We’re heading down to Disney.
We get through security thanks to my special ID that allows us to skirt the cattle-call lines of the masses.
Get to the gate and breeze right through the Elite “line,” if you can even call it that.
“Fuckstains,” I hear someone mutter, low.
Tuck me arse into First Class seat by the window.
“Pull the curtain on Coach, will you? Thanks.”
“Only if you have a potato vodka. Otherwise, mimosa. Long on bubbles. Short on pulp.”
Get to the hotel. Gently push people aside as I get to the “Diamond Member” check-in.
Give the guy a fiver as he plops the bags in front of bed bigger than most people’s apartments. What’s bigger than King size? Emperor? Czar? Duke?
It’s hot out. The relentless sun buns us all equally. This lack of order, of status or rank, buns me to no end. Without a pecking order, it’s just plain chaos.
I cool considerably strolling by while casting a glance at the rapidly reddening line-lovers before heading to and through the VIP Fastpass. “Tah. Fucking. Tah.”
At dinner I swear the manager is hitting on me he comes by so much.
Him: Your food is to your liking, sir?
Him: Thank you, sir. And your family? You are all enjoying your stay in the Kingdom? Neither kid looks up from their phones. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They haven’t taken their headphones off since they got out of the pool. “The wife” smiles without even a glint of recognition.
That evening, one of the kids wakes up. I’m not sure which. They both look like their mother. Apparently the Coffee-Crusted filet does not play well with either his OCD or “Low T” meds. Side note: if ever there was a kid who needed to grow a pair, it’s this kid.
The hotel car service pulls around to the side of the hospital building. A doctor walks out to greet us. An orderly with a wheelchair walks behind him. Well behind him.
“I’ll see if I can perform some magic of my own.”
I smile the kind of smile that says, ‘This aint a fuckin’ social call, Doc,” and he gets a move on.
Fifteen minutes later I’m shaking his hand.
“I gave him some antacid and a sedative. Make tomorrow a pool day. No rides. Next day, he’ll be right as rain.”
“What about getting some fur on his peaches?”
“But he’s a small eight. He’ll never be D1 anything at this rate.”
“Let me wave my Magic wand,” he says with a wink, placing a bottle of pills in my pocket. In the car service back to the hotel I read the label.
Keep out of the reach of women.
Our plane touches down back home. Our driver hurriedly grabs the luggage, which has multiplied since our departure just twenty-one days ago, and throws them in the back of the biggest, blackest suburban anyone had ever seen.
“HOV lane, Sammy. Step on it.”
“It’s emasculating in a way. I’m filled with admiration, but there are almost equal parts shame.”
“Some rise so high. Others stoop so low. I’m not putting you in the latter bucket.”
“But you’re not putting me in the former either. Nor should you. There are people that do things that matter. There are those that don’t.”
“Everything matters. Anything can matter. The littlest thing can save a life.”
“We always say that after the biggest things happen. ‘Well, I patted someone on the back the other day who looked really down. Who knows what might have happened… It’s utter bullshit.”
“If you’re conning yourself it is. But it doesn’t have to be.”
“I see a ton of cops in here. I see a ton of firefighters. To a man, they don’t view what they do as heroic.”
“Maybe they make a distinction between glamorous and heroic. There’s virtually zero chance I’ll throw someone over my shoulder today and carry them out of a burning building. Unless one of the girls in Accounting gets pissed, nobody will shoot at me during the course of a day.”
“That’s not your job. Or mine.”
“You’re proving my point.”
“You’re missing mine.”
“‘splain. And shake me a martini so my consciousness is expanded to grasp what you’re saying.”
“Most of their days are just like yours. Completely different, but largely the same. Tedium. Paperwork. Routine. Politics. Bureaucracy. The bullshit the ninety-percent trudges through daily— with the help of Ketel One and the grace of God.”
“I get that, but there’s always the potential for danger and an acceptance of risk. Without much in the way of reward, I might add.”
“You have the potential for risk. Not as much. But it’s very real. A car’s lying on its side on the highway. Everyone files by. ‘Sucks to be them.’ What do you do?”
“I pull over. I jump out. I hop up on it and try to pull him out.”
“And did you act bravely in that situation? In that split-second when you had to act?”
“The car was not on fire. The kid kicked that back window out himself and crawled out. It’s not the same.”
“What if it was on fire?”
“I’ld like to think I’d have still done everything I could.”
“Right. These guys have the training and experience to make that split second decision in a split-split-second. They don’t think. They act. It’s what they’ve been trained to do. What you call ‘braver’ they call muscle memory and reflexes.”
“At that moment they’re not thinking, ‘this is my SportsCenter moment. Du nu nu. Du nu nu.’ They’re thinking ‘there are people upstairs and the fire’s coming from the basement. I’ll take the basement you clear the upstairs.’”
“Right. Their instinct is to run in when others are running out. I’m a running out kind of guy. I think.”
“You think. They don’t think. They act. But you acted too at that rollover. You didn’t think. And without any training or skills of any kind you went in when others passed by so they could make a tee time or whatever. If that car was on fire and you did pull the kid out, you’d have been a hero too.”
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…”
“Maybe you’re not so different. Not as different as you think, anyway. They’ve just had more at bats. You’ve been on the bench. But when you got your shot, you had a real good at bat.”
“Others walked away.”
“So I’m not a huge shit stain? I’m just running the course I’m on and may have behaved just like those two facing similar circumstances?”
“Fuck no. You’re a huge pussy. Those are real men. I’m just talking you off the ledge.”
“One more. Make it dry.”
“Feels like Spring for the first time this year. It’s like I can breathe again.”
“Breathe deep. Snow tomorrow.”
“Can we just enjoy today?”
“Indeed we should. Tomorrow you could be up in a plane and disappear at thirty-five thousand feet. Poof. Like you were never there.”
“The modern day Icarus— with a stolen Austrian passport.”
“Or Jacob’s ‘ladder to heaven.’ Maybe we strive for too much. Reach too far.”
“I’m just trying to enjoy a Spring day with a summery Jack and Ginger if you’d be so kind.”
“We spend so much energy on what happened to these two-hundred, two-hundred fitty people. Where are they? What went wrong? Who’s to blame? Is it a conspiracy? Over a thousand people die every day of a coronary in the US. Not sexy. Doesn’t make the news. We know why it happens. We just don’t want to know.”
“Not with a bang, but a whimper.”
“Floods, earthquakes, locusts…people throw their money at them. We’re incredibly generous if suitably swayed. The day to day death by paper cuts that awaits us all just fails to capture our attention.”
“Now who’s lost the spring in his step?”
“I haven’t. Honestly. I think it was Ferris Bueller who said ‘there’s a certain freedom in knowing you’re totally screwed.’ Whether it’s a plane, some cancer, or keeling over at my desk, I know it’s coming. I just don’t know when. So, I’ll assume it’s sooner than later and squeeze as much out today as I can.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
“That doesn’t mean skydiving or shark riding or anything dramatic. That’s not living. That’s pretending. That’s playing a game. Living is walking the real streets, doing the real work, just more quickly. Just with more verve.”
“And it’s eliminating the stupid stuff.”
“Exactly. And this isn’t that. Having a drink, having a conversation here about things you don’t really converse about out there is living. Out there it’s very specific. It’s about the numbers. It’s about the kids. It’s solving problems…”
“Or thinking you do.”
“Those are little bubbles. I’m interested in the great big bubble. The stuff that’s not on the agenda.”
“So many asshats out there thinking they’re curing cancer. Even ones working on curing cancer. Somewhere along the line we’ve lost our sense of smallness, our sense of insignificance. We forget we don’t bring meaning to us. It brings meaning to us.”
“I’m not sure I believe that. Or even understand it. But it sounds oddly cool.”
“All this ‘look within’ Jedi bullshit has fucked us royally. The answer is definitively not within. It is assuredly without. Our navel gazing has left us incapable of seeing things as they are, remembering how they were, or imagining how they could be. All we see is ourselves in everything and nothing of everything in ourselves.”
“Christ. I’m trying to enjoy Spring.”
“And you should. The earth is renewing itself and, if you let it, that’s happening in you too.”
“I thought my positivity was renewing it.”
“Thankfully it doesn’t work that way.”
“Then, I’ll leave it at one and go for a stroll.”
“Double down tomorrow.”
“I always do.”
“Did you hear there’s a church in Kentucky that offered free guns for people to join?”
“Let he who is without sin gat a bitch.”
“Doesn’t that seem a little sacrilegious to you? A bit of missing the point?”
“A gun manufacturer just got sued for an ad showing the Statue of David holding a rifle.”
“Is nothing sacred?”
“I don’t get it? Who exactly are they afraid is coming to take them from their otherwise cold, dead hands?”
“Everything Obama has said about guns in entirely reasonable after Newtown, The Batman thing and all the others. Seriously.”
“Not Obama, although his being black surely doesn’t help. Blacks. Plural. The President, not this one but Lincoln, took their slaves and freed them. Now they know what it is to smell the glove they don’t ever want to do it again. They’ll be ready next time. Armed and ready.”
“But it’s not just the South. It’s everywhere.”
“See any black guys jumping up and down about the Second Amendment?”
“In fact I don’t.”
“This is White America feeling like it’s all slipping away. The country club is allowing blacks, towel heads, women and fags. Next step is the government forcing you to have them over for supper. That’s how they think. Most down own a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of but they’re going to defend their imaginary forty acres to the hilt.”
“Seems pretty consistent with the Zimmerman thing. ‘What the hell is a black guy doing in my neighborhood?’ I better get this glock cocked.”
“Say that three times fast. Speaking of which…”
“One more. It’s cold out.”
“How fucked up and sad going through life like that— like you could be attacked at any time.”
“Religion’s become the same. It’s not a force for doing good. It’s an excuse for doing bad. ‘It says right here that Jesus hated them queers.’”
“Book of Hand Job.”
“Know what the biggest beer in Ireland is right now? Fucking Bud Light.”
“Yes sir. Everybody thinks what they’ve got sucks. ‘Yanks must have figured it out.’”
“If they only knew.”
“Nothing is the now. It was always better then or will be better once x, y, and z happen. If only.”
“But it sure as hell won’t without our guns to make sure it does.”
“Fucking zombies everywhere, man.”
“Guns don’t really work on zombies.”
“Nothing does. But it makes you feel better though, don’t it? Feeling like you could until that moment you can’t.”
“You see Obama yesterday?”
“No. Saw Air Force One sitting on the tarmac. That’s as close as I got. Was he in for a beer and a shot of barkeep wisdom.”
“No. Missed opportunity. For him.”
“Truly. What would you have said?”
“Dunno. I’d have brought him a wine—looks like a wine guy to me. As I slid it over I’d have grabbed his wrist.”
“After the Secret Service snapped your neck like a #2 pencil what would you have done?”
“I just would have wanted to take his pulse. Nothing crass like ‘ask Michele for your balls back’ or anything like that.”
“Implication being he’s some sort of robot? Does this go back to the whole teleprompter thing?”
“Fuck no. Ellen used one at the Academy Awards. The President shouldn’t?”
“Was that an Ellen reference?”
“Take the whole drone thing. It’s too easy. Some asshat just sitting somewhere— in some bunker some place— dropping bombs on things like it’s fucking Nintendo.”
“You’d rather have soldiers deployed everywhere trying to do the same? And when they get shot and killed, as they often will, what will you say— or rather what will your teleprompter have you say?”
“If it’s not worth getting up close. If it’s not worth going toe-to-toe and taking that risk, maybe we shouldn’t do it. Would you like Mexicans doing drone strikes in East LA?”
“He killed Osama Ballwashin up close and personal.”
“And that’s why the wine was on me. But he’s too clinical. He’s smart. Harvard Law. I get it. But give some ‘big stick.’ I’m all set with the ‘walk softly.’”
“I hear you.”
“It’s like a lot people that come in here. Not just kids either— although they’re the worst. They come into a bar and they stare at their phones the whole time. What the fuck’s the point of going to a bar to look at your phone?”
“They’re missing your charm entirely.”
“They’re missing the fact that it’s a place to be social. Not social media. Social. If you come in alone, I’ll chat you up. If you come with friends, then talk to them. It’s not that fucking complicated. Do I need to hand instructions out with the menu?”
“You have a menu?”
“I’ll make one. Drones, wine, suds, hooch— asterisk. ‘Please don’t act like a hermit fucknut. The management.’”
“Imagine the Instagram pickup.”
“I’m serious. Some people want their place to be a hotspot. I want to shield my bar from the web.”
“You’ll lose tons of NSA business.”
“There are so many cool things that technology brings. Access to everything. But while our head’s stuck in it we don’t notice we’ve drifted six inches apart from everyone. It’s like an ice flow breaking apart slowly.”
“I like the birthday notes I get on Facebook.”
“I like them too. Hard to say anything about the birthday notes on Facebook. It’s the other 364 days I could do without.”
“I wish I could ‘like’ that comment.”