Anatomy of a Reunion: Part 12 – The Journey Home

The following day is dedicated to recuperation.  Days will little sleep, little food, and lots of social expenditure will drain a man of all his precious fluids.  How do you spend a day like that?  Sleep?  That would be too easy.  Relaxation?  For pansies.  Try spending the day with a four year old.  Yeah, yeah.  All you parents out there are all, like “Shut the hell up, man. One four year old…pfft.  Try a nine, a five, and a two at the same time.”  I concede to your stamina.  The thing is, I’M not used to it.  My body and mind togther as one are a refined machine tailored to harsh deadlines and moronic clients who can’t make up their minds.  It is not yet been forged in the fires of parenthood.  So, cut me some slack.

My mind was on the downside of the slope after the second (and faster) reading of Fox in Socks, followed with How The Grinch Stole Christmas as an encore.  Me, as the narrator, doing his best Boris Karloff.  What can you do?  Holland is a demanding, yet appreciative client.  The whole day is a blessing with my brother, cousin Kelly (who might as well be a brother), and their wives, along with a toddler, and two infants.  And Mom, of course, aka Grandma.

That night, I pack my bags for flight.  The bag is heavy by man standards – enough clothes if surprise occasions for dress-up cropped up.  But light enough to fit in one bag.  I unload my photos to the laptop from Mom’s Secret Auction Camera, place the photos of her setting the table back on to the card, and leave the new SD card in the camera so she can use it.  Mom’s need gifts too, on occasion.  Double check the inventory so I’m not leaving any of importance behind.

My flight boards at 6:45am.  Way too early for a nightowl like myself for me to attempt to fall asleep and then wakeup.  Best to simply push through to morning.  No one in my family wants to drive me to the airport at three in the morning.  Hell, neither would I.  But fortunately, I have Mom.  She’s a problem solver.  Stems from being damn smart and thinking on her feet.  Being an OR nurse in Vietnam will do that to a person.  Or being a Colonel.  Or a counselor. Or a teacher.  Or a Mom.  She’s been a lot of things to a lot of people, but being my Mom is the most important — she has the solution.  “You can take the airport shuttle from Lakewood…it goes right to the airport.  It leaves at 3:32, and it arrives at the airport at 5:03”  I really can’t ask for much more precision than that.  This is really rather an odd statement coming from Mom because she’s habitually late.  Ask any other member of the family.  And I seem to have received the same Scarlet Letter regardless of evidence otherwise presented.

I agree with the plan despite having to ride on a bus for two hours in the middle of the night.  The ride starts off on a good foot.  I’m the only one onboard.  The driver is cool and lets me eat my Moons-Over-My-Hammy-To-Go, but with the caveat “I normally don’t let people eat because then EVERYONE wants to eat”.  The image of a 2nd grade teacher saying “Did you bring enough breakfast sandwich for everyone?” crosses my mind.  But, its just me and driver, so I have certain freedoms not granted to the masses.

The trip has three or four other stops on the way to Sea-Tac, filling up more and more with the kinds of people that I usually never witness – those ones getting up in the wee hours of the morning to go to work at the time that I’m usually climbing in bed after getting home from work.  They seem like a cranky bunch. Except for one guy, who sits near me who may have chosen to eat a bowl of Crunch Berries and a gallon of Aunt Jemima for that extra bit of sugar.  He evidentally is not a favorite of the bus regulars.  His legs bounce up and down on the balls of his feet and he carries is stuff in a backpack that resembles a 3rd grader’s Strawberry Shortcake carryall.  I think about asking him if I can see his Trapper Keeper, but that would require starting a conversation, which I could see continuing until our arrival at the airport.  So I close my eyes to feign sleep and avoid eye contact.

At the next stop a group of students climb onboard.  I guess students because of their baggy dirty clothes, backpacks, unwashed hair, and the glazed look of young people who have been wandering searching for something, but aren’t sure what.  They are no match for Trapper Keeper though.  In their weary state, they look over and nod a “hello”.  And he strikes.  “Your not from around here.  Traveling?  Students?  Where from?  Pennsylvania?  Wow, that’s far, huh?”

Poor bastards never knew what hit em.

I check my bags with the friendly and lovely Virgin America attendant, Lisa.  And go through security, without so much as a chocolate cake wrapped in foil to slow the process down.  Nothing is open in the airport yet, but people are lining up outside the Starbuck’s looking through the chainlike gate.  I guess as an attempt to survey the situation inside and gather information about when the gates will open.  I mosey past the lines.  I don’t need coffee.  The Moon-Over-My-Hammy is now the Moon-In-My-Belly, and if I chose to drink coffee, it would probably be rerouted to my pancreas to accommodate overflow.

I arrive at the gate and look around for seat availability.  In one row of chairs, I see…Almond, slouched back, wearing huge sunglasses.  I walk up and stand next to her.  Her head tilts slightly.  I can feel her eyes behind the glasses. She turns to look back straight ahead.  Her facial features stoic.

“Mmmmm.Mmm.  That is not Todd standin next to me”

Then she starts laughing.  I join her, and we sit together to chat for a couple minutes.  She gives the rundown of her biker weekend which included the BBQ being cancelled on account of rain. (shock!) I give her a bullet point presentation of my weekend. But, both of us are so exhausted from the weekend that conversation subsides to looking out the window as the black sky slowly becomes gray.

Boarding the plane – after the children, elderly, and handicapped – I scoot through line.  Lisa, from the front counter, takes my ticket.  “Hey”, I say “Did you check my bags just now?”  “I certain did!” she answers.  I continue “And you did an amazing job checking those bags.  I’ve missed you since the last time we saw each other.” She smiles “Aww, I missed you too”

I board the plane, the black light glowing interior lighting my way.  I slump in my window seat and gaze out the window to the sun rising over the Cascade mountains.  This area is always beautiful.  Despite the gloom and the rain that outsiders (and occasional insiders and/or comedians) talk about.

A young, black kid wearing a huge jacket with fur lining sits next to me.  I watch him check out the LCD on the back of the headrest.  He starts pushing buttons emphatically.  Tries to play a video game.  Checks out the movies.  Each time he presses a button on the screen, its as if the immediate response time isn’t quite fast enough for him.  So, each time he presses harder.  I want to tell him that no matter how hard you press, no food will ever come out of the seat.  I know from experience.  But, sometimes, you just have to let kids learn on their own, or they simply won’t appreciate the knowledge.

To wrap up the story, because your narrator is tired…almost as tired writing about being tired as I was when I was tired in the story – I taxi home and catch about 4 hours sleep.  I walk into work, and back on the project that I left behind.  There remains a lot to be done in a short amount of time.  I spend the next three days at work, or rather, I spend the next 72 hours at work.  Not a record, but an admirable try at it.  Long story short.  My supervisors loved it.  The clients loved it.  It aired last week on ESPN’s Sunday Night Football to evidentally rave reviews from the people who review title design work for sports events – a small niche if I’ve ever heard one.  So, a success on all fronts.

As I stated in the last chapter, but it bears repeating, I look back fondly on the people I spent time with in school.  And that’s school in general, not just high school. But it was high school classmates that I have the deepest feelings for, and the deepest regards.  Even more than college.  High school is made up of the formative years.  Centuries, or many millennia ago, those are the years that couples coupled and families began — when we would contribute to perpetuating the genus.  Women could bear children. Boys became men.  In nearly every culture on Earth, there is a rite of passage from childhood to adult hood – and that rite took place in the teenage years – not the mid-twenties or the thirties.  But, the teenage years.  Shit, back then you were lucky to reach thrity.  That age is magical.  You test the waters.  You test the authority of your parents. You test where you belong in your social circles.  You test your sexuality.  How can you not form lasting relationships with the people who are close to you, going through the same process, the same changes?

I made a grave error after leaving high school.  And that was failing to keep in contact with this group.  Sure, I’ve gathered twenty years of friends in the meantime – some of them extremely close, but for the most part, I don’t get the same sense of warmth.  Now, as those of you reading this now, and have been since I first started writing, each time I hear from you, whether it relates to the story or not, I relive that bond.  Every mail is an indication that we will always be friends, no matter how far away, or how long before we see each other again.

This comforts me.

I’m going to maintain this blogsite after this last chapter.  Doing this was an exercise in writing that has brought out a writer in me who has been dormant for a quite a while.  Believe me, I have many stories to tell.  Every day in Los Angeles brings another one – from large movie premieres with crazy parties to a bleach blond 58-year old dude sitting out in front of a Venice coffeshop every single day wearing black leather pants and a wifebeater.  And if you choose to look at it with new eyes?  There is something interesting in that and everything in between.

This is TSP, signing off.  Stay tuned for the next story… its either from New Zealand, New Years Eve, or sneaking into an Entourage party last night.

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