The USA was founded in the name of democracy, equality and individual freedom, but is failing to deliver the fundamental promise of protecting rights for all
~ Amnesty International, 19 Jan 2001
Scrambled eggs, bagel
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4 July 2004
One of my fond memories of college days--the "Newman Inn" period--was standing in the kitchen with my friend Dick, squeezing limes for his famous rum punch.
We discovered rum in college. Dick's mother was born in Trinidad and so Dick knew a lot about rum and especially rum punch. He made it with Mr. Fernandez, a dark rum with the acrid taste which is so different from your typical Baccardi. And he used simple syrup, a suger-water concoction he made himself. And always freshly grated nutmeg to go on the finished product.
We drank a lot of rum punch in those years.
I dated Dick briefly, very briefly. Then he and I moved on. He began to date my roommate--though I don't know if she was my roommate at the time. Gerry and I rented an apartment together, over a Mexican restaurant on Telegraph Avenue and lived together for either a semester or a year--I don't remember now exactly how long.
We were the odd couple. I was Oscar Madison to her Felix Unger and I still don't know how we kept from killing each other, as our styles were so vastly different. But somehow we made it work. We had fun times in that apartment, and discovered so many different ways of cooking with bananas that I made a banana cookbook for her for Christmas.
When Gerry and Dick married, Walt and I were in the wedding party, as Gerry and Dick were in ours when we married (Gerry, having newly given birth, was in charge of our guest book). Gerry and Dick are Ned's godparents and we are godparents to their daughter Sandy.
We have remained in touch over the years, though our lives and ideologies have become quite different. Gerry and I have gone through our bad periods, times when we flooded each other with pamphlets espousing our own views, never changing the other's mind. There have been times when we've felt our differences have been so insurmountable that perhaps our friendship had outlived its ability to remain intact, but somehow we always keep coming back. We have a long history and you don't throw away history so quickly.
We don't see each other often and I'm always a little nervous when we do, afraid that we might get off on one of "those" topics (of which there are many) which are incendiary. I don't do confrontation easily, and there has been enough water under our bridge that we know there is no way either of us is going to be swayed in our beliefs.
But when I knew we were coming here to Santa Barbara and would be right in their back yard, I threw caution to the wind. "Rum punch anyone?" I titled my e-mail.
Dick called within an hour of our arrival here and a date was set for us to join them for dinner last night. I was looking forward to seeing them again, and determined that we would stick to "safe" topics.
Funny, but the joy of being with them again erased any worry about what we could and couldn't discuss. Dick made rum punch, which I hadn't had in years and it tasted as good as it always did. I watched him standing at the kitchen counter, where I remembered seeing him the last time we were there, with the same equipment, pouring the simple syrup from a jar, grating the nutmeg. It was all so familiar and so comfortable. On the wall hung a banana picture I'd given Gerry years ago.
We sat in the back yard and got caught up on our kids and their kids and especially their beautiful grandson, Max (photos were shared).
While Dick and Walt continued to watch the sunset, Gerry and I went inside while she put finishing touches on dinner. We talked about the kinds of ideas we'd had about our lives when we reached our 60s and how things were different than we imagined...and in this we were united.
We shared a delicious dinner (Gerry is such a fantastic cook) and laughed a lot at familiar old jokes, and at life in general. They shared photos of their recent trip to Trinidad and the secrets of the Angostura Bitters factory, and shared photos of Dick's cousin, now 60, whom we met in her teens.
Gerry and I went back to her "scrapbook room" and she showed me the books she'd made for her mother, before her mother's recent death. Scrapbooking is a joy that Gerry and I have shared all of our lives and we are both avid photographers.
The evening flew by and, since we are all old, we began to droop a bit around 10:30 so we made our goodbyes and invited them to join us for a picnic on the beach the next day.
We got into the car on a real high. "That was so much fun," I told Walt, "and we didn't touch on any of the dangerous topics." Then I added "Inside that door they are probably saying the same thing!"
This has been a friendship which would undoubtedly not continue to flower if we lived in the same town, but when your lives touch each other for more than 40 years, when you have such a wealth of shared experience, there's something of value there. Our political and religious ideologies may be vastly different, but the ties of friendship can transcend that. Especially with a nice helping of rum punch.