"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends"
I've been thinking a lot about my friends this week, and how long it's been since I've reached out to them. I'm very lucky in that I have some utterly amazing friends, many of whom I have known since the earth cooled, and despite the vicissitudes of life we still manage to stay in touch. When you pick up the phone and talk to someone you haven't talked to in a year and it's like you just talked yesterday, then that's a true friend.
Unfortunately, I haven't exactly been picking up the phone a lot lately. Some of that is just the general craziness of life, and some of it is my own issues of laziness, distraction, and the constant white noise in my brain. It's incredibly important to me to cultivate friendships and remind those you care about that they are treasured, yet I'm about with them as proactive and attentive as Rumsfeld at a nation-building seminar.
First, there's my college roommate and best man Rich, who calmly watched me cycle through a dozen "girlfriends" and put up with my propensity to eat corn chip crumbs and ranch dressing like it was cereal. We watched Running Scared and Strange Brew so many times we can still quote them end-to-end, and each of us have embarrassing photos of the other (I may have been painted with a Magnum 44 marker one night, and he may have had a drunken conversation with a vacuum cleaner). He lives in Oakland with his family, and if it weren't for him showing me that you could have a kid and still live a normal life I may never have gotten the courage to do it.
Then there's Brian, my best friend from high school, who is an army engineer in the 10th Mountain Division. He and I became friends while pursuing the same girl in high school (he didn't know I liked her...I just egged him on while simultaneously embarrassing him in front of her) and it was his willingness to take a fat kid to a health club and teach me racquetball that enabled me to lose 90 lbs before my senior year. He's bounced around to such scenic places as Bosnia, Oklahoma, and currently Louisiana, and will soon be shipping off to Afghanistan. It's because of him I can put my liberal bias aside and appreciate the tremendous courage and honor that our men and women in uniform have.
I get to see my friend Hud more often because she lives here in New York, too, but not nearly enough. Sometimes you take for granted those that are closest because you always think they'll be around tomorrow. She was a beer-swilling Seahawk fan who hung out with a group of girls who were all dating my roommates, but was more like one of the guys (and one of the few who didn't leave cups of used chewing tobacco around the house). She's a hopeless romantic who aspires to live in Italy and suck the rich marrow out of life, all the while swearing like a sailor. The intensity with which she approaches life inspires me to challenges my lackadaisical and superficial tendencies.
And that only scratches the surface! There's Todd & Sparky, a tall white Wisconsin boy married to a little brown Indian girl, who kept me sane while I froze my cojones off in Minneapolis. There's Laura, the Mountaineer with a voice perfect for a phone-sex line, but with an attitude more akin to the Daytona 500. Or Dr. Laura (no relation), a funny-as-hell exiled New Yorker trapped in a world of strip-malls & country clubs. There are dozens more who I only get to see sporadically, but whose company I cherish. If I had magical powers I'd teleport them all into apartments in my building and create my own little Melrose so I could see them all the time.
As we get older true friends--the ones that will pick you up at the airport, help you move that giant couch that won't fit through the door, and aren't afraid to point out when you're being an idiot without judging you for it--are harder and harder to come by. Jobs, kids, and apathy can suck up our time and our energy, and true friends understand this. They probably deal with it themselves. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't nurture those friendships, despite the challenges.
My motivation for doing so is purely selfish--my friends make me laugh, connect me to happy memories, and are often ample fodder for good stories and the occasional excuse to travel. I miss them a lot, and I get frustrated when I realize that our lives may never afford us the closeness we once had. But I'm going to make the effort over the next two weeks to reach out, give them all a mental high-five, and let them know that if I had my druthers we'd all be kicking back with a brew and chatting every night.
What say you all? How good are you at keeping up with your friends? And what do you do to stay in touch?