My birthday was yesterday and I got a call with birthday wishes from George, one of my friends from our kindergarten days back in Mt. Tabor, the tiny town in New Jersey where we grew up. He calls me every year, and in the days before smart phone calendars I sometimes didn’t set a reminder anyplace and missed calling him back on his birthday exactly two months after mine in January. I don’t miss anymore. Our other joined-at-the-hip-since-kindergarten friend, Bob, has a birthday in March, and George and I talked about Bob, as well as other things.
Other things included reminiscences about the old days, of course, but after a bit of that we just settled into what old friends usually do: chatting about what’s going on in our lives like it was only a week ago, or less, that we last talked. It always strikes me with old friends that you don’t have to lament how long it’s been since you’ve contacted each other, or either of you feel bad about it, or even one of you give the other a hard time because of it. (I have some friends that get all bitchy if too much time passes without a word, who blame me for it, even though they hadn’t picked up the phone or emailed either. Old friends don’t do that.) With old friends you pick up like you’ve never left. You slide back in together like you’re sitting in George’s room listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the first time, or smoking your first joint behind the church again, or gaping once more at Playboys that Bob found in the woods off the fourth fairway on the golf course.
What was going on with George most recently was the evening concert he produces for Children’s Day, the town celebration of children in Mt. Tabor—morning Olympics, an afternoon parade with costumes and floats, a midway with arcade games and food, an evening parade with all the local fire trucks and an evening concert and fireworks—on the first Saturday of August every year; the fact that the bands were supposed to be somebody I didn’t remember opening for Arlo Guthrie, but the town elders decided that even though the first Saturday of August this year was the 1st of the month, that for the first time in 140-something years they had to invoke some rule that Children’s Day was on the first Saturday after the first full week of August, so it fell on August 8th, and Arlo Guthrie wasn’t available, so it was Badfinger (the last one still alive backed by other musicians) opening for Peter Noone featuring Herman’s Hermits instead; that Finn, local Tabor kid who made it big in real estate and finances the concert each year, couldn’t even make it on the 8th.
Then after mentioning Badfinger we went into a long digression about Harry Nilsson (he made a hit out of Badfinger’s song, Without You), me saying that I could never find Nilsson’s version of I Like New York in June that ran with the closing credits of the movie The Kingfisher on any of his albums, so I had to buy the soundtrack of the movie for that one song. We talked for a while about all of Nilsson’s albums, trying to figure out if I Like New York in June was on one of them and finally gave up. I resolved to order the CD for A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night because I haven’t heard it in years: I only have it on vinyl and have no idea where my turntable might be.
What was going on for me was that Manette and Zac were out of town so I had birthday dinner with Jack and Cindy, my in-laws, and of course Styles, our wonderdog pitbull; that I’ve finished my latest novel and am waiting for my editor to free up to work with him on it; that I’m working on another Sasha Del Mira story; that we closed up the pool and the fountain a little early this year; that our taxes on our New Jersey house went up yet again and as much as I love it I’m thinking of arranging to have a plane crash on it some day we aren't there because it’s worth more dead than alive (replacement cost insurance vs. market value); and that I would take responsibility for contacting Bob to set up an annual hard date for the three of us to get together instead of calling each other randomly and not having it happen for months.
I have a pillow in the den of our home in Milford that I got from my old friends, Jimmy and Charle, that has, “Old Friends are the Best Friends” embroidered into it. So true. If I don’t see George first, I’m looking forward to talking to him on his birthday.