This post is in honor of my friend Karen’s 50th birthday, and the picture comes from 25 years ago, when we paid to have our photo taken with some guy’s iguana near Puerto Vallarta. Karen’s on the right.
I was going to leave it at that, as just a “Friday critter,” but I got to thinking of all the traveling I’ve done with Karen.
We met in Little Rock, and one night, we figured out the world as we drove around the dark streets. Sadly, we were drinking Midori melon liqueur from the bottle, and so, we didn’t remember the answers the next day.
We piled into cars with other newspaper colleagues for the drive to New Orleans to see the Rolling Stones, with me reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude” in the back.
“I freaked out trying to drive in New Orleans because of the one-way streets off Canal, which don't follow a logical pattern and still freak me out, and you were on Valium because you were just so darn excited,” Karen adds. (I also may have been on Valium because of remnants of agoraphobia in a stadium concert.)
I got a job in New Orleans, and then so did she. We drove back to Little Rock one weekend to go to a party. Because the only music we had in her car was a warped Joan Baez 8-track, we decided to sing to pass the time. Listening to ourselves, we decided a warped Joan would be better.
Karen recalls the party: “It was in the days of maybe the Go-Go’s -- simple repetitive beat music -- and everyone was doing the pogo (dance). You were dancing with some guy who just wouldn't pogo despite your encouragement. He finally had to explain to you that he had one artificial leg. And I am not making this up.”
Our first trip out of the country was to Puerto Vallarta. Next year was Paris. We met two American guys at Versailles and ended up drinking with them in their room. We lounged on their bed, with Karen musing over what colors she should have for her wedding, and the guys looking heartsick. How risky innocence is. (Karen says I was the one who brought up her wedding.)
I was her maid of honor. The A/C broke in the chapel, and sweat rolled down my back as I sat, knelt and stood by the altar. I moved to Tampa, where she would travel to be my matron of honor. We went back and forth between New Orleans and Tampa, and I thought the last time would be in 2002, when she flew in to help me move to my native Texas. She helped me drive as far as New Orleans, with all my houseplants crammed in the backseat, like a hothouse on wheels.
In Texas, after cancer surgery, she flew in. She washed my hair as I sat crumpled up on a chair in the shower.
I moved back to Tampa, and we met in Orlando, where she had brought her son to the Magic Kingdom. Even though I took them for a legitimate reason, narcotics do improve the Disney experience.
Karen concludes: “As a magnet on my fridge says, ‘You'll always be my friend. You know all my secrets.’ "