Full disclosure: Paul Jones Palin was no longer the voice of a generation. His death assumed to have happened on August 31, 2010, had people talking all around the world because of its questionable nature. It wasn’t until September of 2017 that he was then declared dead in absentia. By that time everyone had not only stopped talking about P. J. Palin, they’d also pretty much forgotten all about him. And so it goes, my children, and so it goes.
That’s why it came as quite a surprise to most that after several undocumented reported sightings of Mr. Palin it was confirmed that P. J. was still very much alive. In fact, it was revealed that he was actually earning a living as a doobie-smoking fisherman in the very town where he allegedly died: East Hampton, NY. What came as a bigger surprise to any who still remembered him was that this revelation occurred as a direct result of this recently resurrected ghost succumbing to an innocent craving for (are you ready for this?) ice cream.
You may, or may not, remember the sensational headlines and news coverage about his disappearance. Do you? Anyone? Somebody out there? Hands in the air, anybody? No? Well, that wouldn’t have been all that unusual considering how long ago it was and all that happened since. As one adds up all the rumors surrounding the uncertainty of his demise you’d probably conclude, as most people did, that his departure was just another of the many unsolved mysteries of the universe. As Paul had often remarked prior to his fishy passing, “There are only three things I hold as being unquestionably true. One, life is a mystery. Two, I am mystified. And three, that reality is merely a collective hunch.” Yeah, he was that kind of guy, I guess.
It’s still kind of sketchy what Peege (a nickname his brother had given him when they were both much younger) had been doing with himself for the past decade. As it turned out, he didn’t drown in the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean nearly ten years ago when he took that fateful bike ride on the Swedish Kronan bicycle (included as a complementary perk in the price of his rented room) at dawn from the Maidstone Hotel located at 207 Main Street in Long Island, NY. Instead, after apparently drifting atop the waves for hours, his body had floated back to the same shoreline where Paul Jones Palin had earlier discarded the pajamas, he had worn on what he believed would’ve been his final day on Earth, on the then sun stained beach before taking what he hoped would be a fatal swim into oblivion.
It was said when he awoke, lying pajama-less, naked and cold on the wet sand at night with no idea of how he had gotten there, it was beneath a Lazarus moon. With only the moonlight shining through the darkness, Palin wandered along the beach in his birthday suit until finding an empty home that he broke into for clothes, food, and a place to sleep. For weeks, since it was now the beginning of the off-season in The Hamptons, he hid out in the empty house, with its well-stocked food pantry and no other inhabitants. As he recovered from his attempt at suicide, and as he felt stronger, in the cover of nighttime darkness Peege would go out to explore the neighborhood.
One night Paul happened upon an outdoor concert where a jam band named Phish was performing and snuck into the show. After the last song, while the crew was loading up the equipment for the next stop on the long leg of the group’s tour, P. J. made his way to the stage and began lending a hand in the packing up process. When all the equipment had been loaded up the road manager assigned each worker, including Peege, to various trucks, vans, and vehicles to be transported to the next location. No one seemed to notice Palin’s presence, or else they just may have assumed he was a member of the road crew, so he decided to go along for the ride. And like a band of gypsies, together on the road, they traveled.
Lots of miles, gigs, after-show parties, and years later after Peege decided to retire from life on the road he returned to East Hampton where he reinvented himself as a doobie-smoking fisherman (sounds like the name of a side project a Phish band member might have chosen). It began as a part-time job that became a full-time occupation on a local charter fishing boat. As time passed, the aging Mr. Palin had saved enough money to buy his own boat, which he chartered out for a hefty per diem fee to the town’s tourists.
One night after getting wasted at his favorite tavern he stopped at The Candy Shoppe on #35 Newtown Lane for some ice cream to enjoy on his way back home. It was almost ten years to the day since he’d originally stopped there to buy a milkshake, which he would later use as his magic milkshake laced with physician prescribed narcotics to be employed as the first step in his failed suicide attempt. The sense of déjà vu was as strong as a foul fart in a cramped elevator when Palin entered the store. The sensation quickly dispelled as he could literally feel the eyes of the man who stood behind the counter studying him.
“I know you,” the now vaguely familiar man began after eyeing him for several uncomfortable seconds, “I was working here the night you came in this store and left me the biggest tip I’d ever been given because instead of putting that milkshake I made for you into one of my old boss’s paper takeout cups I poured it in that thermos you had. My boss back then would’ve fired me if he found out. Not that it’d matter anymore—I own this place now. Man, after you disappeared the cops were here asking all kinds of questions about you. You became some kind of Hamptons urban legend; did you know that?”
P. J. froze for several moments as memories began floating up from beneath his murky subconscious to the surface of his conscious mind while he studied the face of the man who had addressed him. It was the school kid working the counter back in 2010. The kid he had imagined was like the only son he had but never knew. Because his junkie ex-girlfriend, who after leaving Palin, had given birth and never told her ex-boyfriend she was pregnant with their child. The child she had without a word to the father to let him know he had a son and was a father. The infant he only found out about after the police contacted him to identify both bodies. The junkie ex-girlfriend who had shot-up while nursing their son, only to overdose, nod out, die, then collapse upon and suffocate their tiny toddler.
Panicking at the realization his true identity had been discovered, in silence, Paul hurriedly bolted from the shop and returned home for a restless night of nightmares from the past. After he left, The Candy Shoppe kid/man ended up calling an old friend who worked as a reporter for The East Hampton Star newspaper. By early the next morning the reporter with a photographer, then the police, and next, a curious mob was at his door. The cat was out of the bag, and anew, P. J. Palin was officially a member of the living once again.
Bombarded with questions, asked to clarify situations, issues, and dates, many of which he had neither answers nor solutions or recollections of, he was thrust unwillingly into the glare of a 24-7-365 nonstop news cycle spotlight. It was during the first and only on-air interview that Paul Jones Palin uttered eleven words which made him a social media celebrity and icon, “No comment, I am no longer the voice of any generation.” And that, my friends, was his final word on the subject.
For many this was the end of the story. But for P. J. Palin, an unsought new chapter had just been written…