Published on June 5th, 2017 | by Randy Weeks0
The View from the Balcony: Paul Falls
It was Thursday, August 7, 1969. Iain Stewart Mcmillian was contemplating the next day’s photo shoot with The Beatles for the cover of their upcoming Abbey Road album. Paul had suggested a simple shot of the Fab Four stepping across the striped Abbey Road crosswalk. “Quaint, but so darned predictable,” thought Mcmillian. “Why not mess with people’s minds and take the same picture elsewhere?”
So Mcmillian and the boys jumped on a jet and landed in Oxford Town, where – unbelievably unnoticed – John, Ringo, Paul, and George got ready to stroll from Faulkner’s Alley across Van Buren while Mcmillian shot the pics from The Balcony. On the first take disaster struck.
Paul day-tripped on a crack in the pavement and face-planted in the middle of the street. He broke his nose, knocked out a couple of front teeth, and got a horrendous friction burn on the left side of his face that made him look like Batman’s next nemesis, Hamburger Face.
“What the hell were you thinkin’, Paul?” said John. “And where are your bloody shoes?”
“I dunno, Johnny. I was just walkin’ and my toe hit this crack in the street. My shoes flew off and the next thing I knew I was lyin’ in the middle of the road spittin’ out asphalt.”
Ringo quipped, “I guess you’re not the cute Beatle anymore, are you, Pauli?”
George scolded, “If you’d been in step with us this wouldn’t have happened. Always marchin’ to the beat of a different drummer, aren’t you, Lefty?”
Paul paused somewhere between pissed-off and pissed-on. He wished he had wings to whisk him away at that embarrassing moment. Macmillian stepped in. “C’mon, boys. We’ve barely enough time to make it back to jolly ole England and finish this shoot on time.” So they packed it in and rushed home.
The still shoeless Paul wasn’t in step with the other Beatles, not because he was dead as the conspiracy theorists would later say, but because he was high on the painkillers he’d taken to keep his face from hurting. He could barely stand, much less march in step with his buds. With only had a sliver of daylight left, Mcmillian took the iconic Abbey Road photo and the rest, as they say, is history.
No one ever found Paul’s shoes. Legend has it that at midnight every August 7 the ghost of William Faulkner wears them and walks through Faulkner’s Alley to the middle of the Van Buren crosswalk where he trips and Vanishes.
Nothing much has changed with the Van Buren crosswalk since then. Thousands of people cross the street there regularly, and an inordinate number of them take the Paul-fall, face first, onto the asphalt. Some, like coeds in stilettos and platform shoes, bear some of the blame, but it’s mostly the crosswalk’s
Unlike the handicapped-accessible curb on the south end of the crosswalk, the north end is not clearly defined. Both the curb and the street drop off into a slight ravine. When you step down the slope you don’t expect to go right back up, but that’s exactly what happens. The forward motion of your foot suddenly ceases and the momentum of your body carries you lurching
Two other obstacles – the manhole (person hole?) and the water access covers – protrude just enough to catch the edge of your shoe. Halfway into the crosswalk the pavement rises – it is, after all, a crowned street. But this crown is cracked. No kidding. There’s a big crack running east and west slap dab in the middle of the crown. It’s big enough for a spiked heel (a shoe heel, not a drunken frat boy with bad manners) to fit in, ergo, another chance to trip the asphalt fantastic. Still heading south, the asphalt sinks. You think your foot is going to stop its descent, but it goes another inch or two downward, throwing you off kilter.
If face-planting ever gets to be an Olympic sport the event will be held at the corner of Van Buren and Courthouse Square. God be with the blokes who try to cross the street
Pratfalls in slapstick comedy are funny because no one’s injured. People who fall in the Van Buren crosswalk get hurt. I’ve seen the elderly bite the asphalt there more times than I care to remember. Once or twice EMT’s had to be called to tend to their wounds. The sober young fall there, too.
The Van Buren crosswalk at Faulkner’s Alley is a safety hazard first, and a lawsuit waiting to happen, second. Make Oxford safe again. Fix it!
And while you’re at it, fix the one-way sign at that corner, too. For weeks it’s pointed the wrong way. A few cups of concrete in the PVC pipe the sign’s stuck in should do it. Melissa Swetland’s tired of going down from The Balcony to straighten it out. However, those of us who watch her do it are highly entertained.