The Reluctant Townie | I'm pretty sure I met Nicolas Cage

The Reluctant Townie | I'm pretty sure I met Nicolas Cage

Oh hello there, September.

In previous years, I made an effort to recognize summer until its official end on the Gregorian calendar, a sacred day in late September that since time immemorial has been designated by the airing of the "Big Brother" finale on CBS. But this year, I have no interest in prolonging the inevitable.

Your kids are back in school. My kids are back in school. College kids are jaywalking like its the new Floss Dance. The house is quiet, the refrigerator is full and the 401(k) has been emptied to buy markers, Kleenex and glue sticks.

I'm calling it. Summer 2018, time of death: Aug. 31.

Last month, this column went from a weekly schedule to a bi-monthly schedule. It has put me slightly out of sync with you guys — a lot can happen in two weeks; it's hard to remember what's the new fake news and what's the old fake news — but I am enjoying the freedom to focus on my other major writing endeavors: Finally answering my work emails and authoring biting, one-star reviews of already-closed businesses on Yelp.

For those of you who have written to me in concern: Yes, I have seen "The Meg," the dinosaur shark movie starring Jason Statham. Hopefully, you were not waiting on my written recommendation before venturing to the multiplex. While I will not savage the film here (because it does not entirely deserve it), I regret to say I was underwhelmed by the final product. "The Meg" had every reason to be one of the greatest stories ever told, and in that regard, it totally blew it.

Longtime readers may recall that I promised to issue a final grade on the summer based solely on my enjoyment of "The Meg." And so, ever a man of my word, I offer the Summer of 2018 the final grade of C+.

In short, this summer was "Snakes on a Plane" all over again — a killer concept that wasn't realized to its fullest potential.

I spent a sizable chunk of my summer in virtual reality. In May, Facebook released the Oculus Go — a wireless VR headset that delivers a premium virtual reality experience for $200 — and I unashamedly jumped in with both feet.

In virtual reality, I have gone on guided tours of national monuments, swam with sharks and sat front row at Lollapalooza. I attended virtual house parties with people from other countries. Heckled "Sleepaway Camp 2" with an Australian on his lunch break halfway around the world. It's been random and amazing.

But perhaps the greatest thing I did this summer, and the greatest thing I may ever do in virtual reality, was the time I hung out with Nicolas Cage.

(Before I go any further, I should preface by saying that while I have no corroborating evidence, I am roughly 65 percent sure that I was talking to Nicolas Cage, and further more, I have the power of faith on my side: I want to believe that the events occurred in the manner in which I am about to describe.)

The incident took place around 2 a.m. Central Standard Time on a Saturday a few weeks ago. I had arrived home late to find my wife and children asleep. Late nights are the best time to go on VR in my house — not only because I don't have to worry about ambient light bleeding into my headset, or children shouting for me to complete unnecessary tasks in their honor, but because my internet bandwidth isn't clogged with multiple Chromecasts, iPads, cellphones and Wi-Fi enabled robot unicorns. These peepers need their 2k resolution!

The home menu in my Oculus headset was advertising a kickboxing tournament broadcasting live from Toyko. The application used to watch the kickboxing tournament (Oculus Venues) seats you in a virtual auditorium amongst avatars of other real-life VR users you can interact with.

After seat hopping for awhile, I ended up in the front row next to an avatar that had an unmistakably familiar voice.

After a few minutes of conversation, I broached the obvious:

"Man, has anyone ever told you that you sound exactly like Nicolas Cage?"

"No," said the avatar. (Which statistically speaking, has to be a lie. Unless no one has ever told him he sounds like Nicolas Cage because he is already Nicolas Cage.)

There was an uncomfortable silence, punctuated by the wet-slapping sounds of fighters side-kicking each other. Modern VR headsets relay your head movement and basic posture to your avatar, so it's not entirely impossible to read someone's body language in virtual reality.

"I mean, uh, not that that's necessarily a bad thing," I added.

There came a familiar laugh. One I had heard through countless viewings of "Con Air" and "Face Off."

"I like how you said that," said the avatar I'm 65 percent sure belonged to Nicolas Cage. "It's not necessarily a bad thing ..."

I didn't bring it up again, because the avatar had flatly denied it, and if it was actually Nicolas Cage, I didn't want to be the one guy in virtual reality with zero chill. So we hung out, pretended he didn't sound like Nicolas Cage and watched some live kickboxing.

Throughout our conversation, tantalizing details emerged to support my hypothesis: The avatar lived in Southern California, worked in the "entertainment industry" and had been given an Oculus Go headset by someone at either Oculus or Facebook. I kept waiting for his voice to crack, or venture into some unfamiliar vocal territory that would give away its inauthenticity, but the illusion (if indeed it was one) maintained until my headset battery died, separating us, evermore.

Of course, I know what you're thinking. Perhaps this was not a chance encounter with Nicolas Cage, but rather someone having fun at my expense.

But let me ask you this, would you rather live in a world in which I was hoodwinked by a first-class impressionist or in a world where actor Nicolas Cage is super enthusiastic about the future of virtual reality and likes to unwind after a long day of shooting direct to video films as an anonymous avatar talking to the common folk?

Ryan Jackson reminds you to choose your reality responsibly, and he can be reached at

Topics (2):Film, Television