Hula Hootenanny-2 (part 2 of 2 parts)

If you’re just joining us–this is the 2nd half of a 2 part series. You may want to scroll down and read the first half  then return to this segment.

Mac sold his candles at art & craft shows and had a mail order business (that was back in pre-internet days)—calling his candle business “Enlightenment Candles.” When he wasn’t making/selling candles or writing music he was working on his General Field Theory. Mac was convinced Einstein had some sort of undiagnosed and as yet, not clinically described, mathematical dyslexia. He was certain if he could unravel the pattern of reversals and transpositions he could grasp the cosmic machinations—the warp and woof of space-time—that eluded Einstein until the day he died—and give the world the Theory of Everything. When we were kids he often told me that was what he was in the world for—to help humankind better know itself and its place in the universe—“something to keep me busy and out of mischief,” he used to add.

We lived our lives a couple of decades apart—the letters back and forth dwindled down to Christmas cards. I was here on the east coast—making a lot of false starts, wandering down numerous dead-end streets—finally settling into a career. Mac was out there in the empty heart of North America doing battle with the fathomless enigmas lying beyond the darkness of not knowing—probing the mind of God.

I visited Mac at his South Dakota home back in the ‘90s. He still seemed to be pretty popular with the ladies but now was more discriminating. Any woman that wanted to hang out or live with him had to have done post doctoral work in Mathematics, Physics or Cosmology—in short they had to “add something to the pot—earn their keep.” The week I was there, there was no shortage of female company. I felt like I was backstage at a Mensa beauty pageant.

Mac’s house sat on a windy rise above and east of a small river on the Dakota Prairie—it looked exactly as I thought it would. Every evening Mac and I and one or two of his lady friends would sit in rockers on the front porch drinking beer watching the sun set over the stream as it flowed and shimmered gold in the sun’s last warm rays. Each evening I would reflect on the Mac I sat next to—older, bigger around the middle, much less hair—a lot less cocky—remembering who he was, who I was, who we were—all those years ago—and who we were now. Like so many old friends from long ago Mac was the same but he was different—different in a Mac sort of way of course. When you’re a kid in school—on your own for the first time—the world is nothing less than infinite potential. Your good friends are team mates and together life’s challenges will fall like check-mated kings.

Then one day—usually about the time your career and family have amounted to whatever they’re going to amount to—it occurs to you—however prodigious your intellect or inclusive your spirituality, you only get a certain number of sunsets. The last evening I was there Mac got out the sitar and played—just as he had all those years ago—still like a guitar.

We sat in the gathering darkness above the vanishing river and as he played themes, chords and progressions from the Rubber Soul album and Norwegian Wood—for a few minutes we were 24 years old again and late for class because we had been hanging out in the student union trying to hustle girls. The sense of requited yearning was mind-altering.

I asked him if he thought he was any closer to his Theory of Everything. Sitting quietly in the darkness, holding his long ago gift from the smartest man he ever knew, he said, while the search went on, he had found a “Theory of Everything.” He said it was here—right now—in this moment—with his two best friends—George Harrison and me.

That was 15 or 16 years ago—and the last time I saw Mac. The emails stopped 3 or 4 years ago. I scan the science news from time to time to see if he’s come up with something—made any sort of break through but there’s nothing. Whenever I do look for my friend in the media, I see him again sitting there in the fading daylight, sitar in hand—relentlessly peering into the cosmos—and his soul—having found, and yet still searching for, his Theory of Everything.

I’ve thought about just going back to Sioux Falls and looking in on him but I hesitate—and I know why. I can’t make up my mind if Mac is essentially a huge part of who I was when the Rubber Soul Album came out or truly a part of who I am as I sit looking at this bowl of lentils—and the lifetime that brings me to this little flutter of space-time. Both—neither? I think the truth lies not in the question or any answer—but in the hesitation—in that fleeting perfect nothingness between breaths.

He is so deeply a part of who I am—the me that stretches back to those days of infinite potential—and he is so far away having chased his dream all these many years across the empty heart of North America—while I wandered here in search of mine.

I’m pretty sure Mac has had the same thoughts—and hesitation—about me—maybe that’s why the emails stopped.

He always did seem to be 3 or 4 years ahead of me.

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