Monday, May 07, 2007

Rock Lobsters and Wrist Bands

While trying to gather my thoughts of this series of entries, I suddenly realized that this week may be more difficult that I thought. When trying to come up with an appreciation for someone I respect and admire, I fear the words may sound corny or heavy handed. Besides Julie, I feel there is no other person who knows me as well as Steve. He has taught me to be a better man and a better friend. He is closer than a friend, though. He is my brother in every sense except blood. And while nit may prove difficult to come up with individual wild stories or moments, that doesn’t matter. Just as I feel that Julie is my soul mate, I feel the same way about Steve, in the sense that our lives were destined to intertwined. I trust him above most anyone I know and for his friendship, love and brotherhood I am forever grateful

So let’s go back to the beginning. It was a hot, Spring day in North Olmsted and I was on my way home from Forest Elementary school. Winter must have just ended because I was still donning my thick, down jacket. See, my mom stored everything in the attic and for some reason the spring clothes never made their way out until it was June, at which point, shorts were required. That’s another story, though. On this day, I was walking alone, sweating, miserable. Then, from behind me, I heard footsteps and some low humming. Singing, actually. I was reluctant to look back, but as the voices grew closer, I turned to look. It was this kid, Dave Gedwell, a guy I knew from Cub Scouts. My lasting memory of Gedwell was a question he asked when we got a tour of the local McDonalds. “How do you make those wonderfully delicious French fries?” What kid asks a question like that? Later, after he’d gone to another school throughout middle school, he attended NOHS for his senior year. He’d transformed into a Larry Mullen-esque modern rock drummer. Quite good, too. I digress.

With Gedwell was a tall kid I didn’t recognize. They were jogging home, singing one verse of “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s. “We were at the beach/Everyone had matching towels/ Someone went under a rock/And there the saw a rock/ But it wasn’t a rock/ It was a rock Lobster.” I’d never heard this song before. I was still listening to Sha Na Na. I thought it was a joke. But these guys seemed to be having a fun time. No introductions were made. I jus started jogging along with them, singing along, despite bit knowing the words. We jogged together until we reached the black path, this lonely stretch of a bike path that was more of an after thought than a reasonably planned route to cut through two neighborhoods. The blacktop was always in shoddy shape and the weeds along the path were always overgrown. I spent many a night wander home from Steve’s through that dark, mysterious path.

As they ran off, I thought, who was that guy?

That summer I met him again. He and I were on the same soccer team. We had a mutual; friend in a kid named Pat Lopriore. Pa was a tough kid who lived about halfway between my house and Steve’s. He and I had been friends since first grade. Pat knew Steve. So when we all ended up on the same soccer team, I was kind of cool by association. Ironically, it would be because of Pat that I would become a better friend with Steve. In 5th grade, I was placed in an advanced studies program at my school. Basically, kids with better grade scores were sequestered into their own classroom and taught more "difficult" lessons. There was a stigma being in the ASP class. These smart kids were called the ASS kids. Original, huh? Even thought Matt was in the class, I joined in with the groupthink that those smart kids were jerks. Of course, you know, the next year I was placed in that class as a 5th grader. Someone else in that class was Steve. I soon learned that this guy Steve was one cool guy. One of the cool things he did was wear wrist bands to school every day. It was so cool that I decided to come up with my own “thing”. So I wore a gray sweatshirt each and every day until it got up and walked away. Hideous. The thing was hideous.

Anyway, Back to Lopriore. In 5th grade I carried this air about me. I wasn’t one of those ASP kids. I was still one of the pod kids, even though I was being made to be in that class. This attitude worked until Lopriore and I got in a fight. Now Pat was the most popular kid in school. And who was I? Nobody. We got in this fight, half the kids in the “cool” clique gathered around and cheered on Pat, and after I walked away, I became a bit of a joke to those kids I had called my friends. Besides Matt, I didn’t have anyone I called my friend. And that was the turning point, I like to believe, that my friendship with Steve began. While Steve could have easily sided with the popular kid, he was already mature enough to be above that petty shit. Either that or he took pity on the kid with the ginormous glasses and poofy hair.

As I watch Sophie grow up and express so much empathy for her friends (and particularly her brother) I tend to think that kids really are capable of being noble. Was Steve being noble that day? I don’t know. But to this day, I am so glad that I got my ass kicked by Pat Lopriore. Not because it filled me with the sense of worry and neediness for being loved that I live with to this day, but that I was able to become friends with the blonde haired kid wearing the wrist bands.

We had met because of a B-52’s song. To this day, that stupid damn song still holds an important place in my heart. It would be a couple of years before we started to become close friends but the foundation was laid.


Jane said...

That's a great story. Thank you for sharing it. I also believe friendships -- major friendships -- are every bit as significant to a person's life as their relationship with their spouse. Relationships built on trust and love are so rare in this world. I am who I am today -- the good and the bad! -- in large part because of the impact my best friend has had on my life. I can't imagine my life without them in it.

Daniel Dougher said...

The question asked by Dave Gedwell is not surprising if you know Dave. He truly is a unique character. After his Larry
Mullin Jr. phase he excepted my challenge to start a reggae band together. With his Jazz training and great ear he always nailed the riddim on his kit. A bunch of white kids playing that music in 1987-88 in the suburbs of cleveland took some guts. Last I spoke with Dave he was a Jazz Bassist giging around the area. I knew who Phil was, and am curious what Steve's last name was? I also remember your big hair and your dad's afro, but never really knew either of you. I too had a friend named Steve last name Melinick who stuck by me when it wasn't the cool thing to do. Funny how adversity can be the catalyst to profound influence. We speak a few times a year. He recently relocated to Hawaii from Colorado, I've been in Vermont for 24 years. Congratulations on your accomplishments. Keep it up. Dan Dougher