Friends Questions

In 1973 or 1974, I saw Billy Joel in the gym at my college, SUNY New Paltz. The band got lost somewhere between Long Island and our upstate town right on the Thruway and the concert started over two hours late.

There was a conversation about just passing on the opening act and to go right to the headliner, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Buzzy Linhart did his opening set. Don’t remember much about it, except that, since he knew we had no idea who he was, he kept name-dropping. He knew David Crosby and Bob Dylan. He worked with John Sebastian and Jimi Hendrix. It was all so…irritating, even though it turned out to be true. He seemed most proud of the fact that he co-wrote the song “Friends” that Bette Midler recorded.

That’s a story that I all but forgot until I read that story a couple weeks ago about Americans having fewer friends.

I think I’m pretty lucky that I’ve had some very good friends over the years: my racquetball partner Norm for maybe 20 years, my first-day-of-college friend Mark since 1971, my friend Karen from kindergarten (!), just to name three that I’m regularly in touch with.

So, my three questions, which I would appreciate a reply to:

1. How do you define “friend”? In a MySpace sort of way, or does it actually mean sharing some substantial thing? (Or am I just missing the point of MySpace?)

2. Can you be friends with people you haven’t met, that is, electronically? I contend, much to my surprise, yes.

3. Does the isolation of American life – longer commutes, busyness, distance from the core family – mean that the report is right, that we do have fewer friends, or is it merely a definitional issue? Certainly, school is a great way to meet potential friends, at least in my life, but I think the number of my friends would certainly have diminished had I not been involved with church and other organizations, and (OK, I’ll say it) this blog, which has been a way for me to keep in touch with people when I wouldn’t have otherwise (no Christmas cards sent two years in a row).

Songs stuck in my head:
Friends-Beach Boys
Can We Still Be Friends-Todd Rundgren