This story was part of Towson Unitarian-Universalist Church’s “Turn the Page” service on June 30, 2013.
In the summer of 2007, Kristy and I went to visit her brother in Southern California. I’d never been there, so it was really exciting for me. I had these Beach Boy visions of California, and I wanted to see for myself.
Her brother is this great guy, really funny. He took us camping at Jalama Beach, which was beautiful. We walked around Santa Barbara and looked at thousand dollar kitchen knives and drank wine every night after dinner. Just perfect.
He suggested we go to the Getty Center, which is a billion dollar museum complex just outside of Los Angeles. The whole thing is made out of white marble. The museum itself is a work of art. Gorgeous.
Now you may have seen me puttering around with a cane. I’ve got very low vision–legally blind. And one of the deficits caused by my particular eye condition is a difficulty adjusting to lighting transitions. Going inside to outside and vice versa–that can really mess me up. And we’re inside looking at an exhibit celebrating Clara, a famous 18th century rhinoceros who toured Europe–really–and we have to leave one building to get to another.
We step outside. The brother, Kristy and me in that order. This is LA–it’s sunny as hell and my eyes are freaking out anyway but worse still everything is WHITE MARBLE which is reflecting and glaring and I can’t see much at all.
We’re walking. I can just barely make out a sculpture up ahead, and there are two people sitting on a bench admiring it. Kristy and her brother walk between them and the statue. That’s rude, I think, so I decide that I’m going to walk behind them so I’m not rude. And so I step behind this bench and I step directly into water.
Turns out there’s a fountain there behind the bench. A sunken fountain about a foot deep. No rim around it to warn you. All white marble. And I’m in it.
Now I’m panicked because they have security cameras everywhere and I’m thinking that we’re gonna get thrown out over a misunderstanding. So I move quickly to step out with my right foot but I’m now behind the bench so I end up kicking it and thus pushing myself all the way over into the fountain. I land on my butt and I’m wet from the waist down. I scramble out of the fountain.
Kristy and her brother have stopped. They’re looking at me. The whole damn museum is looking at me. A security guard comes over and asks if I’m okay. This happens all the time, he says. He offers me a towel.
There are tourists taking pictures of me. Right now, in some photo album in Japan there’s a snapshot of a blonde guy dripping water all over some white marble. The rest of the day, there were squishing sounds when I stepped, and you could follow my wet footprints through the museum like one of those old Family Circus cartoons where you see the dotted line of the kids path through the neighborhood.
I realized something standing there, toweling off amid the chuckling Angelenos. I may be the hero of my own story, but I am the comic relief for a lot of other people. And that’s cool, because even if the funny guy usually doesn’t survive the action film or the horror film or the Western, he tries. He’s positive and helpful and people like him. He’s not the hero. He screws up. But even if he screws up and the hero has to come bail him out (or offer him a towel), he usually got into that mess trying to do the right thing.
So I’m cool being the guy you laugh at. Happy to help. But please tell me about the fountains.