I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve…

Posted: February 4, 2014 in Sometimes...

One of the most remembered lines from “Stand By Me”. And although I can relate to the sentiment, It’s just not so for me.

See, I still have most of the friends I had when I was twelve. I’m not sure why we bonded as tightly as we have, or even how I met some of them. The most likely scenario is the simple fact that, as awesome as most of our families were and are, we lacked SOMETHING at home. Some didn’t have dads, some moms, some had both but so many sibling they were kinda lost in the shuffle. Some had folks that worked so hard to keep food on the table, they simply couldn’t be present. Some of us just felt different, misfits in a sea of homogeneity.

The bottom line- we NEEDED each other. Very few of us had the Johnny Cade home-life. Most of us had hot meals and a decent record player. We weren’t neglected, or abused. We were different.

To the man, we were smarter. Some of the wits I was surrounded by (and subject to, in the way only guys are!) were so rapier sharp, they could literally be used as weapons. Laughter was found in even the most horrific situations. It was with these friends that I discovered that the true nuances of dick & fart jokes, and the subtleties of crafted, applied wordplay, insults and observations are one and the same. Dumb folks didn’t get us, and never, ever made us laugh on purpose.

We were tough. Now, some folks think of Jermyn PA as a kind of Mayberry RFD place. And it may have only 3000 inhabitants and be a quaint, pretty little place to drive through. However, in the 1980’s, it was still legal to defend your honor. If you kicked little Tommy’s ass behind the cafeteria for calling your mom fat, you were not arrested. You were sternly reprimanded publicly, and then given’ and secret “Atta boy!” before you got sent back to class. And there were more than a fair share of bullies who needed taking down. That was OUR job. It may have been on the absolute smallest level, but we protected the little guys, while slapping the hell out of each other.

We competed. (That was still legal, too) With each other and everyone else. Huge, well-organized full-contact tackle football games without padding, gladiator fights (yep, trash can lids & large sticks beat each other bloody & laughed the entire time), “gang” fights (which we tried really hard not to call “rumbles”, but did anyway) with the kids from the next school-district over. Kind of a “brothers in battle” mentality developed.

We were fairly…criminal. Since I have no idea of the statute of limitations on our various and sundry crimes, allow me to state simply that we were little bastards, but not because we were mean, but rather because of the adventure, the excitement in it. The vast majority of us eventually found new ways to satisfy out longing for adventure. However- this leads me to a facet of our lives many people outside of out tightly knit clique have overlooked the Explorer Scouts.

Now, we had, in our pursuit of excitement, gone just a tad too far in the career criminal direction and my dad, and my friend Gopher’s dad decided enough was enough. They formed (actually resurrected) Troop 81 from Jermyn, PA. Only they formed an Explorer Scout Troop.  Kinda the Green Berets of Scouting.  And attendance was mandatory.

These two guys dragged us on forced marches, on week-long canoe trips (ask me about sun burning my ass cheeks if I don;t tell ya, one of the crew will), taught us how to USE knots, not just tie them. Cross-country skiing, survival-ism, repelling, all manner of manly and, most importantly, ENERGY USING stuff!

Anyway, through that brief and select history, I am hoping to show how the bonds we formed when we ourselves were being formed,  could result in these life-long friendships. Some of us are no very far away. But even just last week, although “life” prevented us from doing any major partying, my friend Ernie (no, that’s not his Christian name. We ALL have nick names) swung by my work with his by to say hello. I haven’t seen him in several years, and we missed each other as I was leaving for the day. But I heard a “HEY!” in the parking lot, and instantly, my brain said “that’s Ernie!”.

Honestly, we were so tight as a group, we could tell you who was arriving by the sound of their car’s engine.

I see the vast majority of The Gang fairly regularly, Phi, Gopher and myself still ride mountain bikes as often as possible, at least once a week together.  We still consider ourselves a pack. There’s a “Locals Only” sign above us at all times, but we’ll give anyone a chance to hang out. Weather or not you tie your own rope is up to you! Buzz & Keeb, I don’t see them as often as I’d like, but whenever we run into each other, even if it’s been years, it’s as though I saw them yesterday. No “Why haven’t you called?” petty rubbish. Just “So, what’re ya up to?” followed by extended periods of laughter.

Same goes for guys I only see once every ten and, (now that more Summers are behind me than in front of me) sometimes every 20 years. We never look older to each other, even though we, of course, do.  We have millionaires and paupers in our fold and none of us is treated any different within the group.  Some of us are gone for good. But they are still included. We rarely speak of them in the past-tense. Rather, as if they were here, now. Being made fun of in person. Because reverence is too akin to maudlin-ism for our tastes.

I don’t know what it was about those summers in the woods, the keg bashes with fires so big they could be seen from space, the flying up and down Route 6 in some rusted out 70’s muscle care (with a pristine and bored-over engine). Chasing girls from other schools who wanted as little to do with us as the ones from our own! Wearing denim vests with Genesee beer logos and heavy metal patches, going to concerts in Binghamton , all piled into a van or in one of Lysander’s cars that went insanely fast, but you couldn’t steer, so you sorta just aimed. Judas Priest blasting out of boom boxes that took fifteen D batteries, named things like “Mr. Box” or “Refrigerator Box”, respectively.

I could go on all day, and I will after I’m done here, in my head. And I’m not even sure what I was trying to say, here, except perhaps that I DO have friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Because I knew enough to hold onto them.

Or, maybe I’m just very, very lucky.

Namaste

Comments
  1. Funny. I come at it from the other perspective. Most of the people I knew from back then , with the exception of a few people I’ve hung with ALL my life, are no longer in the picture. Thing is – and I say this completely without malice – it hasn’t harmed me in the least.

    It’s not that I wouldn’t hang out with any of them again…sure I would. But our interests and viewpoints were SO completely different for the most part that pretty much the only thing we had in common was geography.

    No, for me, the real treasure has been the friends I’ve made since I was 18 or so. But then again, I was always a kind of late bloomer, and didn’t really cut loose until then.

    There are some I haven’t seen in years, but if the phone rings or our paths cross, it’s back to business as usual even if it’s only for the space of an hour or two.

    Not to sound corny about it…ah, fuck it, I’m gettin’ on so I can say whatever the hell I like…these friendships (brother-ships, if truth be told) run a whole hell of a lot deeper most likely BECAUSE geography isn’t a common denominator.

    You get older, you realize the physical world’s rests on a foundation of sand. It’s rare thing to find people out there who’ll stop and build a castle out of it with you before the waves come in…

    • Well, of course I’ve met some amazing humans whom I’m profoundly lucky grateful and proud to call friend SINCE I’ve bee twelve (Your self included, obviously!) and my reverence and love for my life-long friends in no way diminishes the value and blessing these friends are. You, yourself, can attest to some of the more outrageously awesome times we’ve had together!

      But having recently re-connected with some and finding ourselves in a place in out lives where we are able to spend much more time together than the past 20 odd years have allowed, I was moved to pay homage to them and the singular rarity laughing with someone who has never not know you is.

      I’m lucky to have many, many friends and more TRUE friends than most. And I’m finally able to SEE just how lucky I am and always have been. And THAT is AWESOME!

      Ain’t it something that you and I have finally, finally found our paths? I’m friggin’ stoked for us, sir!

      • Gotta say I wholeheartedly agree with you, Brother.

        As Willie Nelson said:
        “It’s been rough and rocky travelin’,
        but I’m finally standin’ upright on the ground.
        And after takin’ several readings,
        I’m surprised to find my mind still fairly sound…”

        It’s been interesting, these last few years watching my inner circle (gasp) come of age. And yet, the ones that are still around have NEVER lost the ability to see the world in a childlike way no matter what else they may be doing with their lives.

        You’re living proof of that.

        Glad to see things are as they are with us. Been a hell of a ride getting here…and it promises to be an even wilder one from this point on…

      • As always, ya make me smile, Ben-ya-meeno!

  2. I find that it has been both pro and con for me. Perhaps it is that I am too aloof (or give the appearance of aloofness) or that I don’t have enough in common with anyone to have a bond so felt. Part of me is jealous because as a child I always desired this bond. As an adult I am reluctant to try and forge new bonds in light of many past failures. Yet I still do it.

    I feel very strongly toward many from “back in the day” and more currently made relationships as well, however I am forever uncertain as to what that means to the other person. I honestly do not know if I will be remembered when I pass or if I made a difference to anyone in a broad sense. I do not know if I am the hero or the villain, or ensign number 4 who makes a random appearance for witty repartee.

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