Friends

…and I don’t mean the TV show and I don’t mean Quakers.

A blogger I follow recently referred to me as a friend (and I agree). That got me to thinking. That, and a visit out of the blue last night.

My daughter has “Internet friends” all over the world; people they have never met in the flesh, but many they have met face-to-face via FaceTime, so we know they are who they say they are (as much as we know that about anybody, but that’s another story).

That reality had always been foreign to me until I started blogging. Now I have people all over the country whom I would call friends, or at least friendly acquaintances, though we have never been face-to-face even on FaceTime.

My best friend R from my ten years in California appeared out of the blue last night. I got a FaceTime request from an unknown number. I declined it and said “Who are you?” He was an hour and a half away and passing through. We had a great walk and talk in the park a few blocks from my house. We stayed several feet apart. He got back in the RV and disappeared. I walked home for dinner.

Three of us (R and F and I) used to get in hot water together regularly in the Bay Area. I mean that literally. We would go to a hot tub place, sit in the tub together and talk, then continue the talk over dinner. (Truth be told, I’m more of a sauna guy, but hey, this was California;) We asked each other the kinds of questions that made us think and feel and know each other and ourselves more deeply than usual.

R and I once drove 50 miles to a jazz concert. We argued economics (or discussed passionately) for most of the drive and part of dinner. We heard and saw a great concert, then continued the discussion on the drive home and sitting parked in front of my house for too long. As I walked into the house I realized I had just learned something about love. I had spent my formative years (18 to 30) in a close-knit community, where we agreed on most things and our disagreements were, in the grand scheme of things, pretty small. Now I was having a disagreement that was pretty big; but I realized that I could disagree about an idea and love the person speaking it.

This is a friend to whom, when I am gone, I think I may be invisible. We have had no contact in over ten years. But when we are together, he is here 100%. He is fully present – so I don’t begrudge him the fact that he is fully present somewhere else with someone else when I am 2000 miles away.

Those years from 18-30 were present in our talk. The park contains a memorial to an old friend. We had a community of interlocking organizations and friendships. (See previous post and reference to the New Nation – building a new society in the shell of the old.) I initially knew Orly through an organization I worked for, People’s Office. We were a community center providing some of the services that the internet provides now. If you needed someone to fix your plumbing, Orly was the guy, and we had his number at our fingertips. Need to get bailed out of jail? Find out what’s happening in town tonight? Need to get your car fixed at the Co-op Garage? Having a bad acid trip? We could help you. If you had a problem we hadn’t run across before, we’d find a way to help you. Several organizations got their start that way.

Later Orly apprenticed to the electrician who wired the co-op when we got a new building. That electrician happened to have a PhD, but he’d put himself through school as an electrician and liked it. It was only years later that he worked as a psychotherapist, using that degree. Working at the neighborhood grocery co-op, I knew pretty much everybody (and what they ate), and they knew me. S liked to work Sunday mornings so she could see who came in together to pick up bagels and the New York Times. She thus knew the neighborhood gossip first. It was that kind of town.

Moving back after ten years in California, my re-introduction to the community was Orly’s funeral. He died during a heat wave just after I moved back. We had a canoe funeral procession down the river. His flower-filled canoe was towed between two others. We rounded the bend out of the river and into the lake, pulled up on shore at the park, and had a big potluck. It seems that everyone I knew was there. I was home. Orly and the canoe are memorialized on a plaque on a park bench right where the river flows into the lake (where we took the walk back at the beginning of this post). That park is also home to the Marquette Waterfront Festival, with which we welcome each summer (the weekend that school gets out).

So there are that kind of friends, too. Those whose lives weave in and out of our own for years. Those we may never know well, but who make our lives richer anyway. Those we have a deep connection with somewhere along the way, but not forever, but they are still part of that fabric. Then there are friends like the half-fast cycling club, folks I’ve ridden with for 10-45 years. Sometimes a bike ride is the best place to talk.

A song from the Women’s Movement of the 1970s. I couldn’t find a recording by the writer, Ginni Clemmens (without buying the whole album). She was a Chicago folksinger in the 60s and a stalwart of women’s music in the 70s. She died in 2003 on Maui.

You may have noticed that I refer to living people only by an initial and dead people by name. I guess dead people can’t defend themselves and living people may not want to be identified here, so I don’t name them without consent, and I don’t tend to contact them to ask for consent.

A story for another time

While writing a letter to Curtis I went back and looked at earlier stuff I’d written to or about him. I came across one of the times I’d avoided an aside by saying, “that’s a story for another time“. It is most definitely another time, so here is one of those stories.

I was visiting in L.A., a place I had tried to live briefly while I pretended to be a college student. I quickly learned that I was cut out for neither L.A. nor college. I will admit to enjoying college 20 years later.

I was staying at David‘s house and I went for a walk in Griffith Park, just down the street from the former campus of Immaculate Heart College, where I had tried to be a student and which was definitely not my alma mater (“nourishing mother” in Latin).

I sat quietly in the woods. I heard a slight rustling and looked up. A deer was staring at me. I said, “We don’t belong here.” The deer seemed to agree and walked away. I left L.A. the next morning, hitchhiking to Yosemite National Park.

I found myself stuck in Fresno; no rides for hours. Fresno’s city motto is “The Agribusiness Capital of the World”, or at least it was then, and it was emblazoned on the side of all city vehicles. I misread it as “The Armpit of the World.” Darkness was falling and I found a cheap motel on the edge of town. The TV news warned of an approaching storm. I hoped to beat it to Yosemite. April in Los Angeles is not the same as April in Yosemite. I had my tent and a warm sleeping bag but I lacked a few other essentials.

I made it to Yosemite Valley the next day under overcast skies. I walked through the valley and out to the edge of the campground. I pitched my tent far from anyone else; not that that was hard, as there were few people even in the valley – a valley that is known for its ethereal beauty and its summertime air pollution.

I found a picnic table and dragged it to a tree. I stood on the table, tossed a rope over the highest branch I could reach, and tied it off. I dragged the table to another tree and did the same with the other end of the rope. I hung my food from the midpoint of the rope and dragged the table far away.

While I had pitched my tent far from any one, I didn’t pitch it far from any thing. I awoke in the middle of the night with an eerie feeling. I raised my hand in front of my face and felt nylon. I crawled out and found that the tent had collapsed. There was a heavy, wet, spring snow falling and the bough above me had sagged enough to drop its load of snow on the tent all at once; a weight the tent couldn’t handle. I cleared away snow and went back to sleep. I had to do the same again later in the night.

I awoke to snuffling sounds near my head. There being no light, I saw no shadows. I just heard snuffling. The snuffler slowly made its way around the tent and left. I awoke in the morning to a winter wonderland. Lacking mittens, I used a pair of wool socks. Looking forward to pancakes with maple syrup, I went over to my food and found the bag on the ground. Claw holes in the plastic bottle of oil had caused all of the oil the bear didn’t drink to leak out into the snow; the same was true of the maple syrup (though, truth be told, I didn’t see much syrup in the snow). I had nothing left except a shredded nylon stuffsack and various plastic containers with clawed holes in them. I looked back up to my rope and concluded it was a very large or very talented bear. I was also hungry.

Yosemite Valley contains a town of sorts. I thought I could find food there so started walking. I came across another camper who called out to me. I told him my story and he shared his bacon bar with me for breakfast. I continued into”town” and did some grocery shopping. I would have food for the weekend and the bear did not drink my stove fuel.

In the middle of the afternoon I was reading in my tent. I heard The Grateful Dead coming through the woods. I opened the tent flap and my breakfast benefactor was trudging through three feet of new wet snow. He had a wineskin filled with a beverage from his home in Sonoma County and some dried herbs from the county to the north, as well as a boombox with Grateful Dead cassettes. The afternoon passed quickly.

Sunday morning I decided it was time to end my winter mountain adventure. I packed up and walked into town and chatted up a few people. I found room in a car headed back to LA and got a ride all the way home.

Home again, home again, jiggity jog

This is it. There is no land left before us. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s back to work we go. I had lots of jokes to put in yesterday ( Stuff like, “Ahoy Captain! Ocean ho! Water sighted off the starboard bow!) but was in a hurry. I smelled the ocean before I saw it.

We had a great cruise Saturday night. We were on a whale-watching boat but didn’t see any whales. We did get out onto open water and got a little wet from both rain and spray.

The margaritas were good and it was a nice way to say goodbye to folks I’ll probably never see again; still a little hard to fathom after 9 weeks together.

The finish line. Greg, Mal, and Shala in a brewpub overlooking Gloucester harbor.

Looking at Sunday’s post at home on the computer, I can see it’s hard to tell what I’m holding in the photo. It is a map of our route with pins placed for each stopover.81CBC3CB-A25E-47EB-B247-DAA6D71CB80E

A replica of my first car, spotted in Gloucester Saturday. The last route arrow. If you see one of these in your travels, you’ll know I’ve been there.

Boston from the air. I didn’t know there were so many islands. Sitting at an emergency exit window – legroom galore!

My first stop in Madison was to be for some lunch but they were too busy so we went for ice cream first, then I had lunch; then a chocolate truffle from Gail Ambrosius. Now it is time to unpack and clean everything. The bike won’t get clean for a few days. It is coming home separately and won’t be here until Thursday. I did a quick cleanup after Saturday’s ride but the rain was pretty messy.

And yes, Ed, I rode EFI.

The Door County Century is in three weeks. Anybody want to join me?