I like to think that I didn't start to fly until I was eight. It was the summer of 1978, and I had just seen "Star Wars" for the first time, albeit a little late. Hiram Brown and I were lying in the field talking about how great the movie was and how cool everything was in it and I closed my eyes and we started talking about the landspeeders and that's when it happened. I was suddenly about six inches off the ground.
I probably wouldn't have even noticed, except Hiram let out a little girly shriek. You know that wussy little scream, the one that usually makes you howl with laughter? Not this time. The fear in that vocal acrobatic startled me enough that I stopped my levitating act and landed on the ground with enough of a thud that my ass was bruised for, oh, a good three days or so.
I should have been just scared as Hiram, I guess, but my first instinct was that of anger. I sprung to my feet and pounced on the kid, shaking him severely as he just looked at me in horror.
"God-DAMMIT, Hiram, you made me fall!"
"But I—I—I'm sorry…I just I just I just…"
"You just what? You just know how to spoil EVERYTHING!"
The fact that he actually said it out loud was the real eye-opener for me. I mean, I guess I knew that I'd been levitating, but to hear someone else say it was proof positive that I didn't just get jolted out of a daydream or something. I got off of Hiram and I laid myself down in the field once again. I closed my eyes and thought about the landspeeders…
I was higher than the first time. The reason that I knew this was that Hiram made the same girly shriek as before, only this time I was closer to his head. Then I took the real leap of faith: I opened my eyes. I craned my neck around to see that not only was I floating and not only was I a few feet off the ground, but ol' Hiram was standing there, frozen, looking at me as if I were that Linda Blair girl in the show his older brother made him watch. So imagine his reaction when, in midair, I rolled from my back to my stomach and said, "Boo".
I should've, I realize, been a complete basket case myself at this point. I mean, I was just suspended in midair of my own volition. It felt so natural, though, an organic thing that seemed to me to be inevitable. I thought about how hard it was to float on water when I first learned to swim; my feet kept sinking. But when I just let go and let it happen, there I was. Same with the air thing. It's a process that's occurred a lot in my life, including to but not exclusive to the myriad number of times I'd tried to use chopsticks, but it wasn't until after a big bottle of Sapporo and a heated discussion with Jane Larsen did I use them without even realizing it. I didn't even notice until I was halfway through my shrimp.
Back to the field, my opening my yapper was the cue for Hiram to start hauling ass from his new former best friend. I began kicking my legs and moving my arms in a windmill fashion like I'd seen Mark Spitz do on TV, and I swam through the thick summer air and caught up to Hiram in no time at all. I have to be honest, though—it wasn't so much that I was a fast "swimmer" as the fact that ol' Hiram was a bit of a porker, an attribute I figured was inescapable by virtue of his hideous name. When I flew over his head and landed in front of him, he froze in his tracks and started leaking water from every spot possible. No joke. He was a sweatin', cryin', peein' his pants sad sack of a kid. It took me an hour and a half to calm him down, and I walked him home, but he wouldn't look at me the whole way back. When ol' fat Hi stopped speaking to me altogether, I decided that maybe I should keep the flying thing to myself.
As I got older, I joined the swim team so I could develop my muscles to fly better. Anyone who tells you that flying consists of sticking your arms out and singing "Up and Away" or the Mighty Mouse theme or some such horseshit has obviously never done it. It's pretty literally swimming through air, and the stronger your legs and arms are, the faster and farther you can go. I had to practice my flying at night, and usually I'd wear a miner's helmet so I didn't smack into any trees or barns, 'cause like most experiences of that nature, one healthy smack into a barn is enough. I tried all the variations as I got stronger and more confident in my abilities, and some worked better than others…
One afternoon I decided to be Superman and fly up as far as possible. That ended quickly. First of all, the air traffic was a bitch. Cole Porter definitely had it right when he said, "Flying too high with some guy in the sky is my idea of nothing to do". It's one thing to almost get flattened by a plane or a chopper, but nothing is scarier, believe me, than narrowly avoiding a flock of migrating geese. Geese are a bunch of bitches. Beyond that, I forgot to take into account the fact that Superman could fly anywhere because he didn't have to breathe. Once I got that high, I almost passed out. Thank God I was able to dog paddle down to an acceptable oxygen level; it would've been so damned embarrassing to be the kid with miraculous powers who plummeted to his doom because he was stupid.
By and large as I grew up, I was pretty good about keeping it under my hat. Sure, there was that office party where I got really blitzed on some frou-frou mixed drinks and floated around the room for a few minutes, but everyone else there was so drunk or stoned that they just assumed A)that they were the only ones who saw it, or B) that I was playing an elaborate prank. And my honeymoon was almost a disaster, when in the middle of making love to my sweet bride for the first time as her betrothed, I began to hover us a good foot above the heart-shaped hotel bed. It turns out my boo already knew about my power (I guess I'd floated in my sleep before), and that night turned out to be an amazing one. We careened from wall to wall, ceiling to floor, exploring the benefits of zero gee.
I don't float much anymore. It's not that I don't enjoy from time to time, but I've got other stuff in my life that make feel that giddy sensation these days. When you've got a radiant wife, the best son in the whole goddamned world, a kickass dog, and a job you like going to everyday, the need to fly through the air with the greatest of ease isn't as pressing. You learn to channel that energy into better avenues…like my seven year-old son Joe.
So Joe and I are watching "E.T." from Dad's video collection, 'cause my wife says he's not old enough for Scorsese yet, and to see the wonder of this little man who you've helped walk through this world experience something for the first time is nothing short of breathtaking. His big brown eyes get bigger when E.T. shows up for the first time, and Joe laughs at the funny stuff, and gets freaked out at the freaky stuff, and I don't wanna brag, but no old man could've been prouder than me than looking over during the big chase scene and seeing the fruit of my loins start to put some airspace between his butt and the couch.
Looks like it's time for another father-son chat.