There is not really a fitting way to start this entry, so I’ll go with a U2 song about death. It’s a different kind of death, but the end result is still the same. An exit occurs.
You know he got the cure
You know he went astray
He used to stay awake
To drive the dreams he had away
He wanted to believe
In the hands of love
– U2, “Exit”
When I was 16 years old, I got my first job – working the counter and drive thru at my local McDonald’s. The “front line”, in industry jargon. The vast majority of the dudes (i.e. males) that worked there were cooks. That would be “the grill”, in industry jargon. The job was very high schoolish because cliques existed. It was pretty rare for the guys on the grill to accept the guys on the front line as one of their own. I got to hang out up front with all the pretty girls while the grill guys did all the grunt work.
I’m not sure who the first person on the grill to befriend me was, but there is a 99% chance that it was Rick. He was not into conventional divides. He knew funny when he saw or heard it.
Rick was the one who allowed me to cross the divide. Within months, I was “cross trained”. I could be put on the grill (the position I preferred) or work the front line. If it were not for him, I doubt I would have ever been accepted on the grill.
Rick and I lived in the same small town, and we were about the same age, but we never went to school together. That is because he went to a private Christian school and I went to the hometown public school. Because of that, I cannot remember if we were the same age or if he was a year older.
But here are a few things I do remember about Rick.
He was a huge fan of U2. Massive fan. He once credited me for turning him on to new/good music, but I’m 99% sure his U2 fandom predated our friendship.
He was a terrible, reckless driver. He drove a beat up silver Chevette, but always liked to brag that he “drives a ‘vette”. How he managed to make it out of his teens without a major car accident is a miracle. To him, the speed limit was more like a suggestion than a law. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a car going over 100 MPH, but I can tell you that every single one of those times was in a ‘vette on Interstate 35.
(I take that back. I think Rappin’ Ramone got his Monte Carlo up to that speed once while I was a passenger. And the reason? He was racing Rick. But that might be revisionist history.)
He pioneered the “pants trick” at work. That is when he would pull the pant legs of his uniform up above his knees so that, while wearing an apron, it would appear as if he was pantless. It was always a good gag when the entire grill crew would do this. One night, after the restaurant closed, I took it one step further. I went to the break room and removed my work pants and underwear, but kept my shoes and socks on. I then walked up front and talked to the rest of the crew for a bit. They seemed tired of the bit, so I turned and walked away. Bare ass and all.
He was always quick with a joke, and he ranks right up there with the funniest people I have ever known. His laugh was infectious. I know that phrase gets tossed around a lot, but in his case, it really was true.
I’m losing steam. I regret that I didn’t keep in touch with Rick like a friend should have. I regret that I did not wish him a happy birthday via Facebook on Feb 18. Because as of Feb 19 he is no longer with us.
I could go on a rant here about cancer, but really it could have been anything. I worked with a guy in Austin whose best friend died from a brain aneurism – while working out. You never know what is going to happen, or when. It’s not just people like me (with terrible vices) that die early. It happens to work out freaks, too. Chance. Fate. Lot. Karma. Who knows?
So enjoy life. Be nice to people because that is how you will be remembered. Your footprint in this world will be everlasting, probably passed down through generations, if you are just nice to people.
It really doesn’t take much effort.
I thank Rick for being that type of person.