Editor’s note: Co-Publisher and Bottle Washer Jack Clark is taking the column this week.
My very good friend, Jeff Meltzer, turns 76 on Monday. Some of you know him as the guy with the l-o-n-g white beard who has installed many a telephone system for businesses and agencies up here on the Hill.
He also knows everything there is to know about maintaining the building occupied by Restaurant Gastrognome.
Jeff has much longer-established friends than I am —Lanny Wagstaff, for one, about 60 years now. And another is L.V. Silvernail.
Jeff and L.V. met in their very early 20s. Jeff had just finished a stint with the 101st Airborne and L.V. was a recent service vet, too.
They met while taking a class at a community college in San Diego, and one afternoon, they went for a beer at a local establishment. They showed their IDs to the bartender, who quietly disappeared to be replaced by the bouncer.
“You guys are going to have to leave,” he said. Jeff and L.V. looked at each other. “Why? What did we do?” they asked. “You swapped IDs on our bartender,” he replied. “One of you isn’t 21, so you switched IDs when you showed them to her.”
Jeff and L.V. checked their IDs, which showed they had each been born on July 24, 1941. The bouncer apologized and their beers were free that day.
After that, Jeff and L.V. remained friends. For a longtime each year, they celebrated their same-date birthday at the home of one of their families. So their folks got to know each other well, too.
Well, many years later, Jeff’s father died, and so did L.V.’s mother. ... And? ... Yup, you guessed it. Jeff and L.V. became step-brothers with the same birthdate.
If that bartender hadn’t complained to that bouncer that day, it’s likely L.V.’s dad would not have met Jeff’s mother.
L.V. still lives down south, and Jeff and wife Nancy have been Idyllwilders for decades. But Jeff and L.V. still try to get together on their birthday, and they’re trying again this year in Idyllwild.
Jeff and Nancy have done a heroic job of fighting off several medical challenges in recent years, particularly this past spring when it took a serious heart surgery and two months in the hospital to get Jeff vertical again.
All of Jeff’s friends are grateful for how that turned out. I’m one of them.
So, if sometime this summer you see two old guys enjoying Cobb salads at the Gastrognome’s outdoor table no. 51, one of them will be a very thankful me.