I borrow the words of the title from a Rhythm and Blues song released in 1973 by artist Dr. John. It is one of my favorite songs; it has a great beat, funny and well sung lyrics. I listen to it at least once every week, sometimes more often because it has special meaning beyond the great music.
While living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1975 and working as a sales representative, I often relaxed by going to the movies. Being new in town, I often went alone. One movie I was interested in seeing was “Gable and Lombard,” so when it came to town I went. Sitting in front of me was a young man with long hair down to his waist. This was a new thing back then, not many guys were doing that. Sitting in front of him was a young couple with a baby.
The movie started, and about five minutes later, the baby started to whimper. The guy with the long hair said, loudly, “Keep that baby quiet.” The baby did not comply and he said again even louder, “Keep that baby quiet!” Again the baby refused to comply. The long haired fellow leaned forward, put his hand on the mom’s shoulder and repeated his demand. The father of the child stood up, grabbed the long haired fellow by the front of his shirt and commenced to pummel him about the face. Suddenly from behind me a woman who in the dark theater had mistakenly thought the long haired fellow was a woman, screamed, “Oh, my god he’s beating a woman!”
From across the theater there comes a “hero,” who in the darkness could not possibly have seen what had transpired. He is on a mission to save this “woman” from being beaten by some “bad” guy. He spins the husband around and begins to pummel the husband. The long haired fellow drops to the floor like a sack of potatoes, and the surprised husband is getting beaten badly. I go behind the “hero” and grab his arms to prevent him from killing the baby’s father and before I can tell “hero” what is really happening, the movie stopped, all the lights come on and police are everywhere.
I sit down a few rows away from the action and act innocent. My act worked. The police carted off the long haired fellow, the baby, its mother and father and hero. In the mayhem, I dropped my popcorn and spilled my drink down my pants. When the movie started again, I waited a few minutes before making my escape. I never saw the rest of that movie. This, for me, was a classic right place, wrong time moment.
I do believe there is a Yin and Yang in life. That is the ancient Chinese belief that there are equal and opposing forces in the world. So when bad happens, if you wait long enough and are observant, you will see good cancel out that bad. Once, I was at exactly the right place at exactly the right moment, canceling out my Tulsa movie experience. But I had to wait over 40 years.
I like to hike in Grand Canyon and do so almost every year. There is for me a special place that I go to, it’s about 17 miles from the beginning of the hike and pretty remote. It is a water station; decades ago an artist lived there and became famous. It is quiet, a place to just contemplate the beauty of the Canyon and rest up for the next day’s long hike. This long trail I am hiking is about 24 miles in length, and goes completely across the Canyon, folks stop here to get water.
It’s shady and tranquil — usually. But on Nov. 6, 2016, as I sit there enjoying myself, suddenly screaming, laughter, loud talking — loud talking I cannot understand — completely destroy my repose. All I can think is, I’m being invaded by a large group of partying teenage people. But why out here in this remote and hard to get to place?
For a few minutes I cannot see the source of the noise, and it gets louder and louder. Suddenly, I am descended upon by a group of Asian people. This explains why I cannot understand any words. There are too many to count, am I being invaded? Am I about to be captured? Is this the apocalypse? Probably not, they are laughing, jumping around and happily screaming; and thankfully, they are unarmed. They are just having a blast. Then suddenly it hits me, they are having some kind of reunion, but out here?
They are all lining up for a photograph but it occurs to them that whoever is making this photo will not be in that photo, it’s easy to see this by their actions. Suddenly one of the women approaches me and in perfect English asks if I’ll make their photograph. I take several shots to ensure they will have at least one good photo. A couple of them approach me and tell me (in English I have a difficult time following) their story.
Between 1978 and 1984 these folks all became friends while university students in Beijing, China. Furthermore they were athletes and members of an athletic club, they were very close. Fifteen of them still live in China, the woman that approached me to make the photo, lives in DC and has since 1985. They had loosely kept in touch and the folks from Beijing were vacationing in Grand Canyon, hiking from the north rim to the south rim. Ironically, the woman from DC was hiking from the south rim to the north rim on the same weekend.
Once they determined this coincidence, they decided to meet up, but that trail is 24 miles long and none of them could determine where exactly their meeting might happen. But, they knew they would have to meet somewhere, just not where. Now it’s Yin Yang time. Fifteen people from Beijing, only two could speak English, one person from DC and one old worn out retired professional photographer from East Bend landed on the same spot at exactly the same time; a random event at a random spot on a 24-mile long trail at a time the other 16 people badly needed a photographer. This time, unlike Tulsa, I am at the right place at exactly the right time. While aiming the camera, with my free hand I count backward using my fingers, three, two, one and “click.” In perfect English, they all yell “Cheese!”
Rod Hunter lives in East Bend and is an avid hiker, biker, photographer and nature lover. He is the past state chairman of the Sierra Club of NC. He volunteers as a court-appointed children’s advocate for children in foster care and with Cancer Services Inc. He is a two-time cancer survivor. He has backpacked in Alaska, Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Georgia, Virginia, and of course North Carolina.