I’ve seen it before, but didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time.
On my own at an early age and scrambling one month for a fourth roommate to split rent, serendipity
delivered a guy, let’s call him Will, who had that “spark” so hard to identify with when the uncertainty of daily sustenance overshadows all else.
At the time, three teens living in a rented “Animal House” of sorts, not unlike I imagine sorority houses dotting the lanscape back in the late 70’s. But its address wasn’t associated with a school of higher learning, and was occupied by blue color working class (when a job could be found during “THAT” recession) kids of blue color working class parents, without “college chests” set aside for yet another positive reinforcing life experience, for their young.
Unlike “we three” however, Will did come from means, though for the moment, dad’s Irish Catholic working class “self made man” background, resisted the urge to pamper and prompt “his” oldest son to success, and instead opted for allowing him to “sow his wild oats” as the term was once bandied, and “pull his own weight” for a few years, till the kid realized picking up his own socks from the floor each morning held a worthy lesson, and planning beyond ones next sexual conquest was necessary, if the "spoils" Will had grown accustom to in childhood, were ever to be earned first hand.
To put it simply and perhaps more succinctly, dad had a wife and eight of Will’s younger sibling’s to feed, and thus, when Will clung too tight beyond respectable working age, dad threw him out.
Will was markedly different from “we three”. It was in the simple things where it shone most bright. The
confidence to “bound” into situations like a care-free toddler. Eyes wild, body tilted, unbalanced and wavering, unsteady but always progressing sometimes forward and sometimes back, but never stalled.
Will was clearly the child always in trouble, always caught with his hand in the cookie jar, always pressing those around him for more of everything. His mere presents was somehow draining. He sucked every energy molecule from the room, and when done, he didn’t stammer or linger, he just moved on.
It was apparent when we played games like Monopoly or gambled at cards. I found through later introspection, I tended to “hoard” my resources and evaluate the odds of each decision. I’d “stretch" my involvement with “safe” decisions believing analysis and analytical play would ultimately rule the day; if I could just hang on long enough for “luck” to shine on me.
Then, I “experienced” Will’s game, and I do mean “experienced”. Will was always “All In”, and he drew “you” in with him. In Monopoly, he bought every property he landed on, spent every cent on houses and hotels as fast as he could. He “negotiated” deals far outside the games printed instructions. He blurred the lines between the “game” and reality, once negotiating to chauffer one player at the table around town for a day, if the player sold him Marvin Gardens.
Hostile protests from the rest of the table ensued, but Will’s light hearted charisma, and laser sharp quips and laughter defused the enraged gang. Deals were made as much just to see what he would do next, as for the “honor” subtlety felt, while engaged in negotiating an “off-the-wall” deal with him.
Boisterous doesn’t come close to describing the excitement his behavior spawned, be it during board games, poker, or our day to day lives at that time.
The last time I “saw” Will was over 30 years ago. He was sitting alone in the house we had rented, the last man standing. I had moved out a few months earlier to live with a girl I’d met at a local watering hole, and with that, “we three” scattered one after the other, leaving Will.
He was sitting at the kitchen table eating cereal. Ice coalesced on water pipes now exposed by the ceiling; burst weeks ago for no heat. Garbed in wool cap, winter coat and gloves, Will’s smile and eye-glint was fierce as ever, diminished not at all, and he seemed to not notice in the least, the precariousness of his situation. We sat and laughed for hours in that freezing cold kitchen, reminiscing and reliving, as if the “Walls of Jericho” weren’t toppling down around us.
The last time I “heard” about Will, was a few years ago. Will, then in his late forties, had built, bought and sold several extraordinarily successful companies. He owned among other “spoils”, a Mansion on Long Island’s Gold Coast, an Energy Company leveraged in “all the right technologies”, and was I’m told, focused almost exclusively, on philanthropy.
Observers can site I’m sure, the “leg-up” Will may have ultimately had coming after all, from “money”. And perhaps to a degree they might be right. Will’s father, who for a short while provided me employment during that deep, “oil shortage” exacerbated recession in the “70’s”, was actually a wonderful man. The seeds for his son’s philanthropy were sown deep in his son early in his upbringing, I’m sure.
But, if I were to try and distill the many characteristics and behaviors that I believe made Will so successful (many magnitudes of success beyond his father’s) and probably still make up the essence of Will, I’d have to say it was his ability to thrive Outside His Comfort Zone.
For all one can say about him, Will was always, probably is always, Living Outside His Comfort Zone. Never satisfied to repeat, or do the obvious, or the easiest, or what made “everyone” comfortable, opting instead to always choose the “less obvious” often uncomfortable path if for no other reason, then to just experience every experience… viscerally!
That is the one lesson I choose to take from a sliver of my life, experienced, during a sliver of his.