Take me home, El Capitan!
The Frisbee... A Short Story ... For Christian and Bryson

Isn't it funny how as we sail on the ocean of life, we accumulate memories along the way like multi-colored shells on a beach. Some taking on a personal significance..... some not. I've always felt that by looking at these mental treasures one could, in effect, ascertain a better understanding of the man.

As of late with the ugly specter of the forty year mark looming over me like a ravenous bird of prey and a newly born grandson tugging at my mortality strings, I have found myself quite often reflecting on my life and it's seemingly random series of checks and balances. Dreams fulfilled and nightmares realized....... Enduring friendships and misplaced trust...... Knowledge gained and opportunities missed, and many, many wonderful memories. In essence,... the things that make up a life.

I've noticed recently that my capacity to access memories is diminishing in direct proportion to the number of years I've squandered due in no small part to my past dalliances with certain illegal substances, like so many other children of the seventies. Just in case my memory deteriorates further, there is one treasure  I would like to share with you.

Andy Warhol once said... "Everyone will be famous for 15 minutes." This is "my" story.

Once upon a time (in 1971) I, on the verge of graduating Stratford High School, lived a very simple and satisfying existence for a seventeen year old. My small world centered around the pursuit of women, concert going, getting high, and.... throwing Frisbee. I considered the art of throwing Frisbee no less important than composing, painting, or even sculpting and I threw almost daily with anyone willing, but when possible, I would seek out my close friends and fellow "Frisbee-philes" Chris, Kenny (D.K.), and Jimmy (aptly nicknamed... Toke.)  I considered these guys my equal with a Frisbee (and they, I) and this seemed to be a great way to hang out and get some exercise without having to spend a lot of money. Even then, I was well aware of the fact that I took this sport a little more seriously than my peers and looking back now, like most teenagers, I just wanted to be good at something... anything, and "this"... I was good at!

I had a rather different throwing style than most. Almost, dare I say... flamboyant in nature. It started with the Frisbee behind me and bringing it forward, out, and away rather than the typical parallel to ground "launch." Only my amigo's, Toke and D.K were able to master this difficult style. It was a lot harder to perfect than other styles because the launch window is so small and infinitely less forgiving. A micro-second off and you'll look like an idiot and your partner will have to walk to the moon to retrieve it. Being typical teens, without a clue to life's true importance, we lived to showcase our skills (read: show-off) with our extensive repertoire of between the legs, behind the back, and even a backwards-behind the back catches. We all had our specialties that we as individuals could be proud of and exploited them at every available opportunity. I had (unrealistically) always hoped that someday... somehow... my extraordinary throwing skills would propel me into the world of fame and global recognition or at the very least.... impress some young lady into going out with me.

Before I go any further I should mention that when not throwing frisbee, we whiled away the hours trying to figure out how we could finance our other preoccupation. Concert going. Our motley crew saw them all! Black Sabbath, Styx, Yes, Bowie, ELP, Genesis, and so many more that have long since burned-out or worse... just gotten too old to rock, but most just succumbed to the ravishes of father time. These bands, I'm sure, will be unknown to you, but in our day... they were the best.

In the early seventies, the average concert ticket cost a paltry $7-10 dollars, so concert going was relatively cheap entertainment unlike the financial black hole it is today. On occasion, Chris and I would journey to "exotic" locales such as Atlanta, Memphis, and sometimes Louisville to see the big draws like Roxy Music, Eric Clapton, Robin Trower, Supertramp, Kansas, and even the legendary... Pink Floyd, but the Municipal Auditorium (in Nashville) was "our" venue. A relatively small place of only about 8000 seats, but with standing room included, they could (and regularly did) cram in 12,000 or so patrons.

On most nights, my friends and I would arrive early in order to beat the crowds, choose our seats (usually high in the balcony), and then settle in for the pre-concert entertainment which usually consisted of taped rock music and the always interesting parade of humanity.

At each concert, almost without exception, some clandestine individual would invariably "smuggle" in a Frisbee, much to the consternation of the bands' roadies whose' sole mission in life was to protect the bands' props, speakers, and amps. Of course there was also the much maligned security staff who got there jollies by imposing their Napoleonic will on free spirited young rockers. I mentioned the word smuggle before because as a precondition to admittance to the auditorium, every individual had to submit to a body search. Geez! This quasi-legal attempt to stop the flow of booze and herb (and the errant Frisbee) was usually a comical exercise in futility as we were better smugglers than they were contraband eradicators.

In the pre-concert atmosphere of tee-shirt hawkers, youth in motion, and the ever present pot smoke haze, the donated frisbee would sail back and forth until showtime, usually on the floor and sometimes... just sometimes, up into the lower balconies, but never, ever did it make it up into the stratosphere where we held court, passing our perfectly rolled joints and watching the world go by.

Concerts came and went and like Captain Ahab's obsession with the great white whale, my desire to get my skilled hands on that "ultimate of concert prizes"... the rouge Frisbee, was relentless. "One of these days," I would think to myself.

** The Event **

It was a concert night like any other. Probably a Saturday, but it really doesn't matter and I don't even remember who was playing. I do remember that the band was late. Very late. This was a somewhat typical occurrence back in the 70's as all the bands were doing serious drugs (I think it was required) which sometimes hindered their arrival times. Now that I think of it..... it was probably Black Sabbath. Lead singer, Ozzy Osbourne was notoriously late, sometimes forgetting to show up at all. Of course, a professional concert goer such as myself would expect this tardiness and not take it as a personal affront. It was just the nature of the beast.

Tonight, the crowd is immeasurably bored but not yet hostile. On most nights, before the band takes the stage, rock music blares over the loudspeakers in hopes of soothing the savage beasts, but for some reason.... not tonight. Tonight, the only distraction is..... the Frisbee.

The arena is packed and every eye in the place is on the one flying disc. Back and forth, up and down, side to side, every throw is critiqued by the living, breathing mass. Some throws booed... some applauded and on several occasions some unfortunate soul is reduced to a blushing, quivering mass of flotsam (due to an errant toss) by the laughter emanating from the unforgiving youth. How someone could live with such humiliation, I'll never know.

"If they can't throw it, why don't they give it to someone who can?"... I would think to myself. Yet another example of ego overruling wits. One of mankinds' most glaring genetic failings.

High in the balcony (literally) and oblivious to the outside world, I notice while talking to Chris, the Frisbee has been unintentionally launched into the lower balcony directly below us. Hmmmm. This is the closest I've ever been to the concert disc. Damn! And so close! I glance down to the recipient of the botched toss and instantly recognize in his timid reaction.... the indecision... the pressure.... the FEAR. The awesome responsibility of the toss. To risk total humiliation in front of 12,000 people or worse.... your girlfriend!

Seconds pass and then .... a cry from an obviously stoned patron just a few rows in front of us. "Throw it up here!... Up here!!”This guy is obviously unaware of the subtle nuances of this situation. You never beg for it! It cheapens the situation and then you look stupid when they don't throw it to you.

With small beads of sweat beginning to glisten on his brow this unworthy benefactor had to make a quick decision. Hesitation was his enemy. Wisely, instead of "going for it," he turns around (in a selfless, yet cowardly gesture) and tosses it straight back, up high into the balcony. The anxious crowd laughs for a brief moment at this obvious cop-out and then..... a silence falls over the auditorium as the Frisbee lands in an unprecedented position, just two rows from the highest point in the entire arena and directly.....in my lap.

For a split second, a wave of fear.... no,... stage-fright permeates my being and then... a steely calm. A clarity that comes only with supreme confidence and the realization that you were born for this moment, ....this opportunity,.... this gift of fate. No doubts! No fear! I glance over at my compadre, Chris, who acknowledges the moment and smiles. With 24,000 eyes focused on me, I push my shoulder length hair behind me and slowly stand. Instantly I realize that because of my unorthodox throwing style, I can't get a good throw "off" without doing irreparable brain damage to the guy seated directly in front of me. The only solution... gain altitude! Cautiously and without thinking, I climb up onto the seats, my left foot out front on the seat back in front of me, my right foot on my right arm rest, kind of in a mock surfer stance. S-T-E-A-D-Y, J-E-R-R-Y, S-T-E-A-D-Y. One slip now and you'll carry your ego home in a bag.

With my head almost touching the roof of the auditorium, I peer out over the anxious multitude. Silence falls over the crowd as if God, Himself had tossed a sound proof blanket over reality. "This" is my moment! I grip the warm plastic, feel it's texture, it's weight (like a gunslinger feeling a borrowed pistol before a fight) draw it back behind me.....I take a breath, and then..... WHOOOOOSH!

At that very moment, .......time stood still. The only movement in the whole universe was the perfectly thrown Frisbee and my beating heart. The velocity, the angle, and the direction were absolutely flawless as the disc embarked on it's preordained journey. As if in a dream and propelled by my desires, the Frisbee, seemingly released from the relentless jaws of gravity, sailed outward. It's simplistic beauty and form..... breathtaking.

Farther and farther, clearing both balconies, it floated out over the crowded floor on course towards it's final destination.. The hands of countless rockers thrust upwards trying, but ultimately failing to alter the hallowed, seemingly endless flight. Farther and farther it glided. A distance, until now, never achieved by these hands.

As is worthy of it's majestic traverse, rather than ending it's flight by crashing to the floor in some anti-climactic finale, "my Frisbee" touched down on center stage by just clearing the lip of the stage (like an F-15 landing on an aircraft carrier) and then gracefully skidding to a perfect stop.... at the foot of a "gulp"... roadie. *SILENCE BLANKETS THE AUDITORIUM*............ as he reaches down, slowly picks up the blue disc. Amazingly.. rather than confiscating it (as is their primitive way) the roadie looks up... spots me high in the back of the auditorium and.....and.. applauds. He applauds!

As if dumbfounded (and still in total silence) all eyes in the arena turn from the stage to yours truly. Still standing on my lofty perch, there arises such a thundering applause that to this very day the sound is still ringing in these feedback damaged ears. The sound is deafening as I climb down and coolly raise my hand to acknowledge the blatant (yet warranted) idolatry. Oh, the bliss! The glory! This intoxicating adulation. Finally, after years of unfulfilled wanting..... a dream realized.

Standing there amidst this sea of cheering disciples, I truly understand what most mere mortals never will. For one fleeting moment in time, I'm sharing something with the likes of Sinatra.... Pavarotti.....Elvis...... and yes..even Ozzy. Only their ilk know the self gratification one experiences when the world appreciates and rewards a talented individual with enthusiastic acceptance.

A few minutes later, as if on cue, the lights grow dim as Black Sabbath takes the stage and I settle back into my life of comfortable anonymity.

I assume the concert that night was OK, but I really don't remember because... while everyone else was enjoying the lights, the spectacle, the music,... my mind was somewhere else. Someplace wonderful.

Almost 40 years have passed since that summer evening, yet of all the memories of my youth.. this one above all remains clear in my mind and while my aging imagination may have slightly embellished some of the minor details... it's all true and I feel complete now that I have finally committed it to paper. I hope you enjoyed this slice of my life, my dear grandsons. Even though I'm just over 50 and hopefully have many, many years left in "this" reality, I wonder if what they say is true about your life passing before your eyes when you are on your deathbed, and if so, amongst my most cherished memories of a lovers smile, my daughter's beautiful eyes, undersea wonders, or motorcycle adventures... will I perhaps, just perhaps... make that glorious throw..... just one more time .

And that's all I've got to say about that... Pirate out...
Jerry D. Finley
/ Pirates' Lair
- written 1994