August 17th, 1994. It’s a day that I remember fondly for two reasons. First was the severe storm that raked portions of northwest Oklahoma from late morning into the early evening, featuring winds over 110 mph, which was blowing hail to the size of softballs (and, in at least one case, the size of a football) horizontally. As a weather wonk, a storm like this in the middle of August is a surprise bonus in the middle of the long, hot summer. While I don’t root for damage or seeing people hurt, the ferocity of such a storm is always a thrill.
The storm lost intensity as the worst of it missed Oklahoma City and basically dumped a lot of rain on rush hour. What this meant for me was a washed out bike ride and an opportunity to instead meet my friends Steve, Lacy, and Penny for drinks at VZD’s.
While Steve and Penny were printers and Lacy and I were ad types, we were all friends who shared the same sense of humor and twisted world view. Instead of getting together to bitch about our jobs or our clients, as so often happened with industry people, we were friends who generally shared the same occupation who just enjoyed each other’s company (and sense of humor and twisted world view). Though we’d all gotten together separately for lunch or drinks, this was the first time we all managed to get out together.
I seem to recall it was just going to be a drink or two but, very quickly it was obvious that we were going to have too much fun to stop so early. Blue Sapphire martinis were the order of the day and the evening turned into a wonderful confluence of four sharp witted people sharing all their wildest observations, their best jokes and, occasionally, something that didn’t elicit laughter (rare though it might have been). Ultimately, it was one of those nights that you don’t recall much of the next morning, but remember forever. Four people, in rare form, doing nothing but spending a few hours together, enjoying cocktails, enjoying each other’s company, and making each other laugh (hysterically).
Finally, the evening had to end and I remember we all checked each other in the parking lot to insure everyone was safe to drive home. Yes, this was the equivalent of the inmates running the asylum, but it worked for us that night, and we all got home safe, as the follow up calls to each other the next morning confirmed. I seem to remember heading to the Varsity for one or two more afterwards, but it was a sad follow-up to where I’d just been.
It was such a wonderful night that we all made a pledge to do it again. We all met individually for lunch or drinks, but the four of us never again got together. It was probably a good thing anyway, as nothing would have ever compared to the indescribable magic of that night.
A few years later, Penny decided to cast her lot in San Francisco, so the old gang of mine was never able to get back together. Sadly, it became an impossibility when Penny passed away in July 2007 after a long, valiant battle with breast cancer.
Till my dying day, that night will be the fondest memory I carry of Penny, hazy though it may be. In retrospect, it was her magnetism that brought us all together and it was her anything-goes, love of life that we all fed off of that night. August 17th, 1994 was 15 years ago and Penny’s been gone for two years. And I remember Penny, and that night, like it was yesterday.