Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ode to Dean Koontz (alternatively titled: A Fond Farewell)

Ever since I stumbled upon "It" when I was a senior in high school, I have loved Stephen King. I began to read his books voraciously in college. I loved the way his books all seem to tie together in mysterious ways. I loved that characters from one book popped up in others. I loved how he alluded to other books in his short stories (sometimes alluding to a book that hadn't yet been written.) When people asked who my favorite author is, I instantly responded with his name.

But once I got through his books, the wait for new ones got long...and lonely.

So I turned to Dean Koontz to ease my pain.

Koontz is an entirely different writer than King. He dabbles more in fantasy (which I'm not particularly fond of) and his stories are fast paced right from page one. King's books start off notoriously slow and take true dedication to get to the fabulously bone chilling meat of the book.

But this isn't a critique of one writer's strengths over the other.

I never listed Koontz among my favorite authors. He was always a filler. He was just what I read when I didn't have any new books from my "favorite" authors. He was always there, and his books always satisfied. It wasn't until I moved into my own apartment, and FINALLY put all of my books on a bookshelf (alphabetically organized by author: yes I am that person) that I realized that the number of Koontz books that I owned actually outnumbered the number of King books that I owned. And I owned practically every single Stephen King book.

"Wow," I thought, "I must really like Dean Koontz."

The thought was somewhat of a surprise. Then I thought back to how much I liked Koontz's "Odd" books, and set out right then to the bookstore to buy the next one. It was the first time I set out with the goal to buy a Koontz book instead of just turning to him as a default.

Now, I'll buy the new Koontz book as regularly as I'll buy the new King book. It's tough on the pocketbook, let me tell you. When people ask me to list my favorite authors, I'll mention both King and Koontz.

When I found out that a friend of mine whom I have known for over ten years was moving away, the first emotion I felt was nothing but excitement for her. We were close friends, but never that "talk-on-the-phone-see-each-other-daily-consult-each-other-for-everything" type of friend. I started thinking about her new adventure, all the things she would be experiencing, and how jealous I was of the turn her life was taking. It added to my motivation to change things in my life and put them more in the direction I kept thinking they should be in.

Then, when I went to her going away party, it began to sink in that she was really leaving Indiana. Not that our friendship would end, but she wouldn't be HERE with me. My first reaction to that thought was a hearty "BOO!" but with rueful acceptance. We would be fine.

THEN I looked back over the years of our friendship. There were times when we didn't talk but once every six months. There were times when she would call me out of the blue with an idea for a new adventure. I always said yes. There were times she would invite me out, and I would know no one but her (and the person who came with me.) It would occur to me how different our lives were. How were we still friends?? I remember once being in the car with her when she critiqued the new color of a cross walk sign.

"I don't like those," she said. "The color is obnoxious."
"Wow. You really do have an opinion about everything, don't you?" I responded.

Pot, meet Kettle.

About three and a half years ago, my life began to undergo a series of dramatic changes. I had quit my (horrible) job, was in the process of losing my best friend, started dating a guy I thought I was going to marry, gotten over the LAST guy I thought I was going to marry....I felt like I was finally growing into me.

Around this time, my friend was also going through changes. In a job she didn't like, post breakup with a guy who was no good for her, had gotten over being "in like" with a guy who was unavailable and went on to dating a guy who was just as unavailable (though she didn't know it at the time....) She reached out to me with the following suggestion:

"We don't see each other enough. What if we schedule monthly dinners together?"

Like all other adventures, I said, "Sure!"

The dinners evolved from dinners out (my side of town, her side of town, my side of town...etc.) to dinners in (my place, her place, my place....) She cooked these fabulous meals with seemingly little stress. Meanwhile, I was leaving early from work, making a mess of my kitchen, and lucky if I had the table set by the time she arrived. They were the one event each month that I wouldn't miss unless I was DYING.

We had other adventures too. I need someone to go with me to Italian Fest. No problem. Butler basketball games? Done. Let's try kickboxing! Why not?? Latin dance classes? Awesome!

We had our last monthly dinner on August 29th.

I look back over the years of our friendship and realize that although I might not have appreciated it at the time, her friendship was as reliable as Koontz books were. Like Koontz, she was always there, and always made me just as happy as any others in my life. Sometimes I even had MORE fun in her presence than with those I considered closer friends. It's too bad that I only started to put her friendship front and center so late. I have a feeling I'll miss her in moments I can't even imagine right now, and those moments will hit me out of the blue - like when I should be kickboxing or want to go to the next "Puppy Bowl" at Animal Control.

I can only hope that the future is kind, and the distance doesn't matter.

With close friends it usually doesn't.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Things are definitely better now.

"You guys aren't helping my case any."

That was my friend's boyfriend. Apparently they boyfriend and I were not supporting him properly in his quest to move in with his girlfriend.

In our defense, he asked us how long we had been dating when we moved in together. the boyfriend said,

"Uh oh. She's going to get mad. I'm not sure....How long were we dating before we moved in together?"
"Hell if I know. Let's see...we started dating in March of 2004 and moved in together in June of 2006. So about two and a half years."

This is when we were informed that we weren't helping his case any. They have been dating eight months. He went on to tell us that they were practically living together anyway....he was basically paying rent at a place he was never at. She responded to this by saying, "But it's MY place. He has HIS place." Made sense to me!

"Well, the boyfriend wanted to move in together for months before we actually did. I was holding out....I wasn't sure it was the right decision. Plus, I loved my apartment."

This is when the boyfriend shot me a dirty look while my friend grinned. Then my friend asked,

"How was moving in together?"

"Oh it was hell."
"Oh, c'mon MAN!" (That was my friend's boyfriend.)
"Yeah. It was pretty bad. But things are beter now, aren't they?" (Boyfriend)
"Oh yes. Things are definitely better now."
"You wouldn't be able to tell me if things are still bad. Not with Nate sitting right there, would you?" my friend asked.
"Yes she would. She's pretty direct. She would tell you if things were still bad." This was the boyfriend.

"So things are better now? They couldn't have been that bad, right?"

"Oh, trust me. They were bad. They're better now, but they were bad. BAD." This is when my friend Dave chimed in for the first time. He had previously been identified as my best guy friend. Specifically, 'the person I call when the boyfriend doesn't answer the phone.'

Here's where the boyfriend and I tried to explain,
"There was just a period of adjustment..."
"Her cat was peeing on my clothing..."
"His dog is nutso. If it weren't for his dog, things might have gone a bit easier..."
(a slight pause while we both nodded.)
"The dog and the cat are better now. Tyson just chases her when we're not looking. He doesn't try to put her in his mouth anymore. And the boyfriend is warming up to the idea of drugging him...."
"Anyway, you guys don't have dogs...so that's a good thing."
My friend noted, "Yes, but I have a cat. I have him feeding the cat so the cat will like him."
"That is KEY. Feeding the cat is definitely a good idea." (this from the boyfriend. The guy who used to have his clothes peed on by the cat.)
"Yes, things are definitely much better now....except for that whole 'dirty-clothes-go-in-the-hamper' thing. He still hasn't learned that lesson."

(The boyfriend slowly turned in my direction and shot me a look of death.)

"He doesn't know how to fold," my friend added, pointing to her boyfriend.
"And I don't want to." he added.

"We divided the chores," I advised. "I do dishes and laundry. HE vacuumes and cleans bathrooms. That helps."
"AND I take out the trash."
"WHATEVER! That's a five minute chore, so it doesn't really count."
"Not when the ONLY dumpster is a quarter mile away from our apartment."
"Okay, do you REALLY want to add up all the time I spend on dishes and laundry and nagging you to vacuum and compare it to the time you actually spend on your chores? Really?? You want to have this discussion?"

Yep. Things are definitely much better now.