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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Adventure, Part II or Fat Man on the Run

My plan was a thing of beauty. According to my machinations, I would get in to San Francisco at about 11:30 a.m. PST. This would give me plenty of time to drive to San Rafael, get a bite to eat, check in, and nap before Mark and Bernie, the Internet Wraiths, got there. There would then follow a couple of hours of carousing and merrymaking before departing for the Marin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium for the show.

As I worked over the logistics of my journey, I realized that it would be easier for everyone if I took the bus and train to the airport rather than dragging my wife and son on a 60-mile predawn school-day schlep. The downside of this plan was that I would have to get up at 5:00 a.m., a full seven hours before my preferred time to rise. (This is just a joke; I rarely sleep past 11:30.—ed.)

It turned out that getting up at 5:00 was no problem, since I slept as peacefully as a condemned man. Tossing and turning and rapid, shallow dreams made sleepy time about as pleasant as a mild electric shock. Still, I woke at 5:00, sweating adrenalin and ready for most any emergency.

Showered, dressed, and clutching an overnight bag, I delivered myself into the clutches of the mass transit system, which worked out just fine. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority safely completed what would have been a half-hour car ride in only slightly more than an hour. With plenty of time to spare, I got myself in line for security, boarding pass, license, and DNA sample in hand.

Everything was as smooth as a Scandinavian’s complexion until I got to my appointed gate. The flight was delayed just so that the crew could get their proper rest. The delay was a short one, though, and I could still make the connection as long as the Memphis airport was as small as I fantasized that it was. Hope smoldered in a corner of my soul.

After they stuffed us on the plane, it was discovered that there was ice on the wings, and this ice would have to be removed. My seatmate grumbled about it, but, preferring tardiness to fiery death, I remained sanguine. There was always the chance that they could make up some time in the air. My connecting flight could be delayed. The Memphis Airport could be really tiny. Dozens of unlikely scenarios zigzagged across my consciousness.

At last, we were in the air. It was a short flight, and the flight crew was forced to pass out and collect snacks and drinks with the vigor of a crack addict. My seatmate continued to whine about her missed connection until I pointed out that Memphis was in Central time and therefore an hour later than Atlanta. As the flight progressed and no time was caught up, no fighter squadrons arrived to escort us, and the crew and passengers continued to be uninfected by “Let’s Fly to Frisco Fever,” I began to weigh the options that lay before me.

We landed at right about the time that my connecting flight was supposed to be pulling away from the gate. If we got right to the gate, I might still have some small chance. Unfortunately, when landing in Memphis, one must apparently drive the plane through Little Rock in order to get to the terminal building. Along the way, I saw another North-by-Northwest plane just getting ready to join the line up on the runway, and I had the feeling that it was the plane I was supposed to be on.

I removed myself from the plane as quickly as I could and sprinted (or a reasonable facsimile thereof, as adjusted for age and girth) to the gate my connection was supposed to be at. Fortunately, although the gates were on different concourses, the Memphis airport is compact enough that I was able to run the distance without having to stop for either oxygen or CPR. However, when I got to the desk, my worst fears were confirmed. The flight to San Francisco was gone, and now a flight to Tampa was getting ready to board.

Tomorrow, Part III: "The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Does Not Go Through Minneapolis."


Robert G. Margolis said...


This, I take it, is the approximate to negotiating Scylla and Charybdis. Which requires very good negotiation scyllas, indeed.

Scylla, as you'll recall from reading the instruction card in the seat pocket in front of you, was a nymph, daughter of Phorcys. Glaucus, one time fisherman who had a career change and became a sea god, fell madly in love with her, but she fled from him onto the land where he could not follow (for which read, he missed his connecting flight.) He went to the airline sorceress Circe to ask for a love potion, which he'd earned with all his frequent heartbreak points (and one that would also protect her from getting wrinkles if she lived permanently in water.) But everyone loves a lover, and so Circe herself fell in love with him. She showed him her travel brochures, discount hotel coupons, and the special lingerie she'd packed. Circe was furiously angry, but with Scylla and not with Glaucus. She prepared a vial of very powerful poison and with it replaced the complimentary little bottles of shampoo in the hotel room bathroom where Scylla bathed. As soon as the nymph entered the water she was transformed into a frightful monster with twelve feet and six heads, each with three rows of teeth. (There were not, of course, enough towels or blow-dryers for all those heads and feet.) Below the waist her body was made up of hideous monsters, like dogs, who barked unceasingly. She stood there in utter misery, unable to move, loathing and destroying everything that came into her reach, a peril to all sailors who passed near her. Whenever a ship passed, each of her heads would seize one of the crew. On the bright side, the hotel where she was doomed to permanent residence had an excellent view of the whirpool Charybdis.

For those of you who've reached the half-way point in your journey and don't know how you're going to make it to your destination, but whose heads were not ripped off during our flight, thank you for flying Air Odysseus.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, I was working on the exact same analogy. My timing sucks.


Anonymous said...

Are you going to write about when we drank red wine and watched basketball? What about crowd observations at the Firesign show. The waitress at Chili's? I'm all ears.
-Bernie Anonymouse

Len said...


I thought Scylla and Charybdis were a fold combo from the '60s. I remember seeing them on "Hootenanny" and "Hullaballoo." They alientated their fan base when they plugged in their zithers and went electric with their dance hit, "Eat and Swirl." I may be wrong.

And remember, there are no direct flight at Air Odysseus.

Len said...


What you need is a timing light. You kind of shine it on that thingamajig in the back and adjust the whatzis with a screwdriver until it stops looking like a silent movie back over the whozzits.

However, it means fiddling with your carburator, and we both know what kind of trouble that can lead to.

Len said...


I'm just trying to let the hallucinations out as they occur to me. But don't worry, for, like Odyseuss, the story ain't over until I get home.

Robert G. Margolis said...


"Scylla and Charybdis" is a name that's been used, and misused, throughout the ages--from the golden right down to our own tinfoil, panhandled and pandered to by many kinds of performing groups--from hurdy-gurdy, to the entire pantheon of whistlers, shouters, and screamers, all of whom were far from its Olympian origins.

According to RKOlogists and radiologists who have dated and studied extant examples of ancient techno-myth muse-ic, the "Scylla and Charybdis" duo to which you refer were first members of "The Roamin' Imitators", who then left the group and went out on their own as a duo.

They were especially known for their dedication to preserving the old pipe 'n goat music of their ancestors and for the eerie, siren-line songs they played, all in the key of Asia Minor.

The zither itself--you may be surprised to learn, was considered, at the time, to be an innovation, and was not readily accepted by those for whom proper muse-ic was performed on the lyre. The addition of more strings was judged to be subversive and degenerate, because it upset the scale and led to melodies that one couldn't sway to or fall into a trance to. With the zither came--or so its detractors contended, the "power strum", which in turn led to the vulgar, uninitiated public doing ecstatic dances that hitherto only the initiates of the Mysteries had been qualified to perform, and then only in private.

In later years, of course, shipping and sea routes changed, and the port town, in which the duo became so famous for its dizzy devrouring performances, lapsed into dereliction and obscurity; it became almost a ghost-tourist town, relying on the sale of crudely fashioned "Odyessey" knicknacks. Sadly the duo too fell into dereliction and obscurity, becoming a kind of parody and burlesque of its former self. Those who remember seeing the duo in its last years, when the played nightly at the Hi-Fi Oracle, recall that their act consisted of poping out of something they called "the head of Zeus", wearing only their birthday suits and lip-synching to earlier recordings of their own muse-ic.