You ever get in one of those moods where you start reminiscing about how you met some of the folks who’ve been a part of your life forever? The type of friend who, though you are in L.A. and he is at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, he calls you so that he can share lunch time together? Plus, we were also roommates for over seven years, making us common law spouses in some states. And now, telling the tale of the beginning of a love story for the ages, my oldest friend.

Guest Blog by Jon Harp

Ahh at last it is story time . Now this might be quite the lengthy post so you may want to go and get yourself a snack or perhaps a refreshing beverage before I begin, because I hate to be interrupted in the middle of a tale. And yes Maurice it is the camping story, that is how we became friends. So, everyone settled in……good. Now I want you to relax we are going back in time to the early spring of 1980. ***flashback wavy thing***

Maurice and I were placed in the same 5th grade class. I was new at this school and we were both part of an advanced class. (great surprise I know) I was a typical 5th grade boy, not particularly exceptional in any way, other than being fairly bright and stunningly handsome. Maurice was one of only two black students in the class, the other being a very tall girl, and since he had been skipped ahead two grades ( I think) he was easily the smallest boy. I think there was only one other minority student in the class so our poor little Maurice was kind of on his own. Now it may come as a shock to some of you who haven’t known him as long as I have that he wasn’t always the social butterfly that he is now, in fact he was in a small group of the class’ outcasts. I was comfortably embedded into the “cool guys” group, I could talk about and play sports and that was about the entire requirement. Being around Maurice, or trying to befriend him, would have been an act of social death at that point given that I was new to the school, so like the little automaton that I was, I ignored his presence.
This went on from the time school started in the fall of 1979 right up until the following spring. At that time a grade wide field trip was held at Bradford Woods in southern Indiana. This sounds really strange nowadays, but we left on a Friday and stayed in cabins until we came home on Sunday. I can’t imagine a school doing this these days, but it was for everyone in our grade, not just our class. Anyway much fooling around was done and a little bit of learning took place Friday afternoon and then we all bunked down for the night. Of course I was in the “cool guys” cabin and we spent most of the night talking about the things 5th grade boys talk about. Sports and girls. We bragged about how good we were in little league and lied about how far we had gone with girls. There was a great deal of misinformation about female anatomy, which I won’t go into, and a whole lot of B.S. about how we all knew everything there was to know. The second day came and went pretty much the same as the first, lots of note passing and who likes who talk, and a little bit of learning.

This is going on a bit long isn’t it, does anyone want me to stop……no? All right then, back to our story.

The second night was looking to hold the same events as the first. It was kind of like one large sleepover. The difference was that many people were changing cabins back and forth in order to spend the night with different friends. I was going to be in the same room, just with a few new “cool guys”. In short order the conversation started down the same path as the night before, and as you may guess (for those that know me) I quickly grew bored with the same old B.S. and I didn’t look forward to another night of telling lies about things I didn’t know anything about. This is when fate, destiny, the hand of God, whatever you want to call it, stepped in and offered me the chance to escape. One of the counselors (who were supposed to be in the cabins with us, but never seemed to be there) came in and asked us if anyone would like to move to the cabin next door.

Another short break here: isn’t funny how sometimes the most monumental decisions you make in life are ones that come out of the blue and seem really inconsequential at the moment. Yet if we are honest, those kinds of things change our lives all the time, so we should always be aware of the possibilities around us. Great things can happen any day.
All right, once again back to the story. The reason the counselor gave to us for asking some of us to change was that there was a boy in the next cabin who was going to be alone that night. At this moment two great forces started to move within me, first of all I was bored with the simpletons I was with, and secondly I heard my mother’s voice inside my heart and head. That voice said, “you can’t leave that poor boy all alone over there.” I thought about how it might be scary to be all alone, away from home, and with no one to pass the time with and I felt sorry for whoever it might be. So no one else volunteered, but I did. I packed up my stuff and walked to the next cabin, I opened the door and there all by himself was our hero, the then tiny Maurice. He must have been happy to see me, or anyone for that matter, because he started talking almost right away. It was probably the first time the whole school year we had spoken to each other, but there was one of those immediate connections. We talked about girls of course, and his unrequited love for the beautiful Amy Sukapjo, and mine for the not quite as beautiful Amy Majeske. We talked about comic books of course and I was stunned to hear how many he had. We quickly made plans for me to come over and see them at his house as soon as possible, I believe it would be at his birthday party (which is a whole ‘nother strange tale of Chenault’s birthday punch. I still have trouble drinking punch. And yes Maurice did try to warn me.) But that is a story for another day.

In the end, and I know you are readily awaiting the end, our meeting was a divine appointment in my opinion. I found out that Maurice was much cooler and more fun than the “cool guys”. He was also the only guy in the class that I thought was as smart as me. It was fun having someone to talk to that I didn’t have to explain so much to, or someone that I didn’t have to dumb things down for. It was only a few hours in that cabin, but we became best friends in that short time, and here over 25 years later, we still are. It didn’t matter to me anymore that he wasn’t in the “cool” group I hung out with him anyway. We became a duo of sorts, he helped me have fun and develop into the person I wanted to be, and for a little while I helped to make his life in that class a little easier (I think I may have raised his acceptance level a bit).

I got to know his family, which admittedly has had its mixed blessings moments, and I got to grow beyond my provincial roots into a more well rounded guy without some of the color barriers that had been a part of my parents upbringing. They always
wanted better for me I believe, and getting to know Maurice was the biggest part of that happening for me. For Maurice’s part he got to be welcomed into my family as well, my mom was always wary of the way my grades dropped right after I met him, but she loved Maurice dearly and would have taken him into our home in a heartbeat. He actually became well known to most of my extended family that lives here in Indiana and they still ask about him often. I, of course, tell them that he has joined a black militant quasi-terrorist force bent on bringing down the man. One that is secretly trying to stop the Starbuck’s empire by replacing their coffee with Folgers when no one is watching.

In the movie “Everybody’s All-American” Dennis Quaid’s character says at one point that you go through your whole life expecting to make great, close friends, but you don’t. It’s something that just happens more often when you are young. And those are the ones that will be there when you need them most. I think of that night at Bradford Woods often and I am still very glad that I volunteered to go and try to make someone elses night a little less scary. I have been rewarded for that choice by God, a thousand times over. I remain glad and grateful.

It is probably one of the 2 or 3 best memories of my childhood, or my life for that matter.

And so ends story time with Jon. Now put your glass away and get ready for bed. It has been a long night and you need your rest. Tomorrow may change your life for the better, forever.

It’s been a tale of great man love ever since, though I suppose that I could follow this up with the tale of how Jon tried to kill me the year after we met, but I won’t. Why hold a grudge? It was nearly 30 years ago.

*ugh* and I thought news of our class reunion made me feel old.

And you can now re-read this blog while listening to the song “Guy Love”

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