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Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Adventure, Part VI: I Left My Cell Phone in San Francisco

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Having said, “He’s here!” and having greeted me warmly, Mark disappeared like the pantsless Internet wraith that he was. I collected my meager belongings and climbed the stairs to the second level.

Mark’s room was directly at the top of the stairway. The door was slightly ajar, and I could see the dim motel room light reflecting off the bedspread. Feeling a bit like Philip Marlowe, I tapped at the door. A shadow moved about on the other side. Before apprehension could replace exhaustion, the door swung open, and I was confronted with Bernie, the other Internet wraith.

He was about my height, trim, curly-haired, and wearing pants. He smiled warmly and offered his hand, greeted me and invited me in. Mark emerged from an alcove-cum-dressing area, properly dressed. “Sorry about that, but I wasn’t wearing any pants,” he said. He was approximately 11 feet tall.

We exchanged pleasantries, and Bernie offered me a plastic cup of wine. I demurred because I was still on East Coast time and was afraid of falling asleep during the show or of being removed from the audience when the combination of alcohol and jet lag led me to shout out, “We love you, Phil!” during an inconvenient moment of the performance.

After a quick confab, we determined our plan. I would go and call my wife and shower (this last, curiously, Mark’s suggestion), then we would reconvene and do something—maybe get dinner or overlook the bridge. Bernie took refuge in his room, and I dragged myself down to mine.

As I unpacked my show shirt and my deodorant, I discovered that my cell phone wasn’t in my bag. I checked my pockets and rummaged through the pile of debris I had accumulated on my trip. I went down to the car and searched it. Nothing. Fortunately, the airline had recompensed me with a five-minute phone card for the inconvenience of being shuttled around the country willy-nilly, and my wife and I were able to communicate long enough to determine that the cell phone hadn’t been used and wasn’t being answered. We were out one phone, but still hoped that it would turn up at the car rental agency or the airport. (It didn’t. My wife made the sacrifice and got a camera-cell phone, and I got hers. Perhaps the old phone grew despondent and threw its troubles off the Golden Gate Bridge. Nobody knows.—ed.)

I showered and put on my going-to-see-a-show shirt, and the three of us reconvened in Mark’s room, which was quickly becoming our nerve center. Within minutes, we were able to determine that Mark wasn’t hungry, Bernie would eat if I did, and that my stomach thought it was after 9:00 p.m. and was expecting to be parked in front of the TV at home. We compromised by deciding to go straight to the venue.

Mark volunteered to drive, Bernie volunteered to navigate, and I volunteered to criticize from the back. We piled into Mark’s car and inserted ourselves into the bustle of San Rafael’s social whirl.

Despite having at least two sets of directions and three nominally intelligent people to decipher them, we managed to get lost not once, but twice. This was on a trip that covered all of about a mile-and-a-quarter. We were working together as a team; unfortunately, it was a really crummy team, one that always finished last. Despite our collective incompetence, we arrived at the Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium with something over an hour to spare.

Tomorrow, Part VII: In the Presence

1 comment:

Robert G. Margolis said...

"Well?" asked Sallie Forth, with a breezy air and a measured tone of interest. She was an adopted daughter of the Winds, and no matter how mild her manner, she always meant business.

"Yeah, you and Mr. Z. obviously have met before, Odysseus," said Joseph the the K. "And he was looking at you like he wanted lightning to strike you dead on the spot. What's the story?"

Odysseus sighed loudly, while silently asking the Muse of Interrogation to guide him in composing his answer. Images of waste and devastation flitted through his memory. He felt he could choke on the memory alone of the acrid smoke, from a City burning because of those driven mad by her unique beauty. He dreaded any attention to his past, which persisted in hounding him in the present. He was not a confident speaker and was clearly pained at having to talk about what he regarded as too personal and intimate to be heard by anyone, even the two people with whom he'd survived the ordeal of The Bridge.

He allowed the silence to continue until he felt the strain of anticipation on his companions. "I was almost the son-in-law of Mr. Zeus…" Odysseus finally began. Sallie Forth gasped, unable to restrain her surprise. The winds of her mood had shifted. She was definitely interested now. Odysseus paused, hoping that one sentence would be explanation enough for his two traveling companions.

"You…and…Helen?" said Joseph the K., his voice tinged with awe. Most everyone had heard of Odysseus and Helen, the public periodically titillated itself with some new rehash of the myths and rumors, but no one really believed they would ever come face-to-face with the man behind the myth. "You had the chance to marry Helen, the daughter of the Mr. Zeus, and you--what? Got cold feet? Weren't ready for the commitment?" Joseph the K. stopped himself, aware he was acting too bold with presumed familiarity.

"You don't understand," Odysseus said, shaking his head forlornly, "Nobody understands…Such beauty, it's not meant to be…it can't…" his voice trailed off. "And then, Mr. Zeus, he had financed the largest fleet of ships every assembled; they were to accompany us, Helen and I, after we were married, to our new home, an island Mr. Zeus had raised from the ocean, exclusively for us. Then, we were attacked, by surprise. Many of the wedding guests turned out to be a rival army in disguise. Their leader had, of course, been spurned by Helen, and if he couldn't have her beauty, no one could; you know, the usual mad excess of ego and desire borne of unattainable beauty. All the ships were destroyed; the City was burned. Mr. Zeus expected me to be the hero and to save the day, but I failed. I failed so totally, so spectacularly, that I ran away, from Helen, from everyone, from everything. That was ten years ago, to the day."

"So," mused Sallie Forth, thinking it through for herself, "A vengeful Mr. Zeus blames you for the wayward and wastrel life of his daughter Helen…"

"And for his financial ruin, and for his humiliation before all those of influence and power in the World of Big for the Sake of Big, and for turning Helen against him…"

Sallie Forth and Joseph the K. looked at each other. Their expressions held the identical thought: this was the last place they wanted to be--and they wouldn't have missed it for the world!

"Oh, and there was one other little problem…"

"What was that?" Sallie Forth and Joseph the K. exclaimed together.

"I was already married," Odysseus said with the skillful cadence and understatement borne of the hundreds of times he'd imagined telling this story.

"That's right! Already married!" the voice of Mr. Zeus crashed into the room moments ahead of the man himself. "I should have killed you the first moment I saw you, o most cunning Odysseus!"

Sallie Forth and Joseph the K. suddenly felt an uncomfortably charged increase of electricity in the air. If ever there was a place where lightning could strike someone twice, it was there, in the Castle of Mr. Zeus.