It’s been three years now since my lifelong friend Johnny Courson told me about his illness while we were on a getaway on Crete. It’s been two years since he and the other members of our tight group, Jay Thomas, and Mike Parish celebrated a one year anniversary of our Crete adventure, and since we learned of Johnny’s chemotherapy battle. And about one year ago we all learned Johnny left the world the way he found it – better off because of fascinating and luminescent people like him.
Watching the final scene from the film Blade Runner, I was captivated once again by a movie star who was a bit like my friend Johnny. And watching the Rutger Hauer character “Roy” today, it brings to mind something Johnny told me back on Crete. “Butler, make sure they remember me man”, he told me then. Though I did not realize at the time the gravity of what he was asking, I certainly do now. While it may seem a bit corny to some, others will relate because of that special quality JC had.
In Blade Runner, you may recall, Roy Batty (Hauer) is a genetically engineered lifeform known as the Nexus-6 replicants. Virtually superhuman, Roy meets the film’s star Harrison Ford, who plays the “Bladerunner ex-cop, Rick Deckard. All but defeated and ready to die in the last scene, Ford’s character witnesses the phenomenal truth of the replicants, the truth of the will to survive we all share. Fans of the film will identify with the “Tears in Rain” dialogue also known as “The C-Beams Speech” where Roy does not kill the defeated Bladerunner but instead issues what’s considered the most moving death soliloquy in cinematic history. The gist of the monolog was:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
Well, I cannot share with you all the moments stored in my friend’s memory, but I can ensure the rains of time do not obscure them completely. Johnny is still there, you know? Still there on Crete like he said he would be. You reading this, you will not understand I know, but bear with me. As for Johnny’s “moments” being lost, the images and our stories of him will never be washed away. While my friends, my wife, and even Johnny’s friends who do not know me may weep and then curse me for my stories, I know they understand why I go on. He is my friend.
On a sunny day back in 2014 there on Crete, Johnny and I shared a rare moment or two alone sitting outside our villa at table near the pool. It was there he confided in me his dire health situation, although in his customary “tough guy” way. Talking about terminal lung cancer was not easy for him, so he sugar coated it as best he could. Not knowing how to even consider such a thing coming from him, I sat there like the proverbial “lump on a log”, dumbfounded by the concept of him dying. Swearing me to secrecy, he described all that happens to people so afflicted, then he confided; “Butler, you know me, I am not going to go out that way.” Sure enough, Johnny beat the humanly possible odds to run stage IV lung cancer into remission. Then broke his neck in a freak accident a few weeks later. It was what he said a few days before the accident that captivates and even haunts me to this day.
In a recorded Skype call in between me, Johnny, and our friend Mike, Johnny looked me dead in the eye in the camera lens and said; “I’ll see you on Crete, I’ll see you soon Butler”. Sadly, Skype does not store messages so far back, or I would share the moment with you all here. Anyway, there’s something about Crete the reader who’s not been there may not understand, something Johnny did. I’ll never forget him telling me on another occasion how “He could happily live on Crete like a local”. He went on to talk about this special character we both identified with, and to express how “starting over” in such a place would be a great way to “end up”, as he put it.
While I hesitate to “freak out” my friends from the US, especially family members, I cannot leave off without adding a point of mysticism. After all, Johnny and I were notorious for our “mystic” and often ritual craziness and closeness. Most people know that Crete was the home of one of humanity’s most enigmatic civilizations, that of the ancient Minoans. What hardly anyone knows though, is the recent discoveries linking Crete to ancient Egypt. Without the archaeology lesson, it’s now theorized that the fabulous Cretan palaces may not have been domiciles of living kings.
Acknowledged experts now theorize that Crete was actually the land of the dead. Ancient Egyptians argued that the dead went to live on an island in the West, which would explain to an extent some of the strange burial sites Johnny, me, Mike, Jay, and my little boy Paul visited. And then there’s other evidence in the so-called “Gorge of the Dead” where graves are dug into the cliffs. Remember that in Egypt the dead were buried in valleys, and also the legends of the mummies. It is also theorized mumification of Egyptian royals may havev been carried out on Crete too.
However you wish to frame it, I believe Johnny knew we’d all end up on that arid island paradise somehow. Those of you who know me well, you’ll chuckle a bit and then ponder my typing here. For everybody who knew Johnny without knowing me so well, “How’s that for a Johnny Courson moment?” Tears on Crete are not obscured by rain you see, they evaporate under the bright, warm sunlight.
All these magnificent photos are thanks to the skill and diligence of our lifelong pal, Jay Thomas.