Our family moved from Connecticut to New York in the fall of 1983, from a rural, leafy house on a hill to a rural, leafy house on a hill—surrounded by a swamp and an impound lot. The second half of seventh grade pretty much sucked; I was in yet another new school surrounded by people who’d grown up around each other, and I was odd man out, again. I went into eighth grade with nobody I knew around me, and basically stuck it out for the entire year by myself. It wasn’t until I made it into ninth grade that I made friends with anyone I liked—and that had everything to do with music.
One of my best friends was a guy with an unusual name, and he was into most of the same things I was—comics, playing bass, Van Halen/Rush, crappy 80’s apocalypse movies, and shitty cars. His family was large and loud and lived right above town, much closer to everything than we did, and his house became the epicenter of all of my activities—mostly because we lived 10 miles outside of town and this was before I had a driver’s license. His mom and ad were kind and generous and larger than life; one of the first times I visited his house, I called home for a ride and for some reason both my parents couldn’t make it. I squared up my courage and asked his dad, a 6-foot wide Polish fireplug, if he could drive me home. He looked me up and down, and told me to go out on the deck, face my house, and bend over, and he’d kick my ass home. He waited a beat, watched me shit my pants, and then smirked through his huge mustache before pointing at his service truck. His Mom was a tireless booster for all four of her kids—from band to gymnastics to horses to wrestling, she was there on the bus, at the events, making sure they—we—all had what we needed, whether it was food or equipment or support or a clear spot on the floor to sleep.
They took me in when I needed a place to crash before a marching band event, or a party, or just on the odd Friday night after school when we were hanging around. I spent nights on S’s floor pretzeled into an uncomfortable set of cushions, happy that I wasn’t stuck at my house miles away from the fun stuff. S. and I spent countless hours together, and he was the guy who got me back out of the introverted shell I’d been building since Connecticut. His friends were my friends, and I was lucky enough to fit in with them all, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I found out years ago (back when I was on Facebook, I think) that his Mom had beaten breast cancer. I don’t visit there for obvious reasons, and I’m epically terrible at staying in touch with anyone. But she’s been on my mind over the last couple of months, on and off; I’ve also been mulling a drive up to Putnam County to say hi to a bunch of old friends. It was a gut punch a few weeks ago to find out she had passed from a second bout of cancer. My immediate thought was that I needed to go up and pay my respects to his family in person, to somehow show how much they’d meant to me. With COVID lockdowns in full effect, that wasn’t going to happen.
Fast forward to the beginning of last week, when I got a DM on Instagram from S., who was going to be in town for his daughter’s lacrosse clinic. Would I like to get together? Damn right I would. I picked him up about a mile down the street at the indoor facility where Finn learned to play soccer and drove him out into Ellicott City to the brewery on Main Street. He hasn’t aged at all, and we quickly caught up on the years that have gone by. We had about three hours to shoot the shit, and it felt good to catch up with him and his family.
Clearly, I’ve got to get off my ass and reach out to friends and catch up and see how they’re doing, now more than ever.