You might be wondering why I put up a video from a 1969 movie from a 1951 Broadway musical, Paint Your Wagon. Me too. I woke up this morning with Lee Marvin’s crusty voice on my brain. Tyrone, our Hollywood connection, brought this song to my attention. Marvin (named Lee after his ancestor, General Robert E. – there is something to this genealogy in Hollywood stuff) can’t sing for shit, but with help of real Hollywood talent, creates a memorable moment.
I was not born under a wandering star. I am grounded in my life with a perfect partner, and any wandering we do, we do hand in hand. But Marvin above reminds me of a friend of mine who was not so fortunate as me. His name was Steve, and he and I wandered the mountains of Montana, Wyoming, and the Minnesota Boundary Waters during the 1980s and 90s. I have his photo here on my wall, and on the matte I have written down all of our adventures, maybe 30 trips we took together.
Steve liked my company because I was one of the few friends in his group who did not drink to excess. Steve was a heavy drinker, and used our mountain trips as sober interludes. I rarely saw him in the city, as another hiking buddy said that he was a wonderful mountain companion, and a “city shit.” All of his other friends were only into outdoor trips that included boats and coolers full of beer. On ours, he not only gave up beer, but also left his cigarettes behind. Of course, when we got back down to trailhead, he had a cooler of warm beer waiting, and insisted that I drive.
One night in 1998 Steve, thoroughly wasted, got his third DUI. He went home, got out the title to his truck and signed it, and then went into his garage and started the engine, and waited to die. When another friend, Jim, found him the next morning, his body was half in and half out of the garage and wedged under the door. He was in agony and had decided to live, but it was too late.
I gave the eulogy at his memorial service, and it was a good one. I did him up proud. One guy, a longtime friend of Steve’s, came up to me after and said that it was the best he had ever heard. The manager of the funeral home said that professionals don’t do that well. After I was done I asked all of those gathered to stand up and speak, but none could do so. They were verclempt, unable to stand up and speak before a group. One handed me a sheet of paper with words on it and asked me to read it. What a sorry group of friends Steve had, unable to stand and pay tribute.
Steve reminds me of Lee Marvin above. The detached life without soulmate is nothing to long for. It is empty and meaningless. We can sit under the stars at night in the wilderness and have wispy thoughts, but having someone to come home to matters far more than any romantic wandering notions.
Anyway, some here might have been a little piqued that I shut off comments in the thread below that became a MM debate. It would still be going on had I not done that, and I don’t know if anyone saw, but I mentioned in a comment the night before that was going to do so. Also, a man I met and whose company I enjoyed at the MM conference in 2016, BMSeattle, was taking a beating. He’s a nice man. He’s no agent of MM. He just gives honest memories and reflections. He set me straight that Jeff, the scientist at that meeting, had no agenda and was only frustrated that we were doing conspiracy talk instead of science.
Some people have no stomach for blog commenting when it gets personal. I don’t mind it much, as I have often said that the only way to hurt my feelings is to say something about me that is true. That stings. But I do appreciate BMS, who has now left the blog in perpetuity, citing too much negativity. I wish he and his wife good tidings and a happy life together.
Is anything in this post connected to anything else in this post? Only possibly.
PS: I just realized I can show the photo on my wall of Steve, as his face is not shown. The photo was taken on the Blacktail Deer trail in Yellowstone National Park, and I remember thinking at the time that him beside a lone tree in the wilderness seemed … appropriate.