Friends, today I imagined an alternate universe where Roger Peterson did receive that final weather report, Jerry Dwyer canceled the flight, and the Three Stars and Peterson lived. I picture the year 1981 in this parallel world:
I can see Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., 51 years old, the owner of every radio station in a fifty-mile radius of Beaumont. In his plush office, the man still called “The Big Bopper” by old fans enjoys looking at the photos of his wife, daughter, and namesake son. He leans back in his leather chair and smokes a cigar, a grateful and happy family man.
I can see Richard Steven Valenzuela, 40, who moved from rock and roll into ballads in the ’60s and enjoyed lasting success. He now travels the nostalgia circuit with other still-popular crooners like Paul Anka and Buddy Holly. His “tween” kids ride on the bus with him in the summer sometimes and have yet to be bored at one of his shows, and this makes Ritchie happier than anything.
And I can see Charles Hardin “Buddy” Holly, 45, producer of the most popular musical group in history, The Quarrymen. In fact, although he and The Crickets still perform live with old and brand-new songs, he is now known mostly as a music and concert producer, traveling back and forth between his studio in Lubbock and his pad in Greenwich Village. The day I see Buddy, he is watching as his son, a lanky senior at Texas Tech, throws the long pass that seals another victory against the Texas Longhorns.
Many theoretical physicists propose that we live in a “multiverse,” where an infinite number of parallel universes, some very much like our own, others utterly different.
In some of these—in fact, in the weird arithmetic of the multiverse, an infinite number of them—Buddy and Jape and Ritchie live and love and laugh and cry during their long lives. To a man, they are as happy as those of us in this universe who will never let them fade away.