Monday, July 19, 2010

A Dog, A Goat and President Obama Walk into a Bar (Harbor)

Thursday, 8:13 a.m.
Richmond, Virginia

The wife and I are hitting the road this morning, winging north to Bar Harbor, Maine, for my buddy’s wedding. As fate would have it, we’ve heard through the grapevine that President Obama and his family are also vacationing in Bar Harbor this weekend, and in fact, staying in the same resort. When I heard this, I could not have been more giddy because of the comedy potential for this week’s blog.

Things got weird almost immediately when the Secret Service called and asked if the President could ride with us on the understanding that he would pay for gas and snacks. I wanted to think about it for a second, but the agent immediately grew stone-faced and said, “Mr. Kazzie, we know how much you like the pretzel Combos with jalapeno cheddar. We can make this easy for you. Or we can make sure every convenience store between here and the Canadian border is fresh out of Combos when you arrive for gas. Your call."

So after I go to all the trouble of clearing out a spot in the back seat, the Service calls back and says, “Mr. Kazzie, we're good. Turns out we have a helicopter AND a big-ass jumbo jet! See you in Maine!”

I said, “hey, how about you let me and the wife ride with you guys?”

All I got in response was this: "Thank you for calling Chanelo’s, please hold."

Thursday, 10:20 a.m.
Outside Washington, D.C.

I’m not going to surprise or even entertain anyone by noting that there is a sh*tload of traffic in Washington, D.C. I briefly lived here 15 years ago, and the traffic situation looks to be about 4 million times worse than it did in 1995. The gaudy electronic signs along Interstate 495 inform us that there is heavy traffic from Milepost 23 to Milepost Infinity.

Thursday, 1:15 p.m.
Somewhere in south central Pennsylvania

A giant Crayola factory catches our eye. Seriously, this might be the happiest place in all of Pennsylvania. They should send Philadelphia Eagles fans here at the end of every NFL season and set each of them up with a box of 64.

Thursday, 4:55 p.m.
Outside Danbury, Connecticut

I’m making this trip with a shrill, pushy and somewhat antagonistic female. You may also know her as the voice of the GPS navigation system. (Really, you didn’t think I was talking about my wife like this, did you? Really?) God forbid someone other than her (the GPS, not my wife) decide which way to go. If I have to hear her tell me one more time to go seven-tenths of a mile and make a legal U-turn to go back the way SHE wants me to go, my head might explode. I totally get Will Smith’s character from I, Robot. I think they should program these devices so that if you come up with a better route than the omnipotent supercomputer, she has to give you props.

"Um, yeah ... cutting down Route 15 South. Good call. I'm gonna file that one away for next time."

Thursday, 8:00 p.m.
Massachusetts/New Hampshire State Line

We cross into New Hampshire as the day’s last light leaks out of the sky. The first thing that the good people of New Hampshire want you to know is that they have LIQUOR and LOTTERY TICKETS. Nature, schmature. Not one mile into the state, there is a dedicated exit ramp to a giant LIQUOR STORE. That, my friends, is called putting the customer 1st.

Thursday, 9:10 p.m.
Somewhere in Maine

Being in Maine is really disorienting. There’s a sense of loneliness as you traipse north to the far reaches of I-95, the way I imagine the hostages in the movie Speed felt when they had to entrust their lives to Sandra Bullock making a 50-foot jump with a city bus. I also think that there are bears waiting to eat us. It’s not delivery, it’s David!

We spend the night in Portland, Maine, which actually looks like a really cool town. There must be a pub for every three residents of the city.

Friday, 10:15 a.m.
Bangor, Maine

After a good night’s sleep and a 90-minute haul north, we arrive in Bangor, full of that excitement you feel at the end of a long trip, knowing that you’re as far away from the depressing return trip home as you can be.

I’m a big Stephen King fan, and I’d heard that he lives in Bangor during the spring and summer. His address is surprisingly easy to find on the Internets. It’s a nice looking house, Victorian style, with a big wrought iron gate out front. We drive by and take a picture.

No, I don’t think that’s creepy.

OK, it might be a little creepy, but it’s not as creepy as the two women standing in front of the front gate, trying to snap a photograph with their black cat. At least I hope it was their black cat.

Friday, 3:00 p.m.
Bar Harbor, Maine

Things get freaky. We approach our hotel, the Bar Harbor Regency Holiday Inn, along Route 3 East and quickly notice a ROAD CLOSED-DETOUR sign. Luckily, the bride’s brother (whose father is a well-known prosecutor in the area) is riding with us, and the Sheriff (the actual sheriff, not a deputy) who’s manning the blockade, recognizes him. The Sheriff clears us through, and we make our way to the REAL blockade about a mile up the road.

There’s a concrete barrier and a tent set up, along with a portable X-ray machine (Sort of like a travel Simon game, but not nearly as fun). About two hundred yards up the road is another checkpoint, and, since the resort backs up to the Atlantic to the east, we realize that the hotel must be in between the two.

A hotel employee checks our names and IDs and ensures that we are on the hotel registry. After we clear that, we pull up under the tent, where a black Labrador retriever and four agents searched our car and our bags. Interestingly, they don’t conduct a patdown or use a wand on us, which is a pretty strong signal that we’re not getting anywhere near the President and an even stronger signal that if you even think about trying something, you’d be dead shortly afterwards. I immediately dismissed my plan to tiptoe around the hotel all weekend.

I’d say we probably saw two dozen agents before we even got to our room. As the afternoon progressed, we realized that many of the “tourists” were agents as well. A bunch of fit-looking dudes with cheesy t-shirts - and earpieces and guns. You know how people say something is not like the movies? Well, it actually IS like the movies. The agents look exactly like you expect. The motorcade looks just like you expect.

We never did confirm which floor the President stayed on, although we suspect it was the fourth floor.

Friday, 5:00 p.m.
Bar Harbor, Maine

The rehearsal goes off without a hitch. Bride and groom seem happy. The three agents observing the rehearsal also seem happy. People are milling about when we notice a commotion near the tiki bar. A gaggle of reporters streams down the pier to a boat, and shortly afterwards, we see President Obama headed for the pier. He’s no more than fifty yards away. Whatever your politics, it’s amazing to see in person the guy that we’ve entrusted with the future of our country.

As I write this, I’m kicking myself for not remembering to look for the nuclear football. Obama comes down the pier, gets a little playful by hopping up and down on the gangway, and then gets on a boat with his wife, daughters, mother-in-law, and half a dozen other people. The boat motors away from the dock, followed by the boat carrying the reporters. I presume they follow along to be on the scene in the event the President’s boat sinks.

To celebrate this real-life civics lesson, I step down to the tiki bar and have a pint of Sam Adams. I love beer.

Friday, 7:00 p.m.
Hancock, Maine

The President does not attend the rehearsal dinner. However, a pair of goats named Mazel and Tov do make an appearance. This is a running joke between the groom and the bride’s father regarding her dowry. It appears the father of the bride is short a few goats.

After a delicious seafood dinner, we hear some great speeches and watch a slide show, prepared by the groom’s sister, of the couple from the time they were kids through the arc of their relationship. The groom and I have been friends since we were 12, so a photo of him and me from about 1987 made it in the show. I was thrilled to see this photograph came from my chubby phase – my face appeared to be trying to eat my eyeglasses like it was the pit of Sarlacc swallowing Boba Fett. Yikes.

Bottom line, there is no doubt that my friend has found the perfect match in his new wife.

Friday, 11:00 p.m.
Bar Harbor, Maine

Back at the hotel, back through another security check. We make it upstairs, where we find the Secret Service agent assigned to our floor settling into his shift near the elevator.

I’m pretty sure that we’re sleeping in the most heavily guarded hotel in the world tonight. Definitely the most heavily guarded Holiday Inn. For once in my life, I do not feel the need to get out of bed and make sure the door is locked.

Saturday morning
Bar Harbor, Maine

I am guessing you are not particularly interested in the touristy aspect of my stay in Bar Harbor. Hence, I will save you the literary equivalent of sitting through my home movies. We hit as many sights as we could, bought gifts for the kids and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding. As we roll back through the checkpoint, I start to realize we’re getting used to all the security. You know what to expect at each security checkpoint, and a tiny part of you starts to think they’re really there to protect YOU.

Yeah, they’re not. Even if you and your wife do give yourselves Secret Service code names. Not that we did that.

Saturday, 2:25 p.m.

The groom and groomsmen get ready and hang out in the best man’s room. Lethal Weapon 2 is on TV, and we come across the scene where Murtaugh is trapped on the bomb-rigged toilet. The groom and two of the other groomsmen are film school graduates, and so I make the mistake of betting them that the SWAT Team commander from Lethal Weapon 2 is the same guy who played Bernard in Lost. They assure me that he is not. I check IMDB. I lose the bet.

Side note: One of the groomsmen makes the astute observation that it’s incredibly ironic that the bad guys in Lethal Weapon 2, in fact the same guys, it’s revealed, who murdered Mel Gibson’s character’s wife, are racist white South Africans. Given that Mel Gibson has turned out to be a total nutjob, we all agree that watching him battle evil South Africans almost like watching O.J. Simpson playing Norbert from The Naked Gun movies if he’d been assigned to a domestic violence unit.

Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

It was a perfect day for a wedding, and the wedding ceremony was short, sweet and to the point. The bride’s father, who officiated the ceremony, closed the proceedings with a fantastic line to the groom: “… And now, for what I am assured will be the first time, you may kiss the bride.”

I manage to get through my reading without flubbing it too badly.

Saturday, 8:40 p.m.

I am not the biggest filet mignon fan in the world. I always find it to be excessively chewy and dry, no matter how rare you cook it. My wife, on the other hand, would wear a dress made of filet mignon. Hence, that was her dinner selection. I went with the seafood. To quote Ron Burgundy the morning after he and Veronica Corningstone consummate their relationship: “When in Rome…”

And yet, because it is steak, and because I am a guy, I cannot help but take a bite of my wife’s dinner. Um, I don’t remember filet ever tasting this good. I am pretty sure this is what I think filet SHOULD taste like, but it never does. Thus, I cannot help but wonder if I am eating filet Obam-ignon. If you’re the general manager of a hotel that’s going to be hosting the President of the United States, you’re gonna make pretty sure you’ve got some Angus beef on hand, right? What if El Jefe wants a steak sandwich at 2 a.m.?

I also met the guy who wins the Wedding Guest with Coolest Job award – he writes the Super Hero Squad comic book and has, in his career, written for some, if not all, of the Spider-Man comic books. I think about my law school diploma and start to weep.

Saturday, 9:15 p.m.

My wife and I decide to take a stroll down the pier toward the water. It’s a nice night out, and we want to take advantage of every chance to be close to the water before we have to head home. We pass three guys having dinner at the entrance of the pier with a large black dog resting at their feet. Initially, it does not occur to me that dogs are not allowed on the resort property, unless (1) you are sniffing cars for explosives or (2) you are Bo, the First Dog, and you can pretty much go wherever you want.

When I realize that this particular dog satisfies Exception No. 2, I head back up the pier, determined to make direct contact with fame. I figure that if the agents don’t want me around, they’ll be more than happy to tell me to beat it. We chat briefly about dogs (Bo is a lot bigger than he looks on television and a sweet dog who loves himself some French fries), and I quickly realize I’m out of things to say. I never want to be That Guy, but I figure this is my last chance. I ask if I can take a photo of the dog, and they agree. Their waitress shoos me away, but I get my picture in. Of course, it’s pretty dark by now, and all I’ve got is my flashless iPhone 3GS (thanks, Steve Jobs!). Fortunately, there’s just enough artificial light, and I get a decent enough picture.

Say hi to Bo.

Sunday, 10:00 a.m.
Somewhere in southern Maine

We’ve been on the road for a few hours. A long drive ahead, but I would be remiss if I did not give a huge shout-out to a place near Augusta, Maine called Bagel Mainea, which has some of the best bagels we’ve ever had. If you’re ever up in that area, stop and eat there.

I start to miss my Secret Service buddies. It’s like that scene in Die Hard, where the talking head on the news discusses his book, “Hostage, Terrorist, Terrorist, Hostage: A Study in Duality.” (Yes, I’ve seen that movie many, many times). You mean that no one is going to ask to see my ID? I don’t have this slightly privileged status of staying in what has become the most famous Holiday Inn in the world? Yeah, I realize this status was conferred on us by a flukish coincidence that had nothing to do with anything I’ve ever done other than become friends with the groom 25 years ago.

Anyway, last bit of advice. If you’re ever inclined to drive from Bar Harbor to Virginia in one day – don’t. Take Air Force One instead.

Total Obama Sightings: 1
Total First Dog Sightings and Petting: 1
Miles Driven: 1,800 (Roundtrip)
Amount of Seafood Eaten: 28 pounds
Amount of Bourbon Consumed: All of it

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