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No. of Recommendations: 107
Old Friends… Old Friends
Sat on their park bench like bookends


Memorial Day weekend, I took two days off from work and flew to London to visit David. Left Thursday night, flew back Tuesday evening. My wife didn't mind; she had a project she was working on, writing up advertisements for a small local paper.

I've known David since freshman year of college. I probably met him in 1984, but we didn't start hanging out together until spring of '85. Seventeen years ago; that's a long time. I was only 17 when I started college. Means I've known him for half my life. Damn I'm getting old.

He was this weird preppy looking Canadian guy, stick thin with a reedy voice, used to talk about something called "Boxing Day" and use other strange colloquialisms that made no sense to me at the time. Now he's been in London for eight years, and uses British colloquialisms that required explanation. plus ca change, plus ca meme chose

David owned an MGB convertible, bright red, although he called the color "Khmer Rouge". It as old we were. Like all British cars, it was never "fixed", but rather "between repairs". An incredibly cool car, or "hoopy" as Douglas Adams would say. David always valued "hoopiness" over functionality. His current attraction to British plumbing is evidence of the same disease.

Two of Us, riding nowhere, spending someone's
hard earned pay
You and me Sunday driving, not arriving
On our way back home


I had my moods back then, had all sorts of reasons but the truth could be boiled down to one fact: I wasn't getting any. On especially bad days I'd stop by his room and say, "hey, I'm not up for classes today, wanna go for a drive"? We'd take off for somewhere, anywhere, usually the Coast, and I would go on about everything that was bugging me, and why. David would listen, patiently, make various comments, some insightful, and some patently absurd designed to make me laugh about the situation.

Every Day is a Winding Road
I get a little bit closer
To feeling fine


Our impromptu road trips would invariably develop a theme along the way, like the time we got thirsty and David decided that the one thing he needed was a Royal Crown cola (that's "RC" to the rest of the world.). We went hither and yon searching for it, growing ever more desperate in our quest, two college kids descending on unsuspecting local grocery stores demanding Royal Crown cola and disappearing in a frenzy of noise and activity upon learning of its absence. We finally achieved our goal at the General Store in the tiny Oregon coastal town of Arch Cape. For years afterward I would stop at that little store, and they always had exactly what I was looking for. Sometimes I wonder it really exists, or if my subconscious just conjured the place up.

I admit it, I was a little jealous of David because he was "getting some". This was early in college, when I assumed that all my insecurities were unique to me, and the rest of the world consisted of well-adjusted people without a care in the world. Then another friend of mine left college, packed up a U-Haul and went to the Bay Area, morose and dispirited. He killed himself on a motorcycle two months later. That sort of thing will make you mature real quick, start looking at everyone else and look at the world through their eyes.

By junior year the worm had turned and David was asking me for advice or to be a sounding board the majority of the time. We'd wander around campus, smoking and talking, David would give me information and I'd give him feedback, sometimes insightful, sometimes absurd, and so it went, our conversation winding with our path, until we reached an impromptu way point and returned indoors. The talks never ended, they just went on hiatus.

We followed a simple rule of finances: whomever had money at the time paid for stuff. Not that we were keeping score, we were friends, it's what you do for each other. David once suggested we tally it up, I said no, we'd only find out that we both owed a third party money, and then there'd be a knock on the door 'cause they wanted to collect. We laughed and went back to drinking our king cans of Foster's.

We moved off campus senior year and became roommates, struggling with strange neighbors and limited budgets, especially at the end of the month when we'd gather our pennies and try to scrounge up something edible. After three months his girlfriend joined us when she returned from an off-campus study program or her "overseas trip to New York", as we referred to it, and we moved to nicer apartment and became more domesticated. When college ended David and his girlfriend discussed where they'd go. He wanted Seattle, she wanted San Francisco. She prevailed and moved down first. David packed up, and a week before he left to join her, she broke up with him.

And so one foggy morning at 5 AM David packed up a U-Haul to head to the Bay Area, morose and dispirited. I remember grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him "you will keep in touch with me, right!? You know the number, you wanna talk, you want me to come and visit, just give me a call! Understand!" "Yes, I understand, no problem, could you please stop shaking me?"

I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease


I visited in May of '89, the summer before the earthquake, spent a week there. David had a tiny studio in Oakland, just down the block from a few rundown liquor stores with metal grates over the windows. We met his "friends" there, but they really weren't, they were just acquaintances, people to occupy his time, take his mind of the pain he was carrying around. He came up and visited me, once, in my new place in Portland. He took one look around and said, "this is so…peaceful. How do you do it?" I looked up abruptly and said "OK, what's wrong?". If he thought my life was peaceful…

I left for Boston in '92, then to New York City in fall of '93, then finally back to Chicago, emotionally and financially drained. In 1994, after several unhappy years in San Fran, David decided to pack up and head to London. He had a layover in Chicago, an hour at Midway airport. I met him there, still recuperating from my own debacle of dating a Thai girl some eight years my junior whose neuroses had neuroses. He didn't know what he'd do in the UK, but his life had reached one of those decision points where you must something, anything, to change your direction. Not much advice I could offer, just some feeble encouragement from behind walls of psychic fatigue.

Last time I was in England was October of 1999. I was with Syncspouse by then (she was just my "girlfriend", but it was only a matter of time), and the two of us stayed with David and his girlfriend at their flat for four days. Most of the time was spent with our respective significant others in pairs or as a group, but the last night David and I went out for a "short walk". For the next hour or so we wandered the streets of London, smoking and talking, as David rambled on about his relationship, where he thought it was going, where he thought his life was going, giving me information so I could give him feedback. For an hour, then we were back at his flat, back with the S.O.'s, and the talks were on hiatus. Again.

I wasn't sure what to expect on this trip out. David recently broke up with his girlfriend. He graduated from law school in the UK, but is still working as a court clerk (and has a part-time job in a department store selling shirts and ties). He's been making noises about returning to the States. Surprisingly to me, he seemed in good spirits. Life may not be perfect for him, but he has his own place and seems happy there. He's learned to cook, and does a respectable job. This trip was my first time as a married man. I guess I'm doing well: good job (although I'm looking for better), a cute wife who adores me. Heck, how many people can go to London at the drop of a hat? David still "sees" his girlfriend, as in…well, we're all adults here, you know what I mean. His flat is small but exceptionally hoopy, with a small enclosed "sun room" or whatever you want to call it where we sat and smoked and drank and talked.

I smoke about once every year or so, for several days at a time, whenever I'm around friends that smoke. David still smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish, so it was time to buy a pack of Dunhill's and get back to it. Now that I'm back on the other side of the Pond, I haven't even thought about a cigarette.

He's sick of London, but doesn't know if the States would be better. I tried to give him my perspective, giving him information, but it's been a long time, responses that used to be instinctive have to be re-learned. He's changed, and so have I, but in subtle ways, we still retain the same cores. Part of the process was a reappraisal of who we are, where we're at, and what we want. In some ways he's now jealous of me, since I have certain things that he's reaching for. Realizing that now, upon reflection, maybe I would have steered some subjects differently….

I keep on going, guess I'll never know why.
Life's been good to me so far


The last night we went to a pub, a rarity, a British pub that had good food. We ate, we smoked, we talked, and somewhere along the line we realized, it may not be perfect, but it's good. It's all good. We like where we live. We have significant others who fill a void in our lives, and make us feel better. I told David that maybe not being a close relationship is a good thing for him now, he gets most of the…er, "advantages" but can still focus on his life. And me…I realize that I'm a pretty lucky bastard, after all. "We don't get older, we just get better".

Don't it always seem to go
that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone


Five days was too short. The privilege of travel hammers home a lesson that I never truly learned until after college, when the great diaspora of one's classmates occurs. The most precious gift is life experiences, good times spent with good friends. Dunbar was wrong; the hours might go slower when you're bored and unhappy, but the years go faster.

Somewhere there's a picture of the two of us from college, side by side, arms around each other's shoulders, cigarettes drooping from our lips, bedraggled and burned out, but surviving. One day down, many more to go, but we'd make it. Then. Now. Always.

Time it was and what it time was, it was
a time of innocence,
a time of confidences.
Long ago it must be,
I have a photograph.
Preserve your memories.
They're all that's left you


-synchronicity
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What a pleasure to read. I wonder how many people read your piece and thought of particular friends that they have (or have not) kept in touch with. Real friends. Good solid, the conversation continues even though its been a year, type friends.
A pleasure-This is the best board.
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No. of Recommendations: 32
My first military assignment ever was Croughton, England. I arrived there in October 1986, an eager young thing ready to spread my wings in a foreign country, travel, make new friends and save the world... all the aspirations of a young woman setting out in the world and ready to conquer what was available to her in any way possible... young ambition is a wonderful thing.

On my way to accomplishing those aspiring dreams I met some interesting people. One guy in particular stands out over the the years. His name was Mike and he and I became fast friends over the few years we were stationed together up until the time I left. We played pranks on our friends and each other, watched stupid movies, took road trips in his beat up Triumph TR7, drank sparkling champagne through a straw while watching other stupid movies and hung around each other laughing it up and creating a wonderful friendship all the while.

Mike and I understood each other very well in the ways of silly and annoying pranks and there were times in which we would try to outdo each other on those pranks... his unique sense of humor rivaled my own, and for anyone that knows me, it has a tendency to be off the deep end, not so mainstream... warped even...

I have to say that we elevated each joke to the best of our ability but geez... he was good! I concede that I am usually the recipient of most jokes unless I have some decent planning but in the end, I could laugh with the best of them and enjoyed the joke regardless of who it was played on. Having a sense of humor is a big plus in a community environment of dorm living, where you really didn't want to tick off your neighbor. You either lived or worked with that person on a base of 400 people... it was a small, small world and we made the best of what we had.

One such prank that I remember with great clarity was on me after working a long night shift. I was tired, very irritable and ready to sleep a thousand years in my nice, warm, clean bed so I could prepare for another shift the following night.

Mike was in rare form that morning.

I got to my room, got changed and ready for bed and was ready to crash for a few hours when something just didn't look right in my room. It was my bed... I was certain of that.

Let me say first of all that after working a night shift in which there may or may not be much happening beyond a really good game of cards <spades and hearts being the operative game of communications people> the chow hall for breakfast is not the greatest thing in the world to come home to. In the weeks following, I had always teased Mike in asking him when the heck he was going to serve me breakfast in bed... running jokes never got old between the two of us.

And so I looked at my bed, quite suspicious at this time. I had recently put on newly washed flannel sheets which were really toasty warm on the cold nights over there... I peeled back the covers and lo and behold, there it was... Sugar Smacks were liberally sprinkled between the sheets with a lovely sticky note proclaiming, "Here's your breakfast in bed! Ha Ha!"

For anyone who knows that sugary snacks and flannel don't mix can well imagine my reaction... I was furious and sought Mike out to give him the finest display of my wrath. In between laughing fits, he made the comment that I should be thankful there was no milk with that cereal... but I could never keep a straight face or stay mad and we later laughed about it, with me plotting revenge to follow at the earliest opportunity.

I know that followed shortly with the Ransom of Opus, but the details are fuzzy at best... he reciprocated with the be all end all of jokes with me and another comm friend and we both fell hook line and sinker. What a character he was... it made the years without family seem less lonely, more fun filled and exciting in a place so far away.

I often think of my friend Mike and the few years we plotted together. Being in such a transitional job, our paths have not crossed except for the occasional letter, a few photographs and some fading memories of some of the best times in my life. I know where he is stationed and I've often thought of looking him up and saying hi, if for nothing else, but to find that connection to the past, some sort of evidence that life in the military isn't all made of temporary friendships and that longevity in relationships really do exist...


CaveGirl
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I know that followed shortly with the Ransom of Opus

At the risk of looking silly, I'll assume you mean Opus, the Bloom County penguin, eh? I remember in high school, the only way I could get the attention of this girl I had a crush on was to kidnap her Opus doll. I sent threatening notes using cut out newspaper letters until she promised to go to the movies with me, St. Elmos Fire...

I was a man in motion.

Bogus <---fan of Bill the Cat from way back ACK!
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I remember in high school, the only way I could get the attention of this girl I had a crush on was to kidnap her Opus doll. I sent threatening notes using cut out newspaper letters until she promised to go to the movies with me, St. Elmos Fire...

And that girl was Ellen DeGeneres.

One date with Bogey was enough to turn her off to men altogether.

Bogey, maker of lesbians since 1902.
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One date with Bogey was enough to turn her off to men altogether.

I just convinced her that it didn't get any better than me and that she shouldn't even bother.

Bogey
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At the risk of looking silly, I'll assume you mean Opus, the Bloom County penguin, eh?

-----------------------

It's too late... you already look silly :)

Yes, it was Opus the Bloom County Peguin.

That stuffed creature sat on Mike's desk beside his bed, looking oh so innocent... I threatened so many times to take it hostage and Mike would give me this evil glaring look, daring me to even consider it.

I considered that look to be a challenge of sorts and it wasn't long before my girlfriend Christina and I came up with what we considered suitable revenge for all the pranks he had played on us in the past.

In the meantime, Mike wasn't taking any chances and had recently taken to locking his door whenever he left for work <could all the idle death threats to Opus have triggered that response... hmmmmm> so we took the alternate option and decided our only course of action was to climb in through his window. Fortunately for us, he was on the first floor... the dormitory was only two stories high but it was still difficult to get through the window from the outside and climb over the heated radiator without hurting ourselves.

We initially thought about just grabbing Opus, leaving the ransom note behind, then casually walking out the door, after closing the window and locking the door behind us, leaving no visible trace we were ever there... except that Opus would no longer be perched in his glory place on the desk... but we couldn't be so obvious as to leave it so simple. We had evil on the brain and knew that penguin thievery in Mike's eyes was a high crime. We figured we may as well get our money's worth only because we were to be eventually damned by our actions anyway. Looking around at Mike's things, we looked at each other, laughed out loud at the thought that crossed both of our minds then immediately went to work on phase II of our plan.

We dragged everything that Mike owned that was out in the open to the center of the room. When we got finished with this task, the only things that remained against the walls of his room was the bunkbeds and wall lockers. Near as I can remember, everything else got dragged off of shelves and away from the walls and piled high into the center of the room. If Opus came up missing, he'd have to rummage and re-organize his room before it was all over... Mike didn't have a great many things, mind you, but it was enough to make a substantial pile in the room.

Mike came home later that night and showed up at our door. It was all we could do not to burst out in hysterical giggles <we were girls, after all>. He had a huge grin on his face and knew he had been had...

Opus was eventually returned to his home... we never messed with the penguin ever again... we figured he'd done his time and repeat pranks aren't that funny anyway... well, sometimes they are, but there were always new ones to discover.


CaveGirl
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Cavey,

This was a very touching story, and you are a scrolly post rec whore.
Nice crown.

Love,

LeftBlank

P.S. My brother's name is Mike, and he is military (civilian) and has a weird sense of humor, and might even own an Opus, but I don't think he's ever been stationed in England. Still, I was having weird "could it be" feelings as I read your post.... Nah, I doubt it.
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Opus was eventually returned to his home... we never messed with the penguin ever again... we figured he'd done his time and repeat pranks aren't that funny anyway... well, sometimes they are, but there were always new ones to discover.

CaveGirl

Nowadays, you would have sent Opus on an around-the-world trip, and let him send photos from his various stops.

cliff
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Nowadays, you would have sent Opus on an around-the-world trip, and let him send photos from his various stops.

cliff

------------------------

Oh dear... that gives me some funny ideas for my next trip abroad... and some potential new links to the web site...


CaveGirl
www.caveguru.com
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Opus was eventually returned to his home... we never messed with the penguin ever again... we figured he'd done his time and repeat pranks aren't that funny anyway... well, sometimes they are, but there were always new ones to discover.

I went to a boarding school as a teenager. The school kind of had a tradition of pranks and my 2 best friends and I had a lot of fun keeping up the tradition. One of the best involved borrowing some bricks from the extension under construction....

There was a dormitory that was located at the top of a flight of stairs and soemwhat isolated from everyone else. Of course there was a lot of competition to get those spaces because you could get up to all sorts of tricks and not get caught and they always seemed to go to the schoolboys with the browner nostrils. Well needless to say we didn't qualify so we decided to get some revenge.

When you have a construction site there are a lot of possibilities. Our plan was to simply brick up the stairway so they couldn't get out. Do you have any idea how many bricks you need to brick up a 10ft by 5ft or so staircase? Well neither have I exactly but it was about 10 per row by some 30ish rows. And in order to make it difficult to remove we built in a slight semi circle so that people on the inside wouldn't be able get a grip to pull one of the bricks out and provide some stability to stop the push over. My friend Julian did most of the building while Chris and I did the carrying of the 300 bricks up the 3 floors of stairs as quietly as possible. I think we could carry about 10 bricks up each time (and I have no idea how many wheelbarrow trips we made), it took about 3 or 4 hours to do from 2am so we got 0 sleep that night. Oh yeah I forgot to say we also buggered up the fire escape so that the first brave soul down was sure to trigger the bucket of water trip wire and then at the bottom 5 steps of wet paint and wet handrail too (black fire escape black paint ...) that meant that you were bound to get hands and shoes covered in paint.

Well of course it worked a treat. They couldn't get out the normal way and after they went down the fire escape they left black foot prints all around the school. Of course everyone was trying to figure out who looked tired and we were doing our best to look perky and awake all day. we succeeded and the finger of suspicion went to another set of people who weren't keen on the arshlikhan tendency. So did the revenge. There is nothing like seeing too sets of people you don't get on very well with setting each other up for pranks and of course the teachers spent endless time trying to stop each from wrecking each other. We actually helped the teacher's pets in about the third or fourth tit for tat prank when they (we) took advantage of the the fact the opposition were away for a weekend playing rugby and so we removed all their beds and stashed them behind the curtains on the school stage. Unfortunately someone squealed and we were also the targets of revenge... but IT WAS WORTH IT

DD
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I recently met 2 "old friends" for lunch. Guys I grew up with, and amazingly, 2 of us live within a mile of our childhood home, and the other lives in his childhood home. While not close friends anymore, we have stayed in touch over the 40+ years we've known each other. Interacting with people with whom one has such longevity (outside of family) is a great thing in my opinion, and we all enjoyed the fact that over the years we still have lots in common, and lots to share.

After having done so, I just wanted to reprise this post, which I believe is one of the best ever written here at the Fool. Admittedly, the musical references make it special for me, but the theme is universal, and I've read it a few times since Synch originally posted it.

I understand that my opinions in these forums don't amount for much, but if you haven't done so already, take the time to re-read it. It is worthy of merit, deserving of far more "recs" than much of what I see on the "Best of" list.

By the way - what ever happened to your friend David? The post begs for a post script. Thx for a memorable post.
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A good post, by synch and by you. It is what posting here was once all about here, in fact.

Nobody I'm sure wants to wag fingers or relive old battles. As you likely know, Facebook works best for old friends. If you're a contributor to FB, you can control your own content and your personal interactions a lot more than you can here, and that is the optimal environment for posts like synch's now.

Somebody said something recently about inventing Facebook. Here, way before Facebook, the natural arc, the natural demand of the clients, was towards more truthful public identity and more individualized control of interaction. But it didn't work out that way, and the people who wanted to disclose more went to sites where they could control their interactions better.

As is said in the film, anybody who would have invented FB should have just gone ahead and invented FB. IMHO, it didn't need no Ivy League primogeniture. It could have been invented right here, fwiw.

best to you,

saz
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As is said in the film, anybody who would have invented FB should have just gone ahead and invented FB. IMHO, it didn't need no Ivy League primogeniture. It could have been invented right here, fwiw.


Ain't that the truth. Think about how much more successful the boys could have been if they had been wise, or just listened.
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