I had two missions, both of which were accomplished. The first was to find Ted whom I've been looking for since I discovered that his son knew my son from high school. The second was to try to say something resonant and hopefully inspirational to Paul without making a blithering idiot out of myself. I was pleasantly surprised to have carried these matters off although I did tear up at the end of the second task. If either of those had failed, I would have been disappointed despite the worlds of other secondary missions I had.
I needed to close with Don and make sure he didn't end up in a body bag in a ditch. He took a real risk hitchhiking down here from Oakland. I needed to explain to Chris why after several years, I had not shown up to his volleyball game. I threw my back out the first time and proved myself something of an embarassment. Either way, I never could manage to connect. Although I may be giving up the sport because of my bad shoulder, it was good to make that explanation. I wanted to see if Mike had gone nuts from his CT work, but it turns out that investigations are much more satisfying than HUMINT, so Mike is cool. Mario was his usual cool, leader-of-men self, and he actually got me to fetch him a beer. There's something very clever going on in that dude's head that I might figure out one day.
I wanted to ditch the Mass. I really have a bad attitude about what I perceive to be an unholy amount of tinkering with the traditional wordings of professions of faith. It truly, truly unnerves me. Especially when I am so apt to want to get into extraordinarily gritty philosophical and theological discussions. The only person I got into that dimension was Phillip with whom I now have a new double bond - one through psychology and the other through Vermont. But I did end up in the chapel after all having not driven slow enough from the South Bay to get to the campus. And so took communion having humbled myself in realizing how many of us have died.
I promised Dennis that I would attend his next function. I will. I misspoke to Rob about Mayfield. I knew I was connected somehow and I thought it was through Richard. It turns out that my sister Kay is a teacher there, duh. Richard went to Campbell Hall. I confessed to Robert why exactly I am no longer a 'liberal', basically because I can't stand radicalism, and well, I used to be radical. I promised Vernon, whose wife is lovely, that I can perhaps enter into a longer term discussion about how to think about the tools I'd love to provide him with. I once again said nothing of consequence to Pat whose charm is immediate and disarming.
What I didn't realize was that Steve and I were so much alike politically - to the extent that I am 'political' any longer. And here is what I would like him to understand, among other things. It may be that more cities have to fail, and it's very difficult to predict what level of failure, failure is. There's a longer and deeper story here, but I guess I'll have to handle that separately.
There were other surprises. Andrew and I have similar perceptions about the ballbusting tactics of the Han Chinese, and we absolutely agree that they are bling obsessed. I can tell he's a real gearhead, but we didn't actually talk cars, amazingly. You see I really wanted to poke him about the new Vette and F1 racing here in the States, but perhaps another time.
I have a very good sense that Weston and I should have long talks. I don't know why, but I am reminded that he has a mischeivous sense of humor. I swear that Dan C. does indeed look like the most interesting man in the world. I only saw Ricardo for a moment, same thing with Roland. I should have spoken to Ben but didn't get around to it, same thing with Dan S. By the time I got around to talking to Al and Rod, I was on old man time - like man I should be in bed but I'm only here now to sober up.
Of course I had to remind Richard that he was absolutely my best friend in high school which he made me immediately, of course you were about it. And I kept shaking my head with amazement at how much Jim looks like the President. I was in surprising violent agreement with everything Thomason said and implied about the overstressed nature of American high school and I think very deeply about the effect it has on my daughters.
I spend too much time outside of the company of such men and the unease I had five years ago in approaching all that was both symbolic and real about that fact melted away this time. I did not spend any time analyzing the fact of our brotherhood or the premises behind it. I simply decided to take it for granted, and so when Jim and Bill made a small point about our absence of color lines I told them they were full of shit. Such things needn't even be mentioned, but it was beautiful to be kissed anyway. I reminded me, immediately of what kind of man I am not but Bill is, and by that I mean radient of love enough to teach the arts to young people. I am way too hard for that. In fact, I told my wife that no matter what happens to me, no matter how rich I get (if that is to be my fate) I will never wear Tommy Bahama - it always reminds me of Weekend At Bernies. But Bill is a member of what I take to be the proper Hawaiian Yacht Club, and he's happy that Ellison will bring more boats to the islands.
Such are conversations, especially when you watch Layne and Tom and Duke and Jimmy, that seem to go on. And I know they are conversations I have missed, taking my own path as I have. I know I am in a serious way, outside of everything, as I have become accustomed to that point of view. That is why this is one of 8000 blog posts - I am talking to myself. Talking to myself sometimes makes me very sure of certain things and sometimes uncertain of very sure things. Finding my old brothers alleviates a great deal.
Five years ago I became a little bit more determined to get in closer with a few local brothers: Harold, Larry, Phil & Darryl. We had a couple bar nights and a couple smokers at my house. It was therapeutic. It was just magical to share to get loud and be ourselves in a way that life doesn't ordinarily ask us to be - perfectly honest and giving each other a chance to remind us how we can be. This year Don got us to breakfast for Phil's birthday and Ricky was here from Houston and Richard from Chicago. The magic picked right up.
And yet it is occasional. As I struggle with the death of a few men I have known and realize how matter of factly I have dealt with death in both the real and the abstract, I tend to forget that these are dramas others know as well - and for what touchstones of virtue we shared half a lifetime ago we can walk right into our brothers' lives and speak. Tonight it was easy. Ordinarily we don't go there.
It's on me to make this brotherhood more than occasional. I know that there are more surprises and cross-connections that can be discovered in six hours. But I could hear in Mike's tone something we all seem to understand. We experienced something that is more increasingly rare today. And there will come a day when we all face death in the realization that people will see it as something more or less expected. Our rarity, our uniqueness... I am reminded that we are uncommon with a necessary quality in common.
I don't know how many folks read this blog - I can only assume that more of my old classmates will than do ordinarily. I write this way less and less nowadays - I have always expected this arena to be of the continuing conversation. I already discount that happening here; unfair perhaps, but then so is missing brotherhood. There are so many conversations I started that I will complete in my own speculations until we all meet again and that may have to suffice. My brotherhood is not contingent, but it is occasional. And this was an occasion for all of us to remember what care can be (because it has been) undertaken for our best interests as young men. As always, that is how civilization is born and how it is borne.
Goodnight y'all. I'm always here - give me a shout.
78 - the greatest of great