Sunday, August 24, 2008

The angel in the detail soon arrives

All of a sudden I'm back in touch with my most very favorite cousin ever, T (mentioned here, as a matter of fact). After... oh... seventeen years! Silly. Why did I let so much time go by? In any case, it's crazy-good, maybe bordering on the magical.

That side of my dad's family lives up near San Francisco, so we didn't see them all that frequently. I remember a visit when I was five, and the next time I saw T was 1985, and I was ten years old, just starting to really be interested in music and abstract fashion magazines. My family and I were staying at T's mom's house, and he came in wearing steel-toed Docs, braces that hung down around his legs, cuffed jeans, a white t-shirt and a gray brimmed cap. And I almost fell down the stairs. I couldn't believe anybody related to me was that awesome, so nearly-painfully en pointe. Obviously, I worshipped him for that alone; but as I got to know him it turned out he was also perhaps one of the top five nicest people on earth. Even then, at nineteen, when most guys are far more interested in whatever they do at that age, T made it a point to hang out with my brother and me, to talk to us about music and whatever we were interested in. He and his then-girlfriend would take us shopping on Haight, or in Berkeley. And of course he inherited the wicked sense of humor that runs rampant on that side of the family. He never made me feel like a gawking little kid, which--let's face it--I was. Totally magical for a ten-year-old who didn't fit in at school or in her neighborhood. Of course I still obsessed over every word I spoke to him, tried to make sure I was cool enough, smart enough, whatever enough. I remember being thrilled when I snuck into his room one day while he was at work and realized he had the same black-and-white checkered comforter I had. We were THE SAME KIND OF AWESOME.

Cut to last Friday night; we're on the phone, and I let my son talk to T. When I get the phone back, my cousin comments that L speaks very well. I relate this story from the other day. "Oh!" he says. "I have a story for you, then!"

Apparently, some time around 1989-90, T (who works in construction) and his foreman were in San Francisco, driving down Haight, when they spotted three guys walking around with TV cameras following them. [At this point I interrupted and let him know that this was going to end badly, with an extreme case of jealousy on my end.]

Hey, that's Crowded House! T says to the foreman.

Who's Crowded House? the foreman asks.

This band, T says. He leans out the passenger side window. Hey! Crowded House! [Note: not actually anyone's name.]

Neil looks up and says hello back. T offers Neil a ride; Neil jumps into the cab next to T. By some stroke of providential genius, "Don't Dream It's Over" happens to be playing on the radio. Neil shouts this to the camera crew, turns up the radio and sings along with it loudly.

(At some point, the foreman asks Neil about his suit; a lime-green affair. Something like, Hey man, why you wearin' that suit? T answers the foreman: Because he's a rock and roll guy! You're a foreman, so you have to wear those Carrhart coveralls.)

T says, We drove around like that for a little while, real slow, the cameras were following us. Oh! And I used to have, you remember those metal lunchboxes with the rounded tops? I had one of those and he signed it for me!

I ask if he still has it.

I might... I have some things in storage from that time. Tell you what, I'm going to see if that's in there, and if I still have it, it's yours.

It's silly, yes. Silly and wonderful. I wish I could go back in time and tell my nervous little self that one day T would be apologizing for not having returned my call sooner, that we'd be real family, but more than that: friends, and that I would never again worry about not being cool enough. But she probably wouldn't have believed me.