March 3, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” “One Night in Hollywood”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “One Night in Hollywood” Chapter 70
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

In an attempt to win Father of the Year and feeling guilty about my son Jack being cooped up in our house sequestered by Covid for over a year, I grabbed some tickets for his favorite rock band Greta Van Fleet and booked a flight to Los Angeles to go see them along with a hotel in Hollywood to stay for the night.

Our flight to LAX was running an hour late.  The three hens seated behind us talked incessantly amongst themselves but loud enough for me to hear every word.  The one in the middle had a deeper voice, so I imagined her with a short, hard-blond bob and a dislike for men that looked like me.  The one nearest the window was married to Carl, who apparently was quite a handful, and I knew immediately should the eight of us ever share a meal, Carl and I would be whispering conspiratorially in the corner.  Their conversation ranged from items they’d purchased and then returned, Snapchat, holiday decorations, what their husbands ordered at Dairy Queen (Peanut Buster Parfaits!), cute shoes, how the ratio of red to white wine at their last get-together was waaaayy off, their cutesy-named offspring (Preston, Parsley—or was it Oregano?) who I figured must still be young because when they excused themselves to go to the bathroom they referred to it as going “potty”.

I, myself, fit into the airplane restroom like a coffin, but the three-coffee leak I took was so satisfyingly foamy it was akin to orgasm.  I made the mistake of not closing the lid when I flushed, though, and the air filled with a mist that included a small piece of fluttering paper—even though I hadn’t been using any.  I made a mental note to buy some trunks and have a swim later before we headed to the concert.

Alaska Airlines lost Jack’s backpack.  They asked me for the bag tag that no one ever keeps, then led me back to the carousel like maybe we just weren’t looking hard enough.  When reporting what was in the bag I had half a mind to say there was an envelope of cash—mostly $20s and $50s…I’m not sure of the exact amount.  Several thousand, probably.  Here we were, trying to be considerate and not take up space in the overhead bins or thrust our asses into other seated passengers’ faces while we hoisted our belongings above.  Serves us right, I guess.

We went from truck to train to plane to shuttle to cab.  In our hotel elevator, there was a red-headed gentleman with a curly mullet and a sleeveless shirt standing with two young ladies who all went maskless.  He was polite as he exited, casting us a “y’all” somewhere in his acknowledged goodbye.  I later saw him at the concert—his unmistakable crimson helmet—and realized that as different as we might be, we had the very same taste in music.

We met my friend Brian (aforementioned in “Permann”) at an In-N-Out on Sunset.  He had a Zoom call in the parking lot, and I was frantically trying to figure out if my certified resell tickets would need a FedEx to be printed out.  As I waited inside for our food and re-downloaded the Ticketmaster app, I glanced outside to see my old friend and my 15-year old son having an animated conversation and laughing together at an outside table.  I stopped and stared at them for a moment, face mask on and with a downloading phone slowly losing its juice in one hand and a burger receipt and napkins in the other, and I found the moment of clarity that I’m always looking for when I travel.

At one point during the concert I inhaled a mix of pot, perfume, grilled onions, patchouli and truffle fries, and watched as a layer of smoke escaped from the open air venue, lit by a backdrop of blue lights against the night sky and punctuated by mesmerizing guitar chords and I was momentarily intoxicated.  The brothers Kiszka now sported a throbbing mosh of midriff-revealing teens, swaying steadily to their Zeppelinesque riffs—slowly replacing the grizzled rock vets witnessed at earlier concerts

Back to the airport on Day 2, an older woman in the terminal informed a younger woman with a dog that there was an area for pets down the corridor.  “Are you telling me that I can’t sit here with my dog?” the younger woman challenged, her hackles up.  “Oh, no, no, no…” the older woman diffused, “Just in case he needed to go to the bathroom.”  Then they effusively overcompensated for their brief misunderstanding so that they wouldn’t have to change seats and move away from one another.

On the plane home, our stewards were named Randy, Billy and Christian.  Horny, Goaty and Pentecostal, I mused—to no one.  Someone nearby was aggressively farting throughout the flight, painting the cabin with the remnants of their curried or garlicked entrails.  Even the mask couldn’t keep it out, and I found myself jerking my head around like a dog being sprayed with a water pistol, trying to avoid its oppressively wincing cloud.  “Goddamn you…” I muttered.

The whole production lasted about 32 hours.  My wife was waiting for me with one of her patented big hugs when I got home.  Unexpectedly, my normally undemonstrative son followed her’s up with a big hug of his own, engulfing me in his size that now nearly matches my own.  A second, priceless moment of clarity in a life that doesn’t provide us nearly enough of them.