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Thursday, July 08, 2004

It's a rental

First, let me thank all of you for your questions. They've been inspiring and provided fantastic fodder for thinking and writing. I may just keep asking for questions. I find it easier to write when I have a topic. So, here we go with another installment of "Get to Know Your Otis."

Why can't things be like they were in Juniper? --franky5angel





Forgive me if I'm repeating a story here, but it speaks well to the question.

Mom and Dad's sectional couch served as a great buffer between the front door of 1931 Juniper Circle and the DMZ. Inside the DMZ, any amount of boyish ribbing, physical violence, or alcohol consumption was fair game. Over the course of a few years, the couch had served as a bed, a brothel, a courtship idol, an ampitheater, a hospital, a drunk tank, an artist's canvas, and and ill-advised ironing board. It was blue, gray, and tan, not to mention caked with every kind of dirt and bodily smut you can imagine. In short, it was a symbol of our home.

We were a tight collection of college buddies who'd moved in to the duplex when we tired of dorm living. Eventually, our female friends moved in to the adjoining residence. It was a commune fit for free love, free thinking, and free fun.

On this particular evening, we were settled into the couch, seats guarded by a much-fabled "seat-back" rule. The television blared background noise, just enough to sound-mask the steady hum of the saltwater fish tank against the wall.

Movement of any sort on such an evening usually only signalled a trip to the john or the fridge, so Frankie's upright posture took us all by a little surprise.

He held his beer can out, turned it over, and poured his drink into a puddle on the carpet. The collection of malcontents in the room collectively raised its eyebrowns. The question was obvious. Frankie's spoken answer was as well.

"Fuck it," he said. "It's a rental."

After a few hurrumphs and a couple of growls, we returned to whatever we were doing. Many months later, Frankie would serve as chief carpet cleaner upon our exit from the rented duplex.

1931 Juniper Circle was home for a few years. We planted an orange plastic tree in the back yard. We named a giant living tree in the field behind our house "The Green Monster." One day, a hot air balloon landed in the grass behind our back porch.

We watched the old man who lived in the nearby rest home try to escape once a week, each of us hoping against hope that someday he'd make it to freedom. We wanted him to be as free as we were.

We were free, after all. While a few of us held down part time jobs, most of us were just content to be passing our classes and not getting arrested. We hosted massive parties. We hosted a harem of women. We laughed, fought, cried, and puked our way through several glorius years.

We invented games that you won't find in the Olympics (yet). We stole each other's women. We painted the garage in a collection of frightening murals that would guarantee the landlord would sue us if we didn't repaint the walls. We collected beer bottles of every brand we could find, including Pink Triangle, at the time the only beer marketed to homosexuals.

In short, we lived the lives of single, free, young men. While at the time many of us might have claimed to have been miserable in one or more of our pursuits, looking back, most of us know it was the best time of our lives. We know this because we are all still fantastically close friends. It takes no more than five minutes at any reunion to again realize our bond.

Some nights now, when we drink Corona and lime on Thursday nights like we did on the back porch many years ago, we ask ourselves, "Why can't life be like it was when we lived on Juniper."

Although Frankie was the latest to ask the question, he may not realize that he answered his own question years ago.

It was a rental.

Only after having moved several times and made many friends have I realized that we were living on rented time back then. When we first signed the lease, we had no idea how quickly it would expire. We had no idea that ambition, aspirations, family, love, lust, and fate would divide us geographically for the unforseeable future.

Now, we boys and girls live in several states. Many of us have kids. I have one on the way. We all have jobs and varying degrees of job satisfaction (although we've all reached the age in which we say...maybe I should figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life).

However, what I've come to realize recently is that while Juniper was, in fact, a rental, the whole time we were putting down a healthy down payment on a lifetime of friendship. That may sound sort of corny, but it's the closest I can come to how I see it.

But Frankie's question was why. Why can't it be like it was?

I see it like this: Nothing so perfect lasts. Dynasties fall. Rainbows fade. Puppies turn into dogs.

As much as I would go back and do it all over again (may a few more times), I know that if we tried it now, it wouldn't work. For one thing, Frankie has matured too much to randomly pour beer on the floor. And I don't think Marty could stand having so many kids running around (even though, that's all we were when we lived on Juniper).

Nostalgia likely adds to the mystery and history of it all. It was likely more imperfect than I let on.

But I don't think so.

Rental or not, it was home.

And if you can't accept that, Frankie, try this:

Life still is like it was on Juniper.

It still is.

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