Dave's Journal, Aug2011
The Adventures of August, 2011
First off, let me say that I got a lotta respect for Tony Soprano. He's always done what I tell him to do and mostly never complains, no matter who he has to "whack" for the business, you know. But once in a while he steps outa line and that's when I have to step in and smack him and his boys down a few notches. And I had to get this outa the way before I went on with my adventures.
Tony: Dave, Dave, it's good to see you, and let me say right off how sorry I am . . . me and the boys . . about what we did.
Well, we settled that bit of business, and Tony let me know that his garage was installing the newest and best GPS in the balloon basket and it would take a day. I hung around for cannolis and espresso and then had one of the boys drive me to visit the Lockwoods. Good people, Jim and Joanne. Had a few beers in the yard, Jim showed me his muscle bike collection, then James burst in.
James: Dave ! great to see you! Where's the balloon?
Well . . . I knew the fun was over once we landed, as the next leg of my journey weighed heavily on my mind . . . my Congressional Address at 8AM tomorrow morning. So I taxied back to Tony's, launched the balloon and a few hours later landed where my country needs me . . .
As reported in news media around the world, here is the text of
Leaving America hopeful that I will "run" in 2012, I bid "the new Washington" farewell for now, and checked the jet stream on the GPS that Tony Soprano had installed for me. So . . . next stop looks like Europe. Exactly where? . . . only fate would know . . .
I fell asleep for a while, trusting the jet stream, and I dreamt of Boston (strange that I should do that) and that I was walking along the Charles River today, in the warm sun. Lots of other walkers and many many sailors - school age sailors just learning. I popped a photograph , then walked up Commonwealth and Newbury streets, and remembered that if I were in my twenty's again I'd be living in Boston, and then had lunch at the Black Rose (fish and chips, I think, and cabernet).
I'm out here somewhere over the North Atlantic, and I realize that tomorrow is Debbie's birthday ! Yikes ! Must somehow get a message back to her (why did I leave my cell phone home ?) Wait . . . here's a bottle and a scrap of paper . . . maybe somehow . . . I have to give it a shot . . . I can only wonder if (and how) it ever gets to her by tomorrow.
As the balloon sped toward the horizon, the bottle with Debbie's birthday note was rescued by a racing boat (ironically named "Destiny") on it's way to New York. The bottle was now a wonderful mystery to the boat crew, and the mystery of it made them speed on.
At the seaport, the boat captain gave the bottle to her sister who forgot it the back seat of a cab that night; the cab driver didn't notice it until he got to Hartford and tossed it into a trash can at a diner where a trucker (who collects junk) snatched it to sell at the flea market in Boston, but how it got mixed in with a shipment of "Olive Garden" organic salad dressing bottles is anybody's guess.
And how that particular bottle ended up on Debbie's table at dinner, with her friends on her birthday, is absolutely amazing . . . "magical" even.
Happy Birthday, Debbie !
Well, today is Debbie's birthday, and when I get back home, I'll have to somehow convince her that I put her birthday card in a bottle and tossed it into the North Atlantic. (I know she'll think I'm lying.)
Land-Ho ! . . Ireland !
This is my first day in Ireland, and it is beautiful. As pretty as Mike's pictures were from his visit. Even prettier. Rolling hills, farms, sheep and cows and waves pounding rocky beaches . . . just beautiful.
I hitched a ride to town with the farmer whose land I landed on. Farmers don't talk a lot, I noticed today. He went around the general store to get feed, bags of salt, beef jerky, coffee, flour and farm stuff like that. And he didn't pay cash; he gave the store owner a bunch of lamb chops (is that "mutton" ?) and a gallon of clover honey from his bee hive.
In the meantime, I wandered into the local pub for some great Irish stew, Irish music and a pint of "bitters" (maybe actually 2 . . . 3 pints, if we're keeping accounts). A band called The Black Irish Band was playing and they were out of this world. Then the talk turned to soccer, and the championship game this afternoon that was just a few miles away in Killarney, so we all drove out there.
It was the Irish team against the French team and it was traditionally a fierce rivalry. The game was incredible, very close scoring , very aggressive playing, when a key Irish player fell injured and they had to take him out on a stretcher. The Irish crowd was crushed, the score was tied and there were only a few minutes left to play, and the Irish had no more players to send out on the filed, because it was a Jewish holiday and the half the team was having a barmitzvah today.
It was a "no-brainer" . . . I had to stand in for the injured player. My job was to control the ball for the last two minutes and then score the winning goal at the very end. So . . . we start kicking and bobbing and head butting and kicking and then I got control of the ball. The French triple-teamed me so I had to kick and head-bob a lot more than usual but I kept control of the ball for a rock solid 98 seconds, while the French players collapsed in exhaustion.
Then my moment came . . . with 33 seconds left on the clock and zigged left then zagged right and double-spun back and across and kicked in the winning goal for the Irish team.
Needless to say, the rest of the afternoon went very well for me. I even got my picture on the cover of the Irish Soccer League website as "Super Champion from the States". If you don't believe me, here is the picture of me .
Well, we all decided to head back to the pub and drink and listen to the band and watch reruns of me kicking the goal over and over and over again.
The Morning After
My head is missing. I think in a fog, "Must get back to the farm and get the balloon in the air and move on. More adventures out there somewhere. Where? Paris ? "
Landed the balloon near the Eiffel Tower and met an old friend in one of E. Hemingway's favorite cafes. He booted up his i-tab to show me a satelite photo of the balloon passing over the tower. We ordered drinks, his girlfriend showed up, then his boyfriend showed up ( ) and then his boyfriend's girlfriend showed up and then her girlfriend showed up. I tried to take notes about who was whose X-friend, but got too confused and ordered another drink.
We talked about Hemingway.
"Le Vieil Homme et La Mer. . Qu'est-ce un roman merveilleux."
I knew we'd be there a while . . . "Garcon, plus de vin!"
They went on badgering me for stories of Hemingway, F. Scott & Zelda, Ms. Parker and the others who haunted the bistros along the Seine back in the olden days. My French friends kept the wine flowing, and so I kept my stories flowing . . .
"I was showing Ms. Parker . . . ."
Day passed into night and then to day again and the cycle repeated itself (it looked to me like every 12 hours or so) and we kept talking and drinking and eating until we all were slumped over (either forward or backward, but slumped over anyway) and sleeping. The experience will forever end in my mind as a blur of soft tones and a smear of sweet colors.
How I got back to my hotel room may never be known.
Paris . . . About Noon . . . Not Sure of the Day
[knock . . . knock . . . knock]
Me: Oh my . . . I . . . um . . . hum . . . errrr . ..
(This, I think to myself, may be the last around-the-world balloon trip that Debbie lets me fly alone.)
Maid: You fly balloon me too?
[Fade to black]
From the window, I could see her waiting in the parking lot with her overnight bag. If this was God's chariot calling me home, I'd be crazy to miss the flight, right ? . . . but what if it was just another chick who realized how cool I am and was just out for the kicks of it ?
In the end, I had to break her heart. I called down to the desk, told them to crate up my balloon and store it and book me immediate passage on The Orient Express. Two hours later, I was speeding through France, heading to Spain.
Oh, it feels just like home. I haven't been on the "Express" since the olden days. That's when people knew had to travel, alright. Before high-altitude jets, long lines in crowded airports, security lines, x-ray searches. Before highways crowded with SUV's and RV's racing alongside 18-wheelers and cement mixers. Before all of that insanity there were luxury ships, of course, and there was this Orient Express.
The dining car was empty when I got there, but filled up shortly. Turns out that an old friend, a frequent (and notable) Express passenger, was aboard and joined me for an early dinner. He had a murder on his hands and needed my perspective on the evidence.
But before I tell the story of our discussion, let me tell you about the dream that I had before I came into the dining car. I dreamt that I am not really on The Orient Express, but actually that I am at home stripping off the living room wallpaper. It was vague, weird, awful. Chemicals, scraping blades, smells, burning eyes. Happily I woke up and now am back to reality, on this famous train and about to meet my old friend, the great detective, Hercule Poirot.
Hercule: Mon vieil ami, comment allez-vous?
The Basque region, shared by Spain and France, is much too beautiful.
The train stop landed me in Pamplona, and I found a room in a country estate, and slept for a while.
The nightmare came again . . . stripping the living room wallpaper . . . scraping . . . scratching . . . soaking . . . I woke up in a cold sweat.
Couldn't sleep anymore, so I shuttled into town, not realizing that today was the "Running of the Bulls" festival. Pamplona was absolutely packed with people; the crazy ones running with the bulls and the smart ones watching from the balconies. (I watched from a balcony )
After the Bull Run, the crowd headed to the arena, but I couldn't go there, so I hopped the helicopter to San Sebastian, which is on the Atlantic coast and (I think) on the border between Spain and France. The night life in San Sebastion is wonderful. I got there early evening and had time to stroll the seashore, and have a drink while the sun set over the ocean. Couldn't help but wish Debbie was here, but you know how she hates transatlantic balloon flights. So I took just her picture out and put it on the table while I relaxed, but had to quickly put it face down as the chicks strolled by.
[next morning . . . knock . . . knock . . . knock]
I didn't wait for the helicopter . . . took the rent-a-jet back to Pamplona.
I grabbed a local pamphlet, sitting in a cafe. It read . . . "Ernest Hemingway came to Pamplona for the first time, travelling from Paris, in July 1923, in the full swing of the Fiesta of San Fermin. The atmosphere in the city and, particularly, the gratuitous contest between man, bull and death made such an impression on him that he chose the fiesta as the backdrop to his first successful novel, "The Sun Also Rises". This representative of the so-called Lost Generation ran before the bulls, made friends with bullfighters -such as Antonio Ordnez- and locals -such as Juanito Quintana- ate, drank and lived with the locals, and experienced in their company the joy, heat and euphoria unique to the Fiesta of San Fermin.
"The Sun Also Rises" was the first Hemingway novel that I read (just after retiring). Absolutely loved the book. I watched the movie (Erroll Flynn and Tyrone Power) for 5 minutes, puked, and turned it off.
Well, I thought after a little while, time to move along. To Vienna, on the afternoon train.
Vienna . . . not what I had hoped for . . .
To be honest, Vienna has been a letdown. I was thinking the beautiful Blue Danube, old world charm, a place that time forgot. Well, the Danube looks like any other river flowing through any other big city, , although here and there you will find a castle seemingly out of place in a modern location. I will say that the museums and the art (the stuff that survived WW2 anyway) is truly fabulous and worth the trip.
I am going to find a Viennese sausage and pepper sandwich now and contemplate where I should go next.
Sausage, Peppers & Wallpaper
Well . . . . I found that Viennese sausage and pepper sandwich at about 10PM, but I ate it anyway and (stupidly) went back the hotel and went to sleep. Not a smart idea. I had nightmares all night. The most vivid wallpaper nighmares so far this trip. Soak, strip pull and repeat and just as I finished one wall, the other walls grew new layers of wallpaper and I had to start all over again. I saw at least 3 of me trying to keep up with the dream.
Finally I gave up and took a taxi to the hospital. "You gotta stop these nightmares." (Doctor reviews my statements.) "We'd like to help, Mr. Leo, but your medical insurance policy does not apply when you travel outside the US. We can do nothing unless you pay cash up front." "That's impossible. I am sick, don't you guys have a socialized, universal medical system over here?" "Yes, but it applies only to citizens of the EU." "Hey . . I am an Italian citizen, here's my passport." (He takes it and checks it out.) "Very good . . . we got you covered. Pick up this prescription on the way out (no charge) and have a good trip. And lay off the peppers at night !". "You bet, thanks doc. And hey . . . is there a Pizza Hut nearby?"
day passed . . . night passed . . . day passed . . . night passed . . . and the cycle went on (at approximately 12 hour increments it seemed to me), and I waited for the enlightenment . . . day . . . night . . . day . . . night . . . day . . . night . . .
then . . . then it came to me . . . sausage, peppers, jets, balloons, globe, Parisian maids, wallpaper, bull running . . . all of these things were taking me to my destiny . . . and that destiny, no . . . Destiny . . . is in Tibet . . .
Only the new hyper-bike with composite tubes and
My sherpa training helped enormously for the final climb to the monastery.
The clothes are colorful and ever so comfortable.
Lunch with The Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama: Dave, my old friend, you never come visit anymore.
time . . time . . time . . . whenever i emerged from wherever i had been . . . i had lyrics ringing in my head and running out my mouth . . . "i just checked in to see what condition my condition is in".
"You're not as dead as you imagine, Dave", i heard his voice . . . "not yet, anyway" .
"Was that Nirvana, DL?" . . . "No, that was a wild reaction to a mild dose of Nirvana. I think the prescription dose will kill you. You should have started on this stuff in earlier years." . . . "The story of my f#$%ing life, old friend. Shoulda done this, shoulda done that. How old am I now anyway?" . . . "About two days older than you were two days ago."
I knew it was time to leave. The DL gave me a prescription for the OTC dose and told me, "You're in no condition to climb down these Himalayas, but if you must leave so soon, let me offer what we up here call 'international airline service' . . . "
Me: Until we meet again, my friend.
San Fransisco . . . I landed in Golden Gate Park and made more friends in the next hour than I ever knew. Pick a kind of person . . . any kind of person that you can imagine . . . you'll find her or him somewhere in this city. Great great artists, intellectuals, free thinkers, meth addicts, murderers, code writers, bikers, beachers . . . they're all here. Reminds me of the Dom Louise joke . . . A guy walks into a California health food joint and orders a hamburger. The clerk says "We only serve fruits and nuts". Guy looks around and says . . . "Well looks like they're all here."
I lived in California (southern) for 6 years (that was last century), in fact my daughter Loretta is actually a native Californian ! ! And, coincidentally, Deb and I are actually coming to San Fransisco in a few weeks for vacation. But right now, I am "in synch with the natives" . . . doing SF stuff, eating and drinking SF food, mingling, migrating, merging with the locals and blending into the SF ambience.
In many ways, SF never grew out of the 1960's. For example, a cop gave me a ticket for landing the glider in a public park. I just tore in up and ate it, and the crowd of my new friends went wild, picked me up and carried me on their shoulders to a meeting of the "Stop Them Now" group that (as best I could tell) was advocating that we stop them, but (although I spent the afternoon listening to speakers and drinking this incredible batch of Kool-Aid someone brewed up) it was never quite clear to me whom them is (are ?). They even asked me to get up and advocate their cause with a few words, so I obliged with the following remarks . . .
"I am sick of them telling us what we can and cannot do." [crowd cheers and throws stuff around the room]
They kept passing me glasses of this remarkable Kool-Aid, and I kept passing them the extensive mass of wisdom I have stored up for just these ocsasions. . . . it was a win-win scenario as I see it.
Well, the Kool-Aid ran out, and with it, so did the political enthusiasm, so we decided to migrate to the best local bar and drink and listen to the Black Irish Band. (I mentioned these guys back when I was in Ireland earlier this month, but it turns out they are a US-based group !). Half way through their set, someone bounced a beer bottle off the squeezebox players head and knocked him cold. The crowd beat the bottle thrower to a pulp and tossed him in the dumpster, but the big problem was that we were out of music.
Well, I thought . . . I haven't played the squeezebox in a while, but let me see if I still have the magic . . . I sat in for the guy and the crowd went wild and we took a group picture (I was surprised how long my hair has gotten on this trip).
Then, of course, it was time to move on . . . so I got a haircut, traded the glider for a chopper and headed south on the coast highway just as the sun was setting . . .
Made it into LA a few hours later, and decided to cruise Hollywood Blvd. and see what, if anything, is left of the old "boulevard magic" as we called it back when I was making movies. Well, it's all new faces now and I guess it's good we "stars of the golden days" let the kids take over. I was glad to see that someone has been keeping my Walk of Fame star clean and shining (probably my fan club).
As I feared, I was spotted while waiting in line at Pink's for a chili cheeze dog (extra onions) and root a beer (Old Dominion, no ice).
Paris: Oh Dave oh Dave, you're back in town.
Yeh, they all showed up to see me again . . . . Brando, Deniro, Bob Duvall, Uma, Gwyneth, the Kates (all of them), and of course the sorry lot of Paris's spoiled friends. I told them about CafePhotos and my trip around the world, but off course they had all kept up with my going on here and there. (These, in retrospect, have been my most committed fans.)
Can't remember when, but the party eventually ended, and I jumped on the chopper and headed east on the Mother Road.
Driving Route 66 is the dream of every free radical of my generation, and I never got to do it until now. Been thinking about this my whole life, and here I am, chopping my way through a lifelong dream.
Route66 has it all, for the nostalgic dreamer.
Great, classic drive-ins to eat.
Admittedly, some of the hotels need some TLC, but they have, what I'd call, low-budget charm.
There are, however, dangers . . . as well as opportunities . . . around every curve, and sometimes is not all that easy to distinguish between the two.
Hey, I made it to the (east) end of the Mother Road - Chicago.
I lived here for 6 months back in 1971, and was pretty impressed how well the city ran (Daley Sr. was the Mayor). Mike was born here!
Checked into the Ritz-Carlton (enough of this biker / road stuff for a while), called down for dinner (hot dogs smothered in caviar, Stewart's Root beer in a frosted mug with no ice) after a long hot shower and a nap. Then the phone rang . . .
Me: Yes, that's me. Uh hum . . .sure, okay, I'll hold. [wait wait wait] Uh hum, I'm still holding. Okay. Yes, that's me. Yes. Thank you, sir. Oh . . . Oh . . . That sounds very bad. Oh, yes, of course, Mr. President, whatever I can do in this emergency.
President Obama: Dave, here's the situation. The warhead is set to explode 30 minutes from now. It is sitting on the 6TY54FR model ICBM, and something went terribly wrong. This was a simple simulation test but the missile's hyperphoton modulator shorted across to the flux capacitor and armed and locked the warhead. We have to fly the missile out of Chicago into deep space in the next few minutes. If we fail, the entire middle part of the US will be obliterated, and now we have only 29 minutes left.
So, briefly, my plan to save the world looks something like this . . .
On the way down from outer space (about a 10 minute fall, terminal velocity of 120mph) I had time to reflect on the adventures of the month. Quite a trip for me, and thank you Catherine for suggesting it. I think that I'll be taking shorter adventures (a few days) during the year, and reporting on them in my journal pages here.
But for the moment, I am just happy to be home . . .