CITY: South Lake Tahoe, CA
SMELL: The bite of conifers, the heat of lackadaisical road construction, and the tender, cosseted odor of unjaded, privileged youth growing into unjaded, privileged adulthood
PLACE: Reno-Tahoe Helicopter Tours
THE WAY: I informed Tessa and Brenna that I had a surprise planned for them. Warily, they asked if they needed special attire for the surprise. Hahaha no, I replied, and we drove for an hour to the south side of the lake. Surprise! Helicopter. Tessa began to clap as soon as she saw the airport sign. “Oh God,” Brenna said mildly, as I parked the Camaro, “you aren’t flying, are you?” I was not.
PEOPLE: Claudio was flying. He was Italian, or had been Italian, or was going to be Italian. It was immediately clear that he hated people and that we would get along fine. We briefly discussed the flying arrangements in the office, and then he told me, “You’re trouble.” This was unreasonable, as I was mostly just standing there. 70% standing there, 30% being myself. Maybe even 80% standing there, 20% being myself. Claudio informed us that we didn’t have to pay if we died, and then we walked out to the tarmac. As we climbed in, he handed us headphones. “Put these on,” he said, “and shut up.” A minivan drove by. Claudio swore at it benevolently. Well, mostly benevolently. 70% benevolent, 30% simmering rage. Maybe 80/20. As the helicopter soared, I recalled a lifetime of flying dreams. “How is it so far?” Claudio asked, with uncharacteristic tenderness. “I’m getting a helicopter,” I replied. Tessa laughed. Brenna sighed. Claudio frowned, and then he pointed to Tiger Woods’ house, which doesn’t look very large from the sky.
*Claudio had me sit in a different helicopter for photos. He told me to make it look realistic, like I was really a pilot. I asked him if he would also sit in the helicopter for me to photograph him. “Make it look realistic,” I told him. “Like you’re a real pilot.”
THAT IS ME. I WAS FLYING IN A LITTLE TOY BUBBLE.