense!” The rest of us sat looking on in disbelief at what was going on. Why these women were so mad – because we were clearly on the move and didn’t seem like anyone was lacking a seat, if they would just sit down. Many heated words were exchanged. The sentiment was for those attendees who did not come up on this particular bus (hand gestures pointed to us and generally in the back) to exit the bus. One person stated “there’s plenty of buses back there”. Someone else screamed, “We asked y’all nicely to leave the bus!!!”
The bus was predominantly black women. It was 11:00 at night. We were in the woods far from anywhere we knew. Even if there were “plenty of buses back there” – are you sure any of them are headed to Lynbrook? What if this was the last bus to Lynbrook? You were going to sleep peacefully knowing that you “asked nicely” for 6 sisters to go out into the darkness AND wilderness to figure it out so you could have the exact same seat you had coming down? You assume that we all had the resources to get out of that part of Long Island to our respective homes. But what if we didn’t? What if we spent our last cents trying to come and party that evening and relied on the transportation they provided with our payment to get us to and from safely? Did you care that you were putting us in harm’s way? No… I’m sure… so long as YOU and yours got home safe… fuck the other people who you think you don’t know.
Our party made the decision that this wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth spending an hour on a bus with irate, irrational, mean-spirited, uncaring women in a tense, territorial environment while we made our way back to our cars. We picked up our stuff and began making our way to the front of the bus. We asked that the bus be stopped so we could collect our items from the undercarriage and exit the bus. Unfortunately, what I’ll never be able to forget are the familiar faces that warmly greeted us initially, allowing for this to happen. For us to be let off the bus w/o ever knowing the outcome of what might happen to us on this side road. That was a hurt I wasn’t going to ever be prepared for on this night.
Lisa called an uber to us and we rolled our way back up the hill toward the mansion because they wouldn’t let him come down and meet us on the driveway road. He had just enough room for all 6 of us and our cargo, although we had to go back to the olden days and pile on top of one another for the ride. Sorors were gracious enough to let me sit shotgun while they made sense of it in the back seat. We got on the road and the cabin was full of disbelief, complaints and recounting from each perspective. We couldn’t believe what we had just gone through. We couldn’t understand why we just went through it. We were happy to be whisked down the highway towards our destination but were so sad that the night ended this way. I sat quietly in the front still not sure what had just happened. But know that my deep appreciation of my lovely Icy had been reaffirmed. She had the guts to stand up and say something and face these people when the rest of us were frozen with disbelief. She is most certainly in the right profession. Defender 🙂 Like a real life superhero.
We got back to our cars and parted ways promising to reach out to each other once we all touched in. Icy and I got into her car and drove to her house to pack my car so I’d make the last leg. We stood outside and talked for a long while. I’ll always be grateful for greekdom bringing me true friendship in the form of these women. True ride or die, loving souls. I’m afraid they don’t make them like that anymore. I’m glad I scooped up the last of the best.
I’ll be hard-pressed to ever attend another DEB in long island. I was setting my sights internationally anyways – Toronto sounds like they have a great one… maybe Montreal. Gotta start planning soon for that.