Friday night, thanks to facebook, I got a message from my old friend from Southern England Russ.
Russ is on the left. Our German friend Mario is on the right. That's a photo from 1995, when Russ and I met in the Black Forest of southern Germany. On that trip, Russ and Mario introduced me to cigarettes (awful), beer (thankfully, a step up from cigarettes) and Brit Pop (I can't imagine life without it).
The summer involved no romance. I was a newly-minted teen, petrified of boys. Russ and Mario showed more feelings for Coolio than they did for girls. We became pen pals though and sent one another letters with mixed tapes. My letters to Russ grew progressively more adoring ("Russ, I think you have a really cool accent. You are really cool and funny."). Russ' letters to me grew progressively more aloof ("Shannon, you have great music taste. Enjoy the enclosed mixed tape."). An omen? Yes. Meeting Russ marked the beginning of a lifelong penchant for men with accents.*
Imagine now, 15 years later, catching up with an old crush.
It lasted about an hour and went like this:
me: So tell me the story of your life. Or maybe just the last 15 years.
R: Hmmm. Well, I just got back from paddling.
R: Yes. It was great but the water here is rubbish.
me: Ohhhh, like kayaking! In England? You can kayak in England?
(here we launched into a chat on kayaking, surfing, San Diego, southern California, a bunch of places in Southern England, retirees and British surfer-chic)
me: So back to the last 15 years, how has it been?!
R: Oh! For my 30th birthday party, I had a fancy dress theme ... "dead musicians." I assigned everyone a celebrity.
me: Awesome! Who were you?
R: Shannon Hoon!
me: SHUT UP!
(this began a conversation on Blind Melon, mixed tapes, MP3s and the concurrent demise of mixed tapes, Ash and the Smashing Pumpkins. We concluded that best feeling in the world - particularly to a 14-year-old - is to receive a mixed tape with letter from the other side of the world.)
Russ called me a "fecker" for stealing his favorite tee-shirt in 1995 and a "nutter" for making fun of Gavin Rossdale and Bush. I mentioned that I completely |explicit word deleted| hated him for seeing Radiohead and Neil Young perform recently. I may have also injected the words shithoused and asswipe (beautiful American contributions to the lexicon of English slurs) into the conversation.
Russ has every letter I sent him from '94 to '97. Sadly, I don't have even one from him.
How have Russ' last 15 years been? I have no idea. My last 15 years? Who cares. How did it feel to catch up with someone from so long ago? Positively wonderful.
*Alex, honey, you are the next chapter in that book, obvi.