The year is 2029 and my wife and I have taken our children on a camping trip deep into the Rocky Mountains. It’s starting to get a little late and we’ve just finished a hearty supper. We’re now sitting around the campfire (that I started myself, thank you very much!) and our kids want to hear a story.
They quickly interrupt me when I start in about the Phillies’ four-peat from 2008-11 for the sixteen-billionth time. They roll their eyes and groan just seconds into my suggestions as to how I could have saved NBC from going under back in 2013. They want a story from my youth. A personal story. It takes me a moment to find an age-appropriate one, but then it hits me: I will tell them the Legend of Shareef. “Waaaay back in 2009…”
One of the biggest reasons my Fiancé and I decided that it was best for me to move out to Colorado before her is because of how socially stunted I can be.
She can make life-long friends with new people instantly. Needless to say, it takes me a little longer – like years or even decades. Case in point: of the seven guys that are going to be groomsmen in my wedding next month, I’ve known all of them, except one, for more than 10 years.
My Fiancé has a hundred good friends, I have seven close friends; that’s just how we are and it works for us.
So if we had moved out here together after the wedding, she would have a legion of people to hang out with within a week and I would know no one. Honestly, we talked about it, that’s one of the real reasons why I came out first.
Six months in, I have met some really cool people that I l would socialize with in a moment’s notice, but there’s really only two new guys that I would say I regularly hang out with so far (told ya, it takes me a while).
I met my buddy, Aarron, in the trenches at Dish – wartime experience has the ability to draw people together. And then my buddy Dan moved out to Denver from my neck of the woods back in Virginia in late March. I had actually worked for Dan’s parents in their deli shop a couple of years ago, but he and I weren’t that close back then.
Dan stayed with me in my apartment for a few weeks when he first got out here until he got himself on his own feet but we have just kept hanging out, along with Aarron, ever since.
The three of us have all talked about it, and if you had told any of us a year ago that we would be hanging out with the other two a year ago, there is no way we would have believed it. We really are an odd mix-match of personalities. A real unsavory, rag-tag group.
The Rag Pack, if you will.
But a fresh perspective – and even loneliness – have a way of changing things (more on that in a minute). So, we’ve just been hanging out for the past couple of months, and it had just been the three of us; but we would soon welcome a mythic fourth to our group.
There’s no way to know when it’s going to happen. You can’t expect it and you certainly can’t ask for it. There is no magic potion or elixir. The best you can do is just wait and hope, and more often than not, you will get lucky and he will show up and change your life forever.
Every so often, there is just enough magic in the moonlight and our good friend Dan undergoes the most magical transformation and turns into a being that is more than a man but less than a god.
He becomes Shareef.
Let me say this first: you have truly partied – nay, lived – until you have spent an evening in the presence of Shareef.
Shareef will go wherever the night takes him. He makes no plans and will say “no” to nothing. He makes dreams come true and women flock to him.
In a word, the whole experience is surreal.
So how did Dan Perez, whose family is from New York and CUBA, become Shareef? When clean-cut Dan moved out to Denver, he decided to grow his beard out indefinitely. We all went out to an outdoor soccer game on a cold night back in April and Dan wore a beanie cap to keep warm. With his dark skin, the heavy dark beard and his beanie cap, he legitimately looked a middle-eastern man and even got “randomly” searched by the stadium security.
Thus “Shareef” was born.
From then on, we noticed as our nights would go on, Dan would become more relaxed and more adventurous. And not in some sophomoric, fraternal sense. Shareef is a gentleman that just knows how to live.
What Shareef gets that no one else I’ve ever met has come close to gotten (including myself) is that you can’t be afraid of the consequences.
He’s not afraid to take a chance on anything.
He regularly gets hit on by hot chicks, he’s been shot down by a lonely fat chick, he’s caught a home run ball at a Rockies game, and he’s lost $20 in under 10 seconds at a slot machine.
Nothing’s off the table when Shareef’s around.
With every new story, Aarron and I joke that “legend of Shareef grows” but he hit mythic status this past Thursday night.
The three of us get together at a local sports bar for Team Trivia every Thursday and then stick around to hang out and watch whatever game may still be on. This past week was shaping up to be no different than any other, until we were playing a little pool and we noticed a group of people across the room.
There were five people in the group – two guys and three girls – and it was obvious that two of the guys were dating two of the girls, meaning that there was one girl by herself. She was definitely Girl-Next-Door cute and didn’t seem to mind at all being a fifth wheel (it’s always cool when girls can just go out and have a good time and not seem all moody that they’re not with someone and ruin the night for everyone).
I must add in that Shareef had yet to make an appearance yet. We were just having a good time hanging with Dan, but in a moment's notice the winds shifted.
I told Dan that I had always wanted to witness a guy buy a drink for a women in a bar. And not in a cheesy, “I’m obviously hitting on you” kind of way, but in a classy, “Hey, I noticed you and wanted to do something nice for you” way (I’ve been watching too much “Mad Men” I think).
Welcome to the party, Shareef.
Shareef immediately called over our waitress to find out what she was drinking and placed an order for her.I was giddy.
I then took it a step farther and upped the ante. I challenged Shareef that when the drink got delivered to the girl and our waitress pointed out who ordered it for her, that he should give her a wink AND shoot her the Finger Gun (you know when you make gun out of two fingers with the thumb up).
After a good laugh, Shareef respectfully declined and there was no real way I would ever expect anyone to be crazy enough to do that.
But Shareef is not just anyone.
It was like we were living in slow motion there for a moment. You could feel the magical breeze across your face as the waitress delivered the drink and then pointed to Shareef, who just happened to be walking up to the pool table for his shot.
In one movie-like motion, he pulled his hand out of his pocket, gave the girl a wink and shot her the Finger Gun.
I still haven’t been able to reel in my jaw from the ground.
It wasn’t over the top and it wasn’t lame. He shot it to her straight like a man. He just kept moving fluidly and then just leaned over and took his shot on the table. I looked up at the girl (we were still in slow motion) and I couldn’t help but notice a genuine smile on her face.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, over the course of the next few minutes, Aarron and I couldn’t help but notice that she kept looking over at our table and a terrifying thought swept over the two of us: there’s no way that the Finger Gun worked, is there?
I had to know for sure. I told Shareef that he had to try and invite her over to play pool with us and that would be the test.
She was still with her friends. He had shot her the Finger Gun. There was no way she was coming over.
Aarron and I sat and watched as Shareef walked straight up to her and then after an inaudible exchange, I almost passed out and she got up off of her chair and followed him over.
The Legend of Shareef grows.
Going back to what I was talking about earlier, a few weeks ago the three of us were talking about what makes our random Rag Pack work.
I know that sometimes you can’t really define why things are but on a basic, fundamental level the three of us should not work, which makes it all the more bizarre.
We finally figured out that we work because there’s not one of us that's afraid to really live.
That’s what got us each out here to Colorado. One of my biggest turn-ons is not accepting the status quo, not just getting settled in life and then just riding it out until the grave.
I’m not saying you have to move somewhere new or quit your job, but it’s just an overall mentality that you’re committed to making the most out of this one existence, this one ride that we get.
That’s why we work.
We all agreed that even if we are all living in different parts of the country, or world for that matter, 30 years from now, it wouldn’t be out of the question for us to meet up somewhere and do something fun, do something big, just for living' sake; and I can already only hope that Shareef will still be around to grace us with his presence.