Featured Author: Kim Heacox

Kim Heacox
On a cold November morning distant in my past yet vivid in
my mind, I walk across London’s Abbey Road. It takes less than a minute, the
same as I imagine it took the Beatles when photographed for their famous album
cover. The sun shines bright in a blue cloudless sky. A woman passes by with a
baby stroller and smiles. She’s seen guys like me before: young, lost, curious,
disheveled, almost handsome, standing in the middle of their own surprise,
faces filled with fascination and unspoken hunger.
I catch myself listening for harmonies and guitar riffs
coming from the unpretentious building behind the white wall. Abbey Road
Studios. How serene it seems, quiet for a big city. A dozen impressions flood
into me. This is where John Lennon showed up one morning and played “Strawberry
Fields Forever” on his acoustic guitar. And Paul McCartney, at the piano, like
a bird, sang “Hey Jude,” the song he’d written for John’s young son, Julian.
And George Harrison, back from his meditations in India, invited his friend Eric
Clapton to play electric lead on his haunting elegy, “While My Guitar Gently
Weeps.” And Ringo Starr, the lucky guy, played drums.
This is where a nineteen-year-old kid from Spokane – the
person I used to be – stands alone, footsore, confused.
Fresh out of high school, I can still hear voices in the
hall. Laughter. My friends yelling, “Hey, Heacox,” and me, Pavlov’s dog, the
boy named Kim, yelling back, “Hey guys, what’s up?” Cadillac Tim, Piano Man
Kelly, Steve Jean-Claude Dunlap, the Carrick twins, Foxy Felicity. Who can
forget Foxy Felicity? I remember them all. The music and sports, the mischief,
the algebra exam I barely passed thanks to the quadratic equation that made no
sense back then and makes none today. I can still see the one-page career questionnaire
that landed on my desk in spring semester of my senior year, how it took my
stare and turned it back on me. Three columns of thirty-three professions each,
ninety-nine total. All I had to do was mark the one I wanted, the title I would
wear the rest of my life, once I became a grown-up, an adult, a real person.
How hard could it be?
“Choose carefully,” the counselor had said (with great
gravity). “Everything is there to make you a productive citizen.” Doctor,
lawyer, banker, accountant, teacher, secretary, salesman, policeman, fireman,
minister, nurse, carpenter, Armed Services… you get the idea.
But wait. What about rock star? Could I be a Beatle? A
minstrel, a hobo, a writer, a traveler, a tramp? Did Huckleberry Finn have to
fill out one of these? Mark Twain, Pete Seeger, John Steinbeck, John Lennon,
John Muir? And what’s this? Tucked into
the lower right-hand corner at the bottom of column three, the last profession,
number ninety-nine, was marked “other.” Next to it a blank line invited a short
description, a space to be filled in with – what? My imagination? An essay, a
novella, a manifesto? Such temptation. What to say? Who was I to become – who
are any of us to become? – on this journey where the beginning so profoundly
shapes the end?
I hesitated.
What does it mean to
be “other?” Number ninety-nine? To stand at the edge of the ocean and be
something you’ve never been? What does it mean to stride into new ways of
seeing and being as the Beatles did?
Outside, a raven
flew over the sun.
(…to be continued.
Follow Kim Heacox’s journey from Abbey Road to Alaska over his next four guest
blog posts during the month of May.)
Kim first came to
Alaska in 1979 as a ranger with the National Park Service, working summers in
Glacier Bay, Denali and Katmai. He is the author of several books, most
recently “John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire.” His forthcoming memoir,
“Denali Heart,” will be published in February 2015. He loves ice cream,
tidewater glaciers, short-tailed weasels, all species of saxifrage, open D
tuning on his guitar, and pretending he can play and sing like Stephen Stills
and Eric Clapton. Visit him at www.kimheacox.com.

1 thought on “Featured Author: Kim Heacox”

  1. Andromeda Romano-Lax

    Loved this, Kim, and can't wait for part II! What a great portrait of the wide-eyed 19-year-old version of a person who would end up living a life of authenticity and adventure (with lots of great music in the mix).

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