She Asked, “Are You Playing Clint Eastwood?”

I just finished reading Truman Capote’s 1957 interview with Marlon Brando. It is a superb piece of writing. The detail was masterfully communicated. I am reminded again that greatness comes through an exquisite attention to detail – Capote had all that and then some.

It also reminds me how deficient I have become in noticing detail lately. This entire last month flying around the country on business has taken on a dulling sameness. In the airports everyone looks alike. I’ve lost my ability to observe any meaningful detail. Maybe that’s because I’ve traveled by plane over three million miles.

On the other hand I can’t stand staying in any one hotel for longer than three days. By that time, I’ve picked out every flaw in the room. In this instance I’m fully aware of detail – every bad detail.

Realizing I had to get out of my rut, I started driving from city to city, instead of taking commuter flights.

That started refreshing me. I can’t believe how much breathing room there is traveling through the vast farmlands of the Midwest. It’s green, clean, orderly and honest.

But then you come to a McDonalds for a food break.

Every MCD has the same smell. Not bad, just familiar. That’s when I noticed the men. It’s like they all have beer bellies with shirts that are too small. It’s a common look in the Midwest. It’s beer bellies across the Midwest. To avoid my obsession with beer bellies, I bought lunch meat and bread and made sandwiches and ate them while driving.

As for hotels, these days I try to go to boutique ones that are themed. This takes my mind off of their flaws. Scottsdale, Arizona has this hotel called the Valley Ho. It has a “mid-century” theme. It’s packed to the gills with young professionals, but the registry of past guests also included “Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh (Psycho).” Fifties and sixties rock and roll music plays in the background. The restaurants, rooms, and buildings are decorated in Madmen style furniture and architecture: a lot of glass, walls and iron banisters at angles, cement, and “Frank Lloyd Wright long horizontal lines.” The lobby is “sherbet” color with mirrors that make you look healthy. And of course the dry Arizona heat is present like a field force.

It’s geared for all ages, I guess, but young adults in their twenties and thirties come there for business conferences, large bars, a big swimming pool and romance in the oversized bathtubs and soft lights. The women dress up in heels and the guys wear muscle shirts. It has the feel of an Elvis movie. I’m a bit out of the average patron’s age bracket, but I love going there with my wife and enjoying memories of my misspent youth.

We were there two weeks ago, and something very different happened.

(These days I try to dress a little bit differently. I’ve let my hair grow out. I wear white rimed sunglasses with a flat cap. In warm weather I wear light linen suits with sandals and no socks.)

I was wearing this when I walked out of the lobby and past the pool to get to my room. I passed by a group of four guys. They were standing up against a brick planter next to the pool. The bellman was pushing our bags in a stand up cart. I was following him, and my wife was following me. This group all had beers in their hands, and were smoking. They were wearing old style jeans and white tee shirts. They looked like characters out of the movie Rebel Without A Cause, hoods.

I looked at each guy as I passed. They were drunk. I wasn’t impolite, but I wasn’t polite either. I just looked at them and walked by slowly. They stared back. I looked away very slowly. All of the sudden the smallest guy among them starts walking toward me. My wife pushed me in the back and said, “Keep walking.” The guy’s buddies pulled him back into the crowd. The little guy looked like James Dean.

The bellman asked me if I wanted him to call security. “Hell no,” I said, “I haven’t felt this pumped up since hoods tried to intimidate me in high school.”

The incident took maybe five seconds, (my wife says less). I was back in my groove. I saw every detail in perfect clarity. (Maybe I exaggerated a little. But hey, it’s art.) The incident ended with my wife asking, “you playing Clint Eastwood?” As I continued on I could hear good natured laughter in the background.