I had a helluva week last week.
And I probably could have written that sentence as a summation of my week at any point in the last 20 months or so, since the forces of stupidity, fact-denial and evil have taken over the world. Not to mention disease.
Being unemployed--at least without the kind of 'working for the man-type' job I've had since May, 1980, leaves you staring into a psychological abyss. You don't know what's next. You have nothing you can rely on. Your normal relationship with deadly pathogens is all-at-once a question mark and everything that was standard in your life has vanished. My response to stress has always been the same. I double-down and do what I do best. Which is work.
When Friday at four rolled around, however, I finally closed up shop and decided to call my oldest friend, _______. For the purposes of this blog, I'll call him, Herman.
Herman and I met when we were 13--precisely 50 years ago--and were 9th graders in an elite private school in Westchester County, New York. We've stayed in touch from the slaughters in the Vietnamese jungles, through Richard Nixon, through marriages and children and setbacks and the deaths of our parents, and now, as Herman bravely battles for his health, we still start talking and don't stop for hours.
Some things never change.
Herman's the person who reminded me of this line from the movie "Stand by Me," directed by Rob Reiner based on the novella by Stephen King. I worked with King--shot a commercial with him-- and have never really taken him all that seriously as an artist, but he hits on these lines like a Rocky Marciano short right or a Mickey Mantle round-tripper.
The Writer:  It happens sometimes. Friends come in and out of your life, like busboys in a restaurant.  I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?
Herman and I started in a nostalgic vein, then we covered the usual territories. Our health, our aches, our wives and kids, our jobs, sports, and even our hopes and dreams. We're old now. But we still have hopes and dreams. Young people don't understand that about old people. We're not pre-dead. We're still dreaming.
For Herman, it's playing some golf--a new sport for him--and going for his daily swim--an old sport. For me, it's my work, my writing and my long walks with an increasingly creaky pup, Whiskey, who feels no guilt about waking me at four am on a Saturday when I am in an uncharacteristically deep sleep.
Toward the end of our call, we started talking about poems we were read or we read ourselves when we were boys. I'm not sure kids read poems today--it seems very un-Insta, and they are poorer for it. Herman remembered from his boyhood this poem. It's short. But like a Marciano right, it packs a wallop.