Monday, January 4, 2010

Book 15: The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Up til now I've tended to use these books as lynch-pins upon which I can hang hazy memories, nostalgic wax and poetic licenses. But this book I read over the holidays.

A rough holiday for me in many ways, a great one in many others. Because I am broker than a broke piece of broken brokenness, I was confined to the West Coast this year. This meant that I would not be able to spend the first anniversary of my father's death with my family in Rhode Island. This meant that my lovely girlfriend went to Paris without me and I'm the one who speaks French, merde. (Just to clarify, I was happy she got the opportunity to go, happy she went, I just wanted to go with her.)

The silver lining? Two weeks hanging out with Cashel all by myself. We saw in successive order 'Fantastic Mr. Fox', 'Avatar', and 'Sherlock Holmes', each amazing in specific different ways. We lounged around. He got a Wii for Christmas from his mom so he jumped around the room while I read 'The Quiet American'. Which I then took with us to Vegas.

Yes, I took my 12 year old to Vegas. We rolled into town at about noon and hit GameWorks, the giant arcade. We bought all day passes and then proceeded to drive, ski, bomb, fly, shoot, die, swim, kill, maim and Ms. Pac-man for the next four hours.

We wandered out at dusk bleary eyed and dazed. I was starting to get quite sick by this point. Cash said, "I think I need to go lie down at the hotel for a little while."

So we strolled back over to Luxor the giant pyramid of glass where we had rented a room. We ordered room service so we wouldn't have to walk anywhere or smell the smoke in the restaurants contained in the hotel. And then we watched the new 'Star Trek' movie.

Which, by the way, I loved.

The next morning I doubted I'd be able to make it out of the hotel I was so sick. But the whole purpose of going to Vegas was to make the small drive out to see the Hoover Dam. My ears hurt, my throat burned, I was coughing and sneezing and my head ached. Cash, ever the class act, said it would be okay if we just went home.

But after I'd choked down a Starbucks and a couple of cough drops we set out down I-93 to Boulder, NV. I am very glad we did. Because I have never seen anything quite like the Hoover Dam. The fact that we built that thing in 1930, the fact that the cement is still warm and will still be settling for years to come, the fact that the tunnels are art deco for chrissakes...it all adds up to quite an emotional experience.

I was proud. Proud to be lucky enough to have been born in this country. Proud that that thing was built in 1930 when black people couldn't vote and now we have a black president. Doesn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? Give me a break. History will not be so blind in viewing that award. The sheer fact of his winning that election is a feat worthy of any award there is out there to be awarded.

My father died on January 2, 2009. In November he voted for the last time. By November he'd lost his left arm. The cancer had eaten from his ribs to his shoulder. He could barely stand. But he and Mum went to the poll and he voted for Barack Obama. Now he knew that Rhode Island was in the bag for Obama. One vote would not have made a difference. Death loomed.

But, like the concrete deep in the heart of the Hoover Dam, my father, a loud American, had barely begun to cool.

4 comments:

Juliet said...

That last line is a doozey.

Brendan O'Malley said...

juliet, it is so funny that you should use that word as it was a favorite of his! thanks for reading.

Bill Janovitz said...

Doozey indeed. My eyelids acting like mini Hoover dams their own damn selves.

Laura Egley Taylor said...

Lovely tribute, Brendan. Both to your dad and to your relationship with Cashel.

Sounds like we might've just missed you (we were stuck in a traffic jam outside Hoover Dam Dec 26, waiting for security teams to hoover out any suspicious activity) (and were also incredibly moved, just driving through the dam art deco structures. Incredible attention to aesthetic detail.) And we stayed at the slightly less classy Holiday Motel at the end of the strip.