I’ll never forget that one time Brian Williams offered me a ride back home – in a helicopter.
It was mighty cold out – a real American nor’easter – and, like a solemn echo of the automobile industry at the time, my car engine would splutter but not start. It was just a fraction after midnight and I was stranded in New York City, a good distance from my home in New Jersey.
Imagine my shock when Brian Williams called over, offering to lend a friendly helping hand. “Trouble with the motor,” he said, in that familiar authoritative voice. “Sure. Damn thing won’t start,” I replied. “Mind if I take a look,” he said, stopping over the hood. Fine by me, so I flipped it open and joined him in front of it.
Brian poked about for a few moments. “Where you headed,” he asked. Then gave me a look like, we might just get this thing down a block or two but after that I doubt it. “Morristown, New Jersey,” I replied.
A half hour later we were making our way over the Hudson. He always goes for a brisk walk at night, he had told me. He keeps a chopper on the Pier. Any excuse to get the blades spinning – and, anyhow, Morristown is a fine old place with a storied past and deep roots in the American Revolution.
“You’re not tired, though?” I asked. “No. It’s rare that I sleep more than five hours a night. My father was the same, and his father, no doubt, before that.”
It was a strange and magical experience. Williams was a confident, instinctive pilot – maybe even dashing. But somehow he also had a way of making those same qualities seem the most natural thing in the world, as if every good American boy could fly a helicopter if given half a chance.
We looked down at tiny streets, houses, and cars below: massed rows of flickering, golden lights. “Isn’t it amazing,” I said, “that all those people down there feel like they know you.”
Even in profile, I recognized the thoughtful look on Brian’s face as he settled on an answer. Sincere and a little grave, but still, round the edges, affable. “It truly is an honor to be a guest in their homes every night,” he said. “But truth be told I like it best up here.”
Or that’s what I remember, at least.
Today’s post soundtracked by: