Wednesday, September 17, 2008

365 # 75: Chris H.

I had this really vivid dream about you once that, in my mind, captures the very essence of who you were. In the dream, you were the drummer in Louis Armstrong's band. Except Louis was playing a guitar. Maybe it was B.B. King, except I know you were playing jazz, not blues. Maybe this dream wasn't so vivid after all. What I do remember was that you guys would play these extended free-form jams, and then between every song, Louis or B.B. or whoever the old black fellow was would nod his appreciation back to you, at which point the whole band would produce various pot smoking devices and light up in preparation for the next song. You kept a bong behind your drumset. I remember telling you about this dream the day after I had it, and you really dug it. "Fuck yeah dude, I could go for that."

I can't say exactly why that dream was so perfectly Chris, I just know that it was. You were, in fact, a fan of jazz, and you did play the drums, and you did have some level of familiarity with bongs, but I hate to suggest that this was the be-all end-all of your person. Perhaps some real life examples of your Chris-ness could elucidate the matter.

Outside of the dream realm, you and I made friends one summer working at camp. It was my 18th summer, your 20th. I remember my age because I had just graduated high school, and I remember your age because you were just one year shy of being able to buy us alcohol. Every week, you and I were in charge of taking all the kiddos who had signed up to learn about wilderness survival out into the middle of the woods so that they could build shelters and get all survivalist with it. We'd build a nice big fire, then sit around and tell ghost stories until it was time to send the kids off to sleep on the cold hard ground under their lean-to's . Hey kid, it's the wilderness, them's the breaks. You want your merit badge or not? Once the young'uns were all down, you and I and whichever other staff members had tagged along would sneak over to the dried up riverbed next to the campsite to smoke cigarettes and shoot the shit until the wee hours of the morning. I'm going to estimate that about 48% of our conversation centered around girls - I even still remember the name of the girl that you were madly in love with at the time. Kara this, Kara that. I eventually got to meet her, and had to concede that she was pretty hot. Your crush was well-founded.

Another 33% of our conversation was about music. We didn't have a lot in common on this one, save for classic rock. You were a jazz fiend, not to mention a Phish fan, a lover of all things improvisational, free-form, and complex, whereas I was at the height of my metal obsession. I think 18 is a good age to do that. In spite of these differences, you were cool enough to give me a ride to the Pantera concert, though I wasn't able to talk you into coming with me. You missed a hell of a show, man.

And the other 19%? I don't recall exactly, though they probably had to do with cigarettes, drugs, coworkers, kids, outdoor skills, Austin...oh yeah, Austin! You were already living in the city that was soon to become my home and attending the school that would become my alma mater. In fact, it was you who told me about cooperative living, and who first took me the co-op where I would eventually take up residence and meet my first wife. Weird that I can draw a connection between you two on a timeline.

Oh, and how could I forget New Orleans? One weekend, we ended up getting an actual 48 hours off instead of the usual 24 due to the fact that they decided to schedule all of the Mormon troops to come the same week. They apparently have some sort of Sunday travelling ban. So you and I and a few others hopped into a truck with a camper on the back and took off to New Orleans. Your folks lived there, so we had a free place to stay after we were done getting rip-roaring ridiculous. It felt odd driving back to Boy Scout camp after such a debauch of a weekend.

You ended up moving back to Louisiana not long after I moved to Austin, but I didn't take it too personally. I've tried to look you up a few times, but you have one of the most generic names possible. Of all the people I've lost track of, you're one of the ones I'd most like to see again.

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