Old Friends, Dear Friends

Today our friend Tyson is coming down for a good, long visit. We’re at the point now where we see him once a year as he wends his way south on the Silver Something Amtrak from Philadelphia  to Florida to visit friends around the state. I feel nice and old-fashioned when I meet him at the Winter Park train station as he hops off the car and we wait for the porter to get his luggage; I almost expect Irene Dunne to step off right behind him, dressed in a black traveling suit, looking around expectantly to see if Cary Grant is waiting for her on the platform.

Then we sometimes walk along Park Avenue, deploring all the expensive chain stores and reminiscing about Cottrell’s, and Winter Park Photo and Art, and Park Books.

I’ve known Tyson since late 1978, having been introduced to him through friends I knew at Plantation Apartments in Maitland. That’s 32 years… can you imagine? Who knows anyone for 32 years? Just old people, right? Funny… I’m only 54 but I feel like I’ve been around for a million years. Local personality Michael Wanzie once referred to Kirk and I, after realizing we all knew one another for about 25 years, as seeing “two old pieces of comfortable furniture.”

I am still in touch with friends from high school and college: Eugene and Jeffrey and Stephen for over 40 years, and Carol for 33. Those are lifetimes!

And it’s amazing how comfortable we are in one another’s presence. When I visit Carol, we sit at opposite ends of her couch and read magazines in silence. And at Eugene’s one morning, I ate my way through an entire coffee cake and he didn’t say a word. Stephen and I share an inordinate love of Manhattans; and Jeffrey takes me right back to the days when we were thirteen-year-old little boys, nattering and shoving and bitching. (Nothing’s changed, though now the pushing is rendered via Facebook.)

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not so blessed, because there are people I am not exactly in touch with, as distance often  makes the heart grow… distant. Maybe some people are meant to be enjoyed in person. I’m not the world’s best phone user– I don’t hear that well anymore, and most of my end of the conversation is peppered with “say again? What? Eh? She had a baby?!? What? She’s divorced? What did you say about a wooden leg?”

I’m looking forward to Tyson’s visit. He knows all the lines from Gone with the Wind, and can recite them with all the proper accents (being Georgia born and bred). He once surprised me at Hallowe’en dressed as Scarlett, a plastic shower curtain doubling as his voluminous hoop skirts.  I remember bringing him a cake for his thirtieth birthday, and his fortieth, but not his fiftieth because he was in Philadelphia by then. He’s still up there, surrounded by Yankees, and charming them all to death.

Old pieces of furniture… and now it’s time to bring out the spray can of Pledge so that we can shine again for another year.


10 responses

  1. Lovely and heartfelt as always, Jim. Though I don’t have the honor of having known you nearly that long I’m glad for the time we’ve had so far, and thankful your writing let’s me learn more about you. Xoxo

  2. How long have I known you? Does it just seem like 200 really long years? 😉

    No, I know exactly what you mean. The best friends are the ones you can sit with reading magazines or eating potato chips on a park bench, not having to say a thing.

  3. I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies! I hope family still counts as friends. We’ll get to 20 at least. I forgot Dunne and Grant did so many movies together. Now I want to watch the Awful Truth.

  4. Awwww! Have we really known each other for 33 years? Amazing since I’m only 34!

    Enjoy your time with Tyson and scope out all the good spots so when I come to visit we will know what to do, where to go, and where to sit with each other reading magazines and not talking!

    Great Post! xoxoxoxo

  5. Now I know where to find you online, I’ll be dropping by often just to keep in touch. I’m reconnecting with many of my high school and college pals via FB and my blog.

    FYI, my BFF and I have known each other since we were 12 and expect to be in each others lives forever.

  6. Nice….REAL nice.
    You know….it is YOUR generous nature that allows such gifts to continue in your life. Is the old adage “reaping and sowing” or “sleeping and rowing”-I always get those mixed up.

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