Just over 90-years ago a young man lazed absently about the streets of downtown Seattle. A would-be writer, he’d recently lost his job as a journalist and was looking for adventure. He came across a notice in the local paper about a trip to Alaska aboard the S.S. Buford. Undeterred by the fact that he couldn’t afford a round-trip ticket, the young man decided to purchase passage anyway and leave the rest to luck.
“To start for Alaska this way,” E.B. White later remembered, “alone and with no assurance of work and a strong likelihood of being stranded in Skagway, was a dippy thing to do, but I believed in giving Luck frequent workouts. It was part of my philosophy at that time to keep Luck toned up by putting her to the test; otherwise she might get rusty.”
With White’s approach in mind we recently unmoored a certain staff reporter from his desk and sent him out into the bright sunny world. The date was May 1, and though now is the season when boats regularly depart the docks of Seattle headed north, our reporter avoided the waterfront. Having already toured Skagway he knew all too well what would be involved were Luck to prove unwilling of meeting him halfway. Instead, he wandered the same streets White had walked decades before, eventually settling himself upon a hill in a park near a zoo.
The weather in Seattle was so lovely that he removed his shoes and laid on the grass. Above him a pine tree was shedding small brown buds that kissed his skin stickily as they fell. Joggers ran past, their feet crunching on the gravel trails. Dogs barked as they chased one another about. Nearby, traffic thrummed quietly.
Our reporter stared at the blue sky stretched widely above him. He sighed and began to relax. His eyes softened and closed. He cannot say if he fell asleep or was wide awake; he notes that it is possible he was in both states simultaneously, though he also admits neither might provide the correct understanding. Regardless, he soon heard the faint jingling of a bell approaching.
He sat up and with a hand held across his brow squinted into the sun. Two backlit figures, shadowy black and moving hazily along the horizon, approached. Our reporter’s eyes slowly adjusted until he could clearly see, crossing the green hillside as well as the convoluted dimensions of space-time history, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza drawing near to him.
In the spirit of this new world he had chosen to inhabit, Don Quixote had taken the guise of an extremely effeminate black man in his early-20’s. His steed was a pink My Little Pony children’s bicycle. Bright tassels fluttered from the handlebars. Upon his feet a worn pair of sandals turned the pedals. A tie-dyed bandana was wrapped across his forehead. Sequins had been studded to it and they shimmered in the sun. Around his waist a belt of dirty bronze bells hung loosely.
Behind him Sancho labored slowly into view. He arrived in the form of an aging white hippie dressed in a purple skirt. No shoes were on his feet. His hair was a frizzing gray mess that hung over his shoulders like an under-watered, drooping fern. Behind him he pulled a homemade shopping cart made of white PVC piping. The cart was full of brick-brack and he huffed loudly through his mouth as he dragged it across the grass.
The two stopped before our reporter. Eyes met and understandings resolved. Don Quixote raised his palm in greeting. When he spoke a wide gap was seen between his front teeth and his voice was unnervingly high-pitched.
A lovely May Day to you, sir!
Our reporter nodded and returned the greeting. Don Quixote smiled and looked upon the field stretched out before him. What visions alighted in his eyes can only be imagined. Behind him, Sancho wiped a slaver of drool from around his lips.
Turning to his companion Don Quixote pointed to three small pine trees across the field. What a lovely copse of trees. Let us sit in their shadows and rest. He pronounced the word “copse” so it sounded like “cops.” Sancho did not amend the pronunciation.
Don Quixote nodded his head gravely toward our reporter. Good day, he said solemnly, and then balanced atop his steed and rode slowly toward the trees. Sancho sighed and tightened his grip upon the cart. Across the field the two moved, and when our reporter finally left for the day they were seen reclining peacefully under the shade of the trees.
What adventures the two next encountered are unknown. Stories circulate but so far remain unsubstantiated, and can only be deemed hearsay. What is not in doubt is that the two heroes are here and walk freely in our midst.
Our reporter notes that perhaps Mr. White was correct to insist upon giving Luck frequent workouts to keep her from getting rusty. As a result of his May Day experience he encourages all readers to the same. As he notes, you might be amazed at who you’ll find wandering through your world if only you make the time to look.