On November 24, 1971, a balding, middle-aged man boarded a flight from Portland to Seattle. He used the name Dan Cooper. He dressed in a black suite, a black overcoat, black sunglasses and a narrow black tie with a pearl stick pin. Cooper hijacked the Boeing 727 with a suitcase full of wires and bright red cylinders. The hostages were exchanged for four parachutes and two hundred thousand dollars at Sea-Tac Airport (to put that in perspective, the average cost of a new home in the U.S. in 1971 was $28,000).
DB Cooper, as the press mistakenly dubbed him, demanded to be flown to Mexico. He parachuted out of the plane somewhere over southern Washington State and disappeared. Maybe DB died in the jump. Maybe he got away with the money. Nobody knows. But legend has it that DB was a man so disenchanted with his life that he gambled it all on a way out. The point isn’t whether he made it or not. The point is that this little bald man didn’t spend one more day pumping gas in Talahassee or adjusting claims in Denver. He didn’t waste one more day wondering, “What if?”
I nominate Cooper as the patron saint of disillusioned men.
Twenty-six or twenty-seven is a time of reckoning, particularly for free spirits or whatever you want to call those who don’t fit into the normal expectations. It is the weigh station en route to your midlife crisis. Some of the true free spirits, the Hendrixes, Cobains, Morrisons, Joplins, couldn’t make it around the bend. Most just drop off, or like the Steven Tylers, the Ice Cubes and Perry Ferrells, compromise and come around to disappointing results. The few, the chosen, the Keith Richardses, Iggy Pops and James Browns just keep on going.
Both from Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm.
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