Dedicated to the memory of B.B. King.
When I was a teenager, my younger brother had a friend named Edd. My brother tended to befriend all the misfits in the neighborhood and while Edd didn't outwardly appear to be one of my brother's misfit sidekicks, further inspection showed otherwise.
Not long after I met Edd, he decided we had more in common than he did with my brother. He wanted to sit in on the Dungeons and Dragons games we played, and that opened the portal for his defection from friendship with my brother to becoming my friend. My brother didn't seem to mind, as he had a vast collection of friends and often thought I was lacking in that regard.
"Just so you know, he's a weird one," my brother said.
Edd didn't seem all that strange. He shared my interests in science fiction novels and the whole Dungeons and Dragons thing. He liked helping me with my model train project, which filled half of the basement of the house I grew up in and was intricately landscaped with two towns on either side of the board. He was considered popular in school. He was Armenian and gave the appearance of having a muscular build and had this whole swarthy mysterious stud thing going on. That was what the girls told me, anyway.
At least until they actually talked to him.
There was a large Greek population in the city I grew up in and an annual festival where we got to sample all kinds of delicious foods and experience some cultural snippets. One year I went to the Greek festival with Edd. A young woman came up to him and asked if he was Greek. It was a common mistake.
Edd got defensive. "I am not Greek! Here, smell me. I'm Armenian. We smell different than Greeks. I assume you've smelled a lot of Greeks, so just smell my arm and you'll notice the difference."
These sort of social cataclysms were fairly common with Edd. They never ended well.
Sometimes Edd could be extremely amusing. His humor had a very deadpan nature, so it was often hard to tell if he was serious or just pulling our leg.
One of the first times I went for a ride in a car with Edd, another friend of mine was driving and Edd was in the backseat. The purpose of these drives was usually to hang out, waste time and drive around looking at things. Edd would curl up in the backseat with a book and sit there reading as we drove around.
During this one drive, we were going down a busy city street when a car going the other way passed us at an extreme rate of speed. This prompted my friend Martin and I to both say simultaneously, "What the hell what that?"
Without looking up from his book, Edd very plainly said, "the Doppler Effect."
On another drive the radio was playing the song "The Book of Love." Once again, still in the back seat, his face buried in his ever-present book, Edd was heard to mutter, "I don't believe there is such a tome."
Edd was obsessed with classical music and The Beatles. He would go on to say that everything else in the world of music was crap, including whatever you expressed an interest in. If it stopped there he might have simply been regarded as a musical snob. It was usually at that point that he would reveal his dark secret.
He was also extremely fond of the music of Rick Springfield. It was the mid-1980s and Rick Springfield was very popular, but mostly regarded as something of a joke or kitsch. When this dark secret was revealed, coming on the tales of his musical snobbery, Edd would launch into a long, impassioned defense of Rick Springfield and how he was underrated and misunderstood.
During one of his promotional Rick Springfield press conferences, a friend of mine who had come into the speech a bit late interrupted Edd. He was rather stoned and wasn't quite grasping what was going on.
"Yeah man, you tell 'em. I love Bruce Springsteen too. The Boss is the fucking best!"
Edd was bewildered and offended. "Bruce Springsteen? He sucks. He can't even sing and doesn't know the first thing about music. I'm talking about Rick Springfield."
I'm pretty sure that particular friend gave up smoking pot forever after that experience.
When girls, and later women, saw Edd they had a different impression of him than when they talked to him. He was tall, looked to be well-built, and had that whole swarthy Middle Eastern look about him. It was always assumed that he had a girlfriend. When a girl found out he was running solo, she became intrigued by whatever possibility she was considering involving him.
Edd was obsessed with breasts. Many guys are, but Edd took it to another level. Although he never had a girlfriend until his early twenties and his virginity stayed intact until he was twenty-five, he had a strict code regarding potential mates. They had to have breasts that met or exceeded his quality control standards. It wasn't just about size, although that was important. There were rigid standards that included perceived firmness and presentation.
Sure, a lot of men have these kinds of evaluations that they do, but usually they keep it to themselves. When he talked to a woman, Edd would generally stare very obviously at their breasts the entire time and then present her with his evaluation of them. I don't believe he ever finished presenting his entire report to the women he evaluated because if he didn't get slapped the woman would just turn and walk away.
His musical tastes would change over time, or at least what he was willing to speak about openly. His love for classical music, The Beatles and Rick Springfield remained steady over the years, but other bands and artists would start to seep in.
At one point B.B. King was giving a performance in a nearby city. When this was announced, Edd suddenly became the biggest B.B. King fan the world has ever seen. Speeches were given that rivaled his Rick Springfield press conferences. The extent of his passion was so great you would think it could only come from someone who had been a lifelong B.B. King fan.
And yet he had never so much as mentioned B.B. King before. The name never came up in his speeches about how all music sucked except for classical music, The Beatles and Rick Springfield. Out of nowhere, there it was.
Edd announced he had purchased two tickets to see B.B. King and Martin and I, his two closest friends, expressed an interest in going with him. Neither of us would get to utilize the second ticket.
"A B.B. King concert is what you take a girl to on the first date," Edd explained, talking to us like we were idiots for not understanding this basic knowledge that everyone supposedly had.
And so, Edd set out to ask a girl to go to the B.B. King show with him. It was a show of a different kind, and one we had front row seats for.
Edd would approach a woman, one we knew on some level, usually a friend of a friend or someone we met at a party, and simply say, "B.B. King?"
"He's more than just a musician!" Edd would act completely frustrated and annoyed with what he perceived as ignorance on the part of the woman he was awkwardly attempting to ask to the concert.
"I guess. I mean, I don't know much about him."
Perhaps in an alternate universe, like the one many of us live in, Edd would have seen this as an opportunity. A woman he was interested in sounded curious about something he was interested in. Things didn't work that way in Edd's universe. His response would end the conversation.
"Idiot," he'd mumble and walk away.
Many variations of the same scene would be played out over the next couple of weeks. When Edd finally gave up we asked again if he'd take one of us to the show.
"I'm not gay. B.B. King is a date concert."
Edd played bass guitar in a band. They weren't a very serious band, just more or less a bunch of guys screwing around, and I hung out with them frequently. Edd was very serious about the band. He also fancied himself as a songwriter and spent months on what he called his "major composition," which was said to be a six-part rock opera of some kind. This may have been his response to the rest of the band's refusal to play "Jessie's Girl," but not much was certain on this point.
When this major composition was finally revealed after many months of work on it in absolute secret, Edd came and announced the title of his groundbreaking work.
"It is called The Man from North America."
Even though we all knew Edd and his peculiarities, this caught us off-guard.
"Is it self-referential?" asked Matt, the lead guitar.
"No!" said a defensive Edd. "Why would you think that?"
"Well, you're from North America."
"No, I live in North America. This is about a man from North America."
"So, like a Native American then."
"No. You are completely missing the point. This is about a man from North America."
Edd was obsessed with porn. When renting movies became a big thing in the mid-1980s, Edd was delighted to find the local video store we frequented had a back room with porn movies for rent. They had a catalog in a large binder that had the covers in plastic sleeves and a number that corresponded with each movie. All you had to do was give the clerk the number and he would go and fetch the tape from the back room.
The thing was, Edd was too embarrassed to rent them on his own. He would only do it when we went as a group to rent regular movies for viewing on our little group's movie night. We would rent regular movies while Edd poured through the catalog, often making a point to tell the clerk, "We watch these as kind of a joke. Some of these are hilarious." As if telling someone you like to watch porn with other guys is somehow better than watching it on your own.
Without fail, we would get back to whoever's place we were watching the movies at and Edd would come up with a brainstorm. He would always begin casually and we always knew what was coming.
"So, why don't you guys go out and get some beer and chips and that kind of stuff. I'll hold down the fort while you're gone."
Edd's obsession with porn didn't end at movies. After he turned of legal drinking age, he was always pushing us to go to strip clubs. It wasn't an every once and a while suggestion. It was a fairly constant request.
He had a ritual that involved calling a nearby strip club where porn stars and the like often made special appearances.
He would disguise his voice, for reasons beyond normal comprehension, and ask, "Who is your featured performer this weekend?" This would usually be accompanied by some insane oversharing. He did not feel he could just ask his question. He needed to preface the question by telling them he was "a businessman from out of town looking to unwind" or something along those lines.
If a special guest was someone of his liking, usually involving their passing his rigorous breast evaluation process, his insistence on us going with him reached overwhelming levels.
One night his very favorite porn star of them all, Christy Canyon, was appearing. We knew there was no way out of the situation, so we agreed to go. When we got there, after he insisted on telling the man checking our IDs we were shoe salesmen just getting out of some kind of banquet, he was on the edge of his seat. He didn't see any sign of Christy Canyon anywhere except for a table against the wall that had pictures and copies of some of her movies along with a big sign that said, "Meet Christy Canyon."
Edd had quickly chosen the table closest to the Christy Canyon table and his eyes were darting about wildly. "Do you see her? Do you guys see Christy Canyon?"
"Edd, you should probably be cool. If you keep shouting out her name and going on like that we're going to all look like idiots."
"Yeah, you're right. We should have a sign. If you see her, just motion with your head in the direction of where she is so I can see her."
"She's probably going to be at that table behind you, where, you know, all her merchandise is and she's probably going to be signing autographs and shit."
That he had chosen to sit with his back to the "Meet Christy Canyon" table was odd enough. When she came out of the dressing rooms and started walking towards the table, she was topless. Edd had his back to her the entire time while still looking all over the club for some sign of her.
Martin and I began gesturing with our heads in the direction of Christy Canyon, but Edd failed to pick up on the sign he had suggested. We began gesturing more insistently as she came up behind him and stood talking to the bouncer and another man while standing with her breasts no more than two feet from Edd's head.
Finally, I leaned forward and whispered to him across the table, "If you turn around right now all your dreams will come true."
"What do you mean?"
Martin snapped. "Jesus Christ, would you just fucking turn around!"
"I'm not falling for that old trick. What do you think I am, stupid?"
Edd's calls to the strip club became stranger over time. "Hello, I am a middle-aged businessman in the midst of a messy divorce. Can you tell me who your featured performer is tonight?"
Ed didn't drink in public or at other people's homes. If we had a get together or movie night at his home he would put a bottle of Absolut vodka in the freezer for twenty-four hours, drink it straight, and pass out within two hours.
One night we went out to the strip club and Martin and I drank far more than was reasonable. Edd remained completely sober and drove. As we were leaving we saw a police car following us. Edd got nervous and started swerving and driving otherwise erratically. We were pulled over. The officer asked Edd if he had been drinking and Edd's response was to stutter and make up nonsensical stories, quite possibly about being a middle-aged businessman in the midst of a messy divorce.
The police officer asked him to step out of the car, which he did, and immediately stumbled forward and had to grab the door of the car to steady himself. As he went on to mess up on reciting the alphabet and fail miserably at walking a straight line, Martin and I were in hysterics. It was, to this day, the hardest I've ever laughed in my life.
"Give him the breathalyzer!" we were both screaming through our uncontrollable laughter.
The officer finally did, then after seeing Martin and I were unfit to drive, told Edd to take it slow and easy, looking completely mystified by his behavior.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" we said once we'd calmed down enough to put words together. "You're completely sober."
"I was afraid he'd find out we'd been to a strip club."
It was a major event when Edd lost his virginity.
He had been dating this woman for some time. She found him lovably peculiar and had a very memorable pair of breasts. It seemed like the perfect match. When they finally decided to take their relationship to the next level and do a bit of horizontal boogie, it was at a party at her apartment. The place was filled with people and everyone was drinking or getting high or both.
Apparently they'd had a talk, after which Edd went around the party telling everyone, "We're going to do it tonight. You know what I mean? Do it."
For whatever reason, Edd had concluded that doing this and then sneaking off to her bedroom with her would equal complete privacy for their intimacy.
Half the people in attendance were listening in. Some were at the closed door to the bedroom. Others, like myself and Martin, were outside at the window. It was dark and very quiet. There were sounds of kissing and whatnot, but it was otherwise very quiet.
Until the sounds of silence was broken by Edd yelling out loudly, "Oh my God, Liz! Your breasts are heavenly!"
For quite a long time after that, whenever people were out with Edd at a restaurant or a cookout, someone would always push a plate of fries or something towards Edd and say, "Try these, Edd. They're heavenly."
Edd was an early home computer enthusiast. He kept up with the latest technology and software long before computers became a big thing. I did as well, but I wasn't nearly as religious as Edd. One day, Edd purchased a completely new home computer system and asked if I wanted his old one. It was a better system than the one I had, so I agreed.
Around the same time, Edd bought a new car. He had been driving his father's ancient, beat all to hell Cadillac for many years and it was falling apart. It needed too much work to be sold, so he was going to take it to the junkyard until Martin spoke up. One of Martin's things was amateur car repair and that kind of thing and he thought the old Caddy would be the perfect project car. So, Edd gave it to him.
About a year later, Edd fell on some hard times. The business he inherited from his father had been run into the ground on his watch and things were getting very grim.
He didn't ask if we could help him out. Edd would never ask anyone for help.
What he did instead was to demand we pay him the money we "owed him."
We both told him we'd never borrowed any money from him, so what was he talking about?
"The money for the computer and the Cadillac. Neither of you ever paid me for those."
"I think you gave those to us."
"No, I may have given them to you, but when you give something to someone there is an implied sale and that means when the time comes you need to pay for what you purchased."
He terminated our friendship over these matters.