Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Boulder is a quiet town, and it likes it that way. Its sense of righteousness and entitlement isn't spoken so much as insinuated, with every shiny toy and privilege marched about proudly for you to see and envy. It's comfortable to live there, the steady altitude keeping the oxygen levels right about where they need to be for you to not want to move.
As an ultimate community, we're more or less obliged to fall in. We're proud to live there, and why not? Our pride has concrete foundations: we have incredible kind, gorgeous mountains and women, and sun 300 days a year. We live in idyll landscapes and carry our lives as such.
So it's easy to see when people wander from the norm, and the status quo gets pinched along the edges. Oftentimes these people get signaled out for the real spirited ribbing, because it's glaringly obvious where they've chosen to step from the path and live life their way.
My friend Adam Simon is such a person. And to be fair, for my four years as his friend and teammate, I spared him no mercy in my gentle heckling and prodding. I would never hold back a line on my tongue; I love him too much.
He makes an easy target, but it's for this fact that I admire him most. He is unflinchingly sincere, and talks his walk with every breath. To be greeted by him at a tourney (and I've seen him do this across the country, with teams from everywhere) is to feel like you're with family that you've not seen in some time. A genuine hug, an inquiry into your life, and then two ready ears taking in your every word. It makes some people uncomfortable, those that only know him as a ultimate player. That is not surprising; in our current culture and pop-adoring climate, where everything is veneer for self-service, it's an awkward moment of unfamiliarity to be in the presence of someone genuinely interested in what you have to say, giving you his full attention.
But Chicken doesn't mind that you might be wary of his embrace. He moves as if knowing that with time and patience, you will see his personality for what it is and thus be able to take his greetings at face value.
Granted, this isn't the Chicken that I first met. It'd be a mistake to think the man he is now was a series of happenstance events. He has a plan and goal and moves towards them. Where most of us keep looking for a role to fill, Chicken created a role in his head and proceeded to become it. And what progress.
Where most of you know him, on the grass in cleats, there can be no debate about his skill. He was a screamy gyroscope of energy when i first met him, prone to meltdowns on the field or sideline, hard on his teammates and even harder on himself. He'd be so eager to produce and contribute on the field that he was often beat, lunging on the mark, getting taken deep, or forcing a throw hastily launched. He had high standards for himself and took his failures personally.
But he never diminished those standards. Rather, he went and did off the field what was necessary so he could live up to them. He went and threw when most of us sat dizzy-headed in front of a television at the Arnett House. He was the one racing Beau and Mangry at the end of practices, throwing in a few sprints at the end of workouts for gratuity. And he never let the ribbing and playful banter get in the way of his improvement.
You hear a lot less of that now around him, I guarantee you. Now the oohs and ahhs from the crowd are echoes to his own teammates' cheers with every clutch play, every big throw, every tenacious D he earns on the field.
His style off the field, an orchidaceous exercise in fashion, can also be open to criticism. But if you know him, you know he picked out today's underwear a week in advance, and that every garment and facial hair is there with a reason and purpose. He is methodical and precise. If fashion really is the attempt to realize art in living forms, he takes his time setting up his canvas to make sure the message he's putting out is as he wants it. You may make fun of him when you see what he has on, but you probably look shlubby by his side.
I know that his quest to continually better himself costs him stress and energy as he started applying to graduate schools. It was long and trying and certainly not easy. But he never gave up, and he continues to march forward, even if it has taken him away from Boulder.
I am sad to see him leave Colorado, even though I no longer live there myself. Us Boulderites, even as we poke him for our amusement, know we need him to keep life fresh, to stand so starkly on his own that we are forced to measure the world, even for a moment, from his eyes. And it's that different perspective, and his desire to always improve who he is, that will be most missed. Coco Chanel said, "in order to be irreplaceable one must always be different."
There is only one Chicken and I am glad to be his friend.