I first met James Walsh back when I first moved down to the Tenth Street Apartments.
I was still a kid. Twenty years old or thereabouts.
James hailed from Buffalo, but in those days, he was the bartender at corner a bar in Erie, called The Press Box.
It was only a block or two away from my apartment, so it’s the first place I landed once I got settled.
James was a good guy. I mean he was a ‘good’ guy.
Sure, he’d get upset about this thing or that, but his toothy smile always came out, no matter what happened to him.
He’s one of those friends you always want to have, but sadly don’t recognize who they are until they’re gone.
It got to be a routine.
I got out of work, got cleaned up and went down the street to the bar.
James made me wings.
My dinner time.
And then we’d watch Jeopardy – and we watched Jeopardy without fail.
It didn’t matter who was in the bar or how many of them there were, we watched Jeopardy.
Pretty soon, there was a group of us that made wings and Jeopardy at The Press Box a regular part of our day.
Those days were particularly good days, mainly because they were always so full of hope.
I was early-twenties. James was late-twenties. We were both still so young.
There was so much for us to do in life that we couldn’t keep track of it all.
So much hope and so much promise.
The troubles of the world never seemed to matter all that much to us when we were young.
Imagine what a feeling that would be now.
We got to be good friends.
He and his girlfriend Melissa went to a few ‘country’ parties with us.
James played golf and he quickly became a permanent member of our group.
A bunch of us got together for boxing on PPV down the street at my apartment.
No matter what we were all doing, everyone loved James.
The best memory I have of those days was the night that James talked me into going to see pro-wrestling at the Civic Center. They were featuring midget wrestling.
HOLY SHIT, WAS THAT A GOOD TIME!
It was hilarious! I loved it, but for different reasons than James did.
He never fully came out and said it, but it was pretty easy to tell that he believed in wrestling.
He never lost his sense of wonder from childhood.
It wasn’t a conscious thing…it’s just who he was.
Like I said, James Walsh was a good guy.
That is how way I remember James.
He preferred to be called ‘James’. About the only time I ever saw him agitated was whenever someone called him ‘Jim’ or even worse, intentionally called him ‘Jimmy’.
He loved those gawd-awful tube socks from the seventies – the kind with the colored bands up on the calf, and always wore them pulled up all the way to his knees.
Of course, that helped him fit in on the golf course, that and his ability to strike the ball like Ty Webb.
He loved Melissa. She was his girlfriend at the time, but later on, I heard they were married.
Sadly, I remember the last night I was out drinking with James.
And it was one hundred percent, without a doubt, my fault that our friendship fell out that night.
I won’t tell you what I said, but I can assure you that I made one ignorant, horse’s-ass of a remark that ended it all.
I was trying to be funny. I was trying to be cute. And I was drunk and belligerent.
And I never saw James again after that night.
Shortly after that night, he quit the bar and disappeared from radar.
No one seemed to know anything about him.
I’m sharp enough to know that some of the guys did know what happened and where James was at, but they weren’t talking to me about it.
For a time, Melissa worked at a local grocery store. She would politely wave and say ‘hello’ whenever she saw me, but she never allowed any more interaction than that.
Then one day, she was gone, too. James had always talked about one day going back to his hometown of Buffalo, and it appeared that’s what they finally did.
But I’ll never know for sure.
That was back in the early nineties.
I’ve kept my eyes open for Mr. James Walsh over all these rolling years.
Even with current searching abilities, I still can’t find sign of him anywhere.
Either, being the ‘James’ he always was, he decided he would not be found or he is now, really gone.
I prefer to think that James is still out there somewhere, maybe in Buffalo, sitting in a corner bar, glutting on wings and watching Jeopardy.
I don't even have any pictures from those days. They were all lost.
Thirty years later, I only have memories.
And I am still in Search of James Walsh.
James was a good guy.
So…if Mr. James Walsh is still around, and if anyone sees or knows him, tell him Frank from the bar said ‘Grazie'…
…then let me know how he answers…
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