Shake Your Booty

You have to hand it to the Spanish.  They sure know how to make the most of any festive occasion, even when there isn’t any apparent one to be found.  They pull it out of their asses and turn an otherwise subdued atmosphere into a little shindig.  New Year’s is a fine example.  People often ask me what Americans do on New Year’s Eve, because many think the rest of the world stays at home with the family the way they do and prep for gulping down a dozen pieces of fruit at midnight.  My audience usually consists of people and pets ranging from 5 years to 75 years of age, and so I forego the part about folks drinking to the brink of language impairment and vomiting as a way of ringing in the New Year and address it with a sugar-coated “They go out”. 

            Many parties in other parts of the world rage for much of the evening, which is partially explains why people scream and shout like cowboys and embrace with such fervor before tumbling over and breaking the family glass coffee table.  It also helps me to understand why the Puerta del Sol seemed so subdued compared to cities of similar size.  They were just cranking up, and just as many people from faraway lands were puttering home, the Spanish were out in the streets heading for their first social commitment.  I didn’t show up at mine until 2:00a.m.


            On top of that, they don’t even need a crowd to have a party.  With just six of us at our family gathering, there was more than enough humanity to turn the living room into a makeshift disco, twisting and swaying to some of the 1960s finest one-hit wonders, like “Black is black” (Spain’s first nº 1 in the U.S., believe it or not) or the Shocking Blue’s (a Dutch group, this time) “Venus”, which was revived by Bananarama in the 1980s. These are still no-fail tunes at nearly any Spanish home.  Mostly it was the two older sisters who did the dancing, urging the three men, me included, to join in, which we did, though the elderly mother literally sat out. I secretively envied her because after all these years I just don’t find shaking my booty with four people in an apartment and with all the lights on, much less in front of an eighty-year-old woman that natural, who cheerfully clapped along.  But then again, if KC and the Sunshine Band (who by the way just played at the Rose Bowl) could go on TV donning goofy funky clothes and repeating the same line over and over for five minutes, I guess I could hold out for a gratuitous for the while for the sake of New Year’s merriment. 

     The Spanish love this, and I admire them for feeling so comfortable about expressing their joy without the least bit of worry or care about their image.  It’s funny, they often cry to me that they can’t speak foreign languages because they are too afraid to look ridiculous in front of others.  Then images of middle-aged Spaniards shimmying shamelessly to James Brown come to mind and I just laugh a little to myself.  That’s my Spain!

Excerpt from a New Book about Greenwich 28, (draft)


I woke up nearly French kissing a slender nine-month-old black lab named Pepper who, despite our being only recently acquainted, had taken a true liking to my side of my bed, and as a result, to me.  Pepper was large for his age, which meant he was only going to get larger, but for the moment he was still small enough to fit atop the mattress and yet big enough to muscle me around.  I have always been lax about dogs sleeping on my bed; it must be some kind of ancient Viking gene in there that still found the use in such behavior.

          I had already had one run-in with this lovable beast.  He had a funny way of snuggling up to you just minutes after committing some treacherous act.  In this case after violating my toiletry kit and chewing on my toothbrush as if it were a finger bone.  That was the kind of dog Pepper was, and I had grown to like him; otherwise I never would have let him sleep with me…not on the first date at least.

            Does this kind of lascivious behavior go on in the town ofGreenwich?   Quite possibly, but I could quite tell you because we weren’t even there.  In the end, we did go upstate toWest Simsbury, and we did make it without a hassle, and we did join our dear friends Vicente and Joan and their kids and a friend of the family’s and ate a wonderful turkey and drank lots of wine and cava (Spanish sparkling wine), and shared plenty of memories.  We did make merry until our bodies dropped…which was about 12:15 am.  Pathetic, isn’t it?  Things aren’t just what they used to be, and inAmerica, where most finish their dinner hours before midnight, fighting off sleepiness to ring in the New Year becomes a formidable challenge for anyone over the age of 35.  It was a great time, I tell you, and since we were a bunch of cheeky bastards, as the British would say, we even offered to sleep over at the place with the excuse “it would be more fun that way!”

       That was where Pepper came in.  The peppy pup was the newest addition to the family after a rather tough year of losses in the domestic animal department.  The list of casualties included two dogs, a cat, a handful of chickens and maybe a horse, if I could recall.  Pepper was at that cute but slightly dopey age, socially awkward and trying to make friends in anyway possible.  As you already know, he wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Sucking on someone’s toothbrush is not becoming of a host, and I don’t care if he’s got four legs, hair, floppy ears and likes to hump stranger’s on the leg.  You just don’t so that.  But I am spineless when it comes to dogs, so I forgave him.

          I went on line and took a look at the Greenwich Time website to find out the latest on the death of that girl, with the remote hope the Time would produce anything substantial.  After all, it was a death in its hometown, so I guess it had no choice but to come up with an explanation.

         Murder.  It was murder.  I suppose we knew it all along, but still the authorities had to make sure they had the facts straight before they jumped to any conclusions.  Made sense.  The Greenwich police had a history of being especially clumsy and slow-footed when it came to solving violent crimes, in part, I have no doubt, because there are so few they have to deal with.  That can make for some pitiful investigating.  Posterior analysis of the Martha Moxley case, for example, left experts dumbfounded as to how in the name of God the members of the local law enforcement could have screwed up in so many ways.  According to some, the police could have solved the case in a matter of weeks at the most.  Instead, it took twenty-five years and a conviction based on the flimsiest circumstantial evidence the judicial system has ever seen or heard.

        So why did the bungle it so badly?  I told you, they hadn’t had to solve one in decades years.  How the hell were they supposed to know?  You don’t just go to homicide school, pick up a few tips and say, “Bring on the psychos, I’m ready.”  There is nothing like on-the-job training to get the necessary experience and knowhow.  Not that they learned much from the Moxely case.  Ten years later on August 31, 1986 young Matthew Margolies of the Pemberwick-Glenville section ofGreenwich(a sweet, low-key part of town) disappeared on his way home.  The circumstances were eerily similar.  A youth, a neighborhood full of families, a wayward walk home, a frantic search.  This is time it took nearly five days for the boy to turn up beneath a pile of leaves with several stab wounds in his belly.  The Greenwich Police had checked there several times but didn’t spot him and figured he had to be somewhere else.  It took a former investigator with a little sixth sense (or maybe a proper usage of his five senses) that led to the child’s discovery.   To this day no official suspect has even come close to being charged; and believe me, a little research shows that the Greenwich Police Department had plenty to work with.  How this could be boggles me to no end.

        This time, though, they managed to bag the case in a matter of hours, though there wasn’t much to it since the culprit basically led them to the body.  Here’s how it went:  In the backcountry section where the famed large Greenwich estates get so big they look like prep schools, there was a sizable property owned by a hedge fund mogul named Donald Sussman.  Apparently Mr. Sussman was one of the first to make it big with this newfangled style of investing known as the hedge fund, and I applaud him because not only does it take a lot to come up with strategy like that, it strains the brain just to figure out what the hell it is all about.  It seems as if all of my friends are into hedge funds, and not one can really tell me how they work.  The minute I ask the question, a kind of blank expression overcomes their faces and they stare out into the distance morosely the way veteran primary school teachers do.  Mr. Sussman clearly had a good grasp on things and he did it very well.

         But let’s not get into that because the poor man had little to do with this tragic event.  His only crime was being a very affluent resident in a very affluent town, and couple that with a violent crime and what you get is a Class A news item.  And a very large property, so big, it required live-in service, including a gardener.  This brings us to the deed itself…and its protagonists.

        The live-in landscaper, Adam Dobrzanski (that “brz” combination I find particularly challenging to pronounce), was a Polish man who had come to this country with his wife and two children just a few years ago.  My guess was that it was to start a new life and search for happiness through the American dream.  Well, things haven’t turned out so well for him, or his family.  He literally lost all grip on his sanity and killed his 20-year-old daughter in such a brutal way it breaches the wall of all that is rational, reasonable and conceivable.  He slit her throat.

        Ironically, the initial concern surrounded the wellbeing of the father, as he had whizzed off frantic text messages to his wife that he was going to do himself in.  Her name was Renata.  Where was she at the time?  Well, in the Caribbean with the Sussmans who were on Christmas vacation.  What was she doing there? Well, she was the family housekeeper, and was probably there to do the cooking and help out in any way.  But that wasn’t all.  She had also filed for divorce two weeks earlier, and it would seem that this troubled personal story involving a troubled husband led to the family’s demise.   Adam Dobrzanski, it would seem, lost it.

       The police rushed to the scene fearing for Adam’s life, which turned out to be genuine because when they found the man he really had tried to kill himself about a dozen different ways, but hadn’t managed anything better than a bloody mess.  It was when the semi-conscious Dobrzanski muttered something about his daughter that the police set off a frantic house-wide search. They found her, but it was too late.

        Imagine being on the plane taking the family back and having to spend those hours thinking about the only reason you are making the trip is to go to the town morgue to identify your dead, 20-year-old daughter who has just had her throat slit by your husband…that is…her father?   I am sure that woman has lost all sense of time and space and dimension.  Her world had become shapeless, never quite defined; never quite together.  I sighed and felt like I didn’t want to talk aboutGreenwichanymore for a while.  This no longer had to do with a town.  Happy fuckin’ New Year.