Gordon is the underachiever of three brothers (one an accountant, one a supersalesman), a walrus of a guy who always seems relaxed and ready to kick back for one more beer. If he was any more easygoing you'd hear snoring.
Alex is an actor with a radio voice who reads monologues in foreign accents at the usual open mics, which I like, because let's face it, there's only so much poetry even poets can stand to hear in one evening.
Andy was going to be a life-saver, I thought, even after he put his hand through a window while we put up the storms. It turned out he was another in a series of steps from bad to worse.
Frank is a financial maverick who boasts he's rented every place he's lived his whole life, and leased every car since there's been leasing. Why bother to rent dental work, after all, three teeth is one more than he needs.
Michele apologizes for poems that don't need it, then delivers them in a voice you can hold in your hand. She knows how to build a poem, and only needs to turn her eye to a wider range of material.
Chris is a master story teller, and the bulk of his repertoire is stories from his own richly colorful life. When he really gets rolling he slips into the third person, so he can come along for the ride, too.
Bill is the kind of person who will loan a friend an absolutely astronomical amount of money, interest free, to be paid back only when it is no burden to do so. Twice. Concurrently. And make no mention of it.
Melinda learned, too young, that there are people in this world capable of actions (and inactions) that are unforgivable, even understanding that forgiveness is a release you give yourself, by way of letting go, not a gift to the other.
Diane had straight brown hair and the pointiest eye teeth I've ever seen, and would've made a great goth if there had been goth back then. She was the student council type of popular, not the cheerleader kind of popular.
Peter is the kind of artist who doesn't pay attention to what other people say can't be done. A carnival mind whose creations always perfectly twist--subtly, at second or third glance only--then drive the dagger of meaning home.
Libby raises her granddaughter because her daughter can't manage to do it herself. In three steps they are proof a good mother can give birth to a bad daughter, and a bad mother can give birth to a good daughter.
Mark was the older brother of a friend my age; he played Varsity hockey the year we played JV. At 16 he owned a brilliant black 1965 Mustang that I rode in the back of to and from the rink.
Bill said the secret to winning at the track was pick a good system and stick with it, that every system works, if you play it long enough--give up too early, and switch all the time, no system works.
Marita never moved in the same circles I did, but we saw each other on the peripheries. I remember catching "old soul" looks in her eyes, on her face. Thick, wavy hair a flattened "A" to her shoulders, sharp nose.
Kathleen has a mind like a hand held silvered reed which, when you ignite the end of it with an idea, crackle-spit-sputters with a continuous luminous shower of elaborations and permutations that make you go oooh, ahhhh, ohhhhh.
Mona is the kind of vegetarian who only eats food with no color--bread, potatoes, pasta--and the fastest talker I ever met. Tall, big-boned, and shy until you got to know her, petite, sly-charm and wicked thereafter.
Albert taught me to shave, to bowl as long as each game was better than the one before, to put away my tools when done, that homegrown vegetables are worth every hour of sweat, that words have trapdoors in them.
LaQuin oozed charisma and charm. One of those people everyone automagically instinctively likes. As tall, dark, and handsome as anyone could be. I always figured him for a career on stage or screen. If it could be done with integrity.
Barb was the original preppy among my early high school friends. Izod, Polo, Calvin Klein, and mall trips as a social function. Her house held photos of older brothers and sisters we never met, and stacks of Tiger Beat magazines.
Nan is the most famous person ever to have their picture taken with me, in the bathtub, nude. We were about three years old at the time. She went on to do film and television. I'm still playing with bubbles.
Nan can make even the most recalcitrant proponent of nurture over nature rethink their position. A square peg in the round hole of life, she gave birth (but can't be said to mother) to snapping rubber band of a daughter.
Toni was my high school girlfriend's mom, and one sharp woman. I remember her black wild hair, her laser wit, her joi d'vivre step, her fierce independence, and the way her drafter's hands moved bird-light when she even doodled.
Chris wears the collars up on his Izod shirts and thinks chauvinistic comments like "What do you expect from a buncha women?" are fine for all occasions as long as you cleverly bracket them with the appropriate type of chuckling.
Carol said Grandma Nayna, "What're you cooking?" Grandma: "Guppies." Carol: "GUPPIES? For Tubby? You must make a LOT of them." Grandma: "Oh, I do, I do." Carol: "How do you cook guppies??" Grandma: "First I filet them..." Not guppies, crappies.
Lee is one of those guys William Burroughs called an "F-Buckup, you all know the type, anything they have anything to do with, no matter how good it sounds, turns into a disaster." Stole his father's social security number.
Jimmy is big, bawdy, brilliant, loud-mouthed, opinionated as hell, and just about always right; except in the eyes of his wife who has been known to literally slap him into submission over argumentative points as trivial as driving directions.
John said to me, after a reading, by way of starting our second conversation, "You're at your best when you do the funny stuff. When you try to be serious, you suck." Such is the way good friendships are born.
Lad was the patriarch of the catering company where I began my cooking career. He called me a complete idiot because I'd been trained to call the thing a "sheet pan" that he could only ask for as "bun pan".
Scott was the guy we thought was my sister's husband, but wasn't. When they let him out of jail I lost what sliver of faith I had left in the criminal "justice" system of this country. Some humans are defective.
Walter was his name, but he went by Peck. A bachelor all 97 years of his life. Thirty years ago I asked why. He said, "The ones I wanted, didn't want me. The ones that wanted me, I didn't want."