On New Year’s Day, almost two months ago, I vowed to reconnect with 13 people, all of whom matter to me but whom I hadn’t seen since moving to the Tiny White Box. Each of these folks is important to me, and I don’t want to lose touch with them just because I’m four hours away.
If I’d vowed on January 1 to lose weight, I’d have posted my start weight, my target weight, then included regular updates on my progress and regress. Since my weight 60 days ago was probably 145, and my target weight is 143, columns devoted to the topic would be pretty boring.
Instead, here is a quick update on the people I’ve sat down with so far this year, and a promise of how I’m going to follow up with the others. Obviously, my connection with each is personal, but I’ll try to give enough background for you to see why these folks matter to me.
Two month in, I think I’ve made reasonably good effort toward this goal, and will try to post more often on this progress. Of course, one of my other failings as a man is laying out good intentions, then finding other roads leading to hell. Feel free to poke me if I fail.
Don Cox—Don is a renaissance man, a musician, a choirmaster and conductor, a retired professor of humanities and a southern gentleman. Raised in Mississippi, Don met me at a motorcycle rally to benefit Liberty House five years ago. As it happens, I recited an A.E. Housman poem apropos of, probably, nothing, and he was apparently fooled into thinking I am wiser than I am. Since then, Don and I have gotten together for lunch every six or eight weeks, and although it’s nearly impossible for me to go on pretending to be well read and urbane, Don has been gracious enough to keep silent when I refer to Henry James as William James’ dumbass kid brother or make mention of Tiglath Pileser the Third as Tigger III.
Don and I had a January lunch in Concord, where he told me about his conducting career, the joy in working with serious musicians and the challenge of not seeing his sons and grandchildren as often as he’d like. Although I don’t have a transcript, I expect I offered base amusement of some kind, likely connected to one of my half-baked notions. As always with Don, I was thankful that a man so gifted would spend time with me.
Virginia Theo-Steelman—Ginny is, like Don, WAY overqualified to be my friend. She is a therapist, a former Liberty House board member, a trustee of the UNH system and a wise tactician. She is also very, very funny. I met with Ginny and her husband, David, in January, where we discussed international travel, physical aches and pains, Durham history and the use of armored cavalry through the ages. I know a bit about Durham history, but other than that I tried to be a sponge.
Max Paul—Max is a man about whom I can’t say too much because we belong to a secret society which would drum me out if I revealed our handshake or burial ground. He’s also a Vietnam vet, a really funny man and someone who helped me through a lot of my journey after getting sober. We met at Chez Vachon, where I had Gorton, and Max was sensible.
Greg Kunkel—I’ve known Greg for three years, and have seen him go from being a shy shrinking butterfly to a community-theater actor, respected professional, marathoner and excellent chef. Also, he’s got a better beard than I ever will. Because of his frenetically busy life, we met for coffee in between Greg’s workouts and a date with his beautiful girlfriend.
Dan Bricker—If ever a man deserved his last name, it’s Dan Bricker. A therapist with the Vets Center—not mine, so don’t blame him for my failure to accept reality—Dan is a combat vet who pins demons like Dan Gable (and if you get that reference, you’re very old indeed). Dan is professional, measured, calm and patient. In short, he and I are opposites. Still, we love each other, and had a great dinner at the Tuckaway Tavern, a place I recommend highly despite not getting any advertising money from them.
Dianne Hathaway—Another person much wiser, better read and kinder than I, Dianne still seems to like the stuff I write. I suspect she’s hoping my potential will someday flower, and she can say “I knew him when.” Unfortunately, since 60 is pushing back on me, I’m afraid any potential may have rotted in the ground. Dianne also is a deeply spiritual person who practices patience and acceptance for every minute she spends with me.
Bob Hunt—Bob and I are both full-of-crap blowhards with hearts of if not gold at least copper. Before our coffee in Plymouth last month, the last two times we’d seen each other were at his daughter’s funeral in Bob’s ICU room, so it was healing to rib each other, talk some smack and give each other a hug.
So, two months into the year, it’s seven people reconnected with, six more to go.