Tuesday, March 03, 2015

when stupidity is a virtue

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."

Ralph Waldo Emerson got a lot of things wrong.  But, when taking the measure of old friends, his dart struck the bull.

My Air Force chum Dennis arrived at the Manzanillo Airport on Sunday.  That factoid would seem to be irrelevant.  It is -- but for my stupid friend behavior. 

I thought he was arriving at 6.  He arrived three hours earlier -- and had the great privilege of learning every inch of the grandly-named (and poorly-appointed) Playa de Oro International Airport.

You have met Dennis before.  Actually, there is no reason you should remember his name because I did not mention it.  But you have seen his photograph in naked youth

(Yeah, I know.  I keep using that title just to increase my hits.  Hits of a nefarious nature.)

When I was stationed at Castle Air Force Base in the early 1970s, Dennis and our friend-in-common, Robin Olson, were almost socially inseparable.  The war was still on in Vietnam, but we were in California. 

Even so, there is something about the intensity of the military experience that bonds people together.  The three of us are still fast friends.  But for another obligation, Robin would have joined this little reunion.

The last time I saw Dennis in uniform was in 1973 when I headed east to my assignment in Greece.  I visited him in Wisconsin in the early 1980s and saw him in London in 1997.  We would also talk on the telephone each election cycle -- usually reenforcing each other's intended votes.

That does not seem much upon which to build a long-lasting friendship.  But we have been spending the last two days as if we had dinner together every weekend.

Of course, we have shared stories -- even using a few pieces of knowledge we garnered during a geology class at the local community college.  Dennis has an incredible memory.  The next time someone reacts incredulously to one of my Castle tales, I will refer them to my best character witness.

But this is not merely a nostalgia trip.  We have not done anything unusual other than walk or drive around the villages on the bay.  I like showing off the familiar to new eyes -- because I get to see it with new eyes, as well.

And Dennis has the eyes of a photographer.  That is what he is.  A commercial photographer -- as you can tell from that magnificent camera in his hands.

Dennis was the person who launched my serious interest in photography.  I had been a shooter since I was 6 or so.  He convinced me to buy a very good SLR that I kept until my move from the Salem house.  We have been enjoying shooting similar subjects here in Barra.

But he is more.  He has long been a drummer.  He even keeps his drum set in his studio.

He has also taken up painting.  The art kind.  Not the two coats by Monday kind. 

That seems to be a natural step for a photographer.  In a way.  They are two completely different mediums.  What I admire is his ability to take on new challenges.

With all of that in mind, he should be a natural candidate for retirement.  He is not.  He so loves his work, I suspect he will be working on an advertising campaign when he fires off his last digital shot.

He is also a fan of music.  I am not certain if Dennis shares my appreciation for Sondheim's works, but there is an appropriate bit of lyric from Merrily We Roll Along:

Most friends fade
Or they don't make the grade.
New one's are quickly made
And in a pinch, sure, they'll do.
But us, old friend,
What's to discuss, old friend?
Here's to us.  Who's like us.
Damn few!
So, here's to you, Dennis.  And Robin.  We can afford to be stupid with one another. 

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