A Houston Connection

28 12 2011

I first met Bjork in Houston, a year of my life I have tried to forget. Things did not go so smoothly during my time in the sultry Texas metropolis, but Bjork was a bright spot that I chose to keep with me and I’m glad I did.

He arrives at week’s end for a long overdue visit. Bjork is a quiet man, whose wonkish demeanor fits all the stereotypes one would expect in a college professor. He was teaching at Rice University, a prestigious private school neatly tucked away inside the sprawling Houston city limits, when we first met. I was holding down two jobs at the time, intent on making my mark in a big city far from home and Bjork, a lifelong city dweller was trying to adjust to driving a car on a full time basis.

We spent most of our time together going out for dinner and sharing philosophical discussions about our backgrounds, which were vastly different. Bjork received his undergraduate education at Georgetown University in the shadow of our nation’s capital, but despite his formal training was unaware of Troy State University and all it had to offer until our paths crossed.

He seemed intrigued by my small town upbringing and big city ambition and I likewise was drawn to his nerdiness. At Rice, Bjork taught European history and would often visit the Borders bookstore where I worked. We could talk for hours about international affairs and politics and usually did. Later, when Bjork moved to England, he would run up phone bills while I ran down the Bush administration.

“You know, John,” he recalled during a recent conversation. “You were pretty radical back then. I was starting to worry.”

Radical and stupid. I did a lot of stupid stuff in Houston. The allure of the club scene was strong for a newcomer fresh from the Alabama backwoods. Bjork didn’t participate in the long nights and early mornings of the Houston club scene, but was always eager to listen to my dating experiences. If you can call them that. I kept a diary at times, but destroyed the evidence after moving away from Houston. Again, I was naive, innocent and stupid which can be a deadly combination in the big city.

It was a miracle I escaped alive.

That was almost a decade ago and since Bjork and I have shared many trips. Not long after we both had left Houston I went to visit him at his new job at Colgate University, making my first foray into the cold winter of upstate New York. It snowed terribly during my visit and the campus seemed unusually stuffy even by preppy, private school standards. Bjork, remembering my love for sports, arranged for a day trip to Cooperstown, the home of major league baseball’s hall of fame, but it was the snow that I will always remember.

I was still regaining my health after the year in Houston and the blizzard of 2003 presented a challenge. I remember roaming across the snow covered Colgate campus in shorts and tee shirt, I suppose to prove a point to myself and display a sign of strength. It was also during this trip to see Bjork that I would reveal more of my inner self to test our friendship… And the professor passed with flying colours.




One response

29 12 2011
david altermatt


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