I was one of the fortunate few to be selected for an extra-thorough security check at the airport yesterday, just another part of the government trying to make you feel safer by inconveniencing you. I have nothing against the people who have to carry out the illusion, however, and I had plenty of time to burn, so it was no big deal. Certified as USDA Grade-A safe, I climbed into a metal cylinder, took my seat, and a couple of hours later I was in San Diego. My bag, it seems, took a shortcut and was waiting for me when I arrived.
As I stood in the airport I was blindsided my Amy and the fun began.
If, that is, you count Chuck E. Cheese as fun. Amy has family visiting, and the family has kids of just the right age to enjoy a place like that. I had never been in one of those places before, but my mind was filled with horrific images of kids juiced up on caffeine and sugar, running around and screaming and puking on someone dressed up as a rat. I walked in and the first sound to hit my ears, the vanguard of the audio assault, was the wail of a crying child. Oh, grand.
In the end, it was not as bad as I feared. The children were running loose, bouncing from video game to video game, but the noise was low enough to make conversation possible. The place is, simply, Las Vegas for kids. Slot machines have been replaced by other games, and the payout is in tickets redeemable only at the casino for junk that you wouldn’t want to buy anywhere else, but the kids have the look of slot machine junkies, automatons plugging in a coin, running the game, and watching the string of tickets slowly growing at their feet. They are hoping for the big score, the lucky break that converts a single quarter into 200 tickets.
I met Amy’s mother and sister. I have been corresponding with Nicole off and on for some time; Amy has long harbored ideas of hooking us up. This put a great deal more significance on the meeting, but I tried not to think about that. Naturally we had each formed images of what the other looked like, and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t think I made as strong an impression. My best is none too good, but I was looking scruffier than usual. Shoulda planned a little better. I sat down and nibbled leftover pizza and didn’t try to force the conversation. Eventually the two kids ran out of tokens, and after the ritual Selection of the Prizes we were on our way. I had walked through the valley of the Pizza Rat and lived to tell the tale.
Amy drove as only Amy can, to the horror of her mother. Green Bay was playing, and she wanted to get somewhere with the game on TV before she missed the whole thing. We raced back to the hotel where the family is staying and made a break for the bar there. We arrived in time to watch the last thirty seconds of the game. The place had wireless Internet access, however, so while I was there I popped open the laptop and discovered that someone had crashed Jer’s Novel Writer and his file had become corrupted – very bad – and I had managed to piss off one of the main guys behind the Duke City Shootout – also not good.
Not sure just how I gave offense, but without Christopher Coppola there likely wouldn’t have been a Shootout this year at all, and that means he is directly responsible for our opportunity to make Pirates. It is very cool what he and the other organizers have done (an episode dedicated to them is on the way someday), and perhaps in my exuberance I appeared ungrateful somewhere along the way. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no other festival like the Shootout, and no better opportunity for aspiring film writers that I know of.
So maybe I deserved a little wake-up call to remember to say thanks to these guys, but it didn’t do much for my mood last night or this morning. Knowing one of my faithful beta testers lost some work (not too much, fortunately – he had backups) didn’t help. What did help my mood was Amy. We made it back to her place and just sat and shot the breeze like in the old days. I got the rundown on her life and the juicy gossip about her friends, managed to get a word in edgewise every now and then, and slowly faded.
Then Amy wanted to go to a bar. I wasn’t enthusiastic, but I wasn’t ready to give up on the camaraderie, so off we went for one shot and one beer. The shot was horrible, some kind of mixture that was sweet and clingy. I don’t know why things like that exist at all – if you’re just going to throw it down your throat, why not use some cheap-ass booze and be done with it? The beer was good, though. Stone Pale Ale.
Amy had to get up early this morning; I didn’t. They are all at Legoland right now, and I’m thinking about breakfast and wondering where I can find Internet. It’s almost like I never left.