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Posts Tagged ‘Recipe du Jour’

Arlington

I drove down to Northern Virginia earlier this month to see old friends Richard and Tim. There was a time when we saw each other much more frequently, but distance and family and the circumstances of life separated us. Once we were collaborators in that grand dot-com enterprise called Recipe du Jour that reached many thousands of readers six days a week, but that was then. We are not those people anymore.

We could see the changes in each other – older, not so quick on our feet, though not necessarily any slower of mind. We were there to inter Tim’s mother, Jane, at Arlington National Cemetery, in a piece of ground next to her late husband, Colonel Lee. Tim had brought a vase of her ashes from the lake in North Carolina where he lives. It was a sunny day, on the edge of chill.

A large extended family and we friends walked through the white stones that stretched far off into the distance. A military chaplain of the appropriate faith interwove the facts of Mrs. Lee’s life that must have been provided to him, with thoughts on the military calling and the rewards of heaven. I have been to far colder funerals than this.

It was all handled with military precision as seems appropriate being repeated many times a day amid so many men and women in uniform. The capitol dome was visible in the distance. Tim wore a T-shirt under a new sports coat. I’m not sure he has owned a shirt with a collar since 1995.

Until this visit I had nurtured the unspoken hope that we might renew our collaboration in some new form. But I think that spark has died. We may continue on our individual projects, but we are in another stage of life, one where we look back more than we look ahead. If that sounds too depressing or despondent, it’s only the way all stories end. Hopefully, there were a few good stories –like Richard’s Vietnam vignettes or Tim’s humorous recollections of the many times he maimed himself.

I will remember the way our readers seemed like a large extended family, keeping in touch with cards and emails, birthday wishes, generous comments and contributions. That was why we continued for so many years, and we thanked Richard for the many hours he put in making a place for us to share our stories with the 20,000 strong Recipe du Jour family.

We have been best friends since high school. That’s a long time. Longer than we’ve known our wives, or in Tim’s case, ex-wives. On my drive down from central Pennsylvania to Leesburg, Va., I conjured up memories of some of the best times, moments that I would like to relive for a little while. Like the trip with Tim to New Orleans when we popped the new Stevie Nicks CD in the stereo and watched the gas flares burn off on the oil rigs in the dark. Or driving in Richard’s family station wagon out to Virginia Beach and turning on the radio to hear Richard Harris singing his monumental version of MacArthur Park, everything still unknown and possible.

Did we live up to the promise we saw in each other as teenagers, proud of our brains and creativity and difference from the crowd of high school yahoos? Maybe not. But there are a hundred days and hours I would happily relive again with these guys. Proud to be one of their kind.

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It’s a beautiful morning in South Carolina, where I am visiting my mother on this day 62 years after she first saw my face, wrinkled and red I imagine, squalling and unhappy to be in this cold world. Yesterday was Tim’s birthday, and I celebrated with him on the lake in North Carolina on Saturday. A good visit, but too short and Richard wasn’t there.

It feels like yesterday that we were in high school, admiring the girls and trying to be cool. Now we can qualify for early social security. But it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like my thirtieth year to heaven, as the poet Dylan Thomas wrote in Poem in October, one of the best of all birthday poems:

“My birthday began with the water-/
Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name/
Above the farms and the white horses And I rose/
In rainy autumn/
And walked abroad in a shower of all my days./
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road/
Over the border /
And the gates/
Of the town closed as the town awoke.”

That was how I felt as I drove south through the sleeping towns of central Pennsylvania early Saturday morning, with the trees all splendid in their autumn colors. My thoughts drifted through the years to my childhood in Florida, my youth in Virginia, the years I lived in San Francisco, thinking of people I had known and how I had been happy and sad, and already missing my family I had just said goodbye to and our home in the quiet valley. That’s always how it is when I drive a long way alone. The mind is set free to wander.

Tim and I got excited while I was there about working together with Richard on a new project, a Best of Recipe du Jour electronic book for Kindle and other e-readers. It would be a compilation of each of our favorite pieces from the past 12 years of RDJ, with new introductory material the RDJ readers had never seen, supplied by each of us. We think that our long collaboration and friendship may be something unique in the annals of cyberspace, and we want to document it in a more permanent way. Look for it to be out before Christmas, if we’re conscientious.

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