"Let's begin again, begin the begin
Let's begin again like Martin Luthers in
The mythology begins the begin"
---- REM, "Begin The Begin"
I hope everyone had a great July 4th holiday. I just came from a terrific coffee with an old friend, my friendship with whom I had believed dead and gone forever.
It was good to see my friend. It hadn't been as long as I'd thought since I'd seen him, but it still seemed like a long time. And since the parting was less than clean, the meeting started with some uneasy small talk.
"Hey man, you're looking good", I said.
"Well, yeah. I've had a lot of time on my hands. Just sitting here watching the wheels roll, right? Anyway, lots of time to work on me. Eat right, go to the gym, figure out the next move." And he looked out the window. Not past me but through me.
"Uhhh, yeah. About that. You made any plans?"
He turned his coffee cup around on the table, nervously. I saw he made a complete 360-degree circuit. "Well, no. A few things. But nothing that was fun. Nothing like when we were running. That was one hell of a ride."
I nodded and smiled my toothless smile, lips clenched and eyes wide. "Yeah, yeah it was. Have you ever thought about what happened?"
"Uh, yeah. I know that when the going got tough you dumped me like third period French. I know that you dumbed everything down."
"Hold up. That's not true."
"It's not? What the hell? A few people got their noses out of joint and when it was time for you to fight, you have in! What's wrong with you, man? That's not the Bill I know. I think being a government worker again's got you scared."
"Scared? Come on. I've got my edge still."
"Have you? Look, bucko, I see what you've been putting out there. It's OK. Not horrible, but OK. In fact, more than OK."
I rolled my eyes. "Well, gee, thanks. Glad I get some credit."
He took a sip of coffee and shook his head, looking down. "But it's not your best. I get that you don't do your schtick every day. You shouldn't. You're not anyone's pawn. But did you think, really think, that when you started to give in to the criticism, that you started to be manipulated? That you started to be controlled? And Bro. When you rock, no one controls you. That's clear."
He had my attention. "Go on. Sounds like you've thought this through."
"Uh, yeah,", he said with a laugh. "Had a lot of time on my hands. So what. Some has-been, never will-bes in the election say you're angry. And Dude. You turned an election. You know that? Four hundred more people voted for the right guy as opposed to some guy who hadn't contributed one single thing directly to his community because YOU pointed that out. WE pointed that out. You get that?"
"I do,", I said. "But some friends were getting bruised too."
He leaned back in his chair and looked up as he spoke. I knew the posture well. "And, Hopkins Man, did it occur to you that MAYBE, you were saying the things they needed to hear? And that's why they were uncomfortable? Because no one else was going to say them other than you. Other than us. And you know what people do when they hear uncomfortable stuff. They buckle. They hold up. 'Oh, no, no, you can't say that.' BS. You can say that. It's what you do, it's who you are. Own it."
All right now. That was just about it. "Lookit. I get that you're angry on how things went down. I get that. That doesn't give you license to tee off. I did what I decided was the right thing to do at the time, with the best information I had. That's al we can do. And if that isn't good enough to you-- well, hindsight's always 20-20, isn't it. So don't sit here and lecture to me. You have a right to, and I accept the criticisms, but I don't have to validate them. Now, do I make myself clear???" And it wasn't until I stopped speaking that I realized how loud my voice had become. Because all Bean Hollow was silent. "Oh, hey, folks. Sorry." I said, then the murmurs started again.
At my table the silence was much longer. Then he spun his cup around again-- this time, a 360 in the opposite direction-- and spoke. "Fair enough. You had to do what you had to do. And I'm not going to get an apology out of you. I know that, cause we're too alike. So......." More silence. "What do you want from me?"
"Not from you. With you. I want you back in the game."
"Because there's a lot that's being lost without the plain talk needed to demonstrate the emperor has no clothes. Because, I am sorry for bailing out on you too soon. Because there's a lot of good we can do together, but working differently. And because, when we were hot, we were must read in this place. We were the straw that stirred the drink. And I think we can hold the belt again."
"Hmm. And how exactly would this be different?"
"Well, I think we can give you your own byline, so the freaks don't come at you. And when they do, I'll smack them down. And, I'm always going to have your back, man. I'm not going to pull the plug."
"OK. I like hearing those things."
"And here's the other thing. Like #52 said in January of '13, this is about my last ride. I don't know how long a ride it's gonna be, but a lot has changed in my life. Kids in college, divorce final, living part of my life in Baltimore, part in DC, part Howard County-- it can't go along forever. I don't know when it will end, but I know it will. And when it does I want you there."
He smiled. "OK. I'll think about it."
I was stunned at the answer. "Think about it?"
"Yeah man. Think. I think too, that we ought to talk more about this soon."
"OK. Fair enough."
Let's be careful out there.