The Man Who Died Five Times
Random people talk to me. Specifically, people I've never met come up to me at random and confess weird shit about themselves. I have a theory about this now: a theory that goes against pretty much everything I've believed up until this point in my life.
I first talked about this phenomenon during the introduction to our Live Confession Session at Jam Cellars a few months back. I told the story of how I sat next to a gentleman at the bar at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and, after commenting on the sheer size of his lobster, he said, "Look, I gotta tell you about the handjob I got at the massage parlor." He then told me how said digitally-talented masseuse is now his girlfriend, at that his grapefruit-sized prostate won't allow for a wide variety of other fleshly pleasures. I chalked up this incident to Guy Talk At The Bar, which I suppose is the equivalent of Girl Talk At The Salon. After all, we confide even the gnarliest secrets to relative strangers: people who cut our hair, do our nails, or can ostensibly make you less of a dysfunctional creep for $200 an hour.
"As a matter of fact, Mr. Taylor, you are indeed pretty fucked up."
Or hey, maybe I just have a friendly face. The kind of face you want to talk about handjobs to. I really, really, really hope that's not the case.
Then one day, as I sat in my oversized Walmart camping chair, covertly sipping a can of totally egregious Buttercream Chardonnay and watching my daughter's swim meet, an old man in a wheelchair sporting a Vietnam Vet baseball cap wheeled up beside me. I greeted him with a smile (though I swear to god, it was not a tell-me-about-your-handjob-smile and more of an aren't-you-a-cool-grandpa-for-showing-up smile).
"I died five times," he said.
I looked to my left to see if maybe I was sitting next to the Grim Reaper, and perhaps the old man was trying to strike up a conversation with him instead. No scythe and robes present, so I looked back at the guy and said, "No shit?"
"Yeah," he said. "The last time was earlier this week. I gotta tell you, the first three times were all that 'tunnels of light' and happiness stuff you hear about. But the last two times? That was scary shit, man. Darkness. Really terrifying."
"So, does your granddaughter swim freestyle or backstroke?" I asked. (Ok, I didn't ask that, and in fact I didn't actually change the subject at all. I let the guy talk for another ten minutes or so, told him it was great to meet him, and he left).
I mostly dismissed these encounters up until a year ago, when I could no longer deny that they were happening more frequently. And having long ago embraced reason, logic and the empirical method, I could think of no reason - could find no quantifiable evidence - that these encounters were anything more than random confessions from random people.
Except for one thing. One strange, common thread that ran through all these conversations:
"I gotta tell you..."
Every story started that way: I gotta tell you. At first, it sounds like a throwaway line, a qualifier that could start any outrageous story. But I couldn't help but wonder: what if that phrase is meant to be taken literally? What if that is a statement of fact?
I have to tell you this, because that's what I'm supposed to do.
Maybe these are stories that I am supposed to hear. Why? I don't know. Maybe they're narratives that need to be told to others? Maybe these stories have information that will help me frame the decisions I make in my own life? I'm not certain yet. Honestly, I still consider myself an empirical guy, but one thing has changed as I've grown older: I've learned to listen for my own cognitive dissonance, and when new information runs headlong into my beliefs, perhaps its the beliefs that need to change and not the information.
I gotta tell you. An open mind and a leap of faith are powerful things.
WHAT WE'RE DRINKING THIS MONTH (typically to excess)
Here's a list of the best bottles we tried from last month's podcast episodes. We've left the awful stuff out. You're welcome.
This is the wine we drank for our three-part series of Sex Talks With Kara Haug. So yummy.
Hot damn! A $10 champagne from a legit Champagne House in Champagne, France? Yes, please.
Joel Aiken's 2013 Sonoma Mountain Sonoma County Pinot Noir:
Honestly, get you some of this right now. One of the best Pinots we've ever had. Featured on our episode about Grown Up Shenanigans.