The glimpse you get above is of two gentlemen I call my very best, least met with, friends… Let me explain: To do so I must take you back in time. I have in the past referred to my recording booth as a time machine (or ‘TARDIS’ for Doctor Who fans, amongst which I number myself). For this exercise I am going to take you back around 35 years to the campus of a University in northern England – namely, Leeds.
In my first full year away from home I had the good fortune (some might debate that point) to fall in with a bunch of US students who were taking part in their states, or cities, various ‘Study Abroad’ programs. Within a day or so of arriving I was helping Chris (he’s the slightly demonic looking guy on the left) adapt to life in a foreign country – specifically by introducing him to that great British institution ‘the pub’.
A short while later Paul (he’s on the right) joined the gang. The three of us (and several other US students, including Russ from Brooklyn whose photo I don’t have to hand – but he has corrected me: He’s from Yonkers, see comment below) began to hang about in our spare time – and a lot of merry adventures we had over the following months (none of which I care to share here, even if the statute of limitations has run out). Chris was from Bakersfield, CA, and Paul from Queens, NY.
At the end of the year we all went our separate ways – unsure whether we would ever meet again. Ten years later I sent a letter to the address I had for Chris, and his parents (who, fortunately, still lived there) forwarded it and we became reacquainted. By this time he had become a doctor with a very respectable practice in the vicinity of Washington DC – I will not be more specific even though I doubt that his patients will recognize him from this photograph:
(he’s on the right – that’s me making a pathetic attempt to look tough on the left – I think Chris has it nailed)
So Chris and I have kept in touch and have met on several occasions – the most recent just a couple of weeks ago when he made a flying visit to relations not far from here (though, to be honest, it had been 15 years since we met face to face).
But Paul is another matter: He and I parted on a London train station platform 35 years ago and haven’t met since… We’ve had a phone conversation, but our only attempt to get together failed due to the traffic in Boston making it impossible for him to reach me at the airport in my all too brief stopover on the way back to the UK in 1990. Pathetic really, isn’t it? So this photo was probably taken around the last time I saw him:
Emboldened by the visit from Chris and knowing that this year my trip to Maine was going to involve a few hours stop-over in Boston I became determined to finally make contact in the flesh with Paul, now a successful psychologist in the Boston area, and I sent him an email.
I received this reply:
You are probably going to be surprised to hear this .. but I am in not in Boston at the moment
(#@%^*@*&^!!!!). I am deployed with the US Department of State in Afghanistan.
I do wish I was home to hang out with you mate! This will need to wait a bit…
Wait? I guess so! Apparently he’s an ‘In-Country Psychologist’ somewhere in Afghanistan and he included a picture of himself with a rifle and the caption ‘Does this M-4 make me look fat?’
Now Paul was the first person I’d ever met who said ‘take care’ at every parting of friends. It’s impact on me was probably the same as the impact on an American student of a Leeds man calling him ‘Love’ (they call everyone ‘love’ in the north of England); it felt rather strange… more like the kind of thing my Mum might have said. But I thought about it, and began to rather like it from Paul… It seemed, and still seems, an important thing to say and eventually I adopted it and still use it from time to time myself (nobody really notices here in the US but in the UK, it’s probably still unusual).
Hey, Paul, it may seem insignificant but thank you for that small influence on my life.
I’m proud to know you, mate.
And to you, my friend, the ‘In-Country Psychologist’ somewhere in Afghanistan, and to everyone who is a part of the allied effort in that country… Take Care