Friends

Funny how differently Facebook works for the generations.  The under-30 crowd uses it to organize mass snowball fights and advertize social gatherings.  The over-50 crowd uses it to keep in touch with busy young family members and old friends.  Thus it was that two of my Williams classmates and fraternity brothers emerged from “ancient history” on my Facebook page after decades of silence.  John and Mike were two of my better friends in those days.  I roomed with John at the fraternity house, and we all shared classes.

Our fraternity, Delta Phi, owned a former private estate which became our House.  It had a long treed drive, huge living room, and comfortable living quarters.  The front lawn was more than ample for hitting fungoes and hanging out.  Out back was a double row of apple trees, which came into blossom just in time for their sweet perfume to seduce us from studying for final exams.  The back lawn became a court where killer badminton games were played regularly.

We were a relatively studious and socially conscious fraternity.  The former trait distinguished us from the more drink-and-party oriented Greek societies, while the latter alienated us from our national organization.  Jews were not supposed even to be pledged, yet we not only had Jewish members, but even elected a Jewish chapter president.  That did it.  The national expelled us.  We were never so proud.

After struggling through classes together—Clay Hunt’s notorious Modern Poetry course, third year calculus, arduous science labs—we graduated and went our separate ways.  I corresponded with John for a while as he went off to teach in Kenya.  But graduate school and marriage focused us on our discrete lives, and the veil descended.

With the first excitement of Facebook contact we have exchanged long “catch-up” emails, to discover that we have something in common (other than retirement and a 50th college reunion that very likely none of us will attend):  Cycling.

We all came to cycling differently, and I suspect our modes of riding are different.  John, a distance runner all his life, resorted to cycling as an alternative when he developed back problems.  He rides the rolling country of upstate New York, has done some long distance trips, and logs 1500 miles a year.  Mike has ridden 20-25 miles every day since his 1999 retirement.  He lives in Santa Barbara, where the climate allows such intensity.  He’ll hit 100,000 miles this summer (do the math—it checks out).  I stand in awe.  I’m somewhere in between, I guess.  I have been averaging 3000+ miles per year, riding about every third day of a year, but more regularly in the warmer seasons.  The three of us own different kinds and numbers of bikes, and have our individual objectives, routines, and motives for riding.  But here we are, nearly half a century after college, converging on some of the same points in life, validating in our common interests the innate bonds that first made us classmates and brothers.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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