Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Walking with a Ghost

 Submitted for your approval, a story of our times.

I am not sure how many of the readers of my blog are familiar with the late Rod Serling, mastermind of TV shows such as The Twilight Zone (which was first aired over 50 years ago in the United States) and Night Gallery, along with various movies he was involved in, including Planet of the Apes.

But the Twilight Zone was his masterpiece (in my humble opinion).  He was years ahead of his time in many of the scripts he wrote for the original Twilight Zone series, which was first televised in 1959.  He was also the narrator of the series.

For a minute, I imagine what script Serling would have written for the series if he was alive today.  He wrote The Twilight Zone scripts at a time of a cold war and the threat of nuclear attack.  Today?  

Not all parks in this country are associated with famous men.

Imagine, if you will, Serling (who died in 1975) returning to Binghamton one last time.  Sunday, I did.  I walked with his ghost.

These pictures from Sunday were taken during an annual music festival. It's never been named after Rod Serling.  Instead, it is named, and held in honor of, a Binghamton High School student who was tragically killed in 2019 on her way home from playing tennis at the park. 

I turn to Serling's ghost as we approached the park he loved.  "Why is it", I ponder, "that some of us are granted long and happy lives. Some of us are not. But all of us are granted heartbreak. As children, we can't see into the future.  And, would we want to be able to? What would you have thought if you knew what lay ahead in your life?  You fought in a World War that scarred you for life but also made you into the talented writer you became, still beloved by millions?"

The ghost of Serling remains silent, but I can see him shake his head in thought.

Arriving at the park, I marvel that I walk in Serling's footsteps nearly every time I walk in Binghamton, New York. I scan the crowd, looking to see if I know anyone.  I don't.  Others do, though.  They meet, hug, and talk.  Some sit together.

None of us knew we would live through a pandemic.  We are survivors, all of us, and we are here to enjoy an hour, or a day, of music.

"Look at this, Rod", I continue, pointing at a structure that looked like a series of towers.  "This is a brand new playground, because the old one was destroyed by fire in 2020.  The community that once raised you came together and raised money, and built a new one during the pandemic.  I can't imagine the scripts you would have written if you had lived through COVID.  If only." 

"This is the bandstand where you carved your initials as a boy, Rod.", I remark.  "Today, it's  being used by a band called Mike Davis and Laughing Buddha.  Don't you think they were good, playing mainly original music?"

My walking companion doesn't answer.

"You see the carousel, so beloved by you as a child, and used in one of your most famous Twilight Zone episodes.  It's still in the building you remember.  See, it's operating even now?  You can ride it right now, the music pumping, today's children laughing.   Their world is not my world, Rod, nor is it yours.  But some things are eternal."

For a moment, cares melt away and the music carries us into joy.  But then, the carousel stops and reality returns.

"I must leave you now", the ghost of Rod Serling says, "and return to the mystery all of us will enter one day.  I will leave you to continue to live your life. I am finished history.  You are history still being lived - for now. However,  I'll leave you with one piece of advice.  Know that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.  You live in extraordinary times.  Take advantage of them, because tomorrow is never guaranteed, and one day you will only be a memory. That is the fate of us all."

Let's end today with some music.

The original of the last song of Laughing Buddha's set, Led Zepplin's Immigrant Song.

Written in memory of Harper M. Stantz, May 17, 2002-March 13, 2019.

6 comments:

  1. ... Rod Serling was a master storyteller.

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  2. I think you captured Serling in your story. Very interesting post today.

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  3. I loved, and still love, some of those old Twilight Zones! Even as old as they are, some are still chilling.
    Your comments on children and the pandemic remind me of what my daughter's partner's child asked her dad. "How did you handle YOUR pandemic?" I guess she was 7 or 8, since she just turned 9. She thought it was a regular thing. Hope she's wrong!

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  4. Rod is my hero! I raised my kids on Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. In my opinion, the best suspense ever! How fitting that he should be your companion.
    I grieve for Harper's family. What a horrific end to a glorious life!

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  5. A Twilight Zone for today written by Rod Sterling would probably not be the Twilight Zone of the '60s. But it would be interesting to see what he would come up with.

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  6. Excellent post and a great tribute to Rod Serling.

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