Dinner & Drinks With Mr. Locks
When we got back to Gate 34, Cholly never said the obvious: I was pale as a ghost. He handed me a matchbook with telephone numbers written inside and explained each one. “You OK kid? You gonna stay the course?”
“Yes” I said, “I’ve got house payments.”
“OK. You have a date for dinner and drinks with Mr. Locks at the Whirling Dervish Restaurant downtown—7 o’clock sharp. Don’t make him wait if you know what’s good for you.”
“And you better get cleaned up first, a lot of crap blows out of those bags!”
“Good luck, kid!!” Cholly turned and disappeared magician-like behind a large support column.
The taxi driver out front looked at the crud on my clothes [I had washed my face, hands and hair in a men’s room] and hesitated before picking me up.
I stared out the window of the taxi as we weaved through the early evening traffic, the city lights passing in a blur. There was an absence of “chit-chat” from the driver, which I found odd. Maybe he was another piece of this growing circus. My mind raced as we continued on toward the Whirling Dervish. I couldn’t shake the image of a woman’s arm sticking out of a bag in the belly of a B25. Who? What? and Why? formed in my head. I tried to push the questions and the images out as quickly as they came. Breathe. Relax.
Arriving at the restaurant, I glanced at the meter and shoved a few bills in the driver’s palm. I’d regained enough composure to take a mental snapshot of his face, just in case.
The Whirling Dervish was perched on top of the Cuban Bank of America. The place was aptly named as the whole thing revolved giving you a panoramic view of the city. Plush.
The Maitre’d picked me out of the waiting crowd and I was escorted to a table by the window. I wondered if he had a photo to go by.
Mr. Locks was a look-a-like for KFC’s Col Sanders. No goatee, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had whipped out a piece of fried chicken. After a few pleasantries, I concluded that Mr. Locks was the embodiment of a southern gentleman, charming and affable. I suspected that he was a capable businessman as well.
We had bourbon from his house bottle and real limestone water. Then half a NY strip steak each, plus lots of lobster meat already shelled, steamed asparagus with white sauce, buttered rolls, crème bruleé, a silver coffee pot and strong Russian cigarettes with gold tips and black paper wrappers. They came in a box. Magnificent.
He tested me on my Arabic and Oil Patch savvy. (The U.S. Department of State’s Language Services had sent me 70+ Gulf [colloquial] Arabic audio tapes and another fat instruction book to study.)
“Mar-hob-a!” [hello]; “Mar-hob-tain” [and hello to you] I reply.
“Min-wayn Sand City?” [where is Sand City]; “Sharq”[east] I reply.
Mr. Locks is obviously pleased, so I am pleased. We went on.
I also was studying Arab culture, architecture, customs and other usefuls.
I had learned that regional Arabs had invented alcool [alcohol], Praise Be To Allah [God], and Arabic numerals [so I didn’t have to write my cheques with Roman numerals any more.]
I convinced Mr. Locks that I could now drill an oil well in the airport parking lot, if need be. And I could! No shit. He was beyond pleased.
We covered so much ground that I didn’t realize nearly two hours had passed. It was completely dark now, and the lights in the restaurant had been dimmed so diners could see the spinning panorama. Across the table, Mr. Locks took hold of my hands. “You know son, life in these trying times can be brutal and dangerous. I think we should pray for God’s guidance.”
So we did. Christian prayers that is, not Moslem. Right there in the revolving dining room of The Whirling Dervish. Right there among the chattering diners.
Was the room spinning, or was I? It didn’t matter ‘cause either way, I was booked on a flight to Sand City the next am.
Flight 001 To London
Flying first class on a B747 in 1976 was much better than the ascetic ordeal of 2006. You could smoke, mess with the “stewardesses” and say hello to the pilots through the open cockpit door. No shit. I had two stops on my way to Sand City.
London was just frigging incredible. Real beer—no American beer flavored 7UP. Real ales. Guinness. Fish and chips. Bangers and mash. London Bridge. Horse Guards.
Fairy-tale Zurich was unbelievable considering the filth and degradation of American cities like arrogant New York. Little gnomes hid waiting for you to drop a gum wrapper for them to whisk away.
Swiss beer! Crusty bread! Gorgeous butter! Bouillabaisse in a copper tureen! Cheeses! Spanish anchovies! Florentine chocolates! Sächer tortes! Real éclairs! Swiss wines! Mountains in the lake! Big paddle-wheel lake boats to deliver mail and people! Wünderbar!