Whitney and I are giving a presentation at the Waldorf School of New Orleans this Wednesday, and I’ve asked a few guest bloggers to fill in for me while we’re away. This first guest post is by my husband Mike Knezovich, who’ll be coming along with us to NOLA with some other dear friends, too.
I lived in Arlington, Va., in the early 1980s, and after coming home to Illinois for
the holidays one year I headed back with three friends who were up for a
road trip and a visit to D.C. We took turns driving and made it straight
On the left that’s Pick (a.k.a. Keith Pickerel) and on the right Hank (a.k.a. Henry Londner while touring Turkey on a recent trip. (They get around.) We’re lucky to count them as friends.
We were a little tired but swinging open the apartment door woke us right up again. Dance music was blaring from the stereo, the living room was full of people, and my roommate Pick — all lanky 6’3″ of him — was right there in the center in the midst of a move. He looked like a figure skater, posted on one straight leg, the other leg raised parallel to the floor, and starting to whirl like a helicopter. He yelled “SQUAT!” to his dance partner, a diminutive woman friend who did as instructed, thankfully, and Pick’s propeller leg cleared her head comfortably and made a full rotation. She sprung upright, they completed their disco number, and I said to my Illinois friends, “This is Pick.” We weren’t tired anymore.
Today, with everyone videotaping and photographing everything, I imagine there’d be a YouTube of the whole thing. But back then, we focused on living life in real time and I can tell you, there isn’t a video on the net that’s as good as my memories of that night. Back then I was a green college graduate from the Midwest, wide-eyed, an eager worker at my first real job, but a little lost and a little lonely. Luckily, I’d met Pick through a colleague at work and we stayed in touch. He generously invited me to parties he’d throw with his old William and Mary college pals. They weren’t like other parties I’d been to. Playing and singing show tunes (and sometimes hymns) on the piano, doing helicopter dance moves, Pick occasionally donning the tap shoes for a number, and usually, there was the deliberate and artful telling of an off-color joke. (Pick came by it honestly, from his father Cecil, who could keep you spellbound and then deliver a punchline like nobody else.)
At some point both our leases came up and by then we were confident we wouldn’t drive one another crazy and we stood to save some money, so we got a two-bedroom place in a euphemistically named building called Country Club Towers. It was no country club, but we had a blast for a couple of years. I got to meet Pick’s family—including his beloved grandmother, who made the best damn fried chicken I’ve ever had during a visit to her Danville, Va., home. We motorcycled the Skyline Drive with some friends. Thick as thieves, as the saying goes.
Eventually, I decided what I’d never imagined I would: I wanted to move back to the Midwest. So I packed my stuff and headed back, thinking I’d settle in Chicago, but then I was re-acquainted with Beth, and I came to roost in Urbana, Ill.
After Beth and I decided we were going to get married, we made a trip out East to meet my Pittsburgh area relatives and to meet Pick. I think Beth was as anxious about meeting Pick as she was about meeting my extended family. And why not? Pick’s as close to a brother as I’ll ever have.
Pick and Beth hit it off immediately. To this day they sometimes entertain themselves by ganging up on me. We had a marvelous time and we got a bonus: We met Henry (Hank) Londner. Pick and Hank had met about the same time Beth and I got together. Hank sports a Long Island accent, a total contrast to Pick’s Virginia drawl. Hank’s Jewish—born in Belgium to parents who narrowly survived the Holocaust. After Hank’s mother died, Hank moved with his father to the United States to be near family who had emigrated. Pick grew up in rural Virginia a Southern Baptist. Hank’s a burly bear, Pick’s a lanky type.
Opposites attract. They’ve been together ever since. They live in Alexandria, Va., in a dee-luxe apartment in the sky. Pick works as a massage therapist, Hank has managed to retire, but stays busy volunteering for—among other things—a couple of blind people who need a little assistance with shopping, reading, etc.
I always savor trips to New Orleans—but none more than next week’s, when Pick and Hank will join Beth and me. Lately—perhaps it’s a stage-of-life-thing—I’ve been prone to reminiscing. And so it is with this upcoming visit. I grew up in the thick of what was called the New Math. You know: sets, subsets, bundles of pencils, and the best thing ever—Venn diagrams. In my mind’s eye, I see a Venn diagram. Each of us—Pick, Hank, me and Beth—a circle. And like in all Venn diagrams, the most interesting parts are where they overlap—the overlaps are a slightly different color, denser, and richer for the blending.
And I marvel that in the crescent city next week, we can share time and these four very different circles will overlap.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!