Friday, June 23, 2006

Flying Home Fantasy

According to my GPS, we're at 36,900 feet, flying at 560 mph (ground speed), somewhere over the Navajo Nation (the Naabeehó Dine'é) in northern New Mexico. Large flat plateaus, intermittent stony buttes and deep crevices decorate the landscape below while fluffy white cottonball clouds provide welcome shade to the desert below. It's a stark contrast from the patchwork quilt of green trees and meadows I'm used to in Virginia. Though it's probably 100 degrees down there, up here in the cabin, it's a comfortable 75 degrees.

The 757 I'm on is taking me home. Away from breezy seaside restaurants and haut cuisine, back to the familiarity of 90 degree heat and humidity, and the welcoming lap of my family. After eating nothing but the likes of Vitello Picata al Limone (my inevitible favorite at Italian joints) and Pecan Crusted Sea Bass with Maple Demi-Glaze, I am happily awaiting a dinner tonight of cheese-wieners and oven-baked onion rings and tater tots. And another weekend of lawn mowing. Ahhhhh, the good life!

It was a good trip to San Diego this week. Every time I make one of these trips, I wish so much that I could bring Becky and the boys. Every little thing—every sign, every shop, every restaurant—I think, "Boy, Luke (or Eddie, or Becky) would like this thing. I wish they could see it." Whatever it is, whether it's a bunch of seals on the beach, or a gallery of Dr. Seuss original artwork, there's always something to see on these trips, and I wish my family could be here by my side.

Of course, without the family here, it leaves room for some 'interesting moments' that wouldn't ordinarily happen. For instance, last night, after dinner in La Jolla, Dan and Doug had to split right away so that they could make their red-eye back to DC. That left me alone at the dinner table with Theresa and Teresa (the two Theresas, as I call them).

Now, don't start letting the soundtrack to Boogie Nights play in your head. It was nothing like that. The ladies decided they wanted to shop, and they walked into some froo-froo store that sells ladies clothing. Walking or waiting for women in clothing stores, for me, is punishment worse than death, and a grueling ordeal that I have endured since the early days of following my mother through department stores. I loath women's clothing stores.

So, I politely told the two Theresas that I would wait for them in the Häagen Daaz. After one small mocha-chip cone, they showed no signs of coming out, so I wandered across the street to an art gallery—one like you'll only see in La Jolla. They had an intriguing collection of the "Secret Works" of Dr. Seuss. Apparently, Theodor Geisel enjoyed painting more than just for his books, and had a collection of beautiful art which he held back until after his death. Much of it was rather "adult" themed, and all of it was really striking. At first glance, it looked like regular modern art, but if you looked closely enough, you could always pick out a trademark Dr. Seuss icon. It really was wonderful stuff.

I'm standing in this gallery, quietly admiring the art, when an impossibly beautiful young brunette comes up to me and starts talking to me. This never happens to me, even in California, so I am instantly nervous. It quickly becomes obvious that she is a gallery worker, and is probably trying to sell me something. We chat politely about the paintings, and she just doesn't seem to want to walk away. Then, we're talking about traveling, and life in La Jolla, and all kinds of stuff, and soon, none of it is about the paintings. She's either really trying to sell me a painting, without being obvious about it, or she's actually interested in me. (Surely not.)

Then, she tells me she's not American, that's she's Swedish. "Oh, that's interesting," I tell her, "my wife has been to Sweden, and my wife tells me it's wonderful." Doesn't seem to phase her. (She really wants to sell me a painting?)

At this point, for some subconscious reason, my forehead is now sweating. I notice it and flush, feeling like a fool, but she remains extremely friendly, even standing a bit closer than what is really considered normal. Damn, I think to myself, I am going to have to buy one of these paintings. She's good.

"How much is this one?" I ask, thrusting my hand out and pointing at the first one I see.

"Twenty seven hundred," she replies.

Great, that's just what I need. The painting is actually affordable! Now, what in the hell would Becky say if I walked home with a friggin' 20x30 oil painting of Dr. Suess? Not exactly something you hang in the dining room, and for two-almost-three grand, I'm sure as hell not hanging it in the boys' rooms.

At this point, the two Theresas walk in and spy me talking to the art lady. Theresa (with an H) gives me a look… that "funny" look like, "What do you think you are you doing?" with a big smirk on her face. The Theresas start chatting with me in that very loud and obvious way that says, "We're with him. And we're co-workers." So my Swedish friend asks if we're here for a conference, and the conversation cools off about 20 degrees.

The "id" part of me looks at the Theresas and says, "Thanks, you two. Thanks a lot. Thanks a whole hell of a lot! She's Swedish for crying out loud!!! Swedish!!"

Teresa (without an H) then takes such an interest in the Dr. Seuss art, and starts asking my Swedish friend so many questions, that she is compelled to try to sell her a painting. In a desperate attempt to get out of there with, first, my pride at the illusion of being sought after, and second, with my checkbook still intact and no painting under my arm, I disengage myself and begin to wander through the rest of the gallery.

Of course, it's then that I notice a gorgeous painting by an Armenian named Yuroz. The painting is a dark grayish portrait of a lady with ruby lips holding a glass of dark red wine. Very simple, almost Picasso like. Beautiful. I must find out more, so I return to my Swedish friend and ask her about it. She explains the painting and the artist in great detail and takes it out of the display so I can look more closely. Then she goes to her desk to look up the price.

The painting is beautiful, and getting more and more hard to resist. I would love to own this one. The lady in the painting is so sad, so reflective, and the wine seems to provide her so much comfort. I'm sure Becky would love it, and I have just the place to hang it at home.

"Twenty thousand dollars," she tells me, returning to my side. I nearly choke on my own spit.

"It.. It's very nice," I stammer. "So, Teresa, are you going to buy that Dr. Suess print?" I ask, trying to change the subject.

Finally, I make an ungraceful departure, but not before surrendering my mailing information so that I can get a brochure from the gallery every month. And Sofia (for I finally learn her name) thrusts her card into my hand and tells me to call her if I decide about the Yuroz.

The two Theresas and I walk down the street, returning to the car. They're teasing me about flirting with the girl, when I clearly was not. Clearly. But I can't help but wonder, did she really want to sell me a painting? Or was it something else she was interested in? You be the judge. I know what I think.

Now, when will those tater tots be ready? I'm starving!!

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