Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012

Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas San Diego, Ca. March 2012
Eddie Arana, Rick Thibodeau, & Chris Bakunas at Luche Libre Taco Shop in San Diego, March 2012

Monday, January 3, 2011

Too Late the Last Post of 2010

Just who was the first year-end reviewer? Who was the first scribe, the first amateur historian, to sit down and write a summation of the past year's highs and lows, trials and tribulations?

I imagine that humans have been recording, in some form or another, everything that occured to them, their friends and family, etc., for as long as there have been means to write.

"The past 12 moons saw flooding such as had not been seen since the 12 moons before the birth of the daughter. This past harvest..."

You get the picture. Humans like to write, like to remember. There are people who spend a little time each day writing about what's going in the world, or how they feel, or what they can't feel, or one of the infinite variations on that theme.

So, without further ado...

2010 was a rough year. Save for 1983, I believe this was the roughest year I ever had to endure.

The major traumatic event of the year occured October 1st. One of my best friends, John Page Hines, was killed by a wrong-way driver. John was only 33, and he left behind his beautiful daughter, Olivia Ann.

The driver, 18 year-old Joshua Wittig, confessed to being under the influence of Marijuana to the police officers at the scene. He was using quite a few other prescription meds for various emotional ailments, too.

He was also out on bail for putting 49 stitches into the face of a 16 year-old girl who had made the mistake of trying to stop him from beating up his girlfriend.

Re-read that, let it sink in. Then digest this. At his arraignment, the first three rows of seats in the courthouse were full of his supporters. Family and friends that believe, earnestly, that Joshua is a victim. A victim of his Doctors, who over-medicated him, and a victim of a society that could not or did not tend to his special needs.

I could elaborate on how I feel about that, but really, it'll only get me worked up emotionally.

Let me elaborate about John, and what he meant to me. I met John through Brad Bundy, who in turn I had met while working at Automotive Avenues.

John and Brad were roommates, and lived within walking distance of a bar named Jackson's Hole. One Sunday night they were at Jackson's having a beer or two, and playing the bar's trivia game. They were not doing too well when Brad suddenly remembered that I had a gift for recalling arcane, useless crap, so he called me up and asked if I wanted to join them.

I had never spent any time outside of work with Brad, but I did like him, and as I was doing nothing else but sitting around my empty house (it was 2002, just after my divorce from Carrie), I thought playing trivia at a bar with him and his roommate would be a good idea.

I had met John prior to the trivia phone call, but only briefly, when he had stopped by Automotive Aves to see Brad, bringing along his dog Uno, the coolest dog in the world.

So I found myself at Jackson's Hole playing trivia with John & Brad. The trivia game was broken down into three rounds of ten questions each, and then a final four part question.

Each round winner won a pitcher of beer, and the game winners were awarded $50 house cash for first, $25 house cash for second, and $15 for third.

We won a pitcher of beer and first place - the $50 house cash, that night. That first night led to many, many others. I would venture a guess that we played trivia at least three out of four Sundays a night for the next five or six years. We played trivia with girlfriends as part of date nights, we played trivia against teams that came to loathe our winning ways but became our friends (Desi, Wes, Mark, etc., all playing as the Short Bus Outlaws), and we played trivia against people that hated us not only as trivia players but as human beings (we could be real asses sometimes, esp. me).

And as we got to know each other playing trivia, our friendship expanded. Our friendship was somewhat of a three musketeers thing - John, Brad, and I fell in together and something just clicked. When John and Brad bought a house together, a scant mile and a half from mine, our relationship became more family than friends.

We developed the habit of going out to breakfast Sunday mornings, as we all had Sundays off together for a long while, and even when we didn't have Sundays off, those of us who had to work didn't go in until late in the afternoon.

We ate breakfast everywhere, driving all over the Denver metro area to find the best corned beef hash and omeletes. We ate breakfast at The Lakewood Bar and Grill, The Westwood Inn, The Looking Good cafe, The Village Inn, The Country Road Cafe, The Applewood Cafe, Sunrise Sunset, Denny's, Le Peep, Pifler's, The Breakfast King, The Breakfast Queen, Johnson's Corner Cafe, Davie's Chuck Wagon Diner, The Egg & I, Mimi's Cafe, Dixon's, Yanna's Cafe (forgot the Vodka in our Bloody Marys!), IHoP, Mona's, Smash Burger, the Country Kitchen, the Ralston Road Cafe, the Egg Shell, the Sapp Bros truck stop, the Morrison Inn, the Blue Cow, the Village Coffee Shop, the Butcher Block cafe...and so many more.

I can't remember all the places we had a drink - just about everywhere in Lakewood and the surrounding area. All the Mexican restaurants, the wing places, burger joints, pizza places, Thai, Sushi, Bar-Be-Que...I can not begin to remember them all. We went out a lot.

The thing is, we enjoyed each other's company. We went to baseball and football games, we went to car shows and home shows, we went to the Flea market and shopped at thrift stores. We drove around looking at...stuff.

When Tim and Shawna divorced, Tim became part of our group, with Johnny more or less pulling him in. Same thing with my brother Tom - Johnny would play dominoes with Tom and the neighbors to all hours of the night. The neighbors, Josh & Kelly, they too became part of John's circle. He was a friendly rascal, that's what he was.

John didn't make friends, he added to his family.

My sister Patti and her husband Ron, their children Ryan and Nichole, they all became part of John's life. John went snowboarding with Ryan, and bought girlscout cookies he'd end up giving away from Nichole.

We celebrated our birthdays together, and the birthdays of our respective family members. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas together too. Last year, me, John, and my brother Tom celebrated New Year's together in the garage, and I have that on tape. I'll always treasure that.

We celebrated the birth of his and Holly's daughter Olivia. The prospect of being a father had scared the hell out of him, but Johnny took to it with an incredible zeal. He became the best father a man could be.

When he finally moved out of the house he's shared with Brad for seven years, I remember celebrating his new home, his own home, with him. He had bought that house for Olivia, really. The park right across the street is what sealed the deal.

He was killed a mile from his house. One mile. 5280 feet.

I miss Johnny, and probably always will. He was a great friend, a good man, a good father.

Okay, got the tears out of my eyes, time to finish up. Unfortunately, there's more bad stuff to recall.

My Uncle Don also passed away in 2010. He was 79 years old, born to my grandmother Agnes in Stockton California on September 18th, 1931, and died June 3rd of 2010.

I did not know my Uncle Don all that well. The first time I met him was in November of 1981, when I was stationed at Lowry AFB in Denver. It was near Thanksgiving and I had been told that he lived in the Denver area, so I leafed through the Denver phone boook and called all the Don Long's listed. I think he was the 4th Don Long I called.

Uncle Don had me over for Thanksgiving that year. I met his first wife, my Aunt Dot, and I met my cousins Karen and Colleen, Rusty, Allen and David. It was odd meeting relatives - they were the very first blood relations I'd ever met other than my siblings.

I can't recall much from that Thanksgiving. I know that in the years that followed I sent and received a couple letters with cousin Rusty, but not much else was done in the way of forming familial ties.

When I moved to Denver from Scotland, my sister Patti encouraged getting to know Uncle Don and his family. He had divorced Aunt Dot back in '83 or '84, and had remarried. His second wife was Charlene, and she was very nice. I remember hearing about how the divorce from Dot and marriage to Charlene had caused a serious rift in his family, but I wasn't aware of just how serious until the funeral.

The cousins were all there, Rusty, Allen, David, Karen & Colleen, but half of their spouse's didn't show, and I found out later that it had been over a decade since a few of them had talked to each other.

Maybe the Long family genes just aren't built for strong family ties.

I got involved in a few more relationships - another 1/2 hearted go with CCW, and a 5 month run with RR. That 5 month run was extremely difficult, and if she's not the most completely looped woman I'll ever be involved with, I need to be committed now. Seriously, I must have been insane to have been with her for more than that first month.

I met RS in December, and that proved to be a dead-end too.

I'm just a freak magnet.

There were a few good things going on in 2010. Paid off the AmGen loan, so I'm one step closer to financial freedom. Still have the house, thanks to Tommy being a good roommate. Of course, Tommy left for another year at Ft. Bliss in August, so it's a little tighter financially, but I'll be okay.

I always pull through, some how.