Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Remembering David Diedrich, 10.19.58 - 11.27.09

It was August, 1998.

When we arrived at David's house, he welcomed us into his home by popping the cap off a Red Stripe beer by wedging the cap between his ring finger and wedding ring.

I lit up.

I love Red Stripe beer.

After we'd taken a few draws, and after I was probably guilty of effusing too much about how much I loved Red Stripe, David said to me, "Man, it's too bad we don't live closer to each other. I think we'd really enjoy hanging out."

David was right.

We lived far apart. We saw each other rarely. We enjoyed hanging out.
When David and Muffie and the kids traveled to Eugene in July, 2002 for Adrienne and Nathan's wedding, David and I had talked about doing some serious hanging out, about going to some of my favorite watering holes in Eugene and doing some serious drinking and chewing the fat.

We couldn't pull it off, though. We both had obligations with family and with the progress of the wedding weekend that made hanging out and having an honest drunk together ill advised.

Following the wedding, though, at the reception, David and I planted ourselves in front of the bar. I can't remember if we drank tall Jack Daniels on the rocks before or after I toasted Adrienne and Nathan, but I do know I got toasted with David and that the booze, the July heat, the suit I wore, the joy of the occasion, and all the ways David made me laugh turned me red faced, and someone captured my happiness, joy, enthusiasm, and ruddiness in this picture:

The Deke and I spent about ten days with David and Muffie in late summer, 2005. We were on our way west after visiting Patty and Tom. We'd planned a short visit but David asked us to extend it so we all could have more time to hang out and so we did.

David and I did some serious hanging out.

Our hanging out led me to some reflection. I liked David a lot and I wanted to pinpoint what it was. My sisters, after Adrienne and Nathan's wedding, had joked with me about David and I looking like brothers at the bar.

I liked the idea of David being like a brother to me, especially since I have no brothers, but, no, that wasn't quite right. I didn't think of David as being like a brother.

I don't know when it hit me.

Maybe it was when we drove to Aurora to the Hollywood Casino and David and I played some slots before he tried his hand at live poker in the Texas Hold 'Em room or afterward when he took me on an autobiographical tour of places associated with his early years with Muffie.

It was all so humble, so modest, so common, so good.

Or maybe it was when we'd been drinking from the early into the late afternoon and David decided it was time to get some food and we hopped in his Ford Mustang Cobra and David wanted to show me a little bit of what kind of get up and go his Mustang Cobra had, and so he found a couple of vacant streets, cranked up AC/DC through his Kenwood, and I could feel my face going flat as he went gear to gear, picking up speed, smiling wickedly, letting me enjoy the power of his prized automobile on our way to Taco Bell where he bought over fifty dollars of the finest flour and seasoned beef and beans products money can buy.

It was all so . . . yes!, I got it!. It was all so Kellogg. The beer. The booze. The casino. The high speed. AC/DC. The food. The generosity.

David wasn't like a brother, but he was like having another friend from Kellogg: profane, crude, generous, able to move easily from Taco Bell to grilled sirloins, loyal, hard working, irreverent, a stand up guy, devoted husband and father, and a little reckless.

Then David let me into his fireman's life a little. Brian invited David and me to join him at a Bears/Browns exhibition football game at Soldier Field. For me, this was a once in a lifetime kind of thing to go to Soldier Field, and David invited his fellow fireman Dave Strojny to join us.

Our train trip downtown was so Kellogg, so much like what my dad and his friends would do before football games, so much just what I was used to and what I loved to do.

We bought Cokes, spiked them with whiskey, and bought beers, and drank them out of a bag on the train and shot the breeze and got a little toasted.

Strojny and David knew their cues with each other, riffed on each other's comments, laughed at inside jokes, but, somehow, I got the jokes, because they were Kellogg jokes, too.

Brian showed us a hell of a time downtown. More drinks. German food. Cab to Soldier Field. Great seats. And then our first nightcap at the House of Blues members' lounge.

Once off the train and back in Arlington Heights, I was thinking our night was coming to an end. It was after midnight and we'd been hitting it fairly hard, but, no, we weren't done. Another nightcap lay ahead.

We hopped in Stronjy's truck and it was off to Denny's for pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, coffee, Hurricane Katrina talk, and then David ordered a second plate of food.

It could have been 1973 at the Denny's on 4th in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho with my Kellogg buddies after we closed down the Fort Ground Tavern.

I was really happy.
I didn't see David again after the Deke and I left Arlington Heights in September, 2005 until he biked on his Harley with John to Eugene this past June.

In Eugene, David fell in love with my springer spaniel Snug. His love for Snug touched me deeply and I love these two pictures of David and Snug:

After David left Eugene, I took pictures of Snug. They were my "Where's David?" set. Here's one:

Today when Snug looks at me, his eyes asking, "Where's David?", my answer makes no more sense to me than to it does to Snug.

He's gone.

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