I once made a list of what I personally needed to have a sense of well-being. The list isn't long, and the items aren't expensive or quantified. Ten items:
Health - physical, mental, spiritual
Food - basic sustenance
Shelter - a warm, dry place to sleep
Income - more in than out
Love - the companionship of family and friends
Adventure - for mind and body
Civil Rights - freedom
Education - knowledge and the ongoing chance to learn
Things I Wish I Wrote
Russ pretty much agreed with the above quote.
Though he would have changed one word. Instead of chocolate, he would have used popcorn.
I don't remember a visit to his house when the television wasn't on and bowl of popcorn wasn't offered.
He taught me the true way to make popcorn.
Definitely not in the microwave.
Nor in a hot air popper.
It had to be on the stove. In a pot.
Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of whatever type of oil you prefer. Add enough popcorn kernels to cover the bottom, and shake to coat the kernels with oil. Place over low/medium heat. Let heat until two or three kernels pop (that way all of the kernels are ready to pop at the same time). Then crank up the heat to high, resume shaking, and pop just until you hear the kernels stop popping. Take pot off stove immediately, and coat to with butter or margarine and salt.
Russ claims to have worn out the bottoms of three pots using his method.
And it works every time. I seldom make it any other way now.
Russ like television. Especially educational shows featuring history, the military, science, or the oddities the unusual, the unique, the unknown.
He also liked comedies. He could re-create scenes from Seinfeld. He once told me, "I wish I lived in Mayberry." And he gave this piece of advice. "Nobody can hum the theme from The Lone Ranger and stay depressed." (Try it next time you're depressed.)
He once talked with Ray Raynor (a local Chicago-area children's television show host) for two and a half hours on the phone, and said it was it was one of the nicest phone calls he ever made, giving high praises to Ray Raynor for his warmth and kindness to a stranger just back from the war.
And Russ could do a hilarious Garfield Goose imitation. (Garfield Goose was a puppet on another Chicago-area show. Basically, Garfield was a long white sock with two beady eyes, a long yellow cardboard beak, and a crown. Garfield never spoke. But he was the very embodiment of an over-inflated, egotistical, self-centered micro-manager.) The repertoire between Garfield and his "straight man" (Frazier Thomas) was classic comedy, ala Jack Benny. Even an adult could enjoy it. (Remember, this was a kid's show.)
And Russ could do both parts! Garfield and Frazier.
Just using his arm, his hand, his razor-sharp sense of humor, and his wonderfully expressive face.
A single raised eyebrow here; a pause there; a witty sentence; a dramatic reaction.
He used this routine as an inspired method of dealing with workroom stress, unfailingly reducing his lucky audience to uncontrolled laughter as he re-enacted workroom supervisor-employee encounters.
He loved movies too. And he would watch them any way he could - on TV, through rentals, or at the theaters. He had a wide range of tastes. I think the only ones he declined to watch were romantic comedies and "chick flicks" (if there is a difference).
We took in Master & Commander, Sahara, The Passion, Van Helsing, The Descent, X-Men I & II, Harry Potter I, II & III, Hell Boy, and Borat among others.
Almost always late in the movie's run, when the crowds would be smaller. With a big bag of popcorn, two large drinks, and an empty seat between and on either side of us.
One time we were at the huge screen I-Max theater, the only two viewers in the entire V for Vendetta audience, which, as Russ said, was "how a movie is meant to be watched." About three-fourths of the way through he got up get more popcorn and he leaned over and in a low, serious tone of voice, whispered, "Mike, save my seat, will ya?"
And I cracked up.
And Russ loved to read.
He had five favorites:
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Russ had studied this book in high school under the enthusiastic guidance of a gifted English instructor.
The Lord of the Rings triology, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Russ claims to have read this classic twelve times. He was hesitant to see the movie adaptation. I don't know if he ever did.
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. A simple science fiction story. It is a book in which nothing is superficial, yet nothing is complex. It is written clearly, concisely, and compellingly.
Boy's Life, by Robert R. McCammon. From the Introduction to the final Acknowledgements, this book is a compelling story full of emotion, and characters that come alive in the very real, very magical time and place.
The Gospels, by Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. No comment needed.
We swapped books and discovered unknown gems, like Jesus & the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church, by Clayton Sullivan. We discovered favorite authors, devoured books and discussed our opinions: Clive Cussler, Robert R. McCammon, Mitch Albom, and Orson Scott Card and others.
Many of the quotes you have read throughout this story come from these books.
Our lives would have been poorer without them.
I've suffered from the "I wish..." syndrome common among all those who lose a friend.
"I wish he could have seen this..."
"I wish he could be here for..."
"I wish he could be following Psych on TV."
"I wish he could have read Travels With My Brother, by Nicholas Sparks."
"I wish he could have seen I Am Legend and Into The Wild, and read the original books on which they were based."
"I wish he could have enjoyed Transformers, Iron Man, and the upcoming Hell Boy II.
"I wish we could have discussed The Bucket List."