Readers worldwide have waited two interminable weeks for the sequel to the acclaimed, award-winning, attention-garnering, riveting, soon-to-be-made-into-a-daytime-drama, psycho-paranormal thriller, Operation White Dove. Mostly because the original story degenerated into a rambling, incoherent diatribe/finger-pointing at nebulous, misconceived, and altogether assumed notions about writers and their various rampant addictions. Which ultimately generated a special kind of bait-and-switch-inspired disappointment for everyone involved.
Never fear. In the following 18-part series we’ll explore how this narrative misdirection was 100% intentional and part of a larger, sophisticated, elaborate, multi-level marketing ploy to create demand for the secretly written – as in written in our neighbor’s crawlspace – annals of a trip to Kansas sometime in the early 2000s to propose to our wives’ parents.
Ah wait a second, that’s not right. To ask our future wives’ parents for permission to marry. And if a dowry was available.
Let’s start over: In 2000-something we went to Kansas to ask our wives’ parents if we could marry her. The daughter. Well, they have more than one daughter. The youngest daughter. This is already falling apart so let’s get on with it. It’s time for Operation White Dove II: Dove in the City.
What? Oh. Operation White Dove II: The Orders Said Spread Love. So They did. With a Vengeance.
Remember how in the 80’s it totally made sense to simply put a “II” after a movie title when making a sequel? Talk about phoning it in…do movie executives still do that today? Does it still work or are audiences more sophisticated? Okay, okay, fine, here we go.
The goal was marriage, mostly spawned by our overwhelming generosity as evidenced by our selfless willingness to share our award-winning personalities and charming foibles with a lucky someone – in this case a specific, well-deserving someone – in confined spaces, rain or shine, for eternity. Personalities and foibles that include nervous ticks, profuse sweating, flatulence (frequently associate with sunrise), belching in celebration of delicious meals, and generous piles of errant-shot underwear lying within the vicinity of the laundry hamper.
We know, we know, don’t go comparing us to any much-inferior spouse now okay? We’re indefatigable, and this ship has already sailed. Sorry. But here’s our number, you know, just in case something happens to our wife*. 444-728-….
*Old School, The Montecito Picture Company, Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures, 2003, our lawyers said to make this annotation since that’s not our line.
Custom dictates that to achieve the lofty ambition of bestowing our attributes upon deserving wive-ly benefactors while leaving the door open for borrowing money later in life, we must ask the consent of the future-wives’ parents. Which in our case was great news, given we knew where they lived: Somewhere In Kansas Near a Grain Elevator.
To provide some perspective, please understand Google Maps hadn’t been invented yet, so we couldn’t just zoom in on their address and receive step-by-step instructions. Which turned out to be quite the blessing given our special ops group subsequently enjoyed completely stress-free, independent decision-making on the road, at least when it came to navigation. I.e. we weren’t constantly worried about “bad” traffic, and didn’t eat sandwiches at various delis wondering if we’d truly made the best choice of both venue and sandwich based on star ratings, peer reviews, etc.
Thus, to determine which exact grain elevator our future in-laws lived within proximity to, we first had to conspire, in secret, well in advance, and make a plan. Which went something along the lines of a phone conversation one afternoon that went:
Deep, Sexy Voice #1, “Hey, next month do you want to go to Kansas to ask ____’s parents if we can marry her – but by ‘we,’ we mean only one of us because otherwise that would be weird?”
Slightly Less Deep, But Still Sexy Voice #2, “Okay.”
Our evil scheme hatched, we initiated alpha numeric code BravoZebraHickey22 and caught a luxury Boeing 737 aircraft out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport, piloted by Alaska Airlines great Julie “Don’t Call Me Judi” Dench, and promptly took to knocking back highballs and losing our keys.
Waking up on the tarmac of Kansas City International (KCI) after four hours of fever dreams to an angry mother shoving our drool-covered chins off her shoulder with blazing April sunlight lighten-rodding our muddled synapses, we promptly panicked as everyone kept saying, “Welcome to Missouri.” Apparently our devious plan lacked the step where one looks at a map beforehand for a general lay of the land and understanding of where one’s physical form would fall within the space-time continuum, something we no longer worry about thanks to the graceful existence of the aforementioned Google Maps.
Luckily, a minor occupied the seat next to us, so as the flight attendants guided him out with kind words explaining where to go/where the bathrooms are/how to get out of the plane, we simply eavesdropped and tagged along. Thus, while exiting onto the skyway, we learned that Missouri is basically Kansas with a different name, and conveniently located right next to Kansas to the degree they share a major metropolis.
Step One of Operation White Dove II in the history books, we proceeded with Phase Two (we decided to alternate “Steps” and “Phases” chronologically throughout the mission to keep any counter espionage agents on their toes):
Obtain rental car.
Which turned out to be the newly redesigned Dodge Magnum, a true disappointment as we were hoping for a Challenger or Charger or something else that screamed “Soon To Be Off the Market.” This Magnum, Dodge’s version of a wagon, was built like the notorious ice cream bar – bulbous, long, dark…and as it turns out quite wobbly longitudinally as it cruised down the highway, kind of like a 50’s powerboat plowing through endless, undulating, vomit-inspiring rollers in the ocean.
And this death-mobile had teeny tiny little narrow tinted windows, more like portals on a ship, which didn’t exactly make for a less-than nauseating driving experience. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Step Three of our plan took about four minutes: Check into the hotel, inventory the free snack options, consider jumping in the pool naked, decide against it, throw bags on floor of room, and promptly leave for the nearest, and thus best, swingin’ downtown bar Kansas City has to offer.
This turned out to be a place called (do to an injunction we are prohibited from tying this establishment to this story, or going within 500 feet of it for ten more years), located in the evil villain hideout-sounding neighborhood known as “The Power & Light District.” We really liked the sound of the “Country Club Plaza” district, but found the overabundance of wine-tasting venues/menus located therein concerning, given we throw back the stuff like it’s Gatorade on a sweltering July day at the Kansas Speedway. So we went to The Power & Light District instead. Plus, based on previous experience, any place with a name that includes the word “Club” when not preceded by “Strip” tends to frown upon our entry.
Upon entering, ah, ________, we instantly knew we were home, and began ordering our drinks of choice: Anything on the remaining 27 minutes- worth of the happy hour menu. As we straddled our stools, backs to the bar to take in the scene, we slowly accepted the fact that we were at least 14 years older than everyone else on premises, including the owner. And not the, “Oh age matters less as you get older, so 35-year-olds can hang out with 45-year-olds no problem” – type older. Like, we were 33 or so and everyone else was 21.
Which may explain the surprisingly un-Kansan-in-our-experience-to-that-point frigid countenances, disgusted looks, general groans, and “you’re creepy and old” expressions we received during the roughly 4-7 hours (it’s kind of hazy) we spent at this watering hole, despite the inevitable conclusion of happy hour pricing, something that normally goes against our good nature.
Phase Four involved lots of stammering and trying to remember the name of the hotel for the (very friendly, thank you very much) cab driver. After narrowing it down to a “Top 3 Possibilities” – all of which had multiple locations throughout the greater Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas metropolitan areas – and thus taking an unplanned, $179 tour, we noticed a very familiar, errant bag of luggage resting on the trunk of our one and only Dodge Magnum. We were home, and not dead. Mission accomplished.
Our favorite blinding star peeking through our poorly drawn, slightly grimy, multi-colored, floral-patterned curtains signaled the onset of Step Five. We sub codenamed this vital step Alpha Strike Missile Attack, but our pacing and general befuddlement poorly represented an imminent ballistic launch, instead coming closer to what it must be like to drag a greasy, suntan covered, half inflated rubber raft down a launch tube, or in this case a hotel hallway, complete with lots of squeaky rebounding off walls in a zigzagging fashion.
Sadly, the free All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet (they never state it’s all you can eat, but it is) garnered no interest from our team, excluding the bottled water. After half-heartedly ensuring all of our belongings made it with us into the Magnum, we were off to taste the flavor of adventure, Kansas-style. And hopefully some barbecue. And something to wash out the flavor of the cigars we smoked outside the bar, which we vaguely remembering happening at 1:30 a.m.
With a disconcerting, forward-back rocking motion that matched the (extremely straight), undulating highway, our Magnum’s (now code-named Magnum Opus for extra secrecy) throaty roar signaled Phase Six was proceeding without a hitch. Except, again, for the weird teeter-totter motion this American made nightmare’s inappropriately long wheelbase generated. A trait not at all becoming or remotely helpful for two deep sexy-voiced special operators recovering from a night of the Power & Light District’s special brand of hospitality.
Those tinted, porthole-sized windows didn’t help matters either. Even the windshield failed to provide an adequate and therefor stomach-soothing vista. We imagined this is what it must be like to drive a WWII armored personnel carrier minus the impenetrability; hot, stuffy, smelling of fumes, and providing a robust inability to see anything directly ahead that could cause us harm including marmots, opossums, beavers, bison, chiggers, nits, ticks and other such Kansas natives.
What we could see was where the distant Kansan plains met the endless Kansan sky, a horizon we found grew quite distasteful per-mile, mostly secondary to happy hour and beyond-inspired nausea, the rocking, car, and absurdly teeny windows.
Luckily we built several contingency plans and phases into each stage of our adventure, each with its own sub-sub codename. Our co-pilot checked his synchronized watch, unwound our lengthy operations scroll, and found item number 7745niner: Contingency Phase Six, which instructed him to crack open glass vial TR77H, which in turn contained a cigarette and a scrap of paper stating:
“Go to a Truck Stop to pee, eat, and drink. Upon departure, light cigarette, throw into nearest gas tank, blow up truck stop as you tear away, escaping corrupt Federal Marshals framing you for crime you didn’t commit while not killing any innocent people like in the movies.”
Thus, we found a truck stop. A real Midwest truck stop. About 2000 acres of diesel pumps, tractor trailers, prostitutes, dead bodies, gigantic semi-truck drive thru car washes, four restaurants, showers, napping births…truly something every God-and-Q-non-fearing American should witness once in their lives.
We promptly plopped down in booth #888, read the sign that said, “For Truckers Only,” then promptly re-plopped onto booth #009, saw a similar sign and realized breakfast sounded like a terrible idea anyway, so meandered around the vast convenience store collecting armfuls of bottled water, Gatorade, and gum.
Ready to roll out sans Hollywood-styled explosions, we realized we (finally) needed coffee so we ran back in. Which turned out to be quite the experience. It went something like this:
Female Clerk: “That everything hon? Ya’ll come back now, ya’hear yee-haw, lovin the Kansas day now honey bunches how’s that sissy a yers and have ya seen how good ma hair’s lookin’ these days?”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1: “Uh, yeah, just the coffee.” Holding out 5-dollar bill.
Female Clerk: “That’ll be 25 cents honey suckle bunches sweet oat’s ah mine.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1, confused: “What?”
Female Clerk: “The coffee hon. It’s 25 cents.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1, concerned: “25 cents?”
Female Clerk: “Yes. 25 cents.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1: “………….”
Female Clerk: “Just 25 cents sir.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1, staring at 5-dollar bill: “Uh. What?”
Female Clerk, minus down-home country kindness: “It’s a quarter.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1: Puts 5-dollar bill in pocket, pulls it out again, proffers it to clerk, puts back in pocket again. Rummages around in other pocket for change. Slowly places quarter on counter.
Female Clerk: “Thanks.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1: “A quarter?”
Female Clerk: “25 cents.”
Granted certain colloquialisms may or may not intestinally misrepresent the employees of this truck stop and rather indicate a tad bit of interstate xenophobia amongst our team, this ultimately represents the gist of what it likes to pay for something with a quarter in the 21st century, which we haven’t done since we bought candy at the corner store in 1983.
One straight, long, endless ribbon of asphalt propelled us towards Step Seven: Remember where our potential in-laws live as indicated by our recollection of that one grain elevator just off the highway near their town.
Of course the foolhardiness of this strategy became readily apparent as grain elevator after grain elevator whisked by as if on a conveyer belt. Luckily, a notable absence of town after town somewhat helped, so when we did come across such communities they stood out, and were typically accompanied by road signs stating a gathering of humans resided nearby.
There it was, on the horizon, a grain elevator, an overpass, a water tower, a tractor pulling a husband/wife farmer and their 12 kids, a cow with a single piece of hay in its mouth, and, most importantly, a sign: Emporia, Kansas. Population: Doesn’t Matter, We’ve Got Room for Plenty More.
Actually in the course of this writing our teammate pointed out there was no grain elevator, overpass, water tower, etc., et. al. as described here, but rather a sign roughly 20 miles outside of town that read, “Emporia 20 Miles.”
Back in the Magnum Opus, he also pointed out we should probably call to make sure someone was home. Which, while debriefing after Operation White Dove II we decided to add as appropriate for any future special ops missions. So now, futures order of battle state, “Phase 8, call and make sure somebody is home.”
Thus, being adaptable operators, we sourced a pay phone. Which lead to another truck stop, but one with fewer human interactions. And call we did.
There’s an adage in the military that applies to all facets of life, regardless of whether shooting guns is involved. It goes something along the lines of: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” And Operation White Dove II was no exception. Through our outreach to locate our target, which involved the pay phone, several wire taps, a boom mike, and multiple tape decks to record every aspect of the conversation for future blackmail schemes, we learned, from our future in-laws, truly quite tragically, momentously, and devastatingly, this family suffered a great loss in the form of a beloved member passing away that very day.
So we did what any Navy SEAL-styled team would do: Panicked.
We rifled through tombs and tombs of our battle plan documents, from sheafs of paper to contingency scrolls to the several bandoliers containing glass vials full of cigarettes and scraps of paper in desperate hope to find what the next best move was. Alas, the only next best move was to clean up this impressive, paper-based mess we had made in the truck stop parking lot at the behest of the Kansas State Trooper who obviously thought we were on drugs as communicated through a tone well shy of the good-natured, friendly, down-home country goodness we’d experienced thus far (excluding of course the college kids at the bar). When he left, thankfully without reading us Miranda rights, our only solace was the two remaining bottles of Gatorade and pack of Fruit Stripe Gum. Which we drank, and chewed, during our creation of a verbal decision-tree to determine what move we could make that would create the best outcome, given the circumstances:
Slightly Less Deep, But Still Sexy Voice #2: “Did you tell them we were here?”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1: “No.”
Slightly Less Deep, But Still Sexy Voice #2: “Good.”
Deep, Sexy Voice #1: “What do we do?”
Slightly Less Deep, But Still Sexy Voice #2: “We go home.”
Leaving our pile of detailed master-plan refuse stuffed into a towering truck stop-sized garbage can, our trusty yet nauseating Magnum Opus whisked us back to KCI in one long, straight line of a mostly silent drive.
Sadly the still (understandably) tightly-wound-just-post-9/11 airport security transformed the landscape of the KCI air terminal to the degree no adult beverages could be located, which may have been for the best. Ultimately we knew there was nothing left to do but to help everyone grieve, and let things pass, and think about what’s important.
And like all that’s important, love bows to no timetable but its own, so upon our arrival home, we knew, when the time was right, probably during yet another secret meeting, in a smoky room with green-felted poker tables under dimmed lights, and maybe with lots of happy hour specials, we’d formulate, then execute, Operation White Dove III: It’s Go Time. For Realz.
And this time, we meant business.