I arrive at the airport at 6am, not an hour of sleep in me, just half a bottle of Jameson. As with every holiday, I had left packing until the literal last minute, throwing a plethora of single socks and a jumper I hadn’t worn in four years into my carry-on bag, as the taxi idles outside. Perfect. I was heading to Los Angeles for nine days, and New York for five. Surely I wouldn’t need any other clothes.
I love airports. Always have. There’s something about the general air of excitement/hysteria that gets my adrenaline going. Irish people adore travelling. Any kind of holiday that isn’t a week stuck in a damp caravan that threatens to topple over when Trivial Pursuit gets too rowdy. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with the traditional Irish family holiday of galloping daily into the Irish sea, blue lipped and euphoric, but it’s always nice to know you’re jetting off somewhere that promises sun, cocktails, and activities other than squeezing into a rain-sodden ferris wheel in the middle of gale force winds.
I don’t remember much about what I learned in the fifth grade. Sure, I was an honorable student who brought home parent-pleasing report cards, but if you asked me to recall specifically the lessons that were taught or even the title of a single book that our class read, I couldn’t do it.
You see, when the inner workings of my brain conjure up that time and place, instead of finding mathematical metaphors or English equations, I remember the more important, stimulating subjects from the moment — like the Spice Girls, Tamagotchis and the topic I devoted the majority of my attention to: Daniel Fisher.
Predictable, I know. That a pre-pubescent male with freckles, albeit faint ones, was my sole motivation for getting out of bed and going to school each day. (Only after washing my hair with Herbal Essences and donning my latest Limited Too look, of course). But in my defense, dear reader, Daniel wasn’t an ordinary boy. Daniel was from England.
That’s right. Now to convey the importance of that fact, imagine my frizzy 10-year-old-self in all of her bourgeois glory informing her parents: I have a crush on a boy and he is from England.
“I just want us to have a really cute weekend away,” Eliza decided. So my girlfriend and I rented a tiny wood cabin and headed up to Lake Arrowhead for Labor Day weekend. We arrived Saturday afternoon and unloaded our stuff. After Eliza had thoroughly admired the 1940’s stove we went on a short hike to explore. That night we had dinner at a divey Chinese restaurant that served their mai tiais with tiny umbrellas. Our server called Eliza “Taylor Swift” and she loved it. It was a very cute day.
The next morning we found ourselves walking around the village down by the lake. There wasn’t much to do without a boat permit so we ordered some margaritas at an outdoor cantina and grabbed a table to people watch.
We hadn’t been sitting for more than ten minutes when a middle-aged woman came up to us and asked to share our table. We nodded and she waved over two more men who sat down with her.
“Where are you guys from?” the man closest to me asked. I wasn’t looking to make friends, but Eliza pretty much always is and was happy to engage with the guy.
I was thinking about the last time that I flew across the pond, I was in the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport in London waiting for the announcement that our plane to Los Angeles was ready to be boarded. I had been discussing with my American girlfriend how much I dreaded, not only flying, but being surrounded by this many vacationing British people—what with their noisy, chattering offspring. I half-joked to her that the highlight of their two-week holiday to America was likely going to be the act of “queueing up” in the insufferably long lines at Disneyland, and then being completely delighted to meet other Brits in the same terminally neverending line. “Oh, you’re from England? So are we! Well fancy that.” One mother might exclaim to another, while standing in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.
Yes, a genuine coincidence. Except that over eighty percent of the people waiting in the Pirates line consisted of traveling Brits. This would be in large part thanks to a British Airways saver special, which meant that flights from London to the U.S. were half-price for the month of April. This allowed British people that had never dared dream of
There’s a saying in baseball. “If you don’t like it, get better”.
For 25 struggling guys, 5 washed up coaches, a clubhouse laundry roadie, and a half dead bus driver, that saying was about to mentally put a lot of egotistical men on the side of the road, in the middle of Wyoming, searching for their souls.
Rookie League baseball is the lowest professional level a player can be at after turning pro. It’s mostly for guys who are out of high school, skipping on college because of a hefty signing bonus, players who have some potential to possibly mold into a major leaguer from a small college, or international players who signed for a bag of peanuts, just to stop playing with broomsticks and makeshift baseballs made from dried coconuts or wound up rice patty leaves.
Our team was the Orem Owlz, a rookie league for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Don’t get me wrong, we all had talent, some better than others, some (slim chance) but possible future major league ball players, but as a team fundamentally in our youth, we weren’t very good. What we all had in common though is we were the best where ..
If I had been a slightly lazier shift supervisor at Tower Records, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble. It might come as a shock to some people, but as a record store in Oakland, California, we had a bit of a theft problem. It got bad enough that as a staff we began keeping a list of the different tactics customers utilized to smuggle out the goods, rating them on a scale of 1 – “so impressive, can’t even be mad.” There was a middle-aged gentleman who lined the insides of his jeans with aluminum foil to block the sensor tags from setting off the alarm. He crinkled when he walked. All hilariously noisy pants aside – it was because of this marathon of crime that, once a month, I had to scan through “high risk” departments of our store looking for discrepancies in the physical inventory. Now, I enjoyed it because it meant I didn’t have to talk to customers; because I enjoyed it, I did a decent job, and that’s really where this all went terribly, terribly wrong.
Sand sneaks between my pinky toes and seems to the stay there all day. Cheap perfume fills the air and I can only make out certain words and phrases that people are saying around me. When you barely speak enough French to ask where a bathroom is, it’s often better to pee in the ocean.
I’m laying on a beach with what I can only assume are the only 5 Hawaiin-based Los Angelenos in the South of France, perhaps in the entire country at this time. The music choices coming over a bluetooth connected stereo are bland, expected choices which make us certainly the loud boisterous Americans into which our stereotype would suggest. Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” comes on and they howl.
I’m quiet today, more quiet than usual and trying to take in the last few moments of what should have been a short adventure. Has it already been four months since I was sitting in a hot taxi wading into LAX traffic on my way to DC? London? Berlin? The cities and the lines and the airports and the backstage of concert halls blur together into a whirlwind of only asking “where is catering?” the moment you arrive ..