The Engineer and the Guitarist: Part III

It was 1986 when John bought the apartment in Vallejo. His unit was directly across the hallway from Ted’s. On the second day John started moving in, they met on the staircase.

John was single then. Ted said he was also single but divorced. He said he moved there from southern California a year ago. He was a musician by profession, but since he was fairly new to the area and engagements were few, he also worked as a distributor for a newspaper called the Bay Times. The Bay, as it was called by the local people, was the largest daily newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area. A distributor, Ted explained, was the middle man between the newspaper’s printing plant and the door-to-door delivery people. What he had to do was to get up
at 3 o’clock in the morning, drove to a warehouse of the Bay and picked up his shipment. Then he drove it to his own warehouse in Vallejo where his delivery crew would be waiting. It would be about 5 am when a delivery person got his hands on the paper.

The next morning at 6 o’clock, and every morning after that, rain or shine, a copy of the Bay Times would be neatly and squarely placed at John’s front door, like in front of a hotel room, courtesy of Ted.

Engineer and the Guitarist_3John was an engineer of computer software for a firm called Gala Computers based in San Francisco. He was a big and tall German-Scandinavian-Irish descendant. He stood 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. Ted was average Asian in size. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds. The contrast in physique and career between those two men could not have been bigger. But they both loved American football. That was more than good enough to drink many beers and share many dinners with friends from both sides. The fact that Ted could sing and play flamenco music was always a hit in those frequent partidos. Most of the dinners were done at John’s apartment as he was the better cook — and because his tender stomach could only take so much spicy Thai food.

Once John expressed an interest in learning music. So Ted gave him one of his guitars and started giving him free weekly lessons, secretly hoping that his friend could someday accompany him in the background. That experiment in andragogy turned into great fodder for their friends’inside jokes. Hard as they tried, John’s stubby fingers took a full year to learn the chords for the House of the Rising Sun. And that was the only song he would ever be allowed to sing and play in parties. After some initial embarrassment, John got into the joke himself and he would sing:

There’s a man in Vallejo
He plays the Rising Sun …..

…. to everybody’s applause – and roaring laughter.

The friendship flourished. John found out that Ted was married for 15 years before his divorce and had a 10-year old son named Dennis. The boy and his mom Megan lived in southern California. John never found out the reason for Ted and Megan’s divorce. The few times John brought up the subject, Ted was always elusive in his answer. He would say something like “I’ll tell you some other time.” So John knew it must be too painful for his friend to talk about it and he pulled the plug on his curiosity.

*** To Be Continued ***

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