Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Time Passes By, Things Change, Worlds Move

Carolyn and Jim
Around Christmas, 1972

So I had dinner last night with Jim. Thirty-some-odd years we haven't seen each other, and since I knew it was him, I could see the young man in the older one, but had I passed him on the street in other circumstances, I'd not have recognized him. The beard is gone, the glasses thinner, his hair, like mine, is shorter and gray. He's put on a few pounds, but he still had his sense of humor.

Like Paul Simon said in Still Crazy After All These Years, "we talked about some old times and we had ourselves some beer ..."

Both of us have lost track of most of the people we had in common, but we passed what we knew back and forth:

Kid Ford left for Alabama. Took my .22 rifle with him.

Michael and Connie split after their daughter, Shanti, was born. (After their big hippie wedding on the levee the summer we lived on the farm, Connie spent their honeymoon night in a tent sleeping not with Michael, but with John, who had planted some primo marijuana plants down the levee on the edge of some woods.)

Uncle Jay finished restoring the 40-foot sailboat in the backyard, had it towed to the river, and sailed it down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico, then all the way to Miami, keeping land in sight and to his port side all the way. He sold the boat, conned his way into a computer job with Boeing in Marietta, quit, went back to school, and eventually become a medical doctor in Oklahoma.

Nobody knew what happened to his first wife, Cheryl.

My sister-in-law Judy passed away from breast cancer a dozen years ago.

BB runs a medical caseworking company in Baton Rouge, married to Jackie, the girl whose parents were deeply into Silva Mind Control.

Jan moved to Florida and went to work as a shrimper. She died in the eighties.

Little Mike is an EMT in Atlanta and a blues singer.

Meg moved to Denver and is a school psychologist at a local college.

Jim has been married thrice, and Carolyn? Last time he saw her was sometime in the eighties. Ran into her in the library, of all places. No idea where she is now.

Digging through the old pictures, I couldn't find any we took while on the farm. We didn't own a camera then, and some of the faces on pictures other people must have taken, I can't remember at all. What was the lawyer's name, who got the bust on BB and Jan's thrown out? Chip Duchein? Yes, Charles Duchein III -- he'd been an attorney in the military, kick-ass-take-names, and he walked into court and bam! blew the prosecutor out of the water.

Chip did yoga. Had a house in ... Zachary? Baker? He later got into hang-gliding. Eventually, he had his office in a converted house on Napoleon Street -- the same house Dianne and I lived in right after we got married ...

Nobody from B.R. ever made it up to live on the property in Arkansas. We realized that wasn't going to happen. Nobody was putting any green energy into it except Dianne and me, and it didn't take a weatherman to see how that wind was gonna blow. After Jim and I drove up there and scoped out the place, I came home absolutely certain it wasn't going to fly, and we pulled out before it crashed. Cost us some good will amongst the families, but that's what we had to do.

I remember swimming naked in the Arkansas pond with the other hippies who came to visit; I remember having to unroll my sleeping bag on the hard ground. And being waked up in the middle of the night to move my old Volvo, which was blocking somebody in. Eating from a pot of stew that had been simmering, with stuff added to it every so often, for more than six months. The good old country boy who lived in the cabin with the stew, it turned out, had a Ph.D in English from Harvard ...

Jim went off to New Orleans, then Tennessee, eventually to Denver. Had two boys, has two granddaughters, enjoys his work in the engineering department of the big construction company for which he works. Has done a lot of research and backgrounding on the book he hasn't got around to writing yet. Back in the day, we exchanged a couple of short stories, but it was before I got serious about writing fiction.

The first piece of writing for which I was ever paid was due to Jim. He was a member of the SCA -- the folks who get dressed up as knights and ladies and lords and all. One Sunday morning, he invited me to go along. I took my camera, shot some pictures before they ran me off for not being in costume, and went home and wrote a short piece for the local paper. The article and a few of the pictures showed up in the Sunday Morning Advocate a few weeks later, and I earned fifty bucks for it. I had turned pro.

The SCA folks playing at sword-and-shield at the time didn't impress me. I was pretty sure I could take my bo (staff) and clean house with it, if they would allow Japanese samurai to attend their gatherings. I understand they have gotten much better.

Anyway, that's my nostalgia hit for this week. Stay tuned. Never know when I might start flashing the peace sign and saying, "Groovy. Faaar ooout, man ..."


Bobbe Edmonds said...

I love it when you write things like this. It shows me how to interest complete strangers to your readers, and wonder about them myself. Don't know if that's what you meant to do, but the feeling is still the same.

Steve Perry said...

Well, yeah, that's what storytelling is supposed to do. It's easier if they are real people and interesting, but if you make them up, you have to make them interesting.

Where is the story?

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Nag, nag, nag! This is you preparing me for my publisher's demands, right?

IT'S COMING, I SWEAR! Have I ever let you down before? Besides me not liking your ill-concieved, overly hoppy nitrous-infused beer, I mean.

Oh, and the whole younger-than-you-by-a-damn-millennium thing.

Steve Perry said...

I think your new picture says it all -- the results of all that Schludwiller Beer ...