I’M WALKING HOME. TAKING A YEAR TO WALK ACROSS THE COUNTRY. BRINGING YOU WITH ME OR MEETING YOU ALONG THE WAY…
Mike and I ‘messaged’ each other a few nights back. We hadn’t talked for months, maybe longer. He started it off, asking me where he could donate to WalkingHome. I kidded him that there was a special minimum donation level for bankers and, we bantered back and forth for a few minutes before signing off.
Almost immediately after getting, I’ll say ‘off the phone’ though that’s not accurate, I felt a surge of sentiment.
I’m trying to put together a list of 365 people from my life, one for every day of my walk and there was no question Mike would have to be on that list. I met him at what I now realize was a critical point in my life: that place where your sense of yourself runs into that thick hedge of other people’s reaction to who you think, or feel, you are.
I call it a hedge, because it can be either a barrier or a boundary. It can either close you in or out.
I was, what, 13 when we first met? A strange kid. An outsider by definition: a service ‘brat’ who had never lived one place more than two years and so, both capable of making friends easily and conscious that those friendships were either temporary or tenuous at best.
We were – are – very different. Once we went to the PX (military brat for ‘store’) with my father and bought albums (music that came embedded on large 12″ oil-based discs) and then went back to his house – his brother had what was the closest thing to high fidelity equipment I had ever seen to that point – and took turns listening to our choices.
Mike had purchased a live recording of a TV special featuring the Supremes and the Tempations called, I think I remember correctly, “TCB: Taking Care of Business.” Satin smooth harmonies, poignant lyrics, danceable beats.
It was music you could listen to with the door open.
I brought back “Beggar’s Banquet” by the Rolling Stones. “Parachute Woman,” Jagger howled on one particularly raw track, “land on me tonight.”
The door shut on its own.
But Mike never shut the door on me, now matter how strange the music got.
We took turns trying out each others lives.
I played Mike one-on-one on the carport court: hacking, humping, trying to muscle him to one side or the other but always fooled by his feints, his stutter steps, his step-back set shot.
He tried to show me a few of his tricks, but I was too slow, lacked serious intent.
Mike tried a few of my games on as well. He came all the way from Maryland to hike the 19-mile trail and spend a weekend in a hut in the White Mountains for my 50th birthday.
And now, a thousand years later, a thousand miles away, with life rattling behind him like a string of cans tied to a newlyweds bumper, he is still willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, to listen to my tunes.
That’s what this is about: I’m stringing together a list of names, of places, of favorite songs. The little puzzle pieces that make you feel at home in this world. There are 1001 pieces to fit together. Mike helped me find more than a few.