Tom Clyde: A new national hero for our times
This week, El Presidente went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to try to, well, I don’t really know what his goal was. I mean, who better to calm an explosive situation than Donald Trump? The riots were sparked by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake was shot seven times in the back as he tried to avoid arrest. He was getting into his car, with his young children inside, when a police officer grabbed him by the shirt and then fired seven shots into his back at very close range. Some people in Kenosha thought that wasn’t OK. As an aside, the calm and dignity of Blake’s family through this is kind of surreal. They have been amazing.
The shooting was followed by nights of protest and some rioting, looting and general mayhem. To add to the mix, a 17-year old from neighboring Illinois decided to take matters into his own hands. He drove to Kenosha with his AR-15 rifle to preserve order. Nothing preserves order like well-armed, random teenagers wandering around in the middle of a riot. He ended up shooting three people, killing two of them. Not a lot of it is clear, other than he deliberately drove to Kenosha with a rifle and the intention to get into the middle of it all. None of it looks good.
Trump went to Wisconsin, against the wishes of the governor and mayor, who said they had their hands full already. His comments mostly ignored the police shooting (and all of the others) that set it off, and focused instead on the unacceptable risks riots pose to innocent vigilantes. It came across as an endorsement of 17-year-olds taking law enforcement into their own hands. It certainly missed the mark about why the police drilled seven shots into Jacob Blake. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s answer to Baghdad Bob, came right out and said that violence in the streets was helpful to the Trump campaign.
It went on like that for days, punctuated by occasional plague news, and just about the time my head was going to explode, the best thing of the whole year happened (admittedly a very low bar). A guy on a jet pack flew through the flight path of the Los Angeles airport. He was at about 3,000 feet, and flew within about 300 feet of an American Airlines plane. He was also spotted by a JetBlue pilot. It’s unclear if he was wearing a mask as required by airline policies.
Of course, this is a stupid and dangerous stunt. A guy on a jet pack slamming into the windshield of an airliner wouldn’t end well for anybody. Flying is scary enough with the mask brawls and plague risk. Now there’s a chance of a guy on a jet pack getting sucked into the jet engine and crashing the plane. It’s not something to be encouraged.
But, oh, the pure joy of it. It’s almost as good as the guy with the helium balloons tied to his lawn chair. We all remember exactly where we were back in 1982 when Lawnchair Larry, aka Larry Walters, flew an ordinary lawn chair to an altitude of 15,000 feet with helium balloons. The control mechanism was to shoot a balloon now and then with a pellet gun to control the descent. It worked flawlessly until he dropped the pellet gun. He ultimately got tangled in a power line, but was able to climb down unharmed. The only thing missing from that story was that it happened in San Pedro, California, instead of Florida, where that sort of thing rightly belongs. Lawnchair Larry was an instant hero.
The jet pack guy is a modern remake, but I still have to give the prize to Lawnchair Larry for the original. It was so simple and home made, where the jet pack guy had a lot of expensive technology at his disposal. Either way, the idea of the jet pack guy cruising through the LAX flight path, getting picked up by air traffic control who, in what seems like a parody of air traffic control, nonchalantly broadcast his position, altitude and direction to the incoming planes. Just another day on the job.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the stunt, so we won’t need Trump to go to Los Angeles to give a speech in which he would say that this sort of lawlessness wouldn’t be happening if he were president. We don’t know who the jet pack guy is, though I’m assuming the whole thing was duly recorded on multiple GoPros and will get posted on YouTube. And while he’s no Lawnchair Larry, the interruption of the otherwise toxic news flow was nothing short of delightful. A grateful nation salutes you.
So when a town is faced with deciding what to do with the empty pedestal where the local Robert E. Lee statue used to be, the obvious choice is a statue of the jet pack guy. He made America smile again.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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