I remember the story of the bird that stopped singing when put into a cage. With that in mind, I want to write about those who let their spirits soar, smashing through limitations. They walk among us!
By John Gilesppi McGee Jr.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, –and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of –Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
John Gilesppi McGee bounded from the cockpit of his plane with a scrap of paper in hand. The 18 yr. old American pilot for the Royal Canadian Airforce had jotted down a poem he called High Flight. It began,”Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth” Young McGee wanted to fly in the Battle of Britain so much that he illegally crossed Canada’s border and began flight training for World War II. Three months later the young pilot/poet was dead, tragically killed test flying a super marine Spitfire.
I first heard McGee’s poem recited by the President of the United States following the tragic loss of Challenger 7 and her legendary crew.
“We shall never forget them nor the last time we saw them, as they prepared for their mission and waved good-bye and slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God.”—President Ronald Regan
Mazatlan has her heroes! Every morning just at dawn, I walk past the memorial to Pedro Infante, a legend in bronze, that sits on a bluff overlooking the sea and Mazatlan Mexico where he was born. Pedro was an aviation fanatic and died in the crash of a war bomber he piloted. Another bronze statue is set in Mexico City made from the bronze keys of his fans. Two other such statues reside in Mexico. Pedro’s fame increased after his death. As Mexican American author, Denise Chavez, in her book “Loving Pedro Infante” put it humorously, “If you’re a [Mexican], and don’t know who he is, you should be tied to a hot stove with a yucca rope and beaten with sharp dry corn husks as you stand in a vat of soggy fideos.” Why? Because his spirt soared. He was a high flyer!
I created this image for my soon to be published book Epiphany: Starting Over in Oregon which is about rising above fears. It is my attempt to describe spirit that won’t be confined, as a silver Pegasus. My next book will be about Mazatlan’s HOTEL BELMAR— the place of high flyers— fascinating people who dared much, their fame increasing after death, for such energy lives on. “We shall never forget them.”
Mazatlan was a favorite destination for Hollywood stars escaping prohibition and watchful eyes. Indeed, the Belmar was the first ocean front luxury hotel in Mexico that catered to the “tinsel town. ” John Wayne kept a room in the Belmar while he worked in Durango making movies. The Matinee idol Tyrone Power, a highly decorated Marine pilot in World War II, often played cards with the locals in the spacious game room.
I found this picture of Errol Flynn high-up the mast of his beloved yacht that frequented the Mazatlan waterfront. See it at The Hairpin.com: The scandals of Classic Hollywood: In Like Errol Flynn. I am collecting more pictures and legends of the Belmar Hotel in Sinaloa, Mazatlan, Mexico to share in this Blog and in my new book. Stay tuned…