Yesterday morning, a little after seven, I left Chez Alexandre for Cincinnati. "Sal" was gonna keep an eye on the place. I told her I'd be back in just 36 hours. I had a memorial to attend. The trip from Arlington, Virginia, to Milford, Ohio, was just over five hundred miles, and was made in record time -- eight and a half hours. Had I avoided the constant state of repair of I-70 near Washington, Pennsylvania, it would have been done in less time than that.
The funeral home was crowded when I arrived in the early evening. There was a line to pay respects to the widow. I went straight to the case holding the urn with the cremated remains, surrounded by the Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul, the two workhorse guitars belonging to the deceased. (Some guys only settle for the best. There I quietly prayed the rosary. With the formalities out of the way, I proceeded to recognize a few faces. The trend continues as it has over nearly four decades; with a few exceptions, the women of the Class of 1973 still look great, and the guys have gone to seed. Well, not all of them: "You know, Bill, most bald guys couldn't get away with a ponytail, but somehow you pull it off."
Somebody once told me of research that showed, that Cincinnati was a leader among major American cities, as a place where those who grow up there never leave. It's not hard to imagine. In the years since graduation, graduates of McNicholas High maintained friendships with one another, married one another, saw their children grow up together. I worked as an entertainer at Kings Island for two summers, went to UC to study graphic design, became a fixture in the local coffeehouse scene. Then, when I could no longer compete with graduates of Billy Bob's School of Art and Barber College, I left for the Nation's capital, where I've been for thirty years. Beechmont Avenue, the main drag along that part of the city's outskirts, was the life line for a universe where people grew old together.
A number of readers from in and around Cincinnati have visited this site in the past week, and I am grateful, also for the number of comments that they have written. And I hope they don't mind, but this one was my favorite:
hi this is kati, tom's daughter. rick schlueter passed this on to my mom, my brother, and i and i just want to thank you so much for posting this. it was really touching to read, and i'm sorry that you and my dad lost touch over the years. i'm positive he would've loved to get back together with you and jam someday. don't be a stranger. call us every once in a while and touch base with us. we would love to hear from you.
I left for DC the following morning (but not before stopping at Skyline Chili for the breakfast of champions). I made it back to my home in exile just after eight this evening. In addition to breaking a record for the shortest time getting there, I broke one for the shortest time staying.
I'll return in two weeks, as it wasn't long enough.