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The Gift: The Hero

Published July 20, 2007        by Matt

the gift the heroYou were in the right place at exactly the right time. It was Los Angeles, 1967. You were a student at UCLA. A moment in time; a convergence of all the right elements. You told me the story as if you were some later-day Homer recounting tales of a brave, psychedelic Ulysses returning from Troy on his way to Ithaca via the crazy shortcut of Sana Monica Boulevard and every night club in the city.

Yes, you said, wistfully, intoxicated on the memory, Los Angeles; plugged in, electric- overdrive, maximum and perfect.

You were eighteen. Your roommate asked you to help move some equipment for a band - well, he said, the lead singer is a film major, or was; he’s a strange character. His father is an admiral in the navy - at least, that’s the story. You should meet him though, he’s amazing.

So, you went and helped move the amps, and the tape decks and a few guitars. The guys in the band paid no attention to you because you were just another one of the kids hanging out; they came and went and one was as good or interesting as another and the band was just too busy with itself, with the impossible energy of becoming a legend, a myth. That’s how you described it and it was clear you had never recovered from it. You spoke all through the night telling the story of how you met them - how you met him.

Jim, you said, as if to say, hero. And no, you said, you would not see the movie - that movie. It’s all false, you said. You reached for a battered metal box; the kind someone would keep fishing tackle in, or baseball cards. You opened it and pulled out a piece of paper. It was ordinary, onion skin typing paper. You don’t see it much anymore in this age of computers. It was a relic, a buried treasure and you looked at as if you were reliving every moment and as if you were there with Carter as he opened the sealed door to King Tut’s tomb.

Jim, you said, could never reconcile himself to his fame, to his own legend.

It’s hard to have heroes, you said, but it’s harder still to know them.

Los Angeles then was a magical place and everything didn’t seem possible - everything was possible and everything seemed to be happening all the time. But then the money and everything else came in and it all went away.

You were, I saw clearly, speaking like a jilted lover. That was it, exactly. You were a man who had lived one great, true, epic romance with a moment in time and then, as is always the case, it went away. You caressed the paper. Then, quickly, because you had decided, you closed the lid to the box and it shut with a creaking metallic snap and in the next motion, the next instant you handed me the piece of paper. It took a while for me to realize it wasn't a thank you note.

Across the top, in pencil: The Horse Latitudes. Below that: J. Morrison.

I don’t know if it’s authentic but you were genuine, and that’s what mattered; the gift was the story, that moment in time, recounted as if we were gathered around some electric camp fire, listening to a story of heroes, who came and went.