Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Vertebrate Redemption....

I was a much younger man when I met - and immediately became great friends with - Alex Schreiber.  I knew mere moments after we had unpacked our respective treasures in our Farrand Hall fourth floor dorm room in late August, 1985 that we were going to be friends.  I knew before I actually laid eyes on him. 

Alex - at that time - lived in New Orleans.  On his initial foray to Boulder he had been accompanied by his father.  They had arrived on campus and already unpacked a considerable amount of Alex's stuff when I bebopped on in - with my most precious worldly possessions crammed either into the bag over my right shoulder or the steamer trunk I was lugging up four flights of stairs.  I met Alex's stuff before I met Alex.  I had never known anyone who owned a kayak AND an ice ax until I met him.  In one fell swoop (Is there any other kind?) I met such a man.  

While I think his father found me a bit off-putting at first (most of my prized possessions that were not clothes were alcohol-related) he and I immediately fell in together.  Our little corner of the floor became very, very tight.  It was the two of us, Bill Winter and John Gloor next door and a pair of roommates who were so far apart in their approach to day-to-day life that they made us look like Siamese twins, Vince Buckmelter and the late, great Scott Bouchard.  It is funny how life takes you where it takes you.  As that year went on, relationships frayed a bit - and in the case of Vince and Boo fractured completely - but Alex and I held together pretty well.  By the time we were seniors, John, Alex and I had spent three of our four years at CU either as neighbors or roommates.  Oh the stories we could tell.  And one day, when I am certain that all applicable Statutes of Limitation have come and gone, perhaps I shall.  One day. 

I am reminded just how long ago college was when I think of my great friend Schneedz and just how long it has been since he and I have been in the same place - or worse yet since I have the sound of his voice.  Alex has a speaking voice that Tom Waits would love - an almost guttural growl interspersed with a bit of the South.  Well, the bit of the South was present a lifetime ago when he still called N'Awlins home.  He has made his living in Northern waters for a quarter-century now.  I have not spoken to him other than via e-mail in close to fifteen years.  I know not whether any of the Po' Boy dialect or inflection remains.  In my mind's ear, I presume it does.  When I do my admittedly dreadful impersonation of him for my wife, which I do every now and again, I do it in that style.  "Adsey, I'm tellin' you boy" just does not sound right without it.

Today is the 12th of October.  It is the 47th birthday of the one, the only Schneedz.  But for my oldest brother Bill, he is the most knowledgable and most passionate fan of British rock and roll I have ever met.  In the years we lived together I went from being a casual fan of The Who to a far more learned listener and from someone who kinda, sorta knew who The Faces were to someone who listened to their albums. 

One of my favorite things about him was that Schneedz cared not at all about a great many things at CU - principal among the things about which he felt apathy was the football team.  I smile today because it was on his birthday our freshman year that I dragged him to Folsom Field with me for the first and last time.  CU played Missouri.  Before the game we had "tailgated" so by the time we made it to our seats - on a  beautiful, sunsplashed Colorado October Saturday (Homecoming by the way) - we were feeling loose and relaxed.  When the Ralphie Handlers lost control of her on the wet Astroturf (it had rained the night before) and she rounded the horseshoe unaccompanied by human companionship and bore down like one hostile bison towards the Missouri players warming up on the sideline, Schneedz laughed as if it was the funniest fucking thing he had ever witnessed.  In hindsight, I wish I had thought quickly enough to lie when he asked me if that happened every week.  Had I said yes I could have suckered him into at least one more Saturday afternoon with me in the student section - rooting like hell for Ralphie to stomp the shit out of some unsuspecting opponent. 

Alex's dad was among the first class of Peace Corps volunteers.  When Schneedz and I went to N'Awlins our freshman year for Spring Break the old black-and-white photo of Mr. Schreiber shaking hands with President Kennedy on the day he was sworn in as a member of the Corps was appropriately displayed in a high-traffic, high-visibility area.  Upon our graduation from CU in '89 Schneedz joined the Peace Corps.  Met the woman he married - and from whom he subsequently divorced - there.  When I telephoned him in the Summer of '92 to tell him that I had met Margaret and that we were getting married the following summer - he interrupted me to tell me that he and Kathleen were doing likewise.  He wanted Margaret and me to come to his wedding in Washington - just outside of Spokane I think.  And we would have.  We could not.  Schneedz and Kathleen were married on the Pacific Coast at 6:00 PM on the evening of June 18, 1993.  Margaret and I were married in Bridgewater, New Jersey at 12:00 PM on June 19, 1993. 

These days my old friend is doing what he does - exploring the mysteries of marine life and shaping young minds as a Professor of Biology at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.  He holds a Ph. D. now so I suppose I have to honor his official title and refer to him as "Dr. Schneedz".  Well.....maybe.  That scarf makes it a little tough.

Happy Birthday to my old great friend.  One of the best, brightest minds I have ever met and one of the most stand up, have your back when the shit is caving in around you type of people all of us wish we knew more of - and were more like ourselves.  I hope today - and everyday - finds him well.  Finds him happy.  And finds him at peace.  

I guess I just miss my friend.... 


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