Friday, June 7, 2013

"Sir, Now You've Upset Me." Happy BDay, Vladika

Last weekend my friend, Brett, turned 43. I've known him since high school, where we began our association with each other as enemies. I can't tell you why we didn't like each other. I was the band director's kid, so maybe that had something to do with it. I recall an incident with an Eagles LP, which could've been the source of my anger. It was the hastily compiled "Greatest Hits, Vol. 2" which I received from the Columbia Record Club. In other words, cheap vinyl that I got for a penny. Hardly a reason to get pissed at a guy. Then again, I was 14/15 at the time, so I wasn't very logical.

The strange thing about the animosity between the two of us was that we had the same mutual friends: Alex, Tom, John, Phil, Sally, Kathy and Kerry. We all hung out together. At some point Brett and I buried the hatchet (probably over a couple of North Olmsted Coolers, a primitive version of a Shandy) and became good buddies.

During my high school senior year emotional void, when I thought the world would end because my heart was broken, I took a memorable camping trip with my friends Tom, James and Brett. We drove out into the middle of nowhere, parked our car and hiked down the side of a forest hill to pitch a tent. It was a fun adventure until the rain began. We wound up crashing at Brett's house the next morning, laughing about the complete failure of the trip. From that point on, Brett and I hung out more frequently.

After high school and into college, the same group of us saw each other during winter and summer breaks. There were never any "plans" to do stuff. Someone would show up at another person's house and we'd just hang out. At this point, Matt was a part of the gang. Man, Matt and Brett together were a pair. One particular night, Brett was over to the house and I began expounding on the brilliance of "My Sharona." Brett laughed as I went on and on about the musicality of the song; I even jammed it on the drums for him.

Later in the night, while the two of us were in the Malchus family room, shooting the shit over a couple of beers, my father entered the room. At that moment, Brett set his beer on the wood arm rest of the couch, or maybe it was an end table, I'm unclear. Wood was involved.

My father flipped.

"Sir, now you've upset me," he snarled at Brett. It was the most irrationally response I'd ever heard my dad direct at one of my friends. He spoke to Brett as if the guy was one of those punks that get under his skin during each school year.  But he liked Brett (still does, as far as I know). The look on Brett's face was priceless. Utter shock. Once my dad left the room, we both shared a WTF look and went about our business.

After Julie and I got married and moved to California, I never thought I'd see Brett again. Through mutual friends I learned that he was married and living in Colorado. The, sometime in the early 2000s, Brett contacted me to say he was going to be in LA for a couple of days. We had dinner, got caught up on each others lives, and suddenly the friendship was renewed. He's been to LA a few more times, and he happened to be in Ohio a couple of summer's ago while we were also visiting Julie's family. In a period of five years, I believe I've seen him more that any of the old gang. Pretty funny considering we used to hate each other.

This past December I finally met his lovely wife, Leah. At the fundrasier held in the memory of Seann, Brett and Leah showed up, along with the Koziols. Although we all only got to spend about an hour together, it was one of the best parts of an emotional evening.

Throughout the years, Brett and his family have supported Great Strides and my marathon fundraisers, which makes them extra special in my book. This year I was shocked to learn that Brett is battling Leukemia. He's been in chemo throughout the spring and I can only imagine the emotional toll it is taking on Leah and their two beautiful children. If anyone I know can kick this disease's ass, it's Brett. He's always been one of the fiercest people I know, a quality I truly admire.

There's not much I can do for my old friend except send my prayers and support his way. Oh, and I can remind him how fucking awesome "My Sharona" is and why it should always be cranked up on the radio.

Happy Birthday, Brett.

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