First off, a thank you to Andrew Dunn, Kevin Schwartz and the excellent folk at the DTH for honoring me every year with the old chestnut “Why I Hate Dook” column (they also printed another one from 2007). I have been around this great big world of ours and work daily in the dream factory of crazy fame, and yet, why does having both of the most-read articles at Carolina today fill me with so much more joy?
I swear, we’ll get a hit show on the air, and my definition of success will be coming back to the DTH and writing about how we got a hit show on the air.
As I’ve oft-yawped before, this was my 25th home dook game in a row, and of all the Herculean journeys I’ve taken to get here on time, this may be the most Herculeanest. The fight from LAX to Charlotte was fine for the first 98%, but when we tried to land, the wind blasts were so bad that we had to retract the landing gear and try again. When we finally hit the ground – hard – the entire plane applauded.
But the flight from Charlotte to RDU? I know I can tend to be somewhat of a superlatist on here, but this was the kind of flight when people start re-writing their wills. It was only 25 minutes long (with a furious tailwind) but the landing was out of a sci-fi thriller. On our initial approach, the plane was blown three football fields off course just before we touched down, and AGAIN, there was an abort. Wheels up, thrusters on, people in the cabin weeping, screaming and laughing.
Detailing bad flights – like dreams – is always a terrific bore, so I’ll just skip to the 2nd landing attempt, when the left wing blew up so high that I thought the right wing was dragging on the ground. When the brakes came on, and the plane righted itself, there were cheers and roaring applause.
Strangers hugged, people were crying, many looked upwards to their God with thanks, entire rows started telling jokes, and the two guys next to my friend Jim barfed all over their motion sickness bags. The silent army recruit next to me – just finished with basic training – quietly said “It all kinda makes you think how insignificant we all are.”
I felt terrible for the kid, having his first true existential realization. I wanted to say “you are now one of us, my friend”, but instead just smiled.
Because here’s the thing: as some of you old-timers might remember, I had a decade when I was paralyzed by the fear of flying. I used to dread vacations because two weeks ahead of time, I’d be worrying about the plane that would take us there. I was a miserable wreck, and it grounded me for years.
But these last two flights? I actually enjoyed them – I wanted them to be even worse, so I could tell myself that I was really… for lack of a better word, “better”. I had my headphones on, listening to symphonic pop music, lunging through the clouds, and all I could think was “I have a good life. And this is truly beautiful.” While others were vomiting and yelling, I was at peace, and you know me, I’ve NEVER been that guy before.
Something about the day Lucy came changed me. Yes, and the drugs and therapy, but it was really that moment.
As for the game, what can you say? We were due for it. The same thing happened that happens every game this season, it just happened a little bit later than usual. Much later on, I found myself walking alone on Cameron Avenue, staring into the frigid midnight North Carolina sky. It reminded me of doing the same thing 25 years ago when it was all still mysterious, all ancient rituals, all friends I was yet to make and girls I was yet to understand. Seeing old friends and getting that old feeling back is worth the trip.
Oh, and this, of course:
her boyfriend took the picture, so you can’t see that the dress ends 1/4-inch below her hoodlie-hah