There's a small library next to the Post Office. Very homey. Very folksy. In there you'll find a copy of my award-winning short play, Team Player.
Team Player, an award-winning 10-minute play
Team Player is based loosely on a murder-suicide in Mountain Lakes in 1997. Here's a news article about it:
SYMPATHETIC COP CAN'T BRING HIMSELF TO CALL IT MURDER
Every town should have Charlie McCoy as its police chief, not just Mountain Lakes. He's this silver-haired, professorial-looking guy, a sort of Steve Martin with brains, whose idea of law enforcement includes stopping by to talk flowers with old residents like Betty Schell. He had been doing that for nearly 30 years, ever since he was a rookie, because Betty knew flowers and was willing to help McCoy get his own garden in Boonton in shape. He says he knew Betty well. ''The last time I saw her, I bumped into her at the Foodtown a couple of weeks ago. She was, well, it's hard to explain, she was just a bundle of nervous energy. Like a bee flitting from one thing to the next.'' He uses his hand, darting back and forth, to show what he means. ''She had something important to do and not a lot of time to do it.'' McCoy asked about Emil, her husband, and Betty smiled and said he was doing well.''Just fine,'' he remembers her saying. He also remembers thinking that was sad because Emil wasn't fine. He was 82 years old and he had had three strokes in three years and his strong body and mathematician's mind were gone. About the same time, Dean Mackey found this in the mail: a copy of a deed to two cemetery plots in Hiram, Ohio, a map of the cemetery with the site of the plots marked and a note in Betty Schell's hand. ''Please put this in our folder,'' the note read, according to Mackey, who runs the Mackey Funeral Home, just a few hundred feet from the Foodtown where McCoy last met Betty Schell. He remembers not making too much of the note. His parents and the Schells were friends, and over the years, she would talk about what she wanted and didn't want. There was a folder with very general notes about a funeral.
The Friday before last, Mackey and McCoy met at the Schells' house on Laurel Hill. McCoy got the call about 7 p.m. and had one of his people call Mackey. Instructions, written out by Betty, were left to do that. Neither man will talk about what he saw in the swimming pool or just how a tiny 80-year-old woman managed to strap both herself and Emil in Emil's wheelchair and push the thing into the pool where they both drowned. What they will talk about is what McCoy calls ''the sense of completion'' he found inside the big, beautiful brick house on Laurel Hill. McCoy and his cops and investigators from the Morris County Prosecutor's Office spent four hours in the house. They found not a mote of dust, not a shred of lint, not a smudge, nothing. Dishes were washed and put away. The laundry had been done and folded into closets and drawers. Books and old photographs were dusted and aligned perfectly on shelves. Garden tools had been cleaned and stored. On the dining room table were several small piles of paper, neatly stacked. These were the notes and instructions Betty Schell had left, very detailed, complete with who to call and when and what to say. ''She let us know she was sorry to put us through a lot of trouble,'' says McCoy. ''They had a full and complete life and they were leaving it the way they wanted to. They were leaving it in a way that would cause the least amount of trouble for their relatives and friends.'' Instructions to Mackey were explicit. No funeral was to be held. Instead she wanted friends to gather for a ''time of remembrance.'' Their ashes would be buried near Hiram College, where Betty Woods and Emil Schell met as students nearly 60 years ago. ''She was the sweetest person I knew,'' says McCoy. ''I'll miss her, but I try to be philosophical. I think they were happy to leave together.'' McCoy doesn't buy the ruling from the Morris County Medical Examiner's Office that what happened was a murder-suicide. He knew Betty and Emil well enough to know they communicated. ''What they did, they did together.''
For my story, I changed some things. I made her a trophy wife half his age and I put him in the government working for George Bush. But I kept a lot of things the way they were. And I kept the cop. He has a big role, an interesting one.
The play got a number of productions and readings. Two years ago, someone said it would make a good full-length. So, last September, I wrote the full-length. It's called The Best Years Of Her Life.
Believe it or not, Mountain Lakes is also a term, as in "that girl is sooo mountain lakes." Don't believe me? The Urban Dictionary has an entry:
...a small, snobby, rich, white, preppy suburb of new york that no one has ever heard of. It is filled with big houses and beautiful, rich, bitchy white girls who enjoy shopping. The boys are beautiful as well. If you don't have the newest model of bmw/mercedes/lexus when you get your license, you are looked down on. These rich kids think they can get away with whatever they want so they smoke pot, a lot, even at school....they're pretty smart. They store morphine in their lockers, and have any drug imaginable ready at hand because their parents give them the money to buy it. Beiruit's the name, drinking's the game. On any given night you can find the teenagers, and parents, playing this classic game in their basements. Tournaments are frequent and last up to 12 hours. This small town as an exceptional sports program for having such limited choices of players. Lacrosse players are gods and everyone plays lacrosse, if you don't you are killed. Most live here all their lives, so one has the same friends from when they are two years old, until they die because most return when starting their own families. The high school is made up of mountain lakers, boonton townshipers, and a bunch of deaf kids. yes, deaf kids. This results in most of the high school population knowing sign language. it's awesome. You could probably count the minority race population of the high school on one hand. In fact, there was an article in the new york times about the lack of diversity in mountain lakes. This town is great if you like small towns where everyone knows everything about you, especially what you did last night. If you like privacy, i don't recommend living here...
person #1-"she is so mountain lakes."
person #2-"ohhhh that's why she is so gorgeous, rich, and bitchy."
person #1-"i want to be her"
Other than money, academics, recreational drugs and drinking, the big thing in Mountain Lakes is the Herd, the high school football team. Coach Wilkins is a legend. Just won his 300th game. The cool thing to do is to support the team by wearing their gear. Another thing is to take your expensive video equipment to the game and film the Herd kicking ass.
When you live there, you can't help yourself. Everyone ends up being a Herd fanatic. Even moi.
Oh, speaking of kicking ass, here's the Herd's 2008 record, so far:
Not bad for wimpy, pasty-white rich kids, huh? And by the way, about that last game against Glen Rock? The Herd won, 35-21, at Giants Stadium. How cool is that?
If you suck at football, play lacrosse. That's the other stud sport. Face it. You can't look any cooler than this:
Mountain Lakes. That's where I lived. So the next time you fly over Northern New Jersey, wave. They'll wave back. Unless they're busy playing beruit. Or whatever.