Steve was like my evil twin in high school. Both redheads, similar body styles, he was as dark and brooding as I was positive and upbeat. Ten years after I realized he'd spent two years trying to steal my girlfriend.
Larry is a professional salesman who calls people "Tiger" when he can't remember their names and seems to be the paradoxically proud owner of a congenital lack of sincerity. His pep talks close with the hush of the collective "woo."
Paul always drove the biggest car money could buy, and drove it like an MG, because to him, it was. When he was in the Air Force he drove B-36s and B-52s. He was the very definition of ramrod straight.
Ken was the kid who got picked last when others were choosing up sides. He was built like the Michelin Boy, ran like a girl, and had an awkward smile that only occasionally indicated hurt. His clothes smelled slept in.
Katey was a kind of a social strange attractor. She herself wasn't all that interesting to many of her friends (to hear them tell it), though she was a friend to a group of people who were each wildly interesting.
Andy came back from culinary school calling everyone "Buh-bie" and making disastrous cream of lettuce soups. He could dice though. Keeping my mouth shut and ears open I got paid to get most of the education he'd paid for.
Glenn had been cooking longer than I'd been alive. He made the world's best New England clam chowder. When I noticed that I'd never seen him have a bowl of it he shuddered and said, "Yeelch, can't stand the stuff."
Wick was my first college roommate. For one semester we didn't have a meaningful conversation about anything more interesting than schedules. We did share "ugh" glances waking up every single morning to our neighbor's stereo playing "Fantasy" by Aldo Nova.
Jason is the kind of friend who won't blink if you say, "I need 5 million unique images to underlie 5 million unique typographical arrangements of the same text, on transportable media." He'll say "Pregenerated or done on the fly?"
Dan helped me buy my first car (a Toyota Corolla SR5 with a moonroof!), and was the first hardcore computer (multiple TRS-80s) and consumer electronics (video disk, and projection TV) geek I ever knew (but certainly not the last).
Madelaine was the quintessential Italian mother. If she heard us come in late, she'd come downstairs, ask if we were hungry, and then (regardless of our answer) make pizza or mostaccioli from scratch (even the dough or pasta) for us.
Mike was the senior captain of the varsity hockey team the year I was freshman captain of the junior varsity. He was found in early February, passed out, inside his car, parked on a lake's thick ice, frozen to death.
Pete was my high school girlfriend's mostly away-at-college older brother. He was a big boy (like professional football player big) and still growing. He once ate an entire sandwich-sliced Krakus ham in a less than a day.
Catherine is passionate and pigheaded, tough, smart and a real ballbusting crazymaker. She conducts herself as if her job was at the center of an unstable system with the power to change thousands kids' lives for the better. She's right.
Bill and I clicked from the first minute flying stunt kites together although (or because) our life experiences were otherwise radically different. On the way to becoming a best friend ever our freetime schedules stopped meshing. We lost all connection.
Geof is my voice double, or, as my grandfather might have put it, he sounds enough like my brother to be me. A guy who wouldn't blink at documenting the way he documents his documents (even the ones about documenting).
Robin believes, like I do, that you don't make the determination of "are we at fault?" based on how much it will cost to fix. A company is no less liable for fixing expensive mistakes than for fixing cheap ones.
Javier took it as a personal affront to his manhood every time any other car on the highway would attempt to pass his car. He'd pound on the gas pedal and cuss a blue streak until he regained the lead.
Stephanie just needs to dial it back a notch. Okay, two notches. She's damned good at what she does (if a little inflexible), but you can't yell (even praise) at people and expect them to take it the right way.
Charlotte had been cooking at the club longer than I'd been alive. As her new supervisor I had to be the one to instruct her to please not lick her fingers before and after she checked cooking meats for doneness.
Steve was the impeccably dressed manager at the restaurant Corporate sent managers on the way up, or on the way down (the employees really ran the place). His professional tact: Kim, you smell, take a shower before you come back.
Karen has everything anyone could want. A storybook home, a lush garden, a beautiful daughter, a husband, a love of her life, a talent for poetry, a past to draw from, a future worth anticipation. The pieces, somehow, don't fit.
James has mastered the art of doing just enough work to fly under the radars that locate employees who are candidates for more responsibility either because they're overachievers or are underachieving. His thinks "the nail that sticks up, gets pounded."
Mischelle seems like she's sort of tumbling through life in a slowly failing effort to keep any more of it from tumbling through her. Poetry is the facet of stabilization I would want extended, at the expense of the others.
John paints two kinds of pictures: the eerily good home run and the sadly ill-advised strikeout. Nothing in between. The good news is, he takes a lot of swings. The bad news is his bat is a wine bottle.
Conor can make a believable world from construction paper, a branch, a brass lamp, some actors, a script and puppets. There radiates from him the good kind of charm that verbs the world around him more than it adjectives himself.
Kristen was the first true artist I ever met. Her family moved to our area in 8th grade and she was already doing brilliant mixed media work involving nailing altered dolls to plywood sheets. Powerful and haunting work, even today.
Chaz can run a workshop, but is a lousy attendee. Imagine Bowser from ShaNaNa, only older, fatter, shorter, grayer, and balder. Now hear him mash, immediately after that first poem by the imported workshop leader: It's really about fucking, right?
John slept in his mother's bed too long, if you ask me. No one asked me, I only got told about it. I saw him recently and they were right not to ask me, he's become a genuinely complete person.
Doug is one of a half dozen people who can be considered local supersupporters of the arts. He teaches, attends, performs (brilliantly) in a range of styles, promotes, and encourages. I've never heard him say a bad word about anyone.
Craig was a couple years older than me and was my best friend until I moved from Minnesota to Chicago. He had a brother my age who seemed younger. His family was so into archery they even went bow fishing.