I haven't updated in a bit because not much has happened lately. The
weather has been pretty good. My gear got dried out and basically things
have been pretty pleasant. I am in Ohio now, maybe about a week or so
until I hit Indiana. Ohio is a nice looking country. I have been making
good miles with good weather. My feet have been bothering me, I think I
will stop for a few days when I find a spot I like. Generally just
enjoying the scenery and it's been good day to day.
Today something new did happen. I woke up a little early and it just
struck me to do a search for my old friend Dan since I was up early
anyway. We had lost contact many years ago after I joined the Army and
periodically I look for him. I only ever found one track on him before
and I couldn't find anything else to follow up with him from it.
A web page must have been been newly indexed or made newly available
online. I found his grandmothers obituary from 1998 and unfortunately
that let me know that he had died before her. I figured that that had
been a possibility since I had such a hard time finding anything on him
but hoped otherwise.
The obituary gave me a piece of information that I was able to use to
find a couple of other pieces of information and track his brother down.
Needless to say I started out later than usual but that was
unimportant. I emailed him to find out more information and when I
stopped tonight I had a response back from him.
The news was not particularly pleasant but not unexpected. He mixed with
different groups and was very much into political and social causes. He
was always like that. In about the 7th grade he was writing in to the
editorial/opinion page of the newspaper on the Iran-Contra affair and
getting published on it. Probably about the only 7th grader who paid
attention to it let alone writing opinions on it. Unfortunately later on
after we lost touch he also got mixed up with drugs and in the end died
of an overdose from a particularly strong/lethal dose of heroin.
He was in the process of turning his life around and was in culinary
school in Portland OR when it happened. His brother said he was happy
again and excited about the direction his life was going. From
everything I have heard about heroin it is particularly difficult to
break away from and in the end he wasn't able to get away from it. From
past experience in law enforcement seeing people addicted to drugs I saw
some people at their worst moments or paying for their moments because
of drugs. So I can imagine what he went through. He was able to turn the
corner to get away from drugs just not turn away quite enough before it
was to late.
For me though I just remember all the good times that we had and there
were many. My girlfriend had said she had never seen me laugh so hard as
when I was telling her stories about things we had done together. I
could hardly stop laughing to finish the stories. He was one of the
smartest people I have ever known, clever and funny as I have met. In
the end I am glad he had something he was passionate about and was
making him happy. There was a movie called the "Sand Lot" about
childhood friends that played baseball together. At the end of the movie
the narrator makes a comment about how you hardly ever make friends as
good as those that you do when you are growing up. There is some truth
to that and he was a good friend as any kid had ever had growing up.
I will leave off with how we became friends and how I will remember him.
He would have found it funny and well so do I.
It was in the spring nearing summer vacation when we were in the 5th
grade. It was one of those fine spring days when you want nothing more
than to be outside and be free. Much like I am at the moment, Hah. Which
only makes this more fitting.
Our assignment was to write poetry with a partner for a couple of hours
on this before mentioned fine spring day. In hind sight the teacher
clearly wanted to be elsewhere as well. We were to read our work to our
partners and help each with to come up with some magical piece of prose.
Partnering up two 5th grade boys to work on poetry together quickly
degenerated into a game of who can insult the other one best using a
poem. The words flowed and with the sharpened intellect of 5th grade
boys and rappers from all over we rhymed such beauties as dickhead and
fart knocker. Anything with fart in it was of course an instant classic.
I don't remember the words to the poem he last got me with but it was
magnificent and I was stunned by it's horrible beauty. It was a
challenge that had to be topped at any cost. My only response to his
game winner was to take on a single horrific strike of "shock and awe." I
had to come up with a bruiser, let him read it and then actually turn
it in to the teacher. Nothing else would do, nothing else would win. And
so I give you:
"Dan The Man"
There once was a man named Dan
He met a man that owned a van
He was gay
They got married in May
I turned that poem of 5th grade cleverness in to the teacher. Walked
right up to her after Dan told me there was no way I would turn it in. I
really had to at that point, he had made a game winning scorcher and
basically dared me on turning mine in. There was no turning back so I
walked up to the teachers desk and handed it to her. I walked back to
our desks turned facing each other and seeing the look of disbelief on
his face I knew I was triumphant, I could not be beat. I was in fact the
king of the world. That is until the teacher read my poem probably 2-3
times while I was on my back to sit down.
I didn't get to sit down though, I was called right back up to her desk.
I was berated pretty good for turning it in told I had better come up
with something appropriate and as punishment made to go outside and
clean out the chalk board erasers. Which was great since I thought that
was pretty fun and got to go outside and whack erasers against a wall. I
think boys are entertained much differently and easier than girls.
After my "punishment" I was finally able to return and claim my hard one
victory. Of course he laughed at me for getting in trouble but in the
end we had just laid the foundation for a friendship. As Dan the
culinary student would know you just add equal mixes of shared
experience, insults and fart jokes to start off a great friendship when
your 11. If it were only always so easy, you never have friends as good
as those as you do when your a kid.
I think I will appreciate this trip all the more now. Even if I now know
what happened to an old friend and it wasn't good. I will always
remember him when we were having great times together.