Chapter 16 Bright Lights, Big City, and a Great Big Chunk of Cheese
Before my speech, I waited in a little green room behind the stage. People were filling into the hall at a fairly steady pace. The room held about three hundred fifty people according to the sign, and it was about half full when I peeked out about fifteen minutes before my big moment. Even if the room didn’t fill up completely, it would, by far, be the largest gathering that I had ever spoken before.
In spite of every little weird unbelievable thing that had happened the last couple of days, I felt strangely calm. Hearing my father’s voice in the room had covered my amygdala with some kind of confidence inducing fairy dust. Also, thinking that my government found me a person of interest, instead of worrying me, made me feel a little bit important. I mean most people don’t ever get a chance to sleep with a beautiful intelligence asset with great assets, if you know what I mean.
The fact that I was investigated because I knew two people and that wrote a fancy line or two in someone’s obituary was so fucked up, that it made me realize just how crazy human existence is and also that it didn’t make any sense fretting over the insanity.
It also gave me the inspiration for my keynote address. I “miraculously” found a white tux that fit me perfectly in a thrift shop about a mile from my hotel. I say miraculously because I knew it was there. I opened up a phone book, put my finger on a page, found an address, and knew I would find it there. I tried it on at the thrift shop and immediately started channeling the spirit of James Bond, and I mean the real James Bond, Sean Fucking Connery. I liked the feeling so much that I wore it back to the hotel, went into the bar and ordered a double scotch.
When the bartender brought a tall Glenlivit back, I took one sip, spit it out and exclaimed, “Who the fuck do you think I am. Do I look like I drink bilge water? Give me that shit on the top shelf.”
“That’s fifty dollars a drink, sir.”
I looked at him disdainfully, “That’s the best you got?”
When he returned, I gulped down the drink in one take, set the glass down on the table, charged it to my expense account, and then waited until he left so he wouldn’t see me wobble to the elevator.
I wrote my speech in about twenty minutes and practiced it three times in front of the mirror. When I was satisfied, I went out on the balcony and smoked a joint.
I was watching the ocean and listening to Bill Evans and Cannonball on my I-pad when Lisa called out from the other side of the balcony’s partition, “I smell smoke. Is that you, Daniel Lazarus?”
“I’m not sure, I think it is?” You still here?”
“Yeah, Mom, Eddy and I are going to your speech tonight. No pressure.”
“Mom said she had a good time last night. Said you were very funny.”
“Your mom is great lady. The jury is still out on whether her breasts are as nice as yours though.”
I could hear her sputter, “Danny, you can’t be saying that all loud and shit. People might hear.”
“Oh, sorry. I was under the mistaken assumption that you didn’t really care what most people thought.”
“Well, that’s true, but out here on the balcony you never know who might be listening. The FBI, or TMZ or somebody might be ease dropping.”
“I guess you got a point.”
There was a slight pause, which was good because it gave me tie to finish the joint. Then she spoke in a more serious tone, “ I meant what I said Danny.”
“You said a lot of stuff, Lisa.”
“What I said about hurting her. She’s been hurt enough for one life.”
“I don’t want to hurt her, but just for the sake of argument. What would that entail exactly? To be honest, I don’t exactly know who I am right now. I’m on this incredibly weird journey of self-discovery, and I would hate for anybody to get caught in the crossfire.”
There was another pause before she answered, “ Just be honest. Good luck tonight; break a leg or whatever.”
When the curtains finally opened, the room was almost filled to capacity, a fact that amazed me no end. The emcee introduced me by reading off a short list of my accomplishments. It was such a short list, that he had to pad it by mentioning some journalism awards that I had won in college.
It didn’t really matter because my whole strange life had prepared me for the moment, and I had the added assistance of the disembodied voice of my father, inspiration from a government agent who wore leopard skin panties, some good bud, a hundred dollar drink of scotch, and a white tux. Hell, if I couldn’t give this speech, what the hell good was I?
The polite applause subsided and I strode out to the podium as if I was James Bond, not the fictional character, but the real archetypical motherfucker who had climbed inside of Ian Fleming’s head and ejaculated on the fertile ovaries of his brain.
“Good Evening and welcome. Judging from the turnout, I have to believe that some of you came tonight expecting to see the Lazarus of the Bible.”
The line drew some laughter, “ I want to start out by telling you a story. I want to tell you how, when I was ten years old, I caused my best friend’s death.”
Next, I told the story of what happened to Sara including the part about how I had made her go get the basket. I told them how everything I had felt, believed, or done from that point forward was colored by that horrible moment in time. It caused me to look at life from the outside looking in and gave me a terrible if somewhat illuminating understanding that everyone, every loved one, every hero, and every enemy dies. I didn’t have the option of diverting my attention away from this fact because every time I began to lose sight of it, Sara would emerge from the past just to say hi.
I told the audience, that I wasn’t bitter, or complaining about my lot in life because it helped me to be honest with myself, more honest than most folks allowed themselves to be, and that this honesty about death gave me a more stable outlook about reality and a great appreciation of life.
I then brought up the story of what had happened to me that morning. (I had to swear that it really happened. I also left out the part about sleeping with Geri even though I felt it could have earned me some points with the guys in the audience.)
I pointed out that my effort to adorn every obituary I wrote with a few lines of heart felt compassion was considered so unusual that the Government of the United States felt that they needed to investigate me, and this, showed just how far out of touch with truth we have become as a society.
I closed the speech with verse from a song by John Cougar Mellencamp.
"See the moon roll across the stars
See the seasons turn like a heart
Your father's days are lost to you
This is your time here to do what you will do"
There was moment of silence when I finished and then a steady rise in applause, which ended with the crowd on its feet.
I wish I could say that I was humble, and that I didn’t gloat. I wish I could say that the first thought in my head wasn’t, “ Take that John Fucking Fulton. ”
I will tell you that momentary lapse into hubris was justly punished, as all hubris eventually is, by the universe kicking squarely me in the nuts.
Before the speech, when I was peeking out from behind the curtains, I had noticed an incredibly large woman with a handicap dog sit down on the right side of the first row. She had a large brown paper bag that she plopped down in the seat beside her. While I spoke, I could not help but notice her reaching into the bag for stuff to eat. She ate an apple at first, and then I saw her pull out a large block of cheese. She would cut off a bit with a knife and chew on it while I tried my best to ignore her.
When the crowd rose in the standing ovation, someone tripped over her dog’s tail and sent the dog lunging into the woman. The cheese she had just put in her mouth went down her windpipe.
I was observant enough to see that she was choking on the cheese. I ran toward the steps of the stage. By the time I got to her, she was beginning to pass out. She was very big, but I still managed to get my arms around her and thrust my joined fists into her middle.
The audience had quieted and the people started to come down the aisles to witness the spectacle. It took about three hard thrusts before the lump of cheese popped out of her throat. The big, wet gooey mass flew backwards and landed in a splat partially on my left cheek and partially on the shoulder of my white tux.
About a minute later, she caught her breath and straightened up and flashed an embarrassed smile and waved to the people. They started cheering and the applause renewed in earnest. The emcee raised my hand and pointed at me, and the crowd went crazy. This time, I wasn’t gloating. I was too busy wiping cheese off of my face.