Gandalf the Whiteley
About a month ago, we parked ye olde Toyota Dolphin at the KAO in my troubled hometown of Oroville, California for a few days. It was the longest span of time I’d spent in Oroville since I moved away in 1996, and many friends and loved ones stopped by for satisfying visits, but Mike Whiteley’s the only one who brought me toys, so for the purposes of this blog, to hell with everyone else.
How to introduce Mike Whiteley? First off, he was the first guy I ever knew who had a mohawk. That may not seem particularly notable here in 2o12; a kindergarten student at a school where I taught for two years in Twin Falls, Idaho had a mohawk, so clearly that particular hairstyle has lost its power to subvert and disturb.
But this was the early ’80s, and Whiteley wasn’t boasting one of these pansy-ass faux-hawks all the poseurs favor these days. No sir, his mohawk was spiked and stark and menacing, and it seemed to rise three feet from his scalp. Whenever Mike would pass our house on Rosita Way, I’d place my He-Man dolls on the lawn beside me and just sit and watch. For all my tentative admiration for Mike’s wild hair, I confess it gave me pause.
As our paths crossed years later, Mike and I discovered that we had much in common, including an earnest appreciation for the works of Iron Maiden and a reckless passion for LSD.
I had only seen Mike once or twice in the sixteen years since I’d left Oroville, and in that time I haven’t bothered to drink a beer, let alone drop acid, and as I tweeted earlier this year during my brief, misguided flirtation with Twitter, “I think I’ve reached the limits of what Iron Maiden’s No Prayer for the Dying can teach me.”
But it’s like another old friend told me on the day of Mike’s visit: “Some friends can disappear for years, but when they show up, you pick up right where you left off.” It was that way with Mike, and likewise with William DeFronzo, who offered the insight and who appears below because he likes toys, too, and because he’s my friend of twenty-four years and I love him, and because it’s my blog, so there, and also because it’s a fun photo.
So Mike and I talked for quite a while, and he generously bestowed upon me some lovely punk rock memorabilia and some samples of his writing and some arts and crafts materials for my daughter and, best of all, some toys, including a massive Fellowship of the Rings boxed set of nine action figures from Toy Biz’s celebrated Lord of the Rings series.
I placed the set beneath one of the bench seats in our RV, ’cause that’s what one does with large gifts when one lives in an RV. But these noble Hobbits and such deserve better, as does Mike’s selfless gesture, and so today I finally freed them from their packaging.