I'm at Sea-Tac. I'm going to San Francisco. I get a boarding pass in no time, get checked by security after waiting for some time, and board my plane on time. But the inside of the plane does not look like a plane. It instead looks like a nightclub in Moscow that's trying to look like a nightclub in Berlin. The airline is Virgin America, and this is how they do business: You are not flying; you are clubbing. Though my flight will be short, and though it's six in the morning, the whole disco theme and the dubby techno streaming from the speakers above the seats puts me in the mood for a cocktail. I imagine that I'm now some party animal in Moscow who has just arrived at the club and needs a drink. The plane takes off—the lakes, the city, the fog, and the volcano. The screen in front of me is my bartender. I order a Rock & Roll (a drink I imagine a Russian would think is very popular in America), and moments later it's on my tray, which has become my bar. The Rock & Roll is a mix of Absolut vodka and Rockstar Lemonade, and it costs $10. I finish it in minutes and order another. I finish it in minutes and order white wine (35 South, from Chile). I finish it in minutes and leave the nightclub drunk.

Support The Stranger

While walking to the airport's ground transportation area, the most amazing thing happens: I see Henry Louis Gates Jr. standing right there in front of me. The famous Harvard professor and literary critic is on a cell phone, having a deep conversation. But when he notices that I know who he is, he stops talking and greets me. I tell him it's such an honor to meet him. I tell him I love his books and essays. I do not, however, mention that incident with the dumb cop, or the drinks he had with that dumb cop and our president. He asks me what I do for a living. I tell him I'm a writer. He says: "You must write of my journal... It's called Roots... Please call me... I want you on board." He is so friendly.

I ask if I can take a picture of him, and he allows me to do so. I take the image, thank him, shake his hand, and leave. Later, when checking the image as I approach the airport's exit, I realize that my drunkenness spoiled it. I did not hold the camera steady, and so now possess a blurred image of one of the most famous black American intellectuals in history. recommended