“Old friends sat on their park bench like bookends” Simon and Garfunkle 1968
Not such a good photograph, but good friends – Andreas (our next-door neighbor in San Miguel) and his pal Eduard on the left, visiting from Germany. Two old farts hanging out in our kitchen last night drinkin some wine, and havin a few laughs. Older men now, but once they were young, and when these guys were young, they dreamed like every young person dreams, but they dreamed big. They dreamed of freedom, and they dreamed of having a chance to be more, see more, do more. They are old friends.
Some forty-odd years ago they were in their twenties, and they had no chance. Trapped behind the Berlin wall they networked and carefully planned their escape to the west. If they failed, they would be shot. Forty years ago there was no chance - forty years later they laugh, drink wine and look me in the eye and tell me they hardly think about it at all anymore. “Good God Andreas, how do you not think about it every day? You escaped. You’re a hero.” He looks me in the eye again, and with a twenty-something sheepish grin that he appears to have been born with or personally invented, he speaks hero speak and he says “Hero’s are for comic books. We simply had no choice.” They left everything and everyone they knew for no other reason than everything. They left forever. They are old friends.
With the help of the network, Eduard escaped hidden in a truck about six weeks before Andreas. He stayed in Europe and West Germany and became a chemist for a large company, and then ran their major operations in China. Six weeks later, Andreas barely escaped, after being followed and captured in the process. A miracle he escaped. He emigrated to Canada and became a well-known master of stained glass, retired and moved to San Miguel. He wrote a book about his escape called the Long Way Out. It's on Amazon. They haven’t seen each other now in thirty or more years, and yesterday they drank wine in our kitchen in Mexico and laughed at how bizarre this whole life thing can really be. You know what? It was a damn honor to have them there. I ran to the other room to grab a camera and we at least got this shot. It’s for them. It ain’t much, but it’s a lot more than that. They are old friends.
If truth is told, there are people every day, all over the world, who are risking it all for a little more, and if you’re a fair person, you gotta tip a hat to them as well. But I’m smilin and I’m lookin at these two old farts and I’m wondering. I’m wondering about all those millions of small, seemingly unrelated steps, with a left turn here and a right turn there. All those steps taken by each of us somehow have managed to bring us to where we stand right now. I don’t have a clue how humans get it done, but here we are. We should be proud to simply be standing here. So here’s a toast to old friends. I got a couple. You got a couple. I’m thinking we need to grab a glass and have a toast. A toast to all of us together. We are old friends.