That was a long day of driving. They only had a day left with the car, and a huge list of places to check out. We started off nipping to Gatwick airport, where they jumped out in order to get a taxi to Redhill aerodrome while I drove there. They got a taxi purely in order to see how easy it was to get a taxi. That’s what big budgets do, I guess.
Redhill aerodrome is a hidden gem. There’s a cafe on the landing strip with outdoor seating where families can have lunch with the kids and watch us taking off and landing with our little cessnas or copters – these deadly toys. The American associate producer with us knows this shit and wants us to know he does. He has a yacht. He’s had a plane. He’s ten years younger than me and can afford that stuff. Where’s my Breaking Bad? Buggrit. I’d have accidentally killed myself in a wingsuit 10 years ago if I could’ve afforded to. And I’d have died happy. There’s still time, dammit.
We check out the airfield. You have to walk through a museum hangar to go to the loo. It’s full of beautiful old machines. I wanted to stay and play. But we had places to go and I had the keys.
Next was back into town to Camden Market. We stopped for lunch and endless ambling through Stables Market. I had chicken schnitzel for lunch but it tasted of nothing. Still it fuelled the drive to Lee, where we checked out a whitewater rafting area, full of brilliantly designed watertracks for people to cane around in kayaks.
While we watched someone very nearly drowned himself by flipping and panicking. There are very diligent people with ropes who stop people dying, but the guy was in full panic. Despite his best efforts he didn’t drown. I remember myself, aged 15, and my near-drown. If I’d been like him I’d not be writing.
“Jesus boots.” My Godfather, Peter Rittmaster, out in Maine. I loved him. But he didn’t love me. Oh no. As soon as dad died he phoned me up. “You’re a man now.” (I was … 19?) “My job is done. This is the last time we’ll ever speak. Now your father’s dead, I’m not your Godfather anymore.” So far he’s stuck by it. Uncompromising motherfucker. I completely understand that. Shame though really. I think me now would get on well with him then. Despite that last call being nothing short of abject cowardice.
I used to go spend complicated adolescent summers in his psychedelic hunting shooting fishing range in Augusta when dad was still alive. He was “making a man out of me” which apparently involved throwing people into water, catching fish without bait, sleeping outdoors and survival of the fittest.
He had some prototype inflatable boots back in the ’90s when I was a Christian and the world was unbreakable. “You can walk on water.” He said. “Go try them out. Make sure you strap in tight. Go put them on at the end of the dock. Go walk on water like Jesus.” He had a jetty. A house on a lake in Maine and a load of boats.
I went and put them on as he said, obedient little Al and these big rubber boots. The straps were very involved so I didn’t strap in for a first go. Not that obedient. But I was 16. Fat Christian 16 year old Al with long hair and two large inflatable boots. One on each foot. On water.
Two steps and I fell flat on my face into the lake. Mouthful of water, shock of the fall. Happily my default to major shit has always been peace. I can freak out at minnows but always peace out at sharks. So when I realised I was upside down with my feet in huge inflatable boots and a mouth full of water, I stopped trying to right myself, instead carefully removed one of the boots with the last of my breath, thanking God I wasn’t strapped. I came up sideways, got my desperate breath back and then got the other lethal boot off. Never again, I swore, as I hauled myself and boots back on the jetty.
When I got back in and told Peter I’d gone face first and almost drowned, he said “Why didn’t you strap yourself in properly?”
I’d like to hang out with him now, the absolute bastard. He was a dear friend of my dad. I’m an adult now (of sorts) and I can see with evolved eyes. He might try to shoot me in the face and make it look like an accident. But someone sent me a Vice article about the old fucker recently and it read like a description of many of my mates.
If I can’t see my dad I can at least try for my asshole Godfather one more time. Based on the article, we’d be friends. Based on the experience of Christian confused teenage Al he’d drown me as soon as look at me. Based on my own approach to difficulty, bring it. I’m a very different human being now, although still respectful to that part of me back then. Peter might be already dying somewhere. I suspect he’s not though. Vital fucker. Made out of beef. Terrified of “stick shift” cars though. Thoroughly American. I miss him and his Hemingway approach to art. He recently made “Jesus fishing lures” as an art project.