According to Merriam Webster, a "savant" is a "learned person" or a "person of learning" possessing "detailed knowledge in some specialized field." Hey, I can live with that label. In fact, I'll embrace it, even if I don't quite fit the very last part I did not mention above, where the definition goes into more detail by indicating a savant is likely most advanced in the field of science...you know, like a scientist.
But, the definition does add "literature" as well, so maybe I can make the stretch after all...
I suppose it was the ultra-cheesy 1975 AM radio ballad "Wildfire" by Michael Martin Murphey that made some people occupying my inner-most circle look at me like Tom Cruise looked at Dustin Hoffman in the film "Rain Man" when Hoffman – playing an "autistic savant" character with jaw-dropping genius abilities when it came to numbers and calculations but basically unable to take care of himself – knew in an instant precisely how many toothpicks had fallen on the floor when someone dropped a container filled with hundreds of the finely crafted tiny wooden sticks.
I believe we were on the road during another youth hockey weekend years ago, carpooling like we did from time to time, and "Wildfire" came on a satellite radio station known for playing sad, soft love songs. I was in the backseat, and shocked the driver who was prepared to find another station only a few notes into the opening keyboard riff, when I indicated I dug the song. He kind of chuckled, but the smile disappeared from his face, and possibly all the blood drained from his head, when I joined Murphey in singing the song's opening verse.
It's a song about a horse, by the way, in case you aren't aware. And a woman who loves the horse, and possibly longs for a long-lost fellow, too. Yes, the horse's name is...Wildfire.
She comes down from Yellow Mountain
On a dark, flat land she rides
On a pony she named Wildfire
With a whirlwind by her side
On a cold Nebraska night
By this point, if any other motorists were sharing the road in relative close proximity to us, they likely would have suspected that the driver of the big truck near them was either under the influence of something or distracted by his phone, because the large rig was drifting in its lane and quite possibly veering all over the road.
Because the driver – a good friend of mine but apparently not good enough at that point years ago to know that I am to knowing and reciting with clinical accuracy song lyrics and movie and TV show scenes what Rain Man’s Hoffman was to accurately calculating the number of hundreds of toothpicks that have just fallen on the ground – was so stunned he could barely keep his ride on the road.
I sang the whole song, not missing a syllable - "She ran callin' Wiiiiiiiiiii-ildfire, she ran callin' Wiiiiiiiii-ildfire" - and my air-keyboarding fingers did a beautiful dance in the ether, while my friend, the driver, ditched anything having to do with concentrating on the road in favor of staring at me in his rear-view mirror and wondering if he'd just been ushered through the gates of heaven...or hell.
It's my thing, I guess. Whether it's a blessing or a curse depends on your point of view. My particular ability mightily impresses some, while at the same time tempts others to throw me through the nearest large window. But I happen to embrace my talent, if it's indeed a talent. For all I know it's an affliction. Maybe this is why I can't fix a car or embark on anything beyond the most elementary plumbing or electrical project around the house or remember where I left my phone 30 seconds earlier: The part of my brain that catalogs this almost-infinite amount of pop culture data is so overdeveloped that it crowds out most of my skull's remaining gray matter, which is relegated to largely minuscule mush that even in its compromised, diminished state is still able to alert me to things that are hot or cold, or remembers how to tie my shoes, but can’t solve an algebra equation past the eighth-grade level and can’t recall where I put my cup of coffee. (Mike, you heated it up for 30 seconds, remember? It’s in the microwave.)
Someone made a Sean Penn reference the other day in a casual conversation, and soon the actor's classic Jeff Spicoli role in the 1982 film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" was mentioned. A couple minutes later an eerie stillness and silence had filled the room, except for me, of course, as everyone stopped and stared as I riffed through a few of my favorite scenes from the film starring Penn as Spicoli, perfect right down to the syllable, it should go without saying by now.
"What's wrong with you?" a dumbfounded person in the room wondered.
Or, maybe, the more accurate question is, what's right with me?
“I think you need help,” someone else added.
I disagree. On the contrary, like Mr. Spicoli, all I need is some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fi-iiiiiiine.