Edison Pena, one of the 33 Chilean miners, was in New York City in November.
After 69 days underground, in darkness, with death hanging over him, he was somewhere he never ever dreamed he could be -- in America, to run in NYC Marathon
What a change. Up -- way up he was, from where he'd been.
On The Late Show with Dave Letterman, the 34 year old Pena joked, chatted, was even embraced by Dave. Pena met and dined with other celebrities. Pictures of him, articles about him, were all over the news.
Feted, praised, photographed, recognized, he was a man people paid attention to. Exercising, 2,230 feet below the earth in the San Jose mine, not dealing with death, just singing Elvis' hit songs, certain he was doing what the Lord wanted him to do, he'd ascended and arrived at ... well, it felt as if NYC was the top the world.
During the Marathon, as he ran, people called out his name, saluted him, offered him flowers, food, water, parties, love.
Graceland gave Pena a trip to Memphis, a private tour of the mansion and all of the exhibits, including the Sun Studio where the great singers, the musicians Pena admired -- Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis -- all started their music careers.
In Las Vegas, January 10th through the 12th, Pena participated in Viva Elvis, the Cirque du Soleil show at the ARIA Resort & Casino. During each performance as the orchestra played "Blue Suede Shoes," Pena rode in the show's representation of Elvis's pink Cadillac, and during the curtain call, he spoke to the audience, told them --"Fantastic -- the scenery, the special effects, the music, all of you. You are the best and beautiful. I have no words."
Now, back in his Chile, he's feted -- people know his name and face, and want his autograph.
He has glowing memories -- pink Cadillac ... crossing the finish line... gifts from rich people and strangers .. cheers, roar of applause, in his ears.
But Edison Pena is back at work in the mine again because his disability pay was canceled -- government officials said "because of "excessive travel abroad."
He had glory and now it's black dark walls, shafts of artificial light, un-fresh air. He had hopes, big dreams, dreams beyond dreams. Now it's coal dust, dirt, the cacophony of
hammers, chiseling, drills.
He needs money to pay for food, and pay the rent on his small room.
I want to tell him, "Mr. Pena, your ups and downs -- that's life. You reach. You strive to go beyond where you are, beyond what's real -- and what confines you -- and you're on your way. When you do that, you are somewhere. Mr. Pena, you have to do it, sometimes, again and again. When I do that, I'm somewhere."