The Association rides again
Aug. 12, 2013
by Ivan Raconteur

On a recent Sunday morning, the two founding members of The Association convened a meeting for the first time in decades.

The Association was (and is) a quasi political and fraternal organization that stole its name from the 1960s-era band of the same title. It is an extremely exclusive group.

As a matter of fact, my old friend Eric and I were (and are) the only members. Many people applied for membership, but none met the high standards required for acceptance. We assigned plenty of tasks to applicants to test their suitability, but they were all found wanting in some way.

Eric and I lost touch years ago. I left to attend college out of state, and he embarked on adventures of his own.

We began corresponding via Facebook a couple years back, but we hadn’t seen one another since leaving Duluth in the early 1980s.

Our mini-reunion began unexpectedly one Friday morning while I was laying out the newspaper. An alert on my phone notified me I had a message from Eric. He was in town for a couple days visiting his family, and wondered if I wanted to meet.

We convened our meeting at a Caribou Coffee shop in Minneapolis.

I had no trouble identifying my old comrade. He looks much as he did when we were younger, except that his head is shaved and his goatee is more white than brown. There is still the same sparkle of mischief in his eyes that ignited many creative escapades in our youth.

We sat on the patio under a tranquil blue sky, sipping Depth Charges and sharing the highlights of the 30 or so years since we convened our last meeting.

Our families were among the topics on the agenda. It made me smile to hear him talk animatedly about grandchildren and great-nieces.

Grandparents weren’t even on the radar the last time we spoke. We were young, free, and lived for today. He is obviously proud of the new additions to his family, and it was good to see this added dimension in my old pal.

I found it hilarious to hear him talk about his 83-year-old mother’s lead-footed driving habits in metro traffic. I remember her as a kind woman who taught first grade at the local school for 28 years. I suspect his driving habits occasioned her some concerns over the years, as well, and it was funny to see the tables turned.

Eric did acknowlege he wouldn’t be alive but for his mom, and he seems willing to cut her some slack, despite the heavy right foot.

We spoke of mutual friends, alive and dead, and congratulated one another on still being on the green side of the sod.

Naturally, we reminisced about the adventures of our younger days.

Eric reminded me of the all-night poker sessions we used to have. I would put a green flannel cloth over a card table and suspend a reflector lamp above the table to provide the only light. Dense blue clouds of smoke emanating from Robert Burns Blackwatch cigars would fill the room, and we would play cards and drink black coffee until dawn.

We recalled a memorable trip up the North Shore to visit one of his girlfriends. The girl seemed happy enough to see us. Her parents, however, were much less delighted by our arrival.

Eric said he still keeps in touch with her, and claims she is just as beautiful today as she was back then (as I recall, she was exceptionally easy on the eyes). He noted he doesn’t know how she has remained unchanged, because when he looks in the mirror these days, he sees an old man looking back at him.

My old comrade has mellowed some since those halcyon days of yore, and that is undoubtedly a good thing.

Instead of cooking up ways to raise Cain, he spoke quietly of how he does little projects for his neighbors, and generally looks for ways he can help others.

It struck me that he has finally found a way to channel the explosive natural energy that fueled so many wild adventures in the past into more positive directions, and this made me proud of him.

In a way, it was strange to meet again after three decades. We knew each other in our youth, and both of us have put on some hard miles since then.

There are wide gaps in what we know about each other’s lives in the intervening years, but none of that really matters. The person sitting across the table from me on that pleasant Sunday morning was the same man I knew years ago, albeit with a few more character lines on his mug.

The twisted sense of humor was intact, as was his slightly sideways view of the world.

We even slipped back into some of the same patterns of speech that characterized our younger days. Time has done nothing to change any of that.

He can still quote Monty Python chapter and verse, and he still remembers the lyrics to at least a couple of the bawdy chanteys we used to sing as we embarked on our quests in his old Bonneville.

My old comrade has wrestled his demons and experienced some ups and downs along the way, as we all do. I may be wrong, but I had an impression his journey has taken him through a dark and frightening tunnel, but now he has come out the other end and found a comfortable place for himself.

He likes the small town where he is living. He seemed content with his life.

I don’t know when I will see my old comrade again, but I am confident that when our paths do cross, he will be the same quirky character I remember, and that suits me just fine.

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