All my friends have gas pains!

I’m angrier than a snapping turtle in a neck brace about these outrageous gas prices that are forcing my good friends to opt out of our long-time traditions.

Look, for years, the wife and I have spent the Memorial Day weekend with a group of pals at a resort in Somerset, NJ. Okay, you can all stop laughing now. But it’s true! You know Carmine wouldn’t lie to you, right?

But this year, with those friends having to buck-up hundreds of dollars just to get to the fantastic DoubleTree Somerset, a lot of my pals canceled due to “illness.”

And I know just what that “illness” was — gas pains!

That’s right, they didn’t want to admit it, so I’ll be the one (as usual) to tell it like it is: gas is too darned expensive, and those of us of a certain age who depend on it to get from here to there are hurtin’, and hurtin’ bad.

Take me, for instance. My intention was to have a great time with the old gang, and I end up sitting by the pool with just my wife and my beloved scooter, Tornado. These days, when it comes to taking long trips in the car, my friends choose not to break the bank! And I don’t blame them!

Now, I’m not saying we had a terrible time, even if we were in New Jersey.

As usual, the pool was a delight. I dismounted Tornado and customarily dipped my big toe in to test the temperature (and, by the way, when I say “big toe,” I MEAN “big toe.”) and jumped in without further ado. After the tidal wave settled, so did I, staying in for two-and-a-half hours.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “Carmine, how could you leave your poor wife by herself for so long while you floated around like a beluga?” And you know something? Sharon thought the same thing!

Look, you all know she can’t stand me enjoying myself without her. So she’s sitting there broiling in the sun — while I was basting in the pool!

Lucky for me, we did meet some old friends.

Lemme explain it to you in one long, run-on sentence:

Tony and Mary Paolillo, formerly of the Environmental Division of the Transit Authority back when the leadership there was actually interested in the trials and tribulations of the subway and bus riders (and we Big Screechers made them aware of their responsibility to lessen the din to their neighbors) sat with Sharon pool-side, talking about the old times, when professional gentlemen and women gave their all to their jobs (unlike the Mayor’s imported favorite head of the MTA who doesn’t give a darn and closes bus lines and subways as though nobody uses or depends on them. Consider this: Back then, Chief Executive Officer John DeRoos, was paid $60,000 a year. The present head gets a million, plus posh digs! But I digress).

Look, Tony and I have been friends since I started screeching in 1978. So it was fine that Sharon waited with them while I waded. And did you know that everyone and everything weighs the same underwater! Ha! Oscar the 500-pound Sea Lion’s got nothing on me.

Suddenly, Tony had got a call from his neighbor telling him his house alarm went off — so he and Mary had to head back to Staten Island — filling the tank in New Jersey, of course. And guess where I was when they got back? That’s right! I was still in the water!

Sharon, who had had enough of watching me bobbing up and down like a buoy, went up to the room before they got back, so I came out of the pool to sit with them under the umbrella. I was sittin’ in my scooter at the table when Tony told me that the house was okay and it must of been that Kansas-style wind that set off the alarm.

Wind? What wind, I thought. It was a beautiful day.

Now, I’m no meteorite-ologist, but I know for sure that thanks to the prevailing jet stream, any storm that hits Staten Island is going to hit New Jersey posthaste. Sure enough, within the blink of an eye a furious blast of wind sent tables, chairs and umbrellas flying at me! Mary was hit with an open umbrella! Tony was hit with a table! It was like some pool scene that was cut from Caddyshack!

I grabbed my lard bread before it flew in the pool and headed indoors! Thanks to trusty Tornado, I zipped in just before the rainstorm, but Tony and Mary got drenched.

Sharon looked out the window and couldn’t believe how much the trees were bending in the wind.

But even with the disaster, it was great to see Tony and Mary again and to help them celebrate their 45th Anniversary. We bought them an anniversary drink in TK’s Pub before dinner, and that’s when we really got down to business.

Now comes the part in the column where a friend of mine who knows I’m a big-time, big-city writer asks me to do them a favor. (You know something? I’m like the doctor who’s always asked by his friends to diagnose their ailments.)

So Tony says to me “Hey Carmine, why don’t you write a column about the part of Great Kills Park in Staten Island that was closed four years ago because of radioactive hospital waste that was found there. It was less than an arm’s length squared, but they closed a huge area of the park that thousands of residents used for camping, flying miniature airplanes and other things, thanks to the usual governmental red tape.”

I guess they should do something about that, but I don’t know. You see, I can’t afford to drive over there!

I’ve got gas pains!

Screech at you next week!