I need to tell you a bit about my friends. Sam and I have just returned from a ten day trip to Salt Lake City so he would be present for the opening of his first art show at Art Access on Friday, October 18. www.samguevara.com.
All my friends live in Salt Lake and that has put a new patina on friendship’s meaning. In order of talking to and/or seeing them, here is a listing of the friends I was able to connect with one-on-one while in Salt Lake.
Rick and Janis – Unbelievable. They let us house sit while
they spent the whole time we were there in Ireland and Wales. I would like to say they planned the trip so we could save on hotel bills or becoming a burden to family and friends, but truth is, it was a wonderful serendipity of timing. We have shared dinners, vacations and play performances with them for fifteen years and they were our realtors when we sold the Salt Lake house. Their house is a beautiful early 1900s home with art in every room. Bea, the cat, kept us company, as did the dozen fish in the backyard pond. Thank you Rick and Janis.
Matt and Karen The First I Saw – Twenty-five years ago Sam met Matt through the Salt Lake Chamber on a small business committee. I met Karen because she was the new Vice President of the insurance company I needed to make happy to continue business with a client. It took the four of us almost a year to figure out we all had contacts through the
spouse. We have traveled to Canada and Costa Rica together, but sitting at one of our dining room tables has always been enough for me. Karen is my appreciated Catholic grounding and example of dedicated mother, loyal daughter, loving sister and event planner extraordinaire. All that and my iconic memory of her is an absolutely bedazzling woman standing in a slinky red dress at an expensive Italian restaurant bar. Matt is my phone call when I’m on Want to Be a Millionaire for any sports question and my pleasant voice memory of the best New York self-deprecating laugh that could possibly exist.
Becky and Kevin – They were also with us at Matt and Karen’s. Becky is the best example I know of a woman having it all. There’s genuine optimistic spirit, great sales ability, real management leadership (Want to hear the story of when she was in charge when a crazed soul entered company premises and began shooting people, leaving several dead?), two successful sons now leaving the nest with good sense and direction, a wonderful home she opens to nonprofits for entertaining, a vice-president of a national cable company, a treasure of a husband. And she’s a tall, slim blonde. What’s left in that household for Kevin? Try a genuine spirit brought up in the down home country of Wyoming, a man with a ready smile and generous laugh who runs the health insurance for a major company, a president of several state-wide non profit boards, a gourmet chef and a wine connoisseur.
Lori and Troy – Sam met Troy through a chamber civic committee, I was entranced by Lori’s business presentation to an audience of over five hundred at a luncheon. In that huge hotel room, from halfway back and to the side, it was totally baffling to me why this total stranger (I didn’t know Troy or his connection to Sam) would conjure up feelings of care bordering on maternal. Believe it that to that time, I had only felt the truest maternal feelings for my son, brother, and a dog named Poncha. Since then I have broadened to daughter-in-law and granddaughters and even beyond. I’m proud of that.
More about Lori later, but for now I want to tell you about Troy’s horrific motorcycle accident eight years ago that should have taken his life. He came over a rise at sixty miles an hour outside Wendover, Nevada to T-bone a truck that was U-turning where it shouldn’t. It was so unusual that he survived that the Japanese maker of his top tier helmet asked for it to be sent to them for study as to why it so successful. He has recovered remarkably well though his vision is not good and his walk is wobbly. But his brain and heart have compelled this Vietnam vet to take vets of any U.S. conflict under his wing and teach them by example how to maneuver city transportation. His clients are twenty-one to in their seventies, some have hidden in apartments for years, afraid to show their inability to be part of public everyday life. Troy, standing there leaning on a white can, wobbly and unable to see across the street, gives them a big smile, asks them where they need to go on Salt Lake’s UTA, and plots the map from their front door to doctor appointments, relatives houses, or to walk in a park. Sometimes it involves three bus transfers and a ride on city transit, but he gets them where they need to go and reintroduces them to freedom of getting around.
Claudia and Salvador – Salvador is a gentle, thoughtful soul who was stationed as Mexico’s consul in Salt Lake before he retired. He is now a reading tutor in the school Claudia teaches third grade. I had his book printed, a reflection of his near-death experience.
Claudia is truly one of the classiest women I know with red-blonde hair that should be painted by Rossetti. But then what can be expected of a consul’s wife? I met her as she and Salvador descended from a float in a parade when they represented Mexico in the 2007 Salt Lake City 24th of July Parade. She was wearing a flowing native dress with embroidery from Chiapas. We have shared many meals and during this trip it was brunch.
Paula and Jalal – Paula is Sam’s sister. I didn’t recognize Paula’s greatness when I first met her. She is truly one of the world’s calmest, most reassuring, dear women of the world. There is nothing Paula can’t sew or fashion together for an event though she is an accounts receivable manager for a major oil firm by day. I have known Paula since she was eleven to now as she nears retirement age and I can honestly say I have never heard her raise her voice or talk meanly of anyone.
Jalal is from Iran and his sense of family, community and spirit of good manners is baffled by American abruptness and distance. He is an intrepid entrepreneur and he and his brother own a successful local middle eastern grocery. www.blackcherrymarket.com. Their beautiful children Sheyesteh with husband Danyal and baby Maya, and second daughter Mahasti were also there. They are all truly special.
Cynthia – We met for coffee before she had to leave town to take her father to a medical test. Sam and I met Cynthia through the Salt Lake Chamber when we had our company and she was in a family car rental business at the Salt Lake Airport. At the risk of repeating myself, I also have to tell the truth. She also is strikingly beautiful, and a gentle, loving soul, but her area of expertise is how inclusive she is in her ability to put a group of people at ease and create an atmosphere of cheer and humor. I have seen her do this at business meetings, cocktail parties, dinner parties, and countless times in the bookclub that has been so important to me. Tears come more easily than she would like, but what is to be expected of a woman brimming with empathy? Bonus: she creates first class brunches.
Patti, Karen the Second I Saw, Ramona – We went to dinner at a new beer brewery and I wish it could have gone on until closing. They are members of my bookclub and I have known all of them over fifteen years. Patti is an environmental engineer and her company works with huge corporations to save energy and become more efficient and green (and save having to build a new facility because of it). www.etcgrp.com Karen has done our taxes almost as long as I’ve known her. She is a tax specialist who is a fellow of the National Tax Practice Institute. www.thesummerhaysgroup.com Ramona and her husband have survived the economic ups and downs in distribution of specialized car painting and detailing equipment. www.boothsource.com
What can I write to make each one unique? As I go through this list I have realized something: All these people have their quirks, but I would vouch for every single one that they are good, sincere, loving people that navigate the world with a desire for success and pleasure yes, but not through the means of greed or self-centeredness. Haven’t I been lucky that they are the kind of people I know and who are part of family? Yes, I have been and am lucky.
But to their endearing differences: Patti has an IQ a good twenty points above mine and is able to see brown hawks in brown trees a hundred yards away, makes killer salsas she could bottle and sell, and knows six different ways an electricity provider can be more environmentally correct. Karen can add numbers of four digits in her head, has been known to be our example of what men want, and doesn’t look distraught when you bring her a pile of indecipherable numbers. Ramona makes world class potato salad, has a German background, speaks Italian and always brings gifts from her organic garden.
Maybe there will be another opportunity to travel together. I have been with them in the British Virgin Islands, North Carolina, and Mesquite, Nevada, though they have also traveled to Rocky Point, Mexico, Washington, D.C., and Paris.
Shirley – Shirley managed a company that handled a very sizable chunk of the printing I sent out from the graphic arts studio. I tried to make the bid sheets clear and never holler wolf until I saw one. She gave competitive prices, and stuck to them. Occasionally we kept each other sane by talking about subjects beyond paper grain, skid pricing, and whether something needed to be delivered at 5:00 p.m. one night or 6:00 a.m. the next morning. When she left the printing company for a more lucrative, comparatively easier position, we started to become friends beyond the formal business lunch. I am forever grateful for her easy, low throat laugh that accepts regardless of what silly, steam-filled thing I say and though we met only two times a year after we left the business world, I hope she is always a friend.
Elizabeth – Elizabeth is in the book club, but is presently laid
up due to a replaced knee. She and I became members at the same time. I had only recently consciously attempted to be “friendly.” My efforts were contrived and my husband would remind me Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield would have called me a “phony moron.” I would have said I knew I had a bit of a protective shell at the time primarily due to childhood habits reinforced by business considerations. I was trying to let developed armor slip off with deliberate effort to be ingratiating. Maybe I did sound like a phony moron. On the way in to the first book club meeting she said, “I’m Elizabeth.” With a name like Rebecca I’d experienced people who want to be friendly say, “Nice to meet you, Beckie.” So I muttered “Nice to meet you, Liz.” “I’m Elizabeth,” she said from six inches taller than me. She remained Elizabeth, but I learned she is also a registered nurse, reiki master, practicing psychotherapist, a great photographer, and a valued, very valued friend.
Donna and Jennifer – Donna is my aunt and Jennifer is my cousin. Family has been known through life and I think they often play an entirely different part in the logistics and rationalizations of a life. Every family has its own dynamics and I don’t pretend to really know the dynamics of my own, let alone another’s family, but here’s the deal: I love and respect them both. I do not see
either one of them outside of family necessity. Donna was a rock of stability in my childhood who gave me a “big sister” look at life with my grandmother and mother. She was our affectionate center and probably still is. Jennifer is twenty years younger than me and I, unfortunately, did not get to really meet her until she was in her thirties. She has developed the strong character center of a person who has managed childhood diabetes with aplomb and hard, painful attention. She is a wife and mother of a beautiful eight year old, an intrepid hiker in backcountry and a first class representative for a company that manufactures equipment for diabetics.
Martin and Linda – I met Martin and Linda shortly after Sam and I opened our graphic arts studio in 1976, yes, that long ago. With a list of sign companies obtained from the yellow pages, I visited each one, hoping to gain work. It was such the wrong thing for a personality like mine to do that I failed miserably. Oh, Moneta, goddess of memory, why haven’t you erased the memory? Only the pity of Martin and Linda resulted in the smallest of jobs. A line of type we charged $6.00 for. At least we spelled it right and our business friendship and use of each other’s services grew through the years. They have been a rock solid couple who always ran an honest company, sponsored employees for citizenship and always kept up with sign trends. They expanded over three states with Martin always being the stellar salesman and Linda always managing a stress filled deadline business. Martin is retired now and Linda manages an economic development company. They are genuinely good people whose association and then friendship has meant a lot. Martin was one of the first to support Sam’s art efforts with encouragement and letting him use a display booth for a neighborhood fair. He mentored as he mentors others through the Small Business Administration, Sam on how to display and sell as he does with his Utah landscape photography that he has sold worldwide.
Tim and Stephanie – Sam met Tim when Sam worked as Deputy Mayor for Salt Lake. Tim was head of traffic design and control. Stephanie and I met through her representation in corporate giving in a local bank when I was busy on boards. With serendipity we ended up going to dinner after an event and having a very enjoyable, memorable visit. Since then we have enjoyed a few other meals together that provide an opportunity to catch up.
Patti – I got to see Patti twice when she took time off work to
take me for a walk through Red Butte Gardens on her pass. I met Patti when I joined book club, but I wish I’d known her when I was twenty though I don’t think I would have been capable of being her friend then. I had to grow up while I think she’s always had a settled center that knew more about herself than I have about me. Her spirited, curious eyes and the timber of her voice speak as clearly as her words. My suspicion is her earlier in life sense of self gave her power to expand beyond herself while I navel gazed. At least I caught up enough to hold her coattails.
Sam’s Art Show – Sam was the prince, the star of the show. The whole event seemed to be a gift from the cosmos to convince him he did a good job with his life and career in Utah and now the people he made a difference for showed up to support him as he moved into a new phase of life. There was family I haven’t mentioned, three mayors of Salt Lake City, members of Sam’s deputy mayor staff, people from the years of our graphic arts studio, many co-workers on latino and civic organization boards, and even interested art lovers who happened in. He sold approximately one-third of his pieces and floated home on a cloud, exhausted to the bone, but happy in the heart.
Lori – Lori (of Lori and Troy) and I went to Brighton, a ski destination in a local canyon. We had breakfast and walked on a clear mountain day around a lake and through groves of pines. Nature provides shelter, privacy, beauty, peace for real conversations and Lori provides herself. It’s a fair trade. She is an Italian girl who grew up in a working class neighborhood
where girls married young and boys thought charm would carry them through life. How was I so lucky as to meet this wise chameleon who established a place for herself in the California business world, didn’t want to be a human sacrifice, so decided she would join the national speakers circuit to give women a centering self, and when her husband needed her to be present after the motorcycle accident, turned herself into a leader that oversees the statewide standards for social services. You can talk to a person like that about anything from what does it feel like to walk mountains in Nepal to the best place to get false eyelashes.
Sabina and Louis – I met Sabina years ago through a women’s small business group and the chamber. She was establishing her import company that focuses on African entrepreneurship at a wholesale level. Later Sam met Louis who headed economic development for Salt Lake City. After all the times I have written how Sam met one person and then I met the spouse though another association, don’t you just wonder at the serendipity vs. supposed free choice of our lives? I do. We went to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant where I got to hear how Sabina is now working on a United Nations grant to encourage female entrepreneurs and Louis is busy working with a company as planner for a huge parcel of land in Orlando, Florida. They are a beautiful couple. The next day my artist husband explained to me exactly why Sabina’s face is so classicly gorgeous and a world beauty.
There it is. A week I will never forget. I think I will stay in touch with everyone though it will be without as much face-to-face contact. It may be years before I have a reason to go back to Salt Lake. A few people will wander through Phoenix and we know we will drop everything to see them when they do. But Sam and I had that week and I am grateful for every one of the 1,700 miles.