We have known each other since 1980, or maybe 1981, we always seem to lose track, but we know it's a long time. I first met Joe Monninger when we were living in Providence, Rhode Island. We'd get together with our spouses for long cozy dinners at their apartment on Transit Street or ours on Fox Point, and we'd talk about books we'd read, books we were writing, fly-fishing, places we wanted to travel, sharks, dogs, our families. I'd tell Mim stories--about my grandmother who'd grown up in Providence and who'd done tons of things that made for good tales. Years later they lived in Vienna and we lived in Paris, and we visited them, and once met for Thanksgiving roughly halfway in Strasbourg, where we nearly drove off a mountain in a blizzard while visiting Haut-Koenigsbourg. Time went on, marriages ended, Mim died, Joe moved to New Hampshire, where he's an English professor at Plymouth State University, I stayed in New York, and we both kept writing. Between us, we've written a shelf of novels, including one together, The Letters.
He's a touchstone, that's for sure. We love nature and tell each other what birds we've seen that week--he has cedar waxwings in the crabapple tree, I had a red-tail hawk in the park on Tenth Avenue. A shark story doesn't occur on the planet without one of us alerting the other about it. He loves his dog Laika, I love my cats Maisie, Emelina, and Tim. We still talk about writing, and recommend books-- Carson McCullers, Cormac McCarthy, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker are a few, and we both love non-fiction about nature, adventure, exploration, and he'll often slide a poem my way, and I'll do the same to him. He's one of my first readers, and I've been honored to be his. So many of his novels are favorites of mine, and I was so touched when he dedicated The World as We Know It to me.
Visiting him this week has been a great treat. What a New Hampshire idyll--a hike around Lake Tarleton, listening to owls in his back yard, watching the blood moon rise over the White Mountains, hanging out at Plymouth State, and spending time with his lovely dog Laika and kitty Foxy. I feel lucky to have such a great friend, and to have stayed close all this time.
*the photo behind Joe on his office filing cabinet is of Cheyenne--a TV character we both loved as kids, and it's autographed by Clint Walker, the actor who played him, my Christmas gift to Joe a few years back.
** Joe is also a certified New Hampshire Guide, should you ever want someone to take you hiking or show you the secret fishing spots.