Monday, May 23, 2011

Once Upon A Time

He's short. I'm tall.
Thirty years ago, we met
at law school in Minnesota,
became fast friends somehow.

A typical day was spent mainlining
coffee and news for breakfast,
lunch at the bar with chili dogs
and a bump, long hours in the library,
then Grain Belt beers until we were
kicked out of The Uptown Bar.

It was always a joy to walk home with him,
the ice air deep snow January filling our heads,
clear stars outshining the city,
hands deep in pockets, waiting
for the lights to change
even when no traffic threatened.
We spun the world each night
with Kant and Camus sitting with us.
They’d tag along home behind us
kicking at our heels like little kids.
They’d join us for a nightcap
bickering over nothingness and meaning.

In the spring, sometimes, Nixon and
Carter would stop by for margaritas.
Kissinger always wanted to sit with us.
“Too bad there’s only room for four in this booth,”
Doug would say. In the next booth, Camus
would snicker. Crave such brilliance
the next dull day in civil procedure class.
This went on
until it didn’t.

Every spring
there was a fishing opener party
in Wisconsin, where the boys of law
went to fish, mostly for beer.
Two cases of Budweiser long necks
and a pint per head was the standard
estimate at the Liquor Barn on Hwy. 7. Once
one of the boys drank his way to a grand mal seizure
at the go-cart track. Once I woke up
sleeping in a still warm fireplace.
Once upon a time was told ever after.

When I lived with my fiancée on Lagoon Avenue,
he’d come for dinner and stay for breakfast.
Even when it was so cold that his green Chevy Vega
went numb and streetlights had frostbite,
those splendid nights were never too cold
for a walk to the pink neon of The Uptown Bar
for a Hamm’s beer with Reagan and Camus.

He was the best man in my first wedding,
but not my second. He eloped for his. Both times.
When email was invented I thought we’d
connect more, not less.
Eventually we both stopped
fishing, but for different reasons.
Some of the boys died.
He moved to New York, then came back.
I moved to New York, met its sad stories and stayed.
He came to visit, we reminisced
of fishing and nothing.
Together, we were together.
Then came Christmas cards.

I moved to Colorado and turned 50
with the obligatory blow out party
thrown by my second wife.
My sisters flew in. And my sons.
And some friends. And Doug.
He introduced his second wife.
We ate BBQ, drank beer and
laughed loudly at
once upon a time.

Years later,
along with a snowstorm,
a small package
wrapped in brown paper
arrived one December day,
containing two glasses
monogrammed in black:
"The Uptown Bar".
And a note that said:

"Dear Rich,
The Uptown Bar has closed
and is being torn down.
I managed to pinch a couple
of glasses for you.
Hope they make it there intact.



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