Gene Robinson

I met Gene Robinson a year ago and haven’t seen him since.

He came at me the way a hummingbird zips up to a flower, flits around from blossom to blossom and then is gone before you can take its picture.

“Merci beaucoup,” he said cheerfully as I left a box store and held the door open for him. I turned to him, smiled and said, “You’re welcome!”

“Do you speak French?” he asked.

“No, but I know what you said,” I replied with my smile still in place, and that was all it took.

Before he told me his name Gene Robinson told me he’s 73 years old. “Really?” It surprised me. “I’m 66 and I look like your grandpa.” He grinned and acknowledged that he doesn’t have much gray hair and that his face is portly enough to avoid creasing. Then he explained that his mother was white and his father was black. “I got my dark complexion from my father,” he said. This also surprised me because he was about as black as black skinned people get. I didn’t say that, of course, but I couldn’t have if I had wanted to because Gene kept talking.

“My mother’s people were from France,” Gene told me. “That’s why I spoke to you in French.”

Gene is the kind of person you meet throughout the South. He’s a talker and he never met a stranger. I know you can find those people everywhere but there are many more of them here in Texas than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. If you’re in a line of three people at Kroger you’ll be swapping recipes by the time you reach the checkstand.

Gene told me he was born and raised in New York City and that he has lived all over the country, and he continued to flit from topic to topic for another three or four minutes.

There we were, two elderly men who had never met standing on a sidewalk smiling and looking each other in the eye.

It was weird but oddly exhilarating.

Then Gene seemed to be finished.

“Well, I got other things I need to do,” he said, “so I guess I’ll say goodbye to you. It was nice meeting you. My wife says I talk too much. She says, ‘You’re always talking to total strangers as if you were their best friend. Why do you do that?’ I tell her I don’t know. I just like people, I guess.

Then Gene stuck out his hand and told me his name. I took it and told him mine.

“Merci beaucoup, David,” he laughed. Then he waved and walked away.

Five minutes a year ago. I still miss him.

Happy New Day!


I don’t get it.

Don’t misunderstand. I enjoy a good party like most people. I have spent New Year’s Eves past dressed up at fancy hotels and private homes, eating, drinking and wearing silly hats like everyone else.

I just don’t get it.

I wasn’t going to mention it because most of my friends think my attitude is a bit odd. Some think I’m just a grumpy old fart but I have no problem with people ringing in the new year. And, my inability to embrace the concept is nothing new. I’ve always thought it was weird.

“Sorry. I didn’t catch your name.”

First of all, it’s symbolic which means its romanticizing something that’s not a big deal if you think about it. Seriously, we celebrate something that happens every 24 hours: midnight. A new day. Woo-hoo! Let’s have another drink and start kissing total strangers.

Sorry — I promised myself I wouldn’t get sarcastic.?

The other thing I notice every year is all the people who say, “Let’s hope next year is better.” As a generalization, what was wrong with the last year? I mean, if you had a terrible personal tragedy I understand and certainly sympathize with the wish that next year will be better. In the bigger picture, though, I’m willing to stick my neck out and say the world will pretty much be the same on Monday as it was Sunday.

Sorry — I promised myself I wouldn’t get sarcastic.

We don’t even use paper calendars anymore, so we can’t use the old movie graphics of the days and months blowing away in the winds of old man time.

And that’s another thing: old man time and baby new year. Those human depictions of a human construct is part of the problem.

Okay, it’s not really a problem. I wish you a happy new year, a better year, I really do. And if you want to party like it’s 1999 I would never discourage you. Have fun. Just be safe and mind your manners.

If you need a sitter, give me a call.

Happy New Day.