By Tommy Clarkson from the June 2010 Edition
(The following is a slightly embellished and bit fictionalized Account of an almost real event!)
. . . it may be a brother-in-law, next door neighbor or that particularly irritating high school bully badly who has gone badly to seed.
You know the kind – those guys (and occasional woman) who, no matter what you say, are the “I can top that” sort!
Yesterday while flying home, trapped at an altitude of 39,000 feet, one sat next to me. Our (dare I call it such) conversation went somewhat like as follows:
Anticipating take-off in the next week or so, our jet slowly turned onto one of the taxi tarmacs. Befuddled by my seatmate’s preceding comments of “one-ups-man-ship”, I mentioned that earlier in my work life I had been a college administrator and had taught some college courses.
He launched upon a discourse of how – following a recent round of lectures regarding personally created curricula innovations, presented at Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Oxford, Stanford and MIT – he soon planned to pursue post-doctoral work regarding the relevance of sub-atomic vagaries in effecting post-coital deportment in a rare plum eating piranha found only in one seasonal stream located some 255 kilometers from the primary Amazon tributary. He continued that he anticipated both the National Geographic and Smithsonian to do full features on his work – explaining that he didn’t want to write up the research himself as he didn’t care to again face all of the “interview hassles” by the Pulitzer Prize committee, inferring this had, previously been quite a problem. (Interestingly, for the first time, I sensed a tiny chink in his armor of verbosity as he somehow avoided any mention of any colleges or universities through which he, himself, had ever matriculated.)
After mouth open pause to assimilate that bit of information, with substantially shaken confidence, struggling, I offered that early in my adult life I had enjoyed serving in elective office in Midwest Kansas.
He responded how he had personally tutored United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in proper international parliamentary procedures, had honed Former President Bill Clinton’s image (post-Monica), had been begged, repeatedly, to take Ted Kennedy’s seat in U.S. Senate, but being the humble sort he was had not wished to call attention to himself and – in a conspiratorial whisper – explained how, in all reality, it had been he who had written the entirety of the new Health Care bill.
Wishing to steer clear of all that hinted of politics, I told him how we had thoroughly enjoyed the climate while living and working in the Kwajalein Atoll in the far south west Pacific.
Before I could explain the nature of our work he interrupted saying that, each Spring, he immersed himself in the Italian Riviera lifestyle; each summer, jetted between the Galapagos Islands, several of the westernmost Mongol provinces and the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia; during the fall he hiked several of the seldom traversed Alps, peaks of the Hindu Kush, a number of the Northernmost Tibetan highest reaches and the “oh, so tame”, furthermost Canadian Rockies; and in the winter relaxed in the Antarctic . . . but was vague on specifics or explanation of that season’s sport.
Breathless at the thought of the physicality of any of his purported adventures, I mentioned how in addition to a daily regime of walking – as a result of slightly raised blood pressure – I now took medication.
Conversely, he explained how he worried little about any manner of bodily infirmities as he could lower his heart rate to twenty beats per minute, could control him body temperature to anywhere between 90 and 110 degrees, and could hold his breath to just short of ten minutes – and could do all at the same time!
Undaunted, I turned the conversation to more familial matters, mentioning how our granddaughter had just finished second in the grade school spelling Bee.
He observed that that was all well and good, but his daughter did crosswords in Sanskrit, sang a multiplicity of ancient songs in Aramaic and home schooled her children in Esperanto, Etruscan and conversational Latin as well as how to properly write in one of the more ancient variants of Japanese Kanji.
Hoping to change the conversation, I commented how while my wife and I had worked in Iraq and had befriended many Sunni and Shiias.
“Tut-tutting” the paltriness of my comment, he launched into a discourse of how he had uncovered basic theological tenant similarities between an small animistic Northern Utah tribe of Navajos and a particular Bedouin tribe of splinter Islamists in the lower Arabic peninsula and how – through his personal interventions – the two groups had become fast friends, now engaged in regular vacation “home swapping” and were fast pen pals.
. . . mercifully, the pilot then announced we were about to take off
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation - Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.