If you read yesterday’s post, and I’m sure you did, you’ll know that I was all excited about watching “Man on Wire,” a story about a guy who crosses between the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope in 1974.
I was inspired by his leadership – how his friends supported and helped him propel this crazy dream to completion. I turned the TV off and wrote the blog right after he’d completed the walk and been arrested as a trespasser but at the same time hailed by the media as a wonder.
I thought of my life and how I had, at one time, led my friends on adventures – road trips to Myrtle Beach and Fort Lauderdale and Key West with very little money and sometimes no transportation – camping and hiking trips through the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and several road trips across country, one from Florida to Oregon and others starting in Tennessee and leading to both coasts. I don’t think about them much, but I really should write some books because many of these adventures were pretty entertaining. However, I’ll have to wait until my children are adults, if you catch my drift…
So I left the blog and turned the documentary back on, and lo and behold, Philippe Petit fell from grace in my eyes. (How do you like that “fell” pun? Actually, they say when you have to explain or point out your jokes, they weren’t that funny in the first place…)
How did he fall from grace? As he was walking out of the police station to the hoards of media, a pretty little thing came up and put her arms around him and said she wanted to be the first to help him celebrate. A tightrope groupie, I guess you’d call her. I wonder if she had dreams of being a groupie and went down the list: rock band groupie? No; political groupie? No; tightrope groupie, YES! All of the above, hmmm, maybe I should check this one…
So Philippe’s accomplices – one of which was also arrested, and the others on his team, and his girlfriend who had pretty much abandoned her own life to be his love interest and athletic supporter – were all waiting for him totally jubilant about his (and their) success and wanting to jump up and down and high five each other, they were left to anxiously look down an empty hall or await a knock on the door while he goes off with this groupie and bounces on her waterbed for awhile (which is shown in the film – I’m not sure if they used a body double, but this Philippe liked being in his birthday suit, I think). He calls his friends and girlfriend on the phone to tell them he’s being “interviewed” and will catch up with them as soon as he can tear himself away. There are many jokes I could make right here, things like, “Cheah, more like enterview!” but they’d all be puns of some sort, but I’m not sure you’re up (get it) for that.
Nothing happened to him legally with the trespassing charge. He was even asked by New York’s attorney general to entertain some kids with juggling for publicity. His other arrested friend, however, was kicked out of the US, for good, I presume.
On the flight home, he tells the friend who appears to be his closest one, “Well, for our next trick…” and his friend says, “Nope, don’t count me in, enough is enough.” These aren’t exact quotes, but the gist of it, and who can blame him? He and the crew did so much work and had so much at stake – what if Philippe had fallen? – and didn’t really get anything from it except the joy of giving themselves over completely to Philippe’s whimsy and have him abandon them at the time of their mutual success. The movie doesn’t say, but it appears Philippe and this friend had a falling out because the friend appears to have regrets during his last interview.
I think it could be said without a robust argument that men seem to let the little head do the thinking for them at the worst possible times. It happens constantly – it’s in the news daily – just think Tiger Woods. He’s the example handiest right now but there is a list that could circle the globe a million times. So Philippe’s fall is not shocking (that I continue using the “fall” pun is, however).
He even admits in the movie that he “betrayed” his friends and girlfriend. I liked her a lot. She never once says a negative thing. Even at the end she describes how she could see Philippe’s life changing as he became famous, and that it was time for their love affair to end, and surprisingly she was ready for it to end, too. I want to be like her, having tact and grace, but I’m negative and a b-word. I would not have been so kind.
I said yesterday I wanted to be like him. That’s no longer true. I was like him, on a much smaller scale. I had friends who went along with my adventures, and I don’t think they were disappointed. I’m still in contact with my old friends, though distance separates us and the contact may only be through Christmas cards. When we get together we talk about the present, but mostly we remember the things we did and wonder how we survived them.
The movie ended with Philippe alone in his yard walking on a tightrope. All the scenes prior had his friends splayed around in the grass. What has his life been like since 1974? Did he find taller buildings to conquer? Wider distances? I’d never heard of him when it happened, and haven’t heard about him since, but I live in a vacuum. It gets pretty dusty in there. Get it? Vacuum.
It was an amazing feat, and I still recommend the movie, but his story is just like life. It has its ups and downs, highs and lows. When we’re on top of the world, it’s exhilarating, but sure as the sun rises, we’re going to fall (pun) sometime in the future, and it’s nice to have a safety net of friends to cushion us.