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Friday, June 8, 2012

Adventures with Kirk - intro

Kirk in 1968 A Different Castle, but together again in 2001  Me in 1968

Kirk Intro

2001 Part 1
2001 Part 2
2001 Part 3

2002 Part 1
2002 Part 2
2002 Part 3
2002 Part 4


2005 Catch-up

Kirk - an introduction
I read something once that described the human memory as being something like a huge library filled with millions upon millions of volumes. Some of these volumes are new and recent, others are old and tattered. Some of the old ones are well-worn from being taken out and looked at often, while others lie on the shelf for years, ignored, only to be dusted off and opened with a rush of familiarity and remembrance.
Sometimes, over the course of many years, certain volumes get categorized under certain headings - "fondest Christmas memory" - "most heartbreaking moment" - "the best meal I ever ate" - and may be replaced when other, more recent memories take their place. Sometimes memories of one person get categorized - "favorite actor" - "most influential teacher" - and may also be replaced with memories of someone else. As you grow and mature you may have a "best friend" category of memories that may have been one person in your childhood, another in your youth and yet another in adulthood. Still, there are some people who never get replaced - such as "Love of my Life" or "Best Friend". Note the difference here - that's "Best Friend", not "best friend". There is a difference. Your "best friend" is the person you are closest to and spend most of your time with, while "Best Friend" is a concept, memories of a person who can never be dislodged from that place.
For me, my "best friend" and the "Love of my Life" are one in the same. However, if you talk about "Best Friend", if I pull that dusty but well-worn volume off of the shelf of my memory, the face that looks back at me when I open it up is Kirk's.
Kirk and I met in the summer of 1968 when my family bought the house across the street from where he lived. It was the summer before our 5th grade year. Kirk was 9 and I was 10. The day we met he and I went with some "older kids" to the High School just down the street where we proceeded to tip over a portable outhouse that was there because of some construction work that was going on. I knew then and there that we would be buddies.
Over the course of the next few years our lives consisted mostly of finding new and inventive ways of getting into trouble. We were really good at it. However, the highlight of our days together were those when we were able to save enough of our allowance to go on a trip to Disneyland. We lived in an area now known as "Rancho Cucamonga" - about an hour drive from The Happiest Place on Earth.
During the school year we'd go perhaps two or three times. Back in those days they had special corporate sponsored nights at Disneyland when the park would be open only for those who bought the tickets to the event. These events usually started at 6:00 or 7:00 PM and went until midnight. The park would be less crowded than usual and - best of all - you could go on any ride without any coupons! (This was during the days of the coupon books.) We also usually managed to sneak in a Saturday trip here and there, usually by saving all our "A" "B" and "C" coupons then buying the $2.50 general admission ticket and picking up a few "D" and "E" tickets at $.70 and $.85 each.
But the fondest memories I have of trips to Disneyland with Kirk were the trips we would take during the summer. We would go at least 3 times during the course of summer vacation. We'd arrive at opening time and stay until closing. We'd pay $12 or $13 for our 15 pack ticket book plus we'd have $10 or so in cash - enough to buy a hamburger lunch, a couple of ice creams and maybe some popcorn and have enough left to buy something at Merlin's magic Shop - and the park was ours for the next 14 hours or so.
Invariably the day before one of our trips either I would sleep over at his house or (more often) Kirk would sleep over at my house. Often we would spend the warm summer nights "camping out" next to the pool in our back yard. We would be so excited we often didn't fall asleep until very late, but it never seemed to matter and we were always able to rise bright and early on the morning of our trip. Usually one of my brothers or Kirk's sister would drive us, dropping us off at the park entrance and making arrangements to pick us up after closing.
It seems like we spent the better part of our days waiting in line. In line for the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Jungle Cruise, The Autopia, the Submarine Voyage or - most of all - The Matterhorn. We would try to conserve our "E" tickets, which was made easier by the fact that the "E" ticket rides had the longest lines, but more difficult because they were the best rides and the ones we wanted to go on first. We had our favorites of the lesser "C" and "B" ticket rides, like Mr. Toad and Motorboat Cruise, but the better part of the day was spent planning for - and standing in line for - the "E" and "D" ticket rides. In those days we had one simple criterion for judging the success of a Disneyland trip - how many rides did we go on?
Sometimes, in the middle of the day, it would get too hot even for us to wait in line. Also, our experience had taught us that if you are patient with your "E" and "D" tickets and wait until later in the evening, you would find cooler temperatures and shorter lines. For these times we had 2 methods for cooling off. One was to take the Monorail to the Disneyland Hotel. The trouble with this method is that you used up a precious "D" ticket for the ride. Another was to go on "Journey through Inner Space". Sponsored by Monsanto, "Journey" was a "C" ticket when it first opened but soon became a free ride. It was free, there was rarely a line and - most of all - it was air-conditioned. We would hop in the ride to cool down, then while away the hot afternoon by going on it again and again. On one particularly hot afternoon we must have been shrunken down by the "Mighty Microscope" at least a half dozen times.
Nothing lasts forever, and my parents were particularly fond of moving to new houses. We sold our house and moved to another about an hour away. Kirk and I remained close, though, getting together every other week or so and continuing our tradition of making trips to Disneyland as often as we could.
Then, when we were 14 and 15, Kirk came to me with the news that his family was moving to Indiana. I was devastated. We made one last trip to Disneyland and vowed to stay in touch.
And stay in touch we did. We didn't just send letters - we sent packages. Every few weeks I'd get a package from Kirk filled with stuff - pictures, brochures, articles he thought I'd find interesting - all kinds of stuff. We'd send tape recordings that we'd made of ourselves just walking around talking about whatever came into our head. Talking to our Best Friend. One time I even sent a map of Disneyland where I marked every ride that my brother Todd and I had taken on a recent trip, and the route we had taken.
Then, about a year and a half later, I got a call. "It's me," the familiar voice said. "I'm back."
Kirk's sister came out and picked me up and drove me to their house. She gave me the news of why Kirk had returned to California. Kirk's father had passed away and for reasons I won't go into here he had been sent back to California to live with his sister and her husband - at least temporarily. Now, this was good news and bad news. Obviously the good news was that Kirk was back. The fact that he was going to be living with his sister and - more importantly - her husband was decidedly not good news. Let's just say that Kirk's brother in law was not a favorite of either of us.
The next few months were great. Kirk came out and stayed with my family for several days, and of course we went on a trip to Disneyland.
Then, a few months later, we went on another trip to Disneyland with Kirk's sister and her husband. Again, I'm not going to go into details, but let's just say that Kirk and I, being the "bad seed" kind of kids we were at the time, were caught doing something in the Disneyland parking lot that we should not have been doing. Now, looking back, it was stupid and we deserved to get into trouble. What we did not deserve was what his brother-in-law did, which was to make it his business to make sure that Kirk and I would never see each other again. In this he succeeded - at least for a long time. That was the last time I would see Kirk for 26 years.
Enter the Internet.
When I first discovered the Internet some 8 or nine years ago, one of the first things I would do was to click on "People Search" in Yahoo. And what name was the first I put in? Kirk's, of course. And, of course, nothing came up. As the years went by the Internet became a more powerful tool and I became better and better at using it. I'd say once every 6 months or so I'd renew my attempts to look Kirk up - always to no avail. I would put in his name, his mother's name, his sister's name and his brother's. Nothing.
Then a few years ago I discovered a new search engine called dogpile that did the most complete searches I had yet seen. I still didn't find Kirk, but I did find a picture of his mother in the society section of the local newspaper of a city in Florida, and I also saw his sister's name mentioned in articles about dog shows in the same area. But still nothing about Kirk.
Then one day last summer a thought hit me. I saw his mother mentioned in a specific Florida city, and his sister mentioned in a nearby town. Maybe I should focus my efforts there. I went to the official site of the city, looked around and found the database for the county assessor. I put in Kirk's name and - Bingo! - there he was. It gave me his name and address but no phone and no email. I immediately wrote him a letter and sent it off.
I few days later I got a call. It was Kirk. After 26 years I was talking to him again. It seems he had tried to call me at work a few times but I had mis-typed my work phone number. We talked for over an hour, reminiscing about old times. I learned that Kirk had thought about me as much as I had thought about him, and had made even more (unsuccessful) attempts to find me over the years. Unfortunately, with a name as common as mine, I would be a hard person to track down. We got right back in the habit of sending stuff to each other - pictures, books, letters, whatever we thought the other would be interested in. He sent me tapes of music we had loved as kids - Steppenwolf and "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida". I sent issues of "E"-ticket magazine.
We reminisced about the past, and talked about the paths our lives had taken. Interestingly, our lives had paralleled in terms of trips to WDW. We both spent our 40th birthday at the World, me in November of 1997 and Kirk in October of 1998. Even more interestingly, I had also gone to WDW in October of 1998, and we missed each other by only a few weeks.
It wasn't long before we both had the same idea - we have got to get together. I looked up airfare to Orlando and, seeing how cheap they were and knowing that Kirk was driving distance, I wrote Kirk and suggested that we have a reunion in - where else - Walt Disney World. Kirk had already thought of the idea himself, so we were obviously in agreement. The date was chosen - September 21st. I would fly down and we would stay at The Boardwalk for two nights in a studio villa using my DVC points.
We were all set to go when, on the morning of September 11th, I got a call from my wife. "A plane flew into the World Trade Center!" I looked out the window of my building - in Times Square about 1 1/2 miles from WTC - and watched the world as we know it change forever.
Needless to say, our trip was delayed. And delayed again. Ultimately we decided on December 8th, 9th and 10th. The airline I was flying was very understanding of needing to change travel plans in the wake of September 11, as was DVC, so I didn't pay any penalties. I had to put us on a waiting list for a deluxe view studio at the Boardwalk, but ultimately we got the room we wanted. December approached rapidly and we were getting very excited about our trip and our reunion after 26 years.

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