March 31, 2014. Strange, new, unfamiliar year (SNUY). I call an old friend, culmination of a plan more than a year in the making. I call him Sunday thinking there’ll be a better chance of reaching him and I’m right. Here he is. He’d been working on that really expensive bridge out there in Burnaby or Coquitlam or wherever it is for a really long time, but I knew that was over. I remember the last time I’d talked to him calling him at eight o’clock on a Saturday night. He was at work, which surprised me. We had to hang up. Normally Clanbrassil will talk your ear off. He seems to live on the phone.
“I gotta go, Steve. I’m at work.”
“Well, why don’t you get to work then? Why are you talking to me?”
I met Adrian Clanbrassil in the 20th century in a bizarre place called Wakeman Sound. He was a hard working, hard playing veteran and I was “green”. The business was timber extraction and the only way to get to it was by air. It was a remote site. I’d gotten into the business because I needed money and wanted to do something different. Clanbrassil was here for some of the same reasons. He’d spent several seasons in another company camp on the Nekite River north of here that was logged out now, which was why he was at Wakeman. He was pulling rigging on a side I was assigned to one summer Saturday.
I learned the first day I met Clanbrassil that I was connected to him in an odd way. We were both from town and most of these clowns in the logging show were from Vancouver Island. When I found out he’d grown up in Point Grey I told him my girlfriend had too. He asked me her name. “I was their paperboy,” he said. When he was a kid he’d delivered the paper to States’ parent’s house. I definitely never thought I’d meet anyone who could say that in this place.
Adrian and I became friends and stayed friends long after our careers in the woods were over. How often do you have the opportunity of making a new friend? We had a lot in common. We were both white, both male and both enjoyed a good time. We didn’t see each other a lot but stayed in touch. He used to call out of the blue, or I’d call him. He did building technology at BCIT and made good money in construction. I took a vow of poverty and started working in the book business.
Before hanging up that last time I asked him how his partner was. I’d never met her but knew Anne and he had been together a long time, going back to when he went into rehab. I was surprised and a little shocked to hear him say, “We’re not living together anymore. We broke up.” My cliché thought was, “I hope he hasn’t started drinking again.” I’d been thinking about it on and off ever since. Was my friend all right?
I remembered when he quit drinking. I’d called him and he was in Crescent Beach, living at a recovery house. I knew how difficult it must have been for him. He always prided himself on his work ethic and was very solid at what he did, but there’d been a mystery developing the last few years. His marriage had ended. I knew he’d bought a small condo and walked away from it. Then he left the country to work on a construction project in Taipei. I didn’t know, but doing that might have been as much about avoiding debt collectors as any cold, hard desire to work in Taipei. When he came back it was like he was on the lam. He’d even importuned my mother-in-law and invited himself to stay in an upstairs bedroom of her house, a strange situation that lasted about a month and led to a bit of a falling out between us. “Why, actually, are you here?” I already knew the answer. Adrian Clanbrassil’s life had run off the rails.
I think I didn’t want to hear my friend’s life was messed up again. But you think like that and then you think, it’s your friend, right? Does it matter what’s happened? He’s your friend. He’s an adult. He’s a strong guy. You were a team in the glory days and you want to know what’s become of your friend. A friend doesn’t say “forget it” about a friend.
And here he is. He sounds fine. He sounds the same. He says he’s at his girlfriend’s. So he’s got a “girlfriend”. That’s good. He tells me he’s living in a trailer park near Boundary Bay. Clanbrassil living in a trailer park. Why does that not sound ridiculous? There’s almost something right about it. We don’t talk about the past. I don’t ask him if he’s drinking. It’s not my business. This is a quick social call to verify we’re both still out here. We’ve done it. We’ve kept in touch, like old friends. I can’t help him with his problems anymore than he can help me with mine. Doesn’t matter. Friendship’s not about problems. Professionals deal with problems. We’re just friends. Let’s keep it that way.