It’s funny how life seems to work in circles and seemingly little things are born out of necessity and grow to take on a life of their own. Things like the beginning of lifelong friendships like the one I’ve had with Davy or nicknames like “radrich” (maybe not a nickname so much as an alter ego). Actually my first name is Chris and my last name is Richards. My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Drogt started calling me “Radical Richards” because I was way into BMX. The real reason he started calling me that was because my best friend and arch nemesis, Davy, was also in my class and also way into BMX. Davy’s dad had bought him the latest and greatest Diamond Back and Mr Drogt just started calling him “Diamond Dave” one day. Having recognized the fierce competition that existed between us he came up with “Radical Richards” only after he started calling Davy “Diamond Dave”. Having a nickname for Davy and not for me would manifest itself into fist fights between us on the playground during a bout of kickball, dodge ball or that game boys play where they just run around and knock each other down. Without a nickname for me, Davy would have thrown “Diamond Dave” around the school and brag that Mr. Drogt had given him a nickname, claiming superiority and I suppose I wouldn’t have tolerated such nonsense. The hierarchy of the 6th grade alpha male is a tricky one to navigate and to be at the top, one had to elbow and claw their way up there and not be afraid to punch or be punched in order to stay there. And Davy and I got into many fist fights trying to stay at the top of that hierarchy. So realizing this, Mr Drogt came up with my moniker. Even once I had my nickname Davy always made a point to say that Mr. Drogt gave him a nickname first and the way he looked me in the eyes and raised his eyebrows always put me in my place. There was nothing I could say and we both knew it. I did much more with my nickname than Davy did and at the end of that year and every year after I penned “Radical Richards” in any yearbook that I signed. Eventually it shortened to RadRich and here we are today. Davy is still a friend of mine and that story is just way too crazy, not all details appropriate to list here.
I can remember the first time I saw Davy. We were both in 1st grade and our classrooms were on opposite ends of Turner grade school. The cafeteria where all three 1st grade classes ate together was in the middle of the school and several days after the school year started this red headed kid appeared one day and we ended up in line together the both of us looking each other up and down, each sizing up the other. If we were dogs we would have walked in circles sniffing each other. He told me his name was Davy and I told him I was Chris and that was that but there was something there that let each of us know the other was a force to be reckoned with. Soon after all three classes met for gym on the playground. Usually all classes had their own gym time but the teachers needed to attend some conference so on that day gym was a way to babysit us. That day we did several types of relay races and the end would be an all out race to see who was fastest. I was generally the fastest when it came to these things but on this day the red headed stranger got the best of me…barely. It was on like Donkey Kong. An immediate rematch was set up for the next recess and we lined up side by side for an all out dash across half the playground from the east wall to where the basketball court ends. I did not let him catch me off guard this time and I got the best of him…barely. This went on several more times over the next few days and weeks, all races ending closely with a different winner each time and the loser calling for a rematch to even the score on the next race. Being the fastest is one thing but on an elementary playground the game of kickball is king and each recess was a chance for bragging rights. It was never fair if Davy and I were on the same team so teachers usually made us both captains to put us on opposite sides and each game was epic, nothing but being on the winning team mattered. There were only 3 kids in my elementary career that kicked the ball over the “big fence” and Davy was one of them. I hit the top of the bar many times but it never went over, something Davy reminds me of to this day. We were evenly matched in all sports and remained extremely competitive throughout the years making us the best of friends….and brothers. That competition spilled into all areas of life and once girls came onto the scene, forget about it. There were many times being so competitive led to fist fights and we each got our share of cuts and bruises from other one but five minutes later we were always best of friends again. But as much as we fought I remember times that we both compromised to let the other take a winning shot or bat last in an important game and share in the glory of victory. We were still happy for the others accomplishments.
Davy was born on Christmas day 1971 and I was born 2 days later so we both share that Capricornian drive for success but it turns out that we were both born in the same hospital. We didn’t realize this until the 6th grade when his mom happened to ask me which hospital I was born in. When she found out she got up and went to her room and came back with a picture from the hospital nursery and it turns out that the boy laying next to Davy wrapped in a blue blanket was me. It also turns out that on the morning of December 27th Davy was the only boy in a nursery of 8 newborn girls. Later that night I joined him and the others and I suppose our quest to be the alpha male began there. It’s interesting how it didn’t fully manifest itself until years later in a random twist of fate. Both our mothers remember that there was only one other boy in that hospital nursery so many years ago but they do not remember meeting at the time. Davy’s parents did not even live near us and it just happened that they moved into the same school district 6 years later and buy a house down the street from ours. Davy and I also just happened to be in the same classroom in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade.
Junior and senior high were rough on Davy as his parents split and he was torn into new directions. We still hung out frequently as he moved from school to school. He always ended up in the wrong crowd but we still remained close friends. He struggled and I helped him through some rough times. In my college years, unfortunate circumstances led to a falling out and I did not hear from Davy for 17 years, often wondering if he was even alive. Last year I got a random message on Facebook from Davy and I called him immediately. We caught each other up on 17 years and it turns out after many moves with the prominent company he works for he is doing very well and living in Kansas City with his wife of 11 years and their 2 kids. He apologized although I had forgiven him wholeheartedly in my mind years ago and was not carrying any grudges. He is, after all, my oldest friend. He goes by David now but I refuse to call him anything but Davy. We meet up every time I am in Kansas City and go down memory lane and drive through the old neighborhoods we used to terrorize as kids and teenagers.
Yep…it’s funny how life seems to work in circles.