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"BUT I DIGRESS": A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

"BUT I DIGRESS": A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

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One of the first of what has since become, in Memphis, a characteristically brazen, un-blowhair version of the TV reporter, was Wendell Stacy of WPTY, Channel 24, who was a fixture on the tube throughout the late '90s.. Stacy vanished from the airwaves a year or two back, and , since then, he...But let’s let him tell the tale, intertwined with a report (by extension) on the recently concluded Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stacy’s sometimes whimsical spelling and punctuation are left (almost) intact as part of the flavor of his narrative.

(February 21st, 2001, February 21-24th 2002)

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

This is a story one year in the writing.

Dispatches from the center of the world.

Greetings from the Mountains where sweat and muscle kinetics and a good gene pool can generate Millions of dollars in Endorsements for Caffeine Drinks and Lip Balm and Sporting gear, barring the ripping of an Anterior Crusinate Ligament or the Like.

The Great Salt Lake glistens like a National Polygamist Dobro. Artistic License afforded to the great Paul Simon.

Once again I find myself in the Middle of the Land taken from our Native American Friends by Men that believed in many, many wives and Stone Tablets with direct revelations from God found in the Woods of New York by Joseph Smith and subsequently his followers made a mad dash West (mostly because they were chased...persecuted according to Mormon History), where on the Mountain I am now standing Brigham Young proclaimed, “Brethren, we are home”.

I am staying once again on Mount Olympus, and it is simple to see why as I look to the great Salt Lake Valley and Big Cottonwood Canyon, these men would call this the promised land.

This is a story of remarkable mistaken identity, but more importantly it’s the story of my twice-yearly trip to my Mecca. No. I am not Mormon. I’m Methodist mostly.

I stand In the same back woods and deep canyons and majestic Mountain Peaks of the Wasatch National forest where world records would fall, dreams would be fulfilled and broken, and Paranoid men in Dark glasses and Glock 40 Caliber Pistols ski the High Peaks looking for Osmama Bin Laden sympathizers. Fully ten thousand FBI and other security agents have staffed these games.

I have come to these mountains again to meet my friends and to breathe in this great wonder of God's Creation, and to do my most indulgent activity -- Extreme SnowMobiling.

Long before Apollo became -- well, Apollo like and Girls trying to become women won gold for outrageous acts on half pipes riding slabs of polymer composite, Myself and my friend paid a Renegade Mormon Guide with seven Children and a penance for great speed to allow us to do the really dangerous, something I call the “Snow Boogie.” Borrowing a term from my skydiving days.

For a few extra dollars he gave us the Hot Rods of his fleet and takes us to places only he knew and stands watch on the bowls and Mountain Tops to watch my friend and myself try to kill ourselves. And I dare say judging from his sly smile, he takes great pleasure in our indulgence, not to mention a sizable tip for taking us places no one else is allowed. On This trip the Fresh Powder was no less than Five feet and in Virgin snow we floated and screamed at break neck speeds like some kind of NASCAR Angels.

How fast? Well I looked to the bottom of the hill to see a rider-less machine upside down with my Friend buried some fifty feet behind it and laughing insanely

CHILDREN DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS. An understatement of course. But I digress.

I find myself here once again thanks to the invitation of my friend and his wife. And I find myself here to sympathize and lick the wounds caused by the firing of both myself and my News Director Friend....Perhaps a story for another time. But I Digress. This is a story of extraordinary Mistaken Identity.

By the way you may wonder why with this Back Ailment I would take such pleasure in this extreme snowmobile business, It’s called vanity, to prove I am not yet a middle aged man that some times can’t walk from the front yard of my Mid-Town home to the back deck without grimacing and moaning in pain. To re-capture a youth with the memories of my now deceased Father I barely recall in the High Sierra’s of Lake Tahoe. And in its simplest form to go very, very fast in very, very deep snow and to once again find the Cabin deep in the Watsatch owned by Augusta Busch and built with Money of the business of Hobs and Barley and Rice and Rednecks and Sunday Afternoon Football. Augusta has built a Chalet only accessible by snowmobile and I Envy him each time I find it.

But I Digress, this is the story of remarkable mistaken identity.

To accomplish this extreme Snowmobile Adventure I fill myself with Anti-inflammatory medicine and strap on three back braces and a very fine and very thick helmet. There is some restraint to my madness.

But there is so much more to this trip. This is a story about remarkable mistaken identity

That is me at the United States and World Sledding facility long before it was accessible to the public and long before it became the center of America’s Olympic successes.

After our latest adventure to the Deep Woods, as we drove home through the spice fields of Sundance Farms beautiful Valleys, I asked my friend what that strange glow was atop a peak near Park city. “Corporate Sponsorship at it’s finest” he would reply. But off limits to all but the ENRON Executive types of the world, at least for the time being. There were secret and world changing things going on up there.

All the more reason to investigate, I replied. He agreed.

We went to the Mountain top. And in a scene much like that from Close Encounters, as Richard Dreyfus scurries his way to the Alien Landing Pad, on that mountain top, we saw the future of Olympic Sport. The Fastest Ice in the world was being laid on Virgin and cutting edge Concrete and groomed and papered and refrigerated at a cost of 8 thousand dollars a day just for the cost of the thundering generators that would help make water solid.

There, hidden amongst the Currier and Ives like frocked Scottish Pines, rumbled huge hidden speakers driven by Millions of watts from Futuristic Amplifiers and a deep resonance shaking the Mountain from an un-seen Powerful and Awestricking Voice, a Voice that reminded me remarkably of HAL the computer from “2001 the space Odyssey”, he spoke in the Languages of the Olympics, that is the Languages of the world. Some I understood, most I did not, but as the Sun set glowing brilliant purple on the horizon glistening off the light falling snow it only added to the Out of this World Eeriness of it all.

As you may see in the photo, we were given access to watch what few had ever witnessed on this Mountain top, the skeleton, and a new kind of supersonic like, Two man and four man Bobsled, and as you can see from the numbers logged above my left shoulder, speeds were already reaching eighty miles an hour. Apparently the powers that be that Policed this Mountain believed us to be Corporate Sponsors. We were treated like Royalty and given unlimited access, courted by Olympic Athletes and Propositioned by a Luge Lady.(I’m not kidding, she needed an apartment close enough to train, and had offered up her Olympic body, I believe she was dead serious in her pursuit in any number of way.)

My Friend looks remarkably like any number of Movie Stars, and I encouraged him to wear my Beret just for affect, It must have worked.

I just smiled a lot and walked fast and flashed my Conceal and Carry Permit, and my Press Pass. Feeling much like the Cat that had just finished off the proverbial Canary, I decided I was Bullet proof. I reached inside my Bright Yellow Apparently Official Looking Columbia Ski Jacket, removed my Small Nikon Camera and waited for the next run of the super secret sled. I jacked up the F stop to numbers that might capture an object hurling down a Mountain at 80 miles an hour and just as they emerged from the covered corner, I let go with the High Speed Auto Winder and BOOM… BOOM.. BOOM.. Three Flashes, three photographs and then all Hell Proceeded to break Loose. That hidden voice unleashed a string of reprimands and epitaphs and warnings and threats in every Language I had ever heard and some that I’m sure that just now are emerging from the Balkans.

Seems Photography of this device was strictly verboten, and as the voice threatened, “flash Photography can result in Partial Blindness!” and at that speed, eminent death. I put my Nikon quickly back in my official looking Columbia Jacket and made tracks for the most inconspicuous shadowy hallway I could find.

It must have worked. The Bobsled Team finished their run and soon we were approached by the driver who quickly got to his Point. Would I be interested in Placing my Company's Logo, a small one mind you, on his supersonic sled for a mere 35 thousand dollars?. Since of course I have no company, except, at that moment , my friend Thomas, there would be no Logo, but did I ever do some fast talking.

I did indeed have a wealthy Brother in Law, who is a Sports agent and I played that for all it was worth. But I gave the tips honestly, and with the hope it might help this remarkable man and his driven team.

This poor miseraberily fit Soul, If I had One Millionth of his dedication I surely would have rushed out and organized a Fund Raiser. Little did I know I was talking to the man that would head up the first United States Bob Sledding Medal In five decades.

This would be this man's, Brian Shimer's, fifth Olympics, he had finished first in the world twice, he had won a gold in the world games, but never even a taste of a medal in the Olympics. Soon he would be forty years of age-- it was all about time and it was all slipping away--- and he had more self discipline in his left index finger than any of the near children “shine a light on me stars of today, I’ve got a corporate ride”, problem is he didn’t, but he sure knew the winning formula, along with the hyper sled I had secretly witnessed he had recruited his pushmen from a Nationally ranked sprinting NCAA track program and they were fast--very fast-- as fast as the turbo sleds that the renegade Mormon had rented myself and my Friend earlier that day, but their speed was not generated by an Internal Combustion engine it came from pure, unmitigated quadricep mass and gravity and a burning desire to win gold, a desire that most of us only catch glimpses of in Jim McKay’s Producers elegantly written pieces on our so called hero’s--Brian Shimer is a hero--while he pitched his case he was supporting some how, someway his family back home and still dreaming the Olympic Dream and hoping I might be a piece of the puzzle to send him on his way. How I wished to, How I wanted to sell anything of value back at my home in Mid-Town Memphis(the Porsche, the Art, the Gun Collection and become somehow apart of the Olympic Magic.. even if it was only a tiny logo on the side of the Cosmic sled. Oh how he tried to sell his dream-- to sell his ride-- to sell the fainting hopes of an Olympic Podium moment. I felt as insignificant as the cleats on his running shoes. No, They were at least helping him on his magnificent Journey. I was simply a case of remarkable mistaken identity.. And then once again emotionally entrenched in these Olympic games one year later, there he is-- there is Brian Shimer, Friday night Live On NBC sports with his team and with all the confidence that he had shown a mistaken MidSoutherner trying to fit into this bizarre serious of moments , and build his confidence one year ago, one year ago this week, Brian took his team and with all the glory of a guy that knows how to set a fire among his peers, they set off like rockets from the starting gate as I watched Live On WMC astounded that he had made it, and not only made it, Brian Shimer and his mates would push that sled so far and so fast and with the financial success that I could not provide, but NASCAR genius Geoff Bodine would. He would push that sled to Olympic History. They did it. Brian Shimer and his pushmen and his dream and I dare say his family back home made American Olympic History, even with the snow falling and slowing his remarkable effort, Brian Shimer and his roustabout crew, turned years of sacrifice into moments of Olympic Medal History.

I pray that Mr Shimer and his crew, but most especially his sacrificing family turn this into the true Olympic Dream, Soulfully and Financially. He and his Crew did it and I am not in the least embarrassed to admit that I shed a goodly amount of tears. I still Have Mr. Shimer's Number, I did not send him a dime in the end, Partially because of circumstance, but I will forever be affected by that night and by that Remarkable case of mistaken Identity. And I am still trying to write the letter that thanks him properly for giving me a new found hope.

Let’s flash back one year, I was moved deeply by Mr. Shimmer's appeal, but we left as my dear friend and his Dear Wife, who was an executive with the company that makes space shuttle parts, that company was Morton Thiakol, and yes that is the company that made the O rings incorrectly.... My Dear Friends were off to the Cape to watch yet another shuttle launch the next day and yes the company had gotten all the component just right and there’s not been a technical glitch to their work since that terrible national tragedy and once again my friends went off to witness another American Dream, and again that shuttle mission went off without a hitch as that NASA program in it’s own right is reason for National glory every time the fuse is lit.

But Again I digress, this is a story of remarkable mistaken Identity and in the end truly How close we stand, how close we all stand to the warm glow of the American dream.

My flight did not return to Memphis till the next night, so in my infinite curiosity I decided to at once research my Families genealogical history so kindly offered for pennies by the Church of Latter Day Saints, and I truly wanted to hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Practice.

I juggled the two, Found that James Stacy Boarded a Poor excuse of a Cypress Rat Ridden Ship with a sickly family of six, because he did not believe the Anglican church would bring salvation in 1624 near Suffolk England and Huddled cold and hungry and sick for four months, but settled near Charlottesville North Carolina. That afternoon I made my way to the LDS grounds to hear the Heavenly sounds of the MTC Practice, The junior Choir even more importantly were learning their chops. But of course this being the story of extraordinary mistaken Identity, namely mine,I had no idea that Mr Shimer would win the first American Bob-Sled Medal in 47 years, but There was so much more.

In my long Cashmere Brooks Brother coat and Hermes Tie, and James Davis Purchased Oxford suit, I felt guilty there on the LDS grounds, I was approached by a woman nearly as tall as my six foot three frame but half my 210 pounds in weight.. this very peaceful woman stood quietly beside me for the longest while and then looked me in the eyes, she was pretty even without any form of make-up, but mostly emotionally sincere, she, wearing a simple and warm long black coat and warm black sensible shoes, she so un-assumingly grasped my Left elbow and so warningly offered these words,” Joseph, I am here for you”.

But I digress. Obviously this was a case of remarkable mistaken Identity. Or was it?. Her next two hour tour of these grounds becomes the story of my Dispatch from what is at least again this week, the center of the world .

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