We met shortly after I moved to Albuquerque in 1978 to help launch a bi-weekly newspaper. Josh approached me with a story, which I recall never saw the printed page of our august rag. But Josh was funny, cool and a talented writer. We were a good match.
We shared our tastes in popular music, the adventure of discovering hole-in-the-wall restaurants, our predilection for exotic alcoholic drinks, our love of offbeat films and the usual guy stuff revolving around sex, sports, politics, cars and barbecue. We shared some of those things with our significant others at the time, but mostly it was about Josh and me.
Less than two years after we met, I took a job at the big morning daily where I settled in as the weekend police reporter. Several months later, I was bumped up to full-time police reporter.
Josh was working as a paralegal, but his ambition was to become a journalist. He was dying to break into the business and when I got the promotion, he asked if there was any chance he could get the weekend cop job.
Although I knew he could write, I imagined his lack of journalistic credentials would eliminate him. But my editor took my recommendation and offered him the job. He quickly became a golden boy at the paper, even though his habit of dressing as a Sandinista guerrilla was directly responsible for a dress code being instituted.
Even after I married and became a father, we stayed close. But by the mid-80s, he was ready to move on and went off to Columbia to get his masters in journalism and work on the east coast. It was the beginning of his long and successful ascent in the business.
He returned to Albuquerque a few times after graduation and once tried to return the favor I had done for him by getting him his first break.
I had a number of reasons for turning down the opportunity he offered (the main one being that I would have to move to New Jersey). He became exasperated, my wife became pissed at me, and I became defensive. That night, the bromance officially ended.
For my part, I never thought Josh owed me anything, and I guess I was taken aback at his insistence I accept the favor.
In the intervening years, Expanded Self decided that getting divorced and immersing myself in intense relationships with a series of women was the path to enlightenment. Josh, and guys in general, became an afterthought.
Sometime in the early 2000s, I met Gene.
We shared a love for writing, road-tripped together and engaged in marathon discussions on subjects ranging from his beloved Red Sox to economic development. Gene installed a beautiful tile floor in a condo I once owned, for free. I helped Gene get a job as a television host. We worked together on a film festival I had helped start. We even dated and broke up with the same woman at different times.
I thought maybe, I'd found a new Josh.
But over the last two or three years we got together less and less. Sometimes we went months between contacts. Nothing went obviously wrong, as with Josh. The buddy-ness of our relationship just faded.
Then this fall, we re-connected via a Facebook chat while I was in Japan. Out of the blue, he offered me a place to live when I returned.
After creating much anxiety around my return to New Mexico and "reality," this seemed like a nice Busting Loose cookie.
But I still had plenty to process, as I soon found out.
After arriving in Albuquerque, I met Gene at his place near downtown. I'll admit, I had some judgment about it. It was small, old, worn, drafty and grungy. Breakfast nooks and jacuzzis were not part of the deal.
I told myself to get over the ingratitude. I would get a chance to re-connect with Gene. I had always wanted to live near downtown. I had a roof over my head, even if it had a hole in it. But it would take more than a pep talk. The situation I had created forced me to look at some of my deepest insecurities and do some serious processing. I know I had long ago decided to do things "another way," but this was not exactly how I had envisioned it.
Here's the cool part. I told Gene I had little money. No big deal, you're welcome. Don't worry about the rent.
When it got cold, Gene said, crank up the heat. My bill is practically nothing.
No Christmas presents this year? Well, Gene got me one.
A couple nights later, he brought groceries home for me. I hadn't asked.
We've renewed our marathon gab sessions. His girlfriend now gracefully exits when we get started, since she knows she won't be able to wedge a complete sentence in for a couple of hours.
In his spare time, he doubles as my muse, (although I am still open to the idea of Penelope Cruz filling that role), not only supporting me in my starving artist game by providing me a place to live, but serving as a dread-locked sounding board for documentary movie themes, screenplay plot points and writing ideas.
I hadn't asked for any favors. Yet there they were.
I have heard that Gene is just as generous in the holograms of other people. I'm happy for them, too. All I know is that I've gotten another glimpse of what appreciation and gratitude are all about.
It's good to be home again, and all I can say is, I love you, man.