Are you chuckling yet? Because then along came you. A big, broad meat eater with brash blond hair and ruddy skin that burns at the beach. A bundle of appetites. A full, boisterous guffaw; a man who tells knock know jokes. Hot dogs - not even East 86th Street bratwurst but mealy, greasy big guts that terrifying pink. Baseball. Gimme caps. Puns and blockbuster movies, raw tap water and six-packs. A fearless, trusting consumer who only reads labels to make sure there are plenty of additives. A fan of the open road with a passion for his pickup who thinks bicycles are for nerds. Fucks hard and talks dirty; a private though unapologetic taste for porn. Mysteries, thrillers and science fiction; a subscription to National Geographic. Barbecues on the Fourth of July and intentions, in the fullness of time, to take up golf. Delights in crappy snack foods of ever description: Burgles. Curlies. Cheesies. Squigglies - you're laughing - but I don't eat them - anything that looks less like food than packing material and at least six degrees of separation from the farm. Bruce Springsteen, the early albums, cranked up high with the truck window down and your hair flying. Sings along, off-key - how is it possible that I should be endeared by such a tin ear?Beach Boys. Elvis - never lose your roots, did you, loved plain old rock and roll. Bombast. Though not impossibly stodgy; I remember, you took a shine to Pearl Jam, which was exactly when Kevin went off them...(sorry). It just had to be noisy; you hadn't any time for my Elgar, my Leo Kottke, though you made an exception for Aaron Copeland. You wiped your eyes brusquely at Tanglewood, as if to clear gnats, hoping I didn't notice that Quiet City made you cry. And ordinary, obvious pleasure: the Bronx Zoo and the botanical gardens, the Coney Island roller coaster, the Staten Island ferry, the Empire State Building. You were the only New Yorker I'd ever met who'd actually taken the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. You dragged me along once and we were the only tourists on the boat who spoke English. Representational art - Edward Hopper. And my lord, Franklin, a Republican. A belief in a strong defense but otherwise small government and low taxes. Physically, too, you were such a surprise - yourself a strong defense. There were times you were worried that I thought you too heavy, I made so much of your size, though you weighed in a t a pretty standard 165, 170, always battling those five pounds' worth of cheddar widgets that would settle over your belt. But to me you were enormous. So sturdy and solid, so wide, so thick, none of that delicate wristy business of my imaginings. Built like an oak tree, against which I could pitch my pillow and read; mornings, I could curl into the crook of your branches. How luck we are, when we've spared what we think we want! How weary I might have grown of all those silly pots and fussy diets and how I detest the whine of sitar music!
Lionel Shriver