For 43 years now, this birthday guy and I have been proof that men and women can be best friends without all that romantic nonsense that seems required when a boy and girl become friends. We have had a fairly gender-less relationship.
It’s not that we haven’t had a bunch of different roles with each other. We’ve tried ’em all, believe me. 43 years is a long time.
For 30 years or more of those years, we had a delightful tradition of competing over our birthdays…who could outwit, out do, out surprise the other? My favorites from him involved dinner on a train with friends, a sunset cruise with his family, and the really sneaky one, when I met him for a drink in a very dark, very fancy bar, where it took me the better part of an embarrassing hour to realize all the other patrons in the bar were friends of mine…just waiting for me to discover them and be surprised! My favorite for him was the time I had a limo drive him all around town to very specific locations. Waiting for him in each destination, was the friend (sometimes a long-lost friend) he had shared a memorable event with in that very location. That one I was so proud of because the logistics (arrival times especially) were a nightmare and this was before GPS, cell phone contact, etc. It all went off perfectly. The evening culminated in dinner at his family’s favorite Mexican restaurant, and by then, our limo driver, having witnessed all these emotional reunions, was so connected, he joined us for dinner.
Each year, this tradition became more dramatic and elaborate until I think we both maxed out and silently agreed to just stop, and go back to corny, insulting birthday cards.
We do have our other ongoing battles for sure (sometimes feeling like the sibling role we adopt with each other). When we were younger, the fights we had were, uh, intense, heated, passionate, dramatic, elaborate, but always clean. He is the person in my adult life who taught me, through experience, people could be really angry with each other, and it didn’t mean they would leave or the relationship would be permanently damaged….or damaged at all, for that matter. Not my experience growing up, believe me.
Here’s a milder example of one of our disagreements.
I believe art is about taste, and only “good” if you happen to personally like it. He believes art is inherently either good or bad. Different upbringing for sure. He is widely educated in, and had a lifetime of exposure to historically and world famous art. His whole family is well versed in the field. He knows “good art” and will tell you exactly what’s wrong with “bad art”. He’s just that informed.
I, on the other hand, have very little interest in or knowledge of “real art”…although, when he and his family took me to the Getty museum, I have to admit getting goose bumps standing in front of several paintings. But I couldn’t tell you now who was on exhibit at the time.
I think, because my Dad taught me so young, to observe the “art” in even the smallest details around me, I instead fell in love with photography. Starting in the 4th grade, I never went anywhere without a camera. Are you old enough to remember that cheap Brownie camera so many of us had? Then the Instamatic, and I also had a Polaroid or two. I even got my first real job working in one of those little drive-thru Fotomat booths. People were thrilled to be able to get their pictures developed in ONE DAY!! And I loved being around all those people who loved snapping pictures like I did.
One of our ongoing debates has been about photography. Can it be “art”? He has leaned toward “No”. But to me, there is nothing more beautiful than capturing the “art” that actually exists…in real life…right there in front of you and your camera!
Being such a good friend, sometime in the early 1980’s, he gave me my first real camera…a beautiful Nikon, with amazing telephoto and macro lens! In some ways, it was wasted on me as I never really maximized my knowledge of that great camera. But I did get hooked on that macro lens. Imagine some 35 years ago, being able to take a close-up of a butterfly’s feet, or the mountainous texture of wrinkled blue velvet. Of course, now most of our phones can do that, but back then?? People seemed impressed because that kind of close up was so new. I kinda got it in my head that I might be ever so slightly “artistic” with my camera…a bit of a stretch, but the bottom line is I became completely enthralled with photography and it has been one of my favorite hobbies (passions? obsessions?) ever since. I LOVE taking pictures.
I have my best friend to thank for that.
So for his birthday (very few know his actual birth year, because he looks and acts much younger than his age) I am dedicating this post to him. To say thank you for the life-lessons, the experiences, the joy all these years, and for sharing his family with me. But most especially, to thank him for finally finding his princess…a lovely modelesque, blond-bombshell, adorned in all her pinks!! (He’s met his match with her, educationally, artistically, and she is so wonderful, she may well bump him into the 2nd best friend position!)
Oh and to say thanks for that now almost antique camera.
Here are some of my favorite photos, many of which I deserve no artist credit for because they were completely accidental. But they are my version of Art, so I share them in love and gratitude. There are a lot of them but in keeping with our tradition, I had to go BIG and be dramatic!
Hope you enjoy! (If you want to see an individual photo bigger, click on it and it should enlarge.)
Flowers and other growing things
Hummers and Crows (different from the other birds…)
I would love comments!!! Even if they are to debate!!
In 1971, we started our epic Camping Road Trip in Southern California. We wanted to see as much of the country as we could so we could pick our place to live. In our circumstance, the rat race of Southern California was just not going to cut it. (More on that later.)
We piled into my 1971 Metallic Blue Datsun 1200.
And when I say “piled” I mean enough stuff that in each campground people gathered to watch in awe as we unloaded and set up an elaborate outdoor domicile. By the end of our 4 months on the road, we were pretty impressive in our efficiency, both in setting up and breaking camp.
We drove up and down and back and forth across the southernmost United States so we could reach our goal of camping in every state. A few things stand out of course, like the Grand Canyon (though I was too sick to hike down to the bottom…more on that later also). We tried to find something unique wherever we stopped, you know, something only the locals would know about…like Chang Gonzalez’s Kosher German Deli in Blue Lake, New Mexico.
Wait. I’ll let you digest that name…
On the Gulf Coast of the Deep South, we pulled into a classic KOA Campground in Biloxi, Mississippi. I remember us being exhausted that day and all we wanted was to set up camp, have a sandwich and a glass of wine, and hit the sack (or bag, as it were). Oh NO! Somehow, we had lost our wine corkscrew. This was not acceptable so we wandered out into the campground to see who looked like they might have one.
And there they were…Bill and Linda. To shorten a very long story (45 years worth, in fact) they had a corkscrew and they also had a flat in New York City, close to Columbia University where they were students. They were on the same quest as we were, camping across America to pick their place to live after college.
When I told Linda our trip would take us through New York City and we were excited to camp in their giant park (Central Park! What did I know??) she laughed and within minutes of meeting me, gave me the keys to their apartment so we would have a safer (more legal) place to stay in their city!
That was it! She just handed over her keys! When it is her turn to tell our story, Linda will say she knew she could trust me because I had already shared with her the fact that I was pregnant, and fairly proud that I had not felt the need to get married because of it.
After we each completed our months’ long searches to find our permanent homes, Bill and Linda chose Portland, Oregon to live in and we chose Seattle, a mere 3 hours away.
So Linda, the traditional girl from Ohio, student with her husband at Columbia, and Kathie, the Hippie Chick from San Diego, too “morning-sick” to climb down the Grand Canyon, in an instant, became fast friends for life. And we still are.
Linda has continued to “hand over her keys” to me for more than 45 years, to her house, her vacation homes, her psyche and her heart. And she has always made it safe for me to do the same! I could not have found a more perfect, lifelong best friend than my Linda.
Happy Birthday Linda! This post is dedicated to YOU for your love and patience and wisdom all these years!!