Stories are the greatest. True or imagined, they’re the best. I think I love stories because my memory sucks. Not crying about it. Nobody’s got it all. Some people are mean and don’t like dogs. I’m not tall enough and my memory blows.
I bring up stories and memory for a reason. My dad once told me the story of a truly intrepid man named Joe Kittinger. As soon as you’re done, go look him up. He’s a war hero fighter pilot that one day decided to jump from a frigging balloon from something like 100,000 feet in the air. I use the term "air" too loose. There's no air up there. This record was recently beaten, so you may have heard of it. The thing about Joe—he did it back in the day. Way back. 1960 or some such. The guy was literally touching the heavens, “testing” out the space suits for the astronauts. Please go check. Click on the thing, do the thing. See? Told you.
OK. It’s an incredible act of sheer courage/insanity, but that's not what makes it a really great story. Little more to it. Indulge me. When my dad was telling the tale, it didn’t stop there. He had a setup (someone needed to test the suits) and a middle (crazy Joe went up there and then straight up voluntarily jumped out). So far so good.
But I’m not sure the act, the facts were enough to make me remember. As I said, my brain is only partially functional.
Here’s the deal, though. There’s a punch line. Act three. After my dad tells us that Joe made this jump, he drops the real bomb. He says he didn’t do it just once. The first time, things went wrong and he almost died. Totally unconscious. So naturally, he went up and did it two more times. Two more times!
Now that’s a story. And I’ll never forget it. Of course it’s amazing. Thank God for natural storytellers. Glad my dad didn’t interrupt me watching a baseball game to say, “hey, there was a guy named Joe that jumped out of a balloon. He went so fast he blacked out.”
That, I would’ve forgotten. Not because Joe Kittinger ever deserves to be forgotten. Because there are idiots like me that need it put in a good story.
Thanks Joe. Between you and me I hope I don’t have to take a header from space to get a good story of my own.
Post Script: For real, go look up Kittinger's bio. I'd share a link but that would take you to a book on my shelf. And thanks to Paul Harvey. You remember him, because he did The Rest of the Story. See what I did there? Guess every great story has a rest of the story.
See you after.