Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dammit Jim!

A quick story about three friends of mine, none of whom know each other and all of whom have two things in common. One, they are my friend, two, they share the name James. All are referred to as Jim.

James I: This is my mom's next door neighbor, Jim. A sweet gentle guy who is always on the lookout for somebody else's welfare, generally my mom's as she lives alone. Jim has always been a good listener and a good friend. He taught me that I had a pretty strong work ethic despite my old man's opinion to the contrary. Jim's approach was putting a job in front of me and asking to be called when it was done. No looking over your shoulder, no constant criticism, no "do it this way not that". Just do it and call me. If you set your own goals, your own pace and define your own style, amazing things happen.

Jim taught me respect for firearms. He also taught me when to draw a line in the sand. He showed me how to strip and clean an .45 and how to treat it carefully, ensuring no one would ever get hurt. He also taught me that were he ever broken into, the perp would be able to help himself to whatever was on the first floor with no retribution other than a call to 911. However, should that perp take one step up to where Jim's family slept, all bets would be off.
A Marine in Viet Nam, Jim didn't go looking for trouble but knew what to do if it found him.

James II: Current, past and future great friend who thinks nothing of hauling ridiculously heavy woodworking machinery around in the pouring rain and accepts no other homage than a simple thanks to which he responds: "My pleasure."

Yeah, right.

With a beautiful wife and fine family, don't tell me you don't have better things to do. But he's there nevertheless being the friend he is, worth his weight in gold.

Jim has been there for most of the crap that has been my life for the last two years and I appreciate him to no end.

If there is one thing I wish I could do before I die, it is to repay him in kind.

James III: Ah, big Jim. He holds a special place in my life because he is, by circumstance, relegated to the realm of memory.

Jim and I worked together for about four years. We both smoked, drank, tried to do the best we could for our families, had ungodly workloads, schedules and commutes. We both had a dry sense of humor that we took out on each other and those around us liberally.

My idea of a joke was to move his car in one of those monster parking lots and then take pictures as he stalked around where he thought he had left the Honda.

His idea of fun was to open the car door at forty plus miles per hour to see if it was too windy for the poor assistant in the back seat who had made the mistake of riding to the bank with us at lunch.

I picked up a few of his mannerisms and some of his midwestern accent. I still pronounce "roof" as if I came from Joliet instead of Pawtucket and drum my fingers rhythmically while on hold.

I don't affect his "aw shucks" shrug though I have dreamt of him affecting it many times. The dreams are all the same, a group of us is sitting around a table with a few drinks and a few smokes. We are telling stories, joking and wishing we could do the job we were assigned to do if the workload were not so overwhelming and the demands so uncompromising and unending. Jim tells the best stories and over the course of time, people get up and walk away from the table until just Jim and I are left. At that point, I look him straight in the eye and say "You know, its been fun, but you shouldn't even be here." He asks why and the answer is always the same:

"You're dead."

And he knows it and he gives me that "aw shucks" shrug and he disappears.

Jim's obituary was written by a staffer at a small town Massachusetts paper. Grasping for something relevant, the best he could offer was "He was an avid golfer."


He was an avid human being. Such that I will miss for the rest of my days.

One of the funnier things in my life is that I am a perpetual malcontent. I am seldom satisfied with things as they are and am always trying to change reality to suit me.

One of the first things I was dissatisfied with in life was my name.
It was boring and nondescript. I had a child's book called "Look out for pirates." In it was my first role model; the captain of a ship who is taken over by pirates and who uses his wits and leadership skills to turn the tables on them. I wanted to be just like him, right down to the name. A name that always signifies something special.

The character captain's name was Jim.


Blogger Kathryn said...

must be karma for all the Jims I know, who should really be named Dick

and that 3rd Jim's idea of fun? love it

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