Journals of an Insane Genius - March 2001
It might take me 10 pages of nothing, of terrible writing, and then I'll get a line, and I'll think, "That's what I mean!" - Anne Sexton
"You know what you should do, you should keep a journal of what happens when you and Rich go to California", RJ suggested. "I write a journal every month", I reply defensively. "Yeah, but wouldn't it be cool if you kept a running journal of things as they happen? It would make it seem more raw." ""Hmmmm…."
Friday, 23 Feb. My day, such as it is, started at 6:30 a.m. Yesterday. More than 24 hours later, I have just returned from the post office where I dropped off the newsletters that had kept me awake all night. They had to go out before I left for the Leadership Development Workshop in Long Beach, CA. I left the door wide open so that if I fell asleep Rich and Bob could drag me to the car. Such was the case.
11:00 a.m.: I managed to snooze in the back seat until we were past Phoenix. Since getting a girlfriend, Rich has put a moratorium on smoking in his car so I glance at the gas gauge. Less than half a tank, we should be stopping soon. Rich apparently feels the need to make conversation. He opens with, "We're getting great mileage, and I'm going to see how far the new Taurus can go on a tank of gas." My cravings come in waves every 90 minutes because that's when I schedule my breaks at work. It's already been more than three hours.
I rode through the last craving without too much trouble, but it's been almost six hours now and this one is coming on like a tsunami. We've just crossed into California and even though the low fuel light is on, Rich wants to push it. He is playing a dangerous game. To pass the time, I give each of us a superhero name to match our personality. Rich becomes 'Easily Distracted Man'. I had tried to go back to sleep, but every time I was beginning to drift off, I would be awakened by the rhythmic Whump Whump Whump of Rich drifting across the lane dividers while craning his head around to stare at something that had caught his interest. You would think that in the vast wasteland that is the Arizona/California border there wouldn't be much to distract a person. You would be wrong.
"Hey look at that! There's a white post about a half mile out in the desert all by itself, what do you think it's for?", Rich asks, followed less than a minute later with, "There's another one! They're spaced a mile apart. There must be a reason for them". At this point 'Desperately Needs a Cigarette Guy' can stand no more. "Maybe they mark all the places where a passenger murdered the driver because he wouldn't stop for a smoke. EVER."
Whump Whump Whump… "That's weird. All the way towards California, trucks carrying hay were passing us. Now the other side of the road is packed with trucks carrying hay out of California. Do you think they're just taking it to dry?" Bob says something, but since I can't hear over the noise of the car, I decide to name him 'Mumbling Australian Guy'. It's a little mean, I know, but you must understand how badly I needed a cigarette.
We pass a sign informing us we're entering Mecca. Bob and Rich immediately supplicate themselves to the sign, Rich while driving at nearly 80 miles an hour. I mean it's a funny joke, I guess, but I wonder how many accidents per year are caused by people who do the same thing. Maybe they should change the name of the town to 'Eyes On The Road Pal', California.
Occasionally during long, annoying drives, I choose one thing to really obsess about and then passive-aggressively refuse to comment on it. We've been driving for nearly eight hours now and Rich has not turned the stereo on even once. What on earth is wrong with him?
We pass a casino but Bob and Rich veto my request to stop. I really liked the name, the fabulous Casino Morongo. Seems pretty up front to me, Moron Go! I wish I could be as clever with my writing as the person who wrote their slogan. "It's the closest thing to winning!" Translation: "Losing". Still, the drinks are free and you can smoke.
We arrive at the hotel around 2:00 and Rich is told his room won't be ready for another two hours. I suggest we go to the Mexican restaurant and cantina, well the cantina anyway, to pass the time. After that ride, I figure a drink might help prepare me for a room packed with over fifty Mensans.
"I need the biggest margarita you make. Do you have one that comes in a bucket?" I ask the bartender, who is incredibly attractive. "Oh, you want the Cadillac, yes?" "Yeah I want the Cadillac - make it a double" I have no idea what a Cadillac is. Rich orders a 23-ounce dark beer; sometimes the boy exhibits good taste. She cards Rich, but not me. No comment. My drink arrives in a glass the size of a wading pool, 26 ounces. She sets a shot of what I assume to be tequila next to it. Cool! I slam the shot. Grand Marnier. Oh that's a dirty trick to play on someone expecting tequila. Apparently if you order the Cadillac Margarita they know you mean business so it comes with a shot. She's never heard of anyone ordering a double before. I drink it and chase it with three more just like it. Rich sticks with the 23-ounce vats of beer. It's around this time that we have the most amusing exchange of the afternoon. The bar's television had been stuck on Jerry Springer, and I guess that, combined with exhaustion and alcohol, it made us a bit feisty. There was a guy across the room sitting with a young lady, and for some reason he annoyed both of us. Here is the transcription of our very Non-Mensan exchange about him:
Me: Let's go kick his ass!
Rich: I'll kick his ass! You take his girl while I'm doing it!
Me: You're the man!
Fortunately we only need to walk across the street to get back to hospitality where I meet Pam from the national office. I'm excited because I've wanted to meet her for a while. She tells me that one of the perks of her job is that they get to read all the newsletters from every group each month. She jokingly says she's always wondered just how much of what I write is true. I suggest that she find out for herself by wandering back over to the cantina with Rich and me after hospitality closes. She politely declines.
Saturday, 24 Feb. Morning. Headache. My writing is clearer now, nothing like what I scrawled last night. Sort of. Did I mention the headache? No Tylenol. Damn. I remember someone showing me a picture of lungs last night. Guy carried it around in his wallet like a picture of his kids. - weird. Hey I found my lighter, that's cool. I know California (and everyone else) means well, but I need a cigarette right now and I have exactly one left. The gift shop will have more. My head aches. Stupid alarm clock is bolted to the nightstand. I woke up early, so I figure I'll wander over to hospitality for breakfast, surprising everyone who figured I would be late. Plus, I can figure out if I offended everyone so badly they won't offer me a Tylenol (I have a slight headache).
Most repeated joke heard this morning: "Hey! I didn't expect to see you up this early."
I don't have that many guy friends. Rich is kind of unusual in that he's not always scoping out other women; he's looking at cars. Long Beach must be a dream come true to him. We can't walk across the parking lot without Easily Distracted Man trailing off in mid sentence mumbling something like, "S-H-O. Third generation. Red." Because something cool, sleek, and sexy (to him) is cruising by. I've learned to accept this about him.
We attend sessions on publicity, dealing with the press, and recruiting & retention. We pause during one of the breaks to toss coins off the 2nd floor into a fountain on the first floor. The fountain has three levels that cascade into each other. We figure that if you get a coin in the highest (and smallest) level you get something above and beyond your wish. The middle level grants your wish. While the lowest level grants your wish and teaches you to be careful what you wish for. Rich gets two coins into the top level. Mine bounces off the rim of the top level and lands in the mud outside the fountain. Damn. Rich instructs me to try tossing underhanded next time. I curse him and his underhanded wishes.
The afternoon is spent learning about getting assistance from the National Office, building a better testing program, and welcoming new members (presented by our own Bob Cox, who did not mumble a bit). Then we wander across the street to have dinner. For the second consecutive evening, the young, attractive waitress cards Rich while conspicuously not carding me. I undertake a strategic campaign of initially pouting, followed by absolutely shameless flirting. Realizing that I'm a sucker who may tip well if properly inebriated, she promises to whisper softly in my ear while taking my order. She also makes my Bloody Mary a true double, the tomato juice diluted with enough vodka to become the pale shade of pink normally associated with grapefruit juice.
It's working. Rich has had to ask for water three times with no response yet.
Four times now, while she's letting me know about her living situation (has an 8 year old son). Alisa has become very flirty indeed by the time I notice a ring on her finger. What?!? "Oh come on," I explain to her, "Married women are off limits like weapons-grade plutonium." She has noticed me writing. Taking my pen she writes D.F.S in my notes. "What's that mean?" "Divorce Final Soon." I lean over to Rich, "Watson! The game is afoot."
The writing degrades here, and there's almost as much of hers as there is of mine. There's something that looks like an address in Ventura, the phone number to my room, and a number that looks like 2:00 a.m. Then something is scratched out and it continues.
Drinks weren't strong enough. Negotiations failed.
Sunday, 25 Feb. Walking over from breakfast, Rich is commenting on the '540'. I know by now he is not referring to how much change he has, but the blue BMW. I think that this trip has spoiled him. We've seen two Ferraris, about a dozen Porches, countless BMW's (including one that I thought resembled a Geo Metro, a really sporty one), a Rolls Royce, and something called an M1 that he seemed to get really worked up over. He just walked past a red Mustang convertible without comment. But I noticed it! I've been hanging around him too much this weekend.
Today we discuss how to get people involved, what every officer should know, and possibilities for higher-level involvement. Finally it's time to head for home. We're all pretty wiped out; even Rich doesn't seem very talkative. As I'm dozing off, I think, "Finally! I can catch up on some sleep."
Whump! Whump! Whump!