All Times When Old Are Good

Tonight I am feeling mellow and nostalgic. As much practice as I’ve taken over the years with reading and writing and re-writing and trying to tell stories, I don’t know that I have the ability or skill with which to convey the feeling I’m feeling right now, to anyone willing to listen. Despite that, I have to write tonight, and this is the topic.

Went out for Taco Tuesday with my friend Terry and he was in a good mood. After we had our fill of tacos, I let him talk me into driving to a dessert place, Lauretta Jean’s, over on SE Division, for pie. I know that too much sugar lately will literally make my body ache in various ways, but I still can’t resist. That’s what addiction is, I guess. 

On the drive over there (we took Terry’s car), he was playing, of all things, some of the musical hits of Earth, Wind, & Fire. Some funk/disco. Normally I get a bit grumpy, but the whiskey warmed my belly and my soul just a tiny bit, and I fell into the melodies and danced in my seat. We sang along—me, as best I could; Terry easily hitting the higher notes—as we drove through the sodium-lit streets of inner Southeast Portland. My favorite neighborhoods.

It was just what I needed. At the pie place, I ordered a slice of bourbon pecan (with whipped cream); Terry got a pear streusel and mocha. 

Earlier today, I had been listening to an episode of the podcast You Are Not So Smart, this one titled “The Friendship Cure,” in which the host interviews a scientist who has studied the effects of friendship on human lives. The conversation ranged over a wide variety of topics, but one, in particular, held my attention: the relative distance and emptiness of most male friendships. Men in our culture are never encouraged towards intimacy, for various social reasons. However, the scientist and the host did mention one of the best fictional male friendships ever (and I could not agree more): JD and Turk, on the TV show “Scrubs.” 

JD and Turk shared a warm, close, and, most importantly, funny friendship, the likes of which are rarely seen in fiction or in life. Sure, they caught some shit for it from other men on the show; but it never stopped them from being the best of friends to and with each other. 

Terry and I are like that. We are not romantic partners. Both of us are not inclined that way at all, not towards each other. But we have known each other for a very long time, through good times and bad, and we are comfortable being our truest, most authentic selves with each other. 

Neither of us is perfect, but, to paraphrase the words of the scientist on the podcast whose name I can’t recall right now, we allow space for our flaws, as well as our strengths. 

After he drove me back to my car and we goofed around and then said our goodnights, I got in my car for the drive back to my personal Tatooine (which is, in itself, a reference to both nostalgia and a shared experience with Terry, that of seeing Star Wars together when we were kids.) Instead of more podcasts, I opened up Spotify and found a playlist of hits from 1983, the year we graduated from high school, and then I let those songs stoke my feelings and memories of being young and dumb. 

In my head, as I sometimes do, I imagined meeting younger me and asking him how he was doing, and try to let him know how life was going to turn out for him. I don’t think he could possibly have foreseen the paths life would take him, but I do firmly believe he would still recognize himself in the 54-year-old Brian who stood before him. I still have his sardonic but somehow sincere humor. We share a curiosity about lives and people who are not ourselves. And inside both of us hides a deep sadness about the limitations imposed on us by living in the physical world.  

Dancing and singing to songs from my youth as I navigated the streets to my apartment, on a dark autumn night, I felt the pull of all three of those emotions, overlaid with the joy of having made it this far, and knowing that there is a least a bit more story left to tell.

I’ll leave you with this last tidbit, a message from 18-year-old and 54-year-old me:

Mama say, mama saw, mama koo saw.

Goodnight, dear reader.