We’ve been friends now for so many years

I’ve been in particular need of the connective tissue of friendship.

I recently discovered that a friend of mine from my college days had, as a result of taking clindamycin for an infection, suffered a stroke late last year and nearly died. She is a few years younger than I, healthy and trim. She’s had to relearn do the basic things, such as eating and walking.

Except for our respective birthdays, which we remember – hers is really easy – we’ve not been in much contact the last couple years. But she has been important in my life, for a variety of reasons. So we’ve been emailing back and forth, although it’s difficult for her, and I called her this past weekend. The small bit of good news is that she’s not at work, which has become a toxic environment.

My best friend from college I hadn’t talked to much in the past year, but he and I have sent a wave of emails back and forth in the past couple months.

Here’s a story about a sick teenager. I’m friends with her stepmom, and I debated politics with her dad on Facebook all last fall.

I’m glad to see that Krys, wife of Greg Burgas, one of the very first bloggers I ever “met”, is home from the hospital.

Some of my best blogger buddies haven’t been posting much lately, because of illness, depression, severe weather, and other factors, and I’ve missed them. I must admit that I really enjoy it when my blog generates a blog response – see Arthur@AmeriNZ’s I’ll be your substitute, e.g.

My niece Rebecca Jade lost her father-in-law, Ricky Curtis. My former JEOPARDY! opponent Amy lost her dad, as did Jack in my church choir. Condolences to those families.

My wife has been in touch with her far-away friends this month. One who’s now in Arkansas, who she knows from college, she spent two hours on the phone with this past weekend. A childhood friend now in Georgia we saw because she was up for her father-in-law’s burial. They were both in our wedding, so I know them as well.

This year, I’ve been in particular need of the connective tissue of friendship. I think it’s partially tied to the death of my friend Norm, who I would have used as a sounding board for a lot of issues.

Friends is the title song from the Beach Boys 1968 album, written by Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine.

We’ve been friends now for so many years
We’ve been together through the good times and the tears
Turned each other on to the good things that life has to give

We drift apart for a little bit of a spell
One night I get a call and i know that you’re well
And days I was down you would help me get out of my hole

Listen to Friends – Beach Boys

Borrowing a cup of sugar, and other November excitement

Was this some sociological experiment, a sorority hazing, or some reality show prank?

Stop_Take_a_Break2It was a REALLY busy month in November. Besides church on Sunday and daughter’s rehearsal on Monday nights for a production at church in March, and choir rehearsal on Thursday nights (except on Thanksgiving):

6th – The church choir sang, for First Friday, VESPERAE DE DOMINICA by Mozart, with a dress rehearsal on the 4th.
Earlier that day, I went to the urgent care place. Four days earlier, I had a standard #2 pencil in a pair of pants poke through my pants pocket, and I managed to jab my left index finger enough that it drew blood. I didn’t know until later that a piece of the point embedded in my fingertip. So the doctor “froze” my finger, and removed the piece of graphite.
7th – Albany Symphony Orchestra concert. Actually, I ended up not going, and The Wife went with a friend because we couldn’t get a babysitter child watcher for The Daughter.

8th – After church, I recorded a piece for possible inclusion on the church’s YouTube channel. It sounded OK, but there was too much light, and I ended up rerecording it the following Sunday.
9th – Saw my doctor for a follow-up visit after hernia surgery. Said I was good to go, but in a more poetic form that I wish I could replicate.
11th – I spent my Veterans Day working on some items for the Friends of the Albany Public Library. That evening, a group of dads from the church got together.
13th – Polina.
14th – In the morning, a meeting of Friends of various Friends of Library groups. Not incidentally, I’ve been asked to write an article about Friends groups for the New York Library Association journal, due at the end of the month; as of this date, I have written precisely nothing, in part because the Wife had this presentation at a conference which involved not only her use of the computer but extra watching of the Daughter.
I got a very necessary, actually overdue haircut, mostly for the beard, which I don’t get shaved clean because of the discoloration from the vitiligo on my lower face. That evening, the Albany Public Library Foundation gala.

15th – One of our choir members, Alex Rosa , is a senior at the College of Saint Rose, and he gave his senior recital, which was quite good. Afterward, his parents, who are lovely people, put out a nice spread of food to eat.
17th – The Laurie Anderson movie at the Spectrum.
18th – At work, I gave a talk to a Chinese delegation from one of the larger provinces. They primarily wanted me to talk about intellectual property – copyright, patent and trademark – but they were most attentive during the brief section about credit scores. Afterward, as is their custom, they gave me a gift, which looks like this:
WIN_20151118_20_54_56_Pro
Yes, it’s a wooden comb.
21st – We saw the Capitol Steps, an American political satire group that “put the MOCK in democracy” at The Egg, a performance venue at the Empire State Plaza. The group, which initially included Congressional staffers from both parties, “has been performing since 1981, and has released over forty albums consisting primarily of song parodies.” The Wife and I saw them several years ago at Proctor’s in Schenectady.

Among other things in their rapid-fire presentation, they addressed the Greek financial crisis with songs from the musical Grease. It ends with one male cast member reciting a talk in which he reverses some consonants regularly; Borge W. Gush, e.g. it’s not only funny, it’s difficult to do.

22nd – We traversed over an hour to some school in an out-of-the-way location in western Massachusetts to see the premiere performance for the season of the Albany Berkshire Ballet presentation of The Nutcracker. The Daughter had done this production thrice, always as an angel, but her friend and former classmate “Elsie” has been, over eight years, a clown, a party child, and finally, Clara. She was really good, always staying in character.
nutcracker
Then Elsie’s family, our family, and some other friends went out to a Friendly’s restaurant in East Greenbush, NY; all the Friendly’s in Albany County closed many months ago.

Our family told the story about how, shortly after the Wife had come home after dropping off the child sitter the previous night, some young woman rang our doorbell, after 10 pm. We’ve had such a rotation of students as neighbors that we didn’t recognize this one. She had some yellow makeup, or something, caked on her face. She wanted to borrow a cup of sugar for baking, which we gave her, after putting our watchcat in the basement.

The discussion at Friendly’s centered on whether this was some sociological experiment, a sorority hazing, or some reality show prank. Collectively, we thought the idea of “borrowing” a cup of sugar, from a stranger, a couple of hours before midnight, was bizarre, with the 24-hour Price Chopper only three blocks away.

Elsie’s older sister allowed that, when she was living in an apartment in New York City, she went to neighbors’ apartments, including ones she didn’t know, looking for a ladle for a punch bowl, because, as I said, pouring punch from a mere cup would have been SO declasse. If you had been there, this would have been a hilarious exchange.

26th – Movie (reviewed eventually)
27th – Travel to Oneonta, about 75 minutes away, for Thanksgiving, returning the next day.
28th – Movie (reviewed soon)
30th – Take off day to work on many items, including agenda for Friends of the APL meeting that night. That paper that hung over my head like Damocles’ sword was finished; whether it is any good remains to be seen.

Uncharacteristically, December should be less busy, after this week, with only a wedding and the usual Christmas church events on the agenda. I might even participate in Trouble with Comics again.

Real, live conversation

I’m not quite sure how to infuse my life with more real, human interactions – as opposed to the facile, day-to-day stuff.

FaceToFaceIt happened twice in May: lengthy face-to-face talking with friends of mine who don’t live that far away, but with whom I never get a chance to talk anymore.

The first was with my friend Norm, the best man at my marriage to Carol. For over twenty years, we played racquetball together at the YMCA, sometimes with a group of other guys, sometimes just ourselves.

We talked about families. I remember his son as a baby, and now he is spouting facial hair. Both of his kids are in college. And that group of guys went for a time went to Siena College after the Y closed, but it was much less convenient for some of us, and we drifted away.

I’ve long noticed that, even though one may not be best of friends, I learn about how other people think when I’ve played racquetball, volleyball, backgammon, or hearts, or being in a book group, with them. One sees how they think.

It has long been difficult for me to have male friends or even good male acquaintances, and that group met that need I didn’t even know I was seeking.

I had hoped that a couple of groups in the church might have been that collective I guess I had subconsciously been seeking but it didn’t work out. A men’s Bible study just fell apart a few years back from guys being busy. More recently, a book group I left for reasons that are too complicated to go into here; I might go back in the fall, maybe.

Oh, the other person I spoke with was my friend Lynne, who I’ve known since December 1980. She was coming home from a meeting about the shortsightedness of building a casino in, or near, Albany. We talked for quite a long time – two of the same bus number passed by – about social justice issues, environmental concerns, and the like. She lives less than three miles from my house, but I “see” her only on Facebook.

I’m not quite sure how to infuse my life with more real, human interactions – as opposed to the facile, day-to-day stuff – but surely I am needing it badly.

Almost as good: in early June, a lengthy telephone conversation with Alan David Doane.

And because I can: Face the Face by Pete Townsend.

False welfare reform; other phony info

The only other “correction of the Internet” I tend to do publicly – as opposed to private fixes of typos – involves finding some myth that has easily corrected via Snopes.

I saw this message about drug testing welfare recipients on Facebook. It irritated me, and I wrote: “This is an amazing waste of money. 1) Most jobs DON’T require it. 2) In places, such as Florida, it’s cost more to do the testing than the savings gained by denying benefits.

The only reason I’m even bothering to bring this up here- besides as a response to my low blogging output of late – is that the person who posted was a friend, not a Facebook “friend”, but a real-life friend. I had thought to dispute the post via Instant Messaging, but once the post started getting LIKEs, it seemed that I needed to answer via the same medium. (Rather like how I feel a front-page newspaper error should be corrected in the same location.)

The only other “correction of the Internet” I tend to do publicly – as opposed to private fixes of typos – involves finding some myth that has easily corrected via Snopes. So I was mildly disappointed to discover that sometimes Snopes is not the authoritative source either. “They concocted a section called ‘The Repository of Lost Legends’ (‘TROLL’), consisting of nine stories made up by the Snopes duo, five of which they flagged as ‘True.’ Here is the ‘pear flag’ story, and there is also one about how Mississippi removed fractions and decimals from the school curriculum, and three other stories which are just believable enough – but are fake.” They do warn against false authority, even themselves.

F is for Friends

How did we drift apart? There was no schism predicating this. Did I forget to return a call? Did they?

A few weeks ago, Daniel Nester wrote about Ex-Friends, which got me thinking about my own friendships. I can’t think of a current ex-friend, someone who was once my friend but is now my enemy. I did have a good friend in college with whom I had a falling out about a decade later, but we reconnected a couple decades after that, and while we’re not in regular contact, there’s no animosity anymore.

This is not to say that I haven’t lost contact with friends. I was cleaning the attic this summer and came across a Rolodex, which, for you youngsters, is a device on which one hand-printed people’s names, addresses, and phone numbers. There was room for fax numbers too, but cellphones and e-mails weren’t around. I found names of people for whom I had great affection! How did we drift apart? There was no schism predicting this. Did I forget to return a call? Did they? My life or their lives went in other directions, perhaps with children or careers; some still live in the area, but we haven’t talked in years.

Some move away, of course, or I have. But I have two friends from kindergarten who, though they are in New York City and in Austin, Texas, are still among my best friends. Likewise a friend from the first day in college.

Sometimes you rediscover people you knew on Facebook and discover that they are almost exactly like they used to be, which is not exactly a compliment. Whereas others have progressed in their lives in a way consistent with the interests and values they were showing when I first met them; they are worth keeping in touch with.

As I have indicated before, I think it’s possible to have friends on the Internet that you have never met; you know who you are!

Here is the title song of the Beach Boys’ 14th studio album [LISTEN].


ABC Wednesday – Round 13