Eleven years ago, Jonathan Long (Jonny) and I invented a communication process known as the Sixty-Second Phone Call (footnote below on who he is). But this is not about Jonny. It is about Jonathan Ponder, also known as Jon.
The movie Chinatown is not a Christmas movie. It takes place in California. It is considered by some to be the finest screenplay ever written. I don’t agree, I met Jon there. Not in the town of Los Angeles, but in a city a short seventeen-hour drive away, in College Place, Washington, where he was attending college, as was I. We studied Odysseus, but not together, and then ran into each other randomly in a city adjacent to Los Angeles much later, so the college part above is largely irrelevant. Also, he played bass guitar.
He was friends with my sister and friends with friends (see: tagged people), but then I stole him so we could hang out without intermediaries.
Sometimes, good friends talk every day.
And sometimes, good friends talk every several months.
Along with Jeremy Long, whose relationship to me is difficult to simplify in a single post, although he also has played bass guitar and knew Lance (see footnote below), Jon has been the most fun Radiohead deconstructionizing conversationalist I have known in the past 26 years (I am older than 26). I have a vivid memory of riding in the passenger seat of a blue car (I think) with him driving (reasonably certain it was him) and discussing Amnesiac (possibly was Kid A). I can remember with great clarity the neighbourhood we were passing through; it was in California, or a neighboring state, and it was definitely a hot day.
He introduced me to a group of film and book geeks who met weekly to watch, break down, and discuss Westerns. I saw Once Upon a Time in the West for the first time there, which is my very favourite Western ever and will change the way you think of Henry Fonda, but Jon was not there. I don’t know where he was that week. I’ve always wondered. He he may have been writing poetry or playing guitar at Jazz ‘n Java. If the NSA ever releases all their surveillance and drone footage (of course it exists), I’ll check to find out.
When I moved to Montana for grad school, and me and Becca’s apartment had concrete floors, then Jon said: I’m coming too.
He did not say that. But he did come visit, and it snowed, we hiked, and he bought the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Munki on CD and then left it at our apartment, where I accidentally copied it before mailing to him. Birthday is still my fourth favourite song of theirs. I do not know what he would rate the album at this point, but it’s much better than the atrocious and disappointing one they released last year. But I don’t know, Jon might love it, we haven’t texted back and forth about it yet. We might never. He collects and invests in vinyl treasures and is focused on more roots music at this point, although we still have great texts about The New Pornographers and other shared poppy faves.
I got a package awhile back from him that contained books. He is one of the remaining friends I have who loves books more than myself, and possibly more, occasionally. They were some of his picks to share, that I will not divulge, except to say that Jonathan Franzen was in there twice and one of them is not the book you might think it was. I slowly savored and worked my way through them, and I especially loved How to be Alone.
He gave me a collection of LPs when he visited several months ago. He had been slowly assembling them, along with the coolest and greatest accompanying handwritten liner notes, and it is one of the most meaningful and awesomest presents I have received. A reason for every one.
Sometimes we exchange voicemails instead of actually talking, and I will say that we are both very, very good at leaving well-crafted voicemails that you would not ever want to delete. We do not talk every day, but I think I am going to call him next month, or in a month soon thereafter. And we will pick right up where we were last, which was something important to do with literature or music or philosophy, and someday he will have listened to Sharon Van Etten and I will have watched The Wire and we can compare notes.
Until then, I will look forward to ignoring his phone call and letting it go to voicemail so I can listen to it at my leisure, and prepare to call him back with a call he can ignore and let go to voicemail, and...
...that is a friend I am happy to have be a friend. A good friend for a long time in the past and far into the future.
The easiest way to frame who Jonathan Long is in relation to me is this: Jonny (his nickname) had a basketball coach in high school whose name was Lance. Lance has gone to see the Los Angeles Dodgers in L.A. (a.k.a. Los Angeles). They are a baseball team apparently. Jonny used to play baseball in a town I also grew up in - Tillamook, Oregon - which is north of Los Angeles. The California Los Angeles, not the other one. When Lance saw the Dodgers play in Los Angeles, he did not see Jonny, but before that, he had stayed with Jonny’s brother Jamey in Arizona, which is where certain baseball teams practice their spring training baseball practice to be ready for baseball. Jamey also played baseball, but not basketball for Lance’s basketball team in Portland, Oregon, which is north of Los Angeles, east of Portland, and west of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The first time I met Lance, I don’t remember, but the second I met him I do. He is a fine fellow, and I had known Jonny before that, and before he played baseball, as we had grown up in adjacent bedrooms in the same household, as we shared parents, although my room was on the bottom floor. So Lance is the connecting thread, aside from Jonny being my brother (and Jamey’s). I never played basketball for Lance, but I have known people who did, and some live in states east of the Mississippi now, which is east of Los Angeles and Portland. Jonny and Jon Ponder have met as well, though never played baseball together, to my knowledge.