Jim Merkl and a really old rock
Earlier this week, I met Jim at Brink, a College Hill microbrewery close to where he and his wife Julie live. Not even a beer into the night, Jim reached into his shirt pocket and told me he was reveling in a new sense of immortality. Where was he going with this?
“Immortality?” I repeated back as I took a sip of my amber ale. He held up a smallish rock. Ahhh, but this was more than a rock. I hadn’t seen one in many years. “An arrowhead!”
“Technically, a spearpoint,” Jim said.
“Damn, that’s a fine looking specimen,” I said as I reached to take a closer look. It sure as hell was impressive. An inch or so long, carved quite nicely, save a small protrusion on one of the flat sides.
“They didn’t get it perfect,” Jim said. “They were probably running from a mastodon,” I suggested.
Jim went on to tell me that an archeologist he knows estimates that the spearpoint is about nine thousand years old. Shit! Nine thousand years? We laughed about what was going on in pre-pyramidic Egypt at that time, how the plans for the Parthenon were coming along, and how the neighborhood must have looked back then. “Lots of mastodons,” I guessed.
Jim Merkl and I go back. Way back. About 8,964 years after that spearpoint was carved. We met at Xavier University, shared a major, attended many of the same classes, both were announcers at WVXU, and both ended up working in video production after graduation. There were beers lodged in between all that, too. Several.
Jim and I worked together for a few years back in the late-80s/early-90s and have stayed in touch, although we haven’t met up as much as we’d have liked. He stayed in the production world, eventually focusing on a path as a freelance audio engineer. Today, Jim's main gig is running the audio board at Great American Ballpark during Cincinnati Reds games. If you find yourself in attendance this summer, every player introduction, walk-up song, sound effect, scoreboard video and other aural sundry will be running through Jim’s board and past the faders at the ends of those spearpoint-picking fingers of his. He started working as a runner in stadium operations at Riverfront Stadium, way back in our high school days, probably when the spearpoint was only about 8,962-ish years old. (SIDE NOTE: That gig paid off nicely for us during the 1990 National League Championship Series. You didn’t read this here, but we somehow “found” our way in the Riverfront parking garage, eventually “finding" ourselves behind the right field blue seats for Game 6 between the Reds and Pirates.) When the spearpoint was about 8,985 years old, he joined the Reds scoreboard crew, which means Jimbo’s at the stadium a lot during baseball season…one of the reasons it’s been tough to get together. Damn lousy excuse, but we’re actively working on improving that.
Immortality? Oh, right. So, the archeologist told Jim that the stone he found was from the Early Archaic Period. A St. Alban's point, apparently. As such, he’s the finder of a gen-you-wine ancient artifact, with the right to document the area where it was found as an archeological site. And, as luck would have it, he has the right to name that archeologic site anything he pleases! Such consideration would require another beer, so…a second round. We got to thinking...Merkl Creek, perhaps? Jim’s Rock Ridge? Jim’s Hill of Spearpoints? It’s not every day you get to add your name to the annals of history. Mr. Merkl has some thinking to do.
After our second beer (a story I’m sticking to for now), we adjourned our first-in-far-too-long meet up. More thought would go into the naming of the aforementioned archeological site, which undoubtedly will involve deep contemplation and more beer. Story to be continued.
I took a last look at that spearpoint before we paid up. Wild, to think this was carved somewhere around these parts by someone whose only concern was killing something for lunch and staying out of the path of enraged mastodons. Maybe it was used for that purpose, maybe it was simply dropped. But after being out of sight, masked by the years under layers of mud, rock, leaves, lives lived and lives lost, it was found. And here it was, on a table between my friend Jim and me as we excavated our own layers of dust and time. The artifact has another chance (a second take, perhaps) at relevance. And Jim and I will be meeting up tonight, adding another chapter to our own history books.