Tuesday, July 08, 2014



That's pretty much my reaction these days to everything that's coming to pass. It's a modified meh, a bemused shrug at how long it took me to realize a basic truth.

"I used to believe shit happens," I said to a friend the other day. "It's the whole reporter thing — kids get run over by cars, people wind up in the wrong time and place. Shit happens.

"But that's all changing. There's so much shit going on that makes no sense. But it all fits in some bizarro-world way. Now I'm starting to realize: shit happens for a reason."

My phone rang. I saw the number and excused myself: "It's him."

I took a deep breath, cleared my throat nervously. "Hello?"

"Ron? It's Jeff."

Jeff: an old friend from north Missouri, one of the best friends I've ever had. Smart sumbitch, a guy who would say something out of the blue and make me draw short with an inner wow — the dude who probably never realized how much he made me think.

I had run across his name the day before when I noticed he was visiting a mutual friend in Alabama. Hadn't actively thought about Jeff in years, and now here he was in my Facebook feed. Shot him a friend request right off, and within a couple hours he responded:

"Karmically speaking it feels like it's time. When I moved back to Brookfield in '98 your brother spoke of you but it was still too soon. I know it sounds ridiculous but there it is. I was so hurt I don't even know if you ever realized how bad it was. I covered it up with a lot of anger at first, then by trying to forget you. Neither solution worked particularly well ... "

There was more, of course, but I kept coming back to the same phrase: how bad it was.

He called the night after that message. He told me about the anger and how it had gnawed at him, how it had affected his life.

And then:

"I died," he said, referring to a massive heart attack he had last year. Boom boom, out go the lights, as Pat Travers once sang to a late '70s stoner crowd. One minute Jeff remembers feeling terrible, and suddenly it's a week later and he's waking up in a hospital bed.

As he told me this I heard the teenage Ron inside me: wow. He repeated it several times over the next two hours.

"So why is all this happening now?" Jeff finally asked.

I mumbled some words about the eras of life and the weird symmetry of the universe, but really, it all boiled down to the same five words I was thinking when Jeff called. Shit happens for a reason.

For some reason we are now being asked to share the air and help each other. We should have been doing it all this time — I know I would be a better person had that happened — but as the poet / philosopher (and best-selling author) Rick Springfield once said: the gods or whatever make the world go 'round shuffled when they should've cut.

They're working with a fresh deck this time. Finally. And they cut. Time to deal.