Rob has been with me along my journey to Japan - exchanging some 50+ letters while I was there... back when you actually had to write with a pen and paper, get an envelope, purchase a stamp or two and post it, wait a week or more until it was received and hope the guy on the other end (me) would write back.
Rob's letters while I was in Japan between 1990-1993 were, quite literally a godsend.
Despite being surrounded by great people in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan - and in a few other places like Shiga-ken where Kristine lived, sometimes a man can not live on sake, noodles and telephone sex alone.
Well, actually I could because Kristine was that sexy... but sometimes you just want to hear about what is happening back at home... and Rob (and Doug and my mom) provided that necessary news so often that I never really felt too homesick. You always do, though.
I met Rob back in Grade 10. He and I were the two youngest kids in our grade - a full year ahead - too smart for our puny bodies to properly survive and thrive in a high school scenario where it wasn't cool to read comics, watch wrestling, and steal porno mags... though maybe the latter was cool, but I never advertised that. Sorry, by the way.
Rob and I also coached girl's and women soccer for years - back in the 80s when the concept of soccer for females was still considered a waste of time. We never thought so, and we originally got involved because his sister's team couldn't find a volunteer to be the coach - a pretty sucky proposition. Every now and then - 30 years later, I run into one or two of the girls we coached, and it's nice to know that Rob and I made a positive impression on them.
While I moved on to university and college, Rob got his own apartment and worked his a$$ off for a living... but he was certainly out on his own for a good number of years before I was. Brave.
While I was in Japan, back in 1991 of March, I decided that since I was a cheap bastardo, I would send Rob a letter a day (work day) for the entire month of March - yeah, yeah, Happy Birthday from your cheap buddy, AJ.
But, after about four or five letters, even I got bored with writing : "How are you? I am fine." and began , instead to create fictional tales of stuff that had nothing to do with Japan.
One month into my stay in Japan, I had already begun crafting monthly stories entitles It's A Wonderful Rife for the Tochigi prefecture AJET magazine.
Anyhow... what began with a single comedic tale to Rob as my daily letter (I still added the "How are you? I am fine." fiddle-faddle in a separate, but now briefer note, but even then... for whatever reason, the serotonin in my brain was working extra hard and I began crafting three, four, five short stories a day... even on the weekends... everyday, new stuff... comedic, dramatic, non-fiction, fiction... I can't even describe it... but it's like that special kiss... where slowly taste the cinnamon on her lips, and explosions explode in your head, as you gently cradle the side of her face in your hand... and you hope you have ruined her forever, knowing both she and you will never achieve a higher plane of existence than that.
No... I wasn't kissing Rob... I said "her lips". But, it was an explosion of 'wowiness' I achieved that entire month of March, that sadly I have never been able to replicate.
Oh, I still write, as evidenced by the 3,150+ blogs here, and hundreds more elsewhere, and a couple of completed but never submitted to publisher books featuring the same short stories I wrote and sent to Rob...
The point is... he was the first, and for most of my stories, the only person who has read the stuff... I think he may actually have read damn near everything I have ever written.
That's a good friend.
Happy birthday, Rob. Read when you can, but please keep on reading.
PS: Hey Tron Blarg... it took me 47 minutes to write this. You know what I mean! LOL!