From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
In this thing called life you gather a brother or two if you’re lucky. I have a couple that might call me from anywhere in the world and it’s never a surprise.
These are two guys I jumped a train with one night, just to ride a couple hundred yards, and we couldn’t jump off for 22 miles. Nearly froze. One of us got a concussion. It was a bonding experience. It was also the night we decided the hobo or outlaw games were not for us. That was 35 years ago.
Jaybo is a pilot of Big Passenger Planes today. Once he returned my text with this: “It’s the middle of the night here in Hong Kong. I’ll find out in the morning.” He did just that, and texted me back – in the middle of the night here.
He sends me photos from beaches and islands and Iceland and London. I do not like him as much as I used to.
Like Jaybo, our friend Matth (with an “h”) gets around, but he is more of a mainland guy. This does not inhibit his travels as, if you’ve looked at a map, there is plenty of mainland for anyone not on probation to explore. Matth has a grown daughter in New York City, a house in Carolina, a trailer in New Orleans and in California, two trucks, a motorcycle and a free spirit. And a great sense of direction.
He is also my favorite Matth of all time, just ahead of Marshal Dillon of “Gunsmoke” and Matthew/Levi of “The New Testament.” You recall that one day Levi was a despised man collecting taxes when Jesus met him, told him he was coming to supper at his house and that Levi could even bring all his friends, basically riff-raff people like me and Jaybo and Matth with an h. The guy quit his job, fired up the back yard grill, enjoyed the evening, packed his toothbrush and was never the same.
The most recent call from Matth came from New Orleans, where he’d driven from his Carolina base to pick up items he’d left in the South Louisiana trailer where he’d lived while building sets for the upcoming “Terminator” movie and whatever the newest “Fast and Furious” episode is. Matth does things like that. As part of his job with Paramount Pictures years ago, he replaced the windows in Dr. Phil’s office there on the Paramount lot in Hollywood. Somebody had to do it. I recall that as being an interesting phone call he made from his Paramount carpenter golf cart, right after he’d seen Mary Hart.
But on this call, Matth was talking rather urgently about how he was heading my way in north Louisiana, unrehearsed of course, and could I find anybody who might be willing to work on his 1983 Ford Ranger diesel, stick shift, four-speed. “I’ve lost reverse, and second gear is iffy,” he said, from what sounded like the cockpit of the space shuttle during takeoff. The pedal was on the metal and he was getting all he could out of this faithful 32-year-old automobile. Matth can fix anything, so this was real trouble.
He walked in that night wearing grease and a smile, the ’83 in the drive, panting.
The next day we tried a couple of mechanics who looked at the truck as an archeologist might look at the Holy Grail. They admired it, but dared not touch it. And while an ace transmission man said he could repair the Wabash Cannonball before he could repair an ’83 Ford Ranger diesel -- not a common model these days – he did offer suggestions that Matth took. Matth’s ingenuity and some Band-Aids got him back to Carolina. Of course, Matth could have taken his new truck the 2,000 miles to Louisiana and back, but it gets only 12 miles to the gallon, and where’s the adventure in that? Why not “save money” and take the ’83 that gets 38 miles a gallon? (“But it has to be RUNNING,” I reminded Matth.)
A nice man in a shade-tree fix-it shop near Taylortown, N.C., found the trouble and got her running smooth again. Matth called to tell me the problem had been a loose nut. Sounded right to me: Nut, with an h.