Man from UNCLE
Janet

Janet

Man from U.N.C.L.E

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Howdy!  (5th Happy Monday of 2007, rewritten Sept 21, 2019. When I was a young one of the shows I watched religiously was ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E‘. Set in the disquieting times of the Cold War, it was a 1960’s spy show, somewhat sophisticated, with the classic two guy partnership. It spoke to me. I wanted Dad to build a bomb shelter in our back yard. For the inevitable when Russia dropped an atomic bomb on the Arkansas silos.

Strange how we humans see things; there’s this global context, that allows us space and time to fear the tension between two powerful countries, and yet we are capable of putting that all aside for the specific. I was quite in love with the secondary character of the show. Illya Kuriakan.

A blonde, daring, dry-humored Russian with a foreign accent, he was subtly alluring. He was smart but not too full of himself. And the man had a smile. It was like he has some kind of secret. One that made little butterflies move around in my teenage heart. Or somewhere. I was certain I’d enjoy knowing the secret he had. Like all teenagers do, I day-dreamed a bit about meeting him one day, watching as he preserved world peace there in front of our single, three channel television.

So…

I am getting off the plane some months back, second row from the front of steerage landing in a smoggy LA and I have trouble getting my bag down.

I glance behind me, glancing at the short, old man, just two rows behind me having trouble getting his own bag down.

There he stood, struggling with the overhead bin, an unmistakable, much older Illya Kuriakan. I’d seen him at his new character on the television show NCIS.  He plays a role on the team fighting justice in a police procedural drama. He was in character. Hs trademark bow tie around his old man neck, character Duckie didn’t quite look his 70+ years. I don’t think anyone knew who he was but me. There was no bustling to get his autograph or shake his hand.

The mind works in strange ways. In the amount of time it took me to get my bag over my shoulder and off the plane, my head put that moment into context. As a teenage girl I would never imagined I’d be where I am today and I certainly had never given one moment of adult thought to where David McCollum might be. And I certainly NEVER considered our paths would ever have the possibility of converging in the LA airport at the beginning of 2005.

Walking a bit absent minded and trying to figure out why I could’t find the rental car shuttles at LAX, I looked up and coming towards me with an old man’s gait but with a signature of his youthful screen image was Illya. As we passed each other, I smiled, looked at his face, thinking about 6 degrees of separation, girlhood adoration, and an aging movie star. For a slow moment, he smiled back. Exactly the same smile I remembered. Yes, there it was, that secret promise. Clearly, he recognized me. Always as smart and clever as my daydreams, he CERTAINLY would know that movie stars help mold our image of mates and sense of sensuality and me being old too, he recognized my place in the generation he affected. That’s what our mutual smiles meant.

Being old means that I know that none of those things may be true.. But being old, I also know that it doesn’t matter. Its not about what others think, its about what you do with your own thoughts… And you should never underestimate where life may lead you.

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