Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Producer

Diane and I have become addicted to fame. Why anyone wouldn’t want to be famous I’ll never know. It must be some sort of personality flaw.

This isn’t to say that Diane and I are famous. Rather the star of our road show is a little yellow-and-white dream machine we call home.

Every day, many times a day, in every imaginable location, pedestrians and other motorists flash us the peace sign or give us the thumbs up. They take pictures. They honk and shout. When parked, we are approached by star-struck fans. Maybe this someone is just a curious autophile. Maybe this someone is reminded of someone they once knew (and maybe that someone was them). Maybe this someone is reminded of a road trip they have always dreamed about. They are young and old, they usually have big beaming smiles, and they are always genuinely glad to meet us. Well, not us exactly. It’s the bus they really want to meet, and they already know all the lingo.

We have learned never to predict when someone new will walk into our lives. Exhausted after a long day’s drive? Too bad. It’s time to talk “year, make, and model.” Furiously trying to update a blog entry before the battery of your laptop runs out of juice? Not so fast. It’s time to kick the tires and listen appreciatively to tales of an otherwise-forgotten road trip.

But then, drawing energy from the encounter, I invariably set aside the laptop and steal the spotlight. I love to meet new people. I love to show off our groovy little bus. I yammer on and on about the engine conversion, the sleeping quarters, the pump sink, the hidden toilet. Soon enough I can see my new friend’s eyes begin to glaze over. But I can’t help myself. This fame stuff, I tell you, is quite a drug.

So it was with great relief (for us and our fans), that we escaped into the anonymity of the world’s greatest metropolis—New York City. We safely parked our little bus on the tree-shaded streets of Brooklyn, locked it up, and for three glorious days played the role of street-savvy New Yorkers. We only dared to do so because we had the good fortune to stay with a long-time friend, former co-worker, world traveler, food critic, Internet entrepreneur, and independent movie producer, Mr. Andy Deemer.

He welcomed us with open arms and the keys to his apartment. We could have not been made to feel more at home. So what does a native New Yorker do over a weekend? We didn’t know either until we jumped into the fray. We spent the first night in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. $3 got us admission to a showing of Powaqqatsi, an experimental documentary film in the 1980s by Godfrey Reggio. I know. One day in New York and we’re already art film snobs.

We got there early - and it's a good thing because it was a full house. Mr. Reggio was on hand. And Phillip Glass (one of the most influential composers of the late-20th century), performed the soundtrack to this movie—accompanied by a full orchestra, the Brooklyn Youth Choir, and a bonafide Muezzin. It was like going to a silent picture show, except the live performers were the very people who created the original soundtrack. Sweet.

It was a tough crowd. Which means your show had better be good—you can’t “wow” these locals with flashy pyrotechnics. These are New Yorkers. They’ve seen it all already. You just have to be good. And the show was more than good. Did I mention the price of admission was $3? Did I mention we were in New York?

The next day, Andy took us on a field trip through the neighborhoods, pausing at a super-trendy super-secret ethnic food hotspot, where the burritos are spicy and Spanish is the spoken word. The bus stayed parked. No one paid us the slightest bit of attention. It was fantastic.

Drawing energy from the city’s vibe, we had no need for rest. And before the sun had set, Andy’s friend Megan arrived on the scene and we were off to a Brooklyn rooftop birthday party.

It was a birthday party like any other. Except the food was big-city terrific (Diane made a pizza to bring and Andy made burgers), and the Manhattan skyline was in the background. Did I mention we were in New York?

Diane also proved herself to be a formidable mixologist...

... who wowed the locals. We were all very impressed.

The next morning was a decidedly more sober experience, which was just as well. Andy had to get back to work (the Saturday he spent with us was his first day off in about a year), and we had to hit the road.

We weren’t ready to go. Or I should say we didn't want to go. In fact, we connived throughout the afternoon how to extend our stay. Maybe we’d sell the house in Oregon. Certainly we’d sell the bus. We loved the big city energy. We relished our anonymity. We talked about how much we loved our stay, all the while marveling at our good fortune to have a friend such as Andy. We talked about how much we enjoyed meeting Megan (thanks again for the sack of audio books, Megan!). We talked about how much we love New York.

But as we talked, we kept on driving northward, the city lights fading from sight, and by nightfall we were camped in the forested quiet of a state park in upstate New York. Save for the crackling camp fire, the night air was cool and quiet beside the Hudson River. I was tired from the drive. I was still recovering from Diane’s vicious rooftop concoctions. I was blissfully zoning out to my gentrified New York dreams when a voice shot out from the dark:

“Hey! Nice bus! What year is it - a '72?”

I turned in my camp chair. A tall dude in flip-flops and a tattered t-shirt beamed a hopeful and somehow expectant smile in my direction. I grimaced as I creaked out of my chair to meet him. “No,” I said, trying my best to warm up to the old familiar routine. “It’s a ’71.”

“Well, it looks great! I remember when…”

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