Friday, January 30, 2015

Hello, Old Friends

When you usher in an historic presidency, it forges bonds.

After waiting in line for over two hours to vote that memorable day, I watched the 2008 presidential election results roll in at the home of a reliably liberal couple I'd known for years. Although we'd both shared Floyd Avenue addresses, I'd moved after 13 years, while they were still there. All of us were rooting for Obama.

With each state that got on board with the progressive agenda, I cheered and noshed on appetizers, keeping one eye on the TV screen. Yes, we can make this change for the better. I, for one, was more than ready for my president to be someone other than a white man.

Flash forward six years.

Despite shared ideologies, tonight was the first time I'd caught up with my Obama-supporting friends in ages. They walked into Sidewalk Cafe where I'd taken up residence near the end of the bar for dinner. Welcome, old friends and Democrats.

Of all the places to finally run into them, that it was at Sidewalk Cafe made perfect sense. A place that's been around since 1990 back when the first Bush was in the White House, it's a reliably easy place to end up for a quick meal, extended drinking or C, all of the above.

While it seems like every year another group of VCU graduates takes ownership of its booths and tables for happy hour and late night bull sessions, the reality is that it's an easy go-to for neighbors and long-time city dwellers on occasion, too. Think Joe's Inn without so many screaming toddlers.

For years, I was never more than an occasional customer mainly because of its devoted smoking clientele and the sepia-toned walls that held the odor and color of nicotine. But post-smoking ban, fond memories of their blackened steak and blue cheese salad were enough to put me back there and in place to randomly run into my former neighbors.

The strange part was, I almost didn't recognize them when they came in. Part of that was how bundled up they were for the weather, but another part was simply that they looked older than they had that historic November night years ago.

Because we all do. Life exacts its toll on our faces and bodies - changes my mother with her glass half full brand of optimism always referred to as "badges of honor" - exacerbated by poor lifestyle choices and lessened a little by good DNA.

Coco Chanel famously said that nature gives you the face you have at 20, but it's up to you to merit the face you have at 50. In my friends' faces, I could see the years of expended energy they'd put into raising three sons, but I could also see the easy companionship of their long-time marriage.

On my way back from the loo, I stopped at their table to hear about what's going on in their lives these days and we fell into easy conversation about many things. Once we got busy talking, I wondered how in the world I hadn't immediately recognized them. Their passion for politics and enjoyment of life was still very much in evidence with every word that came out of their mouths.

That's the thing, really. It's not being a certain age that changes how people look, it's how they live their lives as the years go by. Speaking from my own experience, I'd say passion and enthusiasm go a long way toward keeping your spirit young.

Which is not to say I'm giving up walking, sunscreen and moisturizer any time soon. I like it when someone posts a six-year old photo of me online and a friend in Scotland comments, "Do you have a portrait in the attic by any chance???"

What I've got is excitement for whatever - current events, pudding, dancing - is catching my fancy lately. I'd like to think it's written all over my face.

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