I’ve been thinking a lot about Evel Knievel. Been thinking about him in relation to this virus. Thinking enough and talking enough to have already included him in another piece of writing.
I’ve been thinking about him for a few days. Then I woke up today to the news it was the anniversary of Evel jumping 14 Greyhound buses in my own city in 1975. I was damned excited, thinking the world was somehow converging in me and was maybe enlightening me of something super-fucking profound that, through these words, I might even transmit to you too. See, it had to be more than mere coincide, my previous thoughts and ideas about the daredevil, making their way through the cosmos, then back. I thought for a second about collective consciousness and answers to crossword puzzles. I though for a second about phenomenology and “that which shines forth.”
I though about all that bullshit. Days of prior thought. The anniversary of the spectacular jump. My own city. I wasn’t even crispy from my morning’s caffeine, and things were looking good. Booze and caffeine can sure help in connecting the cosmic dots sometimes, but, there they were, connected and sitting in my goddamned lap of utter and abject morning sobriety. So what else was I to do but see it as a harbinger of some profound truth or insight that was just beyond the horizon of 10:45 a.m.?
So I watched Evel jump those buses with the expectation of some accompanying sensation of universal enlightenment. I watched, and since the stunt was performed at Kings Island, I felt pride. My Kings Island of The Beast and our mini Eiffel Tower. I didn’t deserve any feeling of pride, obviously. Didn’t deserve any of it. It was a stupid feeling. A feeling even my morning mind told me to be embarrassed about. But my heart kept on battling with jabs and some fancy footwork of its own. I didn’t like it, but I keep thinking about that feeling that kept on “shining forth”.
I knew, shamefully, that I had no privilege to pick from Evel’s garden of well-earned pride. Those were his desserts, not mine. All the glory goes to Evel, even in death and to this day – it all goes to the hero.
He made that jump over 14 buses and the crowd stood and roared and I got to wondering what most of them wanted. Did they wanna see him crash and burn or did they wanna seen him triumph? Did they wanna see a hero – someone how flaunted the well-being of his life and limbs – win? Did the want to see the ascendancy of will over fear? Or were they just bloodthirsty? Were they there just looking for gore and carnage?
In my heart, I hope what they wanted was a hero, cause I think that’s what I would have wanted. Would have wanted it then. Would want it now.
But the crowd’s only half of it. What about the other half? What about Evel? What goes on inside the heart and mind of the daredevil? Is he scared shitless, and, if so, does that make his feat even more spectacular? The glory of overcoming the obstruction of fear? The valley of fear symbolized, physically and metaphorically, by 14 buses and Snake River Canyon?
Maybe the daredevil feels nothing. Is he merely feckless toward danger? Foolhardy from a lack of emotion that should direct and caution and alarm him to the risks? An ambivalence toward risk whipped and spurred by financial reward into a necessary temerity toward risk?
Or, does the daredevil get a thrill? Is it an adrenaline rush he needs and lives for? Is adrenaline and excitement his shot of liquor for the chronic boozer?
Or is he just dumb? Like it takes some intelligence to do the calculation of just how many buses you think you can jump. And maybe he’s so confident in his calculations that it gives him no reason for fear. Even when he knows his calculations have been off in the past, leading to catastrophe, he still just doesn’t get that he was wrong then. And beliefs wholeheartedly he couldn’t possibly be so wrong again, blaming it instead of environmental factors outside his control. Maybe it’s arrogance. Maybe it’s stupidity. Maybe its the hubris of needing to prove himself right that trumps his fear.
I don’t know what motivates daredevils like Evel Knievel but seeing him there in that resplendent leather suit of stars and stripes, the patriotism, for once, was glorious and grand rather than just dumb. He wore that shit better, sexier than even Rocky. Evel was noble. He was brave He was a hero. And regardless of his politics, whatever they might have been, who gave a shit anyway? He transcended politics. He transcended religion. He transcended us. He was a hero. He was a god. He was simply Evel.
Turns out that jump took place in on October 25, 1975 – not April 10. In that regard, the part about an anniversary was fake news. But there mighta been a reason it got to me anyway. Can’t discount “that which shines forth”, regardless if its means of shining weren’t entirely on the up-and-up.
Can’t get too upset cause times are tough. And in tough times, for a while, it can be a good thing to think about real-life heroes instead of all the calamities that surround us.