Sunday, April 17, 2005

Unfuckingbelieveable

When I was a junior in high school, at Franklin High in Portland, Oregon, I hadn’t really thought much about going to college. I assumed I would, but I hadn’t really begun to have druthers about where I might go.

But one of my mentors, Gary Webb, a great guy who was a couple of years older, and who I respected, had become a freshman at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, that year. At some point during the year, when he was visiting his folks, I talked to him, and he suggested that I come down to Willamette on Spring Break, to check the school out. He was obviously very happy to be a student there.

So I went. It was a weekend designed for prospective students and parents of current Willamette students, so the campus was packed. There were lots of activites planned, social events, tours, and exibits. One event that appealed to me was a play, student written, which was to take place on Saturday night, in the brand new Willamette University Auditorium. I sat down in a full house of students and parents.

The play was performed entirely in mime, which was odd, but it kept my attention. I don’t recall the name of the play, or much of the plot, but if you can imagine a park bench, a big smily face paper sun backdrop, and a mime, dressed as a clown, walking around, interacting with others, and basically doing mime schtick, you get the picture.

That poor mime. Every frickin’ time he would interact with a passerby, he would be rejected. Time and time again, as a person would enter the scene, a man, a woman, a dog, the mime would be encouraged and cheerful, and then, just when you thought he might win the affection or approval of the other cast member, he would be cast off, put down, rejected, and end up, sitting, weeping, dejected, on the park bench. That poor pathetic mime.

And finally, in the last scene, when you feel like the mime just couldn’t take any more rejection, that certainly he must be ready to drown in self pity and cynicism, he looks up at the sun in the back drop. A big, gloroius, smiling sun, and he can’t help but be optimistic. His enthusiam is obvious as he runs the stage, bounding and smiling, looking to the sun as his saviour, his friend.

And then, suddenly, just when you feel that the mime has found approval and acceptance at last, one huge paper mache hand, poised in the shape of the universal middle fingered fuck you sign, comes blasting through the paper sun. I was all ready for a happy ending, and here comes this huge fuck you, right in the face of this poor mime. Take this you dumb fucking optimistic little dumbshit mime. FUCK YOU! It blew my mind.

Thirty-five years later, I met my wife Marie, as she walked past my house in Southeast Portland. Some days after we met, we began to find uncanny coincidences in our lives, like owning the exact same umbrella, and nightlight. When we had only known each other for a few days, and were already finishing each others sentences, Marie was compelled to remark, ‘Oh my God, Ric, we are sharing a brain.”

Later that year, on a trip east, with Marie, and my step-son Blaine, we parked our rented van to spend a couple of nights at Niagara Falls in New York. One evening, we were talking about an old Saturday Night Live skit, which I love, where Larraine Newman announces to her bewildered parents, “Mom, Dad, I want to be a mime!” Just talking about a mime reminded me about the play I had seen so many years before at Willamette, and I launched into the story. When I got to the part where the huge paper mache finger bursts through the sun, Marie’s eyes grew wide, and she shouted....”unfuckingbelieveable!....I was there!!!” Chills ran down my spine. I had carried that unusual moment in my brain, privately, for so long. It was just an over the top coincidence. Apparently, though she is a year younger, Marie had travelled to Salem on the same weekend to visit Willamette, in 1965. I was dumbfounded. We embraced. Sharing a brain? Maybe not. Meant to be together? Totally.