In the spring of 1993 I was winding down things in Seattle before moving to Prague. One afternoon I stopped in a local tavern where I was friends with the barmaid, and the place was empty except for the two of us and one guy drooped over a beer at the far end of the counter. When she asked about my preparations his head suddenly popped up and a voice with a decidedly southern accent boomed, "Prague? I was thinking about moving to Prague, but I wound up here in Seattle!". I squinted down the counter at the stranger and asked, "So where are you from?", expecting an answer in the vicinity of Georgia, maybe Texas, but instead this fellow did a very Southern thing, and answered my question with a question. "Well, where are YOU from?". So I told him, and we played out a few more questions that included neighborhoods, high schools, and the like, before the realization set in. "Jimmy?", I ventured. He grinned and rubbed his balding head, pointing at mine and said, "Yeah, Bobby? Man, we got OLD, didn't we?". So much time had passed, in fact more than twenty years, since the last time we saw or spoke to each other that we still addressed each other by our childhood names, and not the more grownup sounding "Bob" or "Jim".
Jim and I have stayed in touch since then, in fact we enjoyed the last New Year's Eve I ever spent in the US together at the Two Bells Tavern in Seattle, WA in 1998 (yep, that's Jim with his arm around my shoulder in the photo). And Jim even visited Prague in the summer of 2003 with a couple of his friends from Portland, OR. We still exchange e-mails several times a year, and I'm going to write to him right now, after I post this. And I hope you will all take this opportunity to wish your friends and old acquaintances, long lost or otherwise, a Happy New Year!