Saturday, August 08, 2009
After several days at sea, we stopped in port for a party. It was a weekend of sand, sun, old friends, and new acquaintances. One surprise was seeing Jabez Jr., a childhood friend. He had always been like a younger brother to me, but I hadn’t seen him in a long time.
My father had taught agriculture on a humanitarian mission in Tunisia years ago, and his favorite student had been Jabez Sr., a former a star footballer in Tunisia who had played for the national training team before his knee was destroyed and he went back to school to learn agricultural science. I remember as a child being delighted by the tricks he could do (flipping the ball backwards over his head at a full run, or balancing the ball on his forehead while tying his shoes, etc.). His son was also named Jabez, and as kids, we called him JJ, for Jabez Jr. I know this sounds like a glamourous time, but it was actually quite hard for everyone involved. Jabez Sr. was not wealthy, but struggling, and the agricultural needs of his community were severe. My own father was equal parts cowboy and educator, and so although I make him sound a little like an ambassador, he was more like a farmer with a passport, struggling to understand a culture different than his own. It did inspire me as a child to think of the world as a global community, rather than a series of countries. And Jabez Sr. did have a lot of style, even if he didn't have a lot of money.
When we arrived at the party in a castle in the hills by the shore, I was delighted to find out that the host wasn't the up-and-coming band playing in the yard, but was JJ, who was now evidently, a rather successful music producer. Although we weren’t anywhere near Tunsia, I recognized him the second we walked in.
Jabez Jr. was standing near an antique pool table, not playing pool, but talking to at least three people at once, and while everyone else was drinking Grey Goose or champagne, he instead choose to drink tea from an heirloom cup and saucer that he undoubtably had borrowed from some cabinet he'd found in another room. He handed the cup to the nearly nude model who was approaching him for music-career advice, asked her to hold on to it for a moment, and then tried to sneak over to my side to surprise me. I, of course, had seen him coming, but was pretending I hadn't, playing it cool, so that when he turned to tackle me (acting like the little brother he always was), I ducked out of the way and he ended up tackling an ex-VC banker turned environmentalist who was just drunk enough not to feel the fall. JJ laughed at the mistake, and asked the man if he could get him another drink and then turned to me at last for conversation.
His father had died two years ago, and JJ had been producing music for the last five years. His dad got to see him get his first song declared "gold" and had officially accepted his career choice, as long as he “stayed true to himself.”
We couldn’t just sit there and reminisce forever, so one thing lead to another and pretty soon we had a full scale soccer match staged in the garden. JJ and I were on one team, with the band as our backfield, against the bankers, some guy who owned an airlines, a “fashion exec” and what looked like to be actual athletes who appeared from nowhere once the game began. The band members were skinny, but fierce.
My second assistant was a descent mid-field man, I worked the left striker position and JJ was on the right. Several statues were destroyed (cheap copies, assured JJ) and one goal was scored when the keeper wandered off with one of the more attractive wait staff. One of the bankers laid down and took a nap. The airlines guy dribbled off with the ball into another part of the garden. The band started playing while playing their instruments. No broken bones or lost teeth – not a bad match.
The night ended with a call from Tako. (If you are new to this blog, learn more about Tako here, here and here). Nothing was sweeter than the sound of her voice.