I love coffee. No, seriously…I really love coffee. I am not what people would call a coffee snob that only drinks the very special artisan brews that require bank loans to afford a cup. I love most coffees. From Fuego, here in Rochester, to Intelligentsia in Pasadena. From Starbucks to McDonalds. From Denny’s to a Keurig offering. It doesn’t matter. Just to be able to sip that beautiful, dark, hot elixir of life. AAAAHHHHH!!!! It’s also the smell. The smell of beans being ground, of a pour over, of an automatic drip performing its task that will bring us this fabulous goodness. And the sounds. Coffee leaving the urn and sloshing into a cup is a sound that was ordained to bring joy from the beginning of time. One caveat: Instant coffee, I believe, was invented by pagans. That being said…
In February of 1992 I made the unpleasant discovery that my wife was involved in a long-term affair that had been going on for quite some time. It rocked me to the core. That first night alone in a bed was indescribable. There was that sort of weeping happening that rarely comes upon people. You know the kind, body shaking, face crumpled up, ugly crying as it were. It is indeed a strange thing to have, in one moment, the trajectory of your life drastically yanking a sharp turn. Hopes, dreams, stuff like that. I had no idea what was going on or what I was going to do. I just needed to get out of that house as soon as possible. My friend Larry heard about my plight. He told me that his place was available for however long I needed until I figured out the next step. I packed up some things and headed into Pasadena.
Larry. A complex character. Incredibly talented sound engineer who has always treated his craft as an art form. Still does. I’d been able to work with him from time to time and he would create beauty out of every single project. At this time in 1992 he was the sound engineer for a network game show. You would think it was a waste of his talent working on something so mundane. No matter, Larry approached each program as if it was the New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s ninth. The real complexity came with Larry’s personality. One moment you think he’s mad at the entirety of the earth, the next moment he has the heart of a child. He himself had had his struggles with relationships. Sometimes you could see sadness in his eyes. But then the next moment, delight. At any rate, he offered a friend some help and I accepted.
I don’t remember sleeping very much that first night at Larry’s house. Too much was churning through my skull. I was trying to make a plan. I was trying not to be sad. I was being sad. More ugly crying. Then the morning light began to ease itself into the window. At that time I was working as a location scout and was in the middle of a job in which I had to find a very artistic jogging path for a Reebok commercial. As I got ready early that morning I had absolutely no desire to head out onto the road in search of something that had no merit on anything that mattered to me. Especially at that moment in my existence. But even a grieving person needed to make a living.
It was raining hard that morning. Rare in Southern California. I had always found comfort in the rain coming from an area of the world in which rain was a regular part of life. I walked out onto Larry’s porch and stood there. The sights, sounds, and smell of the rain was soothing. It didn’t take what was roiling around in my head or my present turmoil away. Or the sadness, a kind I’d never known. Or the feeling of being completely lost. But the rain relaxed me just a bit.
I heard the door open. I turned and saw Larry approaching. He said nothing. In his right hand was a cup of coffee. He held it out to me. I took it. I don’t even remember thanking him. He turned around and walked back into the house. Let me say this; in my life people have done wonderful things for me, given me nice things, told me flattering things. That moment in time in which Larry saw his friend hurting and did the only thing he thought he could do will stay with me until I breathe my last. He could have tried to say he felt badly for me. He could have tried to give me advice. He could have simply just attempted to start a conversation. Nope. He somehow knew that anything he could possibly say would have been inadequate. And he knew I loved coffee. So that’s what he did. He gave me some coffee. (It was delicious by the way.)
I read the Bible as many of you who know me know. In Mark 9:41 Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” Let me tell you, Larry probably didn’t extend a tasty beverage to his friend because his friend “…bear(s) the name of Christ…” and it wasn’t water. But to me, it was this gift that seemed to be given from God Almighty. It was in that moment, in that place and time that Larry became the hand of God to me.
Larry knows this story, not because he possibly remembers the moment. But because I’ve reminded him so many times about how much that meant to me. I hope I have been that person to someone. I hope I will be that in the future.
Larry, thank you again.
(One side item of note. I didn’t write this to remind people that my wife hurt me. That water is so far from the bridge I practically don’t even remember that period of time, and everyone has moved on and is living life. This is not about her or about me really. It is about what one person did that was an act of God to me.)