Thursday, February 12, 2015

It was (over) 20 years ago today

I wonder if you are really a friend of mine
If I were lying in jail wouldja get outa bed & pay my fine?
Time stands still for everyone
You never really know who your friends are
Al Kooper

My longtime friend Bob Peters (not his real name) came back into my life this summer.

When I say “longtime friend,” I'm not kidding. We first met in 1970 when he was hired as a news announcer at the radio station where I was working nights. We worked together for about a year, then he was fired and then I was fired. \

My firing was “better” than his. I, at least, was called into the manager's office to be told my career in radio had hit an iceberg. He found out when he came into work one morning and some other guy was working at his desk. When he asked the guy what he was doing, the guy replied, “I'm the new news director,” which came as a huge surprise to Peters who was, at that time, evidently, the old news director.

Yeah, it seems management had covered all the bases except telling Peters not to report to work...ever again. He did get the last laugh, sort of, by showing up at the company Christmas party four months later as the date of someone who still worked there. That was the same Christmas party, by the way, where I made the remark that put a permanent end to my radio career.

By the time we had both been fired, we were really good friends and, as such, stayed in touch. Eventually he moved to Syracuse, and eventually I moved to Syracuse. He moved to Vermont, and I stayed in Syracuse. Then he moved to Idaho, and I stayed in Syracuse. Next stop for Peters was Utah, and I stayed... you get the idea. He then moved back to Idaho, and, sure enough, I stayed in Syracuse.

Through all this moving, of his obviously, we never lost contact. For years we stayed in touch and had the remarkable habit of specifically getting in touch with each other when something bad happened to one or the other, or both, of us.

We went on like that until sometime in the middle of 1991. Then, for some reason, we stopped getting in touch with each other. Nothing happened, that I knew of. I did lose his address, and I couldn't remember how to spell his real name. (You thought I was joking about Bob Peters not being his real name, didn't you?)

Every so often, especially once finding people through Facebook and other social media became popular, I tried to track him down, but I got nowhere.

Then, this past summer, I was sitting on our deck here in Maine (having eventually moved), feeding the chipmunks, when the phone rang and the voice on the other end asked, “Is this the one and only Scotty James from WGVA hit radio in Geneva, NY?” Now, until this moment, only a handful of people knew that was the name I used on the air, so I was appropriately stunned when I realized it had to be Peters.

Come to find out, he, too, had tried off and on over the years to get in touch. But, he said, this time a voice was nagging at him to get in touch “right now.” He somehow remembered that my daughter Alison's name was spelled with one “L” and, after calling numerous phone numbers, he tracked Alison with one L down and got my current phone number from her.

We spent some time catching up, and remembering stuff, before he asked me about my health. I told him I had cancer, and when he asked what kind, I told him multiple myeloma and he became the eleventy-seventh person to ask me what the heck that was. I told him, then he told me he had cancer also, in his case skin cancer (which he has subsequently had taken care of).

It became apparent, then, why he had felt so pressured into actually tracking me down this time. It was a little spooky, but in a good way.

Since I found out I was sick, I have, almost without realizing it, been looking for positive reasons that I got multiple myeloma. Being able to help people through this column has been the biggest plus, but here was another. It was sort of a Reader's Digest/Paul Harvey experience- like opening your back door to find the dog you lost two years ago sitting there waiting for you. Somehow that sounds vaguely insulting, but I don't mean it to be. Being back in touch with Peters after all these years is amazing.

In case you/re wondering- I've never called him Bob. I don't really know why. He's just always been Peters.

We have been keeping in touch now that we've come back together. Of course, right now I owe him a letter, but... Oh, if you want to see what he looks like, and have Netflix, or a similar service, he appeared in an episode of “The X-Files,” playing, of all things, an Idaho TV newscaster, which is what he had done for a living for years. It's Season 6, Episode 2, episode 120 overall, if you're that interested.

Anyway, I'm not saying we would not have reconnected if I didn't get cancer, all I'm saying is that we tried, off and on to get in touch for over 20 years, and didn't succeed until now. I'm just sayin'.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”