James slowly stood up from his crouched position amid the pungent cloud of vinegar. His arms slowly coming down after guarding his face out of instinct. He glanced down at the stain of pink brine spreading across the dingy tiled floor. Shards of glass glistening like angry teeth radiating away from his feet.
“Jesus! How could that many pig’s feet have possibly been in that jar?!” he observed at the carnage of pickled porcine paws littering the floor.
All he wanted was a 6-pack of beer and a quiet afternoon in his recliner with SportsCenter on repeat. As he approached the counter, the man ahead of him was talking annoyedly at the clerk behind the counter.
“Damnit, Dale! How Could you? She’s my sister! She’s only 17! You’ve known her since we were playing Guitar Hero together back in high school!”
That was when James had to duck and protect himself as bags of Corn Nuts and other assorted snack foods and candies flew through the air past him. He saw Dale pick up the big half-wheel of red-rind cheddar cheese from the counter and wasn’t sure if it was going to be a shield or a weapon. He didn’t want to find out either way. Right then was when the assailant tried to punch the wheel of cheese, but accidentally knocked the giant jar off the counter.
James couldn’t take any more of this redneck theater. No shitty light beer was worth the chemical warfare to which he was now subjected. Relaxing in the recliner was now out of reach. Maybe the local dive bar would make this day end a little better. At last no one there would notice the vinegar fumes on his clothing.
A lot can be said about good friendships. There are just some people in this world who we meet and they stick with us. Real friends have helped each other, fought each other, disagreed with each other, and stood by each other through myriad situations. These friendships can happen in a week or over the past 30 years. Some friends come into, and stay in, your life due to specific shared situations. Many times you can be separated from your friends for weeks, months, or years, yet the next time you see them it is like hardly a moment has passed.
I have watched my father, who is a Colorado native, live in Mississippi away from his friends and immediate family my entire life. I have also spent these 40 years watching him foster one of the most amazing friendships of which I know. The man in the picture above is my father’s best friend, Ray. I even share his name as my middle name. They have known each other since high school. They have lived through decades of joys and tragedies together. They call each other to check in at random intervals, often to make a joke at the other’s expense. In a financially questionable deal, they have also had a longstanding continuous bet involving the Denver Broncos season record vs. the New Orleans Saints season record. That bet alone has created many laughs, empty wallets, and a host of jokes between the two during the seasons through the years. I have made some very good friends through the years, but theirs has always been my gold standard.
Just yesterday I was at work and feeling a little down. Not depressed, but unsettled with my day as it had unfolded to that point. I managed to get off work in time to watch the 2nd half of the New Orleans Saints game with a group of my friends, of which I have known between this past year and all the way to over 30 years. There was an immediate release of my inner funk. I felt a catharsis and serenity while living in the moment with these people as we watched our football team try to win the game. It made me cherish that time even more because I realized that I have the opportunity to see my friends on a fairly regular basis should I so choose. My father and Ray have not had that opportunity.
There is not really a closing point to this because all of it is still happening. So go find the people in your life and keep making good, deep friendships. Play a little joke on your friends. Buy them a 6-pack of their favorite beer for no reason, but only give them 5 because you drank one. Foster that friendship with someone who knows you so well that they can get under your skin, in a good way, from 6 states away. Find yourself a Ray.