In the late ‘60s, in Sag Harbor, N.Y., having quit teaching, I turned to learning carpentry and psychotropic drugs. My first remodeling project was a funky, haunted-seeming house we had just bought—decrepit and charming, as some of my friends are today. One night, while high on mescaline, I went out for a late-night walk and saw, up through the rain above the road, a small, intense phenomenon I’d never seen before. Some star or planet, way up high, electric blue, brighter than most, was going round and round in tiny circles in the sky. Well, damn, I thought, that’s really cool, and wondered why I’d never heard of this phenomenon in science class, or if—alas, though marvelous, those drugs did not do much for rationality—I was the very first to witness this odd astronomical event. (Even while high, I knew that that was improbable at best. What I was seeing wasn’t all that subtle, after all.) Intrigued, I went on with the walk, while musing that from time to time the world’s credentialed scientists announce some huge surprise, something which until then had been unknown, presumed extinct, or deemed impossible. Might I attain delicious fame for having been the first to see this odd phenomenon?
The next night was another rainy night, no rarity in Suffolk County during winter months, but this time I was straight, not high. I left the house and scanned the sky, and, I’ll be damned, it was still there . . . or happening again. But, this time, I could see that the small, oscillating light had a more simple cause: A slender twig atop a tall, wet maple tree was rubbing on a power line whose insulation must have been quite thin, or simply gone, and as the twig moved in the breeze, a tiny brilliant spark went round and round and back and forth.
Oh Hell. Oh, well. The explanation, thus rendered mechanical/mundane, was disappointing in that it erased my claim to fame—my shot at immortality —Exolvuntur Levowitzii. It was a normal “accident,” and not some oddball space phenomenon. The disappointment was offset—or one might say consoled—by this more normal reckoning which, though far less unusual, was easier to grasp and to believe.
We love and dislike mystery because it intrigues and unsettles us. Until we know what’s going on we are both puzzled and disturbed, but hardly ever bored. When mysteries are finally solved, there is a feeling of relief, but disappointment, too.
Thank God for puzzles that have not be solved, like D.B. Cooper and The Ice Queen’s missing email cache, or Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearing act. And don’t forget the all-time-great, reigning menage-a-trois: Amelia Earhart, Elvis, and Der Fuhrer, Adolf H., alive and well, unrecognized and feeling fine, though very old by now, enjoying anonymity among the other geezers in their pale green rocking chairs behind an upscale old-age home just east of Wickenburg.