This is not an exit

Good-bye, old friend, and may the Force be with you

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

So it’s come to this.

It’s been nearly a year since one of my best friends told me he’d be entering the Peace Corps. “Oh, idealistic Mario,” I thought. After all, here was a guy who had just graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in anthropology and worshipped Indiana Jones.

He worked at a local organic grocery store and refused to wear deodorant because it made him smell “artificial.” It was just as common to see the guy brewing homemade applesauce in our apartment as it was to catch him reading a book under a tree.

Now, he’s less than 48 hours from a two-year trip to Mali in Africa. I know how absolutely terrified and excited he is, but that mixture should be about 20/80. Why?

Because he was made for this job.

I can’t think of anyone who’s as dedicated to understanding people and reconnecting with nature as this guy. Well, I can, but most of those people are bat-shit crazy and Mario’s a nice middle-ground.

Look at him here, all natural and stuff:

For those who know Mario Battaglia, this is all easy to picture. He’s the most genuine person you’ve ever met and is probably the one friend you’ve never gone out of your way to avoid.

That’s just who he is.

I’ve known Mario for nearly ten years and I can’t remember a single instance where A) I was unhappy around the guy or B) He wasn’t able to cheer me up. I’m sure many of the B scenarios weren’t intentional, either. But, once again, that’s just who he is.

He’s a friend when you need him to be and even when you consider him your mortal enemy. (I’ve never truly considered Mr. Battaglia an enemy, it’s an occurrence exclusive to the digital world, in particular during Smash Bros. get-togethers.)

 

One of his more baffling moments. What is he doing, anyway?

Perhaps the one thing for which Mr. Battaglia is most famous, at least within the close circle of friends who once called themselves Frisbee Kids, is “Mario Time,” a concept that has since become known as “Battaglia Time.” Punctuality, for whatever reason, just doesn’t run in the family.

Let me paint a picture:

It’s 2005 and our senior year of high school. We’re all gathering to watch a movie at a friend’s house and I call Mario. “That sounds great! I’ll see you guys in five minutes!” he says. After waiting five minutes, we start without him. Soon, half an hour’s gone by.

No sign of Mario.

Then, the popcorn runs out.

No sign of Mario.

The movie ends.

No sign of Mario.

As we say our good-byes and plan the next get-together, we hear a ratty old pickup truck pull up to the house. “Hey, guys!” he shouts jovially as we’re walking down the driveway. “What are we doin’?”

We stare at him blankly as the same thought forms in each of our minds: “Damn Mario Time.”

And that truck!

That white Mazda pickup went on plenty of pizza runs, carried four of us to Lincoln City on a day when the sneaker waves were particularly active, trekked over solid ice, nearly died countless times because of the water in the radiator — somebody thought it was just as good as coolant — and nearly sliced off my finger when Mario and I were moving in together.

The scar on my finger still sears a bit on cold days or when it’s hit particularly hard by a Frisbee. Sometimes it even hurts when I dream about the truck. In a way, that white Mazda is the Voldemort to my Harry Potter, but that’s neither here nor there.

I can’t think of anyone who’s both baffled me nor kept me grounded as well as Mario Battaglia. He pushed me and encouraged me when I decided to go back to school, when I applied for and received the internship that solidified my career path and when I was hired for the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had.

He was there for me through break-ups and other crises. He was always there when I needed him most and, for that, I remain forever grateful.

When Mario approached me to draft a letter of recommendation for his Peace Corps application, there was no shortage of things for me to write about. While most of them were inappropriate, I’d say I did a pretty good job of hiding his shame.

 

Take off that silly-ass hat.

And although I made sure to focus on his world view and dedication to understanding human nature, this is what I think of when Mario comes to mind:

• “Kids,” “Electric Feel” and all things Santogold — or is it Santigold? — playing on a loop all the live-long day
• Dirty puns with nearly no base in reality
• Made-up board games with no coherent rules whatsoever
• The laughs
• Stumpy
• Anus hat
• Countless conversations made up of nothing but references or allusions to Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or a number of other nerd-tastic works

So, Mario, while I’ll miss you more than this post could ever convey, I’m more excited for the doors your stint in the Peace Corps will open for you. As the old adage goes: “This isn’t good-bye, it’s just see you later.”

Wherever you are and wherever you may go, we’ll always be that dirty hippy and the crotchety old journalist, a classic odd couple. Best of luck, old friend.

Let me sum up my feelings for you and your future in one word and a way that will forever remind me of you:
“Wahooooooo!”

Catch you on the other side of this amazing journey, buddy.

 

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