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Alive and Well

Alive and Well

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Published by bertbotha2
Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede
Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede

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Published by: bertbotha2 on Aug 15, 2009
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10/01/2012

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Bradley DentonBuddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede For Barbara Jean......these words of love "The Midwest has a lot to answer for."HOWARD WALDROP, following the August 1990 Wisconsin helicopter crash that took
 the life of guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan prologueIn life, their names were linked for only a few cold, miserable weeks.In death, their names became a Trinity, as if carved into the same tablet ofsacred stone.Ritchie Valens. The Big Bopper.Buddy Holly.Years later, we would look back with longing and say that the music had died.We should have known better. part 1 - the annunciation1OLIVERI was conceived in cold circumstances in the front seat of a 1955 four-doorChevrolet in the early morning hours of Tuesday, February 3, 1959, near DesMoines, Iowa. I read about this in Volume I of Mother's diary when I was nineyears old. I was terrified that she would catch me, but I needn't have worried.She was writing Volume IV at the time, and she never looked back at finished work.The same passage in Volume I notes that the song playing on the car radio duringthe crucial moment was Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat." Mother wrote: I know, now andforever, that it is "our" song. I am home in bed now, and had an argument withMama because C. brought me back so late on a snowy night, "and a school night atthat!" I cannot sleep because I hear that song over and over in my head, as if Ihad a radio behind my eyes. I hope to God I am not pregnant but I don't think I ambecause you cannot get pregnant the first time, at least that's what they say, andit all dripped out on the seat anyhow, and if you read this you can go to Hell,Mama, because you have no business snooping in my diary in the first place.When I first read this passage I was terribly confused, but one of the kids atschool explained it to me the next day. That was the occasion of my first fight,and my first split lip.Throughout our life together, up to and including the day she died, I was carefulto never let Mother know that I think "Heartbeat" is a lousy song.
 
The next entry in Volume I told me that my father, referred to as "C.," committedsuicide less than twelve hours after impregnating Mother... when he heard the newsfrom Clear Lake. He was found in his parents' garage in the Chevrolet, a victim ofcarbon monoxide poisoning.Mother was the only person in Des Moines who believed that he had intentionallykilled himself. She wrote: His mama and daddy say that C. had the engine on sothat he could listen to the radio without running down the battery, but he had aradio in his room, so why would he go out to the car if the radio was the reason?He must have left me a note, but they won't let me see it. I hate them and plan topoison their Chihuahua.She probably did, too.One other thing I should mention now: I have always felt that the moment of myconception must have coincided exactly with the moment that the V-tailed redBeechcraft Bonanza hit the frozen Iowa soil, smashing life from the mortal bodiesof Ricardo Valenzuela, J. P. Richardson, and Charles Hardin Holley. Whenever I tryto imagine what my father may have looked like, the only face I can see is that ofa skinny Texan wearing glasses with black plastic frames.I have avoided discovering my father C.'s true identity, although it would be easyto do.That's enough to begin.My name is Oliver Vale. I live in the one-story Kansas ranch-style house Motherwilled to me. It is full of rock 'n' roll memorabilia, Japanese appliances, andVolumes I through VII of Mother's diary, dated from May 13, 1957 (her sixteenthbirthday) to February 3, 1984 (her last day of life). I pasted the white datesticker on the spine of Volume VII myself. Then I called the ambulance to come andget her. At 1:03 A.M. on Friday, February 3, 1989, the picture displayed by my twenty-five-inch Sony color television dissolved into bright speckles of static. I wasimmediately aware of the significance of the time (displayed in glowing bluenumerals by the Mitsubishi VCR), and for a few moments I sat frozen in my reclinerlike a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Buddy Holly had died at about this moment in1959, just as the most determined of my father C.'s umpteen zillion sperm hadplunged into Mother's eagerly waiting ovum. As a multicellular process, I wasexactly thirty years old, and my Sony was delivering white sparks in celebration.Mother had been dead five years.I tried to ponder the significance of it all, and convinced myself that there wasno significance. The Sony had been presenting static of this sort with increasingfrequency over the past several weeks, and it was only coincidence that it wasdoing so again at this particular moment. Unfortunately, this particular momentwas rottenly inconvenient, because I had remote-controlled the Sony to life hopingto see John Wayne in The Searchers, the 1956 John Ford western that gave BuddyHolly the phrase that led to his first hit single. I had seen the movie only oncebefore, so I'd been ecstatic when Dish Digest told me that it was going to bebroadcast via satellite from a co-op station in Albuquerque. I had spent a goodpart of the chilly evening redirecting my creaky SkyVue satellite dish to theproper point in the heavens, and had even popped a seven-dollar blank tape intothe Mitsubishi. Now, though, the Sony had erupted into snow, and I was going tomiss the opening credits.
 
Leaving the VCR running, I grabbed my ten-inch crescent wrench from its place onthe coffee table, ran through the dining area, kitchen, and utility room, andslammed out through the back door.The temperature outside had dropped about fifteen degrees since I'd finishedtinkering with the SkyVue, and the shock of the cold stopped me for an instant. Inthat instant, I saw that the night was clear and beautiful. Except for the dullorange glow of Topeka eight miles to the north, the sky was purplish-black andfull of stars. The hills of northeastern Kansas were silhouettes that hid all buta few of my various neighbors' mercury-vapor yard lights, and the black outlinesof the bare trees were still. It was a different sort of night than it had beenwhen the Winter Dance Party had played in the stupidly named Surf Ballroom atClear Lake.I shivered, and that broke the spell. If I didn't hurry, I'd miss the Indianattack and the slaughter of most of John Wayne's relatives, so I sprinted acrossthe dead lawn toward the eight-and-a-half-foot aluminum dish. It glowed a dullwhite in the wash of the yard light, but that didn't help me see the stepladderthat I'd left lying on the ground beside it. I tripped over the ladder and fellforward, banging my head on the dish's lower rim. The SkyVue rang dully, like anold church bell.Despite the cold, or because of it, I didn't feel much pain, so I wasted no timerecovering from the blow. Instead, I set up the stepladder on the concave side ofthe dish, climbed in, and proceeded to use the crescent wrench to whang on thecylindrical cover of the block converter at the antenna's focus. A satellite-videospecialist would cringe at this remedy, but as Mother used to say in her morelucid moments, "Whatever works." The much-cratered skin of the converter wastestimony to the fact that the crescent-wrench-whanging method not only worked,but had been employed often.The noise brought back memories. Mother had bought the dish from an obscure outfitin El Dorado in the spring of 1983, and we had developed this method of adjustmentshortly thereafter (mainly because the wrench had been packed in the parts box andwas handy). It had been easier when Mother had been alive, because she could yellfrom the house when the Sony's picture had been whanged back to normal. Since herdeath, I'd had to adjust the antenna by trial and error.Currently, about twenty-five whangs seemed to do the trick. I gave it a couplemore just to be sure and then jumped down from the ladder and ran back to thehouse. I was wearing sweatpants and a ROCK-CHALK, CHICKEN-HAWK, F*** KU! T-shirt(my movie-watching uniform), and my arms had popped out in goose pimples fromwrists to pits.I dashed into the living room and saw John Wayne on the Sony, as big as life andtwice as studly. You never would have thought to look at him that he wouldeventually have a pig valve in his heart. I dropped the crescent wrench on thecoffee table, giving the veneer another nick, and flopped into the recliner,pulling its orange afghan down to bundle myself.It happened this quickly: A corner of the afghan, fuzzy and fluorescent, passedbefore my eyes, and when it was gone, so was John Wayne. In his place, standingalone on a marbled gray plain, was Buddy Holly, wearing a powder-blue suit with awhite shirt and black bow tie. A woodgrain-and-white Fender Stratocaster was slungon a strap over his left shoulder, and behind his black-framed glasses, his browneyes looked bewildered. A pinkish proto-zit was just visible on his chin. Behindhim, an enormous banded oval of red, orange, and white hung suspended in black.

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