By Jack McDonough
I have had a few special friends in my life and I suspect that’s
probably true of everybody. You enjoy each other’s company, you share common interests and, especially, the same sense of humor.
One of my special friends was a guy named Donn, whom I met when we worked together at the United Press International (UPI) news wire service in Boston. UPI was, for many years, a chief competitor of the Associated Press (AP).
By any standard, our office downtown wasn’t fancy but for any young man infected with the thrill of having his work sent out to the world over a teletype wire, it was the place to be.
My earliest memories of Donn are when it was just the two of us working the overnight shift (11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). It soon became obvious that we shared the same bizarre sense of humor. The longer the night wore on, the nuttier it got.
For example, one night we imagined calling the very reclusive Howard Hughes at 4 a.m. and having him actually answer the phone. (“I’d like to speak with Howard Hughes, please.” – to be told, “This is he speaking.”)
When we got off work in the morning, we’d sometimes stop in at the tavern downstairs for a few beers. I remember one morning the place was humming with the breakfast crowd. Then it emptied out and someone was vacuuming the rug. When the lunch crowd began filing I, I thought it would be a great idea to have Donn ride the subway back to my apartment with me and have my wife, Betty, make us lunch.
Wives love surprises like that. (My marriage remains intact.)
In time, we both found other jobs – I at a local university and he a writing job in the Bahamas where he met Carol.
A couple of years later I flew there to be the best man at their wedding after which they would fly to Europe on their honeymoon. On the eve of the ceremony, Donn and I were, oddly enough, sitting at a bar when I observed that “Tomorrow at this time you’ll be over the Atlantic. Or in it.” The gallows humor hadn’t been diminished by the passing of time.
Turns out that they were never over or in the ocean the next day. They stayed too long at the wedding reception and missed their flight.
In the ensuing years we both moved around but never lost contact. I looked forward to Donn’s interesting and amusing letters and marvelously offensive birthday cards. The arrival of a letter in an envelope is a pleasant experience lost in these days of electronic messaging.
When Donn and Carol’s older son, Mike, was married in Aruba, Betty and I scheduled a vacation there for that week and attended the ceremony. Leading up to the day of the wedding, there was a get-together at the bride-to-be’s family home.
Predictably, Donn and I got to regaling ourselves with stories and comments we found hilarious. The others somehow failed to join in. What they did do is invite us to continue our portion of the reunion outdoors. It wasn’t until years later that I learned we actually had been banished because we had been a disruption. Who knew?
Sadly, Donn left us some years ago. I still miss him.
To this day there’s still an entry for him in my address book.
It’s in pencil but I can’t bring myself to erase it.