I left the Vortex of Doom, spinning inexorably toward oblivion in my rear-view mirror, and proceeded directly to a rendezvous with [Maris] at Dogfish Head Ale House in Gaithersburg. Yes, I am shamelessly plugging DFH. Their small-batch craft-brewed beers are amazing, especially if you're a fan of hoppy IPAs, and for a pub, the food is fantastic. There. Go. Here endeth the shameless Dogfish Head Ale House pitch.
We followed that awesomeness at home, with about ten shots each of Patron Silver, while we packed for our Thanksgiving trip to my sister's home in Ohio. Another plug here: I was never a tequila guy - I'm a rum man, at heart - but thanks to a gift from my Boss Lady at the Vortex, I now have a taste for the Patron. Brilliant stuff. Okay, enough endorsements. The evening had turned the din of workplace memories into muted echoes in my spent little brain, and I dropped heavily to sleep. Then, with Cabaret Voltaire's "Sensoria" playing on The Most Random iPod In The World, and for the first time in what seemed like a year or more, I dreamed.
I was at the Vortex of Doom at my old desk - the one I occupied when I first started in 2005 - just outside Boss Lady's office. All the office doors were closed and the lights were off. It was airless and warm, clearly it was not a weekday. I was typing an email to my buddy Godfrey Ozzenbarq III (not his real name) - to this day the best boss I've ever had (sorry, Boss Lady). Since the time I had worked for him in the early 90s, he has been a good mentor, life coach, railfanning and photography tutor, co-conspirator, Play-doh sculpture critic, and friend. The email seemed to reference another dream I'd had, during the multi-system illness that began to attempt to destroy me in August of 2006, and whose identity would remain unknown until April of 2007, and whose effects are still lingering to this day.
"I awoke flat on my back in a 'downtown' Bozeman Jiffy-Lube, dressed in ill-fitting green corduroy overalls and a Crack The Sky World Tour '82 t-shirt. They gave me back my Sprint FON card, a receipt (from Yekta Deli?) and a signed 8x10 color glossy of Russ Ballard, then sent me out the front door. The Backstreet Boys' bus was just pulling out, and its sparkly rainbow sticker and no fewer than SEVEN matching rainbow flags were all I needed to see. 'Good for you, boys,' I thought to myself, mainly because I'm not sure how to think to someone else. 'I KNEW IT!!' chorused the Jiffy-Lube gang from their perches upon the empty lube racks. Money changed hands among them, and they giggled rather like so many little girls playing tag. I passed out.
I awoke this time sitting at my keyboard, typing who-knows-what with a ferocity usually reserved for emails to sales 'people' who have just submitted orders with no billing OR shipping addresses. I looked at the screen.
Godfrey! (not your real name) I have news! The Outdoor Living Network will be airing a 36-hour telethon for me, hosted by none other than Gasphlem St. Marty the Fleen and his stalwart sidekick Hissonner Dunsten Crackbarry. They're calling it 'Help Us Find A Cure For Whatever The Fuck Joe Has, So That He May Quit His Interminable Girly Whining Before We Are Forced To Bludgeon Him With Petrified 20-year Old Pizza Hut Priazzas.' Call now!
If you're lucky, your call might just be answered by Tina Yothers or Rae Dawn Chong, or maybe even Ike Eisenman or Lamont Wilson! For a pledge of a mere $25, they'll send you a cap embroidered with "Save Joe From Horrific Re-invented Dumbass Marketing-gone-way-wrong 'Pizza' Death!" A $50 pledge earns you a pair of hot pink fuzzy leg-warmers and a sparkly "Joe Sucks" confederate flag belt buckle. For you extra-generous contributors, $100 is good for a lunch date with Joe (assuming he survives and can still eat solid food in public without causing undue disturbance) at Five Guys Burgers & Fries.**
So get to the phone. Pledge early, pledge often. Joe needs your help! And please don't let the somewhat checkered pasts of hosts Crackbarry and Fleen turn you away. We couldn't get anyone else on such short notice, and these guys work really, really cheap.
** Lunch date to be chaperoned by Chelsea Handler, Brian May or Charo, at the discretion of the sponsors.
I shut my laptop, put my head on my desk and drifted off. I awoke again in Bozeman, gathered my stuff and waited by a dusty brown pickup with Alberta tags, parked in front of Bow River Burgers on West Main. Its driver emerged with a sack of burgers and climbed into the truck. 'Hey mister - can I give you fifty bucks to drive me to Moose Jaw?' He smiled and said 'I'll let you split the cost of the gas, but I'm not going all the way to Moose Jaw, eh. I can take you as far as Medicine Hat, though.'
I thought for a minute. 'Medicine Hat sounds just fine, sir.'"