Thursday, December 11, 2008

Goodbye, Jimbo

I visited Detroit Police Headquarters at 1300 Beaubien today, after lunch with my friend, Bob Agacinski at the Old Shilellagh---the bar in downtown Detroit where we pay off most of our bets, the ones we use to give us an excuse to go out to lunch. It was the first time I'd been back to the Police Gym since July 1st. I came to clean out my locker...and to say a last goodbye.

Bob and I have been running buddies for almost thirty years, dating from 1980---when I was a new prosecutor and he, having been around for several years before that, was one of the young "old veterans." We've each gone on to a measure of professional and personal success together---Bob as a crackerjack trial prosecutor, me as a somewhat well-regarded appellate lawyer. But somehow, we always seemed to make time to exercise together.

At least, until last July 1st.

There was a third member of our team. Jim Metz was a funny, mischievous, and charming member of the office who, upon rejoining the Office after a stint as a private lawyer, started running with us. We'd try to go every day. )Well, every day we couldn't think up an excuse). And between the three of us, we usually managed one person's worth of gumption...which was enough to guilt all three of us into going. We preferred the police gym for a couple of reasons: it was dirty, which cut down on the crowds, and meant we wouldn't have to share the running track with any real athletes; and it was free. More importantly, it was an excuse to sit around and talk, while trying to work up the ambition to start jogging---about life, love, politics, and anything that happend to pique our interest. And, for nearly twenty years, we managed to keep each other healthy, happy, and reasonably fit.

July 1st started out like any other run: we sat; stretched; talked...and, reluctantly got onto the track to run.

This time, though, the run lasted less than half a mile. Jim collapsed as he rounded a turn in the track, and died as we tried to save him.

Today was the first time I'd returned to the gym since that day. In many respects, I was probably putting it off...knowing that to clean out my locker meant that Jim was really gone, and that we'd simply have to move on. So, I stuffed my gear into three plastic bags and left.

But before leaving, I went back up to the running track, one last time. It looks just the same: the track was still dusty and old; the basketball courts, crinkled and wavy from the water dripping down from the leaking roof, still lay unused. And the stairs still creak when you climb them.

I rounded the track once, pausing at the spot where Jim breathed his last. And then, I left.

Bob and I are planning on resuming our exercise the downtown YMCA, right after the first of the year. It's a lush, well-run facility---without grime, without crystalized drippings from the leaking water pipes, and with a reliable supply of hot water for the showers. Life, after all, must go on.

But, it won't be the same.

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