The devil knows you’re dead | Chuck’s World

By Chuck Sigars | Feb 12, 2014

I stepped out of the car in front of the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, about to do something for the first time in at least 15 years: I was going to check a bag.

An oversized bag, in fact, one I was talked into taking back to Seattle. It’s a funny story.

What was also funny was how empty that airport was on a Saturday night. They checked my bag in maybe two minutes, and then the guy waiting to examine my boarding pass and ID looked positively excited to have something to do. Really.

A mildly funny story, maybe.

And then there was a delay on the tarmac, while crews examined a spot under the wing; nothing at all, but they have procedures.

The flight to Washington took longer than usual, fighting headwinds all the way, and then my arrival coincided with what I guess will just have to pass for this year’s snowpocalypse in our area.

We actually waited on the tarmac again, almost 40 minutes, as it appeared some other planes had been dumb enough to get stuck in the snow. Talk about a funny story.

Now I was in baggage claim, wandering through crowds of travelers at 10:30 on a Saturday night, all of them all atwitter about the snow outside and searching for their stupid bags, and I couldn’t find mine. I could make that funny, I guess.

Mostly I was angry, though. Annoyed, too, at all those people, prompting me to tell my wife, once she found me outside with my oversized bag (it contained a cello) and my two carry-ons, getting snowed on, that some people just shouldn’t travel.

“A night like this,” I said, “proves that some people are just too dumb to travel.”

Well. That’s a pretty mean thing to say. But then I didn’t promise a funny story.

I wasn’t angry at the delays, or the hassles, or even the clueless people who refused to get out of my way.

I certainly wasn’t angry at the weather, or at anything that had happened in the past week, as I spent some quality time with my 4-month-old grandson, who is now smiling and babbling and loves me best, of course. That was fun.

I wasn’t even angry at the news that wouldn’t stop about Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and charges and counter-charges.

Look, I don’t even like Woody Allen movies that much. I have some affection for a few of his films, but he’s not someone I pay attention to. I thought his relationship with his girlfriend’s adopted daughter was creepy, but I could name other creepy famous men and their creepy relationships.

Otherwise, what do I know about truth, particularly in this painful, private situation? Maybe Woody Allen belongs in jail. Maybe he did nothing wrong, only questionable. Maybe nothing. Why is this my business?

But it didn’t affect my mood, only my reading habits. That didn’t make me angry.

I was angry because Philip Seymour Hoffman was dead.

Full disclosure: I don’t think Philip Seymour Hoffman was the bright, shining light of his acting generation, as if we could quantify something like that. I thought he was always fascinating to watch, often brilliant, an amazing actor.

But I knew nothing of his private life, or cared all that much. None of my business, again, and I have other things to do.

But this fine actor, the father of three, 46 years old with a solid career still ahead, and an Academy Award sitting on a shelf, was apparently a heroin addict. I say “apparently.” I mean “obviously,” but you know.

This is why I can’t manage to tell you a funny story today. By the way.

Because someone I didn’t know died, apparently of some mistake he made while using heroin, something he stopped for a long time and then started doing again.

Because I’ve known heroin addicts. A couple. And many other addicts, with various drugs and behaviors that they prefer, in that weird way compulsions pick their victims or maybe their victims pick them.

I’m one of them, by the way. Long story, not funny, not all that interesting. Very pedestrian and boring, in fact, except to people who love me, who relied on me, who needed me to be useful and not drunk.

But that was a long time ago, or it feels that way.

I haven’t had a drink in many years, and I have no intention of having one anytime soon. I also don’t intend to get in a car accident, but I still wear a seatbelt and look both ways at intersections, if you get my drift.

I pay attention.

So poor Mr. Hoffman got my attention. He got my attention in the same way someone your age, who drops dead of a sudden heart attack, gets your attention. Because I know something about the vagaries of life, particularly certain kinds of lives, and I know that sometimes seatbelts won’t save you.

Fear, in other words, which is usually a necessary element to anger, which is why I was angry, of course. Because I was scared.

It’s a healthy fear. Comes with the territory. Still. It can make for a rough few days.

Even days spent with a baby, and with a daughter who decided it was time that her father dressed like an adult and dragged him to a mall in Texas.

I’ll tell you about that next week. Funny story.

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