The Soothing Sound of Slide Whistles
I’ve got friends so liberal they think Star Wars is meant to indoctrinate our kids into believing that violence and the military-industrial complex are the best ways to solve conflict. I’ve also got friends so conservative they think Star Wars is meant to indoctrinate our kids into believing that multiculturalism is how you beat autocratic tyrants.
They’re both wrong. Star Wars is a classic sci-fi western about space wizards.
My life is a clown car, full of characters all playing slide whistles at the same time. They make my life difficult. They make my life better. I’d like to give you just a few examples of what I’m dealing with, so please, bear with me.
We all know someone who’s like a bull in china shop. In fact I suppose in most cases I am that someone. But what if you knew someone who’s like a bull in china shop, except this bull puts boxing gloves on it’s feet, sets it’s head on fire and says, “Hey, watch this…”? I know that guy. He’s one of my favorite guys. He’s loud, he breaks things. When my sons graduated High School, their gift from him was a Monopoly Get Out Of Jail Free card. On the back he wrote his phone number and “No questions asked.” And he’s been a good friend to me. If a punching bag and the notion of counting to ten could be made animate and sentient, it’d probably be about 6 foot five with a ten year old boys haircut and a calm demeanor.
I cure hangovers by eating tacos, drinking Diet Coke and taking a nap. He’s an ex-farmer who cures hangovers by cutting down trees and chopping wood. While we were in Canada, so far off the grid we needed a satellite phone to summon a plane to get us back to a car that could drive us to the grid, he laid open the palm of his hand with a filet knife, deep and long. He fixed it with duct tape. That was 4 years ago and it might still be bleeding. He’s also, along with a couple guys you’ll meet here in a moment, a source of strength and support for my son.
He’s a big man with a big voice. He says ridiculous things with the sole purpose of boiling my liberal blood. In the Venn Diagram of our friendship, the overlapping part contains the words, “Be a good husband. Be a good father. Be a good friend. Be a good person.” That’s it. Is it enough? Hell yes. He’s one third of my younger son’s Department of Alternative Dads. About a dozen years ago, my son was at a stage in his life where he was anxious and fearful. He was invited to spend the weekend at a cabin several hours from home. He hadn’t yet successfully made it through a one-night sleepover, but he wanted to try. After a few initial and apprehensive phone calls early the first day, we did not hear from him again until he arrived home on Sunday. We were told everything went fine, and our son was happy and proud. It wasn’t until some time later that I was told my friend had stayed up with my son for most of the night so he wouldn’t be afraid. They talked, they laughed. My friend treated my fearful son with kindness and respect, and his generosity of spirit speaks much more loudly than anything else he has to say.
They could build, and for the most part have built, homes by themselves. They can fix or make just about anything. If you asked them how many home runs the Detroit Red Wings kicked, they may or may not know it’s a trick question. But when I needed a desk fashioned out of a tree, or something needed repairing, they’ve both stopped me from loosening the screws with a butter knife. I’m not kidding. I asked one of them to make me a tall table, so I could occasionally do my work standing up. His response was to mill a fallen walnut tree he found into boards that he turned into a giant u-shaped desk custom built into my office. It has two built-in power outlets, a built-in cable run for my computers, and is free standing. No legs. It’s bolted to the wall using heavy duty, custom made, powder-coated brackets. Then he made me a beautiful cribbage board from one of the scraps. And some other time I’ll describe to you the skateboards he made because he was probably bored and wanted to figure out how it’s done.
Me: Long hair, earrings and scruffy beard, probably a Chili Peppers t-shirt, driving a light blue Toyota Celica with a broken headlight. Him: tall, dressed in a sharp suit, driving a black sports car, real pretty (him, not the car), almost certainly an A-hole. We were picking up our kids from day care. I never would’ve guessed that fifteen years later we’d be frequent travel companions and old friends. Nor would I ever have guessed that underneath our superficial differences were a whole lot of similarities. I rarely laugh as hard anywhere else, and I always feel better about something, or everything.
He’s a planner, and an Instigator. The Destroyer of Comfort Zones. He’s dragged me out into the world, screaming like a petulant child. I’m the one who claims to always want to do new things. He’s made me prove it. Because of him I can proudly say, “I volunteered”. My life of rewarding discomfort started at a little gathering of the parents of 7-year old soccer players, when a dude I didn’t know very well said, “the boys’ cub scout den doesn’t have a leader…” What followed was a carnival of good times, good travels and showing my sons that a good father walks the walk.
Later this week, I’ll be going ice fishing. I’ve never done that before. It seems patently insane to drive out onto a sheet of ice with holes drilled in it to stay in a shack resting on top of the aforementioned compromised ice, but my list of Reasonable Intentions compels me to do so. So here I go. Besides, I’ll be with Farmer Toughguy, The world’s loudest Republican Yeti Superdad, and the Destroyer of Comfort Zones, so I’m sure everything will be just fine.
The point of this sermon? Have friends. Be a friend. Climb in that clown car and buckle up. Just don’t let those yahoos control the radio.