Friday, September 19, 2008

The Rain Man Comes to Southern Maine

By Joe Hessert Staff Columnist
“NASA calls him the most prodigious intellectual memory savant in the world,” said Fran Peek of his son, Kim, during a phone interview with The Weekly Sentinel earlier this week. Kim, the man whose life was the basis for Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie Rain Man, is coming to Kennebunk for an interactive presentation with his audience during which he’ll answer questions and hold a conversation about whatever happens to come up.
“The audience is where things originate,” said Fran. “They can ask him anything.”
And Kim has been asked a lot over the years – he has spoken to over five million people in group lectures and conversations like the one taking place in Kennebunk on Friday and he has been the subject of twenty-two television documentaries. “We’ve traveled a lot together,” said Fran, “Over the last eighteen years we have logged over two million, eighteen thousand air miles, and that doesn’t count all the miles we’ve traveled by car.”
This affinity for numbers is something that is common when speaking to Fran’s son, too. He began the conversation with me by asking my birth-date and then telling me that I was born on a Wednesday – a fact I didn’t know but later checked and turned out to be correct. When I told him I lived in South Berwick, Kim laughed and said that I was the neighbor of a famous writer, Sarah Orne Jewett and proceeded to quote a few lines of her poetry. I told him that I worked at the Weekly Sentinel and he gave me directions to our office in Wells (he has the roadmap for the entire country memorized).
During the conversation Kim laughed a lot, quoting the speech our fellow Mainer, William Cohen, had made after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, talking about Kenneth Roberts’ Northwest Passage and our former governor Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine during the battle of Gettysburg – all knowledge which he acquired at the public library in Salt Lake City where he has devoured and retained almost verbatim books on a wide range of subjects. He can read up to eight books a day, in part because he reads very quickly and also because he reads both pages of a book at the same time, one with each eye.
Speaking with him, though, the fifty-seven year old seemed very down to earth – like an history professor I had in high school whose genuine curiosity for the world we live in was contagious and taught me that who I was and who I would become was the product of the complex environment I was living in. The message in his talk, I was told, would be “one of hope for the promise that lies in each of us, no matter how we are perceived as different from others.” And after speaking with him on the phone I’m eager to attend his upcoming visit to Kennebunk.
Kim’s life and his phenomenal abilities have been documented on the Discovery Channel, YouTube, and through other news mediums. While the program at St. Martha’s Church on Friday is free, a donation of $5 towards the cost of his appearance is welcome. There will be a meet and greet sponsored by Bridges to Integrated Health at St. Martha’s beginning at 5:30pm before the event on Friday the 19th. For more information please call Mari Jo Allen at 467-8212.
Caption: Kim Peek (right), the man whose life story was the model for Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man will be appearing at St. Martha’s Church in Kennebunk at 6:30pm on Friday, September 19. His father Fran stands to the left. (Kelly Roy photo)