Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One Thousand Gratitudes, Part XII: 725-701

Dropping a brief one in this morning. This installment contains a bunch of family members that most people won't know, and it contains a couple of friends that most family members won't know. Better still, it features some public figures that a good number of neither friends nor family members will know, so it should make for a solid read with a ton of traffic.

Pleased to have had such a productive February with this series and hope that March will mirror it.

With that, I bid adieu to the 700s. You look a lot better walkin' away than you did comin' at me. Thanks for the continued readership, commentary, and compliments, people. I appreciate you all.

Seven Hundred Twenty-Five: Katarina

            My Uncle Jack married a second time, which -- anti-institution guy that he is -- surprised me. I got to meet this lady and she and all of her Swedishness exuded nothing shy of sweet beauty. They’ve been out of one another’s lives for some time now, but I have incredible memories of her jumping in with everyone in the family as though she’d known us all her life. Amazing lady. Hope she has found happiness.

Seven Hundred Twenty-Four: Bumper

            I have a number of cousins I’ve never met. This dude’s one of ‘em. My Uncle Jack’s proud of him and loves him, so he’s alright in my book.

Seven Hundred Twenty-Three: Bouncer

            What I said about Bumper.

Seven Hundred Twenty-Two: Boogie

            What I said about Bumper and Bouncer.

Seven Hundred Twenty-One: Brigid

            This would be the child of Jack’s for whose awesomeness I can -- and do -- vouch. Brigid gets the esteemed honor of being my favorite female cousin. She’s got three great kids and seems to run a pretty busy week down there in Texasville. Wish I got to see her more, but I’m thankful for what I’ve been given. Great lady.

Seven Hundred Twenty: Andy Goldberg

            This guy married my cousin Brigid. He fathered her three children. He tried -- I think -- to make things work when times challenged. Then he got cancer and died. I only met Andy once, but that Thanksgiving he threw the football with me outside for most of two hours. That meant the world to me. I’m lucky I met the man.

Seven Hundred Nineteen: cousin Rob

            Two big regrets: 1) That I didn’t get to hang out with Rob before middle school; and 2) That I haven’t gotten to hang out with him (much) since. My cousin Rob ranks pretty high up there on my list of favorite people on the planet. He married a beautiful girl and they -- along with their two little people -- do the family thing now. He showed me how to be a good friend a long time ago, a lesson I still carry with me today.

Seven Hundred Eighteen: cousin Erin

            Rob’s younger sister never strayed from being a sweet little girl. She probably got shunned and ignored more times than she’d like to admit, but -- like her mom -- managed to stay headstrong. I haven’t been able to keep track of her for years now, but I see her out there on the Facebooks and I think she’s found some happiness. If that’s true, I’m happy for her. Either way, I’m grateful for her.

Seven Hundred Seventeen: cousin Colleen

            I have no idea what Colleen does these days, but she's probably peeling out in her Beamer while shooting an assault rifle out the driver-side window and campaigning for Ron Paul. Gotta love your family, though.

Seven Hundred Sixteen: cousin Rory

            “Spike” just became a dad, which is nuts. I’ll always remember him as the baby of the Frank Barnard clan. He seems happy. Much love to ya’, ‘Cuz.

Seven Hundred Fifteen: cousin Joe

            Dale and Mary Anne’s eldest resides in the Springfield area with his wonderful wife, Catherine. I’ll never forget his college graduation and how proud we all felt of his accomplishments. A fellow English major, I respect cousin Joe’s interests and his dedication to them.

Seven Hundred Fourteen: cousin Bob

            Joe’s younger brother has always struck me as the proverbial tough egg to crack. I cherish memories on the farm riding motorcycles with Bob, learning dirty limericks from him, and discovering that -- every once in a while -- you meet a human that can fart on command. I mean, a real-life Terrence & Phillip? Hells, yeah. Cousin Bob made the marital plunge last year. Their reception included many a fun moment, his “Please stop it.” requests as we danced around and near him, notwithstanding. Cousin Bob. Good people.

Seven Hundred Thirteen: cousin Jeff

            I’ve looked up to the baby of this cousin trio since the age of eight or nine. Jeff’s wit has always had an edge and when he had every opportunity to tell me to get lost as a kid, he let me hang around and annoy him. I’m glad cousin Jeff sacrificed his serial-dating days and settled on a lovely woman to be his wife, the mother of his children. I always wanted to be like cousin Jeff. I wanted a sliver of the audacity it took him to spray paint the walls of his room. I wanted to play the guitar like cousin Jeff (Note: And be called Jeff Beck.). I wanted to have the cool flip ‘do. Above all, I wanted to be included as “Wendy’s kind of people.”

Seven Hundred Twelve: cousin Kyle

            Uncle Mike and Aunt Tracy’s first born has figured out how to tread in his father’s footsteps, which bears an honorary title in and of itself. Dude’s a dude, but a sweet guy at the same time. He has the gift of his father’s wit and the warmth of his mother’s heart. Happy to call him family.

Seven Hundred Eleven: cousin Greg

            Outgoing yet reserved, audacious but humble, it comes as little surprise that cousin Greg -- a twin -- has a dichotomous personality. Dude became a father a couple of years ago. Much respect to him for taking that head on at such a young age.

Seven Hundred Ten: cousin Melissa

            Here’s the thing about Missy: A lot of her traits and assets get overshone by her beauty and sweetness. Like Kyle has become his father’s grown-up son, Missy has adopted all of the wonderful qualities associated with her mom. I’ve never met someone with limitless potential like cousin Melissa. Much love for her.

Seven Hundred Nine: cousin Michael

            I just met this dude a few years ago. Seems solid. Got himself engaged that weekend. Beautiful lady. They seem to have this thing figured out and I’m glad we got to meet.

Seven Hundred Eight: cousin Adam

            The antithesis of the middle child, Adam strikes me as the ringleader of the three Johnson boys. He also has a gorgeous wife and a couple of adorable little people living under his roof. Stoked we got to meet. Our lives, I think, share a ton of similarities.

Seven Hundred Seven: cousin Jacob

            Dunno what to make of this cat. I imagine he has a good heart beating beneath his rib cage. I think he’s got a lot of buried stuff, and as much as he reminds me of the artist brother from Wedding Crashers, I have faith he will work it out and discover himself.

Seven Hundred Six: Pat Weston

            As much as we moved and had to assimilate ourselves with the neighborhood kids wherever we landed, Pat Weston entered our worlds at just the right time. We moved onto his block, but his young age wouldn’t allow dictation of street supremacy.

            I don’t know if our relationship comprised two or three summers, but some stretch of my and my sister’s youth involved a daily dose of Pat Weston. Pat had eight siblings, I think, and he held the rank of family baby for a spell. I think the Westons had another kid after him, but I can’t recall. I do know that one of his siblings had a baby at a young enough age to make Pat an uncle in third grade. Either way, Pat’s family kept the television on a lot. I think he’d be up in the morning watching it, waiting for us to come outside.

            When we did, he’d come bursting out that screen door and hustle -- always with bed head and often in yesterday’s clothes -- across the street to our yard. We played backyard baseball by morning, driveway hoops in the afternoon, Flashlight Tag and German Spotlight at night, and when the weather came with too much precipitation or humidity, we’d log some Super Mario Bros. hours in the family room.

            We made fun of Pat to his face way too often for him to keep coming over to play, but this had to do with youth, not maliciousness. Pat struck many (ourselves included) as a goof, but he had a sweetness about him that we found impossible not to love. I hope that wherever Pat lives now, he has found happiness and his loved ones consider him to be the king of the block.

Seven Hundred Five: unnamed friend #19

            I opened a restaurant with this dude. Humor, long hours, and an affinity for partying bonded us at once. I anticipated the possibility of a lifelong friendship, but the cards had other intentions. After my stint at that gig, I became his occasional bar customer, but my new job had business hours; he remained on a service-industry schedule. A couple of times we got together for drinks, endless laughter, and the swapping of stories. I tried to keep his pace and paid the price each subsequent morning.

            Once we tried a domestic date and had him and his girlfriend over for dinner. While mellow in comparison, we enjoyed the evening and everyone retired at a decent hour. The details of his relationship of the time seldom maintained a functional course and after they split, we made occasional plans, which proved a difficult task as he had split custody of his son and traveled by foot. We made one final rendezvous which resulted in familiar late-night problems for me. Since then we have spoken, texted, and I once made it a point to go sit at his newest bar last year. We discussed getting together for cheeseburgers and catching up, but that weird air of both of us knowing it wouldn’t happen lingered.

            I think I’m supposed to feel fine with the reality that we probably will never hang on a regular basis, but a weird part of me hurts because of it. Unnamed friend number 19 has that special-human-being tag. His spectacular energy, immeasurable wit, and loving personality means that everybody wants to be his friend; his invite list of parties to attend rivals Santa’s Christmas Eve itinerary. I must give thanks, however, for the fortune of meeting him, for the times we’ve had together, for the possibility that we may someday ride again as friends.

Seven Hundred Four: The Fugees

            I always loved these guys. I didn’t care for some of the hate inside their songs, but I found them to be a talented group and thought they’d put out a dozen albums. Oh, well. Dug ‘em while they lasted.

Seven Hundred Three: Joel Quenneville

            Coach Q held the St. Louis Blues bench-boss position for eight years. I thought he would hold that gig for a lifetime, taking the franchise to numerous Stanley Cup championships. I feared that knucklehead Larry Pleau would can Quenneville, which he did. Coach Q then went on to coach (quite well) in Colorado before leaving for Chicago, where his club has reached the playoffs all seven season, advanced in five of them, and won two Stanley Cups.

            I hate the Chicago Blackhawks with an ire that matches my scorn for the Denver Broncos. I still sneer at Pleau for his Carl Petersonesque foolishness in many more ways than just firing Quenneville, but I will always love Coach Q. I’m glad the Blues had him for the stretch they did. Awesome dude.

Seven Hundred Two: Mark Farina

            This Chicago-born DJ still reigns supreme in the world of house music. His fusion of hip hop, acid jazz, and funk have produced some of my favorite albums of the last 20 years. I got to see him live in Kansas City several years ago, met him after the show, and in a rare moment of fanboy geekdom, asked for his autograph.

           He carries a high level of showtime energy, and uses compact discs, technology, and not one lick of vinyl (that I could see). I found this last bit astonishing, but could see how it enables him to dance and move around. Seems like a super-hip cat. Grateful I discovered his music. Can't imagine life without Mushroom Jazz.

Seven Hundred One: unnamed friend #20

            I met this guy while working for the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. He hails from Washington, D.C., and might be the coolest dude I’ve ever known. A mellower version of the last friend I wrote about, unnamed friend number 20 also bore that life-of-the-party essence, that guy-everyone-wants-to-be-with feel. Unnamed friend number 20 displayed kindness to everyone with whom I watched him interact. He seemed to love people. He had some kind of cabin setup in town and that’s where the people hung every night. They had a backyard fire pit, hot food, cold beer, and good music.

            Now that I think about it I can’t recall if he’d just declined his Y dorm room in silence or what, but the dude had a sweet car he’d driven out for the summer. He got a job downtown (at a spot I later did, too), and, along with his posse, we made those three months an endless summer. We wound up living together in Glen Haven for a short spell that fall, and then, like so many of us seasonal Estes folks, unnamed friend number 20 returned home.

            He got a gig lobbying and after a couple of years we rendezvoused in eastern Utah for a backcountry camping trip. That amazing weekend occurred almost two decades ago and we haven’t seen one another since. We’re both married with kids now, and we’ve spoken on the phone a time or two, but we’re half a country apart with 20 years between us. When I think of unnamed friend number 20 I feel blessed to have met him, to have hung with him, to have bonded. Having known him makes me feel grateful for having met everyone I have; he’s that cool. And he taught me to speak in Abbrevs Plurals, a skill for which I appear to have earned all the credit.

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