Memories of good friend occupy my thoughts.

November 28, 2011

I make a habit of avoiding trouble. Always have.

I hung out with the neighbourhood kids only until they started being stupid and then I wandered on home. During my first year of high school, I quickly identified the Neanderthals who picked on the short and the pudgy and made studiously stayed out of their orbits.

My home life was more of the same, and I’m sure my parents were eternally grateful. When you have six kids to keep track of, knowing that one of them is reading copies of The Hockey News in the basement must have brought immeasurable peace of mind.

Which brings me to my recent family outing to Las Vegas and the return of Simon to my life.

Those of you who followed my Cook Islands blog ( will remember Simon as one half of the duo I dubbed The Welsh. Simon and his girlfriend, Silent Sam, rented the bungalow one over from mine at Mount View Lodges and for several months we kept each other from becoming too homesick.

Simon and Sam eventually continued their journey – one that would take them to such places as New Zealand, Australia, China and Cambodia – before heading home to Cardiff.

While we remained Facebook friends, I really never expected to see Simon again.

And then he flies into Las Vegas to meet up with me. Heartbroken that his relationship with Sam had ended, he’d hit the road again, this time to America.

The plan was to fly to San Francisco, come see me in Las Vegas, check in with another friend in Atlanta, and then make his way to New York City before heading home.

But planning was never Simon’s (nor Sam’s, for that matter) strong suit and so a chance encounter with the Occupy San Francisco camp put a serious kink in his itinerary.

I have to admit to not fully understanding what, exactly, the assorted Occupy movements were demanding. “Share the wealth” was, I believe, one of the mantras. Personally, I would have gone for “Please help me find a job so I, too, can accumulate wealth,” but that’s just me.

But Simon is 28 and an impressionable young lad – as opposed to me, now far too old for revolution – and so the Occupy SF people fascinated him. Which is why he wanted to visit the Occupy Las Vegas location. With me.

Which is how I – Mr. Avoid Confrontation At All Cost Lest It Lead To Trouble – ended up at the camp.

Did that make me party to the demonstration? Hardly. Considering there were maybe 10 people present, and they all pretty much ignored me, I was consigned to the role of curious bystander.

Simon was right into it, as I suspected he might be. Plus, he had stories to share about the San Francisco movement. While he chatted, I hovered on the edges, trying not to look bored or, worse yet, content with my lot in life.

A policeman drove in at one point and, after eyeballing me as I snapped his photo, he drove away again, satisfied his services weren’t required. There was talk about conspiracy theories, how someone was spreading Chinese whispers about militia members infiltrating the ranks and wreaking havoc.

There were tents and signs and food and portable toilets – even a rudimentary antenna to provide access to the Internet. For the most part, people simply wandered about. No angry slogans, no pumping fists, no anarchy.

Simon and I parted ways soon after.

I went back to my family, to laugh loudly and eat too much and stare too long into the bright lights of commercialism.

Simon went back to San Francisco where he was beaten by the police and tear-gassed and only avoided being arrested by sheer luck and good timing.

He never did make it to Atlanta. He arrived in New York City mere hours before his flight departed for Cardiff and so never did mingle with the Occupy Wall Street people who initiated the entire protest.

He’s back in Wales now, looking at his photos, reviewing his video. He has a million stories to tell. Some day, if the universe is kind, he and I will sit down once more over coffee and he will tell them all to me.

If the universe is even kinder, Silent Sam will join us. She won’t say anything but, if only for a couple of hours, The Welsh and I will be reunited and life will feel right again.


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