Dave and I were friends in high school, both members of the AP Bubble for which Great Things were destined. We did Great Things like after school activities and watched movies between Great THings and then went on to Great Things with the thousands of other people in their respective high school analogs who were also destined for Great Things. We both settled out into the lives that were appropriate for us. He as an investment banker and I as a whatever I was until I became a whatever I am. Dave and I got together once every two years or so when he was visiting family. I was a 405 lb lump of man during the one time I visited him and he met me at the door while my arm was still partly covered in blood and my pants were ripped. Dave also took the most important picture of my life so far. The Golden Gate bridge is behind me and I have the tallow pallor of a copse. I was wearing a baby blue oxford, khaki shorts, and a hair cut appropriate for someone in a mental institution. That photo is in my Dropbox folder labeled BigMe.jpg and I try to keep it around as a reminder of where I was.
Dave, to me, hasn’t changed. He’s still smart, he’s still driven, he’s still slightly nervous to talk about his personal life. He still moves his forearms in and out when his arms are propped on a table and he is speaking. My opinion of him has risen over time as I overcame a neverrivalry. I wonder if he views me as equally unchanging.
We met for breakfast near Carnegie Hall and he talked about lady troubles while I talked about my recent unwinding of romance from my life. He asked me why nothing ever happened between a friend and I and then asked the question again about another friend. In both cases I simply smiled the smile I give that reveals nothing of how I feel. Sometimes it’s a smile that says “I’m happy” other times “I hate you” other times “I forget your name”. Were I to make resolutions, it’d be to stop using that smile except on my enemies. He asked what I thought of actuarial science and we compared places we liked to go running. This was the big kid version of the conversations we had before but now they had an added weight. Our time was more valuable. The fact that he and I met randomly in New York City, a place home to neither of us, meant something as did the fact that we were both wearing collared shirts and been in bars the night before. This summer, I will make a good faith effort to meet up with him.
On the train ride back, I chatted with my seatmate who was visiting the US to see her boyfriend for two days before she returned to Germany where her father, an Air Force officer, was stationed. She would see him next on July 4th. Her mother was in the armed forces too. A family of soldiers.
I got back to my house sixteen hours after I thought I would and my dad met me at the door.
Dad: How was where ever you were?
Dad: Good to hear.
My San Francisco host lives at a frenetic pace I could never stomach. The notion of operating regularly on less than 6 hours of sleep in any case short of a plague (done that) is simply beyond what I could reasonably suffer without endangering my safety and my performance in anything of importance. He, on the other hand, has embraced the start-up life cycle with a gusto that I only have when pursuing the most interesting of projects or when avoiding the most severe of consequences so maybe he puts his activities into one of these two camps. His apartment was palatial compared to my normal standards of housing and “apartment” was applied to it in the same way resort homes in the Poconos receive the title of “cottage” but he shared the place and its recently redone interior snubbed its nose at the tradition of San Francisco homes having a style that rhymed with “Ictorian”.
We started the day with a trip to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which hosted a mediocre view of the San Francisco Bay but a spectacular view of people willing to double park at any cost to secure a view. This included classic archetypes like:
- Guy abusing handicapped parking permit
- Person who just stops in a lane to slowly drop off people
- Motorcyclist who still finds a way to double park
- Foreigner looking at the lesser site of interest
- Exasperated local just wanted to take his god-damn dog for a walk
It was truly a show of American diversity. Dave and I had no interest in wallowing in this mishmash of personages so we skipped a construction barricade (yellow tape, if it had been a genuine fence or even a few cinder blocks I’d have been screwed) and walked to the observation post at the top of the area next to a bird observation post that looked like a pillbox whose smell indicated the birds had found it. My guess based on the crude inscriptions I could see from the outside is that “bird observation area” means the same on the West Coast as East Coast in that it’s an old Indian phrase meaning place of fellatio. On the way back to the car I experienced a slightly thrilling, slightly scary phenomenon: I couldn’t identify any of the flora or fauna beyond the genus level as I surveyed the grounds of the park. There were cedars, but probably not Eastern Red Cedars, and soft-needled pines but whose needle clusters went above and below five ruling out white pine. The weed was some sort of thistle and the bird some sort of woodpecker but both lacked the familiarity of their Eastern equivalents. If I ever do this again, I’m going to come better armed with a folder in my car simply labelled “dichotomous keys”.
Dave went to work and I dawdled with photos and his home network until guests started arriving for a grilling event he was holding that evening. I like to think that I have a well developed sense of when I’m being insulted and the novel combination of light drinking, an unfamiliar culture with its own collection of symbols and codewords, and a bit of defensiveness on my part being a stranger in a strange land led me to second guess eveything. Was the callback to something I’d said a way of repeating a line they thought clever or to point how pedestrian the observation was? Was the exploration of ostomy appliances genuine interest, polite interest, or way of getting me drone on and point out the superficially odious nature of the work? I think I’m being paranoid but I suppose it’s my turn for once.
There’s a complete lack of pictures in my travelogue for this day. Not to say that San Francisco isn’t generally photogenic or without touristy spots of note but reconnecting with a high school friend and resuming conversations not held for eight years seemed to wind back the clock including for my hobbies. Dave is still Dave and it’s good to hear that he still sounds like an asthmatic 10 year-old when he laughs.
I’ve been trying to get together with Dave Post, a high school chum, for some time as he’s only in town rarely when he invited me to a gathering being held by a mutual friend. The host’s boyfriend had his Wii and was playing DDR with a degree of interest to which he probably didn’t want to admit. Later, more people were present and each in turn failed at their first feeble attempts at DDR until someone proposed having everyone in charge of one direction and to use their hands. The simplest song went well and feeling cocky they upped it to a song that’d normally require having three feet. It sounded like a half dozen jackboots in a tumble dryer. The combination of Ivy League degrees and professional certifications failed where many 14-year olds have succeeded. Sadly, they gave up before I could get my camera.