>Drinking and Waiting…With a Smile

>I went to a wedding this past weekend back home in Alaska. I watched as my best friend since grade school tied the knot. Went the distance. Took the plunge. Whatever analogy you would like to use, he is now grown up, the husband to a wonderful woman and I could not be happier. Being surrounded by the many friends and families that he and I both grew up with from the days of our youth and today, it felt like, not only a wedding of two friends, but of a family reunion of sorts. Growing up together all these years, I knew I would see the many different faces of my past; from grade school to high school. And like high school, I ended up traversing, mingling from person to person as I did a decade ago.
It was refreshing, cathartic. To be able to go up to nearly everyone there and begin again where we had left off. Not having the anxiety, constant and perpetual tiresome feeling of starting from scratch. Boring out nearly entire life stories. No, this time, we all knew each other’s lives and watched as two of our own continued theirs together; it was something to witness.
The groom and I have had our ups and we have had our downs, we’ve had our share of bickering, laughter and tears. Yet, as with true friends both past and present, the good times always outlast the bad. Being a year older than I, he was like the big brother I never had. I could confide in him, lay down my guard with him, be myself with him. At a time where I questioned my place in society, his friendship made life easy. As I contemplate, I am reminded of a quote I have seen before from Henri Nouwen:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

and Charles Bukowski:

“That is what friendship means. Sharing the prejudice of experience.”

Knowing that I can physically, or rather vicariously, go back home to my birthplace and see my friend(s) makes being alone tolerable. He let me be who I was and there was never a need to apologize for that. Like Bukowski, who in my view was the writer most comfortable in his own skin, demonstrated in simplicity the darker side of life, while shining through with style and unapologetic fervor. Even his friends and lovers knew who he was and accepted, or rather tolerated him. As, A.D Winans, a long time friend, wrote of Bukowski:

He would be the first
To tell you that
He was an asshole and
He was
And so are you and
Sometimes more and
Sometimes less
Depending on
He would be the first
To admit that
He was a hustler and
A con man and
He was both
But he did it with style
Which is more
Than you can say
For most of us

Rest in Peace

As I sit here scribbling once again all alone, reminiscing the past and my friend as silence mushrooms the air, I crack a grin. Things have changed. Time has changed. Therefore, I leave you with a poem called “drink and wait” by Charles Bukowski:

well, first Mae West died
and then George Raft,
and Eddie G. Robinson’s
been gone
a long time,
and Bogart and Gable
and Grable,
and Laurel and
and the Marx Brothers,
all those Saturday
at the movies
as a boy
are gone now
and I look
around this room
and it looks back at me
and out through
the window pane,
time hangs helpless
from the doorknob
as a gold
of an owl
looks up at me
(an old man now)
who must endure
these many empty

I can now drink and wait alone with a smile.
Thank you Bukowski
Thank you dear friend