There are those who think we ought to respect the notion that Tom Clancy and/ or his family should be left alone regarding the cause of the best-selling author’s death. If privacy is requested, it should be honored, they say and I won’t debate it. On the other hand it is difficult for those of us with a who dunnit nature not to be curious. And I am not ashamed to admit that I Googled the late author from time to time to see if anyone has uncovered what really happened to Mr. Clancy. Finally some news. I was shocked to learn that it was because he knew too much. Hear that, Hitchcock? Obama, as part of a Marxist-Muslim plot, had Clancy killed. That’s what I learned from one web site. What’s worse is that there will be no new mysteries…ever again because we all know who did it, whatever it was. Obama did it.
Sunday was party-time in San Francisco. This was the day of the annual run — Bay to Breakers— the longest, toughest and silliest marathon race in America. There are some very serious runners to be sure, taking on the torturous Hayes Street hill as they head from the San Francisco Bay on the Embarcadero to Ocean Beach and the mighty Pacific. Among the runners are the costumed contenders making the race a kind of Boston Meets New Orleans event. Police are there to discourage backpacks, drinking and nudity. But banning nudity seems counter productive. I you’re naked it’s hard to hide either a bottle of tequila or any kind of weaponry. Also, “Stop and frisk” takes on a whole new aura. Perhaps nudity should be mandatory.
But it’s important to know, Obama didn’t kill Disco. It was alive and shaking my apartment to its old bones at 9:00 a.m. this Beta Breakers morning. There was a momentary impulse to wave my cane and tell them to get off my lawn. But it isn’t my lawn. It is the back yard for the building that contains three flats next door, occupied I’m told by a bevy of nurses. Apparently the dying and the injured took the day off because the nurses dressed as eagles or chickens — I couldn’t tell which — were tending the bar, not patients. Also, the early start may work to my advantage, Might not they be worn out by the time I’m ready to go to bed? Who am I kidding?
The truth is I enjoy the music, disco eventually augmented with a little techno. It’s fitting my retreat through time. I’ve been rummaging through the past. J. Kingston Pierce, editor of Rap Sheet, the best spot for crime fiction news, wondered what the hell I was doing with the little time- capsule posts I arbitrarily write. They are only marginally related to crime fiction. He’s right, of course, but my blog occasionally takes a personal turn. This all started while I tried to sort through old photos. I’d find a photo of me at 13 and I’d match it up with events and perhaps the mood of 1957. What was that boy listening to? What movie was he watching?
These posts became a kind of obsession. I found more general connections. I noted for example when the music changed — somehow the bands we listened to went from Tommy Dorsey to Pink Floyd. I realized that Thurgood Marshal became the first black Supreme Court Justice the same year Lester Maddox became Governor of Georgia, and that land-grabbing Russia had simply morphed from Stalin to Putin. The lists are compiled from all sorts of sources — History Orb, Infoplease, Billboard, The New York Times, etc. — gathered, pruned, compressed, judged. I was 40 in 1984. In this critical year for most humans, what was going on? Not much happened that year despite Orwell’s warning.
The party next door expanded, then shrunk and expanded again. At some point there was an abundance of Vikings. I don’t know why. In thirty or forty years the nurses — bless them — and their friends might remember the 2014 Beta Breakers and the fact that some folks made a big deal of the U.S. having a Black President. They will remember major events that have not yet happened and celebrities not yet born. And I will have long stopped trying to make sense of it.