With a Little Help From My Friends

"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends." -- Walt Whitman

That pretty much sums it up for me.

I've been exceedingly blessed with at least one great friend throughout every phase of my life. Time and circumstance have swept me away from all of them in the past year or so, and I haven't come across another (mostly because I hesitate to believe that I could find another worth joining their company), but these friendships will last a lifetime, whether I deserve it or not.

One of my "great" friends (I detest using the word best. I may have an opinion on which is the 'best' and you may too, but what good does it do to label them?) is coming to town today. Ella and I will finally get to spend some time with him after more than a year apart. So I thought now would be as good a time as any to spotlight my buddies, and give them a little glowing praise here on the interwebs.

**I count Ella as a "great" friend. In addition to being my wife and Judah's mom, she's also the person I most enjoy spending time with and could least afford to live without, but she's not into the mushy displays of affection (especially in the public forum) and our anniversary is just around the corner so we'll save her for later.**

Joel's Friends (in chronological order)

Ellie -- Ellie is just a couple of months younger than me. We grew up next door to each other, and though we attended different elementary, junior high and high schools (not to mention colleges hundreds of miles apart), we're still close. She's currently the closest of my "great" friends mileage wise, and still with her daughter and my son, jobs, family responsibilities and the general laziness that is me, we hardly ever see each other. When we do, it's like we've always been together. That's what lets you know it's a "great" friend.

Darren -- I guess, technically, I've known Darren longer than I've known Ellie. His parents and grandparents were friends with my parents etc. But just because you're family friends doesn't mean you'll be "great" friends. Darren was a buddy until second grade. Then he changed schools and we lost touch. In seventh grade we ended up together again, and from then until our college years we were pretty inseparable. My cohort, my confidant and my "great" friend is now a father and pretty successful stylist. We're separated by the length of the state and my (and his) lack of phone skills, but he's still my friend and always will be.

Amanda -- The closest thing to a "female Joel" on the list, Amanda was an inherited friend that graduated to "great" after about 30 minutes of hanging out. We met the summer before starting college together, and were glued at the hip from then until she moved back to Arizona in 2001-2002. It's pretty hard to stay glued together when you're four states apart. To this day, she's the only person besides family and my wife that I would even consider as a roommate. If that doesn't say something about our friendship, I'm not sure what would.

Richard -- In case you haven't noticed there are two girls on this list, and still, Richard is the only "great" friend that Ella would ever be jealous of . The question is would she be jealous of me or him? She actually knew Richard first (although he doesn't count as an inherited friend since she didn't introduce us) and she still holds it over my head that they've been friends longer. Regardless of who knew who when, he's a great friend to both of us, and we can't wait for his term of service to the U.S. Army to end, so he can get back here and be a great friend to Judah too.

Kyle -- The last "great" friend on the list, Kyle reminds me that my days as a personable go-getter seem to be over and I've settled into a complacent "if I don't already know 'em, I probably don't need to" attitude. Thanks for the attitude boost, Kyle. Richard had been in the service for about fifteen minutes it seems when we (Ella was already on board at this point) met Kyle. To say he filled a void would be to diminish his place in my life. Whether Richard was gone or not, Kyle would still be my friend. We have just about everything in common as far as interests and passions, and he outpaces me with his gift for the written word. He's busying himself as a budding filmmaker in the Austin area, but he's cut some time out of his busy sche-dule (said with the appropriate snooty British accent) to come and see his buddies in NOLA. He's the impetus for this whole post so, "Kudos, Kyle. Consider this your traveling present."

As a sappy guy graduating in 1999, I (like a million others out there) fell head over heels in love with the Baz Lurhmann produced "Sunscreen Song". The track imitates a commencement speech giving graduates "common sense" advice for the life they are about to begin. The song started as a newspaper column in the Chicago Tribune from 1997 by Mary Schmich. It became an internet sensation, misattributed to just about everyone and finally caught Luhrmann's attention. The song is mostly sentimental crap, but one point in particular is worth repeating.

"Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young."

Well, these are the people I knew when I was young. These are my "precious few," and I'm going to do my best to hold onto them.