Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Little Counting Crows or The Richie Sambora Tribute Couple. Part 1 (rough)

At 26,000 feet, I was sitting in the aisle of the back row. This wasn’t unusual. I’m not the type to wait in line to get a good seat or order plane tickets in advance or have the wherewithal to check-in the night before. I can’t remember the last time I sat near the front of a plane.

Sitting next to me was a redhead that looked like the one of the guys from Mythbusters. He was wearing a large brimmed brown hat, cargo pants, wired rim glasses and dusty work boots. To the untrained eye, he appeared to be going to Phoenix for some desert adventure on bald mountain with rattlesnake and a tent, but I saw through his façade. To me, he looked like a Boomer Berkeley liberal. I bet his lady looked similar. Old, childless Boomer couples tend to eventually look and dress like each other. This doesn’t mean he wasn’t going to the mountain top.

He was reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, a popular non-fiction book at the time. I had read a few chapters of the book before returning it to the library, so I felt I was qualified to discuss it. I’ve learned that most literary discussions I have with strangers never got past the title and author. For example: “I loved Ulyyses by James Joyce.” That’s it, no more than that. You don’t need to say anything else. If they’ve read the book (which is doubtful) and want to discuss, excuse yourself and go to the bathroom. Simple as that.

Like Guns, Germs and Steel, The World is Flat is one of those books filled with great cocktail facts. However, if you’re like me, who retains very little, I end up looking like a fool or half-wit when I try to conjure a passage from a book: “the role the potato played in populating Europe was fascinating.” It sounds good and all, but I’m not really sure if it’s true. If I stick with title and author only, I don’t open myself to questions or corrections.

Between a pause in reading, I leaned over to Red and asked, “How’s the book? It’s good, isn’t it?” I didn’t really care about the book or wasn’t interested in chit chatting, I just was being nosy, spreading my wings of book knowledge. By the way he looked, I knew he’d give me something I could repeat at dinnertime. Something weird, unusual, funny. He responded, “I just started it. Have you read it?” I lied, of course: “Yeah, it’s pretty good.” Employing my literary tactic, I changed topic, asking him where he was going and where he was from, a typical question on a plane. Red was from Berkeley (told ya) and had a brother from Santa Cruz who surfed, lived off the grid and made money being a magician. Now this was a topic I was interested in and wanted to explore.

Red didn’t oblige my magician/surfer fantasy, returning to the boring book. I listened and nodded saying the right things: “so true,” “exactly” and “really” as he talked about the first few chapters, the same chapters I claimed to have read.

Red tried to make a correlation between the book and his situation. I gathered that Red was either unemployed or looking for a new job, involved in the tech/software world and was rather dismayed that that all the hires at wherever he worked were 22 years old and had rich fantasy world in role playing games. The latter really bothered him. He said he in interviews they ask him if he “gamed.” And because of this question, Red started to “game.” Somehow he said this was what the book was about: learning to “game” to compete with the modern workforce. Like I said, I knew nothing about the book, so maybe he was right. Doubt it, though.

I tried to bring the conversation back to his magician brother, but Red was having none of it. He was angry about change, getting old and looking like his so-called wife, if he had one. The conversation generally petered out, as they do on flights; he went back to reading and I fell asleep.

The plane landed and I retrieved our guitar and bass from the overhead compartment. 2 rows in front of me a couple stood and retrieved their carry-ons. They caught my eye. Dressed all in black with matching conchos belts, leather jackets (his fringed) and black, flat brimmed hats, I could only describe them as a Richie Sambora tribute couple. Given that we were flying Southwest to the southwest, it only made sense that that this couple would rent a PT Cruiser and drive immediately to the 4 Corners, where they’d buy as much turquoise as they could carry.

Past the security line a Chauffeur held up a sign that said, “Galbraith, Delaney, Kim.” Off to the show, the Counting Crows were waiting.

(Image: Cedar Alley at Larkin. 1/5/11)

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