Wade Thorton ambushed me in the salsa section of Ernies Fine Liquors. You know the type, the spokesperson for All Things Wade. We hadn't seen each other since the time his trophy-wife referred to me as "an off-balanced misfit, lacking any kind of entrepreneurial focus," an intended insult which, really, was kind of accurate, but it was a line in the sand that allowed me to tip-toe away from our relationship. He greeted me with a handshake reminiscent of a political candidate and held onto my hand for a little bit too long, physically pulling me alongside his fervid soapbox. What follows are the highlights without the dramatic undertones, colorful details, and feigned confidence-taking. One thing about potentates: while they're pontificating, there's plenty of time to spend alone with one's thoughts, especially if the listener, like me, has the attention span of a distracted field mouse.
--Wade: I'm the CEO of a company that does 700 million dollars a year in business. My expertise is consulting with financial issues. The shareholders have indicated their confidence in me is unwavering, and...
--My wandering mind: ((I wonder if you could help me sort out last month's cable bill.))
--Wade: I have my own private plane, a Beechcraft Bonanza, the finest single-prop airplane money can buy, the Cadillac of the sky. I fly it all over the Midwest to business meetings. Just yesterday I was at 7,000 feet and....
--My wandering mind: ((The thing is, they say I'm getting the premium package, but for the life of me, I can't find the Beverly Hillbillies channel.))
--Wade: I climbed K2 last year. You can have Everest. For my money, K2 is the better climb. I go glacier-hopping and have sampled the ice chips of every major glacier in the world. What's next you're wondering, well...
--My wandering mind: ((I'm beginning to think unicyclists are the show-offs of the bicycle world. I mean, you never see them carrying a sack of groceries...or carrying anything, for that matter.))
--Wade: The wife and I have been to all seven continents. I've discovered that vacations are the true measure of a person. The vacation makes the man. Nothing, and I mean nothing, stands in the way of my vacation. I've got pictures...
--My wandering mind: ((I'm making a list of real snappy handles....in case CB radios make a comeback.))
--Wade: Not since her shoe-modeling days at L.L Bean, has my wife had to work. She's ranked eleventh in polo, her beloved pastime. She travels with at least seven pieces of luggage.
--My wandering mind: ((The shoe size of Cinderella with the carbon footprint of Sasquatch.))
--Wade: The wife's hobby is looking at Castles, so we go to Scotland, England, and France every year in search of a new castle experience. Our favorites are in Scotland, though the cuisine can't compare to...
--My wandering mind: ((Oh Auntie Em, I'm here at Ernies! I'm trapped in Wade's virtual castle, and I can't get away, Auntie Em!))
There was lots more, and with each accomplishment I ooh’d and ahh’d as if watching a trapeze act. When Wade's blustering subsided, he obligingly asked what I'd been up to. I stammered for a moment, partly because I'd been imagining Wade being carried off by flying monkeys, and partly because I doubted he'd be interested in my casual, but year-long quest to find a copy of Connie Stevens' 1960 hit, "Sixteen Reasons."
There was nothing I could say that measured up to Wade's narrative, but as the Wicked Witch of the West once said while wringing her boney hands together, "Why, my little party's just beginning." I got real close to him and kind of whispered, "Don't let this go any further. I'm in the Witness Protection Program." He looked genuinely stunned. "Wife, son, the whole family. Changed our names and everything. We are now the Sweedlers. I'm Fjord, like the inlet. The 'J' is silent. Fjord Sweedler is my new name. Do me a big favor and forget you even saw me."
Wade leaned into to me and lowered his voice, "What was it, some sort of mob thing?"
"Can't talk about it Wade. It's big....big as K2, maybe bigger. Lives are at risk. I gotta go."
"Sure, nice seeing you, Da.."
I discreetly reminded him, "Fjord...with a silent 'J'."