To remind the long-suffering reader of the content of the previous two chapters: In 1605, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote the classic novel about an elderly gentleman, Alonso Quixana, who becomes totally obsessed with the exploits of Knights Errant who went about redressing all manner of wrongs, defending the helpless, destroying the wicked, bringing justice to the world. This unprepared old man leaves his home with only his honor to guide him, to become the knight errant, Don Quixote de la Mancha. Having read Don Quixote several times and now in a similar life passage, I decided to replicate his journey. However, this is chapter three of my attempt to emulate my hero and things are not going well. Four hundred years has changed societal perceptions.
First of all, when D.Q. got in trouble and explained himself people understood; they knew he was crazy but they understood the quest. They too were aware of the outdated heroic tales of knights saving damsels and killing giants. It was lunacy but they gave him credit for the effort.
That has not been my story. My attempt at rescuing the honor of a damsel in distress was rewarded by her coldcocking me with a longneck beer bottle. She wished no assistance, was offended and bragged about being able to fend for herself. I ended up bleeding in the dirt next to my motorcycle.
D.Q. found a loyal squire to follow his quest and tend the horses. I found a wandering homeless wino riding a beat-up Harley Sportster who agreed to be my squire for as long as I filled his gas tank and his stomach.
Then there was the issue of finding a lady fair whose name Don Quixote might revere, idolize and respect by carrying out great feats of chivalry in her honor. He found Dulcinea de Toboso. My squire, Marvin the Magnificent, told me, “I know of this convent where, under the watchful eyes of the nuns, ‘ladies of the evening,’ are taken in and protected. It’s about a half a day’s ride. We could go there, you could explain about chivalry and honoring womanhood, meet the ladies, make one of them your lady fair, give them a donation and everyone would be happy.” Strangely, it sounded like a good idea.
By early evening we parked the two motorcycles in a dirt lot next to the only entrance to the convent which was surrounded and fortified by an adobe brick wall that looked to have been constructed 100 years ago. Attached to a huge oak front door that must have weighed 500 pounds was a bell. We rang it, and after a long wait, were greeted by a humorless, dour, hard-faced woman dressed in the traditional black nun’s habit. Without a smile she asked, “What do you want?” I stepped forward and tried to explain my mission, my quest to follow in Don Quixote’s footsteps in being chivalrous and protecting the good name of all womanhood; that I was looking to meet a lady fair that I might honor and that I had been told that this nunnery sheltered women who needed defending.
Without expression, the door keeper ask me to wait and eventually was replaced with the Mother Superior. Again I explained myself. She asked me to wait while she could round up the girls. Patiently sitting on our motorcycles, Marvin congratulated me on my success. When a pretty young girl climbed over the wall, begged us to take her away and back to her pimp, Marvin the Magnificent instantly agreed and before I could even comment she was on the back of his ratty Sportster and gone.
Mother Superior had not rounded up the girls but rather called the sheriff who, being intent on busting me, passed the escaping Marvin and his passenger from the other end of the dirt parking lot. “OK, buddy; what the hell is going on here?” I looked into the barrel of the sheriff’s Colt .45.
Mother Superior started in with me being crazy and a kidnapper and when I tried to explain about Don Quixote my Harley was impounded, I was in jail, the girl was back with her pimp and Marvin the Magnificent was down the road.
The next morning I tried to explain the purpose of a knight errant to the judge which got me a nice conversation with the psychiatrist who worked for the county. The result was a 72-hour observation hold slapped on me and I was escorted to and ensconced in the local crazy house.
The doctor in charge was the last person to hear me talk about the beauty of a world filled with gallantry and bravery. I remember saying, “Heroic absurdity looks pretty good when compared to the trappings of servitude to the Great God Normal.”
That got me three days and nights with people who play checkers with no checkers and with people who dance when there is no music. My fellow detainees were those who thought they were former President Clinton, Al Pacino, Elvis and now Don Quixote de la Mancha fit right in.
When released my Harley was turned toward the desert. I always feel at home in the sand and rocks. It is the place where I can recharge and resettle myself. This Don Quixote thing of practicing civility must have a positive place in the world but not now and not with me at its helm. I am without Don Quixote’s resolve and stamina.
Maybe: when all men are not pigs and dogs and all women are not bitches and whores; Maybe: when a man can politely open the door for a woman without being called a sexist creep who is totally out of step with the times; Maybe: when young people treat their elders with the respect their wisdom has earned them; Maybe: when we can debate one another without screaming; Maybe: when we can disagree as ladies and gentleman and stay friends; Maybe then I will again take up Don Quixote’s quest to defend the helpless, destroy the wicked, undo wrongs and bring justice to the world… but until then I think I’ll sit right here on this rock and watch the hundreds of wind turbines whirl in the breeze generating electricity.
Yes, maybe at another time I will see these huge, modern, metal windmills as Don Quixote did, as malevolent giants that need to be defeated. Maybe like he, I will charge them in an insane effort to cleanse the world of evil.