Elvis Is Everywhere
My neighbor Tom Thomas, no joke, that's his name, is about my dad's age, if my dad were still alive. A few weeks ago, when it was snowing like crazy up here, I trudged over to his place to say hello, just to check in. Tom has a few health issues, runs short of breath, wheezes a lot, told me how he was rushed into emergency surgery a few years ago to have his lung drained or some other ghastly procedure where they knocked him out fully, and when he woke up, he was in a plain white room, all by himself, with a beautiful view looking out onto a nice green field. Tom said he was quite groggy from the anesthesia so he wasn't really back in his body or fully cognizant of exactly where he was and all that, but he was feeling pretty good, all drugged up, watching the birds and clouds, and then all of sudden Elvis Presley walked into his room. Holy shit, Tom told me he thought to himself, I've frickin' died and Elvis Presley is here to take me to Heaven! And everything you'd expect Elvis to say to you if you had died and gone to Heaven and Elvis was there, Elvis seemed to be saying, which, I guess if you're in a foggy frame of mind, could probably ferment your reality and make it seem like that's what was really happening, which is what was happening for my friend Tom Thomas, until Elvis reached down and took his pulse, and checked his blood pressure, and started doing a few other nurse-like things for Tom, and then wished him a Happy Halloween.
The Felon in 3A
The guy in business class in the window seat next to me had long legs like me and he was fidgeting pretty early into our three and a half hour flight. If you have long legs like me you can amuse yourself and not think about how you're crammed into an airplane seat for about two hours or so and not mind it, but after that it's a pain, especially if you have Restless Leg Syndrome like I do, mostly only at night, in bed, when I'm trying to get to sleep. To kill the time, the guy next to me was tapping through the movies on the screen in front of him, watching something for a few or maybe even ten minutes, then he would fidget and swipe and tap a new movie, watch it for ten, then do the whole routine again. I thought I'd help him out, see if they had anything good, and they did—Midnight Special, the latest from Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon, a great modern writer-director/actor team (cf. Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud. Jeff also just made Loving). Midnight Special is one of the great car chase movies of all time, with a customized '72 Chevelle that just tears across the screen and the soundtrack, and I don't even like that kind of stuff. Writing this now I feel like dropping all my deadlines and watching it for a fourth time. The beginning of the movie keeps you a little bit guessing if these two guys have abducted this boy, with the media and others portraying them as kidnappers. It's kind of like E.T. for adults, which sounds like it might be too-too too, but it's not, it's all grownup and serious enough to deserve your attention so it can do its business of opening up your heart a tiny crack and making you believe. No small feat, and something we could all use, especially in this day and age. My row mate seemed pretty interested in the movie, got engaged quick, watched it all the way through. Then we chatted a bit: he was a writer too, had a Jack London style story published in a literary magazine on the East Coast, wrote on occasion for an outdoor magazine. He told me his name and I wrote it down and promised to connect when I got off the plane, and then later I looked him up to try and find his short story, but the only thing I found was an image of him, a mug shot actually, and an associated story about his arrest and conviction for abduction and molestation of a minor several years back.
Ron the Anglican Headhunter
Ron was sitting on the bus stop bench, queued up to wait for the ferry, had that look on his face like he was going to start talking to me anyway, so I cut to the chase and struck up a conversation. He was returning from the city, where he'd just had a graduation ceremony for something to do with his ability to now be a representative or something for aboriginal legal rights. (I'm going to be messing up a lot of the details here because Ron spoke really fast and I was super tired and it was cold and I felt like I was getting sick, but I'm getting the gist of what he said right.) Ron spends time in the Philippines, traveling with his Filipino wife, working with native people there, as part of some Anglican Church NGO, helping out entire tribes of people who have previously enjoyed life without interaction with the world of modernity. During one trip, Ron was invited by the chief of the tribe of former headhunters (probably best to leave that one off the resume) to wear a large headdress with various feathers and ornaments, not unlike the chief's own, and take a photo with him. The chief then smiled mischievously and said let's go out and say hello to some of the people of my tribe and when they did, all the people freaked out and treated Ron with a combination of respect and great fear. The chief chuckled to himself and then let Ron in on his secret: one particular feather in Ron's headdress was worn only by those who had successfully completed a headhunt.