Too many friends & in-loves?

“Holy crap! I’ve got way too many people who love me and care about me in my life!” is something I’ve never heard another living soul say.

Truth is, I don’t know, and have never known anyone who complained, at least within earshot, about having too many people who love them and care about them. Close friends, in-love folks.  I’ve never known a soul to fret over being overstocked on either front.

The bonds of friendship and in-love are the very veins through which love and friendship flow; they are also the veins through which loyalty flows.  

The absence of loyalty always poisons bonds between friends and in-love ones. 

I love my friends. How can I not? They’re my friends!

Someone once told me, “You know, you tell a lot of people you love them,” in a tone that led me to think the speaker believed my character trait might be something I should reconsider keeping, or, at least, tone it down a bit. 

Not a chance.

First of all, I can’t help it. And, if I could, I wouldn’t. I instinctively feel love and compassion for my fellow beings, until they give me reason not to. Even then, I mightstill care, I simply don’t act on it. T

There are rare instances when someone’s choices and behavior are so repellent and dangerous, I am unable to feel anything other than anger. Years ago I played in role in helping to put a man behind bars who had raped and sodomized a number of boys, grammar school ages. The brutality that man inflicted on those lives, and the lives of their loved ones, cannot be put into words. At least, I can’t do it.

But these folks, thankfully, are in the minority. 

There’s a man, in his fifties I would guess, who works as a checkout bagger at nearby supermarket. His name is Vincent. Vincent has neatly cut and combed gray hair and a full, well-shaped gray beard. He is small in frame and wears glasses with dark frames over a pair of the kindest eyes you can imagine. 

Always, Vincent is attentive to you, the customer, hopes your day is going well. Means it. Vincent glows with kindness. Now, when we chat, as I leave I’ll sometimes say, “Love you, brother,” and I mean it.

How can you not feel love for someone who brings kindness into the world?

Last year, or maybe it was the year before, I decided, on a whim, to go for a 18- to 20-mile walk on a really hot day, without enough water. I ran into trouble (duh, Peter) and had to call for help. 

The first responders in the ambulance were all about making sure I would be okay with every fiber of their being. These, men, in this case, who did not know me from Adam, were heart and soul committed to making sure I kept my life.

Of course I felt love for them, then and now.

One of the most heartbreaking, and, in a very real way, tragic realities, are the number of friendships and in-loves that implode because one or both could not, did not, or would not, or were incapable of recognizing and accepting the presence of some unhealthy behavior patterns they might be stuck in. Patterns they deserved to be free of!  

When a child gets raised, one way or another, getting the message that he or she is poor example of how he or she should be, and are supposed to me, that child’s self-image gets damaged. Moreover, what “supposed to be” might mean can be a whole other world of hurt for the child.

You don’t come out of these experiences without some unhealthy patterns in your repertoire. Chances are, these no unhealthy patterns were the very ones you had to use in order to survive your childhood. Absolutely. Fair enough. 

Nevertheless, you are responsible for getting free of them, now that they are toxic. Is this fair? Hell no. It’s not fair. It’s reality.

Here’s another reality. You deserve your freedom. And tell some folks you love them while you’re at it.

Pizza on Her Head – Redux

NOTE: A friend of mine recently told me she keeps a passage from a blog piece I wrote in view because it helps her navigate tough times. Moreover, when she showed it to her psychotherapist, the psychotherapist liked it, printed copies, and is offering them to her patients. As a writer I am not unique when I say nothing moves and humbles me more than learning something I’ve written helped someone’s life. And so I am republishing the essay, first published in June 2009, in it’s entirety. The passage referenced above is italicized.

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In 1985 President Ronald Reagan begins his second term in office, Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the General Secretary in the Soviet Union, Jason Robards stars on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” Boris Becker becomes the youngest man to win the Wimbledon’s single’s championship, and Yankee legend Roger Maris dies. In 1985, I can not get myself to leave my home.

The idea of taking part in life outside my home is not just preposterous, it’s terrifying.

Those who pass my second floor apartment door often see a sign taped there that reads, “DO NOT DISTURB FOR ANY REASON.” If someone does knock when the sign is posted, I do not answer the door.

My friends, many of whom live in the same building with me at 286 East 2nd Street, take me under their wing. They keep me supplied with food, coffee, cigarettes, pot – anything I want and need.

Sometimes, when I wake up in the morning and shuffle into the kitchen wearing only my bathrobe, I see an envelope has been slipped under my door during the night. In it, there is always cash and occasionally, the cash is accompanied by a joint. Sometimes a particular style of knocking on the front door signals me that someone is leaving bags of groceries for me.

I am blessed to have friends like this. Dane, my brother in the heart. My apartment mate, an amazing chef named David; my landlords Dorrill and Kathy Semper, and then an array of loving friends: Hart Faber, Kenny Mencher, Arty May, Dominique Nadel, Zeke, Joshua and a scattering of others.

I am kept fed and protecting which is wonderful because I am afraid to leave my home, I am afraid to live; at times, I am afraid to get out of bed. Sometimes I don’t.

The only person on the planet who can get me to leave the house is Michael. From the day we met there has always been something about Michael that lets me know I am safe at all times being me with him.

One time after several days of flashbacks, hideous events that leave me freezing cold and sweating profusely while wrapped in a pyramid of blankets while I wait for the terrors to pass, I call Michael and tell him what is going on.

Michael, who lives in Staten Island, says, “I’ll be there in a couple of hours. Listen for the horn. Hang in there Babaloo.”

Less than two hours later, I hear his Karmann Ghia’s horn. I rush down the stairs, out of the building, and into his car.

We drive off and fire up a joint. Moments later, stopped at a red light at the corner of Avenue A and East 2nd Street, Michael says, “Hey, you’d agree the two of us are a little fucked up, wouldn’t you?”

“A little I suppose, sure.”

“I mean you’ve got a bullet in your head, hole in your skull, I’ve got no legs and a bunch of shrapnel in me, I’d say we’re a little fucked up.

“That’s true.”

“You think so? You see that woman?” he says, pointing at a woman who is crossing Avenue A holding hands with her boyfriend. Both are model gorgeous, beautifully dressed. He looks like he just stepped out of the pages of GQ and she looks like she stepped out of the pages of Cosmopolitan. The one curious thing in this image is she is walking across the street with a pizza balanced on her head.

Michael says, “You see that? That woman’s never stepped on a fucking mine and she’s never been shot in the head and there she is walking across the street with a pizza on her head. And you think we’re fucked up?”

We dissolve into warmly welcomed and, for me, desperately needed, laughter. The light turns green, the car behind us honks, and off we go.

A few minutes later we are parked on 2nd Avenue drinking coffee. We in one of our feigned debates over the WWF, the World Wrestling Federation, with the likes of Hulk Hogan, the Rock, and a muscular beyond-belief female wrestler named China. Michael believes China is as hot as a woman can get and strenuously feigns an insistence that the wrestling is real. I, of course, insist it’s all a bunch of phony position.

“Phony! Whattaya mean phony? You call yourself an American and say something like that? That’s real blood, bro. How can you call yourself an American and call a real American hero like Hulk Hogan a fake? And you don’t think China’s hot? Are fucking crazy?”

“Hot? She looks like a clenched bicep with a head on top.”

“Do me a favor, Peter,” he says, his eyes twinkling laughter a mile a minute, “Don’t embarrass yourself by talking like this in public. Keep it in the car. You’re going through enough as it is. You don’t want your country turning on you.”

“That’s true.”

“Not real… You know that bullet fucked up you’re thinking, bro.”

I am, for the moment, happy again.

There is an unspoken understanding between the two of us. We know things like flashbacks, the darker moments of life, are things you simply need to go through, or let them go through you, I’m not always sure how it works. It’s kind of like sweating on a summer day, it’s unavoidable. Thinking and reasoning never spared anyone their life experience. You just keep going, catch the breaks you can, and remember the basics like bathing, eating, brushing your teeth, washing your hair, keeping your clothes and your bedding clean. Other than that, you let the storms of life have their say and then move on.

Michael pulls up in front of 286 to drop me off. “Hey, listen, next time you start having those flashbacks?”

“Yeah?”

“Just stop it.”

I laugh. “Why the fuck I didn’t think of that is beyond me.”