“The green flash should happen at any moment.”
The speaker of that line was my best friend, if people still use that phrase, for the past 45 years, Conor Sean Kennedy. We were on the deck of his apartment in Manhattan Beach watching the sun make its terminal plunge into the Pacific. This view, the nightly reverence for the final moments of the day was still new to him and in he was showing it off in the proud way a friend might show off a new car. The intention was not to rub your nose in how wonderful his life was but to share delight (excuse the pun) in where his life had taken him. He had reached a new pinnacle in his life and he was savoring it.
I understood. After all isn’t that what best friends are for. To share in and celebrate each other’s successes. I also knew that it was all new to him. This view, the apartment, the city and state still had a new car smell to it. They were all just weeks old. A month before he and his wife had been empty nesters in a McMansion in a suburb of Atlanta. Running a second phase start up in the tech sector (I was never quite sure of what they did) that was struggling to find traction when out of the blue a former colleague had invited him to join Lloyds of London and head up their west coast business. The job carried with it the stink of prestige, a huge salary and overall package that could make him a wealthy man in just a few years
When he had first told me about the job, I knew he would take it even though that decision was less obvious to him. He had invested so much time in his startup that he was reluctant to leave despite the business having seriously drained his bank balances. He had a streak of stubborn in him, always had, that made him believe that given a little more runway, a little more money, his foray into entrepreneurship would make him wealth as Mark Cuban. But the boy loved prestige. It was baked into him from our days of growing up in a tory suburb of New York City. His father had been a President of a small securities firm and the life he had was that of entitlement and privilege, two things that don’t necessarily greenhouse entrepreneurs. Working for the most well-known company in his industry was something that appealed to his ego. I am not criticizing. All of us have egos and while Finn’s was more developed than most, I think most would of us would feel boosted by landing one of the top jobs in our profession.
I also so knew from our near daily phone calls that he missed the perks that came with corporate life: big salary, ridiculous expense account and worldwide first-class travel. All things he used to have and had lost when after a series corporate merger he had lost in the adult version of musical chairs and was forced out of his company of 20 years. He had received a great package and ventured out to set the world on fire with his business and investing acumen. Not only because he felt he had the skillset for it but also, as he once put it “to prove something to those motherfuckers.” He had not failed in that goal. He had survived. But he hadn’t succeeded either. In addition to the inner sense of failure you get when you don’t achieve as much as you had hoped to.
If our high school yearbook had a category “most likely to move to California” Conor would have won in a runaway. He was blonde, handsome, glib, charming and with a near constant horniness that sabotaged any effort he would make towards more serious relationships. He also worshipped the sun, the beach and the water in the way an acolyte would a deity. He loved nothing more than going to the beach, slathering on Coppertone dark tanning oil (despite his Irish pale skin) and spend his days body surfing, and admiring bikini upholstery.
The chance to live in California, by the beach, and live the life he always dreamed of I knew would be irresistible.
I felt, like he did, that it was his destiny to be here.
“What is bullshit.”
“The green flash is bullshit. It is in the same category as green sparks from wintergreen lifesavers chewed in the dark. A modern fairytale. Doesn’t exist. A myth created so people feel justified in watching the sunset into the ocean.”
“I have seen it.”
“Sure you have…show me a picture.”
“I am sure I can find one on the internet.”
“Yeah, and everything on the internet is certainly true.”
At this point, we were both chuckling. He with the deep belly laugh that he had inherited from his father and my own laugh come from that deep inside place where real amusement grows. Our exchange was a summation of our relationship where neither one of us took each other so seriously that we would accept without question what the other said. In fact, it was more likely to be the contrary, where we would find a way to poke a hole in the balloon of our pretension. Not of meanness, but to remind us that we each knew each other to well to try to bullshit each other. Or at least that is what I thought.
Besides busting balls is what men do to show affection.
“What are you two boys laughing at?” Conor and I both turned to see Delilah standing at the sliding glass doors that separated their apartment for the deck. I immediately stood up to greet her. She had not been at home when I arrived an hour ago, which if I were to be honest, I was grateful for despite the fact that she and I had once been great friends.
I had met Delilah shortly after I had graduated from Syracuse. We had both been accepted in IBM’s legendary sales training program. The program and job were everything that I could have hoped for back then. A salary that was way above what my peers were receiving in their first jobs, training that would be useful regardless of what path I took in life….the ability to sell people on ideas and concepts is useful whether you’re a rabbi or a lawyer and at the time, the largest part of the job was sitting in a classroom learning the IBM selling technique and memorizing the FAB (features-advantages-benefits) of the product. It provided a lot of time to daydream which I was particularly adept at especially when it came to contemplating the few women who were my class. By the nature of the selection process, which while enlightened for the day, still had a long way to go as far as rooting out sexism, the females in our class were selected not only for their businessmen acumen, they were aggressive and smart, but for their looks. In both areas, Del was top of the class. Tall and slim with the Nordic features and flouncy shag cut hair that seem to define that era’s “it” girls, I thought I could sense a “wildness” underneath the modestly cut, shoulder padded, business suit with matching Pirate blouse with built in oversized bow tie.
I made it a mini mission to take her out a date. I was not particularly slick in my attempts. That was not my most developed skill set. But what I lacked in style I made it with sincerity which is why I was almost always thrown in the friend zone. I kept asking her stupid questions about material we had in class or ridiculous questions about the future of the technology we were using (Fax machines were in their infancy and the first home PC’s were still a few years away.) Delilah knew what I was up to or at least that is what she told me later and eventually we agreed to go out for drinks after work. Thinking back on it after all these years, I can still recall the exact moment that I knew that there was not going to be a love or for that matter a lust connection. We were talking about where we grew up and our backgrounds when she brought up the subject of “how she had been saved” and how here “personal relationship” with Christ was the single most important thing in her life. I am not against religion. I am not against Christianity, per se. However, I am the son of a Holocaust survivor and had a strong defense against any who proselytized too fervent a belief in God. In this case with Delilah, it poured ice water on any lusty notions I was erecting. Eliminating the sexual tension allowed for a relaxed evening of conversation and backgammon (we still played board games back then). At some point it struck me that this woman was just Conor’s cup of tea. This was more an intellectual leap of faith than some magical check list. I thought, instead of knowing that the two of them would click.
Turned out my hunch was correct. I introduced the two of them and soon they were a couple, and we were often a troika. No not that way, not my thing, but in most other things. Barbara became a regular at the beach house Rich and I had rented in Spring Lake New Jersey, and we would spend weekends as sun worshippers and party hounds. When Rich’s father died of lung cancer, and he fell apart, she and helped him up. When he developed a taste for cocaine that he could not control she led him it was she and I that helped him confront his addiction and move beyond it. When they fought or hurt each other’s feelings I was the one each turned to as mediator and confidant. While likely not the healthiest of ways to manage relationships it worked as in relatively short order they were engaged and married.
When Conor’s job transferred him to Saudi Arabia our relationship did not weaken. It just changed. I would send them the latest videotapes ( pre streaming technology that required an advance degree to master recording the correct shows) and exchanged frequent letters (things people used to send each other before email, Zoom and texts) When they would get leave I and whomever I was dating at the time would meet them. We had raucous and which at its conclusion l uttered words I had a o introduced the two of them and been there for every major point in their relationships from their wedding to the birth of children. At one point where I had even taken two weeks off from work to come live with them when she was confined to bed in the last few months of her pregnancy with their second son, Liam. I became an honorary Uncle to the boys with frequent visits and sharing with them experiences that I hoped would sweeten their lives like taken them for their first hot fudges sundaes or arranging for front row seats at Yankee Stadium.
It was all good until it went bad.