Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Bugged Out In Virginia: Part 3: The Backpacking President with a skirt

There was actually a hero in the watery, insect-filled, trail of mud that we took for a vacation recently. In Paul's history of hiking, this one went down as one of the major mishaps in his book of hiking stories, but there were was a silver lining and it was the people we met, one in particular. We actually met this person on our very first night and though I find it striking that he was wearing a kilt, that wasn't the craziest part, it was that he was almost a clone of someone I had known for years...
There is something intriguing to me concerning the subject of dopplegangers, or the twin that is not a twin. It's pretty easy to surmise that our brains are lazy and if we see something that is close enough, we call it a match. Stereotyping is based on that, and I can well remember how it went when I first shaved my head at age 40. I went from the balding middle-aged guy that didn't have the right look to be in a band, to something dangerous that made women either love me or clutch their purse tightly while they crossed the street to add a little distance between us. All it took was cutting off the very little bit of hair I had left. I can still remember my daughter telling me to quit smiling so much because it spoiled the effect. She enjoyed bringing new boyfriends by and telling them they had better be nice to her, because she wasn't sure she could control her dad. Even though I worked as a librarian, people were thinking, "looks like a skinhead to me!" Flash forward a few years and I had my very first eerie meeting with the ghostly near twin of my wife. Later, I was to find a good explanation for it all, but at the time, I really thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. There was a young woman I saw at my new job, that looked exactly like Pam did at 20 years old! She was in her 30's and my very first thought was I had travelled through another dimension and was seeing Pam as if she had decided to party on instead of going to college and becoming a teacher. This young woman was so close to Pam's look that I really thought I was losing it. I knew that when Pam was in her 30's we had kids, she had short hair, and we were living the normal picket fence, 2 kids and a dog life. This woman was the 18 year-old Pam gotten older, still with the long hair and the desire to out on the town every night. What I found out much later, was this woman's love, was the 70's. Her hair, her clothes, her jewelry, all of it, evoked that time we had back in college. Once I got to know her, that strange time-travel feeling went away, but I'll never forget that feeling of the world was tilting and I was no longer as sure of what reality was.
And here I was on the AT, looking at what was surely the President of the company at my old job. The nicest guy in the whole world. I never heard him utter a cross word in 17 years that I was there. He'd give you the shirt off his back, I'm sure of it. I often imagined that the bad things that happened at work were done by minions that were trying to please him. I could see him sitting on the throne while a minion approached with an object in his hand, and Garry saying "No! I said I want him to have Severance!...I did not want his severed head!"
To hear something bad about Garry would be worse than finding out the bad things Bill Cosby did. Sometimes you just have to believe in goodness, and I believed in him.

Then, there was this man in front of me, that for all purposes WAS Garry, with a backpack, a kilt, and he was telling me about his flip-flip Through hike. He spoke words that seemed Garry might say, in a voice that reminded me of Garry. Cultured, soft-spoken, self-effacing. It was as if anything good he did that he could be proud of, he saw as a happy accident. "I just happened to be working on a fish farm, when an old acquaintance approached me about a job in the islands, I thought, why not?" The stories seemed to have a bit of 'Forrest Gump' about them. He was involved in the coolest adventures, and they happened to the unlikeliest guy.

He was going to do the whole trail this year, and soon, his 21 year-old daughter would join him for a month. His wife was home, following his progress on a mapping service that had a GPS tracker on him. His trail name was Popeye, because of a sailors pendant that he wore.
This guy sounded like, and even acted like Garry might. Offering to share food (which is a big deal on the trail), stories, and introducing other friends...he was a man with many friends on the trail...little did I know 
that Popeye was to become a mainstay of our adventure..

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