Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An excellent Labor Day weekend was had, and thus, the summer ends, as so many summers have at this age. There are another couple of weeks left, of course, and if the public school system kept your kids 24/7, those last two weeks of summer would be duly enjoyed by all the parents in the land, but alas... what a waste.

Still... excellent all the same. Mrs. Ditchman and I connived our unsuspecting relatives to watch our diminutive hellions so we could haul off to a 40th birthday party for an old high school chum of mine, which was altogether oh-so-serendipitous. We didn't really know anyone else at the party, but it was a good excuse for a change of scene after a busy summer, and we're glad we did (at least, I am.) Costume party! All things 60s/70s! She looked fine in something she just pulled out of the closet. I wore my Dharma-issue coveralls. I wasn't sure a fictional background character from a popular tv show set in the 70s would fly, but the host of the party was dressed as Austin Powers, so it was deemed acceptable by default, and a relief. Anyway, it was a great party.

Something odd. I chatted with my old chum's parents for a while, whom I adore and with whom I haven't spoken in years. John's dad asked about my dad and I had to break the news that he had died five years ago. Such terrible, old news. It didn't really make me sad or anything, but it made me feel like the years were beginning to show themselves. I suppose it did for John's dad, too, upon hearing this, but I didn't ask. I changed the subject and wondered aloud if his costume was "new" or if he had just pulled it out of the back of the closet. He smacked me.

There were gaming tables! We all found ourselves suddenly wealthy with thousands in gaming chips to just drop on Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, etc. Hooting and hollering ensued from either side of the makeshift, be-tinseled casino (while mojitos were poured freely and swiftly) and the chips were later cashed in for raffle tickets which won gift certificates to popular coffee franchises and the like. I scored a $25 iTunes card which I blew on iPhone aps before work this morning. Awesome!

So we met some fun folks. Most of them were smiling, because most of them had left the kids somewhere else. I took a look around the party at one point and found that I was surrounded by people who were all about 40, all about 3 kids deep, and all just about as exhausted from the ordinary grind of daily living as I was. But everyone was happy, or at least seemed so. It was highly encouraging, and gave one the sense that the world was, in fact, spinning in the correct direction and at the proper rate. [Here's a word to the miserable: if you can muster it, hide your misery and surround yourself with happy people. Even if you don't know them, it does wonders.] Anyway, John and his wife's friends and family are hilarious. It's one of the reasons why we've been friends for 25 years: we at least admire our ability to surround ourselves with quality folk.

25 years! It's a wonder to be friends with someone for so long. Of all the people in attendance at the birthday, aside from the family I was the one who knew John the longest and, as far as I could tell, had traveled the farthest to be there. I know I wasn't obligated to go to the party (John and I don't connect more than once or twice a year, nowadays) but, given the circumstances of longevity, I chose to attend out of respect for our little institution of lasting friendship. John and I are pretty different, but with some people, just sticking it out for that long transcends enough differences to make it worthwhile. What else is there for us to endure now, besides our prolonged parting and distance? But none of that matters. It's a priceless thing, to feel like it's only been days, instead of months, or even years sometimes, between a rendezvous. It's the magnificent blessing of old friends.

Mrs. Ditchman and I stayed until 1AM or so, after most of the other guests had peeled off. We sat outside in some lawn chairs with a few candles. Someone had bought John an expensive bottle of whiskey, and he got some plastic cups and opened the bottle -without hesitating or even considering that there might be a more deserving moment in some future of his where I probably wouldn't be present. Someone else had given John some fine cigars, and he handed one to me, a light in the other hand. I don't drink whiskey or smoke cigars anymore, at least, not like I used to, but then again, I don't hang with John like I used to. So we laughed about the old times, and bored our shivering wives with the old stories. And it was a fine cigar. I guess, at 40, if you arrive at the point where the retelling of the great stories outnumbers the creation of them, well... it's not a bad thing.

Me and John. Acapulco, c. 1994.