“You can’t look back when you’re movin’ on…You got to go and sing your song.” ~John Stewart (the musician)
5.4.03 san francisco, ca
GEEZ, IT’S TAKEN ME LONG ENOUGH TO POST ANOTHER JOURNAL ENTRY. When I said “quasi-daily,” I was using that term very loosely. My inability to consistently write an hour a day and post regular journal entries has been the only black eye in what otherwise has been a perfect trip so far.
And since this is the Greatest Year of My Life—a chunk of time I’ve vowed to immerse with optimism—I’m gonna avoid my time-worn inclination to dwell on what I DIDN”T do, HAVEN’T accomplished and NEVER got around to completing.
Instead, I will dwell on the steady stream of sublime sights and electric conversations. Sounds hokey, I know. But this is the frame of mind I’m in right now. I am seeing things, hearing things, experiencing things that touch and inspire me. Every single day.
How could I not feel a rush of happiness seeing my friend Phil, who a few years ago was a long shot for fatherhood, holding his 4-month-old baby girl in those big, guitar-playing paws?
* * *
Phil obliterates the stereotype of the rockhead, unsophisticated fraternity guy. Not that Phil is defined by being a frat boy. That’s just the world I met him in 21 1/2 years ago at UCLA.
Phil was the smart guy from San Marino. The high school quarterback with the beautiful girlfriend who followed him to college, where he seemingly knew every cute girl on Hilgard. He had an uncanny memory for sports trivia and reveled in the box score accomplishments of overmatched white guys in the NBA. (“Chris Dudley went 1-for-fucking-18 from the line last night!”)
Phil is also one of the handful of people in my life who’ve exposed me to great music. If it wasn’t for Phil’s aesthetically advanced suggestions, I still might have the Carpenters, ELO and Hall & Oatesin heavy rotation. But thanks to Phil’s guidance I’ve discovered bands like the Pixies, the Replacements and Wilco.
More than the occasional music tip, though, Phil will forever be the lead singer/lead guitar of Johnny Kat & the Rats, the circa ’82 band of high school buddies playing the SAE summer party where I first hooked up with my first long-term girlfriend, Bubbles.
Nearly 21 years later, Johnny Kat is now Phil the Lawyer/Husband/Father of Cecily. But he’s still rockin’ in the free world. In six days—next Saturday—Phil’s band, I Seen Elvis, is playing a gig down in Danville.
“I have no idea what kind of crowd we’re gonna get,” Phil said while barbecuing up some steak in the backyard of his house around the corner from the Glen Park BART station. “Our conga player Tony put it together. I could be a big lesbian turnout.”
Count me in.
* * *
MORE PHIL STORIES: Phil was one of the 20 guys from our fraternity who were hired by Sports Illustrated to be guides and drivers during the 1984 Summer Olympics in LA. A job that required us to live on a luxury ocean liner while eating free shrimp and drinking free beer nearly every night. Oh, and we were given tickets to one or two events every day. AND we got paid to endure this hardship.
A decade later, Phil fell in love and married a seemingly sweet 1st grade teacher who loved the Grateful Dead. I was in the wedding and regretted for months not getting up and giving Phil the glowing toast he deserved at the rehearsal dinner. I was also with Phil the August day—on his two-year anniversary, no less—when he got the news that Ms. First Grade Teacher didn’t want to be married anymore. (It was only later that he learned of the rock climber she’d met while on a weekend hiking trip that turned into a month of rock climbing in Yosemite.)
The whole episode turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Phil. It left him free to eventually meet Danielle, his pretty wife and the seemingly calm center of his world.
I say “seemingly” because I have stopped assuming that what I see in my abbreviated encounters with the various couples in my life is anything close to the way things are when no one else is around.
I’ve also long since retired the illusion of “the perfect couple.” I know now that there is no such thing as the perfect couple. Even the couples who seem to be glowing with serenity and love. I see that connection with Phil and Danielle. I noticed it in the way Phil rubbed Danielle’s feet as we sat watching “Six Feet Under” in the dark last night.
Maybe in Phil’s mind he was simply rubbing her feet.
Either way, if I was naÔve enough to believe in the perfect couple, I’d put Phil and Danielle right up there. He’s got more integrity, brains, wit and talent than just about anyone I know. And she seems to be every bit his equal. (Maybe when I’ve known her for 22 years I’ll be able to say it with the same certainty I can say it about Phil.)
At the very least, they’ve made a perfect child.