Mike says it’s time to take a page out of The Mayor’s book of friendly
Given the recent political and domestic idiocy, maybe it’s time for a column about being friendly.
And nobody I know epitomizes the word “friendly” like my pal, Dick Turelli. I call him “The Mayor,” because no matter where we go or what we do, he inevitably strikes up a conversation with a total stranger, and within a few minutes, is shaking hands, slapping backs and grinning widely, just like he’s known that person all his life.
Although we’re both Illinois natives — he from the Chicago suburbs and me from near Peoria — Dick and I met in college at the University of Iowa, where we were teammates on the baseball squads of 1981 and 1982. He was our starting catcher, and although our coaches at the time didn’t GHVLJnDWH Dn RIfiFLDO FDSWDLn, Dick was that guy. He was our RnfiHOG JHnHUDO DnG WHDP OHDGHU. At least that’s how I saw it then.
In those days, we’d hang out and talk about the things that young men that age would talk about — baseball and beer. There is a third thing that guys that age talk about — young women — but Dick didn’t participate in those conversations because by the time I met him, he was already committed to the love of his life, Tia. They are still married, with two sons, and now living in Connecticut.
Dick was gregarious and friendly then, but I don’t think I noticed just how friendly a guy he was until decades later, when we reconnected for baseball reunions and other excursions.
A few years ago, Younger Daughter and I were doing college visits and had ventured up to Connecticut, to eyeball the University of Hartford. During our three days there, we had dinner with Dick and his family in his town near Hartford.
We went to one of their local restaurants, just a few miles from their home. Dick knew just about everybody in the joint, and he made the URunGV, SUHVVLnJ WKH flHVK wHDULnJ a big smile. Those that he didn’t greet before he sat down came over to our table to say hello.
Last weekend, we converged on State College, Pa., to watch the Iowa baseball team take on Penn State. Naturally, we were both decked out in our Iowa colors, so there was little doubt as to RuU DOOHJLDnFHV. ,W LV nRW WKH fiUVW time we have ventured to Happy Valley to support our alma mater at a sporting event, and we’ve always been treated with respect by the Penn State faithful.
This mutual respect that we have for the Penn State folks makes Dick even more friendly. I’m convinced that he’d be happy to stand outside the football stadium and shake hands and say hello to every one of the 100,000 people going to a game.
When we went for lunch at one of the more famous watering holes in State College last weekend, he struck up a conversation with our server, discovering that she was a professor at the university who helped out at the bar because her best friend owned it; that her husband was a baseball player and still played in an old guy’s league (that was, of course, right in Dick’s wheelhouse); and other assorted historical information about the bar and the neighborhood.
When we got to the ballpark, a Penn State student asked Dick to use her cell phone to take a picture of her and her father, and Dick happily obliged. Of course, that meant another conversation, another handshake and another slap on the back.
One of the reasons I admire Dick’s approach to being friendly is because that’s the kind of guy my dad was. Pop was never a wDOOflRwHU, DnG wKHn KH wDONHG into a room, it was a safe bet that he would be telling stories and yukking it up within minutes. It didn’t matter to him whether he knew that person or not, he was always their friend, at least for that moment.
On our way out of town at the end of the weekend, Dick and I stopped for a late lunch. There weren’t many people in the place, and as the hostess was leading us to our table, I turned around and Dick was nowhere to be found. He had met a few people at the front door and was regaling them with tales of the college baseball game we had just seen.
“Where did your friend go?” asked the hostess when we got to the table and only I sat down.
“Oh, he’s just being The Mayor,” I said.
“Mayor of what?” she countered.
“The Mayor of being friendly,” I said.
Given the times we live in, maybe we all ought to take a page out of that book.
Outta Leftfield Mike Morsch