“Lily Allen or Dylan?”
“Dylan,” she said.
Despite her activist dance card and Brown degree (a liberalism earmark as her righter-wing but lovely father would have it), Lina, my new wife, had always considered Dylan a downer. That is, until today. (Or maybe she still considered him a downer; the important thing is that she felt ready to accept him, or at least roll on his page.) It was, to be fair, 6 .a.m, and she was, I admit, driving my car to the airport—driving isn’t impossible but it's also not super-easy anymore, so I’d recently relinquished my role as main family locomotorist, which can sometimes make things a little one-sided (I help out by d.j.ing superior tunes, of course).
We were heading out of town—not on a merriment-filled Decemberist holiday trip but to LAX, so we could connect in O’Hare with a peashooter full of wheelchairs and breathing machines up to Rochester, M.N., home of the Mayo Clinic. (There. For now on, I will use the definite article before the hospital name except for when I refer to the place as simply "Mayo," all creamy and white and cold as it seems.)
Was it coincidental that “Blood on the Tracks” was the album rocking the Altima sound system? Was it a Dylanesque “simple twist of fate” that Lina and I married each other just over a month ago and were now all tangled up in more blue—and black, red, and brown--than we ever would have imagined as happy New York daters just over five years ago? (It's not like I had a clean medical history, but we thought all was on the mend.)
It wasn’t a surprise—that’s for damn sure. The wedding, in fact, was a premeditated respite from the doctor-seeking, the diagnosis-receiving, the MRI-taking, and pathology decoding. We had some serious shit hanging over our heads, but we decided to postpone it all to get together and do the deed we felt had almost already been done after committing to each other so fully in LA once Lina arrived to begin her PhD in health pysch, researching the chronically ill and the way their infirmity affects their social, personal, and inner lives (appropriate, you think?). And no, the wedding didn’t go as planned. How could it have? Who deserved it to go well more than us? And was it coincidental that we would arrive for our plane to Chicago (nay, Mayo) just one gate next to the American Airlines planes leaving for Cabo, where we spent our pre-honeymoon flight-waiting eating the same crap Burger King breakfast.
More important and cultural (this *is the new Glass Shallot, after all—tomorrow, it becomes another blog, perhaps the same one it was yesterday or one-legged version of what it will be next Friday at noon), Lina had just come to appreciate Dylan more from seeing “I’m Not There,” Todd Haynes’s chopped up and self-re-interpreted meta biopic of the poetic Minnesota-raised troubadour starring Cate Blanchett. “Someone’s got it in for me, whoever it is I wish they cut out quick.” That was the spirit this morning even though we had promised to make the trip as wacky and wild as only a bunch of sarcastic rejuveniles would have it.
So what’s with all the gloom? You want to laugh, right?
This morning, I argued with the oh-so-prescient guy working the long-term parking on La Cienaga in the hell-section of L.A. surrounding LAX, which is oddly a few miles from shiny Manhattan Beach and all its Starbucks-pumped boogie boarders.
It happened--the argument, that is—because upon parking my car in his safe-seeming lot, he told me I had to leave him my car keys.
“Why?” I asked.
“My policy is never to give anyone my car keys.”
“You gotta relax and enjoy your trip, man.”
Wrong thing to say.
“Yes. Relax, mi amigo.”
“Do you know where I’m going?”
“It’s vacation time, man, you should relax.”
“How about if I was going to bumblefuck Minnesota for cancer surgery?”
Yes, I assumed he might even understand the word “bumblefuck”; I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. And I wasn’t of course headed to Mayo for cancer surgery, per se (though who knows what’s in store for me and my friendly white blood cells?). Still, I was about done with all this SoCal braindeath. All the halfwitted garage workers and baristas and copy-shop owners saying how “Relaxed” they are and how smart it is to be like them.
No more “calm downs” from people spitting out explanations of nonsensical “policies” I find unsatisfactory. Apologies, Southland, for having the agency to express a thought based on intelligence. But aside from your dearth of employees with even some basic street smarts (Upper Manhattan, when I lived there, wasn’t exactly filled with physics professors, but ask the guy washing your car the best strategy to do your business taxes, and you might be surprised with his answers), this trip was helping me become myself again. I speak kindly and clearly to people—especially to people who are about to serve me food, watch my car, take blood from my arm. So don’t tell me to relax when my voice isn’t raised, and I simply refuse to follow rules I can’t endorse.
“Well, look man,” the schmuck replied, “You don’t have to get all excited.”
I wasn’t excited, as I’ve just explained. I know what excites me, and it’s not conversations with parking attendants on the 6 am shift.
“I’m just not leaving my keys, dude,” I said. “And I’m not letting someone like you tell me that I have to when I’m about to pay $200 to leave my car in a spot from which it will most likely be stolen anyway.”
“Well, you can pay ahead of time and not leave the keys.”
“Really. Is there a reason you didn’t tell me that before?”
“You didn’t ask.”
“Take my credit card,” I said, now completely dispassionate and wanting to move things along as quickly as possible. “21 days of parking. Ring it up.”
I held out my Amex and looked him plainly in the face.
“Look, man, I am verrrry sorry for what you‘re goooing through….—
“Please take my credit card.”
“Ok, ok, just relax man, relax, relax.”
“If you tell me to relax one more time, sir, I might actually get, well, less than relaxed and cause all of us some trouble. Do I have to ask you to take the card again?”
He took the card. I did relax. Then Lina and I stood outside the garage only to receive an offer from another garage’s shuttle driver offering to take us to the airport for $10 since our free shuttle was running late..
“Please thank him for his generosity,” I told the nicer lady-attendant at our garage who had presented us with her neighbor’s charitable gift. “We’ll just wait.”
And we did. And we laughed. And then Lina did a little dance.
Herewith, the love of my life making every nonsensical and frustratingly contemporary situation better.
(Click on below arrow to launch Quicktime.)
Two more Mayo trip highlights so far:
1. When we waited for 20 minutes to exit our plane to Rochester so a disabled man could leave first, the flight attendant said that we would all get extra halos for our patience!!! I currently wait for my gift from the J man. And grow impatient. Some angel.
2. There is nothing in Rochester except lots of white, and it's 4 degrees here. I feel like I'm in that terrible John Cusack and Billy Boy Thorthon movie set in Kansas on Xmas eve. You know, the one when they try to rob the mob and everything goes topsy turvy. Except, I'm not here to do something as fun as steal money, hang with strippers, and then almost get shot.
More a'comin'...For how often do you get the skinny on an experience like this from a dude who should be sitting in Los Feliz dive bars laughing about how Kiefer can't join us for a Guiness 'cuz he's locked up in Glendale for being stupid?
P.S. Am I scared that I have to be here? Many have written with this question. The answer is yes. But not any more scared than I was two years ago when I began noticing the progression of this weird syndrome messing with my muscles and nerves. Not any more scared and frustrated then I am when world famous docs in NY or LA tell me they don't know what to say. It's just that now that people believe me it seems more real to everyone else. So I'll be as flip and honest about it as I feel like. And at the moment, I don't feel like cryin'. I've got DVDs to watch and access to a world renowned medical system just begging to be assessed and skewered-my forte. But let's hope none of that's necessary and we can just do Quicktime dance videos for the rest of the week. I know Lina's got a lot to teach me. The question is: Can you compete?