I've never had any republican friends before. Sure
I've met a couple of right-wingers in my time, mostly tightly
strung professors employed at my Canadian college. But a red blooded,
elephant badge wearin', chad punchin' American republican? Never.
Truthfully, I thought republicans might just be a myth created
by the Canadian liberals' public relations machine to frighten
me into support. Handguns, SUV's and 40oz steaks for breakfast?
No thanks. Certainly if republicans really did exist, I never
thought I could be friends with one. That is until I met Texan
Leslie Derrick III.
I met Leslie, a.k.a. Trey, while at an orientation conference
in Japan. It turned out that we would soon be living in the same
rural locale and that we shared, all be it on different levels,
a love for surfing. In fact, both of us had come to this place
in Japan for similar reasons; work and surf.
Despite his Texas upbringing, Trey had a thick Californian accent
and was fond of stereotypical surfer sayings like, 'good times
and noodle salad' , 'geeked up' and of course the omnipresent
dosage of 'dude'. A typical Treyism would be something like, "Dude,
the waves were reelin'. Jon was so geeked up! We both charged
all day long. Good times and noodle salad dude!"
Trey is actually a very well educated and intelligent man. He
speaks the better part of three languages, has a Masters degree
in Education, and had traveled from the dirt roads of Nicaragua
to the cobblestone pathways of Paris and back to Texas again.
It is always a pleasure to talk with him about travel, books,
music, sports and just about anything other than politics.
I will never forget the first time we went on a surf trip together
because it was the first (and last) time I've ever heard anybody
I thought I respected (other than Robert Novack) say that George
W. Bush has all the qualities of a top-notch president.
"Bush is for education and he has a really strong sense
of business and that is exactly the position I come from,"
says Trey who was raised some place in Texas where I imagine,
right or wrong, that the only word worse than 'Canadian' is 'liberal'.
As much as I liked Trey up until that point, I just wasn't prepared
to let what he said slide. First of all because I totally disagreed
with him and second, well, it was pretty damn interesting to hear
somebody with whom I seemed to have so much in common, voice an
opinion so completely the opposite of my own. I asked him what
he thought of the republican's proposed multi-billion dollar Missile
Defense Program and the threat of a new nuclear arms race? Trey
said he had never heard of the program but it was about time that
the US started pumping more money into the military. WHOA! More
money into the military?
Just as the last blood rushed to fill the capillaries of my face,
the mint colored corduroy curls of the ocean spilled over a horizon
previously dominated by concrete and ashfault. All conversation
stopped. The lines on Trey's 30-year-old brow unfurled and his
eyes, until now hidden grey behind a lazy squint, widened to blue.
Thus began the silent rituals of the surfer. Trey was instantly
looking for signs of the wind direction, the height of the tide,
and the soul of the waves. Every movement, from parking the car
to putting on his wetsuit, became compact to reduce the time it
would take to get him to the water. I was more mesmerized by his
dramatic change than I was dumbfounded by his political position.
Everything but his concentration on the ocean disappeared.
While I struggled with my wetsuit, the bulky board, and his words,
I couldn't help but marvel as Trey slipped in and out from between
the waves and set up to harness the power of the ocean. It wasn't
that he was going bigger and harder than everybody else in the
water, it was the revelry at which he went about it. Later, when
he stopped long enough for me to catch up to him in the water,
I felt as awkward as a lost seal pup. When I asked sophomoric
questions about surfing basics, Trey just giggled and powered
into another wave. After a while I simply shut up, and watched
his instinctual movements.
When we got out of the water, me sputtering and exhausted and
Trey seemingly sad the swell had died down, I asked how he could
possibly think $300 billion a year was not enough to spend on
the American military? He just giggled again and said, "That
was some right, huh?
Later, as I got to know him better, Trey told me his family owned
a cache of rare guns and that tighter gun control laws were ridiculous
infringements of freedom. I told him that the nearly 12,000 deaths
a year in the US resulting from handguns made that a hard opinion
to understand. "Most of those people are drug dealers with
unregistered pistols who just end up killing each other,"
he retorted. Needless to say we got into some pretty heated arguments.
But somehow we managed to remain the best of friends.
I am not really sure that this is the most thorough character
sketch of my man Leslie. But he showed me the ocean better than
I had known it before and I remember his wife Katie telling me
that her father referred to Trey as 'St. Trey' and somehow, despite
his rupublican roots, I see just a little bit of saint in Trey
The truth is our friendship runs much deeper than politics and
all discussion of the sort was put in the backseat the minute
we arrived at the brink of the ocean. We instead turned our focus
to a place that humbled us and revealed our vulnerability rather
than our selfish, dominant natures; A place where all humans,
regardless of race, religion or nation were born. Where we are
taught that out of great conflict comes the greatest resolution.
And finally, that at the root, we have no real conflict at all.
Trey and his wife Katie now live in Costa Rica, probably surfing
everyday and I am back in Canada paying half of my salary to the
government for the foibles of sponsorship and our so-called universal
healthcare. I am scared as hell of a new arms race, the molten
projectiles from space. I hope that Trey and Katie will vote in
absentia during America's election. I hope that he will change
his voting pattern because I think the world would simply be better
served without a man hell-bent on war. Most of all, however, I
hope that I'll see my friend again someday soon in the infinite