Close Encounters of the Inexplicable Kind

I was in the travel section of a bookstore today, looking for further motorcycle-related reading. McGregor's Long Way Round was there, along with Ted Simon's original Jupiter's Travels. Already owning the DVD edition of one and the sequel to the other (thanks to some well-informed grad-and-birthday-gift shopping by my cousin) I quickly lost interest and began searching for other titles: Pert's Ghost Rider wasn't there, which isn't a big deal since I've still got it out from the library (note to self: check overdue fees when finished posting); the fact that Max Burns is nowhere to be found in a mall bookstore didn't surprise me. (Rabbit trail: is this the same Max Burns as the guy who writes in Cycle Canada? If so, why doesn't Amazon carry his other fiction books?)

I was about to give up hope of finding anything valuable when I heard some unusual sounds emanating from an unknown source. You know that feeling you get when a water pump or squeaky door starts making noise in another room of an unfamiliar house? This was a similar feeling, except more on the weird side than the frightening side because I could tell that the sound was human.
At that point, The Sound of Silence started playing on the store's stereo system. I kid you not.

I listened more closely, and I was sure that I could hear muttering. Not speaking, not whispering, just muttering. Definitely a man's voice.

I stepped out into the aisle and around the bookshelf to see a man seated on the floor perusing the assortment of street and road maps on the lower shelf. He wasn't just sitting on the floor, though; his legs were locked into an uncomfortable-looking permutation the lotus position.
There were three maps carefully unfolded around him: he would pore over the names and numbers for a few seconds, neatly fold the map again, and unfold a new one before proceeding to the next map in front of him. Sitting as he was, he couldn't exactly move around when he needed to reach a new map, so he sort of pivoted instead; the motion was almost robotic.

The sweatshirt and crusty ballcap indicated a sure sign that this guy was on the down-and-out, but I couldn't help but wonder what he was saying and what he was looking for in all of those street maps. He was clearly not interested in the atlas-bound maps, and he seemed most interested in local maps of various editions, but he was looking at Calgary and Vancouver as well.

His muttering was incomprehensible, but I did manage to pick out one phrase: "nineteen sixty-four." He definitely repeated that a few times.

I asked him if he would pass me a road atlas of the mid-Western states that was right in front of him, but he was clearly not interested in being party to my use of an inferior form of cartography. He stopped mumbling for a second, looked up at me with a squint, and began to unfold his legs with an occasional dead-pan stare in my direction. He folded up his three maps and put them back in the appropriate shelf spaces before he got up and walked away.

"Nineteen sixty-four."

At that exact moment, the song switched to "Richard Corey."

4 comments:

Daniel Jackson said...

I just realized- it's Friday the 13th!

Anonymous said...

so wwhat did you think of bishop's riding with rilke? and have you read pirsig's zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance? i like the sections about the sophists - in fact, i'd be more than willing to edit that stuff out and throw the rest away...

techne

Anonymous said...

you always have interesting encounters

Daniel Jackson said...

Bishop's book was great, though the entire time I was thinking about how I would have written it differently (being a medievalist rather than a modernist, having a different outlook on various aspects of motorcycling and traveling, etc.)
I hope I'll be able to chat with him soon... (I'm procrastinating again, no surprise there.)