When Gabriel walked through my apartment door a couple nights ago after traveling around the world for four months, I exclaimed, "Hey, you're not old and fat! I thought you would come back old and fat!" That was my own special way of expressing my love, as Gabriel is one of my best friends. (In case you were wondering, yes, for many years now I have kept a continuously evolving Excel spreadsheet of my friendships, and I rank and re-rank them and categorize and re-categorize them on a regular basis. Seriously.)
Loren, on the other hand, shoved me out of the way so that he could show Gabriel something—something not to make Gabriel feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but something that would make Gabriel feel bad about himself and, in fact, all of existence.
Let me backtrack a little:
You see, Gabriel has always enjoyed lording things over Loren: Gabriel has a superior environmentally friendly car; Gabriel has superior camera equipment and video editing software; Gabriel has superior taste in music.
All that was fine and dandy, but the one thing that Loren could not tolerate was Gabriel's superior 46" flat-screen television. We would go over to Gabriel's house, and Loren would bristle with envy. The only small reprieve he would have from his bubbling feelings of rage would be whenever Gabriel would complain about the less-than-satisfactory "black levels" on his TV. Small comfort for big pain.
For the last four months, I have dealt with Gabriel's absence by replacing him with Jake. Loren, on the other hand, has dealt with Gabriel's absence by saving up money, researching televisions and HD technology, talking extensively to digital media specialists at Fox, and, eventually, buying a Panasonic 46" 1080p Plasma HDTV:
For the past couple of weeks, Loren and I have been in awe of the television. I have been impressed with the way HD has totally re-framed my understanding and appreciation of the viewing experience. Loren, on the other hand, likes to stare at the screen while whispering, "My black levels are better than Gabriel's black levels."
Back to the beginning of this story:
Gabriel was very impressed with the new TV—the HD quality, the vibrant colors, and, yes, the black levels. Although he did manage to criticize the color delay when shots quickly shifted from light to dark (no, I don't know what that means either), it was obvious that he was mentally trying to figure out how to get rid of his own TV and get a new one. A superior one.
After Gabriel left, Loren closed his eyes and smiled with satisfaction, a man who had finally reached the mountaintop after years of discouragement, ridicule, and struggle. "I can finally say," he declared, "at least in terms of owning a television, I am, for once, better than Gabriel Fleming."