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Almost Famous (for all the wrong reasons) . . .

October 28, 2009

Obviously that's a version of the line used in one of my favorite movies, "Almost Famous," in reference to one of my favorite movie moments--the band's small charter plane is crashing somewhere near Tupelo, Mississippi when the passengers start revealing intimate secrets. In one of the more realistic turbulent plane scenes, one guy says he has been sleeping with another guy's wife; one guy confesses to a hit and run; another guy says, with a stutter: "I'm, I'm . . . I'm gay!"

Just as they're outing themselves and purging pockets of guilt, the plane straightens out and they all live.


This trip, more than most, had presented a variety of travel troubles. My temporary tooth was falling out, I was running out of clean underwear and although my computer hard drive was shot, it sure seemed like I was the one taking the bullets.

To have no use of a computer felt like trying to do complex math with an Abacus. I was restricted to reading newspapers, magazines and watching TV. Can you imagine?

Regardless of how good my life is, something like a rude TSA agent, a beverage cart to the knee cap when you're sitting in an aisle seat (not even an I'm sorry?), a canceled flight, or a dead hard drive--that kind of stuff still gets under my skin. And it's not all travel related. I don't care how great the golf course is, I could be at Turnberry on a windless sunny day, but if I'm 15 strokes higher than my handicap, I'll go into a self-centered funk . . . bad golf always blows, even on windless days. It's times like those that I admit to losing a little perspective. Last week the dead hard drive had me feeling shut down.

It's a fickle thing, however. Perspective. It's funny how a pilot over an intercom at 30,000 feet, with the wings of the plane flapping like they belong on the body of a bird, can pull you from the depths of self-loathing like you just sat on a hot branding iron. It's funny how, when Mr. Calm Voice at the controls, can't hide his or her concern. "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain from the flight deck. Well, it looks like we're going to have to pull out of our landing pattern and circle for a little while. There's some weather out there, but we'll get you down just as soon as we can. The good news is, we anticipated the weather and loaded up with more fuel before we left from Vegas. Flight attendants, please take your seats."

That's it. That's the kiss of death. When the pilot tells the flight attendants to take their seats, that's usually when I start kissing my own seat goodbye. On Saturday night, in the middle of high winds, an electric storm and surrounded by a plane full of panic, my lips were attached to my cheeks. I really did think I might die.

The couple sitting next to me was the kind of couple who held hands when we took off. Which was sweet. Upon hearing the news we'd be circling for over an hour, and looking out the window and seeing nothing but Mother Nature's rage, these two were interlocking digits and limbs. I've never seen such pale faces, and those were on the row of African Americans across the aisle from me. Barf bags were flying out of seat pockets. The plane started smelling like stomach lining. The poor woman next to me filled up her bag, her husband's bag, my bag and the plastic bag that was holding my new newspapers and magazines. People were trying to make it to the bathroom, and I could hear them come up short.

That's when I pulled out my noise-reduction headphones, turned on the Florida football game (gotta love JetBlue), closed my eyes and listened to it like it was a radio. I was able to achieve some sense of calm, and after I could no longer hear the gagging reflexes of my new best friends next to me, I was no longer feeling the need to ask for my bags back. I actually remember thinking: If this is it, then so be it. I was having an inner monologue that included some sense of OK with the concept of death. I started thinking about my family, closest friends, all the places I've been, courses I've played, people I've met, and I couldn't help but think of girls I've been with--both of them. I was beginning to convince myself I was cool with not having kids because I had such great relationships with my ten nieces and nephews. I had no regrets about not being married. I felt I had scored with career choices and if I had any deep dark secrets, they were so suppressed, not even near-death could bring them to the surface.

But you know what I didn't think about? My bad tooth, my dirty laundry and my dead hard drive.


Were we really close to death? Probably not. But all is right again in my little world. My computer works (thanks to Mike Astolfi), my tooth is fixed (thanks to Dr. Neuschatz) my boxers are clean (thanks to the cleaners) and I have a brand new sack of perspective.

All that being said, one thing still doesn't make sense to me: What is Kate Hudson, star of "Almost Famous," doing with A-Rod? That's a thought, regardless of any fresh perspective, that will always make me nauseous.


Have you been involved in a close call? Care to share?