Only a few seconds of who-the-hell-is-this showed on his face and there it was, recognition and 40 years melted away. As we talked it was nice, and a little sad.
For the first few minutes we updated each other on our personal lives, he’s still a well-known local artist and I’m still, well, me. Our children are the age we were when we first met. I knew him as a hard drinking unknown painter, with a passion for boats and trains and having a good time. He knew me as a store owner, who worked and played too much. We were shop owners at the Black Swan Marina, (Between the Bridges now), during the mid to late 1970s. He had an artist’s studio and gallery overlooking the Connecticut River. I sold marine supplies and nautical gifts in the big store on the road-side.
Back then owning a business along the shoreline which caters to the Connecticut boating community was hard. That part hasn’t changed, gearing up each spring for a season that lasts only a few months is economically difficult and for the under-capitalized, near impossible.
As my artist friend and I began to reminisce we fell into the abyss that long lost friends almost always tumble into, discussing the people we knew who have passed away. I’ve learned that our impact on humanity is tenuous. He has one daughter, I have two, he’s a painter, I’m a writer. Those are our breadcrumbs through the forest of life.
We began to talk about our mutual friends (the living ones) and how they tuned out. Some were successful and some have let their lives melt away in a wasteful example of ignored opportunity.
It’s strange, that when you are young, some of the people you are closest too, end up being the exact opposite of someone you would want to even acknowledge as knowing once you mature. Maybe it’s because the common youthful endeavor of having fun clouds judgment. Though my artist friend and I were known for traveling in a crowd that had a good time, we were serious too. We had to be serious because we owned businesses. We had rent to pay plus reputations and commercial viability to maintain.
It was great to catch up and wonderful to know he’s still painting and maintaining his passion for trains. And that he is still married to a wonderful woman who is a beyond talented artist and teacher, illustrates his appetite for the straight and narrow. Forty years ago if you asked me if we’d still be around and successful four decades later, I probably would have laughed and ordered another round.
I’m glad I stopped and talked and reminisced. It was nice and yes, it was sad, but it was heartening too. Steve the artist and Carolynn the writer, still standing and not quite as crazy after all these years.