Sand swirled against the windshield and I pushed the accelerator harder into the car's floorboard. My navigator barked a flurry of commands at me from the passengers seat over the engine's high rpm whine: "?medium right, up hill to slow left?" We were banging our way through a 24-hour road race in Egypt. I gripped the Subaru's steering wheel as we hand-braked into a long power-slide around the Sphinx.
"What's our position?" My wingman confirmed our third place spot in his thick British accent. He pointed west off the course and gave me a deeply reassuring nod. On faith I pulled the wheel hard and saw what he was gunning for. There were two white tigers chained in place to the desert floor and we went airborne off a dune, flying in between them. Landing hard and feeling one of our axles give, I stopped the car and flipped the restraints off my shoulders.
After climbing through the window a division of U.S. Marines made their presence known and escorted me to a massive circus tent. An assistant of some sort dumped an armload of expensive camera gear on me and told me that I was late. He led me into the tent and I saw hundreds of studio lights trained on a platform. Flipping one of the cameras on I approached the platform and saw that Britney Spears was playing chess with Christina Aguilera. They were using a set of oversized glass pieces on a large marble board.
"You're late," Britney noted, clearly bored. Christina shot me a pouty-mad look and then ignored me, diverting her glance to a television. Don Imus was on MSNBC wearing his signature cowboy hat and sunglasses and mumbling something about kids downloading MP3s from the Internet. A butler approached me from the shadows carrying a silver platter and offered its contents to me. A small white box with the words "Allergy Sinus Pain Reliever" printed in plain black font.
Between my groggy medicine nap and being half awake I had just enough time to realize that generic drugs are just another form of class warfare. On my couch in front of the television I realized what was going on. Illness. Not at work.
Sick days are a Buddhist exercise. They allow you to focus all of your senses, separate yourself from distractions and concentrate on how really crappy you feel. In the privacy of my own home I can wallow in my disease and quarantine myself back to health. Every time I swallow it feels like oil-coated gravel is lodged in my throat. This has affected my diet.
In my system are the following items: Alka-Seltzer Nose and Throat, Haagen-Das mango sorbet, Kroger Pain Reliever Allergy Sinus, low-fat cottage cheese with pineapples, Advil and a few hundred ice-pops. Being sick is one thing but to have this combination ripping through your bloodstream makes for an interesting perspective on the world.
Channel surfing in the living room is less dramatic than lying in bed so I subject myself to daytime television. Arnold has given me his victory speech a dozen times and I'm actually starting to get comfortable with the idea that he's the Governor of Cal-e-for-nyah. Not only am I at peace with this, but I'm starting to like his positions. A fiscal conservative and social moderate who's got Republicans cheering in front of him and Democrats cheering on the platform behind him. Sign me up ?Arnold for President! If Democrats can forgive Bill Clinton for his Oval Office playtime then surely they can sit down and break bread with Arnold's skeletons.
Having seen enough red, white and blue balloons I flip the channel once, then twice, three times. Here's where the LA Times and the Martha Burkes should train their ray guns! Commercials for cleaning products starring happy housewives dancing to the beat and cleaning with a plastic smile locked on their faces. What is this oppressive message? Leave Arnold's decades of coy toying alone and take a look over here. Without this or that particular disinfectant sprayed by the loving hand of mom the entire family unit will fall to ruin? Stay home with your Swiffer? All of this is starting to wear me down.
Falling back into a hazy sleep I think about getting back to work tomorrow. The trials of the workday seem like child's play next to the unrelenting assault of this dream and television stew that's sustaining me. It's very hard to swallow.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.