Do you remember when you first met your freshman roommate in college? That unique combination of excitment, anticipation and trepidation that embodied the essence of moving away from home for good. I did it twice. My first roommate came from Nebraska looking like Grizzly Adams with a big head of bushy hair and a long straggly beard. It was alot of hair even for 1973. He spent the first week of orientation trying to “find himself” both figuratively and literally. Each morning before setting forth to explore our brave new world, he would change his look by shaving some of his beard or cutting some of his hair, working his way through muttonchops, an Amish no-moustache look, tousled hair, a middle part, a pony tail, long-manicured sideburns to finally no beard at all. After that week of grooming experimentation, he chose to find himself a new roommate and moved to the other side of campus.
That was when I met my real roommate, the one who replaced him and stayed forever. He looked like the young Barry Manilow and brought a uniquely uncool music collection highlighted by The Raspberries (who amazingly produced seven remarkably similar greatest hits albums and did a three-year reunion tour beginning in 2004) and The Archies (Sugar Sugar). He also brought a year’s supply of Lysol aerosol cans, which he would spray on the floor before he walked on it with his large bare feet with creature-like toes (I quickly learned that he would also do my laundry if I left it on the floor long enough). He came to school as a scholar-athlete after being a heavily recruited football player (he will like that I said that). As a unique combination of running back and poetry major, he ran his pass routes in random loopity-loops reminiscent of his punctuation-free verse. Each day after he returned from football practice, we would watch Jeopardy together before dinner and I would crush him by quickly answering all the questions correctly. He became very intimidated by the intellectual challenge he confronted at an Ivy League college until he discovered after the football season that the same version of Jeopardy was on earlier each day.
We roomed together again senior year when we shared a house with some other guys and took turns cooking dinner. His cooking night was always an adventure. One night he came up with a unique recipe for beef quiche that involved placing raw beef in a pre-made pie crust, covering it with tons of swiss cheese and baking it on high heat for 40 minutes. Another night he made barbeque chicken by baking the chicken on a plastic tray covered with tin foil. We almost died.
I mention all of this today because it is one of our great family traditions to share July 4th weekend together with our families. We have remained best friends for almost 40 years and have known each other longer than we’ve known our wives and kids. We look forward to the shared continuity of watching our families grow and mature, punctuated each year by our July 4th weekend. And we all look forward to whatever wacky surprise my roomie comes up with. He never disappoints.