Local People

Published on January 3rd, 2018 | by Randy Weeks


The View from the Balcony: How I Spent My Christmas Vacation

My son, Jonas, moved to Snowmass, Colorado, a few months ago. I spent Christmas with him. It was a no-brainer.

I bought some lottery tickets on the way to the airport. I lost.

I flew United. I remembered that earlier in 2017 a doctor was beaten and dragged from a United flight for not giving up his seat. He wasn’t on this flight. There were no incidents. Probably because everybody else remembered, too. That and the fact that the flight crew wasn’t wearing the standard wings pin on their lapels. They had on pins that said Gestapo Airlines. Guess they thought it would be a good deterrent. It was.

The flight from Memphis to Houston was fine. The flight from Houston to Aspen wasn’t. Thirty minutes from Aspen the Gestapo said it was snowing too hard in Aspen to land there. We’d be going to Denver instead. That’s not what my ticket said. I wanted to protest, but then I remembered the doctor who had the crap beaten out of him.

I stood in line for over an hour with my flight mates at the United customer service counter. An elderly lady passed out. There were no flights to Aspen until the next morning and those couldn’t be guaranteed.

Some guy with a foreign accent who looked like a cross between Salvador Dali and a cheesy magician said he was going to rent a car and drive to Aspen. He asked me if I wanted a ride. I wondered if he knew how to drive in the snow. I wondered if he was a foreign agent who’d come to kidnap Americans. “No, thank you,” I said.

A young lady standing next to me whispered, “There’s no way I’d let that guy drive me to Aspen,” but she did. I was sorry I didn’t get her name and the contact information for her next of kin.

Jonas got in his four-runner and drove to Denver. His three-hour trip took four. It was snowing hard. It was windy. Jonas’ windshield was caked with mudice. No de-icer. He pressed onward.

We stopped for gas. I bought some de-icer. It worked. Jonas said, “That was a great idea, Dad.” I said, “I know.” He said, “Thanks.” I said, “You’re welcome.” Later in the week Jonas got his car stuck in the snow. He used the de-icer to get unstuck. He laughed and said, “The de-icer was a great idea, Dad.” I said, “I know.” He said, “Thanks.” I said, “You’re welcome.”

We skied Buttermilk Mountain. Dale Evans’ horse was named Buttermilk. Skiing Buttermilk was supposed to be as easy as riding Dale Evans’ horse. It would have been except that I hadn’t skied in ten years. Back then I was doing triathlons. Not now. My skiing was so bad they’re thinking of changing the name of the mountain to Butterbutt.

We woke up to a white Christmas – my first. We opened gifts – Jonas, his dog Scripty, and me. Then we went to one of Jonas’ friend’s house for brunch. We opened more gifts. One young lady gave Jonas a book by Oxford’s Tom Franklin. Turned out she was Carla Jean Whitley, formerly of Birmingham (Alabama). She knows Tom and Beth Ann (Fennelly). She also wrote Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (available at Square Books). Small world, huh?

The day of my departure I got up and made coffee. I checked my bank accounts. Someone had stolen my card number. They were having a high old time riding around in California. My bank took care of it. Still, it was a pain in the ass.

Jonas took me to the Aspen airport. He said, “Goodbye, Dad. I had a great time. I love you.” I said, “Goodbye, Jonas. I had a great time. I love you, too.” Then he left. I went inside to learn that my flight to Houston had been delayed. Snow. I think people who have airports where it snows should be better prepared for it. Just saying.

I waited with all the other delayed passengers. I sat across from a college-aged girl. I was wearing a Square Books t-shirt. She said, “I love The Square! I almost went to Ole Miss.” Small world, huh?

The Gestapo at the gate called my name. She asked if I’d change seats with a lady so she could sit with her children. I thought of the doctor who got the crap beaten out of him. I changed seats. The lady said, “Thank you.” I said, “You’re welcome.” The Gestapo gate keeper said, “Thanks.” I said, “You’re welcome, ma’am.”

I missed my connection in Houston. Had to take a later flight to Memphis.

I got my car at the Park & Ride. I was merging onto Airways Boulevard. A piece of the curb jumped out and hit my front passenger side tire. Tore the sucker up. It was cold as a well digger’s butt in Idaho. I called my insurance company. They had a guy there lickity-split. I asked if he’d brought hot chocolate. He didn’t answer. He changed my tire. I said, “Thank you.” He said, “You’re welcome.”

I bought some lottery tickets on the way home. I lost.

It was still a great Christmas. It was a great Christmas because Christmas isn’t about schedules or money or blown out tires. It’s about love. I got to be with my son. I love him with all my heart. We had a wonderful time. That’s what matters most to me.

And that’s the view from The Balcony.

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