Pat Downs and I have been friends since my family moved to St. Louis when I was in fourth grade. Our neighborhood was small, like 24 houses and we all knew each other. Pat and I were in the same grade so we caught the school bus together in the morning and always had plenty of time to talk before and after school; we would stand in the driveway for hours discussing friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, classes, everything.. We were usually the only two at the bus stop so the conversations were far ranging and touched upon many subjects, some banal, some sensitive. We always felt comfortable talking to each other. He was the epitome of a good friend.
We were in the same honors classes in high school although I always thought he was way smarter than me. As the years went on and we journeyed through junior high and high school our talks naturally became more solemn and earnest. Being a teenager is serious business.
After graduation we went off to separate colleges but somehow kept in occasional touch. No email in those days. When my then-boyfriend and I embarked on a bicycle trip from Missouri to Texas in 1974, we ended up at Pat’s apartment which was a really cool set-up. The apartment was above a garage in a very nice district of Houston with ancient live oaks gracing the median of the boulevard he lived on. We had a nice visit with Pat and his first wife and prepared for our adventure.
The plan was to sell the bikes, hitchhike to the border and continue on into Mexico and see what happened. So we did.
The whole Mexico adventure can be summed up easily. I loved it, boyfriend hated it. I loved the street food, the markets, speaking Spanish and the people. He got sick from the food. It probably didn’t help that I kept bringing a bag of street stall tacos to the hotel (?) and saying, “These are great!” He would turn up his nose and I ended up eating them all. I think I gained 15 pounds while we were there. I was way too poor to have a camera but I still have a sketchbook of scenes from the trip. We made it as far south as Mexico City.
We ended up coming back after a few months. Once again we landed at Pat’s apartment to prepare for the return trip. That was 42 years ago!
Since then I must admit that Pat and I have kept in touch mostly because Pat takes the time to send a yearly holiday letter updating everybody. I look forward to it every year. I learned of his second marriage, two great kids; now grown-up and successful, many events in between and his subsequent meeting and marrying Joan about eight years ago. He said she finally made him an honest man.
Pat and Joan are curious people with lots of interests. We LOVE curious people! Joan is an accomplished iPhone photographer and she has a lovely house, garden and landscape to practice on. Their home is comfortable and inviting with lots of art and unusual items from their travels. Pat researched my family history on both sides while we were there and found relatives back as far as 1699. Until a few years ago they were boat owners and regularly traveled to Chattanooga to spend time on the river. He is learning to fly fish. International travel is always on their agenda. Pat is a musician with more instruments than he can play at once. He helped build Lone Star Observatory; the dome was his creation. He demonstrated his unusual knife sharpening system for us and super-sharpened up some of our knives for us. He has a new smoker that he tried out while we were there, with mouthwatering smells filling the neighborhood all day long.
Years ago he started doing an annual Christmas display that any scientist/pyromaniac would love. Programmable lights and music with zillions of all-colored lights; it takes 200 hours to prepare each year. He removes windows from his house to accommodate major elements of the display. That is what I call dedication. He had more than enough power for the bus in the driveway.
They have indoor and outdoor kitties which they dote on just like we do ours. They love good food, wine and conversation around the fire pit. Although I had never met Joan and Jim and Pat had never met, we all had a great time getting (re)acquainted over many bottles of champagne and wine and a lovely dinner on their deck the first night. What’s not to like?
We had a fine weekend visit that included a visit to our friend, Elizabeth and her little dog, Lucy. Pat graciously loaned us his car to go see her. Elizabeth has been a friend and solid adviser since we lived in Columbia many years ago and we always enjoy catching up with her whether in Florida or Atlanta. A remarkable woman, she married at 18 without finishing high school, had her first child, got divorced and put herself through medical school while remarrying and raising her family. She went on to a long career as a psychiatrist. She had her first child at 18 and her last at 41!
Lucy is a survivor too. She is 16 years old, weighs four pounds and is a ferocious guardian. Originally a breeder dog, she was rescued by Elizabeth ten years ago. She says they rescued each other. We had a delicious brunch at her place and spent the afternoon catching up.
Joan is retired but Pat is still working with plans to retire soon so we took off on Monday after a weekend that was both invigorating and relaxing.
How do you thank people for the most precious gifts of all; friendship and time spent together? We are so grateful for our gracious Atlanta area hosts and friends.
More pics on Flickr.