Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird, it’s a plane”
By the time you read this, you will have already moved on from the Saga of Falcon Heene. Do you even remember him? You probably Tweeted your hearts out when you saw it on the news; posted numerous links about him on your Facebook. Now he’s just a fading memory. What did he do again? How could you be expected to remember back that far? Those feeds refresh so quickly.
Heene was the 6-year-old boy who reportedly gave his parents quite a fright. He and his brother were playing outside their folks’ Colorado home when Heene hopped into a homemade helium balloon. Shortly thereafter, the balloon mysteriously broke its tether and apparently sent Heene on a two-hour ride before the balloon crashed to the ground. However, when local authorities came upon the disheveled aircraft, the young boy was nowhere to be found.
What a bizarre and seemingly tragic story. You probably had to be the first in your group of friends to post something about it. If you didn’t get the word out there, who would? Sure, thousands of kids go missing every day—tragedies all—but how many of them float off into thin air on a balloon? That’s like some Henry Gale, Wizard of Oz kind of shit.
I don’t blame you. We have all these tools with which we can communicate an obscene amount of information. Unfortunately, those tools haven’t necessarily created more information. It’s just a higher volume of the same shit. Another blip on the radar this past week was the passing of wrestling icon Captain Lou Albano. It has been well documented that 2009 has seen a deluge of celebrity deaths—well documented because we all can’t stop Tweeting about it. I grew up watching the then-WWF and the myriad other wrestling leagues that abound through the ’80s. He was a figure I was familiar with. I suppose I never would’ve known that he had died if it weren’t for my Facebook friends, but honestly, seeing the news of his death was the first time I thought of Captain Lou since puberty. And it’s not like he’s been in the public eye all these years. Still, my feeds on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook were rife with R.I.P.s for the dearly departed.
Not from me, though. I’m not sure if that makes me a bad person or not. It’s not that I’m incapable of sympathy. I think my ability to relate to—and feel guilty for—the suffering of others (thanks to my catholic upbringing) is one of my most noble personal traits. But it’s just tiring, having to comment on everything that happens.
Forgive me if, when the story broke, I didn’t care about balloon boy either. I won’t lie and say it was because I had more pressing concerns on my mind: world hunger, war, the economy. I’m usually preoccupied with whether or not that carne asada burrito I ate this afternoon, coupled with the beers I’m drinking now will make my bulbous profile look even more Rubenesque. Also, I worry that if I were to comment about either of these incidents, my lateness to the party will only fetch comments, “Like, OMG, you’re still talking about that? That was forever ago.” You’re probably thinking that right now, if you’re reading this. (On a side note, did you know that when preparing—and I use the term loosely—to write this column, typing just “ball” on my Google search bar yielded “balloon boy” as the number one result? Like, even higher than “balls.” That’s crazy.)
As it turned out, “balloon boy” wasn’t in the balloon at all. In fact, the whole thing was a hoax. He was actually hiding at the behest of his publicity-hungry father in a cardboard box in his parent’s attic. The good news is, Heene’s alive and well, so I guess I won’t see any “R.I.P. Falcon”s traipse across my various feeds, at least not for a good long while.