Blueberry Morning

The year I entered high school the administrators changed the rules regarding letter jackets. Instead of getting a free jacket after 3 “letters”, you had to pay after at least one letter. My older brother caught the worst end of this change, having to buy his own letter jacket after his third letter.

I wanted a letter jacket too, but out of respect for my brother I decided to adhere to the old rules and wait 3 years before getting mine. While my brother played football and I was tall enough to play basketball, I decided to swim because, like track, you didn’t have to try out. You just signed up.

When I first saw that Jason had also chose to sign-up I tried to avoid him because I was afraid he would remember me from Mr. Cree’s social studies class last year. He had played a lawyer in a mock trial and had grilled me on the stand. It was one of two classes I had taken with him. The other was art.

Jason loved the Penguins and one day in art he was wearing both a jersey and a hat. That was the same class where I got punched in the face by someone who mistakenly thought I was laughing at them. I said, “Penguins, huh?” and Jason said very loudly and authoritatively, “Yep!” and I walked away.

So it was a surprise to me when Jason invited me over to his house for breakfast that day after morning swim. As a fan of breakfast I said yes and though I don’t recall how we got there I suppose we walked because I don’t recall meeting Jason’s mother until after I had started eating her Blueberry Morning cereal. I asked what I should call her and Jason said, “Hey”, so that is what I do to this day.

They lived on the second floor above the antique store they own and ran below. It was a whimsical life full of history brought to life through his parents constant garage sale hunting, antique store shopping, and auction bidding. Jason filled the time waiting on his parents reading computer magazines.

One afternoon during swim practice I mentioned to Jason a church activity I was going to that evening and he ended up going with me. We had already started hanging out more by this time, along with Ben Raufeisen, Kyle, and a couple other guys I can’t remember anymore.

Eventually Jason started going to all of the church activities and I started getting more involved in Jason’s world. I’d attend auctions and go garage sailing and eventually Jason and I started our own antique business, called Closet Collectibles Company. His dad didn’t like us competing with him, but it didn’t last long anyway. We used the profit from the company to watch movies.

The next year I got a job at Heiskell’s Restaurant and Lounge, which was a fine dining establishment just south of downtown by the creek. I washed dishes 3 nights a week from Thursday to Saturday. It was awful, awful work, but when a job came open, Jason wanted in. He got the job.

At the ‘peak’ of Heiskell’s – Jason, my other friend Danny Warner, and my next door neighbor John – all worked there, but graduation was coming. I worked there through the summer before heading to Kentucky with Jason who also attended the same school. Our drummer, Heath, also went.

Jason and I arguably hung out less at college than we did in high school. He lived two floors down and had different classes and social life. Yes, we still were in a band together, ate most dinners together, went to the lake for fun, and played street hockey behind the grocery store, but not much else.

I worked in the cafeteria at school washing dishes while Jason worked in an office grading papers. I worked with a girl named Kelly who spent her summers working at a camp in Michigan. I told her I was interested and I applied. I got the job. Jason worked at Franklin Power that summer. We didn’t talk much, but I heard he drained a lot of oil.

The next year at KCC was a little different. We were sophomores now and there was a new batch of freshmen, but ironically it was us that got mentored when an upperclassmen chose to teach us the ways of Carter County. He showed us how to go cliff jumping and where to go hiking; how to scare girls in the middle of the night and how to sneak in our rooms when we got back. Those were the good times among the bad.

Despite me having what could be considered an almost girlfriend that year, almost everything that could go wrong did and it was a terrible year by any other measurement. It was clear that we were supposed to leave and at the end of the year all 5 band members went 5 different directions. Jason went to Ball State in Muncie and I went to Milligan in Tennessee via Camp Allendale for the summer.

The first semester of 2000 was very similar to the summer of 1999. I don’t remember much about Jason’s life other than an AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) conversation we had one night when Jason famously asked if “I even had a TV” when I tried to explain to him that I didn’t have cable.

Over Christmas break Jason got engaged to a girl he met at that church we used to go to together back in high school and so I left Milligan to move in with Jason’s roommate and my other long-time friend, Derek in Muncie. Doing that meant leaving my other long-time friend, Ben, back in Milligan.

Living in Muncie with Derek was similar to living in Kentucky with Derek in the amount of time spent with Jason and his new wife. I first got a job delivering furniture followed by a lawn mowing job. Jason got a job at Chili’s and then at a bank. Derek also worked at Chili’s, but got a job at Target next before joining jason at the bank. And finally, I joined the bank too so we all worked there for a few months before we were laid off due to a consolidation made possible by the Check 21 Act passed by George Bush on October 31, 2001.

Jason’s wife worked at another bank and somehow that bank heard Jason was getting laid off and offered him a job working for them. He accepted and still works there today, but in a much different way. He invested in his career through dedicated learning and growth and now he works in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile he started multiple businesses, had multiple children, and moved a couple of times. Although more has happened since the early times, less has changed. It’s the ‘formidable years’ that I tend to write about on this blog and in my fiction novels. Sometimes I wonder if I should focus less on the past and more on the present. I am presently writing about the past. That may also be my future.

Jason doesn’t really like me writing about him so I’ve kept this purposely vague while attempting to provide insight and historical archiving. While we both have big families and job responsibilities we still find time to hang out together and projects to work on together.

I went to church with Ben, Derek, Danny, and Jason and worked with all of them together at different times in my life (Heiskell’s: Jason/Danny/Erich; KCC Cafeteria: Derek/Erich; Shog: Jason/Erich; Muncie Bank: Jason/Derek/Erich; Indianapolis Bank: Ben/Derek/Erich), Jason is the only one who still hangs out with me and I appreciate him for that. Although I allude to him a lot in this blog, I hadn’t written about him or our friendship directly before so I thought it was appropriate to recollect with you that fateful, blueberry morning.