My friend John sent me a Facebook Messenger note earlier this week saying he was coming to Kerrville and would I be up for a late night or early coffee the next day. “Absolutely!” I replied. First thing I thought was, He’s not coming to Kerrville; he’s coming through Kerrville. Or near Kerrville. I was right, he was driving on I-10, which runs by Kerrville. Prepositions matter. They betray intent.
John was a grade school classmate at Trinity School in New York City. The two most vivid things I remembered about him were his nearly always smiling face and bubbly personality, and that he had a birthday party during 2nd grade where we got to bob for apples. Now, I’ve been to birthday parties later in life where we go paint-balling, and that can be loads of fun provided you’re wearing five pairs of sweatpants you don’t mind throwing out afterwards. But the worst thing that happens when you bob for apples is that you might get the collar wet on your Star Trek t-shirt.
He and I reconnected on Facebook a few years back and, as many did, he stayed connected after Tuesday, November 3, 2020, when — as you might remember — the country held an election. We did have an election that day; that is undisputed. What is also undisputed is that people had a dispute about what actually happened that day. And what is also undisputed is that some interpreted the dispute as treason and that those who disputed exactly what happened that day shouldn’t be allowed to fly on airplanes, which in a sense was all fine and good because no air carrier serves Fresca anymore and gas was still cheap on November 2, so I might as well drive wherever it was I wanted to go. (After all, I’d be driving through “fly-over country” anyway, and they have Fresca along the way.) The fact is that those of us who chatted it up before, on and after November 3 were having a “gay old time,” as the Flintstones theme song went. There were others who, too, were having a gay old time in the Fall of 2020, and many were themselves gay, or black, or gay and black, or Hispanic, or poor, or immigrants from Iran or Asia, or union members in Flint, Michigan. The main people who weren’t having a gay old time were straight married women in their 40s who wore yoga pants and drank matchas at Le Pain Quotidien on Manhattan’s Upper West Side after school drop-off and before walking over together to the 11 AM class at SoulCycle. They were not having a gay old time. Instead they were making pink pussy hats and marching down Fifth Avenue, as if The Met had projectile vomited Pepto Bismol toward Trump Tower. (By the way, pink pussy hats on eBay are trading 10:1 for vintage Star Trek t-shirts.)
So John and I re-connected some time before things got treacherous and stayed connected when they got downright expensive to drive and dangerous to have needles stuck in your arm ostensibly to make things less dangerous.
While in New York and until his father’s work brought them to California after his fourth grade year, he lived in 50 United Nations Plaza. It’s an apartment building nary a block uptown from the United Nations itself. It’s nice. There currently is a 3-bedroom, 3,000 square-foot condo up for sale for a cool $8.4 mill. And, yes, that’s almost $3,000/sq ft. That’s an abstract number. Let me contextualize it for you: when we moved from New York to Texas, we got three times the living space for half the cost. We also got a landlord here who doesn’t come over to fix a faulty toilet and tell you on his way out that you needed to clean the kitchen or it would attract roaches.
So the morning rolls around after a night during which John and his son did indeed stay in Kerrville, and he and I met for coffee at La Quinta Inn on Sidney Baker. My coffee was free, because he was a guest, and having arrived early I just helped myself. If I had so chose, I could have helped myself also to Fruit Loops, raisin bread toast or oatmeal. Which, if I’m hungry and in the area some other morning, I might just do. Because you totally could. Just smile at the receptionist as you pass like you had retrieved something from the car. In fact, that is exactly what you’d do in New York City if you needed a restroom: confidently walk into a hotel and ask anyone who works there where the bathroom is. Because the Starbucks in NYC have bathrooms open to customers only, if they have bathrooms at all. And the bathrooms that do exist have five digit codes that change every 30 seconds and require fingerprint verification. At least before COVID they did. Now it’s facial recognition.
We had coffee and chatted. John was still warm and bubbly and gracious as always and kept a big smile. He still hugs you when you say hi and again when you say bye.
In the end, he and I will have different lines on our foreheads.
SPECIAL NOTE: The editor is aware that this author’s content dips into an area that is political in nature and, therefore, possibly inflammatory. The author also told us this story, which may offset the scorn some of our readers feel. He made a comment the other day on an Instagram post about the tragedy of 9/11 and, in passing, placed blame on those who were at the time identified as responsible. His opinion hasn’t wavered: those who were held accountable were those who were indeed accountable. But because he allowed only for the remote possibility that the government may have been aware beforehand (that’s what intel is for, after all), and because he didn’t agree that the government was “behind” the attack — yes, another damning preposition — he was called all sorts of names by those who believed the Bushes orchestrated everything and was told by one person to “eat a d _ _ _, you idiot,” using an eggplant emoji for the word itself. (iPhones have made insults so wonderfully metaphorical.) The common thread is humanity. The editorial board of Biscuit Aisle unanimously believes that the only absolute truth we can all agree on — about ourselves or others — is that humanity is constitutionally flawed. That is why there is mercy. That is why there is grace.