Monday, August 06, 2007

Music for the Royal Fireworks

“Look at that, J, shit man, wouldja look at that? Why do string buskers always insist on playing Handel!? I mean these guys are in a competition market with their homeless home-brand dinner on the fucking line and that’s the best they can come up with? I’m walking down the street, not getting married in a Richard Curtis film! Play me some Rachmaninoff! Fucking fly-by-nighters. Listening to these guys is like being given a blow job by a plastic doll.”
“Well I just hope you came, Mikey, cos I’m giving the guy a dollar, and since it’s your money, you just gave the hooker a tip. You want me to make a joke about “love Handels” or we good?”
“Yeah, yeah, we’re good. Just promise me you’ll always challenge man, challenge! Never rest on what’s easy, sitting on your hand…els.”
“Nope, sunk like a stone.”
“Like hell it did! Comic gold and don’t deny it. Louis! Adjudication! This joker here just claimed I don’t have a Handel on my pun control!”
“He’s right, Mike! You’re strung out, but there’s no need to get violin-t.”
“Damnit, whatever.”
“Aww look Johnny, we gave Mikey a Messiah complex!”
“Quit it.”

We were walking through the taxi bay and dropping off loved ones area out the front of the airport heading for the domestic terminal check-in. It had somehow been decided that instead of sending Mikey upstate alone to pick up his car from the parents, Johnny and myself would accompany him on the flight while Jackson and the girls drove up at their leisure. Just how or why I agreed to this state of a affairs remains a mystery to me. I mean, there are some logical factors – Michael hated flying more than he hated artistic complacency and it was true that when he got there he would have to face the people about to cut off his cash flow and they would realize he wasn’t attending any kind of educational or vocational institution and things might get messy. Moral support, I in fact suggested, was necessary. I really did mean Maya. I love Mikey dearly, but the prospect of being stuck on a plane, strapped right in the line of his sarcasm cannon, did not so much scream vacation as vacation-of-the-moving-aircraft. And of course there was the nagging memory that Sleepy was on the road overnight with a carload of our horny, freedom craving, women. I suppose, I grudgingly admit, Mike had a bit of a right to be in such a foul mood.

When was the last time you asked someone how their flight was, and they said: “Magnificent! Couldn’t have been nicer, and now I feel refreshed and eager for my new surrounds!” Yeah, well times that cynicism by around 40, add an accidental bald joke made at your flight host and divide by free mini-champagnes. That’s how bored, drunk and over life we were when we touched (“show me on the runway picture where the bad pilot touched you, sir”- it was more of a fisting than a touching) down in Mike’s hometown.
“Wow. It’s exactly as I left it. How re-affirming of my life choices.”

All our stuff was in a trailer hooked up to Jackson’s jeep, so we at least missed that clusterfuck and walked straight into the stickiest, stinkiest taxi this side of India. Michael’s instruction that we be taken to the “rich bitch ’burbs” was silently translated by the genius cabbie to mean “just drive”, and so drive we did. It later occurred to me that it was the first car trip of the journey. This was the beginning, incomprehensible foreign radio and all, of what it was all about. This was what free life meant, sitting sweaty next to a bunch of other guys listening to the same anti-Hemingway rant you delivered two weeks ago fed back to you as a groundbreaking idea. Still, we were together, and we were driving. And we were momentarily wealthy. And Mikey’d stolen mini-champagnes. Life was swinging!

And out swinging came Michael’s father, the great Dr (of Business) Mark O’Hara, who was none too pleased to see the ripened fruit of his loins, or the hungry wildlife nibbling on it. That would be Johnny and I, who, guests of the family and all, did not escape the scorn of the man whose money we were seriously enjoying. This guy was busting and blasting like the Blitz. You could tell why the poor kid had wanted to get out of the family palace - the whole place was run like a feudal court. Any subjects wishing to be a part of the great court of the King had to fall neatly into royal line, and young Michael can’t have been quite the Prince Charming they were after. Mike had been home just long enough to remember why he left in the first place, when he took a ‘toilet break’. This basically meant he was going to steal his father’s vintage Rickenbacker guitar and some fine whiskey, sneak out the back to his car and we’d all make a dash for it.
Which was a really good plan actually. If all of our plans had been this successful for the rest of the road trip… wait… scratch that – if we’d made any plans for the rest of the road trip the whole thing would have been brilliant. Faster than Dr O’Hara could say “you’re not my son”, we were screeching away down the little street made not of bitumen but those annoying tessellated brick things which are meant to make the road more who-the-fuck-knows. Accelerating mad artsy style through the leafy neighbourhood, almost too poetic to feel real, we were young and the whole world awaited, holding the grand gates of life open for Mike’s 1975 Ford Landau sedan.


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