Before he returned from the East, celebrity counterman Daniel McCormack sent me a letter. He thought, he wrote, that we should get together for lunch.
This began a series of midday encounters that I shall always count as some of my life’s best moments.
I can’t remember where we went first, but our last was at the McCormick Café, where we had first met.
As usual, lunch was an epic tour of the cosmos, an analysis of our respective psyches, a review of the state of our personal illnesses, and an expert critique of the food, all with relevant references from literature, modern physics and eastern and western religious traditions.
The conversation throughout was peppered with his sly wit, and the darker the subject, the harder he made me laugh.
I believe that at times he tested me. Once, after describing his mood as being in a minor key and then applying the bilocational properties of particles described by quantum physics to a memory of his father, he noticed that I was actually following his train of thought.
This halted the locomotive for a moment and elicited this fine compliment.
“You’re much smarter than you seem,” he said.
Then, worried that his words had stung, he said, “I meant that in a good way.” I replied that in ad sales and in reporting, holding back a little often helped. He was relieved to hear that I hadn’t taken offence. In truth, I was usually barely able to keep up with the accelerating carnival ride that our conversations invariably became.
When we left a restaurant, the wait staff would always be in a better mood than when we came in. Daniel was at heart an entertainer, even at lunch. Our meals were punctuated with belly laughs and wild gesturing, always cathartic.
As time passed, our mutual respect and affection grew.
The day after our last lunch together, I stopped in at the McCormick for a cup of coffee and a lemon bar. Daniel had pointed out to me years before that the lemon bars there had a wonderful shortbread crust.
A longtime employee of the restaurant greeted me and noted what a good time Daniel and I had been having the day before. He asked, “Are you brothers?”
“Not by birth,” I said.