Pitcher of beer
Fahreed Ali and I met for a beer at the Crest Hotel on Red River Road in Thunder Bay one fine spring day in 1972.
“Let me get this one,” insisted Fahreed as he flipped a quarter to the waitress to pay for our two glasses of draft. “Keep the change,” he smiled, waving off the nickel as a tip.
The two of us had met as students at Lakehead University and became friends during those early years of the ‘70s.
On the way to classes during the winter Fahreed was conspicuous, covered completely from the mad trapper hat with full flaps deployed and lashed down, to gigantic klodhopper insulated bush pac boots sticking out the bottom of bulging snow pants and baggy parka. He could barely fit into my Volkswagen bug for the ride to campus without first removing the mitts that stuck out his sleeves like tennis rackets.
“I don’t know how you Canadians do it,” he puzzled, shaking his head and peering through the frosted windows at the fashion conscious, scantily clad shiverers, huddling and huffing at every bus stop we passed.
Fahreed was from Trinidad and, until he landed in Canada, had never experienced temperatures colder than 65 degrees Fahrenheit. His eyes sparkled like fluffy moonlit flakes of snow as he cast off his traveling insulation to the good-natured teasing of friends. “But I am warm,” he would smile, smooth as a hot fudge sundae, so gently that he could have been singing a love song.
He was a smart cookie.
We enjoyed hours of friendship and what seemed like unending discussions... sometimes philosophy, sometimes bullsh**. Sometimes we didn’t know the difference, but it was all good.
During our session at the Crest that day, 52 years ago, in preparation for Fahreed’s return to Trinidad and a career in island banking, and my meandering to who knew where, we agreed to keep in touch and to meet again. We tore a dollar bill in half. He took one part and I took the other, and we vowed when we got together the next time we’d join the pieces and buy a whole pitcher of draft and sit right down and drink it and reminisce.
Fahreed and I haven’t been in touch since that spring, but I have carried my half in my wallet every day. I’d be willing to bet he has done the same.
When we meet again, and I’m convinced we will, we’ll have our pitcher of beer and a dandy reunion.