In the early years of my life, I was part of a triumvarte. Barry Steele, Donnie Langmeyer, and myself. We were inseperable. There were times when other children would enter our group. People like Matthew Kirsch, Lenny Struebel, or (in later years) Beau Blain. The consistent factor throughout, however, was that the three of us were still there.
If we were the Three Musketeers, then it can easily be said that our Dartagnan was Jason Ellis.
Jason spent every summer here in Florida with his Grandmother. She lived on 7th Avenue North, smack dab in the middle of the streets where the three of us lived (Donnie and Barry lived two houses apart from each other on 6th Avenue, and I lived on 8th). Jason was the cousin of Mike Ellis, who dated Donnies older sister Kima. I can’t remember exactly how Jason was introduced to us, but it doesn’t really matter because from the moment we met him he was “one of us.” He thought like we did, he was into the same things that we were, and he had an imagination that, quite frankly, but ours to shame.
Jason was this magical person that came into our lives for two months every year. We looked forward to his visits like some children looked forward to Santa Claus. The weeks before his arrival were long and drawn out and filled with speculation as to what kind of amazing summer games we would come up with.
I can hardly recall many of the events of my life during that period, but I remember the time we spent with Jason. Vividly. I can still feel it. Smell it. Hear it. I can still remember the wonderment and joy that we felt in his presence.
I remember the things that we used to do. In the later years, there was a lot of table top role playing, but when we were younger we would just…play. We would listen to Alfred Hitchcock records and scare ourselves, or we would have seances. We would put each other under “hypnosis” and cause the other person to adopt a new personality.
More frequently than not, however, we would play Air Plane Crash.
Air Plane Crash was the first and greatest Live Action Role Playing Game.
The premise was quite simple. Our group would be on a commercial airliner flying over the ocean when the plane would mysteriously crash. Apparently we could never find a decent pilot, becuase every time we got on a jet together the damned thing went down. When we recovered from the crash, we would all have developed some sort of super powers. The story would then involve how we adapted to our new powers and life on the desert island.
Kind of a cross between “Lord of the Flies” and “The Fantastic Four.”
We played this game constantly. It was our favorite. There would occasionally be variations on the theme. Sometimes we would be a rock band (one time in particular I remember that we were Styx and that I actually became Mr. Roboto after the crash) or already have super powers. There would be additional players on occasion, most of whom just didn’t get it. The basic premise always remained, however. A group of friends who suddenly had super powers and had to survive.
It was, quite simply, the best game ever created.
As the years went by we all drifted apart, as friends sometimes do. Jason stopped visiting for the summer. Barry went away to college. Donnie went on the road with the renaissance festival. I got married and had a child. The last time I saw Jason was sometime in the early nineties. He was living in New York and part of a band called Sound Advice. He gave me a tape of their music, which I unfortunately no longer have. Years later, however, I can still remember the chorus of one of the songs. Sometimes it still goes through my head, as it echoes something I’ve thought many times in my life :
If this was that,
I’d travel back.
I’d try to break the straw
That broke the camel’s back.
I tried on many occasions to find Jason. I had his address for a while, and would send him Christmas cards, but I lost it at some point and stopped doing so. I would do searches online probably once a year, but Jason Ellis is a fairly common name and I never had any luck.
Last week the following message was left on my guest book :
I’m new here, but this is all so wonderful..
It was just that simple. Jason had found me.
He wrote me an email. I wrote him back. Turns out he was specifically looking for me because he was going to be in town.
Jason just left my house about 40 minutes ago.
Seeing him is still magic. It still makes me feel energized and alive. He is, without a doubt, the one person in my life who is truly vibrant.
We talked. I caught him up on what happened with the gang. Told him about Beau. Met his lovely giflfriend Keren. Relived some memories. Introduced him to my son.
It was wonderful.
When he left, he asked what I was doing tomorrow night. I told him that I worked until five, and suggested that afterwards we go to dinner or something.
He had another idea. He wants to play Air Plane Crash.
I did not expect that. I could not have expected that. We’re adults now, right? We’re not supposed to play children’s games. We’re supposed to reminisce about how fun they were and shake our heads and miss the good times. We are not supposed to actually try to relive them.
Yeah, sometimes, maybe we are.
I was shocked by his request. Maybe a bit embarassed. Unsure.
I suddenly feel like a little boy who has been asked to come out and play for the very first time.
He wants to play. His girlfriend was totally into the idea. He suggested that Alex might enjoy it, and that Ross could play as well.
Just that. Just…play.
Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Think about it. Just playing. Being a child again. Letting go of it all and just forgetting about the world. Getting lost on a desert island and discovering your new super powers.
I hope I don’t chicken out, because I want to play. I really, really do. I’m sitting here right now wondering why I ever stopped.
So tomorrow night if you can’t find me, notify the Coast Guard. I’m probably lost on a desert island somewhere trying to figure out if I can use the proportional strength and speed of a spider to crack open a coconut.