"Friendships are funny. You think they will last forever, but life intrudes. Trajectories that seem to coincide for a time, skew unexpectedly.
As I age, I've come to accept that phenomena a little more gracefully, but as a child, it's hard to understand what was seemingly set in stone... wasn't."
These two "Daily Dose" entries, #'s 13 and 14, concern a 40 year cycle of friendship with Steve Krause, my childhood best friend. If you haven't read #13, the rest of this won't make much sense. Just go to the subheading in the right column labeled "The Daily Dose". Number 13 will be easy to find.
When the calendar flipped to the year 2008, I was in rough shape. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I had uncharacteristically become aimless, delivered again by the Jobian body and mind roundhouse, cold-cock punch of total loss.
Self motivated resurrections are always difficult, and this one in particular would be the hardest to ever pull off. Frankly, there was a great question in my mind whether I had enough gas in the tank to even bother. Pulling the plug on existence was starting to make a whole lot of sense.
To yank yourself from that brink is not easy work, and after three years of it, I may have succeeded in snatching a victory from the jaws of despair, but it felt a little like a Pyrrhic one to me.
There just wasn't much left for a third act. I was running on fumes, with no direction, no concept, and no action plan. Just being alive was all that I could sustain. I was grateful for that, and that kind of pullback does result in some very profound epiphanies. I had new spiritual knowledge, but I had no where to direct it.
And then I got a call in the middle of May, and for me. it was a lifeline.
Stacey Waterman, a Central New York agent,promoter, and impresario of note, called and asked if I'd like to do an outdoor Shuffling Hungarians show, ostensibly to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Dave Frisina's radio programme "Soundcheck". Being able to emerge and tell someone how much I love him and what he stood for for thirty years was just too good of an opportunity to pass up.
She offered enough of a retainer for me to drop my glamorous career of professional toilet cleaner in New Orleans to relocate temporarily to Central New York, put the show together, and give Dave the celebration that he truly deserved. Again, at this stage of life, showing gratitude publicly and openly was part of my new rule book.
So I made the appropriate phone calls to those who would still take them, packed up the car, and drove to the place from whence I came, Skaneateles, New York. "Little Georgie" was going to deliver me from the ash heap. He did it before, and now he was beckoning with the promise to do it again.
It didn't really work out that way, but that's a blog for another day. I do have to write 365 of them, so blowing my wad on the 14th isn't exactly advisable. Y'all are just going to have to wait for that one.
Suffice to say, I drove up from New Orleans, my car packed with the bare minimum of computer, clothes, a $300 electric piano, and my as always intrepid life's travelling podners Huckleberry and Doodle, with a sense of purpose and a sense of direction: two things that were sorely needed, and were provided by Stacy Waterman, bless her heart. Ask and ye shall receive. The universe spoke, and I wasn't in a position not to listen.
I aimed straight for home in more ways then one.
I had scored a little railroad apartment from my friends Bob and Pam Wayne in the village limits on State Street, right across from The Baptist Church, separated by the access driveway to the Municipal parking lot. Mom's and Pops provided an air mattress and some towels. It was enough to get started rehearsing the band in Syracuse and designing the show with the 12th and 13th official members of the Hungarians, Timmy and Stevie Schad: But it was a pretty spartan, monastic existence, and environment is kind of important to me. I was on the look out to snag some cheap furniture.
My sister Becky was visiting from Falmouth, Massachusettes for the Fourth Of July weekend, and she came knocking on my door to tell me there was a pretty rocking garage sale going on about half a block to the North on State Street, so I high tailed it up there to see what I could see.
Sure enough, they had what I was looking for: Specifically a bedroom set so I could sleep on a real bed, and stop pulling clothes out of boxes and duffel bags. As I negotiated a price on the set with the lady of the house, a red sports car pulled up.
And out of that car emerged a typical sight in Skaneateles I guess. But it was a-typical to me. Two men poured themselves out of the car, one older than the other; but both were... beautiful. The elder tall and fit, adorned in tennis togs and a thick mane of white hair; The younger, approximately my age, graying but still easy on the eyes. They were confidently strolling up the driveway, and as I tried to unsuccessfully haggle with the seller, the seller's husband showed up to greet their visitors.
It took awhile for the folks to introduce me, but finally one was offered.
"George, these are our friends, Al and Steve Krause"
Steve Krause? I hadn't seen him, my very best buddy from my early youth,in over thirty six years. All that good stuff and all those happy memories of childhood not only flooded my consciousness, they flat out deluged me... overwhelmed me. I was very much tuned into the signs that the Universe was offering, and this was a big one.
I automatically threw my arms around him, bear hugged him with my eyes leaking tears of joy. I gushed openly about how thrilled I was to see him.
His back stiffened.
I got the message pretty quickly. Some folks just don't like their space invaded, and clearly I had done that. It had been over thirty years, and just because I was thrilled to see him, didn't mean I had to automatically assume he felt the same way.
I immediately backed off, made arrangements to pick up the bedroom set the next day, shook Al and Steve's hand, and headed back to my barren apartment.
When I arrived the next day to pick up the furniture, I got pulled conspiratorially aside by the women who sold me the stuff.
"You know, you really freaked Steve out yesterday"
I started to explain to her that I was aware of my social faux pas of blathering all over him but she stopped me.
"No... it wasn't that at all. You mean you don't know?"
"Know what?", I asked, asking myself the internal question of "Why am I always the last one to know anything?"
"Steve and my husband are avid cyclists, and have ridden together for years. He was in an accident... hit by a truck, and suffered severe head trauma. He's had a very hard time adjusting to the fact that not only is he struggling with diminished mental capacity, he's also very well aware of it.... it's been very hard on him and his family."
This was awful news, but I still couldn't put together why my being glad to see him would freak him out, and stated as such.
"You are George, right? George Rossi?"
I nodded "yes"
"The George Rossi that was hit by a car?"
Again, the nod of assent. I still didn't know where she was going with this.
"After you left yesterday, Steve broke down and told us the story of how you got hit by a car... and that for thirty years, that memory has haunted him. He has never forgiven himself for letting go of you in the street... and that the sight of your mangled head never failed in provided a recurring nightmare"
And then, she delivered the simultaneous kick to the solar plexus and the cranium combined.
"He believes his accident was Karmic Justice for that night.... and that seeing you, and seeing how feeling how overjoyed you were to see him, was an omen: Validation for thinking that his accident was a debt owed, and paid.... to you".
Time for a break in the action, folks. I often tell friends that the key to understanding others isn't just making the attempt to view events from their perspective. You not only have to take the trouble to see things from inside their shoes: you have to know enough about them to THINK like them too... really see things as they perceive them, not just from their angle of perception. Stepping inside someone Else's shoes and making the critical mistake of thinking like yourself gets you nowhere.
So if I really sat and thought about what Steve as a child went through that night 40 years or so ago... watching his best friend get slammed by a car, seeing me flying in the air and crashing to the ground... frantically trying to get help, watching me bleed out lying in a pool of thick black red goo, witnessing my brains throbbing. Try to think about what that must have been for an 11 year old kid, and to feel ultimately responsible for it.
I assure you, I never did. I was out of it at the onset, but never in thirty years did I ever think that all those kids, but especially Steve, might have suffered some kind of post traumatic stress disorder by bearing witness to an accident soaked in very real carnage.
And the very sad part of all of this, is that maybe some of that damage could have been mitigated with a simple talk. A simple "it wasn't your fault" or a simple "I love you". Whole trajectories could have been changed.
But that isn't how it played out. I thought that when I returned to school after the accident that my friends sort of shunned me because I was stupid... and hideously ugly. It never occurred to me that they might have been feeling guilty. I never blamed them, but they thought that maybe I did. At least Steve did
This tale as told by a stranger running a garage sale, was for me a lot to process. As I drove away like Jethro Clampett with a truckload of bedroom furniture, one thought kept drilling into me: What if I wasn't brought here to fix me? What if The Universe brought me here to fix something, or someone else?
You gotta read the signs peep-a-roos. They are not what they always may seem at first glance. You have to see the unseen connective tissue between points and events on the time continuum.
But there is one thing I can state with absolute certainty. When The Universe knocks on your door, you had better open it. And get your ass into position to receive the gift.
And if you recognize just what it is that is actually being provided for you by that knock... an opportunity that may be hard to see at first, but is still there: you better for fuck's sake take advantage of that opportunity, because ones of this nature come few and far between.
If you don't act on that, you are a putz to end all putzery. Comprende, Amigos?
Stay tuned for the 15th installment of "The Daily Dose", and the third part of this trilogy, a tribute to my friend, Steve Krause.
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THANK YOU KINDLY,
COLONEL BEAUREGARD "IRON THIGHS" JEFFERSON, A.K.A. "THE MANAGEMENT"