I've been thinking about the notion of friends a lot recently.
There are people who I've been friends with for over 50 years, longer than some of you have been alive. I've known them since kindergarten. But what happens when one of them has...changed dramatically? Are you still friends, just because he attended your ninth birthday party? Especially if you haven't been in touch much in for the better part of 30 of those years.
I have a friend, whose birthday was last month, turning 56 (thus just a bit older than I). We've been friends with since the first day of college, September 12, 1971 (but who's counting?) But the vast majority of people from college I have no real interest in seeing; it's not antipathy, more meh.
I've been in Albany 30 years and I've made some good friends. On the other hand, there are people one sees at church and work that I can say that I hardly know at all, though I see them often.
Fred Hembeck is an example of a good friend who I lost touch with but got back in contact with via the Internet. (When IS that show in April, Fred?) He has written a moving piece about the loss of his good friend Charlie; I didn't know Charlie, but the tale has such universality that I think you ought to read it here (March 9, 2009).
I've discovered that one can develop a friendship through regular participation in something. For a time it was hearts. For some time, it's been racquetball.
Somehow, I've managed to develop friendships with a couple of my exes.
Then there are those people you haven't even met, but through their blogs and other communications, you get to know rather well. Greg Burgas, an interesting fellow out of Arizona via Oregon and Pennsylvania, was musing on that aspect too - and mentioned me specifically as a friend. And I feel similarly inclined. I know about his wife, his daughters, the accident one of them had, where he's lived, how he missed a friend's wedding, his taste in music. I feel an obligation - well, maybe too strong a word - but a desire to please him if it's reasonable. Recently he said he wished I wrote more on race, and directly as a result of that, I wrote this post.
Thee was this bilious audio of Richard Nixon talking about All in the Family and homosexuality that I found on Evanier's page that I knew three people might appreciate; two of them I have never met. So this line of "friend" gets murky.
Here's something that makes it murkier: Facebook. Just in the past week, I have suddenly discovered that I'm now "friends" with a whole new batch of people. Some of them I'm thinking: weren't we friends before? Interestingly, I noticed that one of them, who I've known for years, wrote "in a relationship - it's complicated"; I queried about this but received a cryptic "noyb" reply.
Back in 1974, I saw Billy Joel in New Paltz. The opening act was a guy named Buzzy Linhart, who was primarily a songwriter. He told us ad nauseum all the people he had written songs for, including this one by Bette Midler:
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