Basil White's Holiday Trip Report 2008
Fri., Dec. 25, 2008
My suitcase was overfull, so I left my books at home. I get to Dulles Airport and a cab mocks me. The terminal is fulla Japanese people. They shout "Santa Clausu" as I walk by in my santa hat and green scarf and red bowling shirt and green pants. Spreadin' the love.
Now I'm wearing a Santa hat while eating a bacon cheeseburger in the Five Guys in Dulles Airport. Mmmm Five Guys. The most secure burger in NoVa west of the Pentagon.
I see only one Christmas Day Hasidim in the gates, a young guy whose sideburns haven't dropped yet. We have to wait for our delayed departure plane to arrive, so I start playing my Traveler Speedster electric guitar. People look at me funny. Nothing new.
I fly next to a lady reading "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World."
My sister Melissa works at the Knoxville airport, so she greets me at my gate. She shows me off to her coworkers, including the janitor who wears the same POW-MIA lanyard I wear to the P-nt-g-n twice a week.
Melissa and I exchange gifts. She gives me homemade CDs and Apple Green Mentos and the Steve Martin autobiography. I give her an Inuit seagull totem necklace I bought in Coastal Oregon.
Melissa give me my gifts from Mom: cereal, granola and her own cookbook. Worth its weight in gold. Mom has black belt culinary science abilities. She reads Cook's Illustrated and improves the recipes.
Now I'm in my mom's guest room. Mom has painted the furniture with epileptically vibrant Christian symbols and text. There's a lot of that seizure-inducing yellow that Van Gogh used to induce petit mal seizures which he mistook as religious fugues.
Sat., Dec. 26, 2008
And now I am drunk in a Knoxville club drunk on gin while Bon Jovi plays on the jukebox. Oh, sweet nectar of American culture. I walk my aunt to her car and a guy checking for unlocked cars starts telling me his sob story about how he just needs four gallons of gas. If you're gonna be hustled in a Knoxville parking lot, why live in Knoxville? Why do we care enough to make it illegal to kill a street hustler, but not enough to house him and give him a job?
Sat., Dec. 27, 2008
Melissa and I arrive in Memphis. Dad gives me a book of quotes written by Jack Eaton, a local sportscaster. He didn't have time to wrap it. So he wrapped it in a towel. I'm keeping the towel.
Dad talks about people he helps and their alcologic, first-thought wrong thinking.
The Millington Naval Air Station commissary has the hardware/garden center/liquor store combined under one roof. As we leave the base, we pass the Jamie Whitten building and Dad tells me how my maternal grandmother knew Mr. Whitten and would talk about how retarded he was.
Sun., Dec. 28, 2008
We go to St. Patrick's Catholic Church for mass. Jim Burch is there, a local anchorman. The Loyola (New Orleans) basketball team is there too. The priest talks exactly like Wallace Shaun from The Princess Bride.
No church is more liberal than St. Patrick's. We close the announcements by singing Happy Birthday, close the mass with "Go Tell It On The Mountain." Fr. Shaun shakes my hand with a hearty "Y'all come back now y'hear?"
Mon., Dec. 29, 2008
Dad tells me three or four people are murdered in Memphis every day. This town is a bad neighborhood punctuated by cloisters of rich people. I used to call Memphis "Redneck Detroit." Now it's "Hillbilly Bosnia."
My son Bill and I went to our cousin's house and killed video zombies.
Tues., Dec. 30, 2008
I take my son Bill to visit his grandmother. She apologizes for the Chow Chow dog in the house, and explains that the newer of the two pit bulls is assaulting the Chow. I play nice and fail to mention my first idea of not having pit bulls in the first place. She is boarding a daughter and some grandkids, including one who she said was molested by his dad. Bill's grandmother offers me bloopers chocolates.
Life in Memphis is like a box of bloopers chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get, but you know it's defective.
Bill and I hang out with Teena, an alumna from my Rocky Horror days. I was Eddie and Teena was Columbia, my character's girlfriend. 21-and-a-half years ago I was high on Demerol throwing her three feet in the air.
We have dinner with my alumni David May, Harold and Terry Weaver and their daughter Jessica. Good people.
Wed., Dec. 31, 2008
Bill and I get a backpack at Goodwill for his XBox. Bill tells me that recently someone robbed the Jackson, Mississippi Goodwill. What did the robber make off with? A job. Ha ha ha.
Melissa, Bill and I go to the Navy Base. The department store intercom announcer is George Bush, thanking us in bad grammar for making our country freer. Any minute I expect him to remind me abou the 2-for-1 sale on pantyhose.
Bill and I ring in the new year with the geek trifecta: pizza, Mountain Dew and Guitar Hero.
Thur., Jan. 1, 2009
A family friend died last night, so Melissa, my sister and ride home, stays in town. I rent a car to return to Knoxville for my flight home. I visited a hungover family friend in Jackson. We watched Driving Miss Daisy. Now I don't have to watch family-friendly movies again, 'cos I've already watched the best one. By the last scene in the movie, in the nursing home where Jessica Tandy is too weak to eat her own pie so Morgan Freeman feeds it to her, I felt guilty for eavesdropping on their conversation.
I stop at a truck stop, eat a bite of food and realize I can drive no more. Thanks to Google Maps on the Blackberry, I learn that all the hotels in view of the highway suck, but the Country Inn behind the highway is great. Geek Life forever.
Fri., Jan. 2, 2009
I drive to Knoxville to my mom's house. Mom's in Texas with my brother and Melissa's in memphis waiting to attend a funeral, so I have the house to myself. I need food and something to do, so I drive to Wal-Mart and push a cart around the store for the exercise. On the way to Wal-Mart I actually hear a car horn play "Dixie" a la Dukes of Hazzard. I'm grateful my return flight is on a puddle jumper, because that means when I return to Dulles tomorrow I can kiss the tarmac.
Aunt Eileen lives across town. She asks me to drive across town to spend time with her. I tell her that I'm near the airport, I've driven halfway across the state, she can drive across town. She refuses. I tell her to call me if she changes her mind. I'm done spending effort to be with people who don't spend effort to be with me.
I watch a bunch of Malcolm Gladwell videos. His secret to academic success is to take the Harvard application, live a life that will get you into Harvard, get accepted to Harvard, and instead of going to Harvard, go to the best school that gives you a full scholarship with room and board and books and incidentals. Among people who get into Harvard, whether you go to Harvard has no bearing on your income, happiness or success. Elite schools are like modeling agencies.
The trick is to make yourself worthy of elite consideration and take the offers in life that pay you, because in terms of outcome, paying money for eliteness doesn't matter. This is why I took the free MENSA test, qualified, and never gave them a dime. The elite pay, the talented GET paid.
On the way home I listen to a TV station erroneously tuned in by the radio, probably for the last time, considering that this phenomenon never occurs in DC, and TV broadcast signals end in two months.
Sat., Jan. 3, 2009
The Knoxville airport has rocking chairs in front of bay windows facing the landing strip. Down-home country aerospace, the old-fashioned way. I unpack my Traveler Speedster electric guitar and play through my headphone amp, catching looks from a fascinated Indian kid.
My flight's delayed, so I keep rocking, in both senses of the word. I know my flight's delayed thanks to the Blackberry. Research In Motion should give me endorsement money.