The last couple of days spent on this trip went by in a seeming blur, no doubt influenced by a desire to return to the barn and seasoned with liberal amounts of imbibing. My visits with The Author and RoJo’s family were complimented by an unexpected visit to Aunt Viper. Aunt Viper is The Lyin’ Dutchman’s sister, and, much to her chagrin, she was given the moniker by none other than her own brother, my father. I believe the sentence went something like this: “I tell you what, Ool, that woman is a goddamn viper.” This is the way the crazy wing of the family relates to one another.
Aunt Viper and I haven’t spoken in nearly nine months, ever since The Lyin’ Dutchman’s latest flight into lunacy involved blaming my brothers and I for the implosion of his marriage. When told of such accusations, Aunt Viper had a classic response: “THIS IS WHAT WE DO! We hurt the ones we love when we hurt!” In my book, that’s called ridiculous and I told her as much. There was much yelling involved, and Aunt Viper ended the argument in her typical fashion; she told me to have no further contact with her ever again, seeing as how she now considered me dead to her. This was followed by a ritual slamming down of the phone from her end. Totally standard operating procedure.
I dropped in on her at her office and her first words when she saw me were “Well, well, well……look who’s back.” This was followed by several clucks and a small hug; then, as she patted me these words of endearment came spilling from her mouth… “Christ, Ool, you’re getting fat.” Sigh. She then led me by the ear as I’d refused to got get some lunch “on her tab” across the street and marched me into a deli where she promptly demanded that a tri-tip sandwich be made. She is of the school that if someone doesn’t understand her thick-as-mud accent, then she should just shout her demands; her favorite target of such tirades is anyone of Mexican decent. No one raises her hackles so completely like the Latinos – she just can’t hate them enough. As I ate half of a sandwich, I asked her if she and her office-mates ate the same thing when they came here. She told me, no, they do not, because it’s too fattening. “Perfect for you, though, Ool. Tell me, are you curling your hair now? What the hell are you doing with your hair?” I informed her that no, this fat boy was indeed, NOT, curling his hair. She dismissed this as an outright lie and intimated that maybe her suspicions about my sexuality were more accurate than I’d care to admit. Despite my having a lovely wife, kids and a propensity for the opposite sex, Aunt Viper thinks most men are nothing more than closeted homosexuals. My opinion is that this is a line of defense she employs when people get too nosy about her spinster status. I tell her as much and she informs me that I have no idea what I’m talking about, as usual. Family.
I arrived this morning at o’dark thirty at LAX to head home (Thanks to RoJo and Amy for their hospitality!) and was greeted by the most hostile ticket agent in the L.A. Basin. When I came up to her counter and said “Good morning, how are ya?”, she just stared at me and slowly picked up the p.a. loudspeaker, angrily announcing “Ladies and gentlemen, when you come up to the ticket counter, you must have your I.D. ready, this will make the process go much more smoothly.” Turns out my I.D. was in my other hand, but I was too busy trying to be all friendly for her liking. I then slapped the plastic card on her counter and made some remark about how some folks just aren’t morning people. She responded by seating me at the back of the plane near a toilet. Score one for the asshole airline employee.
I then met the same customer service etiquette when dealing with the T.S.A. of L.A. They don’t want to be told “Hello!” They want I.D. and they want nothing more. In an ironic twist, there was someone sitting in my seat, and when we compared boarding passes, we were both assigned seat 31D. This counter agent was nothing, if not relentless. I then noticed the guy occupying my seat had, as his name on the pass, my exact name. It then occurred to me that perhaps my sadistic counter agent fell a little in love with me, and was surly as a response to her magnetic attraction to me. She couldn’t get me off her mind, so she kept typing Ulrich Gulje on her computer and assigning groups of people to sit on my lap. I could see that our relationship was going to be tumultuous from the start. In other words, a typical Los Angeles love affair, where mutual hatred was the primary attraction. Score one for the hopeless romantic.
As the plane descended from its cruising altitude and we dipped below the cloud line, I recognized the December hinterlands of the Ozarks coming into view. If California is, in the words of my Rogersville neighbor “the land of fruits and nuts”, then Missouri is the section of the freezer that is in desperate need of a defrosting. People are iced over, there’s no snow to speak of, and there’s a pretty good chance there’s freezer burn on our asses.
The family unit was waiting at the curb, both Heathens eager to tell on one another and pretend they missed me. The Wife seemed glad to see me, and in that moment, I knew that I’d have to end my dangerous relationship with the ticket agent. I don’t think she’d fit in too well here in the freezer section.