My Cali buddy called and asked me if I could come to his parents' house for drinks and dinner. Oh, boy, I said. . . indeed I could. Dancing Larry would be there, he said. Dancing Larry is always there. He's the sort of sidekick Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the like always had (link). He was a NASA engineer, but you would never guess it. He was also a very good marathoner. His routine was always to skip breakfast, go to the gym during his lunch hour, come home and run ten miles, then have dinner which usually consisted of two bottles of wine and a cheese and fruit platter. When the weekend came, he would celebrate by getting a pitcher of margaritas. I've known Larry since the '80s. He was first a sidekick of my dead ex-friend Brando with whom I teamed to lead a group to climb Mexico's nearly 18,000 foot volcano, Popcatepetl. Larry went on that trip. That is when I met him.
He was a madman.
Larry is now 75 and lives alone. I only see him once a year when my Cali friend comes to town. On these occasions, Larry drinks, smokes pot, and passes out at my friend's parents' house. It is a ritual, a routine with which the parents are familiar and comfortable. . . and even amused. Larry likes to tell the sort of silly jokes that ten year old's enjoy but with an adult-ish twist. Everyone laughs, not because the jokes are humorous, but because Larry tells them. They never amuse me, however, and I cannot make myself laugh, but I usually have a quick tagline to add which seems to my mind to make the thing funnier.
I am quick that way.
All in all, though, Larry has long been part of my outdoor adventure landscape, and I look forward in an odd way to seeing him.
I like to tell stories of his sexual misadventures in various countries. Larry doesn't mind. In fact, I think, he enjoys them as they are a validation of a sort, for in the main, Larry doesn't date. But. . . he does like "the ladies." He's just a bit too strange for the sustained relationship.
Now, at 75, he says he is comfortable with aging.
"Are you still running, Larry?"
"No, not really. I shuffle."
"Me, too, The old man shuffle, I call it. Uphill. It hurts too much to do it on flat land."
I am not comfortable with aging at all. Aging is a horrible disease with which we are afflicted. As I've mentioned, I think, scientist experimented with giving the blood of young mice to old mice, and vice versa. The old mice got younger. And, of course, the opposite. I am looking for willing victims with my blood type to help me. I now understand the fascination with vampires. I need blood, goddamnit. Young, radiant blood.
But I digress.
When I got to my friend's parents' house, they party had already begun. I always enjoy seeing the parents. I've known my buddy and his parents longer than I've known Larry, I think. Too many years and a flagging memory puts me at a loss for an exact timeline, but I met my Cali friend just after he graduated college and had gotten his broker's job. He and his buddies used to come to the old Prison Gym where I worked out, and he says they wanted to be like "the big hippie." They all went on to become college athletes in various sports and far surpassed me, and it was with this group that I was invited to come out on weekends to play basketball.
I took my buddy on his first rock climbing trip. I led him on his first high altitude mountain climb. He made a fortune as a broker, retired at thirty, and became an outdoor mountain guide. He climbed El Cap and Half Dome, McKinnley and Aconcagua, and was invited on an Everest expedition. He got a job with Outward Bound and led groups on 21 day survival trips in the Sierras. I continued to climb with him when I could, but he was always the lead climber. I trusted him because he had money and a reason to come home unlike most climbing guides who live in the back of a van or in somebody's closet in a mountain home. We had some close calls, but we always made it back without serious incident.
We have a long and colorful relationship, and I officiated his wedding in Yosemite. After he and his wife had kids, he sold his rock climbing gear. Now he still leads clients into the wilderness, but these are more nature outings with strenuous hiking than thrill seeking adventures. He needs to get home to the kids.
His parents ordered pizzas for dinner, but I told my buddy I needed something more. I volunteered to get the pizzas. My buddy and Larry came along. We stopped and got two roasted chickens at a good Greek place and took Larry to a convenience store to get scratch off tickets. My buddy's niece and her husband were coming over, and Larry has a long history of playing lotto with them. He bought $100 worth.
Chicken, pizza, salad, and a good Chianti Classico later, my friend's father made me a cocktail. The niece had come. Now it was "The Larry Show."
Larry was already in the bag when my buddy fed him the gummy. We all sat around and listened to his semi-coherent ramblings, me serving as moderator using my narrative skills to tie things together. Per usual. I guess it is my schtick. We are all characters in our own way. We play our roles. I would start some outrageous Larry Tale and he would pepper it with "colorful" descriptions of unusual and inappropriate things--trips to the nude bar in Mexico City, nights in some whorehouse on the outskirts of town. Etc. Eyes pop, but nobody objects. This is Larry. This is the deal. It is all too usual for me, but for "normal" people, it is an exotic trip into the mind of a dead on freak. There is, however, a warmth in the air. Larry is loved.
My buddy's parents are as old as my mother, so earlier than later, I say it is late, and I must move on.
"Yea, it's time for me to go to bed," says my buddy's dad, and thus ends the party. Larry, per usual, is staying over, too drunk and stoned to drive anywhere. I say thank you and goodnight to my friend's mother with promises to see everyone again soon. The men walk me to the car, some pissing in the yard under an August moon, then with rough guy goodbyes, I start the car and make my way home.
We've done this for many, many years. It is a sacred ritual, a transcendent celebration bordering on the religious and eternal. Back home, I picture them putting Larry to bed, then the boys. I pour the last drink of the evening and lie back into the couch. In a moment, I will go to bed. I close my eyes and remember the evening's events, and for the moment, I am happy.