Duncan had planned on coming into town to visit me. It had been a while since we’d hung out. But this was a very special weekend. He was turning 50 and the Philadelphia Eagles were playing in the Super Bowl.
Whenever his plane lands he always texts me the signal: “Touchdown.” I know he’s landed in Philly and the fun is about to begin. But in that moment I didn’t realize how his phrase would ring true this fateful weekend.
My schedule has changed since he last was up here in Philly. I work every day and only get every other Saturday off. I don’t mind because I love to work and stay busy. We’ve got two businesses to run and this blog’s not going to write itself.
While I was walking into work today, I realized that even though we don’t see each other very often, Duncan is my very best friend. We’ve known each other for 20 years.
He later rolls into the salon on Friday afternoon. It’s great to see him. He walks up to me and practically jumps into my arms.
I give him the tour of the gym and salon. It’s been over a year since he’s seen it. The last time he was here the space was an empty husk of a fallen restaurant. Now it’s a busy tanning salon with a personal training fitness center up front. We’ve come a long way since then. He’s impressed.
We takes a seat in the waiting area and we chit-chat. This time together gives us a chance to catch up on what’s happening in each other’s lives. It’s been slow at the salon so we can talk. Duncan also likes all of the young attractive women that come in to tan. It’s like an endless pageant of beauty.
I get a couple of cheese steaks and sodas delivered and we happily munch them, while bringing each other up to date. We discuss current events, business, work, the women in our lives, and most of all Super Bowl LII.
When I finish we decide to go to Duncan’s favorite bar at the Ritz Carlton. He stayed there last year and we loved it. I got him a more modern and less expensive room at the Hotel Palomar at 17th and Sansom. But there’s no bar that looks like what’s at the Ritz Carlton. It’s a vast space with high ceilings surrounded by pillars. It’s like you’re having a drink at a beautiful white marble bar in ancient Rome. (But with all the modern amenities) If you ever get to Philly, check it out.
We park it at the bar and Duncan goes for his favorite: Rum, Bailey’s and Cream. It’s like a White Russian but more like a milkshake for adults. I like my drinks with a touch of evil so I go for the Manhattan, Bulliet Rye, Sweet Vermouth and brandied cherries. A lethal and elegant classic cocktail.
We get into it. We’ve been friends for 20 years. We know basically everything about each other. But there’s always new material. Stuff you know, but we go for the deeper dive. We both have issues with our parents. Who doesn’t our age? Especially boys.
We agree that the only way we could have moved forward in our lives was to forgive them and embrace all of the great things they did. Not dwell on the horrific things they did to us growing up.
We used to just listen to heavy metal and go to concerts and eat and party in the old days.
We relive those days of simple joy. Building our time together around concerts, meals, drinks, drugs and fun. But now we’re both men in middle age that have held our friendship through truth and our common interests. But mostly growing up in the same era and loving all of the same things.
The pain we suffered growing up has always been there, but tonight in middle age we let loose and agree to forgive. My gentle friend’s childhood was way worse than mine. Our parents were so good to us and they did the best they could, but why the violence against us?
Nothing good came from any of that. It was all just an emotional and physical release for them to escape from their own pain and frustration. None of our sisters knew this, but the sons did. The humiliation. The beatings. It was awful.
How could you do that to a child. By today’s standards, it is a 911 call.
I know my best friend’s life was worse than mine. There is always someone who’s had it worse than you.
I Love Duncan and treasure him as my distant best friend. We are always connected even though there are miles between us.
Our cylinders run an engine of friendship that transcends time and space. Business, values, marriage, relationships, philosophy, politics. comedy, film, Star Wars, comics, music. Everything. I just adore him.
20 years. You can’t build that without your ups and downs but there’s love there. It’s something we both have wanted our entire lives. I met my very best friend 20 years ago through the banking industry.
You never know when you’re going to meet a best friend. Sometimes you don’t even know who they are when you have them. But you open your eyes one day in this fleeting life and there they are 20 years later and you are just as you were when you first started.
You love all of the same stuff. There’s a little bit of new stuff, but the vein runs through it and it is pure. That’s your guy. He gets you. He knows your secrets and all of your fuck ups and weaknesses and he hangs in there anyway.
You can tell him anything and he won’t ever judge you. That’s a friend. He has all of his shit, and you have yours. You have both taught each other to forgive those that have hurt you. They only were doing the best they could with what they had.
They’re lives were so much harder than ours. Their parents came from a harder place and were even more ignorant than we are. But we’re the next generation and we love them. They did so many great things and that outweighs most of the awful mistakes that they made with us.
I’m plowing Manhattan’s and Duncan is destroying his White Russians like he’s John Bonham. Then for the first time in our 20 year relationship we finally dig into the darkness.
The agonizing pain of our childhoods and how ignorant our parents were. I describe what happened to me and with Duncan I feel safe in telling him what my childhood was like.
Then he describes incidents from his childhood and I am horrified and tears come to my eyes because I can’t imagine that happening to my friend.
It’s way worse than any of my punishments and almost seem like a call to child services would have been in order back then.
But as awful as it all is as we laugh and throw our cocktails back we discuss forgiveness and understanding. We both realize where our parents were in their lives back then. Where they came from and how far they came with all of us kids.
It was a different time back then and they didn’t know any better. They really did a lot of great things. Fantastic things for us kids, but there were moments where they made missteps that marked us forever.
They could never have foreseen the long-term effect on how what they gave us would propel us into greatness, but in that same moment, provide a weight, a nearly disabling weight that could destroy us in the same moment.
Some of their children would prevail and soar high and clean. Others would crawl from the wreckage of their upbringing broken and fragile, but would still find their way.
Maybe these birds cast from the nest would find their way and eventually fly back to the nest and rescue their own parents from their on demise.
Simply as an act of kindness.
Because they had become good people.
They were able to take the best of what they learned from their parents, and forgive the worst. Learn from it and be the best people they could be.
That’s my Duncan.
It’s late and we’re elated but wiped out. The bill comes and it’s $200. My God.
Duncan pays it.
I feel a twinge of regret but he insists. The weekend is only getting started and I’m stupid happy to see him.
I love Duncan. Our history is so rich, we could write a phicklphilly book just about our stories. (I probably will)
Our friendship has aged beautifully. Middle age hasn’t been kind to any of us, but we’re still tight as super glue. Our friendship has transcended time and space. We still love and hate all of the same stuff together. Now we’re in our fifties and I would love nothing more than to sit beside my dear friend watching whatever new Star Wars incarnation Disney can create and be happy.
We just want to share a moment, a drink, and a laugh.
We’ll do more than that this weekend, but for now… I’m just happy to have him in my life after all of this time.
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