I got the call that my friend had died on Wednesday evening. I was in a theater, writing lighting cues for Les Misérables. Of course that’s when I’d hear. Richard and I met in a theater, and over the years we attended or worked on hundreds of productions together.

For my 50th birthday, I bought a bottle of Balvenie Portwood 21 year-old Scotch and sought out the people who’ve been important in my life to offer a toast of thanks. Some weren’t close enough to clink a glass, so I started writing virtual toasts. That’s where this piece came from – the easiest, most pleasurable writing I’ve ever done.

I decided I needed a hiking partner – I wanted the moral encouragement a well-matched companion might provide. In high school, Champ had been on the football team, while I was a decidedly unathletic music geek…In 2012 we hiked Algonquin, followed that up with Marcy in 2014, then we hiked Esther and Whiteface in 2018. I proposed the Traverse shortly thereafter.

Jim had been concerned about bears as the trip approached; he’d read about several close encounters on the message boards he followed. I wasn’t too worried, because I’d never actually seen a bear in 35 years of hiking in the Adirondacks. I’d camped before in areas where the NYS DEC warned visitors to be cautious, and I followed their rules, printed on bright yellow signs at most trailheads.

Recently, a friend ran into an old classmate, who said she remembered me from school. I looked her up on Facebook, and although the recent profile shot rang a bell, I couldn’t place her. That sent me back to a much earlier facebook, the 1987 FHS (Fairport, NY) Hourglass.