It's official, I'm truly living the retired life, now.
Last week I pulled my slacks up to my nipples, installed some new tennis balls on my walker and accompanied my grandmother and about 40 other whiteheads on a senior bus trip out to the Fantasy Springs Casino in Palm Springs.
The day started ominously when I arrived at the casino and found that the poker room had been shut down the week previous (would have been nice if they'd updated their website to reflect the closure).
Scratch that, the true low-point of the day probably came when I boarded the bus and the two ladies who couldn't fit together in the seat in front of me were arguing about who's ass was bigger and then asked my opinion.
Anyway, back to the casino, I bided my time in the morning by playing a little Pai Gow and then I rejoined the group for lunch at the buffet. What a grand time we had - there was so much to complain about! The melons weren't ripe, they put ice in the water (had to send those back) and the girl took too long bringing out the coffee. Fortunately, they had sugar-free desserts so we were all able to indulge.
Following lunch, I spent a little more time on the Pai Gow table and then went to check on how the others were doing. I found one of my grandmother's good friends on the video poker machines, so I sat down next to him and threw $20 into an adjacent machine. About 20 minutes later, I notice the following cards on the screen: Ten-King-Jack-Queen of clubs and a King of spades. I took a chance and held the clubs and dumped the extra King. Imagine my surprise when the King was replaced by the Ace of clubs, giving me a Royal Flush! Cha-Ching! Suddenly the closed poker room wasn't such a bad thing.
The bus picked us up shortly thereafter and brought us back to the safety of Hemet, albeit too late to catch the Early Bird specials.
The clock strikes 11:00 PM and not surprisingly, the Hemet nightlife has not only been successfully disappointing but totally non-existent, as well. We’re out at the far end of town and have decided to call it a night; just before we start heading back, however, Tom pulls the car over, turns it off and hands me the keys. “You drive.”
“Are you sure? What if something happens?”
“Don’t worry about it, what’s going to happen?”
With equal parts reservation and pure glee, I climb into the Ferrari’s cockpit. You see, Tom owns an exotic car rental service out in LA and having locked the keys in his personal car he opted to take the F355. If I were in his situation, I’d be locking the keys in my daily driver a lot.
I ease the car onto the main drag and we start making our way back to the house. The Ferrari F355 has always been one of my favorite cars and the reality of driving one does not change my mind. Like a sprinter who mistakenly signed up for a walk-a-thon, the car rolls listlessly down the street begging to be unleashed, yet the speed limit and Hemet’s finest keep us tethered to a scant 45 MPH.
Judging by the rapidly approaching headlights in the rearview mirror, someone else in this town doesn’t seem to abide by the same laws. The headlights morph into a mid-90’s Honda Accord as a blur of blue flashes by my left side. Suddenly, the brake lamps light up, the nose of the Accord dives towards the pavement and the guy is in such a hurry to stop that amber sparks fly from the front wheel wells. Not sure what this other driver is doing, I slow the Ferrari down to a crawl. This turns out to be a good move on my part as the other car comes to a stop but not before cutting into my lane. As I stop our car, I wonder aloud what the hell is going on.
“Maybe he just wants to get a look at the car, try pulling around,” Tom offers.
I begin to make my way around to the left of the stopped car. Instead, I’m greeted with reverse lights as the Accord pulls back to the left to block me again. Why did I ever agree to drive this car? Visions of carjackings start to seep into my head. I check the rearview, worried that a third car is going to come up from behind to block us in on two sides. My heart starts to pound from within my chest. I make another attempt to pull to the right of the obstruction and once more, forward progress is impeded.
My mind races, trying to come up with a plan. Before it can formulate anything, the Accord’s drivers’ side door opens and a thuggy character leans out. In his hand is a large plastic cup which, given his actions, I’m convinced contains some sort of booze. He stares straight at us and begins to speak as he starts to get out of the car, “how about letting me drive, now?”
“I don’t know what’s up with this guy, but we’re out of here.” I drop the car into first, crank the wheel hard to the left and floor it. The car wakes up, happy to be of service and next thing I know we’re flying up the street in the other direction. After a mile or so, I let off and coast down to a reasonable speed.
I turn to Tom, “I think you should call 9-1-1.” As the words finish leaving my mouth, I check the rearview mirror and my heart sinks as I see two dots of light staring back at me. The Accord pulls the same maneuver, flying up on the left and slamming on the brakes as he passes. This time, however, he cuts in front of us at speed. I get on the brakes really hard as the right side of the Accord misses our front bumper by about 10 feet and continues on down a side street. Not waiting to see if he’s going to take another run at us, I once again bury the gas and we head up the street in search of some cops that we’d passed earlier in the night.
Splitting time between the road ahead and the rearview mirror, my eyes are getting a serious workout (not to mention my heart, lungs, etc). The old adage about never finding a cop when you need one holds true and over the course of the next two or three miles, we don’t pass a soul. On the plus side, our new enthusiast friend seems to have left us alone, too, so I decide to give up on finding the cops and get onto some backstreets in hopes of making it back to the house in one piece.
As I lie in bed later that night, my heart continues to race as all of the possibilities of what could have taken place swirl around my head. What if that guy had had a gun? What if I’d stuffed the car? What the hell happened to this town? Somewhere amidst all the worry, my dreamcar nightmare falls prey to sleep.
“I thought Wednesday was the new Thursday, where is everyone?”
“No, Monday is the new Thursday; no one goes out on Wednesday.”
Dave and I are wandering the streets of Manhattan desperately in search of a decently populated bar. On the plus side, the walk is probably doing us some good considering our overstuffed stomachs, courtesy of the 4 courses of dessert served up at the French restaurant where we had dinner. Not conducive to this long walk all over the city is our current attire of suits and dress shoes.
We’ve all but given up on the night save for the one remaining bar between us and the subway stop that will take us back home. Our spirits low, we step into this last chance watering hole and come face to face with Karaoke Night in full effect. Given the choice between bad singing and calling the night prematurely, we decide to stick it out.
The liquid courage takes a hold of Dave a lot sooner than it does me and before I know it, he’s on stage belting out a solid rendition of Radiohead’s Creep
. As soon as he gets back to our seats the badgering begins: “Dude, you gotta go up there and sing a song…C’mon, I did it and we’re not leaving until you get up there…Here’s the song book, just pick one.”
Knowing that I need to come up with something to subdue Dave’s onslaught of ‘encouragement,’ I offer the following compromise: “alright, there’s this Australian folk song that I know. If they have it, I’ll sing it.”
Fairly confident that the masses will be spared my singing, I take a look in the song book under “T”.Take On Me
.Thank God I’m a Country Boy
And then, there it is: Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport
by Rolf Harris. Uh-oh.
True to my word, I submit my song request and warm up by ordering another round.
Thirty minutes later, I am summoned to the stage where I take the mike and with my best Australian inflection say, “alright, this here’s an oldie where I come from, I hope you all enjoy it. Here we go…” and proceed to sing the entire song in a thick Aussie accent.
The Lounge Singer
After finishing the song, I leave the stage and head to the back of the bar to find Dave. On the way, a girl stops me. “Hey, I’m very familiar with that song, but I’ve never heard that verse about the Abo’s*.”
“Is that right? How do you know the song?” I carry on in my new accent.
“I’m from Sydney…”
I continue to have a 5-10 minute conversation with this person, upholding that I am from Oz the entire time and I just moved to the States about a year previous. I don’t know what came over me, but at that moment I was Australian.
* - From Wikipedia
: “The fourth verse was removed circa 1960,
because of its use of the word Abo, a now offensive slang term for
Australian Aborigines, and because of its implied racist context…”