Monday, March 15, 2010

It's My Buddy's Birthday!!!!

A much younger Van VanDeWalker and Rich Frost

Happy birthday, Van VanDeWalker!

Yup, my old buddy Van (who works for Animal Control in Macon, Georgia) is turning fifty-six today (which is something like three-hundred and ninety-two dog years, but who’s counting?). Van is probably going to be bombarded with birthday wishes from friends and family all day and who knows how many more people in the Macon area, that he has met in his day-to-day journeys with his famous dog, A.C. Pup, will shower him with even more love and birthday wishes. But, you wanna know something? If there’s anyone anywhere worthy of that love and attention – it’s Van VanDeWalker – who like me is proud is proud to say that he’s “from Flint, Michigan, damn it!!!”

What kind of guy is Van VanDeWalker? Well, let me put it to you this way – Van and I met each other some twenty-five plus years ago at WTAC Radio in Flint. We were both hired to work there when former newsman (now Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney) David Leyton purchased the station and switched the station’s format from country to talk. I arrived at the station at around 5:30 in the morning to find VanDeWalker already there preparing for his first newscast. After he introduced himself to me, Van asked me if I would like a cup of coffee from the pot that he just brewed up in the station’s mini-kitchen. When I told Van that I can’t drink caffeinated coffee (because of what it does to my blood pressure) and that I only drank decaf, he went on to compare decaffeinated coffee to female genitilia and it was then and there that I realized that Van and I were going to be friends forever.

Van and I have gone through a whole lot in the last twenty-five plus years. We have probably shared more good moments than we have bad and despite the fact that some eight hundred and eighty-one miles separate us -- our friendship continues to grow – thanks in a large part to the Internet. Both his wife, Traci and my girlfriend, Marty think that we are both a little nuts because we love to play Scrabble and have played it online for nearly nine years – talking trash with each other on the audio chat on Yahoo Instant Messenger as we play. And I will admit that Van is the better Scrabble player – and although I may bitch that I’m a lousy at the game – I wouldn’t mind losing every game, because it gives me a chance to be able to bond over the Internet with my buddy, Van.

Although we have never talked about it – I think that Van and I are a lot alike. If we could wave a magic wand – we would both be sharing our lives with the people that we love today but living in the town that we love and remember (Flint, Michigan), but know deep in our heart that our old hometown will never be like we remember it. And, it’s kind of frustrating that we can’t show our love ones just how great it was to live in Flint – because that city doesn’t exist anymore -- but Van and I remember and every so often it helps the both of us to keep that Flint connection going – because we’re from Flint, damn it! We feel more comfortable with a couple of coneys and a side of fries with gravy on it from Angelos than we would if we had to dine in some fancy four star restaurants.

Van and I both came from neighborhoods where people cared for each other and they watched each other’s back. We lived in neighborhoods where you knew everyone on your street and the street behind you – and if someone needed a hand – you extended yours and you helped them no questions ask. I’m sure that a lot of what Van experienced from living in the kind of neighborhoods in Flint that he lived in, has made him a better person and an even better animal control officer in Macon, Georgia.

You can’t deny it, Van….today is your birthday….and you’re from Flint, damn it! I wish I could be with your personally to celebrate your birthday and I hope you accept my virtual birthday gift of a basket filled with Koegel hot dogs, a week’s worth of Halo Burgers with olives with an endless stream of Vernor’s Crème Ales, a couple of Big John Steak and Onion barbeque steak and onion subs, and some Ya Ya chicken. And, I if you look deep in the virtual birthday gift box – there’s also all the Flint Journals that you have missed reading since you moved to Georgia and, although it’s not from Flint, I threw in a couple of can cases of Tim Horton coffee – only to satisfy your “Hockey Night In Canada” lovin’ taste buds.

Happy birthday, Van!!!

No comments: