Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Ode to a Friend
This is my friend Fred - one of my oldest and longest lasting friendships. I've known him longer than David - who you read about here and there on this blog. I've known David for 25 years (this month!). I've known David longer than others you read about here: Morty, Jon, Dith, Becca.....and even Denton.
Fred I knew a bit longer, as we worked together in NYC. He was just one of those guys you immediately connected with. The kind of guy you knew by the end of week one, we'd be friends for life. And we were.
Unfortunately, life ended for Fred yesterday. Unexpectedly.
It was just one of those calls you never expect to get. Another buddy of ours let me know - and it literally took my breath away. How could this possibly be? He is my age!
Fred was one of those joie de vivre guys - but when you're 20/21, we'd never call it something like that. Or if you were straight....which at least he was.
But straight/gay didn't matter to Fred. He loved me for me. It never bothered him. He was never less affectionate with me because of it. He is possibly the first man who ever hugged me. On my last day in NYC, he held onto me in grips of which I rarely have known. He got them right back.
Fred is the only man I've been to Staten Island for. It's where he was born and bred. He is the only person I've gone to the Jersey shore with. He made me do shots of some horrid drink called 'slippery nipples'. He even got me the ID to get into the Jersey bars with. That was the same weekend I did my first hard drugs - not a moment I think either of us are proud of, but it happened.
Fred and I had our favourite chinese restaurant in China Town. Hop Kee. Once a week, we'd head up there at lunch and eat what is still the best chinese food I've ever had. When I go back to NYC, I try to get there, but not everyone is as fond of it as we were.
We'd also head to Washington Square Park with beer in brown paper bags like we were common drunks. It's the only way you could sit outside and drink. Open container laws, and all. So many days of getting out of work and having fun. I saved not one dime from that internship.
Oh - and big time wrestling. Fred had to take his little brother and dragged me with him. It was ok. Madison Square Garden and the height of the era with the Captain Lou Albano days (along w/Cyndi Lauper), and Roddy Piper. It was even cheesier then than it is with WWE.
Or the time we saw Purple Rain when it opened. I am 90% sure we were the only two caucasians in the theatre. ...and another audience member provided me one of the funniest stories and best lines I still use to this day. Fred and I would use it often and laugh and laugh.
There were the dive bars we went to - under the Brooklyn Bridge that smelled of the nasty side of the Fulton Fish Market - not the pretty touristy side. No, the one where they clean and gut the fish and leave it in barrels - in the heat, next to "the bar", which I'm sure was some illegal operation.
But you know, these are all memories I have thought about often of the last quarter-century, and all with affection and love.
Though I've told the story often, to many folks, I can't do it justice here. But it was my last night, before my last work day - and they all took me out. The tequila. The subway. The passing out. Somewhere in there - as he headed to the Ferry - was that hug.
It was a hug I probably misinterpreted for years - and probably on purpose. One I probably wanted to be something else, but I knew it wasn't. And it didn't matter - not really.
As long-distance friends do, communication became less frequent. I made the effort after 9/11 - as we both worked right under the towers. He had gotten a different job and moved to Jersey. He got married. He had kids.
As with any friends and these situations, there is regret. We tried to have lunch each time I was in the city. Last time I couldn't. I had time for two non-work events and it was lunch with my sister and hanging with David. There'd be other times for Fred. Or so I thought.
We talked a few weeks ago. The plan was to meet in early October. He was getting back in touch with Mitch, who is the one who let me know. I even texted them as they were going for reunion drinks (one bad night with them 25 years ago turned me off of sake for life - thanks Mitch!).
I hate not ever knowing his wife or two young sons. I'm so glad they all got to see Paris last month. I hate the fact that I won't be attending his funeral. Besides work conflicts, I am not sure I'd know anyone but Mitch - assuming he went.
I hate the fact that two days ago I ignored some seemingly stupid Mafia Wars game he invited me to play on Facebook. Would it have hurt to play it with him?
I bemoan the fact that even though he was taken too early - and he was - as there was no greater good or g-d's plan in shit like this. And I hate that we are of the age where these things now happen and with more regularity. I hate that!
I am sad. I am angry. And yet when I think about him, I still smile. I will cry for his wife and boys. I will cry for him and I will cry for me - no doubt. Those kids will know how great their dad was because dozens will tell them so during their lifetime.
If you're out somewhere - raise a glass to Fred. He was a prince among men.
Song by: Jann Arden