friendship

April 21, 2007

April 21, 2007

The Pantages Theater
The Pantages Theater

“Wicked” is the perfect play for female friends (or sisters) to see together. I hadn’t read the novel the first time I saw it, so I knew nothing about the plot. If anything, I didn’t expect to enjoy it because it was a musical and songs rarely grab me the first time I hear them.  

Wicked - 2

What an amazing surprise! It hooked me from the first number, “No One Mourns the Wicked.” I’m not an Oz freak – haven’t read any of the books – but the humor, the sly references to the film, and the complex relationship between the female leads had me spellbound. It features one of the most spectacular act breaks I’ve ever seen. I wish I’d written it.

The spectacular act break.
The spectacular act break.

The Pantages – built in 1929 and art deco to the max – is the perfect venue. No matter what is playing there, its ambience feels primed for “Wicked.” Lori was a relatively new friend; Gail and I go back 48 years. Like any friendship of that duration, we’ve had our ups and downs. No wonder I’m always crying by the time they get to these lyrics from “For Good.”

Gail and I goofing off when we were (relatively) young.
Gail and I goofing off when we were (relatively) young.
Gail and I as somewhat older friends.
Gail and I as somewhat older friends.

And just to clear the air, I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done, you blame me for

But then, I guess we know there’s blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore

And none of it seems to matter anymore

 

 

April18, 1992

April 18, 1992

Happy Birthday John
 
A lot changed between J’s surprise 30th birthday party and this one. When he turned thirty, we both smoked and drank (he quit smoking forever the following day; I didn’t wise up for a few years). By his 40th, neither of us smoked and we hadn’t had a drink for almost seven years.

J with future law partner Jack Denove
J with future law partner Jack Denove

I’m slightly older than J, so I had to face the formidable fortieth birthday first. Birthdays that usher in new decades feel so much more significant than regular birthdays. Gail Sheehy’s Passages, originally written in the 70s but since updated, offers a road map for the stages of adult life broken down by decades. My summary is an extreme simplification of her work.

Me with J's law school pal Anne Kurrasch.
Me with J’s law school pal Anne Kurrasch.

The twenties are about finding your path in life – do you please your parents or please yourself? Typically, people feel the pressure of a deadline in their thirties. They redefine their priorities as well as their expectations.  The early forties frequently bring a sense of stagnation – is that all there is?  It sounds depressing, but opens the door to self-discovery – what Carl Jung would call “individuation.” We are who we are, and that’s okay.

Bennett Traub, another law school pal, in bg.
Bennett Traub, another law school pal, in bg.

Sheehy includes a quote from Willa Cather: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Over the Hill

 

April 10, 1970

April 10, 1970_edited-1

Luke and Mary at the beach.
Luke and Mary at the beach.

As the photos suggest, Mary and Luke were fast friends. Both of them graduated from neighboring Catholic high schools and attended Catholic colleges in northern California before transferring to UCLA. In those days, I didn’t like to drink, but they did, so periodically they partied without me, which worked for all of us.

Luke and Mary at the beach 2

On more than one occasion, Mary told Luke that even if he and I broke up, she wanted to stay friends with him forever. He felt the same way but like so many well-intentioned promises, that didn’t happen.
Friends on the beach

Some friendships, love affairs and rock bands – like the Beatles – seem so solid, it’s easy to believe they’re destined to stay together. Mary and Luke never had a falling out. There was no acrimony, no broken promises. They simply drifted apart, like I’ve done in friendships that deserved better. Always, the dissolution was due to lack of nourishment, never lack of affection. By the time I notice how long it’s been since I talked to someone, they’ve moved or changed their number and I don’t know how to get back in contact.

Vania Brown, where are you?At least, that’s how it used to be. Facebook has solved much of that problem, although a few people remain MIA. Vania Brown, where are you?

 

 

 

February 18, 1967

February 18, 1967

This entry’s self-conscious attempt at being “lyrical” suggests I wrote it for others to read, not to bare my soul. One of my failings as a writer (or strengths, depending on your point of view) is my conspicuous lack of place description. It bores me in other people’s fiction, so why torture my readers?

Sandy on this snow trip.
Sandy on this snow trip.

Elmore Leonard’s ninth and tenth rules of writing are:

  1. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  2. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

The parts I tend to skip are description – of place in particular, but pretty much everything else too. Some people love elaborate descriptions of food. I hate them. Unless it affects the plot – for example, if there’s arsenic in the quiche – it just doesn’t matter if the hero selects steak or salmon as his entrée.

Me in the snow
Me in the snow

One can argue what people eat defines aspects of their character. The guy who loves Popeye’s is rarely mistaken for the dude who dines at Nobu. That said, there’s no excuse for describing more than one meal per person per book.  The reader doesn’t need to know and I don’t want to.

February 5, 1975

February 5, 1975

The morning after I met J, I told my best friend Gail “I met the man I’m going to marry.” I believed this but – as the above entry makes clear – J hadn’t reached the same conclusion. Because it was a done deal in my own mind, I needed J and Gail to get along.

J and I, a million years ago
J and I, a million years ago

It’s a problem when your best friend loathes your significant other. Usually, I’m the one who detests my friend’s beloved. The friendship suffers when my friend chooses the love of her life over me, her jealous, bitchy buddy. Go figure.

My best friend Gail
My best friend Gail

I didn’t want to choose. Choosing means giving up an option, possibly forever. I avoid it when I can. Luckily, J and Gail clicked. Despite many miles and years since that night, we remain close today.

Gail is part of the bridal party (in lime green) - I'm still apologizing about the dresses!
Gail is part of the bridal party (in lime green) – I’m still apologizing about the dresses!

For the record, I did not get more aggressive and gregarious around Law House although J did get more irritable (and irritating) as finals approached. It didn’t matter. My premonition was correct. I’d met the man I would marry.

February 2, 1970

February 2, 1970

Neil Sedaka was right – breaking up is hard to do, especially when you live in the same dorm.  Luke and I ran into each other in the dining hall, the lounge, the mailboxes, the path to north campus.  I wanted to talk to him and at the same time, I never wanted to see him again. He broke my heart and I missed him.

Luke and I separating
Luke and I separating

I didn’t see it coming, probably because I’d threatened to leave Luke so often. How ironic that he pulled the trigger every time we split. It took us at least half a dozen tries to master the art of leaving each other.

Going different directions
Going different directions

According to my friend Monica, a divorce attorney, our dance was the rule, not the exception. By the time the average couple follows through with a divorce, they separate a minimum of three times. While by no means scientific, her theory rings true. It’s hard to break the habit of another person, especially when it feels like they’re part of you.

Natalie Ann Nilsen high school graduation photoMy friendship with Natalie didn’t die but it changed – because I changed when I left Santa Clara. I thought my departure was temporary. I was sick with longing for my city. The landscape ached with melancholy as it receded in the rear-view mirror. I would’ve done anything to return to the life I’d known, the person I’d been. But, of course, all of that was already gone and there was no going back.

 

 

 

January 27, 1968

January 27, 1968

JoAnn Hill 1In high school, JoAnn was beautiful, vibrant and sunny. She was taller than I was – such a treat to feel short for a change! She was a fearless tomboy, endlessly curious, generous and optimistic. I could’ve learned a lot from her, if I’d paid more attention.

JoAnn Hill 2JoAnn moved to Los Angeles shortly after I did and we stayed close friends for at least twenty years. At some point, for no particular reason, our paths diverged and we lost touch. After google became a thing, I tried to find her. While I could track down a great many people from my past, JoAnn’s last name was one of the most popular surnames in the USA. Knowing where she graduated from high school as well as her birthday didn’t help.

JoAnn Hill 3Then, out of the blue, earlier this year, my landline rang and caller ID displayed an unfamiliar number. Usually, I let it go to voice mail, but for some reason I picked up – and heard JoAnn’s voice. Incredibly, I still have the same home phone number I had forty years ago. Even more incredibly, JoAnn had that phone number written down somewhere and dialed it.

JoAnn Hill 4A lot changed for both of us in the intervening years. We both lost our parents and she lost one of her brothers.  My children turned into adults. She moved back to San Jose and began raising borzoi dogs. As usual, our lives didn’t unfold exactly as we expected but our lives are good. We haven’t met in person again, yet, but I know we will. I can’t wait.

JoAnn and her smiling Borzoi (also called the Russian wolfhound)
JoAnn and her smiling Borzoi (also called the Russian wolfhound)

January 15, 1965

January 15, 1965

I don’t have any photos from Sandy’s slumber birthday (if digital film had been a thing, we’d have billions) so I’m running one of my own birthday party photos from around the same era.

Top row from right to left Natalie Nilsen, Susan Tanaka, Donna Duncan, Moi, Loretta Dirks, Julie Farnham, Sandy Walker
Top row from right to left Natalie Nilsen, Susan Tanaka, Donna Duncan, Moi, Loretta Dirks, Julie Farnham, Sandy Walker

I was a textbook “dork” (spazz, feeb, or brain.) For a female in 1965, “brain” was a major cut (chop, put down, shut down, slam.) I have no recollection about the game “Starlight, Starbright.”  I suspect it was something Sandy and I invented.

"Dork"
“Dork”
Sandy
Sandy

I wish I’d recorded the revelations that emerged from our game of “Truth.” I’m pretty sure they were silly and tame. As close as we were, it’s unlikely we shared deeper secrets; it never occurred to me anybody carried any.

Photo booth - a year or two later
Photo booth – a year or two later

I was naïve. The older I get, the more certain I am that everyone has a secret life, to a greater or lesser degree. Chekhov said it best.

 

He had two lives...

 

January 10, 1970

January 10, 1970

Apparently, it escaped me that these were the golden years of UCLA basketball. I saw, maybe, two games during my four years there. I wouldn’t become a basketball fan for another 17 years, when I fell in love with the Lakers. ( They had a GREAT game last night!)  I still don’t follow college basketball but the more I learn about John Wooden, the more I admire him.  Three of his quotes – “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” – “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

70's UCLA Basketball
70’s UCLA Basketball

Luke and I were in the midst of one of our many break-ups so I was dating. It was awkward and uncomfortable to talk to a new guy, especially compared to the rapport I enjoyed with Luke – even when we were fighting.  I don’t remember anything about Bill at all; for me, he exists only in this diary entry.

Don't forget me.
Don’t forget me.

That strikes me as sad, but he’s far from the only person I crossed paths with that I no longer recollect.  I’m sure that’s true for everyone (I hope so or my memory is worse than I thought). We all meet so many people in the course of our lifetimes. Only a handful make a lasting impact.  I like to fancy myself unforgettable, but no doubt Bill has forgotten me too.

 

December 17, 1966

December 17, 1966

Sandy and Kathy 1966 1

 This wasn’t the only time Sandy and I boarded the wrong bus, which makes the bonehead move even more humiliating. The “best friends again” reference at the end of this entry suggests Sandy and I settled some temporary tiff.  Usually, the problem was something dumb and juvenile like me getting jealous that Sandy was better friends with someone else than me.

Sandy and Kathy 1966 2

“The Exorcist” was far in the future; consequently, Ouija boards did not have the satanic reputation they’d later acquire.  We didn’t play with the Ouija a lot. It spooked us. We were obsessed with the future, though.  How would our lives turn out? Would the guy we currently crushed on call?

Sandy and Kathy 1966 3

Personally, I still prefer to get a jump on the future if possible. I seek out internet spoilers. I read the end of novels before I get to the middle. My children hate this and beg me not to tell them what happens. They don’t want to ruin “the surprise”.

Kathy and Sandy 1966 4

Sometimes I wonder if they’re really my children.

 

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