Home Grown Part I: Doug
I've been recognized playing poker online several times over the past few weeks, all fans of my poker blog and my writing style. The unique separation of of cyberspace allows a suitable level of comfort when meeting fans and awkward moments are few and far between for me. In real life, it's a different monster. Within a week's span while wandering around my old neighborhood, I bumped into five random people from my past. I had been spending a fair amount of time visiting my grandmother who had been recovering from a stroke, and in an attempt to help out I have been running errands for the family, which took me places that I'd normally avoid. I did my best to maintain a low profile, avoiding eye contact with random pedestrians in order to avoid a chance meeting. And just my luck, when I wasn't expecting it, around each corner I'd get recognized by someone who knew me almost twenty years ago.
First it was Doug. Not only did we go to grammar school together, he also followed me to Regis, where we both played Varsity basketball. A few nights earlier, my brother and I had been making fun of Doug, in a random conversation about out different high school athletic glory days. Doug was a ball hog and everyone on the squad hated him. But hey that was 15 years ago. I walked out of Liebman's kosher deli after I bought a couple of knishes. There was a long line and five seconds earlier or later would have meant the difference. I took three steps out of the doorway before I heard, "Hey, (my last name)!"
It was Doug Roland, someone I had not seen since 1990. He greeted me with an enthusiastic hand shake. Then came the 120 second bio, my cover story, that I memorized and would rattle off if I was captured by fundamentalist Islamists or if I bumped into anyone from my childhood. Doug gave me his business card and told me about his awesome job and his boring wife... or was it his boring life and awesome wife? I forgot three seconds after he told me, plotting my escape the entire time, pretending to be remotely interested in his intense explanation of his job. We both threw out some random names of former classmates and shared gossip or wondered about their lives.
"Tax attorney. Married. Lives in San Diego."
"No shit?" as I scratched my forehead, "Um, how about Maggie?"
"Maggie O'Brien or Maggie McHugh?"
"Both are married with kids. Magie O., she lives on Long Island, and Maggie M. lives in the same apartment building as my Mom. Have you heard from Morris' family?"
One of our classmates, Morris Ryan died on 9.11. Mo Ryan was a stand up guy. The former insurance underwriter and fellow hoopster went to work that Tuesday... and never came home.
I paused for a few moments, and allowed the awkward moment to pass over us before I quietly said, "I wrote his sister a letter."
"That was nice of you."
There was another weird pause and this time it didn't bother me.
"Rosencrantz? He's still a dork. I heard he works for the DOJ," as I smiled.
"My mom told me he's getting married."
"To a girl?" I comically asked.
"Yeah," Doug paused and laughed, "I thought he was gay too."
And then I pulled out my cellphone and muttered, "Oh shit, I gotta take this call!"
We shook hands again and made a vague promise to call each other for a pick up game of basketball in the school yard. Just like old times.
Coming soon.... Home Grown Part II: Zilya's Twins.