Monday, July 6, 2009


"Let’s not take ourselves so seriously that we forget to laugh." - Chris Palmer, Laughter, Comedy and Environmental Activism, March 2009.
"I have just one question, Doug. What the fuck?"

Doug had walked over to shake my hand at the reception following a memorial service for our mutual friend, Craig. We had been the closest of friends for many years. But Doug doesn't talk to me any more. I thought, what better time to put aside the past? Doug thought otherwise. "Not here. This isn't the time," he hissed.

I had traveled 3,000 miles from Oregon to be in Sterling, Virginia. "Seems to me this is it," I replied. Doug turned on his heel and disappeared.

We once worked together at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). I was flattered to be the only work colleague invited to his wedding some years back. We had biked together most lunch hours and I knew much of his courtship, marriage and sad, too-soon divorce. Now he appeared to hate me.

"Even if my offense was as heinous as Doug believes, does this make sense?" I had asked friends over lunch two weeks earlier when I arrived in Washington, DC. "It's not like he has friends to burn."

I sure don't. I had come back to the East Coast to see Craig before he died. And while losing one irreplaceable friend, I wanted to refresh as many other East Coast friendships as I could in two weeks. So I was sad about Doug. He is a weird guy. Artistic. I always liked that about him. He made life more interesting and that's no small thing.

Doug's snit was all about a picture. Actually, a parody of a picture. Here's the story: Years back, Doug got himself featured in a little blurb with his picture in Men's Health magazine. I don't remember why. Someone -- probably me, but I don't recall -- took Doug's head and Photoshopped it onto the bodybuilder hunk on the magazine's cover. Ha-ha. Everyone had a good laugh.

Fast-forward to last October. No one's laughing much. Presidential politics is on the big stage and Sarah Palin has just entered, stage far right. Over at NWF everyone is obsessed with global warming; Doug's job is to get his colleagues in the wildlife science profession to take the crisis seriously. It's a group that tends to be real conservative, but Doug had just made a huge step forward. The Wildlife Society had devoted an entire issue of its journal to climate change. In it Doug wrote: "Our profession is facing a problem that will likely become the single most important factor to affect wildlife since the emergence of our species."

Justifiably proud, Doug had sent me a copy. There he was in full color on the cover along with a couple of geeky-looking federal biologists, the U.S. Capitol in the background. "Don't get any ideas, like with the Men's Health thing," he said in his attached note.

Hmmm, I thought. I've got a little time...

So you decide. Is it funny? I'll tell you this: it still makes me grin.



Doug seemed mildly upset when he responded to my email with the picture. But after he started getting email cracks from other mutual acquaintances (I sent it to 20 or 30 of our closest friends), he flipped out. His next email ranted about how this time I had gone too far, way over the line, etc. Best I can recall, it was something about how this was just what The Wildlife Society was afraid of: being sullied by partisan politics. Really? Really, that was it?

Immediately I sent everyone an email explaining that Doug was not amused and asking them to please not forward the picture. I sent Doug an apology, telling him that I meant no offense. It was our last communication until our encounter at Craig's memorial service.

Sarah Palin has resigned as governor of Alaska. Craig's wife, Jean, told me that her relatives in Alaska still believe Palin can do no wrong. They continued to praise her even after the election in a note at the bottom of their Christmas letter. Some people just don't know a joke when they see one.

Next: "Craig"

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1 comment:

  1. This is Tom, an old friend from Lansing. Wayne and I go back at least to 1968. Resisted the draft and the war together. I don't know Doug or any of your Washington friends, Wayne, but I will say one thing: you always were rather aggessive in your teasing. Some people react with "well that's Wayne being Wayne" and some people take offense.

    And what is it with guys our age dying young? I can count 7 friends in their 50's or 60's who've passed awy in the past couple of years.
    Tom Coffield