Thursday, September 3, 2009

Go West (Part III): I Don't Like Your Girlfriend

“Travel at its truest is thus an ironic experience, and the best travelers…seem to be those able to hold two or three inconsistent ideas in their minds at the same time, or able to regard themselves as at once serious persons and clowns.” –Paul Fussell

What would you do if you could instantly have an hour of your life handed back to you? Would you treat it as a do-over, or simply go about your existence as if you didn’t just get 60 minutes added to it?

It’s difficult to say if that hour is truly adding anything valuable when you’re spending it within the confines of Page, AZ, save more time with good friends. Scenic? Yes. Odd? Extraordinarily (though maybe not as eccentric as Kanab, UT). Cultural mecca? Really, no. Dairy Queen? Of course not.

By crossing that Utah border into Arizona, there is yet a whole new time zone at your disposal. In that spirit, we were sure to stop by the local Safeway to stock up on a few bottles of wine, to be ceremoniously consumed in our three-bedroom apartment-style accommodations at Debbie’s Hideaway, across the street from Bashful Bob’s motel.

Perhaps there were red flags that I chose to ignore, like the fake flowers planted outside our door or the distinct feeling that I’d landed at grandma’s house, where odd collections of trinkets like Monopoly pieces and dusty old books are displayed in glass china cabinets in the family room. I rattled around our fully stocked kitchen and discovered that if we wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner, we were set. If we wanted to uncork a bottle of wine? Not so much.

At that moment, while KC and Alissa had retreated to their bedrooms to get ready for dinner, there was a knock on our door. Rick, the not-so-proud manager of Debbie’s Hideaway, was there to collect a credit card.

“You don’t happen to have a wine opener anywhere, do you?” I asked.

“You know, that’s the second time this week somebody needed one and I don’t have one,” Rick said. “But I did come up with a solution. I’ll be right back.”

I knew he wasn’t lying, because I was still in full possession of my credit card.

Rick came back with an electric drill, a pair of pliers, and a screw. He was right. He had a solution. To this day I still regret that I didn’t capture it on camera, but it suffices to say that we had two open bottles of vino ready and waiting, and nobody got hurt in the process. I’m also strongly considering packing power tools the next time I go on vacation.

I followed Rick over to his “office” (complete with metal-frame futon couch) to pay for our stay. Along the way I took the opportunity to ask if the sushi restaurant in town was good. And by “good,” I meant, “safe.” Consuming sushi in the desert seemed dubious to me.

“It is really good. And I’m a sushi snob,” he said. “I moved here from L.A.”

“Ah, so you share my concerns—the three of us are (mostly) from New York,” I responded. “How did you end up in Page from Los Angeles, anyway?”

“Did you see the motel down the block? Bashful Bob’s?” Rick said. “Bob is my dad.”

“Is he bashful?” I asked, naturally.

“Actually not at all, but he’s in his eighties and he needs help, so I moved here 13 months ago,” he said.

“So that must be a big adjustment. How do you like it?”

Rick looked at me earnestly and replied, “It’s awful. I haven’t had a date in 13 months. And it’s not like I can go around sleeping with all the guests.”

“Clearly,” I thought.

I made as graceful an exit as I could muster while Rick extended an invitation for the three of us to join him on the patio after dinner, where, he said, he and his buddy would likely be having a few beers.

So when we returned from dinner—Mexican, because the sushi joint was closed for a private party!—we tried to get into our room from the opposite side of the building. In our deliriousness, we were actually attempting to break into the wrong room. Oops. We hastily b-lined to the other door adjacent to the patio, fairly certain we went unnoticed.

I poured the wine. Into three coffee mugs. Already aware that there was no corkscrew in the kitchen, I’m not sure what part of my logic assumed there would be stemware.

We toasted to our week that was—all that we had seen, done, talked about, laughed at, and experienced. And after one mug of wine, it was time to get the party started. And by “party,” I mean “dance party.”

There was vintage Madonna, among other 80s faves, but then out of nowhere, iTunes kicked out Avril Lavigne. Funny how we’re all responsible for our own playlists, yet nobody claims the random guilty pleasure until it is too late. Music libraries—and the shuffle—never lie. Avril was passionately declaring, “Hey, you, I don’t like your girlfriend!” and for some reason it struck a nerve (really, ladies, who hasn’t felt that way at one time or another?!).

“I think you need to new one!” we sang, very badly, and very loudly, while laughing hysterically.

And then, another knock on the door, which froze us in our haphazard footsteps. We stared at each other for about 10 seconds. Then instantaneously ran to the back of one of the bedrooms, reminiscent of getting busted at a high school party, though we stopped short of escaping through the window. After about a minute of giggling uncontrollably we realized how ridiculous it was that three adult women were scared of getting in trouble. So we sent KC out to be the grown up. Alissa and I continued to hover in the back corner of the bedroom.

Guess who? Yep. Rick. Who, after about 2.5 mugs of wine, was officially being referred to as The Ricker. As long as we were dancing to 80s music, we thought we’d also pay some homage to Silver Spoons. And as you might imagine, we were so NOT getting busted. He “heard” that we were still up, so he extended that patio invitation one more time.

We took him up on it, topping off our mugs and heading out to the picnic table to join The Ricker and his buddy (whose name escapes me). After trading tales of our travels and hearing a little bit more local lore—apparently Bob’s, umm, exploits make him the complete opposite of bashful—Rick disclosed that he was a struggling actor in L.A. Not a shock. His claim to fame? Besides some disturbing, inappropriate photos of some Hollywood party gone horribly wrong, his big break came as a character on the television series Bablyon 5. I didn’t know what it was either, but I gather from the trading cards that The Ricker shared, it entailed playing some weird science-fiction creature and a lot of makeup.

If the trading cards weren’t enough of a hint, the nearly four mugs of wine and the prospect of the week-long running retreat in Flagstaff beginning the next day, made me come to the conclusion that it was time to call it a night. The Ricker was sad to say goodbye, of course. He took my hand, refused to let it go, kissed it, and declared, “You are so cute.”

Alissa couldn’t contain her laughter long enough to get us behind our closed door, as I just rolled my eyes and lamented, once again, that I have the unwelcomed ability to seemingly only attract the oddest, most desperate of men. On the upside, at least this one came with his very own trading card.

So, now we can see what can happen when you have 60 minutes handed back to you in a day.

Morning seemed to come way too fast, as it usually does following a bizarre, wine-infused late night. With an aching head and parched throat, I threw my belongings into the car and waited for my partners-in-crime to return from Starbucks so we could make a quick escape out of dodge.

After greasy breakfast and a stop at Horseshoe Bend, we were heading south on Rt. 89 to the final destination of Flagstaff. The desert started to fade behind us and the lush mountains loomed in front of us, as the car thermometer dropped from 105 degrees to 69 degrees in a matter of 10 minutes. A brand-new week was ahead and I was beyond excited to see what it would bring.

As we pulled into the Embassy Suites parking lot, the three of us broke into laughter. What to our wandering eyes should appear, just across the street from our new home-away-from-home? Dairy Queen.

It was a sign.

(To be continued…)