I like my friends Jon, Bud and Chip. The four of us started hanging out around Labor Day 1985 at the onset of college – desperate castaways from northern prep schools stuck in this sweltering southern bouillabaisse, knowing no one, clinging to each other the way expatriates in Paris no doubt clutch their Sunday New York Times. In those days, we dined on the Smiths, the Cure, took disastrous road trips in the cold rain where nobody got laid, and spent inordinate amounts of time making delirious fun of each other.
Bud was actually from North Carolina, so he had the vernacular down, and had a few friends from Statesville, so naturally, I relied on him to save me from the masturbatory self-involvement I’d perfected at Norfolk Academy. We used to take long walks around the woodsy expanse of campus, where I’d grill him about all things Carolinian. He also had a girlfriend that visited him from his hometown every few months, and I had yet to kiss a girl.
He introduced me to Jon, a frail yet culturally hyperliterate dude from Paoli, PA, and from then on, “Meat is Murder” never stopped wafting through the dorm. Jon had a knack for dating psychotic women, which had to be some sort of Freudian complement, because he’s the least psychotic guy I know. On Christmas Eve in 1985 while my parents were throwing antiques at each other during the worst marital meltdown in North American history – Jon arranged a ski trip and got me on the next train to Vermont. And neither of us could ski. He’s the only person who hated Duke as much as me (although 12 years of forced magnanimity in sports broadcasting may have made him soft).
Chip was the hardest to know, and in fact, spent the first three months of college fighting with Bud, who found him to be, well, a business major. The irony was that Bud was a business major too, at first, but thought Chip’s prep middle-class background made him especially asinine. After a few months, however, all of us were going through majors like disposable razors. By the time we graduated, there were probably eleven or twelve majors between us.
Most college friends disband into that “I wonder what they’re doing now” sort of distant friendship, but something in the water at Carolina has kept us all heavily immersed in each other’s lives. Jamie Block and I were talking about “The Big Chill” today and remarked that we’re now the same age as those fuckers, but we have none of the Lost Idealism and belief that our best days are behind us. I told him that when you change careers every two years, like most of us have, we are continually full of optimism (despite our griping to the contrary). Also, the people in that movie never saw each other after school, and we all managed to stick together.
Bud was my roommate, off and on, from the summer of 1987 clear until 1994. We once lived on cookie dough for a month. He never “graduated” from Carolina, but that never stopped him from writing me (as alter ego Dr. Thornton Long) countless notes on fake hospital stationery to get me out of doing stuff. Bud has a hibernating gene that makes him cocoon for years at a time, but is now entering a relatively extroverted phase. He hikes a lot of mountains with his girlfriend Baps, and they were just at the farm a couple of months ago.
Jon just moved to somewhere in New Jersey, and even though we suck for not getting together more, it’s nice to have him close. He got married last year in a great ceremony in Lexington, KY to an awesome woman named Lisa. Jon and I always manage to keep extensive radio contact, and usually meet at the ends of the earth (i.e., wherever Carolina is playing in the Final Four).
After a stint in Washington D.C., Chip came back to Chapel Hill where we slacked from 1991 to 1997 together. Or should I say that I slacked; Chip always had a job. We have a basketball rivalry that has been a war of attrition since 1988, although I have dominated the last few years, due to his unwavering interest in Burger King sausage biscuits. My family has an irrational love for Chip, and that includes Tessa and my mom, who says that he’s the funniest person she knows, as long as you listen carefully while he’s mumbling.
There’s so much more about the four of us, affectionately known to our various girlfriends as The Four Guys Not Named Biff, but decorum (and, dear reader, your attention span) prohibits going through them here. Suffice to say Jon’s nickname is “Will You Stop Touching Me,” Chip actually hit me on the head as hard as he could with the business end of a phone receiver, and Bud once ran across Chapel Hill barefoot to stop someone from jumping off a roof. Like I said, I like my friends Jon, Bud and Chip.
above: Chip, me and Jon outside our dorm in fall 1986
below: Chip, me and Jon at Jon’s wedding, spring 2001
not pictured: Bud, who couldn’t be bothered to get in the pictures