It’s 12:24 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2006.
I’m in my unfinished basement drinking my last beer, a Sam Adams’ Brown Ale, while I add more tunes to my newly acquired iPod. It’s not just my last beer of the night, now morning; it’s my last beer for a while. I haven’t signed up yet, but I plan to run my first half-marathon in Denver this October. The training is going good, but I need to drop a few pounds. So no more drinks. This shit is serious to me. I don’t want to half-ass it. I could run the race tomorrow, but I want to be prepared.
I’ve been drinking too much lately. I am reacting to the place I find myself in life. Sometimes when I’m feeling low I lament the fact that I don’t have any friends. But recently I’ve revised that assessment. I know that I have friends all over the place and many very, very good friends. I know interesting people and I am happy to call them friends.
No, I’ve changed my thoughts on that one. What I don’t have, what I find myself lacking is any buddies. I don’t have any buds. Not anymore. It wasn’t always this way. I used to have people who I could call or who would call me. We’d go out or stay in. We’d hang out. Up for anything.
I was reminded of this not that long ago when I went to Paul Gaulke’s wedding. Paul was the best man at my wedding. We met each other at the North Hennepin Community College student newspaper offices. We became fast friends. We hung out virtually every Saturday for years. We had our little run. Rainman would have been proud of our nearly ritualistic adherence to our path. We hit the same places in the same order. And I remember how it all began.
One day I was home from college and I went out with some friends. I was a little under the weather, but we hung out and I had a few beers. I’ll remember walking into the backdoor of my parents’ home like it was yesterday. I pulled on the sleeves of my jacket to discover that my skin was covered in sores. I have psoriasis, but it was never like this. My psoriasis tends to locate itself on certain spots … my shins, elbows, knees, my scalp. But on this night a virus carried this incurable disease all over my body like the plague. I was covered. It wasn’t the same kind of dry skin splotches; it was like a rash … everywhere. Red breakouts on my arms, chest, legs.
I went to see a dermatologist, presumably a person who had experience dealing with skin problems. He said, “Oh my,” a dozen times while examining me. He wanted to schedule a batch of appointments for some serious intervention, but I was an out-of-town college student. I couldn’t make a 10 o’clock appointment next Tuesday. He prescribed some medicine, shaking his head. “You’re fucked.” That’s the impression I got.
Meanwhile, Paul was dealing with his own issues; something to do with his financial aid at the University of Minnesota. I accompanied him on campus. We visited the aid office and Paul didn’t hear what he wanted to hear. His money wasn’t coming. “You’re fucked,” they said.
It’s early on a Saturday morning. What is there to do for two depressed boys? How about B.J.’s? A strip club? I can’t. I’ve never … What happens in there anyways? Apparently, Paul knew. His brothers had brought him in there before. I was a little weirded out. There were these tables and the lovely ladies would dance upon them. Paul and I got a table away from those tables. I didn’t want to sit up there. Too embarrassing.
It was early on a Saturday afternoon. We were still depressed, but there was hope on the horizon wearing a g-string. We ordered a pitcher. Then another. Suddenly, I wasn’t all that depressed anymore, nor did I find myself all that embarrassed. Afterall, they are working for a living up there, the least we could do was be polite and watch the show.
I think we had four pitchers. Maybe we should start thinking about lunch?
From there our Saturday’s grew. We hit certain CD shops and seedy clubs. One time we were walking across town and heard Prince rehearsing at First Avenue. The record shop guys confirmed that Prince was planning an unannounced concert that night. Paul and I got in line early. Paid the cover of $4 and waited four hours for Prince to take the stage. When he came out, he said, “Welcome to our final dress rehearsal.” Prince was taking Sheila E. and Cat to Europe for the first leg of the ‘Sign of the Times’ tour.
We were 30 feet away watching Prince in a bar.
My skin reaction was due to a virus brought on by strep throat. It went away in 48 hours. I assume Paul got his financial aid situation squared away; he drives a BMW now as VP of Marketing for a number of television stations.
Well, Paul got married in Virginia to a lovely woman named Emily a couple months ago. He and I have seen each other sparingly since we both moved away from Minneapolis in 1989 at Christmas. And aside from a few short runs with a couple of guys here in the Springs while they were yet unmarried, Paul was pretty much my last bud. I had forgotten that. You know how people move on and get on with their lives.
I went to the bachelor’s party and I could tell Paul was glad to see me. I was glad to see him. We got along like no time had passed. Paul was pretty much the same guy I knew back home. You know, except for the BMW. And yes, we did end up at a strip club. Only to ask directions. It’s so easy to get lost in a new town.
A day later it’s time to go to Paul’s wedding. And I couldn’t help but think back to my wedding day. Paul and I are standing outside of the hotel all duded up. My family is all there … mom, Joyce, dad … everyone. Mark takes a group in his rented van to the church. Dave and Jon go into the parking garage to get their car. Paul and I wait for a ride.
We’re waiting and waiting for Jon and Dave to arrive. Finally, here they come. We see Dave’s car pulling out of the garage, but he’s not pulling into the hotel driveway. He’s leaving! Paul lights out after them in his tuxedo, running as fast as his feet could take him, but best man, Paul, was no match for a rental car. It drives off away and we are stuck.
I turn around and find a woman dropping her mom off to work at the hotel and I ask her for a ride. “My ride just left without me and my wedding is starting in 30 minutes. Could you please give us a ride?”
If I remember correctly, the car was a Delta 88 and Sylvia and LaToya were in the front seat with Paul and I in the back. Where would I be today without that fateful hitch hike ride to get hitched?
So Paul and Emily are going non-traditional with their ceremony. They are getting married in downtown Richmond, which wasn’t the non-traditional part. They got married in a restaurant. Paul gave me directions. I think in the entire time that I’ve known Paul, I never drove. He always drove. For a guy who prides himself on being a master of the details, he got my directions slightly wrong. He gave me the right street, but the wrong exit number. So I pull off the highway on the wrong exit. I had a 50-50 shot at it and I knew immediately I took the wrong exit.
I was in the right lane turning left waiting for the light to change, when I rolled down my window and asked the woman next to me how to get to 3rd Street. She tells me to follow her and I do … through the streets of downtown Richmond this way and that … when we get to 3rd Street, she blinks her lights and taps the horn. I turn right a couple blocks from the restaurant. Another wedding and another young black woman showing me the way.
Paul and Emily wrote their own vows. They both did a great job. I was pleased to find out that the qualities that Emily values in Paul were the same qualities that I always liked back home in Minneapolis. Paul is fun and is up for anything.
I’m glad that he is still like that. Most people aren’t. They have responsibilities, prior engagements. Maybe they never were fun. I used to be.
Maybe I still am. Or still could be.
I might have found a new bud.
I was sitting at this desk loading up songs on my iPod and Sam was sitting in front of the TV playing video games. We can see each other between the two-by-fours under the stairs in our unfinished basement. Sam was sitting on a footstool. We had just been going over the plans for his seventh birthday party … where to go, who to invite, what presents he wants. Sam was playing a new game that has captured his imagination. I was loading up my Cities 97 Samplers.
Sam says, “Hey Dad, you’re my best friend.”
“Thanks Buddy, What’s makes you say that?”
He says, “I like my friends, but I don’t like-like them.”
“And I love you.”
“Thanks Sammy. I love you too.”