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March Mania

Bender: Bridging the unsocial distancing with a letter to a friend

Tony Bender

Hey old buddy,

Well, it's come to this. A letter to an estranged friend. I've made some calls to other friends—the easy ones. Calls you can make after six months or six years, and somehow the space in-between evaporates. But with you, I've been avoiding it. Unsocial distancing. We ought to be good at it by now. Pity.

At least I've been productively procrastinating. I mopped the floor, cleaned the refrigerator—Ee-gads!—and just finished the laundry that I'd let pile up in what I suppose was some kind of winter funk. Nice to be moving into my spring funk. I've calculated that I now have enough clean socks, underwear and T-shirts to go two months if I'm willing to wear mismatched socks.

But I've been thinking about you, old friend, even before things got surreal, but more now. Curious, the abstract thoughts one has with so much space to think. I've been wondering what kind of dog you have these days—and I know you have a dog. You've always rescued dogs.

I thought about Biff the other day and his fealty to me after I plucked him from that icy whitewater in the Rockies and saved him from that waterfall. Terrible dog, Biff, but he was a loyal friend. I guess when it comes down to it, I am, too. Heck, I'm not even mad — never have been. Just never understood why you took my politics or my cynicism about religion personally. We all have to believe in something.

Besides, you know damn well you've never had as much fun as you did with me. Remember when we invited the band and the whole bar crowd to a kegger at our apartment, how squishy and cigarette-burned that kitchen carpet was in the morning? Cost us $80 bucks to replace it when we moved out.

Remember how I'd pipe the television through the stereo on Sunday mornings and blast you out of bed with the introduction to “All . . . Star . . . Wrestling!?” Remember when “the very capable” Sodbuster Kenny Jay pinned Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, “the smartest man in wrestling?”

We leaped up high-fiving and cheering because, while you believed in Ronald Reagan and I believed in something else, we both believed in justice. Remember how afterward we'd drive our motorcycles to pick up Chinese food and then watch "Kung Fu?"

I think about those fishing trips to the mountains with Tommy, too. Three smart-Alec disc-jockeys swilling Silver Bullets around a campfire and all that rapid-fire comedy. Our laughter carried for miles, but there was no one else to hear us. Pity.

I remember the night we scrambled to save the tent at 9,300 feet from a sudden, malicious wind with lightning bolts all around us. But we made it through the storm.

I talked with Tommy the other day, and I told him, “When all of this settles down maybe we should go back up into the mountains and not catch fish like we used to.”

Oh, we'll probably pull in enough trout for at least one good meal, and then we'll sit around the fire and talk and laugh and compare farts. I'm thinking separate tents.

Until then, be well, old friend. I can't wait to hear about your dog.

Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service.