Tag Archives: Washington

A Cheap Red-Eye with a Sliver of Lemon Please

An excerpt from my novel I’m sloooowwwwllly working on, feel free to read some earlier excerpts here.


Sam looked out at the darkening horizon. She had been up since 4 am, stopped in three airports, been frisked down in security and curled her hair in a hallway in the Kansas airport. And yet she felt she hadn’t arrived yet. She was stuck in mid-air, her own halting hope that this dalliance was moving towards a relationship and her own nauseous fear that this dalliance was moving towards a relationship. She sat alone, surrounded by what looked like the who’s who of Washington, DC. Everyone seemed to have a wired ear and a Brooks Brothers suit on or be slithering towards one another in a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap and Jimmy Choo heels trying to look effortless and not succeeding. Her date had gone to the washroom and she realized there was nothing tying her here–not a reservation, not a phone number, itinerary, or address. She cringed as a voice in her head boomed: “Or boyfriend, get it? Get it? You just traveled across the continent for a date. Fuck this shit.” It sounded like a clip of dialogue from Entourage playing over and over like a film reel with a tick in it that wouldn’t let go.

Her instincts twitched around her ankles, shifting down to the tips of her toes, then back to her heels. She crossed and uncrossed her legs. She was like a runner at the beginning of a race only she was in Valentino, not leaning over her knees on a track but in a velvet booth casually leaning back as though she had not a care in the world.

Run. Run. Run. 

“There you are, I didn’t realize you’d snuck back to the table. Here are two more, just in case that first one didn’t hit the spot.” He placed the oysters on the table in front of her, their opalescent innards shaking slightly in the candlelight. He put his hand under the table and slipped it over her kneecap. She leaned into it; she wasn’t brave enough to go in the other direction.

“I am sorry, I can’t eat these. I really…I..” she stuttered while gently pushing the oyster towards him.

“But you just sucked that one back like –”

She cut him off so she wouldn’t have to hear him finish the sentence. It was easier if she just spoke the lines. His dialogue became so much better if she wrote it.

“Like a woman who is desperate for dinner!” She smiled encouragingly up into his face and pushed the menu into his fingers. He suddenly put his fingers up to her neck and stroked her skin. His hands seemed immense. Could he circle his fingers around, index to thumb, if he tried? She didn’t want to think about it. His largeness was something she always wanted to step away from, as if by sidestepping it she could avoid the truth which was she wasn’t attracted to him.

As she looked at the menu and concentrated on what she could stomach, she tried to ignore the fact–which now seemed to tap on her shoulder repeatedly like a kind of holier-than-thou referee–that all this might amount to was a cheap red-eye in the middle of the night.

“Martini. Dry. Sliver of lemon.” It was a perfunctory order that she softened with a smile. She slipped her hand into his, her small fingers disappearing into his oversized palm. She decided to just enjoy the view out over the city, the taste of expensive appetizers, a doting waiter and ice-cold vodka. She closed the door to her internal analysis and stepped into the make-believe world she willed to be real.

And he would come along with her. They always did.

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A trip to the dessert aisle

Last weekend I went to DC for a little Christmas visit. It was quite cold but not the dank, wrap around your bones and inhale your marrow kind of way that it is here in Victoria. The city was decked out for Christmas like any good American city would be at this time of year and it made me think back to my years in San Diego when I was simply awestruck at the level to which Americans will go to celebrate Christmas. I find it one of the charming qualities of Americans, this unadulterated exuberance for holidays.

On the Saturday we decided to take our cheap rental car (Mr. W. confirmed it was the same model as an old school cop car) and meander into Virginia. It was sunny and crisp and beautiful and we stopped in at  Great Falls National Park. Now, I am a huge fan of national parks because of the rich storytelling that goes on and this particular park was situated beside the historic Potomac river which falls dramatically over a series of  jutting rocks with an intense velocity.

The Patowmack Canal was a project that George Washington managed with true business acumen; he saw how Virginia and Maryland and Ohio could collectively benefit from trade on the river and the somewhat daunting obstacle of the Falls was overcome by building a canal with a series of locks alongside the river whereby trade and travellers could navigate this part of the turbulent waterway quite safely. It took 17 years to build, and was mostly done on the back of indentured servants and local slaves.

Washington, a true entrepreneur, asserted that “The way is easy and dictated by our clearest interest. It is to open a wide door, and make a smooth way for the produce of that Country to pass to our Markets ….” (Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/grfa/historyculture/canal.htm, Dec 2010) I love the American pioneer spirit! There was a few historic houses we visited as well, which just looked so picturesque with their wreath and simple shutters. I’m really mad for the shutters on the east coast I have to say.

After getting a bit chilled, we headed back onto the highway (where people know how to merge at high speeds by the way), and made our way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (when you give gobs of dough you get to add your crazy name onto whatever you like) near Washington Dulles International Airport. This place just made your jaw drop when you walked in. The hangar is 2 1/2 football fields long and 10 stories high! With planes, rockets, and missiles of all shapes and sizes hanging mid-flight like airborne ballerinas delicately frozen in time.

We spoke with an aviation historian about the infamous Enola Gay aircraft that dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. I love talking to men of this generation, in no small part because my own father was a World War II pilot, but also because there’s something of the old school about them in their manners and way of storytelling I adore. It was an honour to hear him tell us about the history of the aircraft.

The next day we did not rush about on a plane, a train or automobile as is our habit when together it would seem, but rather took it easy and wandered out late in the afternoon to Georgetown. Georgetown predates Washington or the District of Columbia and when you walk through the streets there you are enveloped in history. Situated along the Potomac, it was bustling with Christmas shoppers, choraliers, and Christmas concerts, horses with bells, and all things seasonal. Even the horses had sparkles on their hooves!

We thought to stay home on Sunday night and went shopping at a Safeway to have dinner in. When you live 3,000 miles apart, an ordinary thing like shopping has its strange charms. After my last visit, I asserted that heaven was a room at the Plaza. I would argue (with myself apparently) that heaven can also be found in the frozen dessert aisle, deciding what kind of deliciousness to share.

Going home via a subway, an amtrak, and four airports was something akin to time travel, whereupon one is yanked from a bucolic field of meadows to a squat Milwaukee bar where an amaranthine ticker tape of flight numbers, delays, and passenger names, is being announced into your brain while you must nurse a warm Guinness to please make the shock of this more bearable. But really, a small price to pay for buying a slice of heaven in the dessert aisle.

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