Long friendship blurs the decades

Column by Craig Marshall Smith

Posted

“You two look like you're up to no good tonight,” the attractive stranger said. She was about 15 years too late.

Mike and I weren't exactly looking for trouble. We were looking for a box of candies in a grocery store on Quebec. I had given Mike a box of Mike and Ike with the “Ike” scratched out, and he thought I had scratched it out myself. I wanted to prove to him that they weren't my scratches.

The candy's parent company, Just Born, had the brilliant idea to spend $15 million in 2012 on an ad campaign designed to boost sales. Just Born had spent $125,000 on adverting in 2011. Big difference.

The plan was to revive sales by splitting up Mike and Ike, and then re-unite them (which Just Born did in 2013). Did it work? You tell me. I have never had a Mike candy or an Ike candy in my life.

But I have a Mike friend.

He flew into Denver recently to select a painting from my inventory, as a gift. He didn't know that he was going to be asked to perform an illegitimate marriage. That story is saved for another day.

I met Mike the friend in 1960 in southwest Ohio, where we both attended the same high school.

I had just arrived from Southern California. Orange County, Calif., and Hamilton County, Ohio, in 1960. Big difference. One was sunshine and more sunshine. One was overcast and more overcast.

I became overcast myself, until I met Mike, who lived just up the block. We were inseparable, until his father was transferred to northern California, after our junior year. His departure was a very sad day for me.

Our friendship since then has had a few gaps, and at one time we were down to exchanging Christmas cards. You know that a friendship is in disrepair when it gets down to nothing but Christmas cards.

Then Mike's first wife was run over by a bus in New York City. Mike's wife thought her death meant something sideways, that Mike and I needed to revive our friendship. Thank you, Connie.

Since then we have been back and forth, Colorado to California, and California to Colorado. It's not been often enough, but when it happens, it's perfect. Mike was a very respected San Francisco architect and I was, well, a difficult college professor, so we come together as a bright, intelligent, articulate team. However, we thrive on foolishness, and sophomoric behavior. It's 1962-63 again.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud.”

I know what he has done, the good and the otherwise, and he knows what I have done, for the past 53 years. I am always startled by the similarities: each of us has hit a few doubles and triples, experienced love, and missed the off ramp now and then.

In 1967 we went to a concert at Melodyland, which had a revolving stage, in Orange County, Calif. Two up-and-coming acts performed. First, Simon and Garfunkel. They were followed by The Mamas & The Papas. Not bad.

As the stage revolved, I could hear Garfunkel's mint clicking in his mouth. At that time, Simon was good friends with Garfunkel, just like Mike and me. Then things went off, and they split up, and both of them have had good careers apart.

Eventually they gathered up and called each other. I watched them sing “The Boxer” on Letterman on July 2, 2011. Garfunkel's hair was still haywire.

“God, that was nice,” Letterman said afterwards.

After Mike left us yesterday morning, to return his rental car at the airport, I said to Jennifer, “God, that was nice.”

The attractive stranger could have been a mentalist and said, “You two look like old friends. Memories have brushed the same years.”

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net