Friday, September 6, 2013

I'm seeking a 25-year-old friend

I plan on spending the next few months or so seeing if I can find a friendly 25 year old eager to spend time with me. We’ll squander hours in the bar giggling and yapping about all sorts of things.

And, sorry ladies, but my new buddy has got to be a guy.

I abide by the matrimonial conventions that say it’s a bad idea for a guy like me to devote free time to a 25-year-old girl. More than than, my wife abides them. We both understand it’d be controversial for me to say, “Oh, hey, hon, Britney and I are going bowling tonight. Don’t wait up.”

So it’s got to be a dude.

There are two reasons I find myself on this quest: This year I turned 50 and Joe turned 75.

Fifty is a take-stock birthday. It inspires you to think about where you’ve been, where you’re going and all the fun friendlies who’ve been riding shot gun all along the way.

Joe turning 75 was something else.

He’s one of the seven bar Joes (remember we’re down a Joe since Baseball Joe sadly passed away in June). He’s at once the oldest Joe and the most childish one. He’s rarely serious, is great with cartoon sound effects and makes outrageously filthy comments about girls the local TV stations hire to convey news about things like traffic jams on the Parkway East.

So, of course, I love him. He’s just a great guy. We golf and drink together a good bit and he helped me put the new bathroom floor in a couple of months ago.

It gave me pause when he turned 75 a few months ago. I thought, “Wow. One of my best buddies is ancient.”

It struck me as unusual. Then I got to thinking about it and I realized in my life it’s been anything but. I’ve always been friends with colorful old men.

Sure, most of them have been cranky bartenders, but their perspectives have really enriched my life. They share their insights on history, culture and what it was like when women stopped wearing bras and started using the pill.

And the neat symmetry of me turning 50 and Joe turning 75 got me to thinking how beneficial it is to have friendships spread out over the quarter century marks.

Let’s start with babies, as good a place to start as there’s ever been. I adore holding babies.

I don’t have any babies in my life right now, but our daughters, ages 12 and 7, must still either give in to my demands for compulsory cuddling or else submit to up to 10 minutes of vicious tickling.

On the other extreme, I am good friends with at least one 100 year old. He may be 98 or so, but once you’re north of 90 it’s okay to round up.

He’s the famous Angelo Cammarata, the Guinness World Record holder for longest serving bartender. I encourage you to read the link about him from last year when the Pittsburgh Steelers honored this monumental man (that's him up top).

I remember once asking him what the best years of his long life were, and I’ll never forget his answer, which he gave after a long, thoughtful pause.

“To me, the years from between when I was 40 to 75 were just really great.”

Oh, I love that man.

And 50-year-old friends? Hell, I have a glut of them.

But 25 year old friendships have somehow become a vacancy. I could probably meet more 25 year olds, but then I’d have to go to places where I don’t like the music, the bartenders or most of the 25 year olds there whose evident tastelessness has rendered them beyond my help.

I guess I’m at an age where I’m feeling restless to share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

I see so many young people of that age consumed with ambition, uncertainties over romance and employment, and confusion over whether music will ever improve.

I want to tell them to relax, that everything’s going to work out all right. Well, everything but music which has been in steep decline since 1986.

Maybe what I’m really wishing I could do is send the 50-year-old me back in time to talk to the 25-year-old version.

I’d tell him that he’s going to spend a good bit of the next quarter century worrying about money, status and other things that don’t matter. And if he’d only understand how blissful his life will be if his only concerns are the well-being of his friends and the ones he loves.

And if 25 years from now, Val and I are grandparents to newborns and I can still sit in that bar and hear my 100-year-old buddy Joe tell filthy jokes about the pretty traffic girls I’ll know I was right.

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