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Blind man's zoo (Let's roll!)

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OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s October. And that must mean the sync will expand. And usually this time of year I take another look at Richard Kelly’s mind-shattering time travel drama Donnie Darko (2001).

While we are introduced to the Darko family on October 1, 1988, the event that seems to trigger the heart of the story takes place shortly after October 2, 1988 (exactly 30 years ago today). That is when a haunting voice instructs the troubled-but-brilliant teenager played by Jake Gyllenhaal, to “wake up!” and get out of bed.

This warning (which is not unlike the voices heard in the heads of the passengers of Montego Air Flight 828 in the time-travel NBC TV series Manifest, created by Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis – more on that in a sec) saves Donnie’s life, as he is led out of his house, and, ultimately, to a local golf course where he is found “sleep golfing” by his family physician and creepy life coach Jim Cunningham (the late Patrick Swayze).

Disoriented, Donnie returns home to find out that a single engine from a mysterious 747 jet airliner of unknown origin had crashed through his bedroom after falling out of the sky. The voice had saved Donnie’s life. He had cheated death, something his pals exclaim when Donnie shows up at the bus stop before school.

And this is something noted that day at school where his English teacher Ms. Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore) is discussing Graham Greene’s 1954 short story “The Destructors.”

Pomeroy calls on Donnie to discuss his thoughts on the story, beginning by saying, “Donnie Darko, perhaps, given your recent brush with mass destruction …

It was here that I had to suddenly pause the film, get up, take care of something, and return to my seat. I was stunned by what I saw on the screen. I had paused the film just as Ms. Pomeroy was talking to Donnie, mentioning “mass destruction,” and the time on the film was “20:01.” Or, 2001! That, of course, was the year Donnie Darko was released and the year of the 9/11 terror attacks – attacks of “mass destruction,” the mass destruction of the Twin Towers and thousands of lives – and unwittingly predicted in the aforementioned Back to the Future film, as sync filmmaker Joe Alexander showed us several years back. The missing "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. I could go on.

Robert Zemeckis, who is in the midst of Manifest, is noted for sync/linking Back to the Future and his 2015 film The Walk, by Alexander in Back to the Future Predicts 9/11.

Alexander highlights how Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly character in Back to the Future and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Philippe Petit highwire walker in The Walk are dressed almost identically – eerily syncing with Star Wars actor Mark Hamill’s Photoshopped images of his iconic Luke Skywalker dressed as Marty McFly in both Back to the Future and Back to the Future Pt. II.

Back on August 19, 2015, I wrote a Dust Devil Dreams post titled “Fiver” and the only reason I came upon it today was that over on Twitter, the Twitter account for Elvis Presley’s Graceland (@VisitGraceland) noted that today, October 2nd, is National #NameYourCarDay. The emphasis in the Graceland image? A pink Cadillac, of course. 

CAR TALK

As I noted in the “Fiver” post, it was on October 11, 1989 that I was raking autumn leaves in the front yard of my parent’s house in Wichita, Kansas. In fact, I was just at this location last week, driving through Wichita on my trip to gather information for my book.

I wrote: “Suddenly, like a flash, a voice told me that I was to call my ’79 Buick Century wagon “The Runtmobile.”  I have no idea why or where this notion came from. In fact, up until that time we had called the gly car with faux-wood paneling ‘Chris.’”

This would sync with the date – October 11, 1989 – the very same day, over in California, where Back to the Future Pt. III (the one that takes place primarily in Old West Hill Valley circa 1885), where actor Tom Wilson, who plays villain “Mad Dog” Tannen, tells Marty (aka “Clint Eastwood”) that “time’s up, runt.” Crazy, I know. (See "Partner in time" and "All for the best?").

Re-reading that “Fiver” post, I was stunned by the syncs I had uncovered and highlighted, ranging from the Donnie Darko stuff to my memories of October 1988 to political assassinations and the seeming prediction made by the 70’s rock group Supertramp with their chilling Breakfast in America album art, showing the Manhattan skyline as breakfast cereal boxes, coffee pots and so forth.

Kansas seems to play a big role in my life. Not only did I live there in the late 1980’s – with October 1988 have special significance for me – but I have been drawn to that state most of my life. There’s … something … and now, having spent time there last week researching my book The Stilwell Enigma, it seems somewhat clearer. This path has been laid out for me and I wisely chose to follow it.

What is so striking about this series of syncs is that this path led me to a convenience store in Stilwell, Kansas – and the realization that this particular location – including the adjacent liquor store – were seriously haunted by spirits from the 19th and early 20th century. Quite possibly former landowner Philip Conboy, as I would learn from the store’s owner, who was kind enough to share some history of that site with me.

And speaking of Elvis – I will be in Memphis later this week, doing some sync investigations. And right now I happen to be listening to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ 1985 album The Firstborn Is Dead, about Elvis Presley’s identical twin brother, Jesse Garon Presley, who was stillborn at the Presley home in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935.

That was the same home where father Vernon Presley saw the “blue light” over their humble home there in Tupelo. I wrote about that in my August 21, 2018 Dust Devil Dreams post “Elvis and the Blue Light.”

But there is another song on The Firstborn is Dead that caught my attention, hitting my brain with the force of a tree branch – like the one Big Dan Teague uses to beat the hapless buddies in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

FLYING BLIND

That would be “Blind Lemon Jefferson.” This is the seventh track on The Firstborn is Dead and the final track. There has been discussion this week, amongst sync pals and the media, of the “Father of the Texas Blues,” Blind Lemon Jefferson, due to the fact that Marty Balin, singer for the San Francisco psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, died this week at age 76. The name of the band was guitarist Jorma Kaukonen’s suggestion, a reference to Blind Lemon Jefferson.

And as a fellow sync pal noted, the 90’s alt-rock band Blind Melon is thought to have taken their name from Blind Lemon Jefferson (“melon” and anagram of “lemon”), with troubled lead singer Shannon Hoon having been born jn Lafayette, Indiana 237 days after Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow was released.

O Sycamore, Sycamore! Stretch your arms across the storm.” Cave sings on this particularly spooky song. And when I heard that, I thought of the fact that the swirling portal at 2240 Sycamore in Buckhorn, South Dakota leads to the “convenience store” in Twin Peaks: The Return, the realm of the Woodsmen, brought into our realm by the July 16, 1945 detonation of the first atomic bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico. Recall that Special Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie - also born on January 8th, like Elvis) had visited that same convenience store. And he didn't want to talk about Judy, no sir!

The song “Blind Lemon Jefferson” concludes with Cave singing on this spooky, primitive number: “O his road is dark and lonely. He don’t drive no Cadillac. If that sky serves as his eyes Then that moon’s a cataract.” No pink Cadillac?

I should note that The Firstborn Is Dead was released June 3, 1985. Back to the Future was released one month later.

There are some interesting syncs connecting the album and the film – and an actor or two. Back to “Blind Lemon Jefferson”: Cave sings: “Here come the Judgement train. Git on board! And turn that big black engine home. O let’s roll! Le’s roll! Down the tunnel. The terrible tunnel of this world. Waiting in his final station. Like a bigger, black third bird. O let’s roll! Let’s roll!

"Let's roll!" Now that is a famous colloquialism linked to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It was reportedly spoken by United Airlines Flight 93 passenger Todd Beamer to a customer service representative named Lisa Jefferson. Beamer and other passengers were trying to regain control of the airliner as it headed toward its ultimte fate in a Pennsylvania field. Beamer's final words to Jefferson were: "Are you ready? Okay. Let's roll." The first musician to record a song, post-9/11, using that phrase "Let's Roll," was Neil Young. Six years earlier, Young had provided music for the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man. Eerie, when you think of the implications.

One could say that the flux capacitor in Doc Brown’s DeLorean creates a “time tunnel” of sorts. This opens up a Pandora’s box of problems that Marty and Doc have to figure out. While Nick Cave sings of a “Hell” of sorts, recall that the time machine leads to the creation of an “Alternate 1985” where villain Biff Tannen (like Donald Trump) rules and turns bucolic Hill Valley into “Hell Valley.”

But recall in the first Back to the Future film when we are introduced to Biff Tannen. He is at Marty’s house and talking to his dad, George McFly (Crispin Glover).

I can’t believe you’d loan me your car without telling me it had a blind spot. I could’ve been killed!” complains Biff.

George replies, weakly: “Blind spot? Now, now, Biff, now I never notices that the car had any blind spot before when I would drive it. Hi, Son.”

Biff angrily responds: “What, are you blind, McFly? It’s there. How else do you explain that wreck out there?

The notion of being "blind" has been coming up a lot lately. I've noted blues singers like Blind Willie Johnson - and others - who are blind but still have great artistic skill, and sight that seems to come from elsewhere. 

In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet of the god Apollo. He was famous being a clairvoyant and for being transformed into a woman for seven years, before returning to masculine form.

Why was Tireseias blind? It was thought that he revealed the secrets of the gods. He would die after drinking the water of a tainted spring. And in death, he descended to Asphodel Meadows, the first level of Hades. The wiki entry notes that Tiresias “was visited in the underworld by Odysseus, to whom he gave valuable advice concerning the rest of his odyssey, such as how to get past Scylla and Charybdis."

TRAIN, TRAIN

One of America’s most insightful and aesthetically-pleasing directors is Jim Jarmusch, whom I mentioned earlier in this article. Two of my favorite films of his include Mystery Train (1989) and Dead Man (1995).

Before I get to that, recall how in Back to the Future Pt. III, Doc Brown’s plutonium-powered DeLorean is smashed by a train – and he uses a train locomotive as a time machine – using safer, steam power for traveling through time. Trains loom large in the world of synchromysticism.

And while Mystery Train focuses on late 1980’s Memphis, Tennessee and the oddball, Elvis-loving characters there, Dead Man also incorporates a train (as does his Spain-set film The Limits of Control) with none other than Crispin Glover playing the soot-covered Fireman (sync with the Fireman in Twin Peaks) who may be more of a "ferryman."

Johnny Depp stars as William "Bill" Blake, who is taking a job in the Frontier West, in a town called Machine. Bill Blake is the Dead Man, in a sort of purgatory or limbo, riding that long, black train.

I wrote: "When we find William “Bill” Blake, he is on a train, heading west. He is coming from Cleveland, Ohio, a city that in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is said to be the location of a “Hellmouth” where there is a “lot of demonic activity.” (Editor's note: Also, Stull, Kansas is said to be one of the nine "Gates of Hell" locations as well, which I visited last week and is featured in the pop-horror series Supernatural).

Regardless, Blake is coming west, to the frontier town of Machine, to work at Dickinson Metal Works, or so he thinks.

While aboard the locomotive, Blake seems nervous. He scans the faces around him, getting rougher with each passing mile into the wilderness.

When the locomotive’s fireman, a soot-covered Crispin Glover (“George McFly” in Back to the Future) is baffled as to why Blake would go to Machine, where he's likely “to find your own grave.”

“That doesn’t explain why you’ve come all the way out here … all the way out here to Hell!” the Fireman (or is that “ferryman”? Charon, perhaps? Carrying a soul across the River Styx?)

Is William Blake (perhaps the reincarnation of the English and poet and mystic?) already dead and this train to hell is taking him on that final journey ...

BLIND MAN'S ZOO

Before I wrap this up, let me remind you of the ancient Indian/Buddhist parable of the blind men and the elephant.

Most of you are familiar with this proverb. Three blind men come across an elephant, never having done so before. They try to conceptualize this object by touching parts of the elephant’s body. But only one part, like the tusk or the outer hide.

And when they describe the object (the elephant) to one another, each has a different explanation as to what it is they are touching. This causes a disagreement among the men and they come to blows, because they think the other two are lying to him.

Of course this is parable is a metaphor for God and that the men represent different religions in the world that disagree on who or what God is. They are blind, but they seek truth and knowledge. And thus shall it ever be.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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