So my old friend Jim Dinda came up from LA with his family this past weekend. While my lack of enthusiasm for social interaction is well known, I have to say it was one of the best visits I've had in a while. It gave me serious pause to think about...stuff. I will dispense that advice...now. And again we link
only this time for the line, "Work hard to bridge gap in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you are going to need the people who knew you when you were young."
Like I, Jim has been living in California since shortly after high school. We grew up together, in the same neighborhood, 3,000 miles away, a little Connecticut suburb called Berlin (but not pronounced like German city; doing so will only earn you scorn from its residents). Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with Berlin, light (to the point of non-existence) on the former, heavy on the latter. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I blamed that town for all my problems. Of course it wasn't responsible for all my problems, and when I made it to San Francisco, I found that out, the hard and fast way.
Back before "the crash," around '92 or so, I had been in SF for a few months, working in a print shop and already starting to fall apart, an on again/off again unfaithful girlfriend, drinking too much, cracking from the pressure. Conversely, Jim was finishing up his degree at Cal, or had already received it, living in the Lower Haight. I think my mother told me he was living out here. Or maybe his mom told him. Anyway, one of us called the other and we made plans to meet for a drink.
You don't get too many points of clear delineation like this, moments so neatly etched in memory's timeline, where you can collect and add up the missed chances that led to your ruin. You never get to know that at the time though, do you?
Once we'd hit high school, Jim and I weren't as good of friends as we'd been at 10, playing baseball in the wide open fields behind Metacomet, with Tab and Mike and Tommy, because high school starts the separation process. Jim had always been smart. Me? More like...misguided, hardheaded, and angry.
The night we met for a drink in the Lower Haight, I complained non-stop, bitched and moaned more than usual, and I did it without any humor. Usually, if I'm subjecting someone to my normal routine, it's infused with wit and clever turns of phrase. Not this night. Jim probably hadn't seen me in four, five years, and here he'd just wanted to meet for a drink, and I was a mess. I was falling apart. Within a couple years, I'd be heavily into drugs, unemployed, and losing everything. I don't think I saw him again before he moved to LA. I know I called him to tell him I was doing better, and that he said that was good to hear, but I don't think we ever got together in SF.
When I reminded Jim of this story this past weekend, he had no recollection of it.
Which isn't surprising, since for him it was probably just one of many nights where you meet a friend for a beer and it kinda sucks. But for me, it was a definitive rung on that steep ladder down, so it stuck, another opportunity I had to step off that I didn't take.
Jim is engaged to a yoga instructor named Mollie (who Holden flirted with unmercifully, and who as a fan of Breaking Bad obviously has impeccable taste in art), who I'd actually met with Jim at our 20th High School Reunion a couple years ago. There was a time when I would've considered my attendance at such an event laughable. But that was a fun night, getting to see everyone I went to school with, even the people I hadn't known or particularly liked back then. Like the town itself, I'd come to realize that the problem hadn't been with everyone else, but rather with me.
And now we're all grown-ups, having dinner parties and vacationing with the family, being good role models to the younger generation and buying houses with secure positions in society. Friends like Jim have been there all along. I'm just glad they waited long enough for me to get here too.