I Know They Will Still Live On and On

Nick and I on an LA Shopping Spree

My compadre wanted me to write about friendship and I loved the idea but then sat on it for ages because it felt like someone dumped 20 boxes of legal documents on my mind’s desk to sort and make sense of.  How do you sum up relationships? Who understands them?  They are blobs of energetic silly putty, unfinished and unformed. Formless existences. Unmeasurable.

The Hacienda Resort and Convention Center in Fresno, California. Complete with a Mermaid Lounge that featured male strippers

Richard was a kinder boss than I’d had before but more than that, he was the kind of someone I’d hoped to meet in California.  He was the first spring breeze of my new life.  I knew if I put myself in the right place, I could meet more interesting people.  Unfortunately, I put myself in Fresno.  So, I figured I’d spread out to a bunch of places at once to cover more ground.  I was in two bands, worked at a record store and the hotel where I spent time doing any job needed, including driving to pick up artists that played in the venue, to and from the airport in the company van. Mainly, I worked for Richard at the front desk.  He was quick witted and we quickly found our humors were well aligned. We used to impersonate the other coworkers.  One older woman who found nothing funny and who answered the phone with one long slur of a word, ‘Hahzee-enduh-resort-n-’cunvinchin-sinner, Ma’yelp’you?’  And the other girl who looked cute as a bug’s ear but swore like a sailor calling everyone ‘cum suckin’ pigs’ while chain smoking in the parking lot on her breaks.  She was extremely stressed out, cigarettes like the dead victims of her anger, lay in piles on the ground.  We sealed our friendship one day when on the calendar posted next to the PBX operator board, this angst girl was finally taking time off and had written her name and the word vacation on the date.  Above that I scribbled ‘all she ever wanted’.  Richard read this like a secret key code and from then on, we were joined at the hip for some years.

Richard took this of me at the front desk (the girl I speak of behind me)

What are friends?  They seem to be angels or guardians that come to save you, or help you. They guide you through parts of your life.  You build a pile of memories but the actual moments that fill the space between them could never be explained in words.  Richard was married with a newborn baby, when I met him.  California seemed to shed a more glamorous, shimmery light on every kind of person.  He was slightly peculiar with a grand fashion style that only the 80's could accommodate.  His wife was a little strange as well and just friendly enough so that I feared and respected her.  She spoke as if you weren’t in the room, out loud and to no one.  As if it wasn’t really her talking but a voice inside her head.  They both talked to themselves under their breath constantly actually. I found this fascinating and considered it a trait of highly intelligent people.  I found that I could ingratiate myself into the lives of couples, usually women but this time, this odd threesome.  I liked the two-fer deal, two friends for the price of one and it gave me a sense of comfort knowing more people in town.  

A Record Factory staff party.  Nick on the far left. I wore shiny red bikini bottoms as pants!

We shared so many laughs and hangs but then other nights we’d talk for hours about serious topics and of our sufferings. There was depth and sincerity to both of us that we discovered together.   We went on to work alongside each other at record stores and later lived as roommates in San Francisco in a sprawling 2 bedroom that we called Wild Winds.  It was a mysterious dwelling built on stilts at the top of a hill that rained only in one spot regularly and was always extremely windy.  Rickety wooden steps lead down to the front door, that seemed to be suspended in mid-air on this cliff.  We went silent when maneuvering down. listening to each creak and bend of the wood, positive that it it would be the death of us each time. 

Oh yes, and Richard saved my life. I shouldn't forget to mention that small detail. One day in San Francisco, I found myself coming off of a very dark, shiesty time of my life. My living situation had become violent and dangerous. after an intense falling-out with a roommate and her giant pit bull that restrained my comings and goings. Out of options, I was walking down Market Street, feeling desperate. If you happen to be down and out, San Fran can be a very grey dank prison. Somehow, miraculously, Richard was in town and pulled up in his nice car, looking like a dream and in technicolor color. He asked me to hop in and said that he just happened to be looking for a place too. I got into his car and every single thing changed from that moment on. I turned my life completely around with his support. I was able to invite light in again. If he hadn't shown up at that exact moment, I seriously believe I may be dead or worse.

Nick and his lovely mother Millie

Nick taught me how to be a girl, to dress more flatteringly, and to style my hair, pick better shoes.  We went shopping and took trips to Los Angeles, back when LA felt like the land of Oz.  Nick-slash-Richard, which I called him jokingly for years, always had the best cars. Whizzing around that city with the top down and Sade, Patti Smith or Nico blasting, is really the only way to do it.  Eventually he would move there permanently.  I would visit him in West Hollywood through the years and  it was always as if no time had passed and we could just begin talking endlessly for hours, picking up where we’d left off. We are souls speaking through the universe. We’ve been acquaintances for thousands of years, perhaps. He was there when I met my husband and gave him funny nicknames like Endora did in Bewitched to Darren.  Now, Nick is my longest running, active friend.  

Friendships allow us to believe that we’re not wandering this world alone.  Good friends let us see that this world isn’t the only place that we live.  We reside in places we couldn’t describe and we love from parts we aren’t even familiar with and in ways that I’m not sure we’re capable of understanding.  Through a friend's mind’s eye there is proof we have an ability to converge, I believe in order to converse using our other senses.  That is, when you find those special few that make it possible.    

Sometimes we form a strong bond with people that don’t even treat us that well.  There is something inside of them we recognize we need, a form of fuel to go forward, and we know inherently that we must capture that jewel, like in the addictive games we play on our phones.  There is a lesson to be learned only through them, hard as they may be.  I guess it’s a necessary puzzle to solve, dangerous and sometimes heartbreaking.

Some of us are lousy friends, and are never there when you are going through a tough time.  We miss your birthdays and never send gifts.   Not because we don’t love you but because we are yet incapable of coming through for ourselves, let alone others.  It's hard not to see it as a terrible flaw and it’s unclear how perfectly kind people can be selfish assholes, and one can always strive to do better.

Nick with his friend Shannon - Did I mention he has great hair?

For years I could only tell you if people were good to me but never did I measure myself with the same stick.  We are taught the Golden Rule early on, to treat each other how we’d like to be treated.  A simple sounding notion that is profound and turns out needs to be put into practice as a constant.  People want to replace religion but as an adult I see how morality was taught only in my classes in Catholic school.  I could have used refresher courses along the way for something so important, at each stage of life.

Maybe those of us that aren’t great at it, can more fully appreciate the depth of a good friendship because we know we’re not worthy of even one ounce of those magical gems.

Nick today, better than before. Yesterday's gone.

We’re not kids anymore and we’ve recently celebrated key birthdays.  In youth, you don't know that these particular people will be the chosen few, around well after the party is over and you could never comprehend how rare and precious they will be in your life. I am hugely grateful for the history of our friendship but it pales in comparison to any moment we choose to activate it and go live, in the here and now.

Editor's Note: Since this is a food blog, I'd be remiss in not mentioning our shared love of food through the years.  We regularly ate at spots that were not fancy but that we genuinely craved for their simple culinary offerings.  And Nick was gracious to take me to many famous LA haunts.  I experienced Chicken and Waffles with him for the first time.  We ate at the famous El Coyote Mexican Food and it was the best combination plate event of my lifetime.  He took a great photo in front of Pink's Hot Dogs (that I lost), and before the birth of the Food Monkey, Nick prepared home-cooked meals at Wild Winds, including his famous, perfectly crisp, fried chicken that we ate on TV trays while watching the daily taping's of All My Children.

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