Letter From New York 08 08 2016 One special year…

It is a little after four in the afternoon of a perfect summer day in Claverack.  It is warm but not hot; humidity is low.  The creek is still and mirrors back the trees that line its bank.  There is the occasional thrumming of a bird’s cry. A very soft wind blows my hair.

At 3:30 this morning the alarm went off and I woke, actually rather gracefully, stretched and began the day.  The weekend had been spent with my friends Nick and Lisa, at their new house in Harwich Port on Cape Cod, about a mile or so from where Lisa’s parents had had a home, a place where she grew up and not too unlike the English fishing village where Nick had grown up before going off to Boarding School.

On the way over, I resolved to listen to no news and played CD’s, particularly enjoying one by Judy Collins.  On one track there is a haunting lyric, “You thought you were the crown prince of all the wheels in Ivory Town…”

On my first day of class at the University of Minnesota, I went to my Freshman Spanish class.  Marvin Reich was my TA for Spanish.  The sun flowed into that room that day not unlike the way it is flowing over me tonight on the deck.  At one point he looked at me.  “Rubio! ¿Cómo te llamas?”  Blonde one, what is your name?

I answered, “Mi nombre es Mateo.”

He asked me a couple of other simple questions and I answered him.  Two years before I had been in Honduras and had done my best to speak.  Marvin smiled at me.

As we left class, Marvin caught up with me and started asking me about myself.  Two women arrived.  They were Caroline Keith and Mahryam Daniels, both Grad TA’s in Spanish.  I am not sure what happened that day but they became my friends.

There was Marvin, sometimes known as “Mo,” Caroline and Marhyam, whose father very successfully sold bathroom fixtures to contractors building all the homes that were booming up in the 1950’s and 1960’s in the Twin Cities.

All three of them were years older and yet I seemed always comfortable with them and they with me.  They were the most important figures of my freshman year. 

Once Caroline and I sat late into the night talking, she telling me her secrets.  We all have them.   She looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I am telling all of this shit to an 18 year old.  But I never think of you as 18.”

It was Marvin who was our glue and at the end of my freshman year, he departed, to lead a life of adventure.  I am sure he did.  It’s always been my hope he found all the adventures he was looking for because even though I have looked for him, I have never found him.

He introduced me to Judy Collins, Laura Nyro, Linda Ronstadt, Joan Baez.  We sat all night some nights in his apartment, talking, his small, golden dog curled at our feet, drinking coffee but really fueled by benzedrine.

It was a most amazing year and when Marvin left to find his adventures, we were all devastated and drifted apart, too shattered to cling together on life’s life raft.  We pulled away from the Titanic in different boats to find our futures in other places.

And yet,  I have spent this past weekend thinking of them and mourning them, all brought together by a Judy Collins lyric, which took me back, suddenly and unexpectedly, to a winter morn in Marvin’s apartment, he telling me “You must hear this…” 

It has never left me.  That moment has never left me.  And I hope that wherever they are, they have found the lives they wanted.  They were extraordinary people and I was extraordinarily blessed to have been grabbed by them and incorporated by them in their lives.  For one special year…

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