Friday, January 22, 2010

A man can't just sit around.

Larry Walters had a dream. A fairly common dream, at that. Larry Walters dreamed that he could fly. The problem was, Larry's vision was poor, and he was thus ill-suited to become a pilot. Most people, faced with similar limitations, might let go of such a dream.

Larry Walters was not most people.

On a sunny summer day in 1982, in his modest backyard in San Pedro, Larry boarded a makeshift aircraft comprising a lawn chair, a seat belt, and forty-odd weather balloons, armed with a pellet gun, a CB radio, and a cooler full of sandwiches and beer. His plan was to release the line that tethered his craft to his Jeep, rise to a height of thirty feet or so, and have himself a little picnic. Then he'd just shoot out a couple balloons and float gently back to earth, just as easy as could be.

But Larry, it would seem, was not so good with basic physics. When he released the tether, his craft rose 15,000 feet in the air. According to some reports, he didn't dare shoot out the balloons, for fear the chair would tip, so instead, he did what any reasonable person in his situation would do: he drank.

Eventually, he drifted into the approach corridor of Long Beach airport, disrupting air traffic. Imagine for a moment what that must have looked like to the folks waiting for clearance to land: a drunk man in a lawn chair with a gun, some three miles above the ground. He did finally touch down safely, though not before getting tangled in some power lines and knocking out power in the entire Long Beach area.

It goes without saying that Larry, upon touchdown, was arrested. Seems the FAA took umbrage with his violation of restricted airspace. But by the time they nabbed him, the story'd spread, and a few crack reporters witnessed his arrest. One of those reporters asked why he'd done it. Larry's response? "A man can't just sit around."

I love that quote. I love it because it's so simple (stupid, even, given that Larry literally did, in fact, sit around), and yet tells you a lot about the man who said it. People thought his dream of flight was unattainable. Thought his flight itself was stupid. But that didn't stop Larry. Didn't deter him in the slightest. And when questioned on the matter afterward, his answer was more or less a what're you gonna do? shrug.

Becoming a published novelist is a silly dream. There's no money in it (usually), and God knows there are plenty of books on the shelf already. My friends and family are supportive, sure, but I think most of 'em find the whole endeavor a little peculiar to say the least.

Do me a favor; take a gander at the links down on the sidebar. Those men and women get it. They should; each one of them's a Larry Walters. Like Larry, they all seem normal enough on the surface; most have day-jobs, mortgages, kids. But on the page?

On the page those folks can fly.