After a two-month stretch with no guests, finally I have a visitor. My friend Ben arrived yesterday afternoon. Ben's attending med school in Iowa City right now and had a little break to spend here in the UK. We have a big week planned...he's traveling to other parts of the country today and tomorrow to visit other friends, and then Thursday we head to Scotland.
I've known Ben since I was five years old. In fact, if we calculated anniversaries we just passed our 33rd earlier this month. We met on the kindergarten bus shortly after I moved to Decorah. We both had a geeky affinity for dinosaurs which proved an immediate source of bonding, and general geekiness and assorted misanthropery has kept us close since.
Ben remembers when I had a lisp. Ben knew me when I experimented with odd haircolors and combat fatigues. (Okay, many of you would argue that I still experiment with odd haircolors...and I'll concede the point for now, though I've been sticking to enhancing my genetic dark brown lately and would argue that that stage is over for awhile.) It was Ben's idea for me to move to Seattle, he stayed in the Vashon teepee with Soni and me, and he bought me beers when he was flush and I was skint. He's listened to me whine, he's whined right back, he's dated many of my friends, and he's always encouraged me to do great things. Basically, he has witnessed as much (perhaps more) of my life than anyone I know and has helped determine the course that life has taken.
The thing about people you've known for so long is that they know all your backstory, so they perceive the depth of your life and the changes that you've been through. And that shared history brings inside jokes and goofy behavior and a freedom that gets lost with the demands of being an adult. It's why my friends Susan and KB and I bust up when we eat potato chips, or why I think of my Seattle friends when I eat corn, or why Pillow Talk and W.E.B. Dubois are so important to Tom and me. And it's why I'm so looking forward to this weekend with Ben. I get to share my new life with someone with whom I share three decades of camaraderie. It somehow makes it more real, makes it seem like an accomplishment, makes it seem cool.
El Ben blew in to MK Central around 5pm. We dropped stuff off at my house, he reaffirmed his jealousy at my good fortune and admired the duck pond. I gave him a quick tour of the "splendor" that is Milton Keynes, we admired some sheep, and then had dinner at a Thai restaurant in Stony Stratford. I was still sick and he hadn't slept in 72 hours but we were talking over each other with stories of photographing skin cells and espionage in the field of dermatological research and of driving on the left side and of forcing Britain to bend to my will. We came home and kept talking until midnight. And we marveled that two kids from podunk nowhere were sipping tea in the lounge of my semi-detached in England, something we'd been dreaming about in various permutations for pretty much forever. Who would have ever guessed this would be our life? If we had, perhaps we would have been a little less angry as teenagers.
And I know this sounds stupid/cliche, but for the first time in a while I was not just 38 and sliding into 40, but I was 5 and 15 and 25, as well. I had that feeling you get when you're around someone whom you're meant to know...that harmonious heart-singing euphoria of people who laugh at your jokes and adore your idiosyncrasies and think you rock. (Message to the rest of those people...fares suck until September so I'm coming to you June 25 - July 10...but after Labor Day you, too, should come have PG Moments on my couch.)
It's going to be a good week.
PS. We found a GREAT new reality show that will dominate the 1030 - 1130 PM segment of our days...it's called The Farm, and basically the premise is that 10 has-beens move onto a farm, and are forced to manage it for their subsistence while cameras film their interactions. There are two former porn stars, Charlene Tilton from Dallas, and washed up tabloid glory hounds (British Kato Kalins, if you will) living in this house, as well as a 72-year-old Canadian lounge singer with too much energy and a fused neck. (Too bad he can't turn his head to look at the guy with the big green duck puppet, who will have a hard time milking a cow with his hand up a three foot bird.) This should be reality tv at its lowest/best. You'd think book-smart nerds like us would be too hoity toity for dreck like this...but you'd be wrong. We were already discussing it this morning.