Monday, August 06, 2012

Harry Truman Was Right

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

This quotation has been attributed to the 34th President of the United States (although there is some doubt as to whether he actually said it, but we don't care right now). Come this December, I will have lived in the Washington area for thirty-two years. I have made a lot of friends over the years, but very few good ones. I can count them on one hand. And when I say "friend," I don't mean it as they do on Facebook, a medium which, for all its benefits, tends to redice the very notion of friendship to the superficial (as one of their early employees will attest).

There are those who say that the closest friendships we have are those from childhood. That may be true, even though I had a rather difficult time making friends in those days. You wouldn't know it when I go back home today, or to a high school reunion. And it's where the bonds of camaraderie already exist, that Facebook works to an advantage. Right now I belong to a group called "You know you're from Milford, Ohio, if ..."I grew up with and/or went to school with most of the people signed up for it. We look at old photographs of what the town once looked like, including this one from the early 1960s of a drive-in restaurant down the street from my house (courtesy of Susan Terrell Kupka) in the "new" part of town, where you could actually be served while staying in your car.

Sal has a lot of friends. She has two things going for her which I do not. She is a Filipina, and I am not. She is also very warm and personable, while I am a curmudgeon-in-the-making. Filipinos are a very clannish people by nature, and if enough of them live within driving distance, they're all in each other's lives. This is especially true for those in the caregivers' industry. She is constantly on the phone with her kababayans, whether from here or overseas, while I'm lucky if the best friends I ever made in Washington return my call the same day (and that's when they need ME for something).

Washington has some things going against it. It is a very transient city, with few people actually being from around here. It is a very multicultural city, with most neighbors not getting to know one another if they look or talk a little too different. It is also a very self-important city. A know quite a few people whose egos could well afford to be brought down a notch or two. And these are the nice ones. The not-so-nice ones don't really make friends, so much as they form alliances. Alas, science has found no cure for them.

That said, I am occasionally surprised. Yesterday I stood in the parking lot and spoke for at least five minutes with a nodding acquaintance. We talked about family, about work, about our plans to leave town in the next few days, stuff like that. The fact that he just happened to be an associate justice of the Nation's highest court was of little consequence at the time. What was of more consequence is that I've had friends who don't give me that much time. (After all, there's a world out there to be saved, and if they don't ...)

If it sounds pathetic, it is. I had a lot of "fair weather friends" in my old dance hall days, in the 90s and the early 00s. They're a million miles away. There have been two occasions in my life when I was "one of the gang." That was one of them. The other was when I was with the shows department at Kings Island in the early 70s. But those things don't last. All of us are on our own journey homeward. We take a step, we turn a corner, we look around to see who's there -- and they're not. Those days don't come back. We can't wish them back.

I just did an internet search for zydeco dancing in Seattle, and found something that's actually current. I had a great time at their dances ten years ago. I might go to one this time. They probably don't even remember me. Then again, what if they do?

They say you can't go home again, especially if it never was.

No comments: