Harry & Garry

By Lee Dixon  

Harry and Garry started out as identical twins.  While they may have been externally identical, internally it was another matter.  Harry seemed to seek trouble, while trouble sought Garry.  During their adolescence, the relationship between the two boys seemed to exist between a state of toleration for each other and pure animosity.  As they left their teens the toleration and animosity was replaced by a state of indifference and the brothers drifted further apart.  During their entire childhood their parents maintained no sense of wellbeing toward their children.  The parents were too involved with their own lives to even recognize the existence of their children.  They were on their own at an early age.

Both boys would have probably drifted into obscurity had it not been for a single event in Southern California .  Harry had always had a desire to fly.  He had tried to become a pilot in the military but his high school grades prevented him from going to college and the lack of college prevented him from flying for the military.  One day a few months after finishing Santa Monica high school, Harry embarked upon a plan to fly.  He bought some old weather balloons from an Army surplus store and some helium from another company.  Then he took a lawn chair and temporarily fastened it to the ground.  He tied the weather balloons to the chair and filled them with helium.  When the apparatus was straining at the earth he climbed into the chair with a pellet gun in his lap.  Secured firmly in the chair, he pulled the lanyard holding he and the chair to the earth and it literally sprang into the sky.

Up, up, up, he rose faster than he ever had expected.  In a few minutes he was over a thousand feet into the air, looking down at people and cars that were starting to become the size of ants.  He had made no plans for which way the wind would take him.  It could just have easily have blown him out over the Pacific Ocean until he came down.  The outcome was almost as bad.  The wind blew him south along the coast directly into the flight pattern at Los Angles International Airport.  He was well into the traffic pattern before one of the controllers in the tower saw him.  The controller couldn't believe his eyes.  Even after the controller used binoculars to looked at this young man floating toward the airport, it was several moments before he could react.  Never in his 26 years of work had he seen anything like this.

They immediately closed the airport and either diverted arriving aircraft to other airports or made them orbit away from Harry.  Harry slowly floated across the airport as the wind shifted and blew him toward the east.  The Los Angles Police were immediately notified and helicopters were dispatched.  In just a few minutes there were both police and traffic news helicopters all over the place.  As the first helicopter closed in to get a better look the turbulence almost knocked Harry out of the lawn chair.  He motioned for them to get back.  They moved away.

In less than an hour Harry went from obscurity to the hottest news item in all of Southern California .  The news helicopters followed Harry at a safe distance with their cameras trained on LA's strangest balloonist.  Harry's smiling face was beamed into millions of homes all over the area.  He looked down and could see the pile of spaghetti called freeways all over the area.  He saw golf courses to his right and the skyscrapers of downtown LA to his left.  Slowly he drifted across East LA and out into the grassy foothills around the Chino Valley.  As he went through the area, airplanes at Ontario and Riverside Airport were told to avoid the fellow in the balloon-borne lawn chair.

After several hours of drifting Harry could see the San Bernardino Mountains coming up toward him.  The helicopters continued to follow at a safe distance.  As he approached the Mountains he realized his "chair" would go no higher.  He was still several hundred feet above the terrain but the terrain was rising up to meet him very rapidly.  As luck would have it Harry was blown into a power line tower well below the top of the tower and the power lines.  He struck the tower with moderate force and held on tight.  As Harry slowly climbed down the tower, the police helicopters landed and he was arrested.

Harry was charged with operating an airborne vehicle without a license and also for entering the controlled airspace around Los Angles International Airport.  A couple of months later he pled guilty and told the judge he never expected the chair to go that high or that far.  He was given a suspended sentence.

To many people Harry was a hero, perhaps a crazy hero, but still a hero.  To others he was just plain crazy.  To his family he was just plain crazy and for the most part ignored him as much as possible.

Meanwhile Garry started college at Pepperdine College in Malibu, CA.  He said he wanted to be a lawyer.  He received some scholarships and grants and also worked nights.  After a period of years, Garry was able to barely graduate from that school.  He spent several months studying hard for the California Bar Examine and had never been better prepared in his life.

The night before the examine Garry's girlfriend talked him into going out to a nice dinner at a place called Benihanas.  She felt that a little relaxation might be perfect before a good nights sleep.  Benihanas is a Japanese restaurant chain where the patrons sit around a stove/table and the chef prepares the meal before their eyes.  Each of the stove/tables seat several people so when just two people come in they are expected to join a stove/table with other patrons.

Garry and his girlfriend were early and therefore seated at a table alone.  They had just ordered when another couple was seated at the opposite end of the table.  Being a gentleman, Garry stood up and introduced himself and his girl friend.  He reached out to shake hands with the other gentleman and since the distance was a little further than which he was comfortable, Garry balanced himself by placing his left hand firmly on the extremely hot stove top.

He recoiled instinctively but the damage was done.  He had terribly burned the palm and fingers of his right hand.  Blisters formed before his eyes.  As he watched his hand redden he could just shake his head for Garry was left-handed and there was no way he could write well enough to take the Bar Examine the next day.

After putting the hand in ice, they went directly to the emergency room at the hospital.  When they walked up to the counter the two people behind the counter were beside themselves with laugher.  It was all the two people could do to stop laughing long enough to help Garry with his hand.

It was only a short wait and while the medical personnel looked at Garry's hand, his girlfriend learned why the two people had been laughing.  A man had come into the emergency room with a fish hook in his nose.  The woman behind the counter had received the best of training but unfortunately nothing had prepared her for this.  Dangling from the fish hook was a plastic salamander and every time the man spoke the salamander jiggled around in front of the man's mouth.  The woman had tried to keep her composure but every time she asked the man a question and he responded, the salamander jiggled.  She had left the room several times but finally had to ask someone else to replace her because she was laughing so hard.

Finally Garry emerged from the back just as the man with the salamander before him.  Garry's hand would eventually heal but he wouldn't take the Examine until another time.  At least he would have longer to study.

Harry took a job working at an airport.  He would refuel little planes and wash the windscreens when they came in for fuel.  After a few months Harry had saved up enough money to take some lessons himself.  He was learning how to fly legally this time.

He had gotten to know several of the people around the airport so he wasn't surprised when another fellow asked him if he wanted to be his copilot for a trip to Las Vegas.  The fellow owned an older airplane that had one engine and retractable landing gear.  Harry took a few dollars to gamble but mostly went for the free drinks they offered in the casinos while one was gambling.  The two stayed up all night gambling and drinking and neither one felt too good the following morning.

The other fellow just about broke even but Harry had lost more than he planned.  They caught the bus out to the airport to return to Los Angles.  Harry was about half asleep as they finished the pre-flight inspection and climbed into the cockpit.  They taxied out for takeoff and everything was going fine.  As the other fellow pulled onto the runway he gave it the gas and the airplane started to accelerate.  He looked over at Harry who still had a long face from his gambling losses and said, "Cheer up."  Harry thought the fellow had said, "Gear up," and immediately reached over and pulled the lever for the gear.  The airplane settled onto the pavement destroying the propeller and scraping its belly.  In a cloud of sparks and dust the airplane slides to a stop at the end of the runway.

The fire trucks were there in no time and sprayed the airplane to keep it from catching fire.  Eventually a crane arrived and moved the airplane out of the way.  Harry and his friend went back to Los Angles on a bus.  He still sends a check to his friend once in a while to help pay for the damage to the airplane.

After a few more months Garry took the Bar Examine and passed.  He worked at a couple of different law firms with average success.  He had just changed law firms when he was asked to represent the firm at an American Bar Association conference on terrorism.  The previous firm had hated to see Garry go and at a luncheon for him had given him an eel-skin briefcase.  It was beautiful.  In fact the first real time he had to use it was at the terrorism conference.

Garry arrived early the morning of the conference and found several messages for him on the board.  He went inside and placed his briefcase on an empty chair to reserve a seat.  The place was starting to fill up.  The telephone calls took longer than expected and so Garry wasn't there when the conference chairman announced as the first item of business that a bomb threat had been received and would everyone please vacate the auditorium so the police could search it.

Everyone was asked to take their personal belonging with them so as they were leaving someone mentioned the briefcase that had been left on the chair and the fellow had not returned.  The bomb squad then took a tiny battery powered saw and cut a large round hole in the side of Garry's new briefcase.  They carefully pulled the contents out and discovered only papers.

When the bomb squad decided it was safe to return, the conference got underway.  In fact the first speaker had only started when Garry returned to his seat to find a briefcase that had been destroyed and papers lying around.  When he asked the meaning he was told about the bomb threat.  He picked up his papers, shook his head, and went back to his office.  Garry had learned about terrorism firsthand.

Today Harry and Garry drop each other a card at Christmas and that's about it.  Garry keeps saying he's got to get over and see his parents but he never has time.  Harry doesn't even claim to try.  He just hopes someday to get his pilots license, even though he knows it will never be as much fun as the balloon ride over Los Angles.