Thursday, September 23, 2004
Friends (not the series)
I used to have a best friend. His name was Michael Morgan. I used to call him Michael "J" for some reason. I'm not sure why. His middle name didn't begin with a "J." Anyway, Michael was the kind of friend you could not see in weeks or months and then get together and just start talking as if you'd just seen him the day before.
I first met Michael in college. He was a photographer for the college newspaper and I was the arts and entertainment editor and humor columnist. Michael and I hit it off because we had similar senses of humor. The big difference was that he kept his under wraps and I waved mine under people's noses in the school paper every week.
After college, we stayed friends. Even when Michael picked up one day, drove to Reno and got a job at Harrahs working in slots, we stayed friends. It was actually pretty cool having a friend living in Reno working at a casino. It definitely gave me an excuse to take a trip to Reno every year and not feel guilty about it. Reno is one of the more surreal places in the country. Perhaps that's why I like it so much and Michael moved there. Though the place eventually got to him and all he could talk about was moving back to Seattle. Eventually he did, but not for long. For some reason he could never get a job in Seattle. So, he packed up a U-Haul and I helped him move back to Reno. That's where the photo above came from.
The best part about visiting Michael in Reno was our trips out on the desert to shoot produce and various items we'd pick up at the grocery store. We'd picked up the hobby from a guy Michael used to work with at Harrahs. We called him Saigon Joe because he'd been in the Vietnam war and liked to go out on the desert to pop off a few rounds every now and then. Michael had a very obsessive kind of nature and quickly latched on to the hobby. Soon he had several guns and soon even I bought one solely for the purpose of target shooting on the desert. Neither of us ever thought about hunting animals. I'm a Pisces for pete's sake. But there was something satisfying about shooting a bottle of French's Low-Cal dressing and watch it explode in glare of the desert sun. And coconuts are a real challenge until you tame them with a .357 Magnum at a sporting range.
Oh, we'd gamble a bit. At least I would. After working in a casino for years, Michael had lost any desire to drop coins into slot machines. And we'd see a few shoes and get liquored up a bit at Fitzgeralds. And we'd talk. Michael was a good listener. Over the years he'd listened patiently to my various relationship sagas. And I listened to him obsess about one of his co-workers that he'd had a brief affair with before she left him for his supervisor. And I listened to his talk about depression.
But once again, Michael decided that Reno was his main problem and Seattle was the place to be. So once again he moved back. And once again he couldn't find a job. He even tried the local casinos. Eventually he ended up at a job he'd had in college, working on the grounds at a golf course. And for some reason, without Reno and the desert, we didn't get together much. Finally, Michael just disappeared.
It taught me something about friends and especially best friends: like everything else in life, they are temporary. When you are in grade school, you think you will have your best friends for life. But life happens. You get a girlfriend, a new job, go away to college, get another new job. You make friends with the people in your classes. But you graduate. You make friends with the people you work with. But they get other jobs or you get other jobs. "Stay in touch, ok," you say. But in this age of e-mail and cell phones no one stays in touch. The big gap between old friends is not distance, but time. Sometimes too much has happened in our lives to effectively catch up on with old friends.
But the hardest part for me is that people drift out of my life and in many cases I don't know why. When you end a romantic relationship, there is more often than not closure of some kind. But with platonic friends, I've found there isn't any definite closure. Even when I attempt to reestablish contact with people I was close to in the past, it has always been temporary. Time is a river endlessly drifting forward and our memories are washed up on the banks.
So Michael J, Gary, Holly, Janelle, Nellie, Dave, Robert, Shan, Tim W, and Irene, if you are out there, Tim says hi and hopes life is treating you well!