Before transferring to Arizona State for my senior year in 1969, I was at loose ends. The War in Viet Nam loomed over my conscientious objector soul. Not coloring outside the lines was just leading me down a fear-based path. After the time-of-my-life sophomore year dating Hannah Kraai at the College of Wooster in Ohio, she and I lost our way; needing a big time change, I picked up and headed west to the Valley of the Sun.
Fortunately in Arizona, I found a group of guys to see me through.
Three of us were from Jersey, Art, a marine from Bergenfield with a perpetual smirk, that endearingly made me feel like I was in on the joke; Rich, a 17 year old just good dude from Hawthorne coming West to be a pilot; and me looking to be So Far Away (thank you, Carole King).
There was Nobes, an art major from Michigan with a killer sense of humor and the smile that nothing was going to get him down. Fifth was Big Steve from Virginia, who in the vernacular of the time, was the what’s-happening member of our quintet.
Why did we bond and remain friends for almost forty-nine years? To start, when our Irish Hall dorm cleared out for the weekend of all the Arizona kids, we had ourselves and not much more. Using our cafeteria meal money at the Dash Inn, we dined on two beef burritos and ice tea for less than a dollar. We spent 110F September Saturdays floating in tire tubes down the Salt River with a few brews.
Only Art (Triumph sports car) and Steve (Ford Falcon) had cars, but each willingly lent theirs whenever asked. Back in the day, a Coors or two together on Camelback Mountain in the late Phoenix evening made us bolder, the stories bigger, and the friendship stronger.
But really, you are still going strong 49 years? For me, I felt accepted without having to prove myself. Twenty-five hundred miles from home I was really on my own, beginning to find out what I believed and ready for the journey to find my way.
In this summer of 2018, 49 years later, Nobes, Rich, and I meet in Maine to toast our fallen compadres – Art to cancer from Agent Orange from his time in Viet Nam and Big Steve to a family history of heart attacks.
The me you see now has its roots in the connection to these guys.