One of the things I worry about is that one day I shall wake up and only have one idea in my head, and that for the rest of my life it’ll be the only thing I ever think about.
I’ve known two people afflicted by this calamity, the first of whom was Marvin Dipwell. Some years ago Marvin called me out of the blue to complain that his landlord, in an attempt to persuade his tenant to move, had just taken away the front door to his apartment. At the time I was working as consumer affairs reporter for a local television station, and the landlord’s action struck me as excessive. I have since changed my mind.
Marvin’s dispute with his landlord was eventually resolved, but the phone calls kept coming. Marvin was eager to discuss his latest findings relating to the film actress and onetime paramour of Howard Hughes, Terry Moore. I don’t remember the specifics; all I remember is that the phone calls were frequent and interminable, and they didn’t stop until after the dawn of talk radio, at which time Marvin became a regular contributor to KTTK. No matter which the government conspiracy cover-up under discussion, Marvin could always trace it back to Terry Moore.
Twenty years ago I wrote a magazine story about the dedication of Nevada’s first national park. I included mention of a retired geographer named Bristlecone Bob, who had waged a long and often acrimonious campaign to found the park. Bristlecone was mightily grateful, and has been calling ever since to keep me posted on his current obsession: Dinosaur National Park. It’s actually a good idea, and each time he calls I wish him well in his quest to create a national park dedicated to the discovery and preservation of prehistoric fossils.
Bob is convinced his pet project needs a publicist, and because I once succeeded in including his name in a magazine article, he figures I’m just the person he’s looking for. Unfortunately, I’m no longer affiliated with a magazine that would print such an article. Most of the publications I’ve written for over the years have gone under, and I’m in no mood to start looking for new ones. I tell him so, but it doesn’t seem to matter. He calls back time and again, each time bursting with enthusiasm. But now at last I have found a way to cut the conversation short. Last time he called I asked him if he’d be interested in buying a copy of my book.
“You have a book? My, that’s very interesting. I’d like to get one, when it’s available.”
“It’s available right now, Bob. I’ve got one sitting here that you can have.”
“Yup. Only twenty bucks. I can even deliver it.”
Now, I’m pretty sure that Bristlecone Bob doesn’t normally entertain visitors at his home. I’ve seen it from the outside, and if the exterior is any indication, I’m fairly certain the interior ranks low on the Martha Stewart scale. Sure enough, Bob begs off, so I suggest he hop in his 1973 Pontiac Firebird and drive over.
“Yeah. It’s only a few blocks, and the book is sitting right here, waiting.”
“Oh, would you believe it?” says Bob. “Somebody ran into my car last week and it’s not running right now.”
Now I also know from past observation that Bob doesn’t mind driving around in a total wreck. He’s been doing so for the past thirty years!
By now I can tell he’s desperate to end the conversation, so we say our hasty goodbyes. In case he should call back, or in the event Marvin Dipwell should determine that Terry Moore is behind the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I’m keeping the book handy.