The Amazing Race
by R.G. Ryan
Originally published in Snapshots At St. Arbuck’s Vol 2, Available from Amazon.com
Six a.m. on a mid-summer Sunday morning.
I was sitting at a sidewalk table outside a St. Arbuck’s on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood—“WeHo” to the locals—doing a bit of people watching and thinking about the big adventure my wife and I were about to embark upon.
And, what adventure would that be, RG? you ask.
We were going on our first cruise.
So much so that I’d barely slept.
My beloved on the other hand had slept quite well and was still asleep up in our hotel room, while I was down pounding a medium cup of coffee, with room for cream.
I heard recently that caffeine consumption actually boosts protection against Alzheimer’s when consumed in moderate quantities.
According to this study, “moderate” equates to four or five cups of coffee per day.
Works for me.
However, now that I think about it…I wonder who financed that study?
Many urban areas I’ve experienced are virtually deserted early Sunday mornings.
Not West Hollywood!
These streets, however, were already filled with people—some out for a morning stroll/jog; some on their way to work while others were just coming in from a long night of revelry.
Two doors down, a balcony overlooking a trendy sidewalk bistro was still filled with partiers, each of whom were committed to passionately greeting passersby with a hearty, “Good morning. It’s a beautiful day!”
It was true.
On both counts.
In case you don’t “know” about West Hollywood, roughly forty percent of its residents are gay and it is one of the top gay vacation spots in the world.
In fact, a gay couple had ridden up with us in the hotel’s elevator the night before and at one point, based no doubt on the amount of luggage we were toting, had jokingly asked if we were going on an around-the-world trip.
I looked at the people who were out and about that early morning—young, old, middle-aged, gay, straight, you name it—altogether quite a potpourri of humanity.
My conclusion was that either they all knew each other, or there was an unusually high degree of collegiality amongst the populace, for friendly greetings were exchanged in abundance.
I was just getting ready to re-enter the store for the purpose of securing a medium, nonfat, no-whip mocha for my wife when through the windows I spied the guys from the elevator sitting at a table around the corner from me.
Both men appeared to be in their early forties, one tall and blonde; the other short and, well, I suppose the best word to describe him would be, “swarthy.”
They had a dog with them.
I love dogs!
It was a Greyhound.
I love Greyhounds!
I moseyed around the corner, greeted them and asked if I could meet their dog, a request to which they immediately and enthusiastically consented.
Squatting down on my haunches I offered the back of my hand for the dog to sniff while asking, “Was this a rescue?”
“Yes,” replied the tall guy in a voice that seemed tailor-made for radio. “We got her about a year ago and she has been such a great dog.”
The dog—whose name, by the way was Jenny—nuzzled my hand until it was positioned in the vicinity of her ears, giving me a look that seemed to say, “You may now commence scratching.”
The other guy said with a laugh, “She does that to us all the time. Must mean she likes you.”
I chuckled. “Well, a girl should know what she likes, isn’t that right, Jenny?”
I sat down and we talked for a while—those two guys, and me—like people do.
And in that moment we were neither gay nor straight…just people.
They told me about their love of the Greyhound breed and the efforts they had gone to in order to adopt their dog.
I, of course, told them about Trixie Belle of the Ball, our Miniature Schnauzer of some renown, which prompted both of them to assure me that they’d love to meet the Belle.
The shorter of the two grinned hugely and prompted, “So, about that mountain of luggage…”
“Oh, that?” I replied with a laugh. “We’re going on a cruise.”
They both became quite animated and inquired as to where we were going.
“To the Mexican Riviera.”
The taller one threw up his arms. “We just went on that cruise. What ship?”
“Royal Caribbean…Mariner of the Seas.”
“That’s the ship we were on!” the shorter guy said with incredulity.
That launched them both on a fifteen-minute spiel during which they regaled me with tales of their adventure, where to eat, what to do, what not to do, short-cuts to get around the ship, places to avoid in Mazatlan, etc.
It was at once both entertaining and highly informational.
Noticing the time, I told them—reluctantly so, I might add—I had to be going, but that I had thoroughly enjoyed our conversation, meeting them and Jenny and thanked them for the travel tips.
We shook hands—Jenny included—and I walked into the store to order the mocha.
I walked into the store and in to a stream of thought that I had been channeling for quite some time.
As a culture we seem to be very comfortable—habitually so—with categorizing people based on their life choices, social standing, physical attributes…you get the picture.
Some take it to an extreme level by adding hate to the mix and then complicating the whole squalid business by justifying their actions and attitudes with half-truths and outright fabrications.
Since the entire basis of my personal belief system is built upon a creed wherein love is the prime directive and judgment is neither endorsed nor tolerated, I resolved while standing in line that day that it was high time to begin assertively living out what I advocated.
I walked back out of that store with mocha in hand, waved a final good-bye to my new friends and entered the living, moving, breathing tableau of the amazing race.
The human race.