Most established clubs enjoy reciprocal privileges with other such clubs elsewhere.
I don’t know that the COW has truly established itself in its mere six months’ existence, but I do know I cannot easily take it across the Atlantic Ocean to England.
The occasion: my nephew’s wedding.
But add the COW’s spiritual mentor, Mark Twain, to the mix because Mr. Clemens adored London.
His favorite hotel was The Langham, which, when constructed in 1865, became the largest building in London and set the standard as Europe’s first grand hotel.
So I decided to stay at The Langham, maybe I’d run into Sam’s ghost, a phenomenon (ghosts in general) for which The Langham is renowned.
A hotel manager informs me by phone that they have a Mark Twain Suite, though I doubt the veracity of this claim. Is it the very room in which Sam slept, or chosen by management at random?
The hotel went through many changes during its 150-year history, including a spell when the BBC turned it into a decrepit mess, and since then rescued by a Hong Kong group that spent tens of millions renovating to a very high standard.
A week after booking my room, I finally pick up the invitation to my nephew’s wedding.
The reception, reads the engraving, will be held at… The Langham.
Two weeks before my intended departure, I undertake my annual (if late) doctor’s physical.
The good news: On the eve of my 60th birthday, I come through with shining colors.
The bad: I am about ten pounds heavier than I’d fooled myself into believing. This would undoubtedly mean that I would not fit into my suit trousers.
In Santa Barbara, I have little use for a suit, so I did not intend to purchase a new one. Nor could I be bothered to visit a tailor for alterations, which usually render the wearer looking silly.
Hence, I laid a challenge to myself: Lose ten pounds.
I have a simple formula for this: Eat less, walk more, drink red wine.
And so I stuck to protein, avoided carbs, starch, cake, and cookies, and set out to Butterfly Beach each day for a forty-minute walk, which had the added benefit of bronzing my skin.
It worked: From 181 to 171 in two weeks—and trousers that buttoned (just barely) at the waist.
And so, somewhat victorious, I careened out my driveway with Andrew at the wheel of his white Victoria, formerly a police cruiser, and currently perceived to be an unmarked police cruiser by most other drivers, who revere it with deferential aplomb.
Unfortunately, for Andrew, the real cops are not so deferential.
Approaching Malibu on Pacific Coast Highway, he gets clocked doing 64 in a 45 mph zone.
Emblazoned on this motorcycle officer’s uniform shirt is the word CASH.
I’m not sure if this is the officer’s name or if Andrew’s account may be settled on the spot, but Andrew is too consumed with self-pity to ask, fumbling over himself, as usual, trying to cut a break that won’t cut.
Short of this unexpected stop, we would have broken a new record (one hour, 33 minutes) from Santa Barbara to LAX.
Virgin’s Upper Class is very much like a club, with sleeper seats and a bar, where I stool myself with a glass of good Bordeaux.
Though I hope to eat at the bar, a Rocky Mountain high interferes, dispatching me back to my seat to dine on British filet of beef, chocolate lava cake, and a cheese plate (to hell with my weight loss regimen), followed by a second glass of Bordeaux, followed by a transformation of my seat into a flat bed.
My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.
It will be published in Fall 2016.