Home Videos Games Podcastle

An unforgotten friend who's birthday is still stuck on my calendar


#1

Edit 2/7/2018: on @MrJackdaw’s and @clg6000’s suggestion, I’m going to leave this as an open topic, if anyone wants to talk about those who have gone before us. Please, just be polite, and speak no ill of the dead (unless they deserve it!)

A friend of mine died almost two decades ago last week. I never wrote anything about it until now. I don’t know why I’m doing this at this time, or exactly why I’m doing this here. I was just reminiscing of playing games of Chess with him (usually losing), Backgammon, Go, and actually getting him to play Bushido Blade on the PS1 once, and Mario Party on the SNES. I’m sure I could lure him into a game of Fiasco if he was still around, and definitely Hive. I just feel comfortable with you nerds, so I thought this would be a good place to lay this down.

We met working at an enormous independent book shop, “the third largest remaindered bookshop in the world” (Main Bookshop in Sarasota, FL, it no longer exists. The owner figured no one would argue with “3rd largest,” and he was correct). I was 27 then, now I’m 44.

This is about Peter.

Peter was a glorious man.

He was skinny and balding and 68 in back in 1997. He had a mustache that was perfect and gray, salt and pepper. He had poise, he was erudite, and he spoke 7 languages, 3 of them like a native (Finnish, Scandinavian, and English).

He was a man born out of sequence. He should have been a Great War fighter pilot, shooting down the Kaiser’s men in his biplane.

Although he smoked for most of his life, the lung cancer that killed him had nothing to do with smoking. He had quit several years before, but that was totally unrelated, according to his doctors. Back when he did smoke, he smoked awful French cigarettes, like Gauloises or Gitanes. He had a story: a homeless guy bummed a smoke off of him, and after one puff, the homeless guy coughed, threw it in the gutter, and cussed him out.

He met his wife, Claudia, who was only in her 50s, working at the bookstore. According to them, they hated each other instantly, and fought constantly. So, naturally they fell in love and got married.

Peter was a fantastic chef. He was skilled, he had professional training. He had a restaurant/b&b in upstate New York called The Rogue Scholar. He made amazing flourless chocolate cake, chicken, and schnitzel, and many other things. I was lucky enough to rent his and Claudia’s’ house when they were snowbirding up north (a “snowbird” is someone who comes down South to Florida for the winter, and lives up North for the summer, on the East Coast of the USA). I got to use gas burners, every day! I feel guilty about this, but I kind of miss using a gas stove-top almost as much as I miss Peter.

Peter was the most debonair person I have ever met. He may have been the one person I’ve ever met whom I would describe as “elegant.”

Peter was missing two fingers off of his right hand. The two smaller fingers, the ring finger and the pinky. I never received a satisfactory explanation for that, but then again, I didn’t ask too hard. It was either frostbite or the mafia, or possibly a combination of the two. It was a bit shrouded in mystery, and the story changed a little every time. But like I said, I didn’t ask too hard.

Claudia, his big beautiful wife, who was much too young for him (as we liked to say, he was robbing the cradle, his wife was in her fifties, almost 20 years younger), was openly a fan of pornography, or at least risqué art. Any “Rated M,” or even “X”, comics my (ex)wife and I brought home were welcomed while we lived with them. She always wanted to see when I had a new copy of Heavy Metal, or when my wife had a copy of Cherry. We’d chuckle and read it together, and yes, I know that sounds weird, but it was so much fun. Peter would smile at us, and cook, and talk.

They had separate bedrooms. They loved each other very much.

After Peter died, Claudia scattered his ashes from several places, as part of the the vacation they were taking. They took this trip specifically because they knew Peter was going to die soon. And he did, right on schedule.

Some of his ashes were scattered from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Some in Versailles during the rebuild of the Hall of Mirrors, so some of his ashy ass will be there forever. Some of his ashes were scattered in their friends’ “Sven and Svenetta’s” field of marijuana, in an European country that shall remain undisclosed (obviously not their real names, and honestly, I can’t remember anyway, I didn’t really know to begin with, and it’s been almost 20 years [probably Denmark]). Some were scattered here, on Siesta Key. Some were scattered in places I will never know.

Even though I expected it, the next time I saw Claudia at the bookstore (I no longer worked there at that time, although I had worked there for 3 years prior), and she told me that Peter had died… well…I kind of lost it. She told me, “Don’t! Don’t you cry now!” I still had to excuse myself for a few minutes to find a quiet place, in this huge bookstore where we had all gotten to know each other so well. I bawled like a baby.

She forgave me, later.

There was a cat. I don’t remember if it was Lord Byron or Misha (the two cats who lived in the bookstore). But that helped.

This is a eulogy that’s about 20 years too late. The bookshop isn’t there anymore. The house on 7th Street isn’t there anymore. Peter’s been dead a long time gone. I wasn’t able to say this then, I was too young and stupid. So I’m saying it now that I’m older and stupid. Better late than never.

Peter, salude.


#2

Sounds like he was a lot of fun to be round. It’s difficult dealing with the emotion of loss - I still miss my Dad, and he’s been gone a long time now.


#3

Ha! He was actually kind of a jerk to be around!
But a good jerk, one you wanted to have on your side.
Like, it felt good to combine forces with him once we had a shared enemy. It was satisfying.

Edit: I wish I could miss your dad, too, I’m sorry I never met him. After all, he helped you to become you, and you seem pretty cool.


#4

Reminds me of my Grandpa Phil. He was sort of the slum king of Columbus, Ohio. He owned a book shop called Buckeye News, that closed down when Barnes and Noble started to get big. Buckeye News had stone gray floor; when it was newly built it had bright red carpet. He was a real conman; he sold illegal lottery tickets (this was before state lotteries were really a thing), to a lot of drunkards in the slums of Ohio. When the local high school banned Sparknotes, he started selling them at the front of the store at half price; he’d tell people that he new the principal (he didn’t). Once, a priest came into his store complaining about all the smut they sold; Playboy, Hustler, Penthouse, etc. So my Grandpa took him to the back of the store, tapped on his shoulder, and pointed at the shelf.

“What do you see there?”

“Christian Life Magazine?” The Priest replied.

"Right. Now, do you know how many copies of Christian Life Magazine I sell in a month?’

“No.”

Grandpa held up all the fingers on his right hand. “Now, do you know how many copies of Playboy I sell in a month?”

“No.”

“More than 5. So if you want me to keep selling your f***ing Christian Life Magazine, then I’m going to have to sell Playboy, and Hustler, and Penthouse.” And that was my Grandpa.

So I guess, here’s a salute to all the old jerks who had to go and die make us miss them.


#5

Ohio. Round at both ends and “high” in the middle. (My little one’s mom is from Ohio, I’m allowed to say that.)


#6

Ok, Longer story about my Dad.

He never really treated me as an adult - even when I got married. Always called me “Jimmy” - I hated that - or just “Son”.

He’d been in the army (Medical Corps) when he was younger, way before I was born, but he never told me anything about it. One weekend visit he finally told me a story;

When he was in training, money, and other stuff, started to go missing from the men’s lockers. My Dad found out who it was, trapped him in a third floor room, locked the door, grabbed the thief and hung him out of the windows by the ankles! They had to batter the door down to get Dad off him!

My Dad! Doing that! What? The sedentary man who used to just sit and watch tv? That was always serious and quiet? Who was this man?

And while he told the story his face came alive, it was great! We all laughed, and we went to leave and he said “I’ll tell you some more stories next time James.”

James! He called me James! For the first time ever he treated me like an equal. It was…

The next day he died of a heart attack. I lost him.

Dammit… Who’s chopping onions all of a sudden.

I miss my Dad, gone 15 or so years now. I’ll never let him die though. You never die while people talk about you.


#7

Also sounds like a good egg by the way!


#8

Jeeze, both you guys, you’re killing me. :heart:

You each reminded me of my grandpa’s story of when he was building battleships for the Navy during WWII, and he smacked some guy in the ear with his shoe in a boxing ring because he was cheating, but I don’t want to get into that, that would totally be tl;dr, I’ve already wasted enough of everyone’s time.


#9

…just dropping by to say to @MinuteWalt – far from being a waste of anyone’s time, the stories shared so far are in fact incredibly interesting, thoughtful, and well-written.

I think this is a pretty great idea for a continuing thread, actually.


#10

Nope, I love stuff like this.


#11

I was wondering about that myself. I kind of thought about closing the topic after the first post, and just leaving it there to fade away (I got it out of my system, I was done), but then I thought there may be other people who might want to talk about their unforgotten friends, so I left it open.

(Just an example of why I would want a thread closed: a sort-of related thread that I closed, after I asked for permission from the OP, @SleepyWill, because it was perfect as it was, A love letter to an old friend. Mine isn’t perfect, however, and I think there may be other people who might want to say something here.)

On your recommendation, @clg6000, and your’s @MrJackdaw, I will leave it open. If anyone wants to talk about those that have gone before us, they can do it here.


"Oy!" "Wut?" Just chat
#12

Heck, I started to reminisce over here, so now I need to get this off my chest or else it will weigh me down for a little while.

I used to work with Randy Porter at the Main Bookshop. He was great to work with, except for when there was a University of Florida football game on.

This was in the 90s. The internet was still text. He had a little hand-held radio he had to walk around within this huge book store in order to get a signal.

I didn’t mind, I went to the same college, we were both “Gators,” although I really couldn’t give a damn about sports. It was nice having him around as backup on the register, he was smart and competent, and had a huge internal database about classic rock and roll trivia.

This was a part-time job he did as a favor to his friend, who owned the shop. His main job was teaching TOEFL to people hoping to become US Citizens (TOEFL=“Test of English as a Foreign Language.” Yes, I know, it’s not even a consistent acronym. Most people from other countries who pass the TOEFL tend to speak English better than the natives, as well.)

He had an identical twin brother, Terry. Terry was very gay, had no interest in sports, and he was a walking, talking IMDB. He worked at the greatest video store in the entire world, Video Renaissance (still around, still the best).

I called “VidRen” occasionally just to hope to get Terry to solve trivia questions. Example of an actual call:

“Sorry to bug you Terry, how many fingers does Dr. T have?”
“Oh, hi Justin! That would be 5,000.”
“Dude, you’re a god.”
“I know.”

This video store, and Terry, had been around since I was a kid, before I had kids of my own, and Terry and Bill (the owner) always remembered me, my ex-wife, and my kids, from going back into the late 80s. The store, and Bill, is still there. (Obviously my kids weren’t there in the 80s, this isn’t Doctor Who, I’m just saying they know everyone in my immediate family).

The Porter brothers had a lame joke. “Terry” and “Randy” “Porter”: they were the “Towel” and “Horny” “Bellhops”.

Even though the twins tried to disassociate and differentiate from each other, publicly, they actually were housemates for most of their lives. They got a little pissy if you mistook one for the other, but they never really got mad at you. After talking to either of them for 10 seconds, you knew which Porter you were talking to, even if you didn’t get the subtle clue in their slightly different haircuts.

Terry died, suddenly, in his sleep. He wasn’t healthy, but he wasn’t unhealthy. He was a vegetarian who got some light exercise, but there was a congenital problem. There was a huge memorial service, I didn’t expect it to be that big, but apparently, he had touched many lives as much as he had touched my own.

Bill, the owner of his workplace, his employer (and dare I say, best friend?) of the last several decades made everything good with his eulogy, remembering the fun times, and how ridiculous Terry could be. It was followed by his other friends (also co-workers) who shared his love for cinema.

Randy, his brother, was almost unrecognizable from the man I knew. He was hobbled, on crutches, and bent. He looked 50 years older than he should have.

There was another memorial service for Randy three weeks later. He also slipped off in the middle of the night. I honestly didn’t expect that, although, now, looking back, I suppose I could have guessed. Most (not all, of course) of the people who were there for Terry’s showed up for Randy’s as well, naturally, and many who were not there for Terry’s.

These guys had no other family except for each other. They were orphans, a concept which I always found hard to grasp, I really can’t imagine it, coming from a big fat Italian/Irish family.

They had us, though, their fans, customers, co-workers, students, and ultimately we became their friends, and I hope we did enough to fill in as “family.” If nothing else, they became a part of our families as much as we became part of theirs, and I believe we were all much better off for it.


#13

A quick follow-up to my last post, Video Renaissance, which was in business from 1985, has just shut down. It was always a project of love, and the owner has always had a more profitable reality/restoration business.

It’s not like they had to declare bankruptcy or anything. It was just time to go. They outlasted Blockbuster, and pretty much every other other video rental place that was around since the 80’s!