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Monday, June 28, 2004

Slip-slidin' etc.

We're up to ten questions in the Get to Know Otis section of Rapid Eye Reality. Since this post officially marks the 500th entry since RER came to be, I picked one of my favorite questions from the list to answer. Rest assured, though, that all questions will be answered in due course (that is...when I come up with a good answer or find the balls to actually write about the subject).

Question--What is your most memorable "Sliding Door"?

I'm referring to the Gwynneth Paltrow movie, you know, where we catch a glimpse of parallel lives depending on whether she makes or misses a train.
It's the "what-if" factor. Where's your biggest "what-if" in life, your sliding door?
And you're not allowed to answer "I don't have one because my life is perfect", because if you'll remember in the movie, the two parallel lives...eventually...meet up again.
Uncle Ted


Bumpkin was a bitch and I was the only one who hadn't figured it out yet.

In retrospect, that's a really mean thing to say about a girl who eventually became a decent friend. But at the time, Bumpkin had dealt my psyche a death blow. She'd convinced me to do something I'd never really considered.

Try broadcast journalism. You have a nice voice, she said.

I don't know why I trusted her, to be honest. She screwed me up a couple of times before then. But I did it. And motherfucker if I wasn't in the dumps.

This story, though, is not about her.

Frankly, the future didn't look too bright. Big nose, no motivation, an emerging alcohol problem, and a general distrust of all things academic made me a less-than-motivated student. But there I was.

Here's a good indicator of either my advancing age or the speed at which technology travels: About the time the door started to think about sliding, I was learning to splice analog tape with a razor blade and special tape. For those brought up in the digital age, that was how radio folks edited their sound back in the day.

The girl sat behind me, expressing no small amount of confusion at the number of milimeters at which to make the splice without ruining a valuable piece of audio tape. For the first and, perhaps, last time, I taught her how to do something.

She was in the middle of a rough patch. Her favorite uncle had just died under less than pleasant circumstances. She was dating a guy who lived eight hours away. She was living in a whole new town and she, frankly, thought it was too fucking cold.

I was not doing much better myself. Somehow a rocket-fueled relationship had degenerated (some would say...evolved) into some form of social union that allowed sex biweekly and fights bi-hourly.

And, damn, if that confused girl wasn't the cutest little sailor-mouth I'd ever met.

The tribulations that followed in the ensuing months are well-documented and well-edited. No one really wants to hear the story of the roller blade salesman and fajitas again. I might get myself in trouble if we talk about the bisexual again. And, apart from the story of cooking bacon on a BBQ grill, most people I know are aware of the whole sordid tale. Those who aren't can corner me in a drunken moment some night.

Suffice it to say, after nine months of courting, it appeared the future of Tape Girl and your buddy Otis was going nowhere fast.

In a weak moment, I grew facial hair. It seemed like the right thing to do. Going to a bar seemed to be the next best option. So, I went.

The Blue Note was a second home for me during those years. The stage always featured something with a guitar and the upstairs bar always featured the town's best bartendress. She'd always ask for your drink order by saying, "What's up?"

In those days, I often ordered a shot to wash down my beer. That night, the night the door started to slide, I was about three orders into the night when someone came up and whispered in my ear.

"She's on her way here."

"Who?"

The answer could've been anybody. I didn't really care. Turned out, it was the girl who ate the bacon off the grill.

"Hmmm. That could make for an interesting night."

The party inside the Blue Note was starting to get loud and I was happy the boys had secured a table near the bar, and happier still that the bartendress had learned my order without having to ask. Order four brought another person to my ear.

"You see who just walked in the door?"

"Bacon girl?"

"She's coming?"

"You mean it's not her?"

"Look."

There stood an old high school girlfriend, a couple years younger than me, and a recent addition to the collge town three hours away from home.

I nodded, downed the shot, and thought, "This is going to make for a very interesting night."

The Blue Note has a couple of good exits and one really bad one. None of them looked appealing.

I should run. I should go hit another bar. Find some music. Go somewhere nobody knows me. Even if I have to go out the bad exit.

Forget it, I thought. I'd spent three months lamenting Tape Girl's absence in my life. I'd abandoned the old rocket-fuel relationship for hopes of something cool with Tape Girl and it hadn't worked. I'd been reduced to a beer-swilling monkey face who hid in dark bars and tried to avoid old girlfriends. This was me now.

"You see who's here?"

"Just stop it."

"Seriously."

"Yep. I've seen'em both. Hide me, okay?"

That's when I saw my girl across the bar. She'd walked in with a big group of people. And she was looking at me.

Trying to regain sobriety when your several drinks into the night and you have three girls staring at you is a tough proposition.

Then the door slid.

She kissed me. Or let me kiss her. Or something.

In one moment (one that would be sealed over the next few months) my life took on a direction that has led me to today.

Had I left the bar, I would not be living in South Carolina today. I would not be a TV news guy. I wouldn't be on the verge of fatherhood. My life would not be as good as it is.

Had I left the bar, and had we not kissed that night, I don't know where I would be today.

There's a part of me, though, that fears that if I had left the bar and the door had not slid, I might be the best damned BBQ bacon chef in Missouri.

And that is a damned scary proposition.

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