We will speak tonight of friendship. It may not have as many syllables as some words, but what it lacks in sophistication it more than compensates in importance. I am convinced that friendship is as dear to humanity as water. One can technically live without either (my own water comes carbonated and is mixed with what Coca-Cola calls "the compound") but it isn't much of a life.
Certain people, and I may be one of them, have on occasion tried living the life of a hermit. I have lived the overwhelming majority of my life in that self-imposed condition, despite at least one marriage and a vast number of concubines. That is to say, I have emotionally cut myself off, many times, from the rest of humanity. Everyone does this now and again, but I admit that I have done it willfully and often, and with some regret.
At present I live with my best friend. Her name is Lisa Ann and if you are a frequent reader of mine, you have crossed her name before tonight. We have been best friends since April 17, 1986, which puts it somewhere around twenty-five years. I will grant that there were times during that quarter-century when she could not stand the mention of my name within ten miles of her own presence, and I as well have on rare occasion been less than exultant with her. But for the most part, she and I have kept one another amused and enlightened for longer than many people have been alive. And this is strange to me because I am a hermit and she is a butterfly.
Lisa Ann loves to mingle with interesting people. She walks into a room of strangers, listens politely for several seconds, then bounds into the most promising conversation going with gusto and nonchalance. This type of behavior fits her quite well and no one ever seems to think it odd. What people do think odd is me. I walk into the same exact room and immediately wonder what the hell I am doing there. I stand up against a wall with a drink in my hand, only to be approached by youthful and lovely people who are dying to ask my opinion on all matter of politics and religion, and I stare back as blank as an X-Ray machine from World War I. Lisa Ann, sensing my discomfort, stutters out a high laugh and informs those swelling around my person that I am far too erudite for my own good. Well, I reply, I am too something for my own whatever. This inanity draws measured chuckling and thoughtful puffs on foreign cigars and soon enough I am either the hit of the party or else I have been properly banished to the kitchen where the maid can always use a hand with the silverware.
But, yes, we were speaking of friendship. For someone who has been a dedicated recluse for days, weeks, months, ad infinitum, I do love my friends more than anything or anyone else, including lovers, muggers and thieves. Whenever I receive a correspondence from someone I knew in high school or college, even if they are attempting to collect on an old debt, I am all the same mesmerized and freed up inside in a way I have not been on a regular basis since many years ago when I lived in the state called Ohio. To mention a recent example, just this morning I received a note via Facebook from a wonderful person who I knew as Paula Reichelderfer but who is now known as Paula Hopper. She reads this blog sometimes and gave me a very useful suggestion for one of the articles, one which I hope lived up to her expectations. The interesting thing, though, was how excited I was to hear from this young lady, someone I last saw on the day of my high school graduation. She has always been a fascinating person who enjoys laughing as much as anyone I have ever met. But I think that what delighted me so much about her sending that note was that for a few minutes there I was figuratively back in Ohio, back at the age of seventeen, back in some silly classroom, paying more attention to the curve of young ladies' legs than to the teacher's instructions, and the feeling I had for those few moments was the greatest thing in the world. You have had that feeling yourself, no matter who you are. The difference, I suppose, depends on how you deal with it.
I try to live every day just that way. All of the great friends I've had (and often not deserved) walk through life with me every day, at least, to the extent that they are never far from my conscious mind. As anyone who has ever known me can attest, I tell more than a share of stories during conversations and it is invariable that over the course of an evening I will bring up some episode in the life of a friend who I may have last seen yesterday or thirty-five years ago at graduation.
It is possible that all this chirping about friendship is so readily obvious to the rest of the world that anyone reading this may be caught in mid-yawn. If so, I hope you will grant me just a few more moments because I feel you will be glad you did. There is a reason why as children we are so transfixed with elements of magic. Some grifter pulls a penny out from behind our ear and we think the man is a genius and long to learn his methods and ways. I think that this is why many of the friendships we have as kids hold such a fascination for us long into adulthood. When we are kids, we do not think much about why we like someone or to what use our friendship can be put. We simply enjoy the person's company and could not explain why even under duress. When the friend or friends come around, we get silly inside and don't care at all how ridiculous others may see us. But as we age, we sometimes calculate. We think about what we are doing, about our social interactions and to what aims these activities can be put. As a result the magic we felt as children is missing. We stare into photo albums or randomly wonder what this or that person from our better days is doing with his or her life. And we relive the taste of that special magic that happened when we weren't thinking much about it, when all we knew was that things were right and would never end.
This is why the best films tend to have some sort of "buddy" angle. Movies are nearly as magical as friendship, if not quite as real. So when we think back on a favorite film, the odds are excellent that friendship and all its many offshoots will be a huge element. I bring this up now because in the days ahead I will be sharing some of what I consider to be the best films I've ever seen. I invite you to think of your own and to comment as you feel comfortable.