Thursday, January 05, 2012
Halfway to the Stars
Whenever our family went on vacation, my father would complain that he was doing too much driving.
“I’m chained to the goddamn wheel,” he’d declare in full victim mode.
Of course we ignored him and demanded to be driven here, there, and everywhere in between. That's what kids do, right?
I just returned to New York after spending Christmas week in San Francisco with my family and this time I was the one chained to the goddamn wheel—and I enjoyed every second of it.
I haven’t owned a car since I moved back to the city 14 years ago. The insurance rates are too high, traffic is a nightmare and parking is even worse.
I do miss driving, though, and since I’ve never owned a new car, I'll jump at the chance to sit behind the wheel of anything made in the 21st Century.
Well, we had a great time. My sister, auntie, and myself all flew out to see my brother, his wife, and my niece Victoria, who turns 17 (oh, God) this month.
Apparently our flight out of JFK was delayed, but I was so zonked out on Xanax that I have absolutely no recollection of this and, from what my sister tells me, that’s all for the best.
There was something about waiting for a replacement part and getting us to our destination “as safely as possible” that I thankfully missed.
Say “no” to drugs? Not on an airplane, brother.
After getting the car and finding our hotel, we zipped over to a local restaurant where Victoria works as a waitress and paid her a surprise visit. Oh, if only I had gotten a picture of her as we strolled in through the back door…she would have killed me.
I even had my magical Christmas moment when I was talking with Victoria at my brother’s house and Kristin, my other beautiful niece, called me from New York. For a few lovely minutes I had both of them with me at the same time. God bless us, everyone, indeed.
That night we had dinner at Benihana, where the chef does all these funky things with your food before you stuff your face.
During the week, we went to the Legion of Honor, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, while hitting Carmel, Monterey, and the Ferrari-Carano winery in Healdsburg.
Ferrari was my mother’s maiden name, so this place had special meaning for us. Of course I couldn’t do any drinking because I was chained to the goddamn wheel---oops—because I was driving. But I had fun nevertheless.
That's All Folks!
There’s a huge statue of a wild boar outside the winery, commemorating the demise of a savage pig that had been raising hell in the vicinity until he got his porcine ticket punched.
A plaque beneath the statue cites an old legend that “if you rub the wild boar’s snout, good luck will come your way.”
You can bet a month's wages that we all lined up to rub that porker’s honker until his beak put Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer's to shame. Not that I’m superstitious or anything…
In the name of full disclosure, I did have a chance to turn the car over to my brother at one point because my relatives were worried I might have trouble getting through the fog around the Golden Gate Bridge.
To be honest, I was a little nervous myself, but I didn’t want to give into my fears. Hell, I didn’t fly all the way from Brooklyn in a drug-induced stupor just to punk out over a handful of mist.
And I didn’t want to chain my brother to the wheel either, so I took the keys and hit the road.
There was a point when we were coming home from one of our trips where I was driving and just listening to my relatives talking to each other. I didn’t join in the conversation, I just enjoyed the moment and I wonder if my father, in spite of all his protests, didn’t relish his time behind the wheel as well.
My father came to mind again while we were walking through Land’s End in San Francisco one day. We were standing out a spot overlooking the bay and we came upon a note that someone had written to his or her deceased father.
“Dad,” the letter said. “Hope you enjoy the beautiful view. Mom is very sick and we miss you.”
I hope whoever this person is found some solace in writing this message and leaving it at this lovely spot.
The trip had to end, of course, and so we all packed into the car and headed down 101 North to SFO.
Naturally I was a nervous wreck just thinking about getting into an airplane. There were cars zipping all around me and this big-ass truck wouldn’t get out of my way.
I got a little closer and saw that the rig belonged to—are you ready?—a freaking casket company, which I think is proof positive that God has a sense of humor. Too bad I don’t.
I turned over the car, swallowed a bucket of pills, and slipped into a coma. No offense to the Ferrari boar, but it takes more than a lucky pig snout to get me airborne. The next thing I knew, I was back in Brooklyn freezing my tail off.
So the holidays were a rousing success and I’m slowly working on all those things I put off until after Christmas. I’m sorry the vacation is over, but I’ll never regret being chained to the wheel.