Thursday, July 20, 2017
on the mexican road
"They say -- I read this in this fantastically depressing book -- that when you jump from a building it's rarely the impact that actually kills you.
"There's a photograph in the book called The Leaper. It's old, but it's beautiful.
"From above the corpse of a woman who'd just leapt to her death. There's blood around her head, like a halo ... and her leg's buckled underneath, her arm's snapped like a twig ... but her face is so serene ... so at peace.
And I think it's because when she died ... she could feel the wind against her face."
When you're stuck in bed, there are a lot of things you cannot do. Jumping off of buildings is one.
But there are things you can do. Like watching movies.
And that is what I did yesterday. I put my Netflix subscription to use.
Now, there are a lot of movies on Netflix. Some are bad. Some are terrible. Some are so dreadful I am ashamed to admit I even bothered to read the synopsis. Well, as H.L. Menken did not say: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Of course, he never saw "My Mother the Car."
After sifting through a ton of Cracker Jack, I actually found a couple of diamond rings. Or maybe they were zircon. But worth watching.
One was Stranger Than Fiction -- a quirky comedy about an author known for killing off the main characters in her novels. But, in the novel she is currently writing, her main character can hear her narration as she types. The quotation at the top of this essay is her musing about various methods of snuffing her boy.
"She could feel the wind against her face." The line is supposed to make us feel a bit uneasy about the author (marvelously played by one of my favorite actresses: Emma Thompson). But it had the opposite effect on me. I knew exactly what she meant.
When Beth and I would skydive the most memorable part of the experience was the rush of air past my face as I plummeted toward the earth. There is nothing like the high probability of death to make life that much more enjoyable.
I talked my mother into joining us by telling her that the feel was like riding a motorcycle. Cranked up by a couple thousand degrees.
And just what does all of this have to do with that photograph?
My friend Julio has a new motorcycle. That is not it. But he often waxes eloquent about the freedom of feeling the wind in his face.
Forty years ago, I was a rider myself. Roaring along on the highway on a motorcycle was even more American than driving a hot rod. I often credit that motorcycle for making me a libertarian.
That bicycle parked in front of Papa Gallo's last night made me smile. This guy probably could not afford a motorcycle. He could not even afford one of those kits to turn a bicycle into an engine-powered hybrid.
So, he did the next best thing. He bought some attachments that made it look as if his bicycle was tricked out with the latest in small engines -- with chrome exhausts and a sporty gas tank. For style, it is a winner.
Much of life is imagination. We are surrounded by mirages. I suspect the rider daily feels the same wind speed I felt in free fall. At least, in his mind.
"And we must remember that all these things...
... the nuances, the anomalies, the subtleties...
... which we assume only accessorize our days...
... are, in fact, here for a much larger and nobler cause:
They are here to save our lives.
I know the idea seems strange.
But I also know that it just so happens to be true."