I happen to like this photo of Tom, thank you very much. He hates it. But he never saw it for what it is. Itís a candid shot that captures his intense joy and delight during the proverbial ďmealtimeĒ, which is a good representation of my friendship with Tom.
My friendship, all in all, was centered around mealtimes. Tom brought people together with the sit-down family style meals, whether in a restaurant or home cooked by himself. Tom knew food well and loved cooking, almost as much as he loved eating. He could watch a cooking show on T.V. and go into the kitchen and just recreate it. He was very talented that way. The social aspect to the mealtime always provided poignant memories for everyone involved, with lots of laughter, bantering back and forth, joking, story telling, word play, and if it was a home cooked meal, always going back for seconds, if there was any.
One of Tomís common laments was to spend all day cooking a beautiful meal only to watch it get gobbled down in a matter of minutes. Personally, I think that was as much a matter of great pride as it was a torchsong.
I first met Tom the fall of 1991 when I decided to live in Fairbanks over the winter rather than return to Anchorage or Seattle. My friend Tim suggested I connect with his friend Tom, who worked at The House Of Wood Art Gallery. Iíd swing by the shop during the day and, if Tom wasnít helping a customer, Iíd chat with him for a few minutes before continuing on with my day. Sometimes Tom would invite me to the downstairs of the shop where Iíd watch him and Donald Wood, friend and owner, frame art pieces. I took to both Donald and Tom right away, and especially to Tom for his friendly nature, cordial manners and keen sense of humor. I always enjoyed talking to Tom, who told good story. A couple invitations to his apartment off Chena Pump Road overlooking the beautiful Tanana River valley, and we became friends.
I worked for Tom as a driver for his and Art Cookís business Parks Highway Express, a shuttle bus service between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Valdez, and Dawson City. I drove the Parks Highway, between Fairbanks and Anchorage. Although I already had a Class A CDL after having been a semi-truck driver, Tom taught me a lot about customer service, comfort, and some very valuable tips on how to drive, professionally. Smooth starts, smooth stops, no jerking actions, nothing crazy like passing three cars in a row on the highway, etc. These are skills I carry with me today.
Iíll miss Tom. I always wanted to be part of his inner circle, and I think eventually that may have been, but I think he truly appreciated my friendship as it was as I did his. I happen to be of the ilk that we will meet again in some shape or form, whether itís spirit puree of the afterlife or soup dí members-of-the-next-phase, I'll hear his laugh again. As for now, for me it remains the best memory ever.