Laughing On The Verge Of Serious -or- Part One

1 07 2008

Friday, June 13 – Friday the 13th. I get off work at around three or so, the day having so far been a sporadic parade of “Congratulations,” and “I heard that… Is it true?” I finally walk out the door, though, and my ride is waiting for me. Together we begin our journey. Well, that’s not exactly true, is it? Our journey really began nine years ago, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

The many-hour trip, broken up by the occasional meal and pit stop, started with a gnab, which is the opposite of a bang. The L.A. traffic at around three o’ clock on a Friday didn’t let us get out of Dodge for about an hour and a half. You know that Weird Al song, Traffic Jam? “I left home five hours ago, and I can still see my house from here.” That song was written for this day.

Anyway, we’re finally on the wide and open, and just about as day gives into night, we arrive at our motel. This motel, whose name escapes me, was apparently voted the best motel in the area. I suppose. I don’t travel much, so sometimes I’ll think to myself, “What, really, aside from the fact that motels have many fewer rooms, are cheaper, and have an ‘m’ where the ‘h’ should be, is the difference between a motel and a hotel?” The answer, my friends, is this: at a motel, the guy you check in with will not have any readily available idea that you were supposed to be checking in tonight, there will be at least one mouse- or door knob-sized hole in the wall, and you will have the distinct feeling that probably there’s a hidden camera in your room that is connected to monitors on which greasy and sad, creepy men are watching your every move. That last paranoia, I blame squarely on Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale. Thanks, jerks. Aside from those things though, you got a bed, a bathroom, something resembling a desk, and the best basic cable has to offer.

Saturday, June 14 – This is the day that officially makes it so that I don’t have to help anybody move for at least a year. Martina McBride once sang about The Day Of Reckoning; today was The Day Of Traveling. A lot. First, we leave the “m”otel and continue on our way, stopping just once for lunch. We check into the “h”otel, and I promptly break the TV. “It worked just a second ago, I don’t get it. Now the channels won’t change. Weird.” “Maybe if we unplug it and plug it back in.” “Sounds good to me.” *BLINKK!!* “Well, now it doesn’t even turn on. Damn.”

Broken TVs, though, pose no threat to The Day Of Traveling. For The DOT will always persevere. “Don’t worry about it.” This from the girl who clearly encouraged the present state of brokenness. “We have to pick up my mom and dad.” And so we do. Hey, you know what’s fun for a guy who literally gets lost trying to figure out the shopping mall map directories? Trying to navigate through a foreign airport. Especially when he’s trying desperately to keep up with the girl in front of him who doesn’t slow down, even though they both realized, upon parking in the garage, that neither of them knows on which airline her parents are traveling. Fun: the other “F” word.

So, we’re running frantically through who-knows-where, leaving messages on her dad’s phone, “When you land, hopefully you turn on your phone. If you do, please tell us where you are, because we are dumb in a cheesy-farcical-comedy-that-nobody-believes kind of way. Thanks.” Things work out and we collect the parents… but then, wouldn’t ya know it, we don’t know how to get back to the car. “We think we came from there…” “Where it says ‘Do Not Enter’?” “Yeeees…” “Wait! Wasn’t there a red 1974’s-version-of-the-future neon hallway?” “Yes! There was! Okay, everybody. Look for something that wouldn’t seem out of place while you’re waiting in line for Disneyland’s Space Mountain!” And, strange as it seems, we found it, and it led us to the car. Success!

So, we get back to the hotel, and now the TV works. TV elves? Makes you wonder. No time though, because, “Okay, my aunt’s already here, but she’s spending time with some friends, and we have to get my brother.” “Right, but my theory on the elves… oh, never mind.”

Off to the bus station. Where’s the brother? “Where are you?” “I’m here.” “No. We’re here; where are you?” “Here.” “Not here. ‘There,’ maybe?” “Pretty sure if anyone’s ‘there,’ it’s you.” “No, we’re definitely here.” “’Here’ here?” “Probably not. Ah! There you are.” He gets in the car. “Where were you?” “I was right there.” “Exactly.”

Back to the hotel. Rest for a few, and then it’s off to dinner. Hey, you know what’s fun-with-a-capital-“FU” for a guy who can only really talk at length about movies and TV, and doesn’t really do well in groups of people? Going out to dinner with a girl he cares deeply for, her brother who he doesn’t know very well, her parents who he’s met about three times, her aunt who he doesn’t remember meeting, and her two friends who he’s never met. Yay!

Little side note. What did I eat for dinner, I know you’re dying to know. The answer: barbeque. Here’s how you know you’re me: you’re thinking, “Oh. You had a barbeque?” Here’s how you know you’re everyone else at dinner that night: “No, silly. Barbeque is the name of the food. It’s meat done up a certain way, and it’s actually called barbeque.” Here’s what I think. Barbeque is allowed to be a noun when there’s an “a” in front of it. In fact, it can be two different nouns. It can be the actual device that you use to barbeque things. You know, the thing with a lid and charcoal, there’s a grill, and you through some lighter fluid in there. It can also noun out to the event. “You’re invited to a barbeque,” but you should spell it Bar-B-Q. If you don’t want an “a” in front of it, that’s fine too; just understand that you’ve just verbed it. To barbeque. “How’d you cook this meat?” “Oh, I barbequed it.” But what you can’t do is then call the meat barbeque. You don’t call a grilled cheese sandwich grill. A blended smoothie does not become blend. You can’t just have something that’s orange and call it an… okay, wait.

So, after dinner, into the hotel bar. More awkward for me, trying to smile and nod, but always in new, more convincing ways. I don’t drink, either, so there’s really not a lot going for me here. Maybe now you’re thinking, “Well, that wasn’t so bad. A little dinner, some folks had a nightcap, you’re about ready for bed now, right?” Oh, no, no my friends. You underestimate The DOT.

Off we go to pick up my mom and sister, not from the airport or the bus stop, but from the train station. One day, and we’re covering an entire John Candy/Steve Martin classic. We collect them, and on the way back to the hotel, we get to go over a toll bridge. Maybe you’re used to this, I don’t know. I, however, am not, and it was awesome. I know it’s not really any different from paying to get out of a parking garage here in L.A., but somehow it feels more magical. Also, there’s the slight possibility that you’ll come out the other side, and you’ll be a cartoon. Anyone? Phantom Tollbooth? Just me, then? That’s cool.

To the hotel, depositing my mom and sister, and now to bed? Noooo! Because we first have to drive back to the airport to pick up the aforementioned aunt’s daughter. The cousin. Which is where this happened.

“You’re kidding. Seriously? Again?” What prompted that scorn from me? This: “Heh. Hey, guess what? I forgot the paper that tells me which airline she’s flying in on.” So, we drive round and round, and it’s all very déjà vu, except no Space Mountain hallway and also no Denzel Washington. We finally find the cousin, and back we are to the hotel, I marvel at how little I actually care about what’s on TV, and so, finally, sleep.

Sunday, June 15 – Just for kicks and giggles (I heard that phrase from a woman recently. I thought it was awesome. I bet she has kids.), we decided to start this day off with an homage to yesterday. First thing, it’s back to the airport to pick up the honorary family member, my best friend since eighth grade. We know which flight he’s on, we find him no problem… and then we get more lost than all of yesterday’s losts put together. For about forty minutes we three looked for our exit. Thing is, so many of those damn passageways look the same. Stupid design flaw.

We finally do escape, and we meet up with most everybody back at the hotel, and The Day Of Adventure officially begins! (Side note: I’m not shortening The Day Of Adventure, because it acronyms out to The DOA, which, frankly, sets a tone that I’d rather not set, thanks.)

Off we all (minus the brother, that is, who will meet us later with a friend in tow) go to Fisherman’s Wharf. Oh, did I mention where we are? We’re in San Francisco. So, we get there, and I don’t know what to expect, because remember how I don’t travel? Well, it turns out it’s like, a little outdoor shopping center. Tourist trap, it’s a tourist trap. It’s like the 3rd Street Promenade here in L.A. Thing is, I frickin’ love the 3rd Street Promenade here in L.A., and this place is like that, but different enough that it feels new, and… good for you, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Good for you.

So, we eat lunch, various members of the party depart, but the brother and the friend have now arrived, so we almost break even. We shop around a bit, and my sister and I harshly judge the guy performing magic at the magic shop. Really though, he’s pretty bad. That is an objective statement, not at all fueled by the fact that my sister and I used to sell the exact same trick – er, “illusion” – at a magic kiosk a few years back, and we took pride in our presentation, and… I digress.

We find a little arcade-y place, and so we stop in for a bit. Oh! If you ever are there and you find this place, do yourself a favor. Find the machine that is a closed in glass box, inside of which is a miniature desolate landscape: dusty horizon, ragged wagon, lone wooden wheel. It will ask you to give it a quarter, and you simply must. You may think that the wagon will start to shake, or the wheel will roll, or everything will burst into simulated flames, and little people will spill out screaming for their lives. But no, my friends. What happens is so much better. You ready for this? Wind blows. Uh-huh. Wind blows and the flaps of the wagon cover sway in the wind. Which blows. For, I have to admit, quite a long time, considering it was only a quarter. After we were duped into the thing, my friend and I waited around for some other poor sap. And sure enough, two girls happened by, stuck a quarter in, and then probably wondered why two random guys were snickering behind them.

We then found a pretty inexpensive boat tour that took us around Alcatraz, and to within good photo-distance of the Golden Gate Bridge. Because you can’t spell “mind-bustingly silly and/or embarrassing tourist” without “boat tour”. But it was cool. By which I mean cold. I dig the cold, but even I had to borrow my mom’s sweater (she had a jacket as well; I didn’t make the woman freeze to death.). I also mean it was cool, because we saw a seal or otter or sea lion with half of a dead fish in it’s mouth. A conversation ensued about the very fine line between “half of a dead fish,” and “a half-dead fish”. Awesome!

Back to the hotel to collect everybody, and then off to China Town. Which was fine, except I didn’t know that’s where we were going, and I specifically requested a buffet once I did figure it out, which didn’t happen. I have a hard time finding things I like to eat, and then also everyone seemed to be sharing their food, so I felt all obligated to put my food on the Lazy Susan, even though I didn’t want anybody else’s food; I wanted my food. But I’m not bitter. I’m also, apparently, not a big, whiney baby, so that’s good.

Back to the hotel, where we played a really fun game of Loaded Questions, which we knew from experience is a delight to play with stupid people, and now we found out that it’s almost equally fun with non-stupid, but sleepy people. Yay, games! And really, yay grown up grown-ups who still want to play board games, and laugh, and share some silliness. Because I’m going to be one of those grown-ups one day, and I’m glad I won’t be lonely about it. Yay, me!

Gone our separate ways now, and my friend and I find ourselves in his room. Talking about what tomorrow holds, being cavalier, but wise and sage and nonchalant and meaningful about it. Being two guys who have known each other forever, talking about how one of them is doing this thing tomorrow that will be the biggest thing either of them has ever done. Being two best friends, on the verge of incredible seriousness, laughing into the wee hours.

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