Touch the Past
One of my favorite books when I was a youngster was Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. I don’t remember exactly what age I was when I read it but I’m thinking I was in Junior High. In my mind’s eye I can picture a green public library binding with Kon-Tiki printed in blue across the back. The book is, of course, Heyerdahl’s retelling of his amazing trip across the Pacific on a primitive raft made of balsa logs. As a young anthropologist, he theorized that the Polynesian Islands were populated by peoples coming from South America, not from the west as was commonly believed. When others scorned his theory, he recruited a crew of five adventurers and built a raft in Peru using only ancient materials and techniques, funding it with loans, support of the Peruvian government and the contribution of some materials by the U.S. Navy. Leaving Peru on April 28, 1947, relying only on prevailing winds and currents, the raft, named the Kon-Tiki after a Polynesian sun god, arrived at the remote island of Raroia 101 days later. The harrowing adventure was perfect reading for a boy just beginning to contemplate his passage into adulthood.
Yesterday evening I had the heebie-jeebies. That’s what Muri and I call it when we just need to do something other than sit around the house. I’d noticed that the Swedish film, Kon-Tiki, was playing at the local cinema in Irvine and asked Muri if she’d like to see it. She wasn’t feeling well so I asked if she’d mind if I went. Alone? That’s not like you, she said. She’s right … I’ve only gone to the movies once by myself. We’re funny … Muri goes to the movies by herself fairly often if no one is available to go with her but wouldn’t be caught dead in a restaurant alone. I, on the other hand, went to restaurants alone regularly when I traveled on business but feel odd in a theater alone. Anyway, I went. The film was an old-fashioned adventure, filmed beautifully without flashbacks or computer generated special effects. It was a little short on character development but captured the immensity of the journey and the falling morale of the crew under the command of the somewhat fanatical Heyerdahl. There were seven people in the theater for the 7:20 performance … three gray haired couples and Older Eyes. But I really wasn’t alone. That Junior High kid was sitting there with me, saying, Oh, yeah. I remember this part. This is when the shark almost gets one of the crew. We both loved the film, by the way, and I got to reach back and Touch the Past … feeling a little like twelve years old again … and remembering a time when the world had real adventurers, not just stuntmen.