There was something about driving the Tri-State at night in the winter, that kicked up the adrenalin.  I had topped off my wiper solution fully cognizant of the coming street crud that would try to coat my windshield in the wake of lumbering 18 wheelers.  I danced across the 3 lanes, desperately trying to to avoid any semblance of the 55mph “limit”.   Arriving at any Tri-state exit with more than 6 inches of clean glass at this time of year was a challenge I had faced and met many times before.

As I wheeled around the Kennedy cloverleaf, I reached for the directions Dennis had provided. When I stopped for a red light, I flipped on the dome light, and reviewed them.  The light changed and I turned left, fumbling to switch off the dome light.  As I drove down Dennis’ street I saw 6’5 Dave Huneyager getting out of his Volkswagen bug.  This must be the place, Dave would definitely be attending Dennis’s party.  I parked and Dave looked toward my car to see who was coming.

“Cootzie?  Is that you?”
“It’s me Huneyager-yager”
“No Date?”
“Good, my sister will be happy about that.”

Dave took me around the back of the house and we went up some stairs to the porch.  Dave opened the storm door and led me in.
Dennis’ mom stood in the kitchen.

“Hi Mrs. Terry, this is the famous Cootz from Gary”
Mrs Terry smiled politely and took the bag of Jay’s Potato Chips from me.
“Nice to finally meet you Cootz. I’ll keep these up here for now, there are some coolers downstairs for your drinks”
“Thank you.  No way you are Dennis’ mom, younger sister maybe.”
She laughed and gave me a hug.

Dave had walked down the stairs and shouted “Look who I found”
There were at least 20 people in the basement now watching me come down the stairs.
Dennis shouted “It’s Cootz!”

People actually cheered.
I looked back up the stairs and said “Where?”

After I dropped my 6 pack of Coke (Tab? never) in the cooler, Dennis took me around and introduced me to everyone.
The music was loud and I heard about half what was said.
But I smiled and nodded and made some flattering remark about everyone I met, which they probably didn’t hear either.

Eventually I found an already chilled can and sat down next to a bowl of chips.
People came to talk to me about Purdue, about Gary, about Wirt High School, about career aspirations and course work.
Others came to ask me to tell them the story about Dennis or Dave or Kite Flying, or Ghost Hunting or my kazoo band.

From my vantage point I could see new arrivals coming down the stairs.
I had just finished discussing the lyrics to the song that was playing (“They call it a Drelb” by Elvis Presley),
with a young lady, who left to get me another Coke.

The room seemed to go silent.  Incredibly shapely legs appeared on the stairs, followed by a tastefully short skirt, an elegantly filled sweater and absolutely the most beautiful young woman I had ever encountered.
Our eyes met.  She smiled.  I stood.  She walked right up to me and said “I like your shoes”.
“Why, Thank you.  These are my current favorites.”
“I’ll bet you are the one they call C00tz.”

The fictional 60s author Terrance Mann wrote:

“There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up a few seconds to show you what’s possible.”

It would be years before Field of Dreams would explain this moment to me, but in the distance I felt the beat of a different drum calling me to a path less traveled.