Charlie Chaplin appears at the most surprising times in the most unusual places. No rhyme or reason, other than the unknown forces at work in our universe that occasionally reach out to tap us on the shoulder. "Hey, wake up. Take a look at this."
Here's what I'm talking about. It begins in a Japanese restaurant on the main street of downtown Asheville, North Carolina. The main players are Jason Allin, Charlie Chaplin, and me.Jason is The Chaplin Guy, totally immersed in the performance and personality of The Little Tramp. You see him in Jason's movies, videos, personal appearances and special events around the world. Jason is currently in the process of transforming my novel about Charlie into an audiobook. It requires a level of acting I had not imagined when I wrote it. So far, I've been blown away by what Jason has done.
FYI: Title of the novel is "Shadow and Substance: My Time with Charlie Chaplin." If you would like to buy a copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $20, plus $4 shipping.(End of commercial)
On this particular day, Jason sends me a link to a recent conversation he and I had about the audiobook, the process, and Charlie...and the many voices required. I have not yet opened the link when I sit down for lunch at a Japanese restaurant, Wasabi. My girl friend - code named Zelda - and I sit at an outside table on this busy street. I order a tempura appetizer and udon noodle soup with chicken, in case you're wondering.
Charlie is a participant in this from a distance. Or so I think. The book is about him, the audiobook will bring him to life in words and sound, and Charlie Chaplin Days is taking place the following day by the Niles Silent Film Museum, in Niles, California. That's where Charlie had a studio, in his early days. And that's where he filmed "The Tramp." Bronco Billy also filmed many of his westerns here. My conversation with Jason is introduced in Niles as an on-line virtual event.
FYI: Here is a link to that incredibly enlightening conversation between Jason and me: https://nilesfilmmuseum.org/?tv=4997833899900928 Scroll down to the "Shadow and Substance" book cover, and click on Play Video. It's easy.
While we are waiting for our lunch, during a break in our conversation, I glance across the street. No reason. Just "looking." On a brick wall I see - or think I see - a familiar face. "Over there," I say to Zelda. "Look at that drawing over there." She turns and looks. "It looks like Charlie," she says. We're both on a first-name basis with him. I just stare and wonder. Is it really a drawing of Chaplin?
I excuse myself from the table. "I've got to take a closer look." I walk across the street. The wall is scarred and in disrepair, exposed brick and broken plaster. Still...
Other drawings are on the wall, but the one that stares at me is Charlie. On a busy street in downtown Asheville. Bold, simple, an iconic presence. I wonder, "Who. And why?" The building is closed. A poster in the window advertises an event for a comedy club.
There I stand, on a busy street in Asheville, North Carolina, connected in some magical way to Charlie and Jason.
That night I dream Charlie visits me. He sits on a chair in the corner and says to me, in a soft, reassuring voice, "I liked your book. I like what Jason is doing with it." He stands up, prepares to leave, then turns and says, "Thank you."
No, I'm kidding. That dream never happened. But it sure makes for a nice ending.