I purchased a new computer late last year and spent a considerable amount of time migrating files from one place to another, weeding out the things I could put into deep storage in an attempt to make room for things that will probably wind up there next year. One of the things I found is a video of my friend Bob. Bob isn't his real name but, since I've called him Bob before, I'll call him Bob now.
The video i found is from several years ago when Bob asked me to help him put together an entry for a contest being held by ESPN. As I remember, the prize was a one year contract as an on screen commentator. Borrowing time in a studio that had a green screen and a teleprompter, I recorded Bob reporting a made up story about a woman's attempt to climb Mt. Everest. The story went on and on about how the woman got frost bite and lost some toes, about how the climb held special significance because she was there to recover the body of her husband who had died attempting to summit a few years prior. The story was compelling and the enthusiasm with which Bob told it was contagious. I honestly don't remember if Bob ever entered the video into the contest or not, but either way, he never wound up on ESPN. Too bad for them.
Bob has had a few sports-related jobs over the years. He worked as sports writer for a suburban newspaper. He once sent me a report he had written about a high school football game that I was surprised to find interesting. Not because it came from Bob — quite the contrary — but because I'm not a sports fan and I never read the sports pages. I suppose there is a history of literary sports writing, but I doubt high school football gets that kind of treatment in a suburban newspaper very often. I don't remember the details of Bob leaving that job, except that he shaved his head the day he quit (or was he fired?) and everyone in the office thought for sure that day was going to be their last.
I remember him telling me about going on an interview for a Wall Street job with a resume that was less a traditional CV and more an essay on his life's accomplishments: "Although I didn't finish college, I have seen every college football team in each of their respective stadiums . . ." and so on.
The guy doing the hiring told Bob in all earnestness, "This is the best fucking resume I have ever seen. I wish I could hire you. But . . ."
I don't hear from Bob more than once every six months or so. Sometimes longer. Whenever we touch base, however, he always has a crazy story. "What have you been up to?" is never answered with, "Oh you know, the same old same old." Last time I spoke to him he had gotten into ice climbing. He sent me a video tape of him scaling a sheer ice face somewhere in upstate New York set to an AC/DC soundtrack.
I used to transcribe his stories into blog posts quite a bit. Once, after reading a particularly graphic story involving Bob shitting his pants on the way to a sex club while traveling to his father's funeral, (The post is still in my archives, if you have the stomach for it.) a friend of mine said, "As I was reading the post, I kept waiting for the funny part, but it never came." She suggested that writing about these things might not be healthy and that I might be enabling Bob in some way. She wasn't exactly clear about the psychology of it, but I understood her point. Maybe she was right. But Bob has his compulsions and I have mine.
A few weeks ago, I sent Bob an email just to check in and see what he was up to. Our mutual friend, Brian, another Lebenskünstler, was living in upstate New York and had suggested the three of us organize a camping trip. Brian is a free spirit who lives his life as simply as possible these days, which means he doesn't maintain a list of contacts and he's always asking me for people's info. "Do you have a number for Bob? Or an email address?"
I gave Brian Bob's email address for the umpteenth time, and in the meantime, emailed Bob myself.
I didn't hear back right away which is nothing unusual. When he finally replied, he simply said:
"Hi Jamie. Great to hear from you. I'm fine. I've been smoking crack for the past 14 months, but it's just a phase. Otherwise all is well."
I thought that was pretty funny until we spoke on the phone and I found out he wasn't kidding.
We traded a few more emails, and a phone call or two. He's having a rough time.
Brian in the meantime took off for his third trip to a Buddhist monastery in Myanmar for three months of silent meditation.
There sure are a lot of ways to live a life.