The existence of brothers has been one of the dominant features in my life. I have two younger biological brothers that have been in my life for as long as I have the capacity to remember, and those very strong relationships provided an example for what it means to be a brother. Through my life that example has manifest itself in a variety of ways and ultimately expressed itself with the births of my two sons and my great joy in watching their brotherhood grow. The institution of brotherhood is sacred to me.
Last week actually started on January 10th when I get a text from one of my fraternity brothers who lives in L.A. He asked if I would be o.k. if he and three or four of the brothers came out Chattanooga to induct me into the Silver Legion (signifying twenty-five years in the fraternity). I told him that I would course love to see them but didn't want them to go to the all of the expense to travel hour here for that. I suggested alternately that we convene in Albuquerque, which was closer for and of course, the home of the chapter. He agreed, I have Skymiles to burn, so we set the date for the 21st.
I got another text on the 10th, this from the oldest of my two biological brothers. After reading the last blog, he wanted to see me, so he left his family at home, took time off of work, and booked his trip to the Scenic City. He got here last Sunday and stayed through late Wednesday. I had a tremendous time with him. We didn’t do a damned thing. Well, that's not entirely true. We did some food shopping, cooked a few nice meals, and went out for a really good lunch. Aside from that, there was a lot of napping, a great deal of Star Wars, and plenty of time on the couch. We had a couple of “those kinds” of conversations, but being brothers we didn't really have to speak to be able to communicate. It was a great first half of the week and time with my brother that I’ll always cherish.
While we were enjoying our time I had a few more texts with Joe from L.A. to confirm that we were still going to meet in the ‘Burque. My flight was (too) early that Friday, the ceremony was on Saturday, and I would return on Sunday. Many of our brothers still live in the ‘Burque, so the half-dozen brothers we hoped to pull together were set to double our number.
I slept the entirety of both legs of my flight. I was bumped to the front of the plane for the long leg so all was good with the world. When I disembarked, the first person I saw was another brother from L.A. Minutes later, two more brothers who happened to be on my flight joined us- one from Boston, the other from Madison. Joe from L.A., and a brother from Phoenix caught up with us in baggage claim and we were all sorted with transportation to various hotels.
After dropping the bags off and draining the Pleurex, we headed to Los Cuates- a fixture in the Pantheon of New Mexican cuisine, and one of our go-to spots lo those many years ago. Awaiting us were another 25 brothers, the overwhelming majority of which I haven’t seen for more than 20 years. It was a tremendous surprise and great treat to reconnect, compare and ridicule waistlines, and tell stories (lies) about our exploits in the past. The food was an outstanding haze of red and green chile, carne adovada, and sopapillas- but as good as it was, it could never compare to the nostalgic version I’ve carried with me for two decades.
The only play after Cuates was a nap. I returned to the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead. As quickly as it started, it ended, and I was in another car on my way to dinner at another Albuquerque institution- the venerable Sadie’s (the one on Fourth Street of course.) By this time our group of brothers had to swollen to fifty or so. While perhaps falling short of a Viking feast, dinner was another blur of chile, memories and beautiful drunken hugs. The brothers carried on late into the night (morning), but I had to bail and go to sleep.
For architecture students at UNM, Frontier Restaurant was a staple. The restaurant was in the same block as the school and provided cheap, fast and mind-blowingly delicious New Mexican food. Those who were able to survive the night before convened at the restaurant and were rewarded for their effort. My carne adovada burrito and bowl of green chile stew brought back memories of late nights, design dilemma’s, and of scraping pockets to pay for it.
Immediately after breakfast we headed downtown for the weekend’s main event- my Silver Legion Ceremony. We met on the 19th floor in a hotel conference room with breathtaking views of the Sandia Mountains to the east, and of the women’s march in the plaza below. After the actual ceremony and receiving my Silver Legion pin, we finished the meeting with “the good of the order”, in which each brother, in descending order of seniority, was able to say what was on their mind. The heartfelt, sincere, funny, profane, and loving words that my brothers expressed during that time will never be forgotten. I wept throughout most of it, and managed to laugh through some the tears as well. I was given the opportunity to speak last, and frankly couldn’t put into words the feelings I have in my heart for those boys. The fact that many of these brothers dropped what they were doing, left their families and work, and flew across the country at considerable expense and inconvenience on less than a week's notice speaks to the dedication and devotion that this group has for one another. That is a very special bond.
Later that night Joe from L.A. pulled some strings and arranged a behind the scene tour at the Pit and got the whole crew into the club level suites for the Lobo game against Wyoming. Unfortunately, your boy had fallen off the proverbial cliff and the events of the previous day and a half had wiped me out. While the brothers enjoyed the game, I was relegated to my hotel room to convalesce. I was completely gutted to make that call because I understood the significant hassle and expense it took to pull this together. So I slept, and the next morning it was back to Frontier for another breakfast and a last chance to say goodbye to the brothers who had managed to make it (I understand that after the game the shenanigans extended well into the night).
All that was left of the weekend was the flight back to Chattanooga. While that was an experience worthy of it’s own post- The Curse of ATL: weather delays, rerouting to other airports, shuttles busses home, and various other shenanigans.
What still amazes me is that in a week Joe from L.A. managed to turn what was supposed to be a six-person event into a massive reunion of more than fifty all told (it is also my understanding that he had a great deal of help from a certain brother from Arizona). He brought brothers from across the country on virtually no notice, and programmed the weekend to accommodate everyone. Off the top of my head, we had brothers come in from Boston, New Jersey, Tulsa, Madison, a few from L.A., Phoenix, Santa Fe, a Denver contingent, Chattanooga, Truckee (CA), Sacramento, a couple of places in Texas, and of course a large group of Burquenos. I am in absolute awe of the man for what he can accomplish, and I’m blown away by the way my brothers responded to the call. Those are true brothers indeed, each of whom I appreciate and love dearly. I will treasure that weekend for as long as I can.
Following perhaps the worst week of my life (see this if you haven’t), I was blessed to follow it with a week of loving brotherhood- a reinforcement and reminder of one of the central themes of my life. Of course, it won’t be complete until my other brother comes and sits on the couch and plays video games for a week- but we’re working on that. Additionally, this is yet another lesson I can pass along to my own little set of brothers- I hope they experience and appreciate the joy and gratification of brotherhood the way I have. Perhaps losing their father will strengthen their bond with one another- although I wish I could teach them in a different way ;).
As for so far this week, I've been really up and down. In fact, I've been a poor brother to a few of you with some last minute cancellations. I'm going to try to do better, or at least do the best I can, in the meantime I appreciate ya'll putting up with me. Until next time, be good, I love you.