Friday, February 06, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

By Mikey

If by 'summer vacation', you mean 'a random Thursday in February', I'm all over it.

As I recall, it was kind of a gray and cloudy day in the desert. Chilly, like San Francisco without the fog. I spent my morning at the keyboard, both providing and searching for inspiration. Breakfast was hazelnut coffee and solitude, as the house was empty for the first time in over a week. Even the dogs were sleeping. Productivity was my muse, and she sang for hours.

Still, I needed to venture out, expand my horizons, explore. Stimulate the economy, even. Not wanting to shave, my options were limited. I couldn't go anywhere that I'd be recognized. My usual haunts were out of the question. Too many prying eyes, too many questions I didn't want to answer. What does one do on the fringe of the neon city when they need to remain unseen and unrecognized?

I needed a dark place, far from the distractions that seemed to find me around every corner. There was only one thing to do--hide out in the local cinema like Dillinger after a bank job. I could always count on Fandango to tell me what's what, and a good tipster doesn't ask for cash or favors.

Defiance was right up my alley, but I had precious little time to make my connection. Perhaps a late arrival would work in my favor. I'd go in unnoticed, while all eyes were on the previews, not the hulking shadow searching the darkness for a seat. But time was on my side, allowing a stop for popcorn. And a drink.

The film--enjoyable. But cold and somber, something probably needed to see. Too many dead Jews and not enough dead Nazis. The leading man? His eyes were too blue to be a believable Russian Jew. James Bond-certainly. Working class hero of the oppressed masses? A stretch, perhaps. A small quibble, if that. Like Schindler's List, I left drained and emotionally spent. Not exactly a date movie.

Lucky for me, I was flying solo.

Emerging from the darkness, I saw that the day had changed. Instead of gray and cloudy, it was then sunny and windy, with enough breeze to lift the layer of smog that hung over the city like an old brown blanket. Still cold, I took shelter in the nearest speakeasy, a local joint called Balboa Pizza.

I'd heard others sing the praises, but I had to know for myself. The crowd was sparse, seats at the bar were plentiful. The barman poured a Newcastle and went back to jawing with the leather-clad Brando with the mutton-chop sideburns a few seats down. I dove into the menu like it was a Grisham novel with pictures, oblivious to the bowling highlights on the TV above my head.

Wings sounded good at first, but eight bucks for six wings was too rich for my meager budget. One could only hope that such chickens led a life of feathered luxury before making the ultimate sacrifice. Unfazed, I ordered the usual combo. Pepperoni and mushrooms.

I nursed my beer and took in my surroundings. A nice place, to be sure, and the pictures on the wall took me back to Red Sails on Shelter Island. It's been a long time since them days.

My pie arrived with little fanfare. It was literally a square meal, six pieces worth, the size of a TV dinner, served on a wooden cutting board. Sauce was good, toppings decent, crust awful. Soggy in the middle, with only hope and potential at the edges. For fourteen bucks, I expected more. I'm no MacArthur, so I shall not return.

I made my way home along the tree-lined streets of the city, dodging the con-men and speed traps of a jaded suburbia out to lighten my wallet, and called it a day. Safely ensconced in my fortress of solitude, I slept like a man with a clear conscience and a full belly.

The phone never rang.

The End.

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